"Return, faithless Israel, says the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, says the Lord; I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the Lord your God. "
While I was visiting with my family after coming home from India, and we were discussing righteousness by faith, someone suggested that we kneel in a circle and confess any problems between us. As we were kneeling, one of my sisters looked up at father, hoping he would acknowledge how deeply he had wronged her! He couldn't do it, but got up and went outside. I followed, thinking to protect him from himself, because I remembered from my childhood that if dad had to take the blame, he would threaten to kill himself. I put my arms around his neck and held him tight! He was no taller than I. Then I prayed, "Lord, what shall I say to my father?" God impressed me to say, "Dad, the reason you get so tense when all your children come home for a visit, is that you are so afraid we are going to talk about our childhood. You have so deeply wronged your children! The only one you have not wronged is me." He thought for a moment, then said, "Margaret, I have wronged you too!" What was he doing? Acknowledging his guilt!
Then he took me into his bedroom and the guilt just poured out, even sins of his youth. The burden of guilt was crushing him and he did not know what to do.
"Men professing to be followers of Christ fall to a low level, always mourning over their shortcomings, but never overcoming and bruising Satan under their feet. Guilt and condemnation constantly burden the soul, and the cry of such might well be: 'O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?'"
He had been rebaptized two years before, hoping the guilt would lift, but it only got heavier. No one had taught him how to come to the cross, and lay down his burden at the feet of Jesus. He did not understand the plan of salvation. Then he cried, "Margaret, help me! " But I did not know how to help him! I could have told him, "Try a little harder," but in that moment I knew it was not the right answer. So I said nothing! I had to leave him in that condition. But I went home and began to search to help my father. As I searched, I discovered my own lost condition. Then I studied to find answers for my own need, and I found them. Later the Lord sent me back to my father and my whole family.
"God reveals to us our guilt that we may flee to Christ, and through Him be set free from the bondage of sin."
"The guilty know just what sins to confess that their souls may be clean before God. Jesus is now giving them opportunity to confess, to repent in deep humility. "
"Those who have not humbled their souls before God in acknowledging their guilt, have not yet fulfilled the first condition of acceptance. "
If you become impatient or irritated with someone, do not blame them, although they may have done wrong. Acknowledge your guilt, that you did not represent Christ to them. If your children are disobedient, they do not need an angry parent, they need help and prayers. God's power cannot work in your discipline if you do not use His methods. Often parents blame the children when they get angry with them, so the children carry their own guilt and that of the parents. How sad! Then the parents punish the children but do not pray with them and bring them to Jesus for forgiveness and healing. How unfortunate! That is how roots of bitterness develop.
When my husband and I began to understand the gospel, we were brought to deep repentance and acknowledged how we had failed each other and our children by not knowing how to let God's love control us in our relationships with each other.
If you are not ready to acknowledge your guilt, but do want to be saved, you can come to Him anyway and He will help you.
"Come to Christ just as you are, and contemplate His love until your hard heart is broken. . . . It is the virtue that goes forth from Jesus which strengthens the purposes of the heart to turn away from sin and to cleave to that which is truth. It is Christ's virtue that makes repentance sincere and genuine. "
As I was preparing to go back to my father, I was praying that God would have my family call me and offer to pay my travel expenses to come and share with them. I wanted to be sure God was sending me.
About two months later one of my sisters called, "Margaret, help me!" "What is wrong?" "My daughter has run away from home. She is on drugs. She is with a man. I don't know what to do?" I answered, "Tom and I have just found an experience with the Lord a few months ago. We feel for the first time we could help a sinner. Would she come and visit us?" "I don't know where she is," my sister answered. I said, "Never mind. We will pray, and if we can help her God will send her to us."
In a few days she was at our place. The man she had been staying with had left her and not knowing where to go, she went home. Her mother told her that I wanted her to come for a visit. So, here she was.
As we were trying to make conversation that evening, I was praying, "Lord, how do I approach this girl? What can I say to her? I don't know how to do it! Lord, you must open the door to her heart."
Just then there was a knock at the door. When I opened it, there stood a minister's wife from right next door to us. We had just moved there and had not really become acquainted. She said, "I sense that you and your husband are finding something real in Christianity. I want it, too. Will you share with me? Will you teach me?"
Well, it was easy to share with her what I had discovered about the plan of salvation and the power of the gospel. We had a good study together, and she was very thankful, and the whole time my niece had been in the room, listening to the conversation.
After the lady left, she said, "If there is that much power in the gospel, there's hope for me! " I asked, "Why do you say that?" She answered, "You know how stubborn I am! I watched my parents. They did not have victory. [Her father was a church school teacher] I watched my friends' parents. They did not have victory. I watched my teachers. They did not have victory. So I decided, if they have been trying all those years and they cannot find victory, I, with my stubborn nature, might as well give up now. I might as well enjoy the things of this world. And that's what I am doing. I love sin and my conscience doesn't even bother me anymore. But if what you are saying is true, then there is hope for me! "
We had a good discussion and then it was time for bed. I thanked God for opening the door and I expected to be able to continue studying with her and helping her to find a living connection with God. But the next day the door was closed! She found a job at a restaurant and we seldom saw her.
One day I was on the phone with a friend who had just left her husband and young sons and run off with another man. I expressed sorrow and disappointment, and pleaded with her to reconsider, but she would not.
As I hung up the phone, I realized my niece had come in and had listened to my pleas. She said, "Didn't you invite me here to try to bring me to Christ? Aren't you disappointed?" I realized here was another opportunity and quickly prayed that God would give me the right words. "No, I'm not disappointed," I said. "God has long range plans for you, and I am trusting Him." She gave a sigh of relief. I was not going to push her to make a decision.
Many of us have pushed and pushed our children, and they may have decided to be baptized, but did they know God? Did they really surrender the heart? Did they really experience the power of the gospel? We had another good conversation, but the next day she was unavailable again.
About a week later she came in with a man, and asked me to share the gospel with him. Of course I did, but after he had left, I said to her, "What are you doing? You are leading him into sin, and then you bring him to me to teach him the gospel!" "Yes, I know," she answered. 'I believe now that anyone can be saved - except me! " Why did she still think it was impossible for her to be saved? What was the barrier?
I asked God to show me what the barrier was that still stood in her way. A few days later, as she was leaving to go home, God gave me the answer. I told her, "If you ever want to follow Jesus, don't start by trying to give up your sins. Start by getting to know Jesus. Spend hours sitting at His feet, reading the Bible and the Desire of Ages. Get to know Him. Immerse yourself in the things of God." She did not say that she would do it, and she left. But we kept on praying for her.
Two months later she phoned us. "I have been doing what you said to do," she told me. "For two months I have immersed myself in God's word. I have spent hours reading about Jesus. I can hardly believe what is happening! My whole heart and mind are being drawn to Jesus, and I don't even care about sin any more!"
Who had done it? Who had brought her to repentance? Who had changed her thinking? The Holy Spirit. Why? Because she gave Him a chance. She learned of Christ and allowed Him to impress her heart, and bring her to repentance. When her mother saw the change in her daughter, she called me and asked me to come and teach her also and she offered to pay my way! Now I was free to go to all my family and share with them and help them also to find true heart repentance.