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Our Tresspasses

W.E. Vine gives the meaning of the word 'trespass' as, "a false step, a blunder, a deviation, from uprightness and truth". All sin and trespass hinder communion with God and with one another. C. H. Spurgeon said, "The man who never made a mistake, never made anything". But how should we deal with such mistakes as those which affect our communion with God? First of all, when we became conscious of them we should make confession to God. It may also be necessary to confess the fault before the person or persons affected. Not as in the Confessional practised by Roman Catholics. Such confession may only be with the mouth, with little or no exercise of heart or conscience. But the disciple who is convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit comes before God in the spirit of the psalmist, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, Thou wilt not despise" (Psa. 51:17). Men may place little value on such contrition, but it is this that God values above all else. Thereby peace of mind and communion with God are restored.

Peter was most vehement in his affirmation, "With Thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death"; yet a few hours later he denied the Lord thrice. Upon the third denial the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. That look was enough - "and he went out, and wept bitterly" (Luke 22:62). Peter's spirit was broken and his heart contrite. It is significant that among the apostles the Lord appeared first to Peter on the resurrection morning (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5). A veil is drawn over what transpired between them, but Peter's broken heart and contrite spirit received the healing balm of the Lord's forgiveness. No accusing voice from Peter's fellow-apostles was heard; they knew that all had been put right in that post-resurrection meeting when the Lord appeared first to Simon.

In the record of God's dealings with His servants given in the Scriptures there are dark patches due to their taking one, or many, false steps. God called Abraham "My friend" (Isa. 41:8). Yet the story of Abraham's life reveals some of the false steps he took (see Gen. 12:10-2016:1-16; 20:1-18). We are not told of tears shed, or of a broken spirit and contrite heart. But doubtless this was part of Abraham's experience as the result of his failure and the attendant consequences.

God could speak of David as "a man after His own heart" (1 Sam. 13:14). Yet we have the record of his blunders and failures. His psalms abound with evidence of a broken spirit and a contrite heart. Examples of his experiences when he spent days and nights in tears and mourning are given in Psalms 6, 32 and 51.

These and other examples of God's dealings with His servants are recorded for our learning. They do not give license to sin, but they reveal that we have a forgiving Gad who would encourage us to resort to Him when failure overtakes us. Tears, a broken spirit, and a contrite heart restore communion and peace of mind.

The wealth and extent of divine forgiveness is emphasized in the New Testament writings, sometimes in contrast to the paucity of human forgiveness. Peter's query, "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times?" (Matt. 18:21,22), reveals the narrow limits of his mind. In contrast the Lord stated the almost limitless scope to which the love of Gad shed abroad in the heart of a disciple should extend towards a brother or sister who has sinned against him. In the following verses in Matt. 18 a mathematical comparison is given to emphasize the wealth of divine pardon:

ten thousand talents owed, and nothing wherewith to pay, and the debtor is freely forgiven the entire debt. Yet the forgiven debtor finds it impossible to forgive his creditor a debt of a mere five hundred pence. A solemn and searching comparison.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 2 there is an example of assembly forgiveness. There had been evidence of much sorrow, and a contrite heart on the part of the sinning one. Yet the assembly was slow to respond thereto. The apostle has to remind them of their responsibility to forgive lest there be permanent spiritual damage to the repentant brother.

When it comes to our knowledge that we have made a false step before God, or in relation to our brethren, then a broken spirit and a contrite heart will enable us td lay before Him our innermost thoughts. When we do this we can be assured of divine forgiveness. We are all prone to fall. Let us then remember the principles laid down by our Lord and His apostles so that there will be seen amongst us the practical outworking of the love of God shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which is given to us.

The following scriptures will be profitably pondered as bearing on the subject of trespasses and how to deal with them: Matt. 5:23,24; 6:14,15; 1 Cor. 13; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 4:31,32; Col. 3:12,13 (see also, Matt. 18:15-18; 1 John 1:5-2:2).