Forgiveness. Such a touchy word and even more, a tough word. When we hear it, we may think of having to forgive someone, someone who has hurt us deeply. That can be a very tough part of life. We have to work through the pain and hurt, to give that person forgiveness which we think they may not deserve. This in and of itself is an act of faith. We must believe in and rely on God’s strength and remember His forgiveness toward us in order to extend forgiveness to them.
But there’s another instance when the act of faith must work with forgiveness…when we need to receive forgiveness. This faith, we exercise, is the faith used we first accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the One who paid the ultimate price on Calvary for us. That is a huge act of faith…believing He in fact died for us to cleanse us of unrighteousness as an unbeliever. But as we walk along in our journey with Him, that same faith gets exercised over and again, because we are being sanctified, continually made more like Him. We can seem to forget that this is not a one time act of faith.
When with what we may call the “little” things the Lord points out to us– our flaws and short comings –we may have an easy time exercising that faith accepting His forgiveness. Those are the day to day things that he whispers in our ears. Those easily accepted convictions. But then there’s the “biggies”. The life altering mistakes, the ones that completely turn our lives upside down, the ones we really don’t want to admit. Some people may have been affected by our faulty actions or maybe it is a deep secret kept, known only by God himself. It is those to which we may struggle to accept His forgiveness. It is those mistakes that we cringe when we think of them, and we somehow cannot exercise the faith to believe He would forgive THAT! After all, I’m supposed to be a Christian, how can He forgive me of that? You may have been there. I have been there. That place of absolute regret, where our minds play over and over again those regretful words or moments we cannot change or take back. If we are to call ourselves Christ followers than we MUST, in faith accept His grace, mercy and forgiveness. Why? Because He says it is so. Remember too, we have an enemy, an accuser, who wants so badly to not only see us fall and fail, but who also wants to see us not accept God’s perfect hand of mercy and get back up again. Our enemy is relentless with our minds if we let him be there, and when we kick him out, he’ll quickly come back to haunt us once again if for a second we take our guard down.
So what do we do? What do we do as Christ followers to truly, deeply and intimately receive this amazing grace and forgiveness that Jesus has paid such an inconceivable price for? How do we let go of the guilt, regret and the shame of THAT “biggie”? Here is what I believe must happen…
First, we must go back to the beginning…go back to where our journey started with Him. In our minds we need to go back to the moment when we first declared ourselves a Christ Follower, when we first committed ourselves to Him and believed that He in fact is the Son of God and that Jesus loved us so much, He paid the ultimate price. Taking ourselves back to this moment we need to realize that the grace of that moment is the same grace working in this moment. The same miraculous work of the Holy Spirit on the day I first believed is the same miraculous work that is taking place now, and it is the same miraculous work of the Holy Spirit that resurrected Jesus from the dead! There is life in forgiveness, and only death if we choose to wallow in our shame and regret. God’s glory will not be found there. 1 Corinthians 6:14 “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” When we accept His forgiveness we are raised to life once again in Him–Eternal life in Him!
Second, we need to find our identity in Him….I am not what I have done nor am I defined by it. Despite what others may believe or think about us or what they label us with, we are redeemed! I am HIS daughter, you are His child and He WILL finish what He has started in each of us as we accept His forgiveness. Judgements may pour out on us through others’ actions, or in subtle glances and gestures, but our identity is found in Him. We need to listen ONLY to Our Father’s voice and who He says we are in Him. 1 John 3:1 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” And that is what we are!
Third, we need to decide…we need to choose. We may not feel worthy of His amazing forgiveness, but if we are in fact His sons and daughters, then we need to decide and choose to believe that He is speaking the truth to us whether it feels true or not. Whether is seems too good to be true, He has forgiven and is forgiving us, no matter what we have done! Just as others may judge us, who are WE to judge or deem ourselves not worthy of His forgiveness? He is the One who paid the price after all. It was His blood that was shed –not mine or yours! Therefore we must believe that His forgiveness is real, that His word is true. That He wants to pick us up, cleansed and made new in His righteousness and move us on to greater things to bring Him glory! Philippians 1:6 “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Fourth, we need to stop measuring…stop comparing. There are no big sins or little sins. Sin is sin. Ultimately, sin is the rejection of God when you get to the heart of it. The works of the flesh are the byproduct of our rejecting God and His ways. Galations 5:19-21. Someone once told me, “Sin is when we decide that God is no longer good and we begin to seek something else we think is better.” Sound familiar? The Garden? Adam and Eve were deceived into thinking God was holding out on them and sought for something “better”. We often measure sin by the results of the pain it causes or the consequences of our actions because indeed consequences vary. But in the end, sin is sin. If we reject what God has for us and seek anything else instead, we are sinning. We all fall short of the mark. Every single one of us. Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,..” The Word and the Holy Spirit are to be our standard of measurement when we each look inside of our hearts. Instead of judging ourselves as unworthy or justifying our actions in deceit, we need to accept what God HAS given to us as good. That He has plans to give us a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.) When I “live” there, in the frame of mind that God has His best for me, abundant life is found. I will be less and less likely to desire anything else but His good!
Lastly, we need to stay close to Him…abide in Our Father. John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” To abide is to dwell or encamp with. As we combine all of the other steps into this one we will see peace come, and stay. Staying close to Him, learning to abide in Him is where we will find our ultimate rest and the depth of His forgiveness. When we realize our Father’s outstretched arms never, ever close, no matter what we’ve done, we will find rest. He is so much bigger than anything we’ve done good or bad. His love for us does not change with the seasons or the weather. He is constant and continually pursuing our hearts. When we stay close, and I mean very close to Him we can begin to experience a deep abiding peace knowing we are loved just because we are His. Abiding in Him happens in many ways.
Prayer brings us close to Him. 1 Thessalonians says to “pray continually.” There is nothing that we can say to Our Father that will surprise Him or cause Him to reject us. Go to Him with thanksgiving, with your angst, with your worry, with your heartache, with your joy, with whatever you have. We should never cease to talk with our Father.
Staying close to Him also requires that we listen to Him. Abiding is not just our prayers going up, but also that we hear the Holy Spirit whispering to us. He will lead us and guide us…Psalm 25:15 “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” We are to acknowledge Him in everything we do and say.
Staying close to Him by knowing His word is also abiding. This is where we find our greatest source of comfort and where truth begins to root itself in our hearts. When the firery darts of the accuser come, and they will, we need to be ready to battle him with the truth of God’s Holy word. Know the Word. When we can recite the truth of God in scripture over and over again we can replace the judgements of others, and the voice of the enemy will too flee!
We have been created to bring God glory. Everything ever created was meant to point back to and give glory to God. We as human beings created in His image have the ultimate capacity to bring Him glory by our life in Him. The faith of forgiveness brings Him that glory. Sometimes it is in our good works that people are pointed toward Him. They see His love in us and long for that too. They see His goodness in us and want to know what it is about. But sometimes it is in our very rough places, in our biggest screw-ups that God speaks the loudest through us to reach others. When they see what He does with our brokenness, our selfishness, and our greatest weakness His glory shines forth. When others see God’s forgiveness at work in a reformed heart, in a reconciled relationship or a renewed life He will use even those darkest and most difficult moments to be glorified and draw hearts ever closer to Him. Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”