It is not unusual to find in religion, as it relates to Christianity, two extremes of thought. There are those who feel God is so full of loving kindness that he will readily forgive us of any and all of our sins if we just ask him. We may be kind of sorry that we did whatever it was we did, sorry about the consequences at least, so feel we must ask God’s forgiveness but the truth is if the same set of circumstances were to arise again we would do the same thing all over again not putting up much of a fight against it. Somehow we feel we were justified in the act we committed.
We tell ourselves the temptation was too great and thus God understands even though he has said in his word through Paul the apostle that, No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Cor. 10:13 NKJV) We thus go on living pretty much the way we would have had we never obeyed the gospel except that we go through the exercise of asking God’s forgiveness from time to time. We never really repent from the heart.
I do not want to leave the impression that to commit the same sin more than once implies that we have not repented. It can be very tough to resist the temptation to a sin that we are attracted to. In fact, if we could only commit a sin once and then if we did it a second time God would not forgive us who could be saved? But, remember this, forgiveness is dependent on true repentance. The rich young ruler went away sorrowful but did not repent.
What I have been talking about is an attitude, an attitude of recklessness and carelessness, an attitude of almost indifference to righteousness, an attitude of no real commitment to battle sin. Just do it and then ask God to forgive and all is well.
I believe the Bible teaches that a man might commit the same sin over many, many times and God would still forgive him provided his attitude was right, the sorrow genuine, and the repentance from the depths of the heart each time. So, we are not keeping count of how many times a particular sin might be committed and God still forgive but we are talking about an attitude that is often found. Rest assured if your sin breaks your heart and as a Christian you ask God’s forgiveness he is merciful and will forgive. If you are determined to fight the temptation when confronted again, even though you might fail, God will forgive.
The other attitude we sometimes see in men is the attitude that my sins are so great or so numerous, and perhaps my sins have hurt so many people, God could not possibly forgive me. Since we are talking about Christians we are talking about those who have wondered away, become involved in sin, and have separated themselves voluntarily from their brethren. So, we see two groups – one feeling that God will forgive without a thought about my state of mind or spirituality and the other thinking God will never forgive. Both are in error. I believe a study of Manasseh, king of Judah could prove profitable for both groups.
I want to give you an account of a man so evil that we are horrified as we read about the things he did. I read from the English Standard Version of the Bible about King Manasseh of Judah as found in 2 Kings 21:1-12 and 16.
Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, ‘In Jerusalem will I put my name. ’ And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with wizards. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. And the carved image of Asherah that he had made he set in the house of which the LORD said to David and to Solomon his son, ‘In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever. And I will not cause the feet of Israel to wander anymore out of the land that I gave to their fathers, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the Law that my servant Moses commanded them. ’ But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel. And the LORD said by his servants the prophets, ‘Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations and has done things more evil than all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols, therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle.
And then verse 16:
Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.
What does one say about such a man? What can one say? Manasseh was the personification of evil. Can you imagine giving your son up as a burnt offering to an idol? In our society today, as bad as it may be, no official could even think about getting by with such evil. No such evil would be tolerated in our land. Add to that the Bible says he shed very much innocent blood to the extent he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another.
Why did God drive out the nations from the land which Israel was promised during the days of Joshua often destroying from the face of the earth every man, woman, boy, and girl? Here we are told in verse 2 it was because of their despicable practices. Yet, here we are also told that Manasseh did things more evil than all that the Amorites did (verse 11).
He made the house of the Lord into a house for idol worship. There was seemingly no type of idol nor heavenly body that he would not worship. The Bible says he worshiped all the host of heaven.
And then we also have this that he led many, many others into sin for which they would be very severely punished. No matter what we may think about our own sin I think most of us would do about anything and everything in our power to not be responsible for leading others into sin, for being the cause of their sin. I know we are that way with our children but I also think we feel that way about others. No Christian desires to bring harm or hurt on others and certainly not sin which, if unrepented of, would lead to their eternal spiritual condemnation.
If I repent of sin in my life and yet I have been responsible say for leading my children into sin of which they do not repent how do I live with that? It would be tough.
Here we have a man so evil that our human nature might well led us to say that we don’t want to see such a man saved. We want him punished. We do not ever want to see the man let alone have anything to do with him. We almost hope God will not forgive him for we want to see him punished. He deserves it.
However, if we are honest we all know the Bible teaches us that we all deserve it. We deserve a beating, we deserve to be punished, we do not deserve salvation, we ought to be punished for our sins. There is none righteous, no, not one. (Rom. 3:10 NKJV)
As bad as Manasseh’s sin was I ask you can it beat this that is found in Hebrews 10? Beginning in verse 26 the text reads as follows:
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (verses 26-29 NKJV)
Let us be honest and face the truth. I think in about everyone’s life we often do things we know we should not and yet we do it anyway. We sin willfully. John says, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8 NKJV) John was writing to Christians when he said that.
Solomon in his prayer of dedication of the temple said, speaking to God of God’s children, If they sin against you – for there is no one who does not sin (1 Kings 8:46 ESV) and asked that God forgive them upon their repentance.
