Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6,7)
The principles and concepts that under-gird promises such as quoted above echo across the pages of the Holy Bible from the first book, Genesis, to the final pages of Revelation. They reveal a Creator God who, despite being despised, maligned, ignored, disobeyed, and/or being treated presumptuously by every living creature upon the planet (“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23) , in contradistinction to what many religions portray and what most individuals believe, is earnestly and passionately awaiting the slightest reason, the most meagre of excuses, to forgive, to show mercy, and to pardon.
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:16-18)
Thirty five odd years ago at age 24, after too many years spent in quiet but determined refusal to acknowledge or consider God, His ways or His people, and imbibing in practices and substances and a lifestyle which pleased me well, but impinged greatly on other’s rights and freedoms, I was asked a question that challenged me to the core.
“Do you think the life you are leading is pleasing to God?”
Today, after all these years, I like to think that my immediate response was a humble expression tending toward the negative, however, in light of what transpired later in the evening, I think that possibly my response initially may have been more of a non-committal grunt. I was at that time in no mood to consider religion, despite the fact that the questioner was a reasonably attractive young woman and the daughter of a Presbyterian minister. Not attractive enough to induce in me a change of lifestyle for her benefit; I was quite content with my life, or so I thought thank-you very much. I was happily single and had a well paying job; a little cottage in the country side adjacent to some of the best surf beaches in New Zealand was my home; I was debt free and little or no responsibilities and parked outside was a vehicle of no mean repute to get me anywhere I wanted to go. Life was good. For what purpose did I need God?
Several hours later however the question still rang in my ears. Was God pleased with the way I was living? Well, was He? The question kept hammering at my brain until I began asking it myself. I think it was at that moment that God knew that He had me. Because until that time, I didn’t need to answer the question if I didn’t want to. But the moment I began asking it of myself, it demanded a reply. And because of the importance of the question, it demanded an intelligent and honest reply. And the answer was simply no. Not by any stretch of the imagination, nor by any indulgence in mental or spiritual gymnastics, could I rightly and honestly justify my behaviour or lifestyle before a holy and righteous God. And it was as I was laying on my back contemplating these things that very night when I admitted as much. I took a long and honest look at myself and didn’t like what I saw. So I asked God for His forgiveness, and to make my life something that He could attach His name to without being ashamed. You see, until that night if anyone had asked me if I was a Christian, I would have replied in the affirmative. I believed in God. Sure, I had done a few things wrong, but I hadn’t killed anyone. At least not yet. I wasn’t that bad. I was judging myself however by human standards. It wasn’t that young daughter of a Presbyterian minister that was asking me that question all afternoon and into the evening. It was God Himself through His Holy Spirit. For a while I thought I could ignore the question; there had been in the past the odd moment that such religious conversations had come up on the beach, in the pub, at work, but I dutifully ignored them and by and by they would slip away into forgetfulness until the next time. This time however it didn’t go away. There was no-one else present to talk to to distract me. The surf was non-existent. As far as human companionship was concerned, I was alone, with only that question rattling around inside of me for company.
I had grown up in a church which taught auricular confession to a priest. There was no priest there that night. Just me and God. As far as I can remember, I didn’t confess any specific sin. Rather, I confessed my entire lifestyle. As I surveyed my past years, I could think of nothing good to commend it. No mitigating circumstances to lessen the guilt of a life devoid of godliness, a life empty of any spiritual worth. I have come to realise since, and the scriptures teach the same, that a life without God is a life of death. It is a life without hope, a life without substance.
Why did God choose to come to me that day, and issue me with that challenge? I don’t know, but perhaps He knew something I didn’t. That deep down I knew, if I was willing to be honest, that I wanted something better. Something other than the superficial. Something more than window dressing and good-times. I suppose my prayer that night, as far as prayers go, was fairly simple. Nothing ornate, or even overly religious. I wasn’t kneeling, I wasn’t in church, I didn’t own nor had ever read a Bible; just a simple “Please make my life one that you would approve of.”
I didn’t know what to expect as a result of that prayer. I wasn’t even giving that any consideration. My focus was being honest with God, and giving Him the opportunity to do whatever He needed to do. How He did it, and when, was up to Him. What did happen though would have been the last thing I expected if I had thought about it. The moment that prayer was uttered God personally stepped into my room, and into my life. My confession and admission of guilt was all the reason and excuse He needed to flood my room with His love, and to tell me I was forgiven. Not with words, because He didn’t need to speak. I knew. His presence was powerful, palpable, and very, very real. Have you ever been bear-hugged by love itself? I wept with joy for several hours until I fell asleep, and awoke in the morning a different person.
Everything around me was tangibly different. Colours were brighter, light was clearer, the house itself felt as if a great burden had been lifted from its roof, and best of all, I had this most marvellous sense of peace in the depths of my being; forgiveness. Guiltlessness. Freedom from all and any condemnation. And I knew that my life would never be the same again.
Without knowing it, I had experienced what the scriptures describe as a new birth. I was born again. The man that got out of bed that morning was a completely different person than the one that got in. And it wasn’t from a decision on my part to change my life, but rather a decision on my part to allow God to change it. God isn’t interested in our feeble attempts at self improvement. Nor does He desire that we change things in order to please or impress Him before we come to Him. He accepts us as we are. Dirty, tired, addicted, sick, unhealthy, disabled, downcast, depressed, fearful, dysfunctional, abused and abusive, the kingdom of God is a come-as-you-are affair; God is in the miracle business, He knows what is best for you, what your needs are.
It starts with confession, followed by forgiveness which is a promise written with the blood of His Son. It continues with a new creation which is daily transformed by the power , the grace, and the love of a dutiful Father who is faithful to the end, and promises never to let you go, and finishes with a life recreated in the image of God, and an eternity of joy and happiness that will ever increase as we learn more and grow closer to our Saviour and Redeemer. And in the words of Ellen White, from her book “The Great Controversy.”
The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.
© 2012 Brendan James, Repairing the Breech