Today's "thought" has to do with the gift the Bible calls forgiveness. It comes from Dr. Grant Ethridge, and is found in the book, "The Gift of Jesus." I found it to be a good reminder and trust you will as well. Enjoy.
Faithful to Forgive
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
I John 1:9
"Do you remember "if-then" statements from school? Let's review. The first part of the statement is conditional -- it may or may not happen. But if that condition does happen, then whatever is described in the second half of the statement will also happen. These "if-then" statements, like mathematical formulas, are black and white. There is no gray. Two plus two does not equal fourish. It equals four. Three minus one does not equal somewhere close to two or something other than two. It equals two.
Look again at today's passage -- it's a most profound if-then statement: "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Notice that the verse does not say "God might be faithful," or "there's a possibility that He may be faithful." It says God IS faithful and He WILL forgive. There is no gray area. Also, he doesn't qualify whether the sins are big or little -- which, after all, is a human construction. The promise simply says "sins," meaning all sins. If we confess, God is faithful and just to forgive all sins. Whether or not we feel forgiven, or whether or not we've forgiven ourselves, is not the issue. If we truly confess our sins as sins before the Lord, He forgives them. We are not to cover our sins but confess them.
What guilt or regret are you dwelling on or reliving today? Remember: If you have confessed it, then God has forgiven it. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1)."
When I was a child my grandfather (a farmer in his 80's) used to gauge the next day's weather in two ways. 1.) He would look at the sky and take note of the cloud formations, and 2.) he would seek to discern which direction the slightest of winds were blowing in from by licking his finger and sticking it in the air. The saliva intensified his ability to feel the wind's direction and thus predict the next day's weather. And I must say he usually got right! He was usually more accurate than the weatherman we watched on the news channel.
Yet, what may work in terms of predicting the weather is a poor method for discerning forgiveness. Too many people I know (and I must confess this was true myself in the past) try to discern whether or not we've been forgiven by looking into our soul and testing how we feel. If we feel forgiven we assume we must be, and if we don't feel we're forgiven, we assume we must not be. Or as usually happens, one day they will feel they are, and another day they will feel they aren't -- due to using a faulty system of measure. In fact, if we measure forgiveness by how we feel on any given day, we condemn ourselves to a roller-coaster-ride of seemingly guilt-free days (when our minds are preoccupied with the day's activities) and guilt-ridden nights (when the busyness subsides and we are left with nothing to distract our thoughts or painful memories).
The Gospel (thankfully) gives us a better remedy for our sin and guilt than how we might happen to feel on any given day. For it bases our forgiveness, and the assurance of it, in the punishment Jesus received in our place on the cross, and the promise of God's forgiveness because of it. A punishment He paid not just the small sins, as Dr. Ethridge points out, or the sins that no one found out about and really did not harm to others. But every sin -- even the ones that did hurt someone else immensely and have left lasting scars on people and relationships. When Christ went to the cross He died an unimaginably painful death. And I would say He did that (at least in part) not simply because that's the punishment sin deserves, but to convince us beyond any shadow of a doubt that He had paid the sin-debt of even the most unimaginably heinous sins.
Therefore we don't have to wonder. Nor do we have to hope, wish, or guess. Nor does it have to do with how we may happen to feel at any given time (since feelings are fickle). It has to do with what Christ did on the cross and the promise of God -- something which really is black and white. "IF I confess our sins, THEN God -- who IS faithful and just -- WILL forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness."
I know the postmodern mind has an aversion to anything being 'black and white" rather than some shade of gray. But this is one case (along with others) where healing is thwarted until we see the issue of forgiveness really is black and white. God purposely made it that way so that the fullness of His redemptive gift in Christ might be internalized in hearts and minds that can be so easily misled by fickle feelings. Feelings are NOT the ultimate gauge of what is true.
Living in the joy of Christ's finished work and God's precious promise, Pastor Jeff