by J. C. Choate
Someone has said that the greatest word in the English language is the word forgiveness. There is nothing that we need any more. How could we live without it?
Forgiveness is needed because of sin and there is sin because of the transgression of God’s law. (1 John 3:4). Many, however, are not aware of their sin because sin itself is very deceitful. (Hebrews 3:13). It often slips into an individual’s life unnoticed. Gradually it gains control to the extent that one becomes hardened to it and therefore engages in questionable and ungodly practices without any regret whatsoever. Sin is progressive. The old saying that one lie leads to another is true, and bears out the fact that sin is ever leading one on and on to the point of final destruction. This is not just true with one but with all since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23). Then finally sin brings death. (Romans 6:23).
There is only one way and that is through Jesus Christ. (John 14:6). He was sent by God for this purpose. (John 3:16). For this reason Christ died for the sins of the world. (Romans 5:8). But this being true then only Christ has legitimate right to issue the terms for forgiveness. Man is the sinner and is in no position to negotiate what he will do or what he will not do. All he can do is to submit to the terms of pardon and thank the Lord that there is still time and opportunity to obtain the forgiveness of sins.
The terms for the forgiveness of sins are set forth in the scriptures. The specific commands are spelled out and examples have been given to show how obedience works. Look at these commands: (Hear Christ Matthew 17:5), (Repent of your sins – Luke 13:3), (Confess your faith in Christ – Matthew 10:32), (and be baptized to be saved – Mark 16:16). For the examples, turn to the book of Acts in particular: (Acts 2; Acts 8; Acts 9; Acts 16). As you do this keep in. mind that what man says is not the same as what the Lord says. Christ is the saviour, not the preacher, priest, or any other human being. If you want forgiveness then you had better comply with what Jesus has asked you to do. Otherwise, you’ll be lost. (Matthew 7:21-23; John 12:48).
The beauty of forgiveness is seen in these ways:
I. When we obey the Lord and we are forgiven of our sins then we may think of our sins as having been sent far away. In Leviticus 16 we read where Aaron took two goats. He took one and sacrificed it for the sins of Israel. He took the other and confessed all of their sins over it and then had it sent far away into the wilderness to be left. This goat was called a scapegoat on which symbolically all of Israel’s sins were placed and sent away so that Israel might be pure once more. In our obedience to the Lord then our sins are removed from us and sent far away and we are therefore forever rid of them. Isn’t that a beautiful thought? Wouldn’t you like to rid yourself of all of your sins?
2. Our sins have been forgiven in the sense that Christ has taken the weight of our sins from us. Peter says, “Who his own self bear our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose strips we are healed.” (1 Peter 2:24). I have seen both men and women, as well as children, carry tremendously heavy loads on their head or shoulders. I have often thought that should I have to carry such a load that it would be so wonderful if someone could walk up to me some time and offer to take the load from me and assume the responsibility for it himself. Well, we are weighted down with sin. The burden is very heavy. It causes pain and heartache. Some are not aware that the Lord can take that load from them, and having no one else to turn to, they have gone mad or have taken their own life. But it is wonderful that Jesus can come to us and lift that heavy weight of sin from us and take it forever away. Do you remember how Jesus said that if we would come to him that he would give us rest, for his yoke is easy and his burden is light? (Matthew 11:28-30). Truly, it is.
3. Through the forgiveness of our sins, the debts we owe are cancelled out. Jesus, in the prayer of example, taught his disciples to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12). Then in Matthew 18:27-32 we have the story of the servant who had many debts, and on begging for mercy his lord was willing to cancel them, or to forgive him, for that which he owed. But then the story goes on to tell us that he went to a fellow servant, who owed him a small amount, to demand that he be paid. When the fellow servant could not then he began to beat him. Then when his lord heard about this he sent for him and asked him why he had so dealt with his fellow servant when he had had mercy on him? He therefore cast him into prison to punish him for his wicked deeds. Our Lord has cancelled out all of the debts that were against us and made it possible for us to go free. Isn’t that wonderful? That being so, we should also be merciful and forgiving with those around us.
4. We have forgiveness because of the grace of God. That just means that we could never save ourselves. We could never be good enough or do enough good deeds to merit salvation. Even after we have done all the Lord requires of us it will still take the grace of God to save us. Listen to Paul: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Peter said that if the righteous scarcely be saved then wherein shall the sinner and ungodly appear. (1 Peter 4:18). Again, the Lord is coming again to take vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the gospel. (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). Thank God for his grace and mercy. Even though we do not deserve to be saved, and even though we could never do enough to be saved on our own, still by the grace of God we are saved and have the hope of eternal life.
5. Finally, to have forgiveness means that we are cleansed, washed, and that we are new creatures. Through our obedience to the Lord we died to our sins, we were buried with the Lord in baptism, and then we were raised to walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-6). Saul was told to arise and be baptized to wash away his sins. (Acts 22:16). Christ tells us that we must be born again, or become new creatures, to enter into the Lord’s kingdom or the church. (John 3:3-5). Thus, when one is forgiven, old things have passed away and behold all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17). Isn’t it wonderful that with forgiveness that we can begin our lives over?
Do you have the forgiveness of your sins? Some feel that they are good enough but this could never be. Others feel that their sins are of such a nature that the Lord would never forgive them, but this is also a mistaken idea. If you want forgiveness you can have it. Yes, you can have all of your sins forgiven and forever taken away from you. How? By simply obeying Christ. Isn’t that simple? He asks so little but gives so much in return. Try him and come to know the joy of forgiveness. It will truly give you a new lease on life.