Ask for Forgiveness Later?

12 May

Sneaky Thief

Amanda Brown was the winner of the book drawing for “One Tough Mother.” Congratulations, Amanda!)

A man went to see a counselor. “I’ve become a compulsive thief,” the man said.

The counselor replied, “You really should stop that and ask for forgiveness.”

“I’ve tried to stop,” the man said, “but I just can’t!”

“Oh, well, in that case,” said the counselor, “could you get me a wide-screen television?” *

Kathy Sanchez, one of my (Dawn’s) friends at church, recently wrote on her Facebook page:  “When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn’t work that way. So,” she joked, “I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.”

Later, when I wrote and asked Kathy if I could quote her, she wrote, “Go ahead. I stole it from someone else. And I will ask for forgiveness about it later.”

Now I know Kathy’s heart, and that she was kidding around. We tend to laugh at that concept. I hear it all the time. Maybe we’re puzzling over whether we should do something ~ weighing the pros and cons, the benefits and consequences. And then we get this “helpful” advice: “Oh, go ahead. You can always ask forgiveness later.” Or another version:  “It’s easier to get forgiveness than to ask permission!”

In our daily interactions, that might be OK in some circumstances when we are sure we’re not sinning, and it’s just part of choosing the better of two options.

But it doesn’t work spiritually. And I want to make a quick spiritual point, because we all want more joy in our lives … joy in God and in our relationship with him. But there’s something that can really steal that joy…

There are sins that we do in ignorance, sins that we commit in moments of weakness … and then there’s this other kind of sin that’s u-u-u-u-ugly. It’s premeditated.

David calls this premeditated sin “presumptuous” (Psalm 19:13), and he prayed that he’d be kept (put in check) from this kind of wicked thinking. A presumptuous sin is one that we commit willfully when we know better ~ we do it deliberately. We rationalize it away. We might even devise a plan. And we reason that it’s somehow OK, because God will forgive us.

We all have that little flicker of rebellion deep in our hearts. We want our way, and we’re willing to ignore the Spirit’s voice within, saying, “No. Stop. This isn’t right!” But we go on planning and scheming how we’re going to move ahead and get away with it … knowing full well that it’s wrong.

I’ve found that presumption can take place in any area of life. It can take place in our area of deepest weakness, or in our area of greatest strength and pride … and sometimes in both!

I found this true one day when I clearly heard the Spirit of God speaking to my heart about not buying a necklace for an outfit I had. I knew that He wanted me to wait for Him to provide the jewelry another way… or to do without. Jewelry wasn’t in our budget at that point. But having a necklace that day seemed so irresistible (a point of weakness). So I found myself driving to the mall.

Again, the Spirit spoke:  “Don’t even go near that jewelry counter, Dawn!” But I thought I could resist (and there’s the pride), so I said, “I’ll just look.”

Long story short, I ended up finding a pretty little thing and taking it home. I disobeyed the promptings of God. And wouldn’t you know it, it broke the first time I used it. And all I could hear in my head was, “Why wouldn’t listen to me?” I did listen, but I secretly had this little plan to get what I wanted. Otherwise, why did I even head to the mall?

Presumptuous sins are brazen, “in your face” sins. John Bunyan (author of Pilgrim’s Progress) referred to such sin as “the contempt of [God’s] love.” **

We can get involved in presumptuous sin when we fancy that we can play with sin and not be hurt … or that we can stop just short of really bad stuff. So sometimes we give the devil a tiny little foothold, ignoring the fact that he wants to drag us further into deception (Ephesians 4:27).

Spurgeon called presumptuous sin one of the enemy’s “masterpieces of iniquity.” *** It’s a masterpiece, because our enemy is subtle. He knows the scriptures, and he uses the truth of God’s grace and mercy to tempt us to sin. “Oh, go ahead,” he says. “God is merciful. You can always ask for forgiveness …  later.”

The truth is, we are always free to make a choice to sin, but we can’t eliminate the consequences: guilt, loss of joy, broken intimacy with God, and more.

Think of the tragic consequences of David’s presumptuous sin with Bathsheba. In his heart-wrenching prayer of Psalm 51repentance in Psalm 51, he acknowledged that his sin was ultimately against God (Psalm 51:4a). It led to murder, deep conviction, stinging rebuke, the death of a child, blasphemy against God, and violence in his family. (2 Samuel 11:14-15; 12:1-18; Psalm 38:1-8; 51:3, 8, 12).

Yet David was still a man after God’s own heart, and he asked God to “curb him; put a bridle on him,” Spurgeon said. Paul warned us to be careful not to be puffed up with pride ~ thinking we can’t fall into sin (1 Corinthians 10:12). God wants us to be humble, sensitive to sinful tendencies and temptation, and repentant ~ fully turning from sin; not just being sorry we got caught ~ when we do sin.

We need to listen and obey when God speaks. And the scriptures tell us to be watchful and prayerful (Matthew 26:41) in the face of temptation.

We all want to LOL with God more ~ to experience joy in His holy presence.  Learning to deal with sin, and especially presumptuous sin, will give us more opportunities to enjoy and serve Him with a clear conscience.

* adapted from another joke

** http://www.bulletininserts.org/bulletininsert.aspx?bulletininsert_id=106

*** “Presumptuous Sins,” Sermon 135 (6-7-1857) by Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon ~ http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0135.htm

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