It is never too late to be what you might have been.
It is never too late to be what you might have been.
Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it.
C. S. Lewis, Essay on Forgiveness, (New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1960).
(This is part sixteen of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)
Few people actually live as though they believe in…
“the forgiveness of sins.”
Consider, for a moment, that you could shed all of your regrets, move on from all your past mistakes, and walk into a future of freedom. Imagine you could live your life and make your decisions motivated by faith, and not fear. Some of the people I love in this world seem to walk around as though they have a cloud of guilt and shame from the past hanging over them. I wish they would shed the past like a butterfly sheds its cocoon and fly with wings of faith. Or, as Oswald Chambers said it, “Leave the broken, irreversible past in God’s hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.”
So how does one do that? They can’t, at least not alone; instead they must be set free from their past by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. The beautiful truth of the Gospel is that you can be set free. Jesus says that whoever sins is a slave to sin (Jn 8:34). But He also tells us that the truest and most pure way we can live is when we are free to love God and others (Mt 22:36-40). We are meant to be free from sin; liberated to worship and serve God. That’s how Adam and Eve lived before the fall (Gen 2:25). Sadly, we are unable to purchase our own freedom. I can see no greater benefit of the forgiveness of sins than freedom. In Galatians, Paul says that we have been forgiven so that we may be free to love God and serve others (Gal 5:1, 13). In fact, going all the way back to the book of Exodus, the reason Moses tells the Pharaoh to set the Israelites free was in order that they might worship God!
Thus, when Christ has set us free, we are free indeed. We can stop being haunted by the past because we are set free from it. This doesn’t mean that we won’t still face the consequences of our past, but it does mean we do not have to be mastered by our sins. It means that God will redeem our past mistakes and use them for His glory.
We often want to fool ourselves and say that Jesus could not possibly forgive our worst sins; the sins we haven’t told anyone about for fear they would never look at us the same. That’s a lie. We overestimate the power of our sins and underestimate the power of the Cross. Could there be a sin more heinous than crucifying the innocent Son of God? Yet we see that Jesus prayed for them, even as they crucified and mocked Him (Lk 23:34). Truly, the cleansing power of the blood of Christ is stronger than the deepest, darkest stains of sin. We insult Christ when we think that our sins have more weight than His forgiveness can lift. God knows the full weight of our sin far more than we can ever fathom and none of it is hidden from Him, yet because of the overwhelming power of Christ’s blood, we can still be forgiven. This is truly miraculous.
Another thought that just occurred to me is that this line follows the line about the “communion of the saints.” How beautiful! Can there be any communion or harmony amongst us if we refuse to forgive one another? In his essay on forgiveness, C. S. Lewis says, Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it. He continues to elaborate on this idea and closes by saying, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” We are called to pay it forward, so to speak.
This type of love is something that is only possible through a connection with Christ and it is one of the most visible manifestations of the Church.
I pray that I will be able to live a life free from the heavy burdens of my past sins; a life that is radically free to love and forgive others!
(This is part nine of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)
This post will examine the most important event in human history. After Jesus died and was buried He stayed in the grave during the Sabbath (interesting) but
“The third day He rose again from the dead”
A couple entries ago I mentioned that Christ’s death on the cross was the second most important event in human history. His resurrection is the single most important event in human history. I was once told that, as an aspiring preacher, the only thing I should preach is the cross. That’s foolishness because there is far more to Jesus than his death on the cross! For example, His death on the cross would not have achieved the forgiveness of sins if He had not been divine, nor if He had sinned, etc. So while His death on the cross is very, very important, it’s not the only thing that is worth mentioning.
It would be impossible for me to overstate the importance of Jesus’ resurrection. But one secondary detail I think is worth addressing first. Some people will argue that Jesus was only in the grave for one day. They’ll say something like, “He died and was buried on Friday, He was in the tomb on Saturday, and then Sunday He rose from the dead. He was only dead one day!” That’s a very Western way of counting the days. The Eastern Jews of Jesus’ day would have counted Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning as three days, which is why they said He was in the grave for three days.
But back to my main point: the significance of the resurrection. Why do I say this is the greatest event in human history? Well, I’ll give you three reasons.
First, the resurrection is proof that God found Jesus to be a worthy sacrifice for our sins and that we have been forgiven. Romans 4:25 says plainly that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” The NIV translates Romans 4:25 as, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” So we see that Christ died for our sins, but was resurrected for our justification. This may seem like a fine distinction, or even hair-splitting, but Romans 4:25 emphasizes the importance of Christ’s resurrection. Wayne Grudem puts it this way in Systematic Theology: “When Christ was raised from the dead, it was God’s declaration of approval of Christ’s work of redemption.”
Second, the resurrection gives us power to live a new life. We find that Jesus’ closest followers deserted Him once He was arrested (Matthew 26:56, Mark 14:50, John 16:32). In fact, one of His followers is so scared he runs off naked (Mark 14:51-52)! Peter, His most outspoken and devoted disciple follows Him “from a distance” after He’s been arrested (Matthew 26:58, Mark 14:54, Luke 22:54). Next Peter denies Jesus three times; once to a servant girl (Matthew 26:69-70, Mark 14:66-71, Luke 22:56-57, John 18:17). But at the beginning of Acts, we find this same Peter bold and outspoken (Acts 2:14). Peter is even arrested for preaching about Jesus and appears before the high priest and his council and refuses to stop sharing the Gospel (Acts 5:27-29). What caused this change in Peter? The resurrection! Peter encountered the Risen Christ and was never the same. Peter testifies to this in his own letter when he writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Peter 1:3). We are born again through the resurrection of Jesus. Romans 6:4 tells us that “we too might walk in newness of life.” That is the power of the resurrection.
Finally, Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope for our resurrection in the future. Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope that we will be united with Him through our death to sin, and resurrected like Him after we die (Romans 6:5). In fact, the resurrection is the only reason it makes sense to be a Christian (1 Corinthians 15:17). Paul goes so far as to say that Christians should be pitied if Jesus did not resurrect (1 Corinthians 15:19). Some people would say that, even if Jesus never really existed or was not really God, the way of Jesus is still the best way to life. Paul disagrees! Paul says we are to be pitied more than all men! That hardly sounds like Paul would agree with that teaching. Fortunately, Jesus did resurrect and we can have the hope that we will be raised in glory, just as Christ rose from the dead in glory (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). This is the kind of hope that gives us “glorious and inexpressible joy” (1 Peter 1:8). This is the kind of hope that gives a married couple the strength to face terminal brain cancer; the kind of hope that keeps a single mom going when it feels like the weight of the world is about to crush her; the kind of hope that saves marriages; the kind of hope that heals soldiers with PTSD; the kind of hope that keeps Christians faithful in the face of temptations, suffering, and persecution; the kind of hope that can change the world. Praise God for the hope that He gives us through His Son!