David Lipscomb made a comment I read which I have never forgotten for I believe it is probably true. He said, I doubt if any man ever lived a day without sins of omission or commission. (Questions Answered by Lipscomb and Sewell, page 241) We often overlook the sins of omission. They can be as willful as sins of commission.
I remind you that sins of ignorance do not prick our heart. Those are not willful sins as we are ignorant of them. Our heart is pricked when we do what we know we should never do and we do it anyway. We commit willful sin.
I don’t know about you but I often think of the passage in Hebrews 10 just quoted when I find myself having done something I know I should not have done and really knew it at the time I did it. Why? Because it tells me how serious my sin is for it says I have trampled the Son of God underfoot and counted the blood of the covenant a common thing and insulted the Spirit of grace. That is about as serious as it can get and the truth is even if it was not God’s son, the one who died sacrificing his life for mine, would I, do I, want to trample any man or woman underfoot, treat them that way? And then to do such a thing to God’s own son who loved me enough to die for me. I then know I am not deserving of salvation and realize how evil my heart has become.
I am no more deserving than Manasseh. We too often make ourselves out to be someone when we are no one. We are better than the other guy so we say to ourselves. It is laughable when we do such a thing for it is like two thieves comparing themselves. You are a worse thief than I am for I only stole 50,000 while you stole 100,000. Well, big deal. The truth is if we could all load our sins up into a truck, every sin we have ever done, we would not want anyone to climb up and look into the truck bed to see them.
I use to fear when I was young that there might not be any hope for me when I committed a willful sin. I had read the Hebrews passage and quite honestly misunderstood it. The Hebrews passage means exactly what it says but at the point of repentance there is a change.
Until I repent I am still guilty of the willful sin. When I do repent I am no longer trampling the Son of God underfoot nor making light of his shed blood. In fact, at that point in time, I am exalting Christ the Son of God and counting the blood of the covenant a great thing, not a common thing. Instead of insulting the Spirit of grace I am praising it and giving God glory for it.
I ask you why did Jesus die on the cross if he was determined to condemn us the very first time we committed a sin knowingly after our gospel obedience? He may as well of stayed in heaven had that been the case for who could be saved? If I believed that was the way it is I would not even bother to type another line for what would be the use. I would already be condemned without remedy and that decades ago.
Under such circumstances there would be no motivation for trying to live the Christian life. It would be one strike and you are out so eat, drink, be merry, and get ready for hell. We cannot live in willful sin but we can repent of it, seek God’s forgiveness, and go on and live a life of hope. I am a willful sinner only as long as I am willfully sinning.
But, my original point was that you and I have been guilty even after our conversion of trampling the Son of God underfoot, counting his blood as nothing, and insulting the Spirit of grace. Needless to say that is about as bad as it gets. So, do you want to compare yourself with Manasseh? What would be the point? We would just be like the two thieves previously mentioned.
As evil as Manasseh was he repented and God forgave him. How great is God’s grace? Can it be measured?
I read from 2 Chron. 33:12-13, And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God. (ESV)
Manasseh had been taken into Assyrian captivity, taken to Babylon, where his afflictions led him to seek the Lord. When he did with his heart God heard him. Was his repentance genuine?
The Bible says, speaking of his return to Jerusalem after his repentance, And he took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built on the mountain of the house of the LORD and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside of the city. He also restored the altar of the LORD and offered on it sacrifices of peace offerings and of thanksgiving, and he commanded Judah to serve the LORD, the God of Israel. (2 Chron. 33:15-16 ESV)
God said in the book of Ezekiel (18:21-23 NKJV):
’But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the LORD GOD, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live?’
David, a child of God by birth, wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Psalms 86:5 (NKJV), For You, LORD, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.
I don’t know who is going to be in heaven as far as individuals go. I cannot name names. That is not my role. But I think of two kings, Solomon and Manasseh. One was a great king for a long while but the Bible teaches that in old age he became an idol worshipper. The other was as evil a king as one can imagine but in his later years turned to the Lord his God. When we come to the end of our life how do we want to die? Do we want to be worshipping God and serving him? Two men who lived differently and died differently.
I would remind you that under the law of Moses the Jews were God’s children by physical birth into the Jewish race. We become God’s children by a spiritual birth, the new birth, in our own era of time. Manasseh was a child of God who strayed greatly. You and I are God’s children.
We should never give up on ourselves or other Christians no matter how far away we or they may stray. God will forgive if we will repent.
One final thought and then I close. Do you think Manasseh would ever have had his eyes opened and been led to repent had things continued going well with him and his people? Set backs, problems, difficulties, and troubles in our life if used properly can led us to where we need to be if we will allow it.
Seek God and he will forgive. You cannot be so bad but what God’s grace will be sufficient for you. Seek God for he is kind and gracious and a forgiving God who takes pity on his children. Praise his name.
Kings of the earth and all peoples;
Princes and all judges of the earth;
Both young men and maidens;
Old men and children.
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
For His name alone is exalted;
(Psalms 148:11-13a NKJV)
Passages for further emphasis Joel 2:12-13, Ezekiel 18:21-23 and 27-28
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