Like the woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears in Luke 7, many of us carry the guilt of our sins with us like a heavy burden, weighing us down. The continual reminder of our sins keeps us from experiencing freedom and from enjoying the relationship with God that we have by faith in Jesus Christ. We don’t just need a teacher. We need a Savior who comes in and does for us what we can’t do for ourselves: forgiveness. All of our debt of sin before God is enormous; we are incapable of ever paying it back. You and I need to understand how complete and continual is God’s forgiveness of us. And, we need to know how to deal with any recognized sin in our lives so that we won’t continue to carry that burden of guilt.
Six terms describe how our relationship with God is changed because of our faith in Jesus Christ—Propitiation, Reconciliation, Redemption, Forgiveness, Justification, and Sanctification. These 6 relationship changes are the direct result of Christ’s finished work on the cross so they are often called “words of the cross.” My recent blogs have covered Word of the Cross #1 Propitiation, #2 Reconciliation, and #3 Redemption. This blog will cover #4 FORGIVENESS.
What is forgiveness?
In the Bible, the term “forgiveness” means “to send off or send away.” Our sin is transferred to a substitute, Jesus, and taken away. People in Old Testament times were accepted by God and received eternal life in the same way as we are today: by faith in the merciful grace of God. For daily living, however, they had to bring their animal sacrifice to the priest. Their sin was transferred to that sacrifice, and they received forgiveness for their sins up to that point.
God promised His people that one day forgiveness would no longer be a temporary solution, but be complete and permanent. That happened on the cross through Jesus.
Jesus Christ set you free from the burden
As Paul declared in Colossians 2,
“When you were dead in your sins…God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14 NIV)
Once you place your faith in Jesus Christ, whatever you have done that was wrong in God’s eyes from the time you were born through the time of your death has been canceled. Taken away. All of it. Past, present and future. Nailed to the cross.
It’s even better than that! 2 Corinthians 5:19 says,
“that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.”
Since your sins have been taken away, God is longer counting them against you. Just like the woman in our lesson today, you are forgiven based on your faith alone. Sins are applied to Jesus who takes them on your behalf. FORGIVENESS: "Your guilt has been transferred to a substitute and taken away."
Once you have trusted in Jesus, Ephesians 1:7 says that forgiveness is something we possess as believers. We receive God’s forgiveness for all our sins (past, present, and future) from the moment we place our faith in Jesus Christ. That is very important for you to know. Forgiveness is complete and continual.
Although our God does not hold our sin against us any longer, and His grace is continually forgiving us of sin, that does not give us permission to intentionally sin. Intentional sin does not fit with who you are as a forgiven Christian with a new life to enjoy.
But, as long as we live in these earthly bodies, we will be tempted to sin. Sin will happen—whether intentionally or unintentionally. So, as an already forgiven Christian, you might ask, “How do I deal with sin when I recognize it in my life?”
The biblical process for dealing with recognized sin
Great question. Here’s the biblical process for dealing with sin as a believer:
Step One: View yourself rightly.
Your identity is not “_______” (coveter, greedy, gossiper, whatever that sin is).
You are in Christ, a child of God, who sometimes “_____” (covets, is greedy, gossips).
Step Two: Recognize (confess) the truth regarding your sin.
To confess biblically means to agree with God about what you and He both know to be true. Confession is not a formula, a process, or dependent on a mediator. Regarding sin in my life, it is not saying, “I’m sorry.” It is saying, “I agree with you, God. I blew it!” You see your sin as something awful!
Using sexual immorality as an example: while reading 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, the Spirit convicts you that sexual immorality in any form is not pleasing to God. You are instructed to "flee/avoid immorality." You recognize this sin in your life. You agree with God that your immoral sexual behavior is seeking love and acceptance from the wrong source. It doesn’t fit someone who knows God. That is confession.
Step Three: Confession is incomplete without repentance.
Repentance meansto change your mind about that sin, to turn away from it, to mourn its ugliness, resulting in changing your actions. Paul says that godly sorrow brings repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-11). Like the woman in Luke 7. It’s saying, “I recognize what I am doing is wrong. This fills me with sorrow because it hurts You, God. Please help me to live differently.” That’s how our lives get transformed.
For sexual immorality: You want to live in order to please God, and God wants you to avoid sexual immorality. So, you pray, “Lord Jesus, please have your Spirit nudge me when I am not holy and honorable with my body. Help me to say no to temptation and to give up any relationship that is not honorable to you. By faith, Lord, I want you to do that in my life.” That is repentance.
Repentance isn’t repentance until you change something. You can confess “until the cows come home” (daily, habitually) and never change anything. Jesus called for people to “repent” not “confess.”
Step Four: Repentance leads to dependence.
Depend on the living Christ inside you for that change to take place. Our Lord Jesus Christ is not interested in our compliance (outward conformity) as much as He desires our obedience from the heart.
For sexual immorality: Memorize 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 and any other scriptures that deal with staying pure and not rejecting God’s instructions. Be sensitive to the Spirit’s nudging when you are tempted to do otherwise. Choose to desire a life that pleases God.
Forgiven…no longer burdened
Dwell on the FACT that Jesus will cleanse your conscience from guilt. Will you take Him at His word? If there is any past sin for which you are still feeling guilty, claim God’s complete forgiveness today. You can simply tell God,
"Thank You for forgiving me, thank You for cleansing me…Thank You for being bigger than my sins, and being able to turn things around in ways I cannot imagine. With Jesus' help, I receive the assurance that You have forgiven me. Help my heart catch up with my head on this. Help me to see that You allowed me to go down that dark path into sin because You are able to redeem even the worst things we do." (Sue Bohlen, Probe Ministries, Sept. 2012)
Now, choose to believe you are forgiven and allow Jesus to cleanse your conscience from any residual guilt. Every time you think about it again, thank God for His amazing gift!
As Paul writes in Colossians 3:12, you are dearly loved!
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