…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Our world is big on record keeping. And many decisions on how we will be treated are based on those records.
How is your record with the DMV? In Alabama, we’re on a point system. Too many points and you lose your license. Then there are traffic violations and mishaps that also go on your record. Such information affects your auto insurance premiums.
When you apply for a loan, your credit worthiness is determined by your credit report.
Apply for a job and your prospective employer will run a background check. Flags on the report can cause you to fail to get the job.
As children, when we first started school, the education system began compiling a file of grades and behavior stats that would accumulate all the way to graduation. Those credentials are used to scrutinize our suitability for higher learning or employment.
When you visit a doctor, your medical records are checked. Insurance companies are particularly interested in that report. My wife and I recently signed up with one of the major carriers. Yesterday they sent us a letter, said they wanted to send a doctor to our house to give us a checkup since we have had no record of medical care in the last ten years. I’m sure it’s not the case, but it sounded like they thought we were hiding something. Old people that don’t take pills or go to the doctor? What’s up with that?
Oh, yeah. Don’t want to forget about the military. The Navy kept copious notes on my service. That’s a good thing for getting veteran’s benefits, as long as you received an honorable discharge.
What does all this have to do with our focus text? Quite simply, God keeps no record of wrongs. When He forgives, that transgression is removed as far as the east is from the west. That’s just a way of saying, our sins are forgiven and forgotten.
Remember that wonderful passage about love in 1 Corinthians 13? You know, “love is patient, love is kind, etc.” Part of Paul’s description of Christian love reveals that “love keeps no record of wrongs.” (v5) That’s the way God lovingly forgives us.
God stands ready to wipe the slate clean. Unlike the Alabama DMV, our sins are not subject to a point system. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Notice that the Lord FORGIVES and PURIFIES us from ALL unrighteousness.”
In the August 16 devotion, I called attention to the occasion when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. Our Lord referenced an important aspect of God’s forgiveness in verse 10 of John 13: “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.” That is to say there are two types of cleansing as part of God’s forgiveness.
The initial granting of forgiveness comes when we pray to receive Christ as Lord. At that instant we are given salvation and our past sins are wiped away as if we never sinned. But as we continue in the Christian life we require ongoing cleansing (the foot bath) as we battle the sins of the flesh.
For those of us who have received the first cleansing unto salvation, it is imperative we seek to keep sin out of our lives. But we are all sinners, which means that transgressions will happen. In those times, we should not hesitate to confess our sins, and He remains ever faithful to forgive.
When you confess your sins, God doesn’t pull your record and reprimand you for your past infractions, nor does He say you have surpassed your limit. Forgiveness is immediate and complete. But our attitude should never be, “Well, I’m forgiven so I can go back and do it again.” But rather we should heed the words of Christ when He encountered a woman caught in adultery. Upon her departure, He said, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)
For more on this topic, check out this article: The Sin God Won’t Forgive
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Consider this. You commit a sin and take it to the Lord. “Father, forgive me for I have sinned.”
God rejects your request. “NO. I won’t forgive you.”
You’re dumbfounded and protest. “But Lord, your word says You are faithful to forgive.”
And God responds, “That’s true. I am faithful to forgive. So go forgive that person you have refused to forgive and come back to me and I will forgive you.”
“Who is it, Lord? Who have I failed to forgive?”
“Oh. Him. How could I ever forgive him?”
As Christians, we often assume that God will forgive our sins. A simple blanket confession is all it takes and instant forgiveness. But Jesus warned us that there is something that can hinder God’s forgiveness. Jesus said, “… if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Jesus makes no distinctions on a particular class or degree of sin that is exempt from our requirement to forgive others. In fact, He places forgiveness ahead of worship in our spiritual priorities.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24
Notice too that the emphasis in Matthew 5 is on those who have something against us. God wants us to strive for reconciliation in all of our relationships. That means forgiving others who have sinned against us and seeking forgiveness from those we have offended.
Of all the things God expects of us, the command to forgive may well be the hardest. The cruelty and horrendous acts of others hurt us deeply.
You don’t have to look far to find someone who has been treated miserably. The one who grew up in an abusive household, seeing her mother beaten or having been abused herself. The parent whose child was killed by a drunk driver. And it goes on and on. Unthinkable crimes and hurtful actions that leave behind a lifetime of pain.
But just like everything else God expects of us, He equips us and empowers us to follow His commands. The Apostle Paul said, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13) Paul acknowledged that there were many things God expected of him that he could not do without God’s help. If you will commit to forgiving that person who has severely wronged you, God will help you honor that commitment. Trust Him for the fortitude to forgive.
Jesus is the perfect model for forgiveness. From the cross, as His murderers mocked and ridiculed Him, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Consider all the sins you have committed in your lifetime. Yet, God forgave you. In Colossians 3:13, Paul writes, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
God’s forgiveness is essential in our lives. Without it we are out of fellowship with Him and hinder His work, deny ourselves answers to prayer, and block the flow of His blessings. It’s like locking the door and refusing to let God in.
