Haight/Ashbury, San Francisco

Learning how to forgive

Once I was punched in the face while preaching. At the time I was an evangelist with SOS Ministries in 1987. I was leading a group to Haight/Ashbury St. in San Francisco. I remember it was really busy, and it was a good team, and they were excited to take their church to the streets.

Haight/Ashbury was the place the “summer of love” kicked off, it peaked in 1968. It has a certain sense of notoriety, and even in 1983 it still had a dubious reputation as a center of the counter-culture. “A cult a day is born in San Francisco,” a pastor friend once shared with me.

Normally the neighborhood where I took a team would direct me on how to preach. Tonight I focused on God’s love for sinful people.

That message seemed appropriate for this place, especially on this street. God loves these people very much.

A young man came forward. He told me that he was a backslidden Christian, and his father was an Assembly of God pastor. He had run away from home. Suddenly he began to weep. The entire team seemed to lean forward and I know they were praying earnestly for him. It seemed to me that he was teetering on the brink.

His punch however came unexpectedly.

His fist hit me square in the nose. My eyes began to water. Oddly enough he took a step back and began to really cry out. My team wasn’t quite sure how to respond, but I hoped they prayed even harder. I sort of gasped and tried to shake it off. Someone must have called the police.

The Holy Spirit was very much present, both convicting and comforting each of us.

One or two minutes went by and suddenly he stopped sobbing and he became really angry. He took a step and then tried to kick me in the stomach, but I dropped the mic and caught his foot. I was ready for him this time.

About 20 minutes went by before SFPD showed up and asked if I wanted to press charges. I thought for a bit, but deep down I knew that wasn’t the will of my Father. Maybe I should of, I don’t know. But I thought about my own sin and couldn’t judge no one.

The Father was reaching him while teaching me!

God loves His prodigal children very much, He understands the guilt and shame (and frustration) they feel. The Father however is always watching and waiting. He works through life’s circumstances to lead them home. Each belongs to Him. He continues far past what we think is possible. He will never give up.

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

1 John 3:16

I suddenly saw a “wounded” brother, very confused and quite angry. Not with me, the team, or the music–but with God who created him, and died for him.

At that moment I just happened to be God’s love for this prodigal.

“How did Jesus expect His disciples to react under persecution? (In Matthew 5:12 He said), “Rejoice and be glad!” We are not to retaliate like an unbeliever, nor sulk like a child, nor lick our wound in self-pity like a dog, nor just grin a bear it like a Stoic, still less pretend we enjoy it like a masochist. What then? We are to rejoice as a Christian should and even “leap for joy” (Lk. 6:23).”

     John Stott

Guilty as Charged, Or is There a Way Out?

guilty1

 Guilt can be a merciless taskmaster that drives us far from God.

Or, guilt can gently lead us back to a right relationship with Him, more fully convinced than ever of the Father’s love. How we respond to guilt today can determine our success in life for years to come. It can even determine where we will spend eternity.

Pay Attention to Your Guilt

The Bible says we are created in God’s image and His glory. This wonderful privilege of bearing His image also holds out the requirement that we live righteous lives. When we do something that conflicts with our sense of right and wrong, an alarming thing happens: we feel guilty.

If you are feeling guilty, then this internal moral compass is sounding an alarm indicating that you may have sinned. And sin separates us from God. That’s why it is important to listen carefully to your guilt. Don’t just try to ignore those nagging feelings of moral ill. Listen to your heart. Then determine to find out what’s causing your guilty conscience.

Guilty As Charged

Even as you read these words, you may be coming to a realization of the source of your guilt. Perhaps you have offended someone. Or you have done something you know God did not want you to do. Guilt can arise from things we say and do that directly violate God’s law. Even if we are not familiar with a specific Bible passage, God has given us a law that is written on our hearts and helps us know when we have sinned (Romans 2:15)  

True guilt is God’s way of warning us to repent and turn away from our sins so He can forgive us, cleanse us, and make us entirely guilt-free. The fact is, the Bible says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Another passage says “the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Gal. 3:22). Guilt is a fact of life because sin is a fact of life. And our sin has the consequences of death (Romans 6:23). But God does not leave you “shut up” under the emotional burden and deadly consequences of sin. He has made a way to break free from our sin and guilt.

God’s Answer For All of Your Guilt

God works through everything that happens in our lives, including guilt, to draw us to Jesus (John 6:44, 45; 14:6; Romans 8:28, 29). No matter what you have done, God has made a way home – through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life, yet He was willing to die on the cross and receive the punishment we deserved. His death on the cross and triumphant resurrection secure for you all the blessings of God, including forgiveness. All you have to do is repent and turn your life over to Jesus (Acts 3:19). This is what the Bible calls being “born again” of the Spirit of God (John 3:3,5). We enter into the born-again experience by repenting of our sin, yielding our lives to Jesus as Savior and Lord, and trusting in faith that He will forgive and cleanse us from all sin (Romans 3:23; 10:13; 1 John 1:8,9; John 1:12).

Guilt-Free Living

God’s answer for sin and guilt accomplishes what no amount of human effort could manage. Thanks to the blood of Christ, we can “draw near” to God ” in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).

This cleansing is not just a one-time event. Every time the Holy Spirit prompts our spirit that we have sinned, we can return to His throne of grace to receive mercy (Heb. 4:16). If we fail to respond to guilt in repentance, we can expect God to continue to work in our lives until we come to Him in humility. For God desires children who can serve Him with a “clear conscience” (1Tim. 3:9). Having a clear conscience also requires that we walk in humility and repentance towards those around us. Be sure to seek forgiveness and to forgive.

Taking On The Accuser

At times, the enemy of our soul, Satan uses guilt to keep us from the Lord. The Bible describes Satan as the “accuser of the brethren” who appears before God day and night with accusations against believers (see Rev. 12:10). These accusations leave us feeling as if God has not forgiven – or will not forgive – us. We respond in shame, anger, bitterness, and depression – which further drives us from God’s presence.

This kind of guilt – a guilt that does not leave even after we repent and turn to Jesus for cleansing – is not from God. As we have seen, the blood of Christ fully satisfies God’s righteousness. Thus, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

If you have repented of your sins but still feel the accuser lurking in the shadows, confront the accusations with God’s Word. As Jesus said, “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Walk in that freedom.

As You Pray

God wants to free you from anything that would hinder your full life and liberty in Him. If you are dealing with guilt, choose the path that leads to life; repentance. Then stay on that path by fully accepting God’s forgiveness and cleansing: “Father, I confess my sins to You. Thank You for giving me of every sin I have ever committed. And thank You for releasing me from the burden of guilt. Help me to continue living every day for You. Amen.”

God’s Word On Guilt

“Since therefore, brethren, we have the confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is His flesh, … let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

(Heb. 10:19,20,22)

Scriptures For Study (and these babies are worth thinking about)!!!

Please believe them.

  • Romans 6:23 — Wages of sin; but we find it’s a gift of God
  • 1 John 1:9 — God’s faithfulness to forgive, no matter what.
  • Jeremiah 31:34 — No remembrance of sin. (“What sin? What are you talking about.”
  • John 1:12; 5:24; 8:36 — Belief in Christ delivers from sin
  • Romans 6:18, 22; 8:1 — Freedom from sin and guilt

You’re free. Completely and fully, forever and ever. All you must do is walk this out–no guile, no fakery or pretense. You’re behind such things. You’re Him and the sooner you understand the reality of your redemption the better. Repent yes! But follow Him forever (and ever and ever).

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