I had a boss several years ago who told me once that he never asked for permission to do anything, but rather he asked for forgiveness after the fact if what he did got him into trouble with his supervisor (a woman). He had a rather charming way about him and he knew the weaknesses of his supervisor and he knew that no matter what he did, she would always relent. And she did. And you have no idea how much that ticked me off. He was the most ineffective boss I have ever had. In fact, he was never around — ever. During the 15 months that he was my supervisor I can count on one hand the number of times he actually met with me to discuss anything. However, I heard later what he had been saying about me behind my back, and it wasn’t very nice. His supervisor had known me a lot longer then she knew him and knew my work ethic (in fact, she was the reason I worked there as we met at a conference a few years earlier and we hit it off immediately at that time), yet she believed him because he was a charmer and she never asked me for my side of the story. (See note in “Comments” section below this post for additional information–I actually worked at that university for almost four years total.)
I never got a hearing in that particular case and I’m not even sure what happened, but when I decided I had had enough of it and found another job and resigned, his supervisor was totally upset with me because I was leaving. In fact, she mentioned to me that she had plans for me–unfortunately, she never let me know that until it was too late. In all that time she never asked me anything, but depended on him to tell her everything that was going on at our off-campus location. And he lied to her. A lot.
Something happened at the time I turned in my resignation that caused him, a few days later, to suddenly turn in his own resignation and he actually ended up leaving before I did as I gave a one-month notice of resignation (to this day I do not know exactly what happened as I was not included in any of the communications). I did hear through the grapevine that he had been threatened with being fired, and his resignation was very sudden and unexpected. Unfortunately, scenarios like the one I experienced happen all-too-frequently in the workplace today.
This scenario reminds me of the way many Christians in our society relate to sin . . . as long as they don’t get caught, it’s fine and they keep on doing it. But when they do get caught, they pull out their “ace card” and ask God for forgiveness. Well, God is not as easily fooled as my boss’s supervisor was fooled (until it was too late for her to rectify the situation). God knows our heart attitude and whether there is any sincerity in our asking for forgiveness. Genuine repentant produces a changed life–not a perfect life but a genuinely changed life (and from a grateful heart, too). Getting caught and then making excuses for wrongdoing with a weak “please forgive me” when the attitude hasn’t changed at all has nothing to do with genuine repentance. And if we are just looking to find out how much we can get away with, a repeat performance is soon to happen again. Making excuses has nothing to do with genuine contriteness.
I was reading a devotion this morning (actually, two devotions from two different sources) and the first one from “Open Windows,” titled, “Does Sin Have You Tied Up?” written by Terry Bowman, starts with the following passage reading in Proverbs 5:21-23 (NIV):
For your ways are in full view of the Lord,
and he examines all your paths.
The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them;
the cords of their sins hold them fast.
For lack of discipline they will die,
led astray by their own great folly.
Mr. Bowman writes:
While the writer of this proverb specifically warned of the perils of adultery, his words apply to all sin. Though we may attempt to hide our iniquity, God sees it and holds us accountable. Sin entangles us just as a thin strand of silk binds an insect [e.g., a spider’s web]. Deceived by our desires and lusts, we are drawn deeper and deeper into the web of disobedience. Each successive transgression adds another strand until we are ensnared firmly in the trap of sin. We are left to face the consequences of having indulged ourselves in our unrestrained lusts and passions.
Take hope. That’s not the end of the story. Jesus broke the web of sin that binds humanity. All believers are empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit. When we obey His leading, we overcome sin and can walk away from temptation.
So often today (as it has been since the beginning of time), we revel in our sin. Take gossip, for example, although I don’t want to get into naming a “list” of sins but rather a pervasive heart attitude that cares more for self then anyone else, including God. As A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) stated well over fifty years ago, “The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking” (quote source here). Unfortunately, that Christian life centers around us and what we want most of the time and not on God, and that type of living tends to view God as a magic genie, available to grant us our every wish, whim, or want.
The news is quick to report all the details of famous people’s wrongdoings and their subsequent confessions. Perhaps it’s an athlete who was arrested for driving while drunk. Or it could be a politician caught in an indiscretion. Only God knows the heart, but when we hear a stuttered “I’m . . . uh . . . sorry,” we may wonder if they are truly repentant or just sorry they got caught.
When we read the confession of the famous King David we see what looks like genuine contriteness. In his public discussion of his sins in Psalm 51, this disgraced monarch—who had an embarrassing record of flagrant sins which he had kept hidden (2 Sam. 12:1-13; Ps. 32:3-5)—pleads for mercy.
He recognized that his sin was an affront to God—not just to people—and that God alone can judge him (Ps. 51:1-6). He realized that he must be cleansed by God (vv.7-10), and he celebrated his restoration through service and worship (vv.11-17).
All of us sin and fall short of God’s glory. When we feel the heavy burden of sin weighing us down, we have the blessing of confession and forgiveness (1 John 1:9) to lift us up. Isn’t it just like our great God to turn even our sins into an opportunity to grow in His grace and power and love!
There is a huge difference between being truly repentant or just being sorry we got caught, and we can read and hear it in David’s words in Psalm 51:1-17:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
When was the last time we felt that way about sin? More often then not, we are far more like my former boss, who did what he wanted to do regardless of any consequences because that is what he wanted to do, knowing that he could go to his supervisor and she would relent so he could do it all over again. There was no real repentance on his part, and eventually, he paid the piper for it, too.
Genuine repentance before God washes us clean. King David aptly stated this when he said his sacrifice was “a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart” that God will not despise. Do we really view our sin as evil in God’s sight (Ps. 51:4)? Or do we just play with it and excuse it off until we get caught?
Jesus Christ did not go to the cross just so that we can make excuses for our sin. And if we truly believe in Him as Savior and Lord we shouldn’t be looking for excuses anyway. Genuine repentance washes us clean. I John 1:9, clearly written to a Christian audience, states “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Pay attention to the last part of that verse—“and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That means if we are genuinely repentant, the “excuse making” stops dead in it’s tracks.
So which will it be? Making excuses or genuine repentance? Do we really want to be free from the stranglehold sin has on our lives, no matter how pleasurable sin can be? And who do we really want to serve–ourselves or Jesus Christ? Do we want to say, like David, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:17)? Or do we want our own way? The choice is ours . . .
And the price we pay is not just temporary . . .
It’s eternal . . . .
YouTube Video: Here, once again, is Shirley Caesar singing Bob Dylan’s song, “Gotta Serve Somebody”: