The first step in forming a habit of obedience to God is experiencing His forgiveness. The Bible teaches that confession is prerequisite to God’s forgiveness, whether for salvation or daily fellowship. This confession involves repentance and, when necessary, restitution.
Confession without repentance constitutes fraud. In Proverbs 28:13 we read, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
Confession sometimes involves restitution (exodus 22:1–15). Usually this is the forgotten aspect of confession. But if our sin deprived someone of something that was rightfully theirs (whether goods or money or an honest amount of work), we must not only apologize to the offended person but also seek to repay him as soon as possible.
The beauty of Scripture is its good news that God freely forgives those who properly confess their sins. Manasseh was one of the most wicked men to serve as king of Judah. He overturned Hezekiah’s reforms and served false gods with more zeal than the nations God had destroyed (2 chronicles 33:1–9). But after being captured by the Assyrians, Manasseh greatly humbled himself before the Lord—and God forgave him!
If God could forgive such a wicked king who humbled himself, surely He will forgive us when we truly confess our sins and repent. Confession is humbling, but “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 john 1:9). Learn this verse and use it—often.
Here is another good verse to add to your Scripture memorization list: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more” (hebrews 10:17). How remarkable it is that the omniscient God promises not only to forgive our sins, but also to forget them forever!
God’s Fences for Freedom
When I was growing up in Argentina, God’s commandments, especially the Ten Commandments, were taught in such a legalistic way that I avoided any serious study of them until after I had finished my graduate level biblical studies in the United States. I discovered at that time how little had been written about them.
Our sinful nature causes us to corrupt that which is beautiful. We turn God’s moral law, which the apostle Paul called “holy, righteous and good” (romans 7:12), into oppressive legalism. Perhaps that’s why some will frown at the mere mention of the Ten Commandments.
“They remind me of my grandmother, who had a fit if I ever wanted to play outside on Sundays,” one person admits.
“Thinking of the commandments reminds me of my father, who refused to read the Sunday newspaper,” says another.
The words of God should not elicit such reactions. Let’s return to God’s moral law and shake off the chains of sincere but sinful human beings who have twisted the beauty of God’s commandments.
When the Lord gave Israel the Ten Commandments, He says, in effect, “Listen, O Israel! I brought you out of bondage not to create another bondage for you but to liberate you. And if you remain within the boundaries I am about to give you, then you will be free. You’ll have plenty of room to maneuver. So enjoy all that I have given you.”
God’s statement includes a warning. In effect, it says: “As long as you stay within the fence, you will be free, but once you try to stretch the boundaries or jump over the fence, you will be in bondage once again.”
I am convinced this is the way God intends us to view all of His commandments. The apostle John reminds us, “His commands are not burdensome” (1 john 5:3). They are life!
Now obviously living up to the Ten Commandments doesn’t give us salvation. We are all sinners (romans 3:23) in need of a Savior (romans 5:8). Both the Bible and experience teach us we couldn’t keep the Ten Commandments perfectly even if we tried (romans 7:1–8:4).
The purpose of God’s commandments is to lay a foundation for us on which to build a life of love, freedom, and obedience.
Spend some time meditating on a commandment from God. Start with the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1–17. As you study and pray, answer these questions: First, what does each commandment reveal about the character of God? Second, what does each commandment liberate me from? Third, how does each commandment protect me? Finally, if love is the fulfillment of the law (galatians 5:14), then what does each commandment reveal about love?
I believe once you answer these four questions, you will look at the commandments of God with a new perspective. As the psalmist says, “Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight” (psalm 119:35).