God wants to forgive your daily sins and keep you clean for His purposes and for the good work He wants to do in you and for you. Why deny yourself from those amazing blessings by refusing to forgive?
Is there someone you need to forgive now? Don’t put it off. Make a commitment to forgive and ask the Lord to give you the strength to make it happen.
For more on this topic, check out this article: The Extent of the Lord’s Forgiveness
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 2 (April – June) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.
You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.
Have you ever been in the doghouse? In case you don’t know what that means, the doghouse is a place where husbands are sentenced by their wives when they fail to live up to the wife’s expectations. It’s not a literal doghouse but is, figuratively, a place that is very cold and miserable. While in the doghouse the husband receives little to no verbal communication from his wife except for an occasional slamming of an object, the failure of an expected meal to appear on the table, and a continual sullen expression on her face.
I’ve never heard of a doghouse for women. I’m not saying there isn’t one…but I’ve never known of anybody to be sent there except husbands and boyfriends. I suppose the purpose of the doghouse is behavior modification although I doubt it has ever really had that effect. Generally, the sins of the offending husband are ultimately forgiven, but a time of discomfort must first be experienced. No matter how many times the man says, “Baby, I’m sorry,” he will remain incarcerated until she decides he has adequately paid his penalty. Forgiveness is coming but…he will have to wait until she is ready.
I have a friend who has spent so much time in the doghouse that he calls his wife, “The Warden.”
I’m happy to say that God doesn’t have a doghouse: a place of waiting, isolation, and suffering until forgiveness can be fully manifest. There is no line and no waiting to enter into His presence. Access to His forgiveness, goodness and love are only a prayer away.
In today’s focus scripture the Psalmist lifts up words of praise as He reflects on God’s marvelous character: “You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.” God bestows His favor on those who call upon Him. Our petitions of heartfelt sorrow and repentance for sin do not go unnoticed. God responds instantly to our sincere pleas for forgiveness. As He forgives he gives generously and does not withhold His goodness and love.
I love music and have favorite songs and artists in multiple styles. Lately, I have become fond of a genre of music known as gospel. There is something about gospel music that touches the depths of my soul and connects with my relationship to God. Frequently on Saturday evenings I tune into PBS for the Bill Gaither program. As I hear those great gospel songs I am frequently drawn into a time of wonderful worship in which I experience the magnificence of God. The question that was posed in last night’s broadcast was, “Does God care?” As I listened to the music and meditated upon the compassion of God, I was overwhelmed with just how much my God cares. Countless times He has forgiven me. So many times I have been the recipient of His goodness. How often I have experienced His abounding love.
The more you get to know someone the more you can confidently predict their response to a situation. Such is the case with God when you foster a close personal relationship with Him. You will know what to expect and more importantly, you will have confidence in His response.
My journey with God has taught me that He is completely trustworthy…totally reliable. I know that when I sin, He will forgive me. I know without a doubt God is good, and I will forever be the recipient of His goodness. And I know…that I know…that I know…that God loves me with an eternal and unwavering love. The words of the Psalmist express what I know to be true concerning God. “You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.”
Do you know these things about God? More than just the words…can you speak these words experientially? Has your walk with God revealed these wonderful attributes of God? If so, then praise Him. If not, then make up your mind today to immerse yourself in fostering a close, intimate, personal relationship with the God of all creation.
Do you need His forgiveness today? Do you need His goodness and love? All are available to you right now and all you have to do is call on Him. There is no line and no waiting.
For more on this topic, check out this article: Are You Missing Out On the Nearness of God?
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 1 (January – March) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.
“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven”
Navy Boot Camp only lasted about three months, but it seemed an eternity. It was tough, challenging, and frightening. Somebody was continually shouting orders and issuing stern warnings about what would happen if you failed at meticulously carrying out your responsibilities.
And there were shots. Lots of them. We received injections for seemingly every disease for which there was a vaccine.
One day we were lined up by the hundreds in single file. Medical corpsmen were armed with compressor guns loaded with multiple vaccines. We were ordered not to move in the slightest when the gun was pressed against our upper arms. Unfortunately, the fellow in front of me flinched when the gun was fired into his arm, and blood rushed from the resulting cut.
After the vaccinations we were sent to a holding barracks. The room was lined with rows of bunk beds with no mattresses. We were told we would probably experience some side effects from the shots. But the order was given “absolutely no one is to lie on a bed!”
When you’re sick, even the springs on a bunk bed can look inviting. As I grew faint and nauseous, I looked at how others were reacting to their predicament. One by one they were giving into the temptation of resting on a bed. It didn’t take long for me to join the crowd and within moments, I was sound asleep.
I was awakened by somebody yelling at me. Groggily, I looked up. Standing over me was an officer. With every ounce of energy I could muster, and there wasn’t much, I stood to my feet, noting that everyone else in the room was already standing at attention.
