Sunday, February 21, 2010

Completely Forgiven

I can't speak for you, but I know I fail the standard of perfection every day.  Despite my best efforts even on my best days, perfection escapes me.  When I realize I have failed yet again to live up to God's standard, I often find myself going to the Lord in prayer and saying, "Father, please forgive me..."  But then I think about Jesus, the cross, and the blood He shed there and I find myself asking, what am I saying??  We do this because in human terms, when we offend another person, we know that to make it right, we need that persons forgiveness.  But how about Jesus and what about the cross?  I find there is a balance I am walking between this idea of grace and righteousness.  I am constantly learning the difference between the forgiveness, which comes at the moment we accept salvation, and confession that takes place as we walk with Christ in salvation thereafter.  We grow in righteousness because He is our righteousness.  That sounds like symantics, but I hope to convey an important theological distinction that I think is important.  Salvation and forgiveness walk hand in hand and both are a complete work, as far as Christ is concerned.  Despite the fact that the Bible teaches us that Christ will never leave or forsake us, that nothing can pluck us from His hand, we have a difficult time believing this truth.

You see, when I first turned to Christ, it wasn't because all my questions or doubts had been dealt with concerning God and His word.  It wasn't because I had settled on the perfect place of worship or because I had gotten my life straightened out.  It was because I knew I was NOT the person God wanted me to be.  Further, I knew there was nothing I could EVER do to be "good enough" for God because I always failed in my effort to be good.  So, I was burdened because I knew I was separated from God; I did not know Him and I prayed and admitted to the Lord that I was not perfect and that I was a person inclined to do the things I knew I ought not to do.  I was a sinner by nature and I knew, without God's help, I could never change that.  So I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life and to do what I couldn't do - give me a new nature.  To substitute my will for His will and to save me from myself.  In accepting, believing, and confessing I became a new born Christian and I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior.  I knew immediately that I had been changed.

It was a new beginning and I understood well enough to know that sin carried a heavy penalty, not because God is unfair, but because God is righteous and just.  I deserved any due punishment for my willful disobedience to God.  That is why I was so greatful.  Not because I got a get out of hell free card, but because the penalty for my sin was no longer mine to bear.  My sin had been paid for, once and for all, by Jesus in His death on the cross.  His death was a substitutionary death and His sacrifice was a perfect one because it paid for all sin for all time (past, present, and future).  He being the only perfect being, God incarnate, made for the only perfect and complete payment for the punishment of sin.  He was the last sacrifice that would ever be necessary to attone for the sin of man, doing away with the need for Old Testiment sacrifice.  He took that burden upon himself, not just for me, but for anyone who would accept it.  When He said, "It is finished" that is exactly what He meant and because Jesus overcame death and was resurrected, death was defeated in a supernatural work only God could do. 

Okay, so follow me closely now because I don't want you to misinterpret what I am about to say.  In realizing Jesus died for me and forgave me of all my sin (past, present, and future), I came to realize that asking Him to forgive me for my sin was kind of silly and maybe even insulting.  After all, am I forgiven or aren't I??  If not, then His salvation is not complete and we are in constant danger.  Again, if this were the case, then how could anyone possibly be sure of their salvation.  Although there are sins I commit anew in life, sin is no longer my nature and Christ inside of me rebels against that sin and reminds me I am not the same person.  My sin was forgiven and they cannot be forgiven any more completely than they were the day I came to Christ.  What I must do is to confess with my mouth and with my heart that I have sinned.  This is simply a way of agreeing with God that I have done wrong, but I am no less forgiven and no less saved than I was.  Now the Bible is clear that Christ sacrifice is not to be taken lightly nor is God one to be mocked.  If we simply ask for forgiveness and salvation with our mouth and never accept Him as Lord in our heart, than we have not genuinly experienced salvation.  God does not accept part of us, for a complete work, He must have our full commitment.  Otherwise, we attempt to reduce God to a fire insurance genie.  It does not work that way.  Those who claim to be Christians and experience no transformation are not likely Christians at all.  As the scripture says, "You will know them by their fruit."

So in short, I simply want Christians to know that you are forgiven - completely.  If we are in Christ, sin will burden our hearts because Christ and sin cannot coexist.  They are oil and water.  So in this light we must confess our sin to God and ask Him for the strength to walk in His way, but to ask His forgiveness is no longer necessary.  If it makes you feel better to do so, then do, but understand "It is finished."

No comments:

Post a Comment