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How Many Apologies Does It Take?

So you’ve messed up and apologized. You only owe one apology per offense, right? Not necessarily. Yes, the person you wronged is commanded to be quick to forgive you, but some cases can be better resolved after multiple apologies. Likewise, several layers of apologies may be helpful to restore intimacy.

As a Christian, you are not condemned. So, if you’re feeling unsettled even after you’ve apologized, you’ll want to proceed prayerfully to know if the Lord is prompting a next-level apology…or to see if this idea is actually coming out of wrong reasons such as people-pleasing, co-dependency issues, false guilt, etc.

If someone is coming to your mind right now and you’re wondering if you need to apologize again (or maybe even apologize when you’re the one who is owed an apology), the following exercise can help guide you.

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

*Is the Lord speaking to your situation through these apologetic scenarios?

“So, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24). There’s room here for the possibility that the one at the altar could extend a previous apology, yet it lack enough depth or sincerity for the brother to release the grievance.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone…if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you…” (Mt. 18:15, 16). There’s room here for the possibility that a brother might only offer a half-apology and not agree when being asked for a more complete apology.

“…you were grieved into repenting…” (2 Cor. 7:9). There’s room here for the possibility that as they grieved, the repentant ones became increasingly sorry, maybe even apologizing once more. There’s also room here for the possibility that during the grieving period the offended can be struggling to forgive; but once a fresh apology is delivered, forgiveness comes easier.

 *Does this basic truth resonate?

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). There’s room here for the possibility that an apology you previously gave – before you knew Christ – doesn’t feel sorrowful enough to you now, and you want to do it again.

*Do any of these foundational commands apply?

“You shall love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mk. 12:30). There’s room here for the possibility that the more of you that loves God, the more you’re able to hear Him telling you to do a better job apologizing.

 “…be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). There’s room here for the possibility that with a renewed mind, you think differently about the situation and can apologize with a clearer perspective now.

 “…continue to work out your own salvation…” (Phil. 2:12). There’s room here for the possibility that the more you live out your salvation, the more regretful you’ll feel about your sin towards another, leading you to a more deep and sincere level of apology.

*Still not sure?

“Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will exalt you…Carry out this act of grace…for the glory of the Lord…” (Jas. 4:10; 2 Cor. 8:19). There’s room here for the possibility that if you’re being led to offer someone another apology – and it’s coming from a humble place in your heart – then God is being glorified by you!

Responding to Cultural Norms: What’s a concerned Christian to do?

Examples of Societal Norms of Generations Past:

  • Kids would stay outside all day (parents often had no idea where) until the supper bell rang
  • Smoking was as common at dinner parties as hors d’oeuvres
  • Public places were segregated based on race

Significant Norms Today:

  • Most people can be found with a device in their hand or pocket at all times
  • Comfort is highly valued
  • A spirit of entitlement is widespread
  • Dress codes of any kind are rarely considered necessary

Christians have always had to figure out how to maintain a Biblical worldview while functioning within society. Great Biblical commentator, Matthew Henry described it this way: “By going about our worldly affairs with heavenly holy hearts, mixing pious thoughts with common actions and having our eyes ever towards the Lord, we take Christ along with us wherever we go.”

To deal with today’s norms in this way, a practical plan is helpful.

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

Technology is permanent and Christians must appropriately adjust. In the same way that you contemplate a reasonable bedtime and healthy food intake, it’s crucial to learn, model, and teach device etiquette. The next generation in particular is desperate for interpersonal skills that will always be lacking if face-to-face communication isn’t practiced. Additionally, and equally important, is for owners of devices to be encouraged to decide for themselves when to take breaks from technology regularly and consistently in order to spend quiet time in nature and with the Lord and His Word.

The quest for comfort has produced an epidemic of laziness and self-centeredness. Yes, students work hard in school, but often endurance isn’t what’s being celebrated and there’s no concept of paying one’s dues. Rather, the thinking upon graduation is that good income is deserved and work is only a means towards getting a well-deserved break. This spills over into other areas as well, such as making eating choices to be comforted rather than to be fed. This focus on personal comfort is not Biblical. Those who follow Jesus have a charge to build His Kingdom while leaning on Him for energy and sustenance. Those who have taken hold of this hard-working mindset must go out of their way to demonstrate the awesome strength of God at work and show a life of living for Him and others. Further, at times it may be appropriate to point out to someone how living for the kingdom of self is leading them away from the purpose of their existence.

