Friends, it’s been a while and I haven’t been able to write to you for several reasons and I can’t go into all of them here, but know that I won’t give up on writing to you my thoughts on several issues.
I was watching the movie Batman Begins the other day and there was a quote from it that I really liked. I really didn’t think of it until I was dreaming of it last night. While God doesn’t come and speak to us directly in our sleep (so, no, there is no small still voice in the night of God telling me what to tell you), I do believe we speak to ourselves and our subconscious can be inspired by the events that happen in our lives. I don’t know if or how God plays a part in our dreams and I’m not about to even begin to attempt to tell about it. All I know is that I have had plans and have changed those plans based off of dreams and, because I did, the results turned out better than I had ever hoped. But this post isn’t about dreams. This post is about forgiveness.
In the movie, when Bruce was a little boy, he fell down a well. His dad came and got him and said, “Bruce…Bruce…Why do we fall? It’s so that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” This got me thinking about forgiveness. Let’s notice a few things.
First off, we all fall. Yep. If you are reading this, you are human. If you can comprehend what I’ve written, then you’ve fallen due to sin. I know you don’t want to hear it. I know, it stinks. It’s a horrible situation. However, I’m just stating the facts. Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Notice, “all have sinned.” That’s everyone. And no, this isn’t self-righteous because I have sinned, too. Of course, the good news (the Gospel) is that we can obtain forgiveness of sins and salvation through Jesus. Want to know something else that stinks? No? Too bad, I have to tell you anyway. Even after we become Christians, we still sin. Just look at Simon, once a sorcerer, in Acts 8. Look at Galatians 2, where Paul withstood Peter to the face and rebuked his sin. Yes, even the apostles could sin.
Let’s make a side point while we are on it. It is unwise to place preachers on pedestals or run them into the ground. Some people have the attitude that a preacher can never sin. This places an undue burden on him, for he is human, too. Some have the attitude that if he does sin, he can never preach again. This is also false because. I can prove it with one word. Peter.
So, the bad news is that we all sin. The good news is we all can obtain forgiveness. So what’s the difference between the sinner and the saint? Well, for one thing, the saint is covered by the blood of Christ. Think of the blood of Christ like an insurance policy. It covers you in case of accident. It doesn’t give you license to sin, but it covers you in case you do sin. Saints are covered while sinners are “driving around without insurance.” Keep this illustration in mind because we’ll come back to it. The second difference is made in how we choose to live and we’ll look at this in our next point.
Second, forgiveness isn’t based on how many times we fall, but on how many times we pick ourselves up. This is the difference between saints and sinners. We all fall, but those who recognized that they fell sought what to do to pick themselves up. They sought the truth of God’s word and then obeyed it. Yes, they do fall and sin as they learn to walk, but they do as Simon did in Acts 8. They pick themselves up and keep trying. The sinner falls and never gets up again. The sinner lives a life that says, “Because I can’t live perfect, why try?” They doubt God’s forgiveness. It’s a shame they live that way because they ignore what God said on forgiveness.
Matthew 18:21-22, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”
Jesus makes the point clear that God’s forgiveness is unlimited. It doesn’t matter how many times we mess up, if we are truly repentant and seek to make things right, then He will forgive us.
However, God’s forgiveness, while unlimited, is limited. Let’s look at how.
Third, in order to obtain forgiveness, we must repent.
Notice what Peter said in Acts 2:38, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Now, nowhere am I teaching repentance alone says. I’m merely pointing out that if one truly repents, he will then take the necessary steps to be covered by the blood of Christ. Baptism has been described as a burial with Christ (Romans 6:3-4). If baptism is a burial, and we bury the dead, at what point does one die? It is at repentance.
Romans 6:6, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”
Notice, the “old man” of sin “dies” so that we may not serve sin. It is when we repent, when we choose to no longer serve sin, that the old man dies. This is why sinners will never be covered by the blood of Christ. This is why they will never obtain forgiveness. They choose to continue serving sin. It’s not that they can’t obtain forgiveness, it’s just that they can’t obtain it and continue in sin. Should they decide to no longer serve sin, they can access the insurance of the cross, and be covered and forgiven.
