Forgiven! Do you believe it?

13 Nov

If you are really a believer in Christ, take a moment and be shocked by the nature of the forgiveness you have been granted through His work on your behalf.

Paul says God took the record of debt that stood against us and He cancelled it.

To cancel literally means to wipe out, to completely obliterate, to erase.

This word is an illustration in and of itself.

In Paul’s day they didn’t have paper like we do.

They used what’s called papyrus. It was pretty expensive and so they didn’t want to waste it.

Ancient ink didn’t have acid on it, so it wouldn’t soak into the papyrus, it would just kind of lay on top of it. If you didn’t mess with it, the ink would just remain there. But all someone who didn’t have much money would have to do if he wanted to use the papyrus over again would be to take a sponge and wipe the ink off the papyrus – leaving no trace of what was written there before.

That’s what Paul is saying God has done with our sins.

We had this great debt.

But God forgave us.

Meaning he completely erased our debt.

Meaning we no longer owe Him for our sins.

Work with me – fix this picture in your minds. make sure you understand just what Paul is saying it means to be forgiven.

All that you’ve ever done, imagine it written on a piece of paper, a seriously long piece of paper and that paper is the only evidence of your guilt, and if you are a believer, Paul is saying God has taken that paper and destroyed it. we can picture somebody throwing it in the fire and it’s gone.

Which is seriously good stuff for serious sinners.

And it’s just one of many beautiful pictures God gives to help us understand what He means when He says He forgives us.

He says in Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

I like that phrase “blotted out.”

Jerry Bridges tells a story about a Canadian friend of his who because of a teenage prank was convicted of a felony. But he received what they call in canada a “Queen’s pardon.” That meant years later, when applying for a job, and being investigated for past criminal activity, the response would come back, “we have no record of this person.” His record had not just been marked pardoned, it had been completely removed from the file and destroyed. It’s as if his friend had never been convicted. Their was no permanent legal stain hanging over his head. there is no chance that the offense would ever rise to haunt him again in the future.

It was blotted out.

David describes God’s forgiveness like this in psalm 103:12, “…as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us…”

East and West obviously don’t meet which means that when God says he’s erased our sins, or he has removed them as far as the east is from the west, he’s saying his forgiveness is total.

Absolute.

Sometimes we don’t appreciate our forgiveness because we don’t appreciate our need for forgiveness, but I think sometimes we don’t appreciate our forgiveness because we just don’t understand what it means for to be forgiven.

Listen to how John MacArthur puts it:

“When the Bible talks about God forgiving you it’s talking about turning the key, opening the cell door and letting the prisoner walk free. It’s talking about writing in large letters across a debt, nothing owed. It’s talking about pounding the gavel in a courtroom and declaring not guilty. It’s talking about shooting an arrow so high and so far it can never be found again. It’s talking about taking out the garbage, disposing of it once and for all, leaving the house fresh and clean. It’s talking about loosening the stranglehold on a wrestling opponent. It’s talking about sandblasting a wall of graffiti, leaving it looking brand new. It’s talking about granting a full pardon to a condemned and sentenced criminal.

Those are all pictures of what it means to be forgiven. and to a person who truly feels the weight of his sin they sounds almost too good to be true.

In fact I think many of us have a difficult time believing all that to be true.

I remember hearing about a picture of a prisoner in his cell who looks just absolutely depressed, he’s staring out the cell window and you can see behind him that his cell door is open. But he’s ignorant of that, and so he just stands there in his little cell, looking completely devastated, not enjoying his freedom.

Sometimes professing Christians live lives like that. They are sitting in the cell when they should be out basking in the light because they don’t understand just how comprehensive their forgiveness really is.

So zone in with me on this really incredible little word in Colossians 2:13 – all!

Let yourself be shocked by that.

It’s not just a certain kind of sins that God is willing to forgive.

Here Paul is writing to people who had sinned in many different kinds of way, and yet he says without hesitation, in Christ all your sins have been forgiven.

Sometimes people are hesitant to come to Christ because they think they’ve sinned too much to be forgiven.

To which the Bible shouts out on nearly every page – praise God – that’s not true!

Want proof?

Let me tell you about a man named Abraham.

He lied and said his wife was his sister and then watched idly by as she married another man. Forgiven – just check out Romans 4.

Let me tell you about a man named David.

He stays back at the palace while soldiers are out on the battlefield risking their lives for him. And what does he do? Sleeps with one of his soldier’s wives. Gets her pregnant. And then murders her husband. Yet Psalm 32 tells us what – he’s forgiven.

