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Thursday, October 6, 2016

God's Forgiveness: Faithful And Free

 Closely tied to the concept of love is forgiveness. Forgiveness often depends on love because we will smooth over a fault if we love someone deeply enough. As the French author Francois Le Rochefoucauld once said: 

"We pardon to the extent that we love."

Christ Himself gave us the clearest display of this when He died on the cross to grant unholy, unlovable sinners the salvation and forgiveness of their sins. Imagine - the just and holy God, without sin and completely righteous, stepping into our hurting world to walk the earth we walk, to die once as we die...yet, in so doing, to secure a way of hope for all of human history! One death = eternal forgiveness. When we think back as far back as we can remember and recall to mind all of the mistakes and failings we've ever committed, it seems hard to believe that God would forbid all of those things and remember them no more. It appears to us to be too good to be true. But it is (Isaiah 43:25).
 Upon our sincere confession and agreement with the truth, God gives us a "clean slate" so to speak, and allows us a new beginning. We humans tend to keep a list of wrongs, to hold onto things long after they've happened...and sometimes even after an apology has taken place. It comes across to us as being radical that, in spite of all our badness and no matter how great our sin, God is bigger than all of that. There is enough in God to cover over a "multitude of sins," as 1 Peter 4:8 points out. His love and grace are so limitless that no offense is too big or too serious for Him not to wash it clean with His blood. Isaiah 1:18 promises us that even though our sins are like scarlet, "they shall be made white as snow."
It is completely God's choice not to deal with us according to what we deserve (Psalm 103:10).Were He to lay on us the full amount of what is due to us, we would be destined to death and have no hope of deliverance. Because of the sin-nature we inherited from our first parents in the Garden of Eden, every person is headed for the torment of Hell unless the gracious God of Heaven steps in. 
 For most of my life, I thought I understood what forgiveness was all about. That is, until I saw the Savior for who He truly was. It blew my mind to think that He forgives my transgressions, covers my sins, and heals all of my soul's diseases (Psalm 32:1; 103:3). God did not come to earth to pardon those who are whole, who have it all-together, who commit no sins. God came to rescue those who are broken, whose souls are sick, who sit in darkness (Matthew 9:12). He came to "open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house" (Isaiah 43:7). He came to save us from ourselves, to give us a life outside of the despair of what we know behind the door.
 It should be a relief to to know that we can approach Christ just as we are - dead in our sins and destined for destruction - and receive the opportunity to be resurrected in our inner being and made to live. As Romans 5:8 assures us:

"But God demonstrated his own love for us in this:
while we were still sinner, Christ died for us."

There is hope for us beyond the powerful grip of sin and shame. No matter what our past has been, God has the ability to grant us a new beginning. He loves and forgives us in spite of the brokenness we bear. Because where there is repentance, there God offers mercy to the sin-sick soul. 

"I am come not to call the righteous," Jesus says, "but sinners to repentance" (Matt. 9:13)

Thus, 

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive
us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
(1 John 1:9)

In so doing, Christ takes the weary sinner and deems him fit to stand before the holy throne of a righteous God. It is truly the greatest "rags-to-riches" story in the history of the world. God was under no obligation to step into our world and rescue lost souls such as me and you. But, thank God, He did.