Forgiveness is also limited to our insurance policy with Christ. The insurance policy is the Bible. Just as we make monthly payments on insurance to remain covered, we make weekly payments to Christ and, friends, it isn’t paid in money. It’s paid in living His word, day by day. It’s paid in worship, every first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Those are the major points. If you want to know the fine details, you have to read the policy. There is fine print. One good example is that worship “payments” have to be in the right attitude and in the right way.
John 4:23-24, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
If your worship isn’t right, I suggest you start by making it right. There’s more I could write on worship, and I may at a later time, but let’s get back to the topic of forgiveness.
God’s forgiveness is also limited on how we forgive each other. Matthew 6:14-15 reads, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Notice the main point, though. In order to obtain forgiveness, you must repent. If you don’t repent, then you can’t obtain forgiveness. We have to be ready and willing to forgive, but we have no business forgiving those who have not repented. This leads us into our next point.
Fourth, those that pick themselves up have every right to criticize those that don’t.
Remember the illustration I gave earlier about the difference between Christians and sinners is that like an insurance policy? Good. Let’s continue looking at that thought. I know many sinners have the attitude with Christians of, “How can you tell me how to live drive (live) when you get into accidents (sin), too?” Well, to the which I would respond, “You’re one to talk about my driving (the way I mess up and sin and ask for forgiveness) when you don’t even have insurance! (covered by the Blood)”
I say this because we can’t pick and choose what parts of the policy to follow or not. Yes, we’re told to forgive each other and, yes, we are told that if we don’t forgive, God won’t forgive us. If that was the case, then we could all easily go to heaven by just forgiving everyone. But it doesn’t work that way. We can’t gloss over the facts we must repent, be covered by the Blood, and strive to live right.
A lot of the misconceptions come from Matthew 7:1 and “judge not.”
Let’s read, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
Some have the attitude that if you have ever sinned, you can’t take a stand for what’s right…ever. The problem with that is in this passage. Let’s think outside the box for a minute and read close. Jesus never told us to not judge. He told us to not judge hypocritical judgment. He never said that if we’ve ever sinned, we can’t call evil, evil. If that was the case, no one could say anything about sin, ever. He did tell us to remove sin from our lives so we can, cleanly, point out the sin in others lives so they can get rid of their sin and help others. It’s about us helping each other to rise up out of sin. So, a careful reading of the passage in it’s context shows that Jesus actually wants us to judge, or to discern, good from evil. He makes the point that in order to do so, we must remove evil from our lives. To do that, we must do what the Bible says to obtain forgiveness, which leads us to our last point.
Fifth, when we obtain forgiveness, the slate is wiped clean.
Jeremiah 31:34 contains a prophecy. He said, “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” He was foretelling of a time when, in God’s kingdom, people would not have to teach their brethren to “know the Lord.” He was telling of a time when sins would not be remembered because God’s kingdom would be covered by His blood. We see that prophecy fulfilled in Hebrews.
Hebrews 8:10-13, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”
Hebrews 10:15-22, “Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
We live in a time where, if you are in the kingdom of God, you already “know the Lord” and just obtain help walking. We live in a time where your sins can be forgiven. We live in a time where the slate can be wiped clean by the Blood of the final Sacrifice for our sins. That sacrifice is Jesus. If you aren’t a Christian, you are not covered by the Blood. You have no insurance. And when God comes back and wants to “see your insurance card,” you can’t show Him anything. You will have to foot the entire bill and that bill is your soul, your life. If you want to have “coverage,” then come to God and accept His insurance policy. He will wipe your slate clean and cover you always, as long as you continually meet His payment plan. When you consider the alternative, the only question is, “Why wouldn’t you want insurance with God?”
Hear what God says – Romans 10:17
Believe in Jesus – John 3:16
Decide to stop living a sinful lifestyle – Acts 17:30
Publicly pledge your allegiance to Christ – Romans 10:10
Be buried with Jesus in baptism – Romans 6:3-4