Forgiveness of sins – it’s the most basic element to salvation.
If you’ve grown up in church, you’ve heard the word “forgiveness” and the phrase “forgiveness from sin” a million times. If you’re like me, I heard it so much, I began to lose sight of the depth that those words represent.
But friends, it’s important that you NEVER lose sight of how awful your sinful state really is, and how desperately you need the only remedy for it – Jesus Christ.
Think about it – Sin is like a cancer. It’s ugly. It’s sick. Sin leads to eternal death and it separates us from relationship with our God and Creator.
When we talk about sin, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we aren’t all that bad. I’m sure you’ve been tempted to think: “I’m a pretty good person. I don’t cuss. I’m not mean to people. I never get in trouble at school. I don’t cheat. I don’t steal.”
But, you see, those things are just symptoms of the sin sickness we ALL have. Actual, individual sins we commit, are just the outward symptoms of an inward heart sickness. Just because you consider yourself a “good person,” doesn’t mean you aren’t a sinner.
Again, it’s like cancer. Did you know people sometimes live quite awhile with cancer before they ever even realize there’s something inside them killing them? Some people don’t have any sickness symptoms before the cancer is finally discovered by doctors. A tumor can be growing inside of their body and they don’t even realize it. Eventually, a little ache here, a little pain there, causes them to go to their doctor. No, they don’t feel sick. No, they don’t feel like they’re dying. In fact, they feel pretty good. It’s just this little nagging ache that can’t be explained. Before they know it, the doctor is diagnosing them with something that, if left untreated, will kill them.
You can think of sin the same way. Even “good” people are dying from a nasty thing called sin. They can even live a good, American, comfortable, fun life. They can be the “good girl” at school who never gets in trouble, turns her A+ papers in on time, always wears a smile, keeps her herself looking just right and has it all together. They can be the family that sends beautiful Christmas cards featuring a glossy photo of themselves in coordinating outfits on the white sands of their fabulous, tropical beach vacation. They can be the hard-working executive who still finds time to volunteer for good causes and even donates large sums of money. They can be the grandma across the street who lets you swim in her pool and bakes you cookies. Listen – “good” people die and go to hell every day.
The Creator is Holy. He is God. He is Perfect. He has wrath toward sin. He can’t be with sin. So, if you are a sinner (and everyone is), you are forever separated from Him. You are destined to be forever without Him. That is hell. Life without God is hell. Death without Him is hell. Hell is a real, torturous place.
Friends, I’m just trying to remind us (myself included) about how desperately we need to be made right. I don’t care how “good” someone is, they’re dying of sin, and sin is an ugly, nasty condition. It leads to punishment. It leads to hell.
BUT GOD didn’t leave us in our hopeless state. He knows our sinful condition and provided a RESCUE PLAN! He loves us, and He did not want to be separated from us. He left His throne in heaven to COME TO US. The King of all creation, CAME TO US. He paid the price of sin FOR US! He sacrificed Himself FOR US! Listen, in all the world’s religions, little “g” gods just don’t do that. Other religions would call it “scandalous.” But, the one true God, the Creator of the Universe, calls it “love.”
Jesus is God. Jesus took on human flesh and came to earth in humble circumstances. Jesus was tempted just like us. Jesus lived a sinless life. Jesus’ life fulfilled countless prophecies foretold in ancient times. Though guiltless, Jesus was condemned to die a horrible Roman death on a cross. Although fully powerful, Jesus willingly took the punishment he did not deserve, and laid down His life on a cross. While on the cross, the sin of all humanity was dumped on Jesus. The wrath God has toward sin was then focused on Jesus and in that heart-breaking moment, God the Father had to look away from God the Son. In His death, Jesus even took on hell itself. But in His resurrection three days later, he conquered it. Yes, three days after his death on the cross, Jesus came back to life. This is where we get that spark of hope. Sin = death and hell. But Jesus took on sin, went to hell, and emerged victorious.
We get to share in that victory! How do we share in that victory? We believe in our heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, and we declare Jesus to be Lord of our lives. We GET IT. We GET the nastiness of our sinful condition, and our heart cries out for hope. We recognize that Jesus is our only hope. We accept the free gift of mercy Jesus offers us and we are changed. We are made new. God’s very spirit is now living in us. From this moment, we have a new reason for living. We submit our will to HIS. We submit our plans to HIS. We begin to make good choices with new motivation. We want HIS best in our lives. Little by little, we begin to take on HIS very nature. We even begin to cherish His loving discipline. Often it’s even a bit painful, but in the process, our sinful flesh and selfishness dies away.
In fact, this process of sanctification even makes us see others differently. We begin to see others the way Jesus sees them. We see others, even the nastiest people, as loved by the King. We see others as individuals whom our sweet, precious Lord died to save. We no longer care so much about the wrongs others commit against us, but WHY they wronged us. We understand that sin, brokenness, pain and hopelessness makes people act ugly. We remember that was once US. We recall our hopelessness without Jesus. We recall the price Jesus paid to make us clean. Our heart begins once again to overflow with gratitude for His forgiveness. This deep understanding of the unsurmountable debt Christ paid for us, supernaturally enables us to forgive others.
I want to stop here and share a little example that happened recently in my own life.