There is a growing “you owe me” attitude towards well-off people and institutions. Millennial employees of large companies, as an instance, can be so blinded by entitlement and the god of tolerance that they have no idea they are stealing and asking their customers to take part in their thievery when they give them free food and drink, etc. It never occurs to them that by giving away their company’s merchandise to their customers on the premise of kindness, they are simultaneously disregarding right from wrong, and robbing their employers of their rightful income. Their hearts have been made beautifully tender, but lack of truth in their lives has made the approach faulty. It’s crucial not to engage in these “acts of generosity.” Those who understand truth must be constantly looking for ways to teach it and spread it to the ones who are constantly hearing from media that there is no truth.

Once lifestyles became more casual, a steep, slippery slope was introduced. Girls who are accustomed to less coverage and seeing pictures of female bodies all over social media find it not so difficult to send nudes to males who request them. Sloppiness abounds in this modern world with regards to modesty, male-female interactions, and sexuality. The ramifications to brains, human development, marriages (present and future), and relationships with the Lord are serious. And this is not effecting just a tiny portion of the population. Promiscuity is widespread. Immorality today is no respecter of age, gender, income level, school, or religion. Acknowledging the pervasiveness of this is the first step. Adults cannot avoid this subject. Youth must be protected and equipped for when (not if) they become exposed. Most importantly, the vision for God’s design for the body, relationships, and sexuality must be cast with passion and inspiration.

These are the norms of this age and many Christians have gotten out of balance…Can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? (Prov. 6:28)

But Christians serve a Redeemer who offers hope, grace, and repentance for those who are ready to learn how to be in the world without being of it. Blessed is the one who listens to wisdom, watching daily at her gates, waiting beside her doors. For whoever finds wisdom finds life and obtains favor from the Lord. (Prov. 8:34-35)

The One Thing You Need So That You Can Experience God’s Power

You quote verses such as “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” but you don’t really feel any more capable than normal.

You pray and pray, but your problems haven’t changed.

You have sought godly counsel, but no advice has made a real difference in how you handle things.

Why do pastors, teachers, counselors, leaders, etc. talk about God’s power as if you know how to get it, when you don’t?

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

*It’s okay. You’re closer than you think. The key to receiving supernatural power at work in you is: to surrender. And surrender involves just 3 crucial action steps.

  1. Position yourself to receive conviction from the Holy Spirit about your wrongdoings, recognizing your status as human and not divine.
  2. Decide you want to repent by foregoing all concern about anything wrong anyone else is doing, and commit to your change only.
  3. Obey God’s instructions.

*It’s Biblical. Take a look at Micah chapter 3, especially contrasting verses 1-7 with verse 8 to see what unrepentance and repentance looks like. Study Acts 3 and James 5:16 to see how Peter and Paul link power with repentance. Learn from Paul’s deference to God on the throne in 1 Cor. 2:1-5 and his teaching on the importance of humble submission in 2 Cor. 13:2-4.

*And the result of true surrender? Miraculous. You will be enabled to do things that would have been impossible before. And you’ll feel closer to the Lord, too.

*Once you taste the power of God at work, you too will be encouraging others to surrender.

Part 2: Where Did Your Mental Toughness Go?

A number of readers commented that the recent article on mental toughness was personally applicable (click here if you missed it). So today’s article serves as a follow-up with a few more practical ideas. Considering the common symptoms of 1) loss of intrinsic motivation, 2) slipping into bad habits, and 3) increased feelings over values, many of you know what it feels like to experience the world’s weakening effects on the Christian’s productivity.

Now that you’ve confessed to…

  • overly relying upon extrinsic motivation
  • succumbing to pride and laziness
  • nursing your emotions more than focusing on God’s Kingdom

…you can repent and recover your mental toughness by making some new decisions in your life.

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

Prepare for your personal temptation. Let one of the first thoughts of your day be something like this: “Today, I will be tempted to______________, but I don’t have to give in to it. Yes, that temptation is real and hard to resist, but as a Christian, it has no authority over me.” Then repeat this to yourself every time you’re confronted with the temptation. (Romans 6)

Compare your two directions. In your actions and in your thoughts, you have well-worn paths, and you have overgrown walkways. For the well-worn paths, it’s become easier to think negative thoughts and take lazier actions because you’ve done it more often. For some habits, erect a barricade where you’ve been going too frequently lately, and perhaps ban yourself from going there once and for all. For the overgrown walkways – those better habits and more Biblical thoughts – bushwhack your way along to create new habits, and expect it to be difficult. In fact, this is too hard to do on your own.  You simply can’t and won’t do this in your own strength. (John 15:5)

Surrender. Let yourself experience the secret that will make you stronger, more fulfilled, and more joyful than anything else you’ve ever tried. No matter how you’re feeling, whatever He wants you to do, do it. No matter how you’re feeling, whatever He doesn’t want you to do, don’t do it. It’s not easy; but it’s that simple. He is waiting for you to ask His help to be fully obedient. And then He is waiting to show you how blessed and mentally tough this will make you. (Daniel 1:8)

Where Did Your Mental Toughness Go?