Let me tell you about a tax-collector named Zaccheus.

Zaccheus was a traitor. He betrayed his fellow Jews to serve the Roman occupier. And he did so for one reason – to get rich. He defrauded and extorted his own people. Yet when he sees Jesus, he repents. And he’s forgiven. Jesus after talking to Zaccheus says it like this, “today salvation has come to this house…”

Let me tell you about some of the members of the church at Corinth.

Paul describes their pre-salvation lifestyle in 1 Corinthians 6. Some were sexually immoral, others idolaters, others adulterers, others homosexuals, still others thieves, revilers and swindlers. Yet God saved them, and Paul says “they were washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Forgiven.

No matter who you are, no matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve done, God has provided a way you can be forgiven, it’s by repenting of your sins and putting your faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul looks at these believers and says because of Christ, all your sins have been forgiven.

And you know, to keep going it’s not just that God forgives all different kinds of sins, it’s that God forgives every single sin.

We can just keep walking around this word all.

There’s no sin excluded.

I’m talking sins of deed, I’m talking sins of word, I’m talking sins of thought. Forgiveness has been granted in full.

If God just forgave most of our sins, if he forgave all of our sins except for one, if he had just left one sin on the sheet, we’d be damned.

If He forgave us all our sins over our whole life except for one day, we’d be condemned.

But thank God, 1 John 1:7, the blood of Christ, cleanses us from “all sin.”

There’s no such thing as half-forgiven or mostly forgiven. There’s only completely forgiven. God either forgives all or not at all. And what takes this over the top, what makes this so amazing is that guys, Paul is talking about a present reality. He’s talking about something that has been done. This is all past tense. This is not wait and see when we get to heaven if we’ve been forgiven. No – our sins have all been forgiven. They have all been cancelled out. This is not forgiven of all of our sins up to salvation and then have to work our way to earn forgiveness for the bad stuff we do after we are saved.

No, check out how one author puts it,

“The very day you first flee to Christ, your sins are all removed. Your forgiveness is not a thing far away to be obtained only after many years, it is here, it is now, it is done, if you are truly a believer.”

Do you believe that?

I was reading recently, John Calvin in his day he had to fight against this idea of forgiveness in the Catholic church, where they said you were forgiven by God of all your sins when you were saved and baptized – up to that point; and then after salvation and baptism you had to do all this other stuff to make up for your sins after that.

Which is the way it seems some of us still live. I’m convinced one of the big problems in the church is that many believers know this intellectually but don’t believe it on a day-to-day basis. You watch them, they just kind of mope about, really they lack passion and joy, they kind of go about with a cloud that hangs over their head. They kind of live life like fugitives who are on the run, you know someone who escaped from prison, constantly looking back; instead of someone who has received a pardon from the king. too many of us think, act and live like we’ve only been sort of forgiven.

If you are a believer, do you really understand and believe that every single one of your sins has been forgiven – blotted out, cancelled, penalty paid in full?

It sounds too good to be true. Sometimes I’m like can I say that because it goes against every ounce of stinking self-righteousness in my body, but it’s absolutely true. According to Paul we life-long enemies of God have been completely forgiven.

That’s the nature of biblical forgiveness.

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2 Responses to “Forgiven! Do you believe it?”

  1. Steven O'Neill November 14, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    Amen! All our sins are blotted out. Thanks for sharing the truth, Josh. Need to tell myself that, I loved the illustration about the fugitive from prison, when we are pardoned by the King.

  2. Joe Lima November 14, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    Hey Josh it is this kind of forgiveness that keeps an insane man like myself sane. It is this type of forgiveness that God grants to the sinner, me. It is a forgiveness that I trust. It is a forgiveness that is to be emulated by us. God’s forgiveness is visible. How do I know that God has forgiven me? God became a man and died on that cross and then rose again so that I would obtain forgiveness. He came down to meet me at my level for it is certain that I could not meet Him at His. What a lesson. The grieved party comes to the evil one, me and then makes me an adopted son of God thus making me an eternal co-heir according to His phenomenal mercy. How I wish that we would see this kind of forgiveness in action in the church. Instead I tend to see a forgiveness that says, “I have forgiven you, but you stay on your side of the room and I will stay on mine for I am holier than thou.” Hey, as Jesus the The Most Magnificent One said in Luke 18, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.”

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