Not too long ago, a few people really, really hurt my feelings. Without sharing the details of the situation, I was left feeling misunderstood, unfairly judged, and the subject of gossip. In my opinion I wasn’t even treated with appropriate and common courtesy. Honestly, I don’t get my feelings hurt very easily, but because of the nature of the situation, I was wounded in an area where I am most vulnerable.
As soon as I became aware of the wrong that had been committed against me, I immediately felt my fleshly, sinful nature rise up. Have you ever seen a wounded, scared animal get backed into a corner? They look ugly and scary don’t they? They’re foaming at the mouth. They’re snarling and growling. They have their claws out. They immediately lash out against anyone who happens to approach them, even if that person is trying to help. Well, I began to feel that ugly, scary animal rearing it’s nasty head in me. That’s the old, sinful, fleshly nature. In that very moment, a battle had begun. It was the battle of the my old fleshly nature, against the Holy Spirit of God in me. I knew it. I knew I was in battle. I could feel it. I knew I had a choice to make. I had to choose who would win.
I’d like to say I immediately chose God’s way, but I’ll admit, I let the battle wage for awhile. I was cleaning my house that day, and my husband was out cutting the grass. When he came in for a glass of water, I shared with him what had happened, and he agreed. I had been wronged. That’s one point for the flesh! Ding. Ding. I continued with my chores, but as I did, my mind swirled with all the reasons those individuals had behaved wrongly in the situation. More points for the flesh. Ding. Ding. I even called my mother to hear her agree with all the wrongs that had been committed against me. My flesh loved hearing her anger toward the individuals and her maternal defense for me! Bonus points for the flesh. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding!
Finally, as my family was beginning to settle down to dinner and a movie, I told my husband that I NEEDED to stop what I was doing and pray. I felt the flesh waging in me, and I knew the only remedy was to get face down before God.
So, that’s what I did. I locked myself in a quiet room. I turned off the lights, and I got face down before my God. (By the way…I think there’s something supernaturally powerful about praying in this posture. Think about all the times in the Bible when humans came into the presence of the Lord! They were always left incredibly humbled and face down.) I began to pray. I was honest with Him. I told Him how the incident made me feel. I confessed my anger, my hurt and my pride. I told Him the ugly thoughts I had against those who had wounded me. I asked him to forgive me. I admitted to Him that I was feeling very vulnerable, misunderstood and unappreciated. Like a child, sitting in the lap of her daddy, I told Him how they hurt me. I asked Him for the strength to truly forgive them. I asked Him to allow me to see them the way He saw them. I asked Him to fill me with love and mercy for them.
Then, it dawned on me to ask Him for something else. I knew I needed encouragement. I can’t explain just how deflated, lonely, and even friendless I was feeling at the time. God is the source of everything I need, and in that moment I needed encouragement. I needed friends. Scripture says we often don’t get what we need from Him, simply because we don’t ask. So, I asked. I asked Him to encourage me. A very specific aspect of my life had been attacked, and I asked the Lord to encourage me in that specific area of my life. I praised Him for who He is. I told Him I trust Him to be everything I need.
The next morning was church day. I’ll admit I still kinda felt beat up. I still just did not feel like myself. I resisted the temptation to mope.
Once at church, I was dealing with the hustle and bustle that comes along with being a mom of four, and as I was racing down the hall to get one of my kids checked in to class, a woman stopped me. This lady is someone I would call an “acquaintance.” I can’t say that we are very close, or that I know her all that well. But she stopped me and began encouraging me! She shared a story of a conversation she had had with someone else about me. She told me of all the glowing things that were said about me and my character. She even proceeded to encourage me in the very area I had been wounded in the day before. Tears immediately welled up in my eyes as I told her how much I needed to hear her encouragement. I assured her the Lord had used her on my behalf. I went to worship service loving my sweet Heavenly Father even more that morning!
I considered her words of encouragement to be an overwhelming answer to my bold prayer, but that’s not all God had for me. He wanted to do “exceedingly, abundantly above all I could think to ask of Him!”
The next day I was shopping at Target, when a text came in on my phone. I reluctantly stopped my shopping to check it. It was one of those texts that you open, and you see that someone has written you a novel! Lol. Well, I started reading it, and it blew me away. It was a friend, whom I don’t speak to that often. She said many amazing things, but I’ll just share an excerpt from her text:
“…and on top of that, I have never heard ONE word to the negative about you. Never has anyone mentioned loose lips or stuck up or witchy or flighty. If ever there was a Proverbs 31 woman to encourage the rest of us, or to shape our next generation, I think you fit the bill.”
I was floored. Not only did I feel completely unworthy of her words, I couldn’t believe the timing! People don’t just stop what they’re doing to send texts like that! It was ABSOLUTELY God speaking to me through her! I started bawling right there in the middle of the boys’ bathing suit section of the Trussville Target! I had to pull myself together before I could ever text her back! How sweet is my God?!?!?
Listen, God is GOOD. As sinners without Him, you are an object of His wrath. But even while you’re a sinner God loved you enough to send His Son Jesus to take the punishment you deserve. He extends you a free gift of mercy and grace and forgiveness.
Put your faith in Him and He saves you.
Submit to Him and He changes you.
Walk with Him and He fulfills you.