Psalm 34:14, “Depart from evil, and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.”
Lesson 4 (vs. 14) – If we fear the LORD, it will change the way we live.
Consider this: Remember, David continues to teach us what it means to fear the LORD. In the months leading up to my salvation, during my late teens, I became so convicted of my sins that fear gripped my heart. Would the LORD strike me dead for my sins and would Hell be my eternal dwelling place? I had broken God’s Law in so many ways (see Exodus 20:1-17). Even though I was raised in a Christian home, had heard the gospel message a thousand times, and claimed that I knew God – I simply didn’t! It was as if I saw my sins for the very first time and I was filled with fear. I was a sinner. I practiced evil! I was separated from God.
For three months I was in spiritual agony believing that God could not save me. At a weekend retreat, I heard, once again, the familiar story that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sin. But this time it struck home to my heart that Jesus died in MY place. He was my substitute on the cross! The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). Just as I had earned wages for work, I was earning wages for my sin. My paycheck would be death – eternal death in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14-15). The Bible also says, “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the wages for my sin! He died so that I could go free. And then He offered to me forgiveness of sins and eternal life as a free gift! I finally came to the end of myself and repented of my sin and trusted in Jesus Christ as my LORD and Savior. The Bible calls this “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).
I asked the LORD to do whatever was necessary to change me from living a life of sin to living a life that pleases Him. When I came across this verse in Acts 24:16: “…I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men,” I understood that I was completely forgiven in God’s eyes. My conscience was clear. But when I thought about the sins I had committed against other people, well, that was another story.
So I wrote out a list of the people I had offended, had sinned against, and had wronged. It was a long, intimidating list. Just thinking about going to each one on the list to seek forgiveness, to make restitution, and to seek peace was frightening. But my conscience plagued me so much that I had to move forward with my plans. I wanted a clear conscience before God and men.
The first name on the list was Woodward’s Stores – a landmark department store in the city. I had worked in the downtown Vancouver store during high school as a gas jockey. Back in those days, gas stations paid people to pump gas in customer’s cars. I had quit the job several years before I was saved, but on my last day at work, two burly guys came into the storefront and in booming voices said, “Don Robertson…where is he?” I was a little overwhelmed by their overbearing behavior but admitted who I was. They said, “Mr. P… wants to see you upstairs…now!” My heart sank for I knew Mr. P. was the head of security for the entire store. I knew what he wanted, for all of the gas jockeys were stealing items and pumping “free” gas in each other’s cars…and so was I. When I got to his office and he sat me down in a wooden chair on the other side of his desk. He pulled out a file and began rattling off dates, times, amounts, and asked me to explain myself. Not only was I a thief, but I was also a liar and for the next 15 minutes I lied my way out of all of the accusations. There was enough reasonable doubt that he simply let me go on my way. And that was my final day. I had gotten away with it. Or so it seemed.
Now, years later, I looked down at the first name on the list and it was Woodward’s. I knew I had to go and confess my sins to Mr. P. and turn myself in. I didn’t know what he would do. I didn’t know if I would be home for supper that night. I feared the worst…but I wanted a clear conscience. I wanted to depart from evil and do good! I wanted to seek peace and pursue it. “Oh Lord,” I cried, “Please be merciful to me.” I drove downtown and got to his office in the store and his secretary told me, “Oh, it’s his day off! Is there anything I can help you with?” I declined to tell her why I was there and went home. I thought, “Thank you Lord – I tried!” But the Lord continued to barbeque me. So I tried a second time and was defeated again! And finally, on the third time I said to him, “Mr. P. you probably don’t remember me” and I explained the situation, and told him that “a change has taken place in my life and I want to make things right. I did steal from the store. I did lie my way out of the charges. I want to make things right and I want to pay for what I have stolen. Will you please forgive me for what I have done?”
Silence….it seemed like an eternity went by…(it was probably just seconds). He broke the silence and said, “You went and got saved…didn’t you!?!” The emotional dam burst and tears flowed down my cheeks. “Yes! I’m saved!” He shouted, “Well, Praise the LORD!” It turned out he was a Christian brother and he began to encourage me in my Christian walk with the LORD. He said, “Yes, you are forgiven.” “But,” he said, “it was good to hear you say that you want to make restitution. That is the right thing to do.” I had no idea how much I had stolen, but he told me to write out a check for an appropriate amount and it would be accepted as full payment for my sins against the store.
I sensed a surge of peace come over me and checked off number one on my list. What happened next? The story repeated itself as I worked through the list. It took about a year to visit each person, or call them and take full responsibility for any sin in the relationships. It would take far too long to go over every detail, but I want you to know that every single person and business offered me complete forgiveness when I confessed my sin to them. If I could make restitution I did. The LORD helped every step of the way to actively turn from evil and seek peace and pursue it. In doing so, it cleansed my guilty conscience, freed me from my past, and set me free from those sins.
When we are saved, we become children of God (John 1:12). God becomes our Father and that relationship can never be severed, for He says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28). Our relationship with God is eternally secure.
But what happens when I sin now? It breaks the happy fellowship I have with God. He is still my Father, and as my Father, He may discipline me to correct me. But His arms are always wide open to receive His erring child. I have nearly worn out the verse in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That broken fellowship can and will be restored if we humble ourselves and confess our sins to Him and receive His cleansing. The Prodigal Son can come home. His erring child can be restored to fellowship once again.
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Psalm 34:14, “Depart from evil, and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.”