Friday, October 28, 2011

The God of Forgiveness

This is a repost.

One of the things I have noticed over the last few years is the spiritual insecurity of so many Christians. One of the ways this insecurity is manifested is in the area of forgiveness. This seems to be an area of faith where many people are struggling and where a great deal of insecurity resides. Again, in a time when the thrust of most preaching and church life is "all about you" and how God loves you and accepts you for who you are, you would think that people would not be wrestling with this. But when the teaching, preaching, and small group discussion fails to address the basic foundations of our faith because they don't think doctrine is relevant to the lives of the people, how would the people, the flock, have any basis from which to understand forgiveness, much less be able to know they are forgiven? When I was teaching in Dallas in the mid eighties the Minister of Education told me that I was teaching too much doctrine and that I needed to have more application lessons. My response to him was, "Bill, they can not apply what they do not know." This attitude that the ME had has only become more prevalent over the last 20 years. In addition to this, if you teach or preach on forgiveness you must deal with the sin that needs to be forgiven and many churches won't do that because it might make the people feel bad about themselves or offend them.

To get a handle on forgiveness you first must understand the nature and character of God and then understand what He has done so that we can be forgiven. So the rest of this post will be about the nature and character of God as it relates to forgiveness.

The best place to start is with Exodus 33:17-34:7. This section of Scripture relates the story of Moses asking God to show me your glory. I find God's response to this prayer/request intriguing as He tells Moses I will make all my goodness pass before you and proclaim My name, the name of the Lord before you. So we see that God's glory is inextricably linked with His goodness and His name. His goodness is His glory and His name is representative of His glory. So God reveals that He is good and in the revelation of His goodness His glory shines forth and is displayed. As God passes by Moses and reveals Himself and His goodness listen to what He says, "The Lord, The Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished..." So we see here that forgiveness comes forth from the goodness of God, and is as much a part of His goodness as His compassion, His grace, His longsuffering, His lovingkindness, and His truth. God forgives because God is good, and His forgiveness of our sins is an extension of His goodness to us. Since His glory is displayed through His goodness, He is glorified in the forgiving of our sins. This alone is reason enough to fall on our knees as grateful beneficiaries of His goodness, which He has chosen not to withhold from us. Being forgiven is the result of the Lord lavishly bestowing His goodness upon us.

Psalm 130:4 states, "But there is forgiveness with You, that you may be feared." Here we see that His forgiveness is one of the pillars for our holy awe and reverence for the Lord. Understanding His forgiveness, experiencing His forgiveness, reveling in the fact that we are forgiven and that God has not dealt with us according to our sins, but according to His goodness and compassion as He is ever mindful that we are but dust, should bring forth in us an unmatched reverence and a heart that bows low in worship. God magnanimously bestows forgiveness upon His people and in the magnitude of His forgiveness He is glorified and exalted; and we see His worthiness of our reverence and stand in awe of His goodness because deep in our soul we know the depth of our own sin and see that for which we have been forgiven, that which no one knows but us and God.

In Nehemiah 9:17 we see that He is a God of forgiveness and in Psalm 86:5 we see that He is good, ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness for all who call upon Him. What does this mean for us? We can see that since He is a God of forgiveness that forgiveness flows from Him to us. He does not have to be coerced into forgiving us, and it is not something that He must struggle to do or something that He begrudgingly doles out like a scrooge at Christmas. In fact, it is just the opposite as we see that He is ready to forgive, He is poised to forgive, He longs to forgive so that we can be brought into right relationship with Him, and thereby enjoy sweet fellowship and communion with Him. These verses, along with I John 1:9, show us that we do not have to go to great lengths, do great penance, or go through great machinations to be forgiven, but we simply call upon Him and confess to Him our sin and it is forgiven; and we are made clean before Him, not just for that sin, but from all our unrighteousness. This, my friends, is goodness, great goodness, goodness worthy of abundant praise and worship out of a heart that has experienced gladness, true gladness, through forgiveness and cleansing.

Yes, forgiveness is ours because it flows from God to us and He is ready and waiting to forgive, not because of us, but because of His goodness. He forgives us on the basis of who He is and what He has done so that we can be forgiven. Have you asked for the forgiveness of God....so that you can come to Him and be saved, so that you can fellowship with Him, so that you can be cleansed and find rest and comfort for your soul? If not, ask Him today, confess to Him today, and in His goodness He will not refuse.

O Lord, how truly good You are, good beyond the scope of our ability to comprehend and good beyond our ability to measure. May praise and honor be heaped upon You and Your name be exalted this day because of Your goodness and forgiveness. Thank you for Your forgiveness, its availability, and its abundance. You are good and You do good. Great is the Lord and blessed be Your name. Amen.

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