Being meek, humble, and even weak is Biblical and good. However, as feeling stressed and overwhelmed become more common in this modern age, some of you may have noticed that your resolve has become diluted. In other words, you may not be feeling as mentally tough as you used to be.

  • Do you find yourself relying more and more on the encouragement of others instead of being intrinsically motivated?
  • Have some of your good habits of self-discipline gotten sloppy lately?
  • Would it be fair to say that you’ve gotten caught up being more focused on how you feel than on what really matters?

The story of Samson offers a great example of the crumbling of determination that can happen if you aren’t on guard. Samson was well aware of the gift of physical strength the Lord had given him. Yet, he wasn’t doing anything to protect his internal focus and he lost almost all of his abilities as a result. But there’s a twist to his story. When he repented, the Lord restored strength to him to the degree that he was able to kill more Philistines in his death than in his life (Judges 15-16).

So, how can repentance help you restore some fight?

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

You can repent that you asked others to speak to your spirit more often than inviting the Holy spirit to direct you. Psalm 112 establishes what to do in order to be unshakeable and to find God’s promises for you.

You can repent that you fell into pride, laziness, and self-soothing in place of laying down your life to build His Kingdom. 1 Corinthians 9:27 reiterates the importance of renewing good habits in your life.

You can repent that you pacified and grew self-serving emotions instead of asking God to shape your heart and feelings. 2 Timothy 1:7 and 2 Timothy 2:3-13 will help you sort out feelings from priorities.

 “The people I love – I prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!” (Rev. 3:19, Msg.)

The Time God Kept Her From Being a Cheater

Marnie* wants you to know her story. Very few women think they will cheat on their boyfriends or husbands. It’s usually something that happens unexpectedly. Marnie was a faithful, godly woman who was not interested in anyone but her man.

Until the day someone else came along and unwittingly filled needs in her that she didn’t fully realize weren’t being met. Marnie was shocked to find herself feeling warm inside when she was around this man. He made her feel so special. It was almost irresistible.

Thankfully, he was devoted to his own relationship, guarded his interactions around Marnie, and wasn’t a threat after all. Nevertheless, she began to perceive that she was in a personal danger zone. Even though she didn’t actually cheat on her husband, she felt like she had. God saved her from making a huge mistake, but the fact that she came so close worried her and made her want to get help.

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

  • Don’t ever think you are above cheating. (Rom. 3:23; 5:8)
  • Examine how well you are loving. Are you more interested in serving, or feeling well-served? Are you cherishing your special someone, or really just testing to see how well you are being loved? (1 Cor. 13)
  • For 7 days, count how many times you think that your expectations aren’t being met. Confess and repent that you’ve idolized your earthly relationship instead of trusting that your God will meet all of your needs. (2 Cor. 3:5; Phil. 4:19)
  • Look to see where you are being affirmed and encouraged. Are you being tempted by attention you are receiving from the wrong person? (Rom. 16:18)
  • Check your balance. Have you lost yourself in someone else? Or have you become too independent from the special relationship that you’ve been blessed to have? (Eph. 4:2-3)
  • Consider how often you rehearse past hurts. Could you be holding onto unforgiveness? (2 Cor. 2:7-11)
  • Make a list of priorities. Are you neglecting to invest in your romantic relationship while believing it is automatically affair-proof? (Phil. 2:3-4)
  • Ask your significant other if you are controlling, and brace yourself for the answer. (Gal. 5:13)
  • Be honest with yourself. Are you allowing the Lord to work on you and care for you every day? Are you giving Him enough of your time? (Ps. 119:9; Mt. 4:4; Jn. 6:35)
  • Get to know God better. The more you know Him, the less enticing and powerful are your temptations. (Titus 1:15)
  • Scrutinize your thought-life. Are you letting opinions or negative thoughts run wild? (Rom. 12:2; Phil. 4:8)
  • Do a check on your contentment level. Are you becoming ungrateful? (2 Tim. 3:2)
  • Create mutual boundaries together, even if it seems unnecessary. Wouldn’t you rather have a relationship with loving preventative measures in place than fear-based guards on each other based on broken trust? (Mt. 6:24)
  • Honor your brothers in Christ. Do you sincerely want God’s best for the men you know, or have you been behaving like you want your best for you? (1 John 3:16)

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Mt. 5:28)

*Name has been changed to protect identity.