Six Words to Change a Destiny

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There are six words in the English language that people love to hear and hate to say. There is nothing special about these particular verbs and nouns, but when grouped together, they form two of the most powerful little sentences a human can utter.

It would not be an overstatement to say that these six words can alter the course of a person’s life… or even his eternal destiny. Of course, he has to actually use them and mean them for them to have any effect on his life. And therein lies the problem: people simply do not want to say them! Why is that? Because they require the acknowledgement of fault—something very few people seem willing to do.

The six words I’m referring to are, “I am wrong. Please forgive me.”

Jesus claimed that the two greatest commandments in Scripture are to love God with everything in us and to love other people with the same devotion we have to ourselves. Neither is possible without the earnest expression of the above mentioned six words.

I don’t need to tell you that receiving forgiveness for one’s sin is the primary prerequisite to entering the kingdom of God. And yet, experience tells me that while most true believers instinctively know they have been forgiven, they experience very little real affection for the Lord.

Why don’t believers love God more? I mean really love Him—something more than lip service or an occasional, fleeting sentimental feeling? Well, one thing is certain: Jesus would not have commanded it if it was not possible.

The key to solving this dilemma can be found in a simple statement He made while in a particularly challenging situation. He was eating dinner with a group of cynical Pharisees when a prostitute—clearly having just experienced God’s forgiveness for her wretched life—threw herself at Jesus’ feet and began worshipping Him. There’s much to this story found in Luke 7, but I want to highlight one statement He made that day: “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47 NLT)

Now, I know the Lord well enough to state confidently that His point wasn’t to say that the degree of our love for Him is tied to how much sin we have committed. He only stated it this way to accommodate these proud Pharisees. The truth of the matter is that any human being who has lived into adulthood has committed an enormous number of sins. The issue isn’t how much a person has sinned but the level of his comprehension about how much it has provoked and grieved a holy God.

To say to God, “I am wrong” in a meaningful way, indicates that the person believes that pretty much everything about himself has been wrong: his attitudes, his affections, his desires, his goals, his agenda. It’s all been wrong because it has all been conceived in his carnal, self-focused nature. To sincerely say, “Please forgive me” means that he grasps his great need for God’s pardon.

Any believer who comprehends the malignancy of his sin, the price Jesus paid to atone for it and the eternal implications of his forgiveness will find himself overwhelmed with gratitude. And it is that thankful spirit which forms the basis for real, heartfelt love for God. Yes, a person who is greatly aware of his past offenses against God will love Him a great deal, while a person who is only vaguely aware of his sin “shows only little love.”

The six words we are focused on also play an essential role in our dealings with other people—especially believers. Interacting with flesh-and-blood human beings is far more challenging than dealing with a loving, unseen Being. People get on our nerves, cross our wills, offend and even hurt us. On top of that, we have our own issues to work through. Most of us have baggage from the past which makes us suspicious of people’s intentions and overly sensitive to their remarks.

How is it possible for people with such fallen, marred natures to get along with each other? To love each other? I can tell you from having lived in “community” for a quarter century that forgiveness plays an enormous role in the process. Of course, being quick to forgive others is part of exhibiting love to others. “Above all continue to love one another fervently,” said Peter; “for love throws a veil over a multitude of faults.” (1 Peter 4:8 WNT)

But this article is zeroing in on our willingness to ask for forgiveness when we do something hurtful to another. This is not mere seminary rhetoric to me; it’s something that has played a big part in my life. There have been many times in the past—mostly during my early years—that I have hurt others with my words.

Over time the Lord softened my abrasive personality, but He also furnished me with a simple means of soothing ruffled feathers and making amends. Countless times I have gone to people and uttered those six words: “I was wrong. Please forgive me.” And nearly every time I have done so, the air was cleared and the offense forgotten.

Please understand that making myself vulnerable like this to others has never come easy. Yet, because my sins of the past and my sinful nature of today are so real to me, I find that I have no other option. I simply must humble myself when such situations arise.

Perhaps this is why I find Christians’ unwillingness to do this so grievous. In my years in the Church, I have encountered countless churchgoers who WILL NOT acknowledge fault, WILL NOT say they are wrong, and WILL NOT repent to others. People who are unwilling to humble themselves in this way are either spiritually immature or simply unsaved. Amazingly, they are usually the first ones to complain that others won’t apologize to them, being too blind to see that it is their own haughty spirits that keeps people at bay.

