This week's "thought" is from the book, "The Life and ," by James S. Stewart. As mentioned in previous "thoughts" he was professor of New Testament language, literature, and theology in New College, the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. His words come from the chapter of his book dealing with "Sin And Its Remedy." Enjoy!
"Another fact which Jesus made very clear was that in restoring the lost relationship God holds the initiative. It is from God's side, not the sinner's side, that everything begins. Human efforts to earn and to achieve pardon are unavailing. We cannot, to use Robert Browning's words...'Make out and reckon His ways, and bargain for His love, and stand paying a price, at His right hand.' The parable of the laborers in the vineyard settled that once for all. In forgiveness there is no question of merit, but all is of grace (Matt. 20:1-16). Even penitence, without which pardoning love cannot become operative, is God-created, not man-made. It is God's goodness and love, especially as these are manifested in Jesus, which evoke the penitence. So it was with Peter after his denial. 'The Lord turned and looked upon Peter, and Peter remembered' (Luke 22:61). Then penitence came like a flood. Always God holds the initiative. It is one of the secrets of the saving power of Calvary that the sight of the Cross can produce in a person's heart a sorrow and a shame for sin which that person could never create. Everything in the experience of being forgiven, penitence included, is the gift of God."
This is one of the reasons Stewart can go on to say that in terms of forgiveness: "Before the prodigal son could get out the suggestion that he was not even worthy to be a hired servant, his father's arms were around him (Luke 15:20). The creditor wiped the slate clean (Luke 7:42). There was no long period of probation. In a single moment a man might leap clear from the fearful pit to the very breast of eternal love, and the most wasted, shriveled, burnt-out soul might stand erect and clean and in its right mind before God (Isaiah 55:1-7 / Luke 23:43)."
God doesn't require a lengthy or stringent period of penance, or emotional self-punishment in order for one to "feel" worthy of forgiveness (and I say "feel" worthy since no sinner can ever really "be" worthy of forgiveness).
If pardon were from our side, and based upon the need for our initiative, it might be true that we would have to try and earn it. But since it is all from God's side, and all of grace, such efforts are unnecessary. is appropriated by faith, as a gift, as one confesses their sins and rests upon the promise (I John 1:8-9). It is not earned by penance, remorse or emotional self-loathing or self-punishment.
Christ already paid the punishment for all our sins in full. We need not, and indeed cannot, add to the full atonement He has already made for our sins on the cross by punishing ourselves further with guilt and emotional self-loathing.
Dr. Jeffrey F. Evans