In our pockets we carried a book of chits. When we did anything wrong, a chit was taken from the book, and then we were required to report to Captains mast. There we would receive the punishment for our misdeed. The officer grabbed the whole book from my pocket and departed the room.
Then came the encouraging words from my military buddies, “Weirich. You’re gonna get it!”
From that day forward, I anxiously awaited my call to Captains mast anticipating that I would pay a very severe penalty. I’m happy to say I never received that call, and there were no repercussions for my failure to follow orders. Somehow I received — mercy.
In today’s selected scripture we read a prophecy regarding John the Baptist. His role was to prepare the way for Jesus, the Christ. “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him…” John would herald the arrival of the greatest news ever given to man from God, “… to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God…”
God’s good news is “the knowledge of salvation.” You can confidently know you have been saved from the penalty you deserve for your sin, which is death. How? Through “the forgiveness of their (your) sins.” Why? “… because of the tender mercy of our God.”
God has given many orders that are in our best interest and has high expectations for the way we should conduct ourselves. But when we fail, and we all do, He is faithful to forgive.
Yes, there are consequences for sin. The young man who moved in the vaccination line received a painful cut on his arm. I spent weeks in fear of the consequences for my indiscretion when I chose to sleep on a bed despite an order to the contrary.
God is merciful. Notice the descriptive word “tender.” You, as a child of God, are a recipient of “tender mercy.” The Lord is not a harsh dictator imposing His will on your life. He is a loving Father who wants you to live abundantly. You appropriate the fullness of this life by obedience to Him.
With the salvation package comes eternal forgiveness — for then, for now, and forever. When you are dirtied by sin from daily living, appeal to the “tender mercy” of God. Don’t wait another day to get your abundant life back on track.
For more on this topic, check out this article: Grace and Mercy for Your Time of Need
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 4 (October – December) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.
24 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
In 2016, there was a devastating forest fire in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. Reporters dubbed the inferno, a Hellscape. More than one hundred homes and thousands of acres of woodlands were destroyed. Ultimately, mountain roads were closed and there was no way for folks to get home. How helpless and frightened they must have felt.
Sometimes our prayers hit roadblocks; dead-ends that cause us to feel as if God has abandoned us. After all, we stepped out on faith, prayed expectantly and fervently, but yet our prayers have been left unanswered.
In Mark 11:24, Jesus promises to answer our prayers on the condition we pray in faith. “… believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” But if we miss the following verse, we miss the roadblock, the chink in our spiritual character that can rob us of many blessings from God.
Standing in the way is unforgiveness. If you don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive you. And without God’s forgiveness, you remain in sin. As a result, the Lord doesn’t hear your prayers. (Psalm 66:18)
It’s like when your son wanted money to go to a movie with a friend. But you refused to hear his request until he cleaned up his room. “Obedience first. Then we’ll talk.”
God is looking for forgiveness that is more than lip service. It must be from the heart (Matthew 18:35) and modeled after God’s forgiveness (Colossians 3:13).
Forgiveness from the heart doesn’t hold grudges or express itself in bitterness. Off-handed, ugly, cutting, and demeaning remarks about the person you say you have forgiven reveal an unforgiving heart. That spiteful spirit must be resolved before genuine forgiveness can exist.
I mentioned Colossians 3:13, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” When you’re struggling to get over the hurt caused by someone, meditate upon how God has forgiven you. He sent His Son to die for you, forgave your sins, and then gave you a place in His heaven to spend eternity with Him. He forgave and holds nothing back from your inheritance. And He’s definitely not badmouthing you after forgiving you.
Back to that illustration of your son cleaning his room. You withheld answering his request until he obeyed. You didn’t stop loving him, and he didn’t cease to be your child.
The same is true in your relationship to God. You’re still His child, saved by grace, and forgiven unto salvation. This is that interim cleansing we’ve talked about. The foot-washing bath that takes away the daily sins that hinder your walk with God. This post-redemption forgiveness God expects from you is an act of obedience as you endeavor to be more like Jesus. In so doing, the Lord is teaching you how to give grace and mercy which are at the heart of forgiveness.
In the Matthew 6:14-15 focus text, Jesus clarifies the objects of our forgiveness. “Other people” means everybody. Not just other believers, family, or friends. Everyone.
Now, unforgiveness is not the only roadblock to answered prayer, but it’s a big one. We must also pray in God’s will, keep sin out of our lives, and pray in faith without doubting.
Is there someone you need to forgive? In your heart of hearts, you know you still harbor ill feelings toward that person. Sometimes, possibly often, you have bitter thoughts or express hateful comments about them. Then it’s time to extend grace and mercy. Grace that gives them the good they don’t deserve, and mercy that withholds the wrath they do deserve. Forgive that person as God forgave you. Forgive from the heart and then take your prayer concern back to the Lord because you have removed the roadblock.
For more on this topic, check out this article: How to Insure God’s Guidance in Your Life
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.