Is Forgiveness a Burden or Blessing?
by Michael Tummillo
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As Christians, we believe we are forgiven of all our sins through faith in Jesus Christ. We believe it, we teach it, and our very HOPE is in this. If that's so, why are we repeatedly asking God to forgive us? Undoubtedly, it's because of our human, "religious" view of forgiveness and the incessant feelings of unworthiness we entertain. Face it, no matter how good we look or act, we live with ourselves and know what we perceive to be “the truth.”
Fortunately, God has quite a different perspective on forgiveness than we do.
As Believers in Jesus, everything we had ever done wrong, every sin, was forgiven (1 Jn 1:9). Rejoice! Your slate is clean! However, most of us had it explained to us that, if we ever sinned again, just ask and God would forgive us. Next thing we knew, we sinned.
Then we sinned again.
The "big" sins were easy to remember and ask forgiveness for later. But ALL those little ones…boy, we couldn't keep up! The "white" lie, the gossip, the criticism, the lustful thought, the overall ungodliness about us. Some of us may have been taught that God doesn't hold us accountable for what we can't remember. Really? If God was THAT unconcerned about sin, explain His Son dying on the cross. Yes, He has a BIG problem with sin. He's HOLY, remember? He HATES sin.
Now, God loved mankind but our sins separated us from Him. In order to have us near Him, He sent Jesus who made this possible, by grace, through faith in the finished work of the cross (Jn 3:16). Through salvation we went from sinner to saint in an instant. All our sins, past, present, and future were forgiven like that (snap). We were literally given Christ's life. He is in us; we are in Him. When God sees us now, He sees His own righteousness (2 Cor 5:21; Eph 4:22-24). The blood of Christ didn't merely cover our sins; it washed them away (Is. 43:25; 1 Peter 1:18,19; Rev 1:5; Eph 1:7)!
Most verses that cause us to doubt our forgiveness are found PRIOR to the cross. WARNING: Don't base your salvation on any Pre-cross teachings! Don't search the Gospels to gather verses on forgiveness due to the Law there (Ex: Matt 18:21-35). Don't build a forgiveness doctrine upon Christ's messages to those who were as yet unregenerated. Pre-cross teaching is "salvation-motivated" teaching meant to bring sinners to their Savior. It's tough, hard teaching that demands action. You won't find anything but GRACE in the Post-cross teachings. Always be cognizant of the location of a verse. Let's base our forgiveness doctrine upon God's Word AFTER the cross; on the grace side.
What about the beloved "Lord's Prayer," or "Our Father," Matthew 6:5? Jesus was teaching these unregenerated, unrenewed Jews, still under the Law just as much as He Himself was, how to develop intimacy in their relationship with God. He contrasted this to the REALLY religious hypocrites who made spectacles of themselves when praying. This was a Pre-Cross, Pre-Grace prayer. Even the "forgive us our debts" part, v. 12, as well as v.14 and 15, reflect our forgiveness FROM God as being contingent upon our forgiving OTHERS, first. There's no grace, no favor in that.
Human logic demands an offender seek forgiveness for each offense. We most adopt God's thinking on forgiveness if we will ever experience total freedom in Christ and experience "a peace that passes all understanding." In Christ, we are forgiven (Col 2:13-14). That's GOOD NEWS! The enemy loves it when God's children feel unworthy to approach their Father and crawl into His lap. We're trained to PERFORM that way from childhood, jumping through hoops to gain acceptance from parents, teachers, coaches, employers. Folks, we must believe that we're totally accepted and that God doesn't hold anything against us! As an omniscient God, He knows the sins of the past, present, and future. Therefore, His method of forgiveness is different than that of those of us who are bound by time. The only way for Him to obliterate any barrier was to forgive us of ALL sins… past, present, and future.
Jesus bore ALL our sins 2000 years ago at the cross. How many sins had you committed 2000 years ago? None. They were ALL future sins. Everyone's. There are no Scriptures after the cross that require us to ask God's forgiveness. Ever. Not even in 1 John 1:9. Observe: "If we confess our sins (agreeing with God), He is faithful and just (describes His nature and His gracious covenant) to forgive our sins (once for all time, using the MANY Scriptures to explain this One, not vive versa) and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (wash away, not merely cover)."
We are righteous in Christ, cleansed from all unrighteousness (2 Cor 5:21). If we haven't been cleansed, we're in trouble, because there's no other Savior to do the job. Besides, in 1 Jn 1:1-10, John was clarifying his position on Gnosticism for the churches. This was the belief that all matter was evil, including human bodies; therefore, the Gnostics reasoned, Jesus could not have inhabited a human body. John's letter contrasts true believers against the Gnostics over 30 times. John encourages and reassures the Christians that he was addressing by reminding them, "your sins are forgiven" in the very next chapter (1 Jn 2:12).
Seek the truth of God regarding His method of forgiveness (Hosea 4:6). We do not have a license to sin. Though, as human beings, we cannot help but sin...often. We will not WANT to sin because we have God's laws written upon our hearts and our desire will be to honor Him. Thank God He has taken us out from under the Law!
In ancient Greece, whenever a debt was paid, a certificate of debt was issued as a receipt. The word "tetelestai" was written on the certificate and signed by the creditor. John 19:30 records Jesus' last words on the cross as being, "It is finished!" In Greek: "Tetelestai!"
Confession has its place in the Christian lifestyle, too (James 5:16). When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, we must confess it - or agree that we messed up - and repent. Admit it and quit it, in other words. Then go joyfully ACT forgiven, choosing to forgive others as you go. Chances are, you’ll sin again. Join the club. His mercy is new every morning. That means that you start fresh DAILY! Man, that’s good news!
Jesus offered forgiveness from the cross. We, too, must offer forgiveness to those who trespass against us. That way, through our loving actions, they may come to know Jesus, the Great Forgiver.
READ 'EM & REAP!
Rom 8:33, 35, 38-39
1 Cor 6:11
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