Robert Jeffress - How Can I Know How To Start Over When I've Blown It - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. As much as we try to avoid it, everybody makes mistakes. Most of them are just minor blunders but some have the potential to damage relationships and alter the course of our lives. So, is there any way to recover from committing a serious offense? Today, I'm going to show you how you can experience a new beginning in your life, regardless of your failures. We're answering the question how can I know when to start over when I've blown it? On today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
One of the questions I'm most often asked by people who have made a major mistake in life is this: can I ever recover from my mistake or am I going to spend the rest of my life paying for my mistake? Now, if the person asking is a Christian, I understand what they're asking. They're not asking whether or not God is going to let them in heaven after they die for the mistake they've made. They're wondering, am I sentenced to a lifetime of hell while living on earth for the failure in my life?
Perhaps you're asking the same question as well. A divorce, a termination from a job, an addiction, a financial setback has left you sitting on the ash-heap of a ruined life, and you're wondering can I ever recover from this mistake? If that's true of you, I have some bad news and some good news to share with you today. The bad news is you cannot erase your failures from your past. History has no rewind button upon it. But the good news is your failure does not have to be the final chapter of your life story. You can experience a new beginning, and that's what we're going to talk about in this session, how can I know how to start over when I've blown it?
The Bible says that to have a new beginning in your life, regardless of your failure, you have to follow four essential and sequential principles, and that's what we're going to look at today, and I encourage you and those of you watching this series to use your notes, to take these very important insights down. How can I start over after I've blown it? A new beginning always has to begin with number one, admitting our mistakes. We are pre-disposed to make mistakes. Some of our mistakes are little ones, you know? Like exceeding the speed limit and receiving a traffic ticket. Some are more major mistakes like a bad investment decision that wipes out our 401(k) investment plan. But the kind of mistakes I'm talking about are these life-altering mistakes, mistakes that are usually accompanied by a lament that begins with the words "If only".
"If only I had not clicked on to that website". "If only I had given up that relationship before it was discovered". "If only I had sought help for my addiction before it destroyed my life". "If only I had said 'I'm sorry' before he or she died". The starting place for experiencing a new beginning is to admit that we have indeed made a mistake. Now, that's easier said than done for most of us. Most of us have a very difficult time admitting our failure, don't we? I think there are two reasons we find it difficult to admit our failure. One reason is because of pride. And most of us are like Adam who did not want to admit his failure, and the fact is, we don't want to admit that we're like other mere mortals who make mistakes.
So we have a very difficult time fessing up to our mess up in life. But the Bible says mistakes are universal. Romans 3:23 says "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". And that word "sin" in Greek means to miss the mark. It's a reference to an archer who shoots an arrow and fails to hit the bullseye. And what Paul is saying is all of us miss the mark. All of us fail to hit God's bullseye 100% of the time or even most of the time. We are pre-disposed to make mistakes in our marriages, in our finances, in our job, in our morality, all because of this three-letter word called sin. Why is it we're all prone to sin, to fall short? And the fact is, all of us have been infected with a virus that is more deadly than the west Nile virus. And how we contracted that virus, Paul explains in Romans 5:12, it's called the sin virus. And Paul says, "Therefore, just as through one man, Adam, sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all of us sinned".
Now, we'll leave it to the theologians to debate exactly how that worked. But what Paul is saying is when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, in a very real sense, that sin virus was passed on to you and to me, and that means when we are born into this world, we are born with a tendency to mess up, and mess up big time. We are all prone to sin. There's a second reason that many people find it difficult to admit their sin, and that is because of fear. Remember after Adam sinned, he went to hide in the trees that God had made? Which is kinda foolish when you think about it. But he hid himself from God and when God found Adam, he said to Adam, "Why are you hiding from me"? And in Genesis 3:10, Adam said, "I am hiding because I was afraid".
Afraid of what? Adam was afraid of having his sin uncovered. The problem is, everything that is covered up eventually is discovered. And even if we're successful in temporarily covering up our mistakes from other people's eyes, we can never hide our mistake from God's eyes. In Hebrews 4:13, the writer says, "And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do". But beyond the ineffectiveness of trying to cover over our mistakes, when we hide rather than admit our mistakes, we rob ourselves of the benefit that comes from admitting our mistakes.
Let me mention several benefits that come about when we admit our failure. Proverbs 28:13 says, "He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper. But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion".