For myself, I plan on keeping these six words a mainstay of my vocabulary. How could I ever really love a God to whom I am unwilling to humble myself? How can I expect to love other people to whom I won’t make myself vulnerable?

It’s true, as much as we love to hear others say these six words, we find them very difficult to utter ourselves. If you have a hard time saying them, maybe you could practice them in private, just to get yourself acclimated to their sound. Go ahead, say them now: “I… am… wrong. Please… forgive… me. You might be surprised by what they will do for you!

 

 

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About the Author:

In 1986, Steve founded Pure Life Ministries (PLM), the first ministry in the world to sexual addicts. Over the years he and his wife Kathy did their utmost to create a spiritual atmosphere for men who entered the PLM residential center. It was part of God's plan for him to begin this ministry, but over the years the Lord laid a burden on Steve's heart to call the Church back to holy living. In 2008, Steve stepped down from running PLM to devote the rest of his life to exposing the great apostasy, calling people to repentance and leading Christians into an eternal perspective. Follow Steve Gallagher on Google+
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Comments

  1. Ted Heath  March 29, 2014

    That’s what I affectionately refer to as a “smoker”. “00” spiritual buck shot straight to the heart. So hard to be used by the Lord to produce any substantial level of eternal fruit without being able to do everything you articulate in your article, its a shame its taken so long to wake up to the reality of it. I’ve observed a connection however, as long as I hold onto things, possessions etc that have a piece of my heart, the harder it is for the Holy Spirit to break through and make the truth’s you wonderfully outline in your article real to my heart. The more I put the knife to a possession, the easier it is to fillet the next one. Paul stripped himself of everything but Christ……….wouldn’t that be a wonderful place to be…………. it wouldn’t matter how cold the winters are, it might very well fell like Costa Rica all year around.

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  2. Greg Gordon  March 30, 2014

    Excellent article. We need humility to say we are wrong much. Paul said he was a chief of sinners, we should be willing always to admit we have failed, especially as leaders in the body of Christ.

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  3. Carol  April 1, 2014

    Agreed…this article is so good!
    I must admit sadly that” I’m wrong, will you forgive me”? was not part of my vocabulary on a regular basis, but it is becoming more so as The Lord opens my heart to the truths in this article.

    I also love where Peter said “for love throws a veil over a multitude of faults.” (1 Peter 4:8 WNT)

    Can you imagine what it would be like to really love like that?

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  4. Annetta Small  April 1, 2014

    Thank you, Steve. Excellent reminder to all of us. Surely needed.

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  5. Rick  April 6, 2014

    Steve, once again I thank you for being willing to speak the truth in love. I read this article yesterday and God convicted me about a long-damaged relationship with a brother in Christ. Over time my anger and contempt turned to bitterness and have been a hindrance to my worship and Christian walk. God used your words to convict my heart and show that I was the reason for the breach in fellowship.

    This morning at church I approached this brother and with another member of his family present, I told him I was sorry and asked for forgiveness. God showed Himself to be faithful and true as this brother forgave me and we experienced healing and reconciliation by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Thank you again for your “Apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). I pray God will continue to bless you, your family and your ministry as you stay true to His calling!

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    • Kathy Gallagher  April 7, 2014

      Such a blessing to hear, Rick. This is the lifestyle of a true believer!

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  6. john white  April 7, 2014

    Excellent word, Steve. This is a tough lesson I am learning, particularly when confessing my sins to other people is concerned. I have found that they are much quicker to forgive me so long as I include and maintain the PERIOD after saying these six words to them. “I am sorry; will you forgive me?” PERIOD. So long as I don’t offer an explanation for why I did what I did or said what I said, they are better able to forgive me. “I am sorry; will you forgive me?” PERIOD…not BUT.

    I am also finding that saying these words in writing, in black and white, affords the other person plenty of space and time to process my confession. Writing allows the other person an opportunity to receive these words and then take up his or her deliberations with the Lord and not me. Certainly, I’ve had face-to-face confessions and some have gone well where the other person’s receiving is concerned, but there have been enough times where others on the “receiving end” of my sin have been “rattled enough” that my written word has made the difference. (“In person” or “in writing” is probably a good question to ask the Lord.)

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