Forgiveness and Healing

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B is addicted to gambling. In the past, she would go to Genting to gamble. But now, all she needs to do is to pay $100, and gamble to her heart’s content at MBS. Over the course of a year, she has lost all her savings. She starts borrowing money from loan sharks, always believing her luck will change. It didn’t. She now quarrels with family because she wants to “borrow” from them. She then steals from family to pay the loan shark. She begins a pattern of self-destruction: borrow from loan shark and stealing from family.

One day, she comes to her senses. She calls her estranged family together, confesses her sin, and asks for their forgiveness. She wants to turn over a new leaf. The forgiveness part is taken care of, but what about the healing? The family knows she has a sin pattern and that pattern has to be broken. They want her to register herself so she cannot go to the casino. They want her to use her time constructively by taking on a job. Any job would do. They want her to surrender all her money except her daily allowance. They send her to an addiction clinic for help. And they require her to worship, join a small group, and talk to the church pastor.

Let’s say, the family accept her repentance, but do nothing to help her heal from her gambling addiction. You can be sure she will drift back to her pattern of gambling.

When water has been running down a hill a certain way, it gouges out a path for itself. This becomes the path of least resistance, and the water will head down that path digging a deeper and deeper groove. If we want the water to run along a different way, we need to divert that water. We need to fill up the ravine the water has gouged, we need to do something to effect change.

Our Father’s forgiveness is only the start of his goodness to us. He continues his goodness by providing us healing from our sin issues. These are called “means of grace.” Repentance brings forgiveness, but repentance does not bring healing. It is amazing how often we confuse the two.

If a child says, “I have wasted my time in computer games. From now on, I want to use my time wisely.” The parents are delighted and then expects the child to somehow stop his pattern of behavior and adopt new patterns. It can happen. But more realistically, the child needs support to find new patterns of behavior.

If a person is ensnared in a sexual sin, he can repent from it, and can want to genuinely move out of it. But until and unless he also has a healing process in place, he will fail again and again. He will hate himself and write himself off. He thinks his repentance is also healing. It is not. It is only the start of healing.

If a person is insecure or lonely and gets into all sorts of trouble in her quest for security or companionship, she may repent a hundred times for all the wrong things she does to meet her desperate need. Yet, her repentance will not lead to a new life unless the wound of insecurity and loneliness is addressed.

(1) The first means of grace is also the act of repentance – baptism. In baptism, we say, “I believe in Jesus, I confess him as Lord, and die to sin, and now I will live a new life.” It is like the surgery one needs to get a fracture fixed. Then comes the other means of grace. They are like the physiotherapy and exercise one has to do to recover. They have to be done constantly, regularly, and diligently. (2) One of these is the holy communion. It is the physical affirmation of the spiritual reality of baptism. It is the reminder that we have died to sin, and the sin that we engage in is motivated by the evil one. (3) Another means of grace is prayer. Not the type of prayer that merely lists items, but personal prayer through a time we set aside, call on Abba Father, assume the right posture, and pray out loud to him. (4) In our day, God has provided another means of grace at a level no generation before ours enjoyed. Bible Reading. We have all sorts of reading programs allowing us any version to compare if we think something is unclear; and on days we are too lazy to read, we can even switch to audio and have it read to us. We can read in different fonts and on the computer or the phone. We can do it while we travel. We can even take notes and share with friends in a reading community.

Let us receive not only forgiveness but healing also. Let us exercise God’s means of grace to us with diligence that we may have healing in our soul.

Pastor Peter Eng

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