Good Afternoon Church,
I hope this letter finds you well as you seek to pursue Christ and His glory above all the pleasures of this fallen and fleeting world. I am excited to let you know that our family is hoping to move into our home on Holiday lane on Saturday August 27th. We have been working endlessly on remodeling certain areas and are currently working on getting ready for hanging some drywall in the kitchen this Saturday. While the home will not be finished it will be close enough for us, so we share our joy with you and ask you to continue to pray for us as we continue to rest in God’s strength during this long and difficult transition.
I hope that you have found this series on forgiveness encouraging and edifying as you seek to further submit your life to God and His Word by abiding in Christ’s love through obedience to His commands (Jn 15:8-11). Let me remind you that forgiveness is the heartbeat of heaven (Isa 55:6-7)! Forgiveness is the promise of the gospel (Lk 24:47)! Forgiveness was the ultimate ministry and mission for Christ coming to earth (Mt 9:13;Lk 19:10)! Forgiveness is in many ways the binding that holds the Bible together! From Gen 3 to Rev 22 we see a God who is merciful and desires to give eternal mercy to sinful mankind if they will only turn to Him in true repentance (Ps 32:1-5; 103:1-14; Isa 55:7; Jer 31:31-34; Lk 24:47; Acts 17:30; 1 Tim 2:3-7; Heb 8:12; 10:16-18; 1 Jn 1:9)! Just consider these amazing facts about God’s eternal forgiveness given to those who repent…
- God’s forgiveness utterly removes the eternal penalty for sin (Rom 8:1).
- God’s forgiveness completely cleanses away the filth of sin (1 Jn 1:9)!
- God’s forgiveness totally destroys the barrier of sin (Col 1:14)!
- God’s forgiveness absolutely shatters the shackles of sin (Rom 6:1-14)!
- God’s forgiveness unequivocally overcomes the power of sin (Col 2:13-15)!
That is why in forgiveness, man’s greatest need collides with God’s greatest gift and there man begins to enjoy the greatest blessing he will ever know!
Five Important Truths About Forgiveness
Now, let me declare five important truths about forgiveness. Let me explain for a moment things that are not true about forgiveness, as many of us have been plagued with unbiblical views of forgiveness. As a matter of fact there is an ungodly and unhelpful thing floating around our world and even in our churches called therapeutic forgiveness. It seeks to deny wrongdoing, sweep sin or wrongdoing under the rug, and is ultimately driven by your feelings, not by the facts of Scripture. So here are some things that are not biblical forgiveness along with some clarifying statements of what biblical forgiveness is.
- Forgiveness is not a feeling but forgiveness is ultimately a choice! That is not to say that feelings are not present and a real part of forgiveness but that true forgiveness is not, nor should it ever be, driven by and conditioned on how one feels about a situation or a person. Remember that forgiveness is ultimately a command (Eph 4:32) and we are never excused from obedience because of how we feel (Col 3:13). Consider Christ’s words when he says that whenever you stand praying, forgive, and if you have “anything against anyone” forgive them right there so that your Father may forgive you your trespasses (Mk 11:24-25). This is speaking of individual forgiveness that takes place in the heart (Mt 18:35) despite what the offender has or has not done. Notice that it is only conditioned by “if you have anything against anyone” (Mk 11:25).
- Forgiveness is not forgetting but a promise to not bring the offense up again! It is unhealthy and unbiblical to speak of forgetting a past offense that has deeply wounded a soul. People hurt and wrong us and we must never trivialize the pain caused by others (Job19:19; Ps 41:9; 55:12-14). Furthermore, God is the model and example of what our forgiveness must be like (Eph 4:32), and while God cast our sins into the depth of the seas (Micah 7:19) and removes them as far as the east is from the west (Ps 130:12) He does not nor can He forget them because He is omniscience (1 Chron 28:9; Ps 139:4; 69:5; 44:20-21; Heb 4:12-13). However, the promise is that He chooses to “not remember” them or bring them up against us (Isa 43:25; Jer 31:34; Heb 8:12) not to “forget” them. That is exactly what forgiveness is – a promise to not bring up the past offense again to you, to the offender, or to anyone else. The sin is buried praise the Lord!
- Forgiveness is not an excuse for sin but an actual acknowledgment that there was sin. Some have wrongly thought of forgiveness as sweeping sin under the rug or turning a blind eye to the abuses of others, but that never happens in God’s economy. As a matter of fact, that issue of turning a blind eye to the abuses of others and not dealing with sin was one of the major offenses of Israel of which God judged them (Isa 1:10-17). God takes sin so serious that He killed His own Son in order to deal with it (Jn 3:16-18; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 2:22-24; Isa 53). One of the barriers for us in forgiveness is our desire for vengeance or even justice, which is not necessarily wrong. However, we must learn to trust the God who said “vengeance is mine, I will repay” and as the text says, never seek to avenge ourselves but leave it to God who judges justly (Rom 12:19-21). All sin has been and will be dealt with in a way that is completely fair, just, and right (Isa 35:4). Remember, ours is ultimately a mission of mercy (Lk 6:36) not of vengeance, but God will return one day on a mission of vengeance, and that is a very scary thought even for our worst enemies (2 Thess 1:5-12). Read that last verse; it will sober you!
- Forgiveness is not the absence of the consequences of sin but the pardon from the guilt of sin. There is much that needs to be said about this but the Bible is clear that God disciplines His children when they sin, just like a parent disciplines an unruly child (Heb 12:3-17). This, of course is corrective discipline as God seeks to see that we share in His holiness (Heb 12:11). Yet, sin has ramifications andsome times long lasting negative results despite being forgiven. Consider the life of David when sinned against in counting the army of Israel and how some 70,000 died (1 Chron 21), or contemplate the horror that came upon his home and followed him his whole life after his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11-12). The consequences, including the death of the child that was conceived between David and Bathsheba, all happened after Nathan declared that God had taken away David’s sin (2 Sam 12:13-14). Thus, forgiveness is not the removal of consequences but the pardon from the guilt of sin so that the offense is not held up and used against the person in order to maliciously hurt the person.
- Forgiveness is not totally unconditional but the act is mostly conditional and the attitude is always unconditional! This is a purposefully loaded statement to make you stop and think about it. Forgiveness is multifaceted and complex once you stop to contemplate it. Consider the difference between the act of forgiveness, which takes a repentant offender going to and receiving forgiveness from the offended. This is what Christ talks about when he say “if your brother repents forgive him (Lk 17:3), or if your brother listens to you then you have won your brother over (Mt 18:15). This is totally conditional! However, there is also the attitude of forgiveness, which is totally unconditional, as we are called to forgive any offense against anyone (Mk 11:25). This what you see in Christ on the cross as He prays for those who murdered Him (Lk 23:34) and with the first martyr Stephen who followed this example (Acts 7:60).
I hope this has been helpful in further establishing your biblical understanding of forgiveness. I look forward to diving deeper into this serious topic and blessing of forgiveness this Sunday as we finish up the multifaceted properties of forgiveness and grapple with the personal practice of forgiveness. I am hoping to further help us as we seek to be a forgiving people by also considering the different levels of forgiveness, which further differentiates between what God does for man and how we respond to those who offend us. Have you ever stopped to mull over the difference between judicial, parental, mental, and relational forgiveness? Well, come this Sunday and let’s worship the Lord together and grow further in our understanding of what it means to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (Col3:13).
For His Glory,