Sunday, January 23, 2011

The World May Tell You Otherwise But, You Are Forgiven!

There are a lot of things a person can suffer from but the worse things have to be guilt and regret. We can feel guilt for a lot of things in our life, for things we have done and for things people think we have done. It is a shame when we do this because Jesus died so that we would not have to suffer for our sins. He came not only to transform us so that we could be free from the chains of our sinful nature but also to wipe away the sins of our past. This is a hard thing for some people because they have gotten so familiar with these feelings of guilt it has become part of who they are. Some even think they deserve to suffer, as if it is some kind of penance for their sin. I was reflecting on this last night, provoked by David's petition in Psalm 38.

For many years I had problems with David; I didn't like him very much. He was a man of many sins and mistakes and I could not understand why people lifted him up so much. It is only with maturity that we are able to move past the idea of perfection and realize that what God is really looking for is a heart that longs for him. David longed to do the right thing, he was passionate about God, and his heart's desire was to serve God with all of his life. David's problem was that he kept getting in the way of that. Sound familiar? What we find in Psalm 38 is a truly accurate portrait of a soul tormented by guilt:

Your arrows have pierced me,
   and your hand has come down on me.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
   there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me
   like a burden too heavy to bear.
My wounds fester and are loathsome
   because of my sinful folly.
I am bowed down and brought very low;
   all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain;
   there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed;
   I groan in anguish of heart.
(Psalm 38:2-8)

Now if we stay in this place in our shared experience with David it is a shame because we have something David did not have. This is the thing we need to keep in mind when we read the Psalms and other parts of the Old Testament; they did not have Jesus Christ. There is great value in studying the Old Testament because God's heart is revealed in it. Grace is not a new thing and we discover it has always been part of God's character as we read through the Old Testament. What is new for us is the blood of the Lamb which cleans us completely from all our sin:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:7-8)

Now we are a vengeful people who believe that there is a price to pay for every sin. If someone does something to us we want some recognition of that fact and we want something done about it. So, when we do something to someone we put the same condition upon ourself and feel guilty even after we have paid the price. So it is hard for us to consider that this forgiveness from God is free, that it is already paid for and wipes every sin away. We struggle because it came with no cost to ourselves:

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24) 

See the big word there, "freely"? It did not cost us anything because Jesus took the full cost on himself. We do not deserve forgiveness, to be made as if we had never sinned, but this is why it is called grace. The amazing thing is how we receive this grace:

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.  (Romans 3:25)

By faith! Do you understand what this means? We are told that Abraham was the father of this faith because God gave Abraham a promise that looked impossible in the flesh but Abraham chose to believe God and acted upon that faith. The receiving of God's grace, the forgiveness of our sins, the removal of our guilt, works in the same manner. It looks impossible to our flesh but we have to choose to believe and act upon that faith. We have to trust God in this promise and as we do he calls us righteous:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

The hardest part for us is trusting, believing, receiving in faith because it goes against our nature and the nature of this world. In fact, we have two things persistently working against our faith. The first is Satan who is constantly whispering in our ear the same thing he whispered in Eve's, "Did God really say ...", just to plague us with doubt so he can work on weakening us with fear and anxiety. This is what leaves us in the condition that David found himself in, because our trust in God is weak. The enemy will be there to constantly remind us of our past, of our sin, of our offenses against God and man, even though he is the one who stirred that sin up in us in the first place. He is there to make sure we fall and he is there to accuse us of it. Here is the thing to remember: he's nothing compared to Jesus.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

The second thing going against us is the world that operates under a different system. The world does not forgive; the world exacts revenge. The world does not understand forgiveness and grace; it understands punishment. The world uses labels and refuses to forget your past and, like it's false prince, will constantly remind you of your sin. Sometimes it takes more faith to know you are forgiven then it does to trust Jesus with tomorrow. The world would see us suffer in our guilt like David but again, the world is nothing compared to Jesus:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Faith is everything. Without faith we cannot receive God's grace, we cannot see God. If you are suffering as David described then you are doubting the promises of Jesus and your faith is weak. Anyone can trust God to meet their financial needs, to provide direction in life, to fill their mouths with the words to speak but it takes authentic faith to believe you are forgiven. Jesus does not leave us in that terrible state of guilt. His forgiveness is complete and our offenses will never be brought up against us any more. His forgiveness brings peace to those who trust him:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

Now check this out:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Guilt does not belong to the redeemed in Christ. Our experience is not the same as David's. It can be if we decide not to trust. It can be if we listen to the lying whispers of Satan who is out to destroy our faith. It can be if we see ourselves governed by this fallen world instead of the principles of the Kingdom. There is no need for sleepless nights when you confess your sins to Jesus. No matter what they are, when we come to him believing he forgives and makes us pure again, they are removed from us and we are left with peace. If we do not have peace then we need to look to our faith to see if it is genuine. Many times the enemy will come against us, the world will accuse us and God will use it to refine our faith, making us look deeper into him, to hold on in desperation, to proclaim his glory. Regardless of the whispers of the enemy and the accusations of this world, you are pure and innocent because the blood of the Lamb has proclaimed you cleansed.  We are forgiven!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazing! I like how you added that video at the end. By the way today's service was good. Pastor Roy and yourself delivered very inspirational messages!