The “Hallelujah” of Forgiveness
Just so you know, I’m still unraveling the wonderous mystery of our loving heavenly Father’s superabundance towards his children.
I’ve been struck with the fact that many, if not most, of us read clear statements in the Bible about our Lord’s nature and actions, yet live as though those statements were not true. We may even cite verses about them and exclaim how wonderful such truths are. But in actual practice we live with little indication that the truth is transforming how we live. We are good at being hearers of the God’s Words, but not experiencers of that Word.
One of the most obvious for me is what the Bible says about the forgiveness of our sins. I spent too many years of my life reading about forgiveness, but living as though those verses weren’t true. In daily practice I acted as though my heavenly Father was the most demanding, hard to please and grudge-holding person I’d ever encountered. And I know that I’m not alone. In these many years as a pastor, seminary teacher and friend I’ve encountered plenty of people who lived with this dark cloud of doom over their heads. So I know that I’m not alone.
Thus, the questions I’ve had to keep processing are. “Is there abundant forgiveness? Did the death of Jesus Christ make complete atonement for all my sins — past, present and future? Can I live as a free man, free of condemnation?”
Our Lord’s eagerness to forgive is one of the most breathtaking phenomena of the universe. It is more spectacular than the night heavens scattered with a stary universe that takes our breath away. It is a gift so profound that many of us should be standing in awe of its truth, then kneel in worship. We confess our unworthiness and shameful behavior and find open arms of welcome. We never forget the indescribable gift that has been generously offered to us. I’m eighty-seven years old and the longer I live the more I recognize how precious this gift of undeserved forgiveness is. And how abundantly it is offered over and over again.
What causes me keep being drawn to this great truth? It’s what I constantly encounter in the Bible. I’m driven to the utterly reliable, infallible Word of God. That’s the authority that keeps my thinking properly aligned. So, here’s what I always find. (The italics are mine).
Father’s forgiveness is infinitely wide. As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psa. 103:12. (How far is the east from the west? What’s the message?)
It is infinitely deep. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19, 20. (I you lose something in the ocean isn’t it gone forever?)
It is infinitely long. “And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jer. 31:34. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Rom. 8:1 (Never remember them; no condemnation?)
It is completely out of sight. “But in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back”. Isa. 38:17 (Can you ever see something that’s behind your back?)
And if these verses are not enough, here are a few more.
“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” Psa. 145:8.
“I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” Isa. 43:25. (Isn’t this an amazing statement? He doesn’t want anything to hinder our relationship with him! What does this tell us about our heavenly Father? He wants to forgive!)
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God”. Rom. 5:8, 9. (Was this sacrificial work of Christ all encompassing?)
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” I John 1:9. (How thorough is the cleansing?)
Perhaps you grew up with an angry, unforgiving, demanding parent who was never satisfied with your conduct. This often leaves a person with the feeling that “I’ll never measure up. I’ll never be worthy of someone’s love. And certainly God doesn’t like me because I mess up too often. I feel like I’m on his black list.”
The verses I’ve share with you have helped me break the pattern of negative thinking. I’ve learned to challenge the lie of unforgiveness with the truth from the Word of God. For me, these sample verses breath life, joy and promise to me. They also tell me something about my heavenly Father’s depth of love and forgiveness for those who place their faith in what Christ settled on the cross. As this great scriptural truth began to find a permanent lodging in my heart, I found the joyful fruit of Father’s abundant forgiveness.
You might ask, “What have been the consequence of tapping into this great Bible truth. The first thing that comes to my mind in an ever-growing sense of peace with God. I now know the ground upon which the relationship is built and I rest in that. In addition, I have found an ever-increasing sense of gratitude that has led me to worship. How can I not be enormously grateful that Someone would promise such a complete salvation? I keep returning to read my pardon and bow in grateful gratitude.
How about you? Are you finding joy in such abundant forgiveness? Does the spirit of thankfulness keep arising in worship?