Peace be with you!
Anytime I do something for the first time, my muscles tense up as if to ask what they are supposed to do. Due to having Cerebral Palsy, my muscles do not always like doing what I tell them to do. Take the simple task of picking up a quart of juice off the floor to put it in the refrigerator. Most people can do this without thinking about it. I have to think about the best way I can grab the bottle, how I can lift it over my head (no simple task) to get it onto the shelf, and then I have to execute the maneuver. If I fail the first time, I have to rethink how I can get the juice bottle off the floor and into the refrigerator. I know it seems like a simple task, but when you have to fight with your muscles, the most random and simple task becomes a challenge.
Now let’s take a bigger activity: training for a fourteen-mile bicycle ride in October. For my avid biking readers, fourteen miles seems like a piece of cake, and part of me thinks so too. But then I have an involuntary movement and the fear of losing control of my three wheel bike and tipping over creeps into my mind, and the fourteen miles seem impossible. What is my personal trainer/friend thinking? What am I thinking for agreeing to be her biking buddy? Where do I even start with the training?
Here are some questions for you: Where do you begin when you first come to believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? How do you begin to have a relationship with God? These questions seem a bit odd to those of us who have always believed. For some of us, our relationship with God began well before our first memories. It seems like we were born with our relationship with God. Others have come to know God later in life after having children and desiring to pass on a good heritage to them, or after experiencing tragedy or heartache and finding their need of God.
Others have come to faith after experiencing guilt for a sin that harmed others grievously. . These individuals ask how God can forgive them for what they did in the past. Maybe the individual was part of a gang and led his younger siblings to join, only to see them killed during a fight. It seems impossible for him to forgive himself for allowing his brother or sister to die; it should have been him. The individual has carried around the guilt for years or even decades. Now that the individual has come into a relationship with God, God says that he is able to let go of the guilt for he is forgiven … but how?
The beginning of the journey with God is a bit scary. No matter how we cut it, we are unclean – unworthy of God’s love and forgiveness. The power of sin makes us feel powerless. What business do you have seeking forgiveness from God after following the Devil? It is unthinkable. Take our reading from Isaiah where God calls Isaiah to be prophet to speak on his behalf. But Isaiah claims it to be impossible since his lips are unclean from past events where he has broken the Ten Commandments. A prophet should be someone who has upheld the Ten Commandments and lives according to God’s will. Surely, there is someone more fit to be prophet than him. But God sends seraphs, angels with six wings, to touch Isaiah’s lips with hot coal in order to take away his guilt and past sins. God redeems Isaiah from his past by offering him forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not something we can earn through our own actions. God gives us forgiveness freely through Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection. Righteousness was given to us when Jesus rose from the dead. We are forgiven only through Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
In Romans 8:1-11, Paul tells us the power of God is life-giving when the Holy Spirit lives in you. Whatever power the flesh has over you vanishes away when the Holy Spirit enters your life through the risen Lord. Paul continues on in Romans 8:12-17, comparing life in the flesh to life with the Holy Spirit. When you live according to the flesh, you will die; the Devil has no plans to keep you after you have done your job for him. You become a slave to the flesh with no identity or input on the outcomes of your actions. And if you refuse to conform, someone can always replace you. However, the Holy Spirit will give you life; you always have a place in God’s kingdom, no matter what happens. God adopts you into his family with love and grace, giving you an identity as his child. You are no longer a slave of the flesh, but set free of your sins through God’s forgiveness. You are changed when you welcome the Holy Spirit into your life. Your new identity embraces God’s love and grace.
So if you know anyone like the ex-gang member who feels that forgiveness is impossible for her, start her with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, because he died for her sins and rose again to make her righteous in the eyes of the Lord.
Yes, the ex-gang member led his younger siblings to join the gang, which caused their deaths, but nevertheless he is forgiven. Yes, you did [whatever “it” is] you did, but nevertheless you are forgiven. It does not matter what you did in the past; as long as you have the Holy Spirit in your life, you are forgiven. We start with Jesus washing away our sins and giving us God’s love and grace.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for giving us your forgiveness, love, and grace through Jesus in our baptisms. Help us to accept your forgiveness as we accept the Holy Spirit into our lives. Guide us by your life-giving power to live lives according to your plan. We are humbled by our adoption through the Holy Spirit. Thank you for taking us in as your children and never leaving our sides. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. Where do you begin when you first come to believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? How do you begin to have a relationship with God?
2. Has there been a time in your life when you found it difficult to accept God’s forgiveness? How did you overcome this?