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Depending on your perspective, one of the joys or curses of growing up down South was country music. You couldn’t escape its influence.
Daddy used to listen to the Grand Ole Opry Saturday nights on the radio, which wasn’t too bad when I was four. You can stand almost anything at that age. Later, when I was in college, you basically chose your camp: ‘goat-roper music’ or ‘rock and roll.’
Church music was basically gospel, southern gospel (which was kind of a hybrid gospel/ country) or hymns. That’s the world that was.
I’ve always liked a little bit of everything and all of nothing, so you might find me listening to Chris Tomlin or some old Happy Goodman stuff. I like some classical and a bit of country.
Didn’t Like This Song
But, there was one country song I really hated. Bill Anderson wrote these words and Cal Smith crooned them, “The Lord knows I’m sinning and sinning ain’t right. But me and the Good Lord’s gonna have us a good talk later tonight.”
We know there’s a tension between expecting forgiveness and presuming upon God’s grace. This song criticizes those who criticize the writer and presumes that he’s closer to God than the one who criticizes him.
So, if you’re only criticizing someone who is criticizing you, that’s all right? It’s just not all right for him to criticize you? I see. That’s the definition of “tolerance” these days, isn’t it?
I kind of wonder about those who party, womanize, get wasted drunk and then “humbly” come to God and ask for forgiveness every night. If you’re planning on doing it again the first chance you get, it’s not repentance.
But, What If You’re Serious?
Most of us aren’t doing that. We want to live according to God’s Word, we just don’t always make it. Oh, we don’t smoke and we don’t chew and we don’t go with girls who do, but boy it’s hard to keep criticism out of our mouth. And pride. And jealousy. And lust out of our heart. And, and, and …
All of us need forgiveness and often.
How can we be sure we’re forgiven? Can we just wallow in the pigpen and then have a talk with “the Good Lord” tonight? (and lots of other nights?)
A Psalm About Forgiveness
Psalm 130 is about forgiveness–wanting it, getting it, and wondering at it. This man lays bare his heart; no strutting and preening here: “Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (vv 1, 2)
Have you ever felt this way? “Lord, I’ve blown it again. Please listen to me.”
Aren’t you glad that the Lord really does forgive? “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.”
If God kept score (like we often do with others), we’d be in big trouble wouldn’t we? “But, isn’t that too easy David?” Easy? It sure wasn’t easy for the Lord to pay the price for our sins so that we could be forgiven and saved. “O Israel, hope in the Lord; For with the Lord there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” (v. 7)
Did you get that? His redemption is abundant. So is His forgiveness.
But, A Hundred Times?
“But, um, well, you see … I’ve kind of been fighting a battle for a long time, and I’ve asked for forgiveness like a hundred times already. How many times will the Lord forgive me?”
He will forgive you each time you sincerely ask forgiveness.
But, here’s a bit of advice. Go beyond just forgiveness. Sin plants some nasty seeds that you don’t want to reap and you don’t need that in your life.
Rise up and battle against this demanding foe. Quit saying that it’s stronger than you. Claim God’s help by faith. Find someone who walks with the Lord and ask their advice. Claim their prayers. Do what it takes to get free.
God’s forgiveness is not like human forgiveness. He paid the price so that we can be forgiven and His forgiveness is immense and complete. “… there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.” (v. 4)
Feared? We don’t expect him to say that do we? Maybe “that you may be loved” but “feared?”
When we see that kind of forgiveness we go ‘‘whoa!’’ like Peter getting scared when he saw the miraculous catch of fishes. How long has it been since we’ve been awestruck by God and overwhelmed by the greatness of His forgiveness?
« Lord, I fear you because you’ve forgiven me! I walk in wonder, in reverence, in overwhelming love for you.”
Are you missing that “fear of the Lord” that comes when we realize His forgiveness? Maybe we see other folks’ sin as enormous and ours’ as small. So, our thankfulness is small because we don’t think we had need of a lot of forgiveness.
“Lord, I know you’ve forgiven my little sins and that’s great, but oh my, that fellow over there, you had to work hard to forgive all his sins.”
Hey, the Lord’s working hard to forgive you right now because of your judgmental attitude. The fellow that figures he’s just a little sinner may be the biggest sinner of all because of his proud heart.
Are you needing forgiveness—badly? Don’t wait to talk to the ‘Good Lord’ tonight. Go to Him right now for forgiveness and deliverance from sin. “There is forgiveness with You.”
It’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.
Paul “Bear” Bryant