We talk about it a lot
In church, and especially at Life Bridge, you hear a lot about two things we’re focusing on this week … forgiveness and acceptance. They’re really awesome things, but they’re also really slippery slopes (we’re talking whole tub of Crisco, here!), and understanding the real truth of God’s forgiveness and acceptance is super important.
Before I suggest anything that might be at any point along the slippery slope, let me be perfectly clear about this … God is absolutely forgiving and accepting. And His forgiveness and acceptance are not dependent on your sin, your past or the life you are living now. His forgiveness and acceptance are not things which are earned, limited or disqualified by what you do, or by how good or bad you’ve been. I’ve heard people say, so many times, “I can’t go to church. I can’t be saved. You don’t know me. You don’t know what I’ve done.” Every time I want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them and say, “Oh, please don’t believe that! That’s absolutely not true! Jesus died for you! He wants to forgive you! He desperately wants you to believe in Him and accept you into His loving arms!” So let’s be clear about that first, because more than anything else, you need to believe that is true.
That’s true, but…
There’s always a “but,” right?! It’s true here as well, and the “but” is important. Left to our own devices, we can take absolute truth and twist it into some pretty destructive untruths. We can take limitless forgiveness and acceptance and treat it as a justification to sin. And even forgetting our nature for a minute, we can also simply be discouraged by the normal course of a fallen world. After making a decision to follow Jesus, how long does it take before we are tempted, make a wrong decision in response to that temptation, and sin? The decision to believe in Jesus and follow him does not magically make us perfect. We will sin. So what then should we think about, and do with that sin? Confess it (churchy word for speaking the sin to God and asking for His forgiveness). He will forgive you, He will accept you, and He will do it every single time you confess your sin to Him with a genuine heart. That is absolute truth. “But” here is where we begin slathering Crisco all over the slope. We become so focused on God’s complete forgiveness and acceptance that we tend to take another step which is not true and is not something God said. We say to ourselves, “It doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I don’t hurt someone.”
It’s so important that we pause here, and say clearly that God . Never . Said . That. It is good and right to hold tightly to the truth of God’s perfect forgiveness and acceptance, but let us be careful to not step beyond into our own “truths.” God’s perfect forgiveness and acceptance are supposed to be a way of freeing you from living like you want, and freeing you from a life of sin, but instead we can take them and twist them into a license to sin without ultimate consequence.
At Life Bridge, we talk about forgiveness and acceptance a lot. And because we do, it’s right and good to come along and “shock the pool” every now and then. Shock the pool with absolute truth that will prevent the algae of untruths from growing and spreading. So here goes … here are some absolute, biblical truths which ground God’s forgiveness and acceptance:
- all repented (confessed) sin is forgiven
And, no, it doesn’t matter how big the sin is, it only matters that you’ve confessed and turned from it.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
- all un-repented sin is not forgiven
There is no license to sin and keep sinning and just fall back on the truth of God’s forgiveness and acceptance. There must be repentance and the next step of turning from that sin in order for there to be complete forgiveness and acceptance.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Yep, it’s that plain, and more importantly, it’s what God actually said. Doing what we want will do the opposite of what we expect. The world and it’s belief system would tell you that doing what you want is the definition of freedom. In God’s economy, that’s bondage (to sin) and His forgiveness and acceptance frees you from that way of being. A changed heart begins to see what He wants, not what we want.
I’d like to close with this … we want a heart that’s repentant when we sin. I’d like to suggest two things that I believe are imperative to maturing your heart in that way. The first thing you need to do is stop justifying our sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:8
It’s funny, we see obedience to God as a ball and chain, and doing what we want is being freed from that bondage. We choose to think that we’re not bad people, and the “mistakes” we make don’t hurt people. We choose to see sin as a minor thing, but here’s the real truth about sin…
Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.
It’s so true, and I bet you’ve experienced that in your life more than once. What starts out as a small twist of the truth, turns into more and greater deception, and then lies to cover or justify other lies, and then before long you have this massive web of deceit from that small little twist of the truth. What God sees (and is the real truth vs. our truth) is that sin is the ball and chain. Sin is the thing that weighs us down and enslaves us. And He wants like crazy for you to be free from it. So how do we get that freedom?
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
I John 1:9
Confess … Repent. Cultivate a repentant heart and turn from your sin. Stop justifying your sin. Stop “working on” a particular sin(s). Confess … Repent. And begin throwing off the real ball and chain and experience the true freedom that He wants like crazy for you!