Admitting our mistakes is essential number one for receiving God's forgiveness. We'll talk more about that in a moment. But it's essential to admit our mistakes if we wanna receive God's forgiveness. St. Augustine said, "God only gives to those whose hands are empty". Only when we empty ourselves of our denials and our rationalizations for our mistakes are we in a position to receive God's forgiveness.
Secondly, admitting our mistake is essential for renewing our physical and emotional vitality. Have you discovered how emotionally exhausting it is to try to cover your mistake? To try to hide your failure? Remember, David was guilty of a clandestine affair with Bathsheba, and for anywhere from six months to a year he tried to hide that relationship, and he was successful, or at least, he thought he was successful. But nevertheless, during that six months to a year when David refused to admit his mistakes, his vitality was drained away from him. In Psalm 32:3-4, David said about that period of his life, "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me. My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer".
Finally, you remember the story, Nathan the prophet confronted David, and pointed out his guilt not only to David but the kingdom. Now David had a choice at that point, he was still king, he could've had Nathan the prophet executed and he could've silenced the wagging tongues in Jerusalem. But he was tired of that heavy feeling of trying to hide sin and so he chose to admit his failure to God as well as to others. And listen to the relief, the instantaneous relief that David experienced. In Psalm 32:5-11, David said, "I acknowledge my sin to you, and my inequity I did not hide. I said, 'I will confess my transgression to the Lord' and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones, and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart". There is a physical, emotional, spiritual relief that comes when we are willing to admit rather than hide our mistake.
Number three: admitting our mistake is essential to learning from our mistakes. Have you discovered that failure usually has a price tag associated with it? When you fail, it may cost you your job, your financial security, even your marriage. A failure always has a price tag associated with it. Now, the only thing more tragic than having to pay that price once is having to pay it again and again and again. The Bible has a term to explain the negative consequences of our failure. The term is: reproof. Right that down, reproof. The Proverbs talks constantly about the reproofs of life. The reproof of life are the painful consequences that we experience when we fail. And God says we'd better learn from those failures or we'll have to experience those reproofs over and over.
Jot down Proverbs 10:17. "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid". My parents used to tell me, "Don't ever call anybody stupid, that is really rude". But the Bible says here's a stupid person. One who fails to learn from his mistakes and instead, suffers the consequences of those mistakes over and over again. Or Proverbs 12:1. "He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, but he who ignores reproof goes astray". When we're willing to admit our failure rather than hide our failure, that paves the way for the second step toward a new beginning, and that is experiencing God's forgiveness. Experiencing God's forgiveness.
Now, when we talk about God's forgiveness, it's essential that we understand there are two kinds of forgiveness mentioned in the Bible. Sometimes, when the Bible talks about God's forgiveness, the Bible is referring to God's judicial forgiveness. His judicial forgiveness. Sometimes the Bible uses the term "Justification" or "Justified" to describe God's judicial forgiveness. This is the forgiveness a non-Christian experiences the moment he trusts in Jesus as his Savior. God's judicial forgiveness means we never have to fear that we'll end up separated from God for all eternity. We have been changed from being slaves of God to being children of God. That's God's judicial forgiveness, and you are never more justified or forgiven than the moment you trust in Christ as your Savior.
In Psalm 32 :1-2, David expressed the relief that comes from experiencing God's judicial forgiveness. Look at the scripture with me. "How blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered, how blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute inequity~ and in whose spirit there is no deceit". I want you to notice in these three verses, there are three key words that describe what happens to us when we experience God's judicial forgiveness. The first word is the word "Forgiven". David says, "How blessed", literally, how happy is the man whose sin is forgiven. Now that Hebrew word "Forgiven" literally means to separate. That is, when God forgives you, he separates you from your sin.
The Bible says when God forgives us, listen to this, he separates us from our sin. He no longer thinks of our sin when he thinks of us. Psalm 103:12 says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far God has removed our transgressions, our failures, from us". Isn't that a great thought? God removes our transgressions from us. How far is the east from the west? It's infinity. That's what God does for us when he forgives us. Secondly, David uses the word "Covered" to refer to what God did to us. "He has covered our sin". David said that in Psalm 51:7. He knew he needed God's forgiveness to cover him. He said, "Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow".
