Chapter 20: Forgiveness
Today I am writing about God’s forgiveness and how it is a free gift, how we immediately receive it when we accept Jesus’ gift of salvation, and how it frees us to get on with living.
It is the most amazing thing to be covered by the Lord Jesus Christ. To be forgiven and able to have fellowship with God is a profound gift.
Because of the work of Jesus Christ, we are a forgiven people.
Now we know that the wages of sin is death:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 ESV
Jesus Christ, God coming in the form of a man, paid the price of our sin.
We are told that Jesus came born of a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit. Jesus was both man and God. And because he was fully God he was without sin. Because he was fully man he could stand in the gap for man’s sin.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” Matthew 1:23 ESV
Jesus came to set things right, and that is exactly what he did.
Dying a criminal’s death when he was without sin, we are told that Jesus despised the shame. He came intent on bringing life where there had been death. He became the sacrificial lamb that paid for our sins.
“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 ESV
In Exodus we see a beautiful picture of this on the last night of the Israelites sojourn in Egypt. The instructions from God were to kill a lamb and to smear its blood on the doorposts of their homes and when the angel of death came that night it would ‘pass-over’ the homes where this blood was.
“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it… For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn of the land of Egypt, both man and beast… The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you.” Exodus 12: 7, 12a-13a ESV
The blood created a covering, a protection that marked these people as God’s and therefore death passed over. The Israelites Passover was a sign of things to come in the form of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ died and was raised to life to cover us, to bring us from a life of death to a life of real living.
“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9 ESV
And with this came the forgiveness of sins. Sins are covered over. God sees us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
He does not see us in our natural state, he sees us in light of what Jesus did for us. We are made new creatures in Christ and we therefore have communion and fellowship with God.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 ESV
God offers us opportunity to focus on Him and to forget our sin.
When we accept Jesus Christ as Saviour, the work done to cover our sin by Jesus over 2000 years ago, comes forward through time and covers us now. We are new creatures in Christ.
The act of Jesus Christ in dying and then rising from the dead works across time.
The payment for sin and the resulting forgiveness was applied back through time and then forward through time.
The writer of Psalms, long before Jesus’ coming, knew of the Lord’s forgiveness:
“But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” Psalm 130:4 ESV
“To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him” Daniel 9:9 ESV
The work of Jesus Christ on the cross is not bound by time. It is a continuous present tense occurrence.
We do not have to work for our forgiveness. We cannot work for our forgiveness.
Forgiveness has nothing to do with us. We cannot create it, make it more or less, or manage it.
Forgiveness is a gift.
“Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything…” Acts 13:38-39a ESV
We either receive it or we push it away.
Having said that, receiving forgiveness can be hard work – because it is not about us.
In order to receive forgiveness we must put ourselves aside.
We must lay down our pride and accept that there is something that we cannot manage or make happen for ourselves.
Forgiveness is based on the character and work of God and God alone. Forgiveness is not based on us.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV
Because forgiveness is based on the character of God and not us, it is always present. It is always there. It is always available and in fact we are covered in forgiveness immediately upon accepting Jesus Christ as our Saviour.
The moment we say, “Jesus I am a sinner, and I need your life, I accept your gift of life” We are forgiven.
We barely need ask for forgiveness, rather we simply receive it for God has already provided it. We must allow forgiveness to soak into our entire being; into our hearts and minds and spirits and bodies even.
Allowing and inviting God’s forgiveness to permeate our lives is our only work. Although it is not really work, it is almost more an absence of work, because the work has been done by Jesus Christ.
We set aside our pride (the part of us that likes to take care of business), and we let this business be taken care of by the Lord.
“I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.” Ecclesiastes 3:14 ESV
He has done this work. We merely rest in it. We say ‘Thank-you’ Father for forgiveness.
It is a work that was assigned to Jesus Christ, a work that He carried out to completion, and a work that we simply accept and receive as done on our behalf.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 ESV
And then we let that work of forgiveness and covering and life soak into our beings. We receive it as the gift that it is. We set aside our pride that screams, ‘I am not worthy’ and we simply say ‘thank-you’.
We get on with living.
We get on with serving.
We get on with loving the Lord our God.
“Father thank-you so much for making a way for us. For saving us from our sins, for covering us with the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. I receive this covering today and declare myself covered in the blood of the lamb.
I receive your forgiveness deep into every part of my being. May it soak into my very bones, into my emotions, my mind and the way I go about life. May I be marked by you and your grace and love and forgiveness. We bless you today God, in the name and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.”
Summary – forgiveness
God has forgiven us. Psalm 130:4
We receive his forgiveness. Ephesians 1:7
We forgive others. 1 John 1:7
We put down our self effort. Ephesians 2:8-9
We walk in his light. (trusting Jesus for forgiveness, justification, and sanctification). 1 John 1:7
We fulfill the natural requirements of justice. Leviticus 19:11, Romans 13:7
We act out the ‘rightness’ of God. Amos 5:24, Leviticus 19:15Application
In this quest to fully receive forgiveness into our hearts it is important to note that it is also often necessary to fulfill the natural requirements of justice.
What I mean is this. First, as we bring our sins to God there are things we have done that need to be spoken out loud and that must be confessed. Second, some sins require that we do what we can to make them right, in some cases, that we pay the penalty required by human law for that sin.
