If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
I don't know about you, but I very rarely had to diagram sentences growing up. I know we had to underline the verb and noun, the object etc, but have you ever seen those diagrams where there are lines and angles and words on end? It's crazy. I'm rather glad I never had to do that. But.
But--I have realized that in a way our lack of understanding of sentence structure could be contributing to some of our failures as good little Christian boys and girls.
Take the if-then clause for example. The if-then clause is like a mathematical equation. If A=B and B=C, then A=C. Right? So there are three important words there (ok there are only 3 words there period): IF, AND, and THEN. IF says "ok, pay attention to what I'm about to say, because everything hinges on this." AND says "I just said one pivotal thing, but there's more, so make sure you see that what I'm about to say is just as imporant as the first thing." Finally, THEN says "Ok, once you've seen the first two things happen--and only when both of them have happened, you will now be able to experience this next thing."
Does that make sense? So in the equation, I cannot see that A=C without first verifying that A=B and that B=C.
I'm sure you're loving the math lesson here, but I do have a point as it pertains to today's verse.
Here it is as an if-then statement:
"IF we pray AND we turn from our ways, THEN God will forgive us."
And here it is as an equation:
Praying + Repentance = Forgiveness
Some people try to get the Forgiveness right away. Others think that they only need to say the words "God forgive me." Neither of these fits the equation. First, you can't have one side of an equation without the other. So to get forgiveness you must have prayer and repentance. Second, prayer and repentance really must go hand-in-hand. Praying is going to God and admitting you have done wrong. Repentance is saying you don't ever want to do that wrong again. (How many times have you prayed to God to forgive you for doing something that you have no intention of quitting?)
Now I don't want anyone to feel condemned here. I myself have many times asked forgiveness for things that I was about to do, not even something I had just done and knew I'd do again. We're all gonna mess this up from time to time. But it's a heart issue. If you truly want to be more like Jesus, you will want to recognize the sin in your life and turn from it. God will forgive us our sins because Jesus died as punishment for them. If you call Jesus your Lord and Savior his blood will wash you clean. But does that give you carte blanche? No it does not. Because again, we're supposed to be trying to be more like Jesus, not trying to find ways to get away with sinning.
Let me say that again: We're supposed to be trying to be more like Jesus, not trying to find ways to get away with sinning.
So, if I leave you with nothing else today, may you remember this simple equation: Prayer + Repentance = Forgiveness. It might just help you live a more Christ-like life.