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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

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The Wonder of Forgiveness

Salvation is a wonderful thing.  When we recognize the fact that we are sinners who have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, the glory that was part of our original creation as human beings.  When we see that sin both in our nature and in the things that we have done in our life has alienated us from God and left us alone in the world.  When we see that we are in a predicament and there is absolutely nothing that we can do to fix things.  And then there are two little words, "But God."  God loved us in spite of this.  And he did something drastic to repair the break and to take sin out of the way.  God made it possible to restore the relationship that was intended to be there all along.  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).  "For God so loved the world [that means you and me] that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).  In love, God sent his son Jesus, and

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding" (Ephesians 1:7, see also Colossians 1:14).

There comes that moment in our lives, and it must come for each individual, when we realize all of this and say yes to what Jesus has done.  I am a sinner.  I do not deserve grace and mercy but only wrath and punishment.  But you love me.  And you extend grace and mercy and forgiveness and salvation and relationship.  And, I accept it all.  Thank you, Jesus.  Yes, salvation is truly wonderful.  Accomplished through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, his death and resurrection, so that I now, delivered from sin and its consequences, can live a brand new life.  Thank you, God.

I have talked much about the fact that as Christians, we have been set free from sin.  We do not "have" to sin.  And, I take great issue with those who would say that we are sinners, saved by grace.  It kind of sounds right but it also seems to give us the right to sin.  We may argue that being sinners, we can't help but sin.  It is in our nature.  We were sinners, it is true.  But we are that no longer.  We have been set free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).  We are a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).  In some real ways, sin no longer makes sense.  Paul says,

"For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been freed from sin" (Romans 6:6-7). 

Can we now live a live of sinless perfection?  I don't know.  I suppose it might be possible.  I only know that I have not been able to do it yet.  But is that my goal?  To sin less for sure and maybe not at all?  That would be wonderful.  And, it is what we are called to.  And if it is that to which we are called, I must also believe that I have been given the ability and the equipment and the help to do it.  John says,

"Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.  But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins.  And in him is no sin.  No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.  No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him" (1 John 3:4-6). 

How's that for strong?  Deliberate and willful sin is obviously not something that we want to be involved in.  We are after all in Christ, and in him is no sin.  To say otherwise is nonsense.  The reality, however, is that we all make mistakes from time to time, whether in things that we do that are less than the nature of Christ, or maybe even more often, that we know something to be right and good, but we fail to do it.  This is the sin that I find myself falling prey to more often that doing bad things.  James says, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins" (James 4:17).  Ouch!  I can sin by doing things and I can sin by not doing too.

I was a sinner.  God saved me.  He has forgiven me.  But I still miss the mark from time to time, maybe even often.  God's desire and call is that we don't sin.  God has made provision for that too!

"My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2). 

When we make a mistake, all is not lost.  We admit it.  It is confessed.  It is forgiven.  And we move on.  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).  This is the wonder of forgiveness.  Jesus died once and for all for every sin that was ever committed prior to his death and every sin that was or will be committed since then and until the end of time.  Every sin in forgiven.  And the moment that we confess our sin, it is as though we are simply giving to Jesus something that he has already paid for.  He doesn't want us to sin, but when we do, he sure doesn't want us to hang on to it either.  At all times, we are to keep short accounts with sin. 

We have been forgiven.  And we can live in forgiveness.  Confession.  Repentance.  Purity.  Righteousness.  These are the things that are to characterize our lives.  Thanks be to God for the wonderful gift of forgiveness and the freedom that it brings to live the new life that he calls us to!