[CF Devotionals] 2008-07-02 - Summer Questions

2008 #3: Dealing with the Past

Psalm 23:3, "He restores my soul."

I would like to give a brief introduction before I get to the question. This question is lifted from a note that was a couple pages long. There is more background here that I am not providing, and while I provide the question and response I have given to all the devotional readers, I am really more writing this man personally. I do hope in some respects that it can be a help in general, but my response is directed to the author of the question himself.

Question 3: His love for me is overwhelming. His transformation in me has been amazing - I needed you to understand the relational aspect and history before I asked this question. Through the last twenty years, I have committed, condoned and accepted sin within my household. Much of the sinful nature that I possessed has spilled over into my family. Sin is well-accepted in my household - I cannot forget what pain I have brought to family with lost relationships. God has done amazing things with the relationships with my kids and wife. I am afraid however that they won't forget my past and will use it as an excuse to continue in their sinful ways as I had done for so many years. God seems to be calling me to continued restoration of those relationships. To just live for Christ and to be a model for them through my love, because he first loved me. I have felt at peace about this. He is doing amazing things with those relationships. I trust him fully for their lives. My question is about the hate that I have for the sin within my household. I have been the lead trainer of living a life of sin. But the spirit within me hates the sin. I pray daily that God will continue the work that he has started within my family for their salvation. In the meanwhile I just want to run. To escape the sin in anyway.

I would like to start by encouraging you to continue to seek to grow in grace. I am sure that there are going to be many discouragements that you will encounter as you seek to follow the Lord. I would like to suggest two things only, besides the overall reminder that a changed life is a powerful testimony unto the Lord, that none can deny. You have expressed how your family knows your past, and that you have caused a lot of pain in the past. Here is the chance for you to show how astonishingly Jesus Christ does change a life, when He reaches down in mercy and transforms a life. Your family knows who you were when you were not walking in faith, and now is the chance to show who you are by His grace.

In Scripture, we see the impact that a life turned around can have on others. The Apostle Paul (Acts 9) is certainly a prime example of this. Any true encounter with Jesus Christ will change your life. You have the opportunity to show this with power. Changing lives is what Christ does, and every believer is living proof of this. The changed heart is seen in the changed life, and as you live before those who knew you in the past, your outward acts will show that the change in your heart is real. This change has to affect every area of your life. There must be no place where Christ does not rule in your heart. Thoughts, desires, affections, behavior, speech, and even relationships are changed in Christ. There will be no place in your life that is not affected. There will be no place where a significant difference is not evident.

Here are the two areas that I would encourage you to key in on:

  1. Your Family: It could be that for the rest of your life, your one ministry, your one consuming passion, your everything, will be tied up in the hope of being used of the Lord to reach those you love and care for. There is nothing in the world that compares to the value of a soul. By your own admission, you have done much to lead those in your family, including your wife, along a road that hurts their openness to the things of Christ and salvation. I want to encourage you to live quietly before them, growing into Christlikeness. You will have failures. We all have failures, but we learn to bring them to the cross and seek to not make the same mistake again, even if we have reached 70x7 times of making the same mistake. Even then, we still flee to Christ and seek to live unto Him. Our desire is to live more and more consistently/faithfully with our profession of faith.

    You cannot jam your faith down the throats of your family members. It took years for things to get where they are, and there are no quick fixes. Pray for them, seek to quietly influence them into ways of righteousness, and simply live before them the new life that you have in Christ. As you continue to grow unto Christ, there will be no denying that there is difference between the new you, and the old you. In time, you can seek to introduce some spiritual things. Invite them to church with you, from time to time. If one of your children is going away for a weekend, or has something important coming up - a job interview - ask them if they would take a moment and pray with you concerning the matter. They don't have to pray, and your prayer doesn't have to be perfect, but the knowledge that you are praying about their concerns, and desire to pray with them concerning such things, that mean much to them, will show spiritual leadership in the home - and again will doubtlessly raise questions about who this new guy is, living under this roof.

    You have to be careful not to smother them. The mindset that "this will take the rest of my life," will take you far in keeping patience. Only the Lord can change a heart, but He can use you in the process. New Birth in Christ is a work of the Spirit of God. I do feel that (and discouragements will probably come) setting your sights upon seeking to be used in the lives of those you love, care for, and long to see united with Christ is worth the effort - even if it takes the rest of your life.

  2. Your-Self: If you would be used of the Lord in the lives of your family members, I think you must be vigilant in seeking personal holiness and progress in the things of the Lord. I will suggest a couple of things. One is to make sure that you have a daily devotional time, reading the Word of God and praying. Keep a prayer list. For those who do not keep a prayer journal, I generally suggest that they write down three things (just three) that they long to see the Lord do. Then I encourage them to lay siege to the throne of grace with those requests. Your prayer times might develop over time, and they generally do, but you must pray. There is no such thing as a prayerless Christian. If you don't have a regular time of reading God's Word, the hardest thing sometimes is to know where to start. Let me suggest Genesis 1, Psalm 1, and Matthew 1. Do a chapter a day in each, and just keep going. As you plod through Scripture, you will probably develop a system of your own. A Christian who does not have regular stated times in God's Holy Word is a far cry from what a Christian should be - and is certainly not growing in grace. I also suggest that you read a book. There are a million books out there, but I will suggest Sinclair Ferguson's small book called "The Christian Life." It is a good essentials book to growing in the grace of Christ, and it is in print. If you cannot find a copy, I will send you one (free) in exchange for your address.

Lastly, let me suggest that you find an accountability partner. This is a radical thing these days, and who you ask is a significant decision. What I have in mind is a guy who you respect at your church, who seems to have his family in order, and who would be willing to meet with you once a month, or twice a month, to talk and pray together. I suggest this because you can't go at this Christian life alone, and you are alone in your family. You need outside support and encouragement. It does not have to be someone at your local church, but just someone who you can speak with, pray with, and who you know is praying for you also. You need someone who will say to you, "How goes the battle?" and means it, knowing what sort of battle you are in. It is good to have someone who you can call up and say, "Pray for me," and because they are involved in your life you don't have to say more, or much more, because they know what is going on already in your life. I think this would be an advantage to you, and I want to encourage you to pursue finding the right (not just anyone) guy to partner with.

I thank you for your honesty in your note. I think it shows a genuine desire to see your family know the grace that you know. I also think that this should be your clear focus. God has given you the wife you have, and the children you have. You have the opportunity, even with the past considered, to have a tremendous influence and impact upon their lives, unto salvation. My hope is that they Lord would be pleased to use you in the lives of those you love, to make His matchless grace reign in their hearts. There is nothing - I am convinced that there is nothing of more worth than a soul, and you are strategically placed in these lives of those you love, by God's providence, and it may be His pleasure to use you in bringing them into His mercy. That is something worth giving all you have unto, and I pray that you do, and that the Lord blesses your efforts.

Soli Deo Gloria,

[email tim] GodRulesTB@aol.com

Editor's Note: The questions in this series are stated in the exact form sent by the readers - unedited, unproofed, in order to remain true to the reader's original wording.