Forgive as Forgiven – Part 1
If you’re reading this blog there’s a good chance you have a basic understanding of forgiveness. That’s because you’re likely a Christian and forgiveness is fundamental to your faith. As Christians, we know that we’ve sinned more dreadfully than we’d like to admit, and that we’re only forgiven our debt of sin because Jesus died in our place.
And yet, forgiveness is hard. It’s hard to forgive others when they hurt us (either maliciously or thoughtlessly). It’s hard to ask for forgiveness when we’ve hurt others. We don’t like looking at what’s wrong and bad in the world or in ourselves. It’s hard to work through such uncomfortable things and so much easier to distract ourselves with daily responsibilities, social media, or Netflix.
But forgiveness is worth the effort. It is a gift and an opportunity. In order to get there - to accept forgiveness and to forgive others well - we need to face the difficult truths about our sin, both in the past and the present, as well as the grace of God for all of that sin. Only then will we be able to joyfully forgive as we’ve been forgiven (Heb. 12:2). In this blog, I’ll talk about how we have been forgiven. In part two, I’ll talk about how to forgive others.
Adam and Eve were the first to rebel against God, and all of their children (except Jesus who is both God and man), were then born into sinful rebellion. We were conceived in sin and born into death (Ps. 51:5, Rom. 5:12). That’s a grim picture! And it’s a picture that describes you and me.
Jesus, however, became sin so that we could be forgiven. His costly death on the cross purchased the removal of our sinful thoughts and actions as far as the east is from the west.
Do you remember what is was like when you first became a follower of Jesus? You knew you were a sinner and forgiveness was sweet to you. It was wonderful news that Jesus died for your sins so that you could be forgiven. You wanted to live a life that is pleasing to him – a life of righteousness.
So, you’ve been a Christian for a while now. You still know that living righteously is important. Paul exhorts us to live according to God’s way by the Spirit. He compares living the Christian life to the hard work done by athletes, soldiers, and farmers (1 Cor. 9:24; 2 Tim. 2:3; 2:15). You try hard!
The thing is, living righteously is difficult because sin still dwells in you. You are going to face two things daily:
You will fail.
There is ongoing forgiveness.
It can be tempting to think that if we are going to fail and there is ongoing forgiveness, then there is no reason to try hard to live righteously. Why bother training like a soldier if we’re forgiven anyway? The answer is love. You have been forgiven by Christ and now you love him. Think of all that he has done for you! In Romans 6, Paul explains why we don’t want to walk in sin any more. Sin wasn’t bringing you any benefit. It led to death. Because he loves you, Christ has finally set you free to not sin. Why would you ever go back? Why would you wound again the one who died for you?
And yet, even though we know all of the above truths about the benefits of living righteously, we find ourselves thinking selfish thoughts and doing things we know are wrong. Sometimes it’s hard to not feel like a miserable failure. But this is where Christ’s grace shines so brightly. Christ has cancelled our record of debt (Col. 2:14)! Though our aim is to live righteously, when we fail we can repent, ask the Lord for forgiveness, and be assured he has heard our prayer. We can joyfully get on with our day – knowing our Father loves us, has given us salvation through the death of Jesus on the cross, and promised us eternal life with him. This grace is what motivates us to continue on living righteously.
This is how we experience forgiveness now.
The Benefits of Forgiveness Through Christ
Because of Christ’s sacrifice we are reconciled to our Maker. We’ve been granted eternal life due to his righteousness being credited to our account. We have been given the Holy Spirit who dwells inside of us, illuminates the Word of God, and seals us for Christ. And we are enabled to spread the kingdom of God on earth, shedding his light of peace and righteousness and spirit of forgiveness everywhere we go. This is our challenge and this is our opportunity.
A big part of living out the benefits of our forgiveness is extending forgiveness to others. In part two we’ll look at how and why we forgive others as we’ve been forgiven.