There's a third word that David uses to describe what it is that God does for us when he forgives us, and it's the word "Impute". "How blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not impute". Now that word "Impute" is a Hebrew word that means to charge to the account of. The Bible says in Romans 6:23 "For the wages, the payment of sin is eternal death". Now, here's the dilemma. Every moment of every day, our account is going down, down, down, down, down. Our second problem is there's nothing we can do to replenish our spiritual bank account. No act of righteousness we commit is ever credited to our account, did you know that? If you're not a Christian, God gives you absolutely no credit for any good thing you do.
In fact, in Isaiah 64:6, Isaiah says, "For all of us have become like the one who is unclean, all of our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment to God". The best you and I can do before God is like a filthy rag. Or to use the metaphor, it's like counterfeit money in God's sight. God doesn't credit us for any good works we do if we're not a Christian. So do you see the problem? It took God to come up with a genius solution to that problem. Paul explains it in second Corinthians 5:21. Paul said, "For God made him", talking about Jesus, "Who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him".
Listen to this, Jesus Christ is perfect righteousness. No wonder David said how happy, "How blessed is the man whose sin is forgiven". But there's a second kind of forgiveness, the Bible says, that we need, and that is God's parental forgiveness. God's parental forgiveness. If we're already a Christian, if all of our sins have already been forgiven, you may wonder, well why do we need to confess our sins to God again? Nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God if we're a Christian, not eternally. But there is an emotional separation that comes between God and us when we sin. In Isaiah 59:2, God said it this way through the prophet Isaiah, he said, "Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear".
Now remember, God wasn't talking to pagans, he was talking to his own people. He said, "Even though you're my children, your continued disobedience has caused a barrier between you and me". It's the same way in our relationship with God. How do we break down that emotional relational barrier between our Heavenly Father and us when we are sinning? In a word: confession. In 1 John 1:8-10, John says, "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us". But "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us of our sins and to clean us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make God a liar and his word is not in us".
Now we often quote that verse in relationship to non-Christian. But remember, this verse was not written to unbelievers, it was written to what John called his "little children", to Christians. He's talking about the importance of confession in a Christian's life. The only way to break down that wall between God and us is to admit our failure before God so we can receive his parental forgiveness, and of course, with that admission is an inherent promise to turn away from that sin and to do better.
Alan J. Redpath said it this way, "It is a tremendous moment in a Christian's life when he can honestly look up into the face of God and say, 'yes, Lord, you are right and I am wrong. Yes, Lord, I got what I deserved in that situation, you were right, I am wrong'. That is the thing for which God has been working in your life and in mine from the moment of our conversion". We need God's judicial forgiveness, we need his parental forgiveness, both come by admitting our failure to God.
Now the question often arises, well, if I've been forgiven by God judicially and parentally, why do I still suffer the consequences of my mistake? Has anybody asked you that question before? Why is it, if I've been forgiven by God, I still have to suffer the consequences of my mistakes? After all, forgiven people still contract STDs, they still experience divorce, they still go to prison. Why doesn't God erase the consequences of our sin from us if he's truly forgiven us? Because God loves us, and the painful consequences that we continue to experience even after we've become a Christian are a sign of God's love, not his hatred toward us. For the sting of those painful consequences is a daily reminder of the effects of sin and a great motivation to stay in line in our obedience with God.
Think about king David. King David, after he experienced that great forgiveness he wrote about in Psalm 51, even after David had had his sins covered by God, he still had to experience the aftermath of a disloyal son, a dead baby, and a divided kingdom. And yet David said about that experience in Psalm 119:67, "Before I was afflicted, I went astray". That is, before I began experiencing the consequences of sin, I went astray, but now, I keep your word.
A woman visiting Switzerland came upon a sheepfold one day. She noticed dozens of sheep scattered on the ground surrounding the shepherd. But in the corner lay a single sheep in a pile of straw obviously suffering great pain.
The writer says, "Upon further inspection, she noticed that the sheep's leg was broken. She asked the shepherd what had happened. He responded, 'I broke it myself'. Sensing the woman's surprise, the shepherd continued, 'of all the sheep in my flock, this one was the most wayward. It would not obey my voice and often wandered away from the flock. On several occasions, it wandered to the edge of a perilous cliff. Not only that, but it was starting to lead other sheep astray as well. I knew I had no choice, so I broke its leg. At first the sheep was resentful. When I would attempt to feed it, it nearly bit my hand off. But after a few days, it became submissive and obedient. Today, no sheep hears my voice so quickly or follows me more closely than that one'". That's what David was saying. "Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey his word".