Through-out this course you have become familiar with the healing prayer model that the Lord has taught for the freedom of hearts and minds. We can take this same model and use it for the healing of our consciences when we are burdened with sins that seem too great to be free from. As I said, some of our sins require that justice takes place, and this healing model can guide us in this.
Healing Model For Justice
1. CONFESSION: we speak out our specific sin
Our healing has been made to happen within the body of Christ. It is why it says in James 5:16, “Confess your sins to one another so that you may be healed.”
We have committed sins that weigh heavy on us. And forgiveness can only permeate our lives when we have spoken these sins out to a trustworthy and compassionate person within the body of Christ.
Speaking out our sin is very hard to do but in the process of speaking out our sin we enter into a greater level of honesty and from this place we can enter into a grief and sorrow for our sins that is both healing and restorative.
We do not want to remain in layers of cover-up about what we have done and the have we have caused to others. We want to bring it all out and into the open. Confession does this.
2. REPENTANCE: we recognize the hurt we have caused and we grieve
As we speak out our sins we will come into Godly grief and repentance and we will be saved from worldly grief which the Bible describes as deadly.
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10
It is important that we come into true sorrow and repentance for the sins we have committed. Repentance is something we avoid and yet it is the key to our freedom.
3. RENOUNCING: we go to the person we have hurt and we confess
In the healing prayer model renouncing is where we figuratively stand up and declare alongside the Lord Jesus Christ that we want nothing more to do with our heart sin. As we work with sins that require justice we want to take renouncing into action. Rather than just our words that say, ‘No more!’ we want to declare ‘No more!’ in action.
The first way that we act out our renouncing is to confess our sin to the person that we have sinned against. It is to own up to what we did wrong, to come in humility and repentance to the very person we have most harmed. It is to say, “I did this to you.”
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. Acts 3:19-20a ESV
4. BREAKING: we take action to make right what we did wrong
The second way to act out our renouncing through action is to take physical responsibility for the sin. It is to bring recompense to the one we have hurt and harmed. When we take the responsibility to try and set right what we did that was wrong, we are breaking that sins hold upon us and upon the other person.
By our actions, by our humility required in the action, we declare a full stop to the impact of that sin. We break its hold on us. Action takes us beyond words and enters us into the restoration of our lives.
“For the Kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” 1 Corinthians 4:20a ESV
5. CANCELLING: forgiving ourselves and other involved individuals
Cancelling is about forgiving ourselves. It is important that we agree with the forgiveness of the Lord over our own lives. Cancelling may also be about forgiving anyone we believe is complicit in our sin, and it may even include giving up our bitterness against God.
KEY: We take action to express forgiveness. You might make a meal that you present to yourself or symbolically to God, to indicate that you are letting the past be the past and that you are ready to move into the future; through this meal of reconciliation you extend forgiveness to yourself, and as you eat this meal you extend forgiveness to God.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged, condemn not, and you will not be condemned, forgive, and you will be forgiven, give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:37-38 ESV
6. CLAIMING: we take God’s word into our lives
In order to remain free it is important to allow the word of God to penetrate our hearts and minds. As the Psalmist declared,
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you… I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” Psalm 119:11,15-16
The first thing to do (if you do not have a Bible) is to get yourself a Bible. Pray about this, express your need to the Lord, and then make a plan for how you might put money aside, or how you might plant a little more maize, until you have enough to get a Bible. Make the Bible a priority in your life.
Then, once you have a Bible take a little bit of time to read each and every day. It is best if you read only a little bit each time. If we read too much at one time we cannot meditate on it for we have too much information in our heads at one time; just read a little bit each day. Then, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and then continue to think about what you have been reading. Day by day, bit by bit, you will find yourself transformed by the word of God.
7. SEALING: we serve Jesus by helping others
We take action to encourage and to be there for others who are also bringing their sins and regrets to the Lord. If we are gifted with kindness and grace then we may be the one who listens to the confessions of others.
Or we may minister to those in our communities by helping widows in their gardens, by taking hot meals to widows, by making clothes for children, by doing the laundry of an elderly person who cannot manage this on their own – there are multiple ways that we can give back to our communities and can serve Jesus as we help others.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me… Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, ‘my brothers’, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:34-36,40
As we are freed by the Lord Jesus we are freed to be the kingdom of God in this world; instead of just talking about God’s ways, we live God’s ways.
You have completed a very difficult exercise. But it is the beginning of a heart skill that will enable you to be free of anything that is weighing you down.
The ability to come into confession and repentance, not only before God, but before our fellow mankind, is an incredibly valuable skill.
The perseverance and intention to set things right (to the best of our ability) is another great life habit that will enter you into the pleasure and presence of God in a new way.
We hold these things that we have done wrong, the regrets of our earlier days, between ourselves and God and between ourselves and other people. But when we take the responsibility for what has gone wrong and for the wrong that we have done we participate in taking these things down, and we find new fellowship and new peace with both God and others.
Continue to use this tool for everything that the Holy Spirit brings to your attention. Bit by bit come in this kind of transparency before God and others and you will find your life freed and whole in the Lord.
Freedom in God is a process. It is not a one-prayer kind of thing. And it is not about God just healing us either. We must do our part in coming before him with our open, whole, hearts. We bring to God all the good, the bad, and the ugly of our lives and then he has the freedom to heal and to restore our lives.