Forgiveness is a key to life and health. In my ministry as a hospital chaplain I find people ill from many diseases and accidents. Often I also find folks emotionally ill from the lack of forgiveness. It seems that people often have a stubborn streak about forgiving. Their thoughts are about how awful a sin against them someone did. They do not deserve forgiveness. Some say they will withhold forgiveness and then their protagonist will see. See what? They probably don’t even know the other person is in such a snit over the perceived slight or real sin. But thanks be to God that He is forgiving. Eternal praises to Him who suffered and died that we might be forgiven. However, many still say He can’t forgive me for such and such a sin. Before I address that let’s see just how great God’s forgiveness is.
Last week I talked through the wonderful Isaiah 55 passage about God’s thoughts and ways being above ours’ and how He waters the earth causing us to break forth in songs of joy. Moreover in verses 7-8 Isaiah tells us, “Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord and He will have mercy on him, and to our God for He will freely pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” His thoughts and ways are much higher, who can even know them? Yes God will and does pardon our sins as we turn to Him in confession for forgiveness.
The prophet Micah talks of God’s forgiveness saying, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgressions of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins under foot and hurl our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19). I love that they are in the depths of the oceans.
My favorite Psalm 103 David says, “Praise the Lord O my soul and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all our sins… as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us…and remembers it no more” (Psalm 103:2,3,14,16). We have a God who forgives all and sends them as far away as possible, choosing to remember them no more.
However, since we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, He needed a solution for our sins. He needed to send His Son; Jesus Christ to suffer and die for us, taking all our sins on Himself that we might be freed. That is the message of salvation for those who would believe and receive it. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 7:14-15). This means that if you do not forgive, you have not received God’s gift or do not believe it applies to you. Perhaps you believe that your sins are too great. In a strange way that is arrogantly humble, an oxymoron. There is not sin too great for God that He would not forgive it. The only sin unforgivable is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which means not receiving God’s gift of forgiveness. Jesus died for all that we might be saved from our sins; but we must open this gift to receive it. Thank God for this indescribable gift as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:15. Humans tend to be unforgiving and hold grudges, but God does not. “Forgive and you will be forgiven, give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap” (Luke 6:37b-38).