I’m a big fan of grace. I was so lost and separated from God, to be forgiven is a huge thing. He did it all. I couldn’t change on my own.
I think a lot about my sins and how God has dealt with them one by one, gently, in His own time. The usual way people are told to be Christians is to offer a sinner’s prayer, to repent and believe.
Repentance is clearly a requirement, but I don’t think it’s something we really do on our own. If it was, it would be a work, and there is no work that can save us. I believe God chooses who he chooses, gives them illumination – the ability to see Him and accept Him. He shows us our separation from Him, and that results in a desire to change.
Praying for forgiveness is something we do, but it’s not something we cultivate, it’s something He cultivates.
In 1 John 2:12 it says “I am writing to you, little children because for his name’s sake your sins are forgiven.” The perfect tense suggests that they were forgiven in the past, and this forgiveness remains effective in their lives. It doesn’t stop because we have unconfessed sins. Believers are disciples….they are constantly being shown areas of difficulty, and given the grace to deal with it. Progress, not perfection, as they say.
I believe we can forgive much if we are forgiven much. Christians sometimes are not very understanding of the members of the body who struggle more than they do, or with sins they don’t understand. I think it’s a good thing that I struggled with deep sin issues. It makes me more compassionate. Less judgmental. More like God wants me to be.
There are tons of ways to study the Bible. I recommend finding a strategy, use it for a time, and then change to a new strategy when the current one gets stale.
I did the inductive method for a long time. It is great for picking up themes in the Bible. I have also done the ‘Bible in a Year’ method, which is good for reading long passages in context.
Currently, I’m reading short passages with a detailed commentary. I’m using the ‘New American Commentary,’ but I don’t necessarily think it’s the best one out there. There are free commentaries on the web. I recommend Crosswalk.com for more information on that.
Commentaries are great for finding treasures in Scripture. Linking themes together. Exploring Greek and Hebrew words and phrases. But you have to remember, the commentator is a human, and therefore fallible. Don’t take every commentator as gospel truth. Question what they say. Explore for yourself. Read more than one commentary.
This method is slow. You don’t cover a lot of ground. But it’s deep. Deeper than surface level.
I take a lot of notes. Too many. But it slows me down enough to really think about what I’m reading. I’m sure I’ll get impatient with that, and change up my methodology, but it’s working for me now.
The Bible is the best self-help book going. One of the purposes for Scripture is to teach, instruct, and guide. It doesn’t work if you don’t read it, though.
I really need good bible study. When I’m reading a passage, it helps me to reframe my mind into ‘rightness.’ It is one of the most important things a Christian can do. It is a form of worship.
One of the things God has been drilling into me is forgiveness. Specifically of my former husband. In 1 John, it says several times that you cannot be a Christian and hate your fellow Christian. I know I haven’t forgiven yet, because when I read these passages, I think ‘do I hate him?’ The fact that I ask the question tells me something. So I get on my knees and pray for relief from resentments. The anger in me dissipates. I’m ready to face the day.
In the program of AA, we talk about resentments a lot. It is said that resentments are the number one offender in the life of an alcoholic, and will drive us to the bottle if we don’t get rid of them. So we talk about how you can forgive but you don’t have to be best friends with the offender. I think that’s a way of keeping the resentment alive. The truth is that Jesus doesn’t say He will forgive but He won’t accept you into His family. On the other hand, He doesn’t force you into His family. He won’t forgive if you don’t ask for it. But He is God, and we are not. So we have to find a way to not only forgive, but love our fellow Christian.
I’m not there yet, but if I commit to forgive every day, I get a little closer. God has forgiven me a lot. Surely I can forgive a little.