FORGIVENESS (Lesson 1)
In this lesson, we will cover many aspects on the subject of forgiveness. We will talk on topics such as why we need God's forgiveness, the danger of taking God's forgiveness and mercy for granted and, also, how we should live if we truly have asked for and received forgiveness from the Lord. There are a lot of people with some very wrong ideas about who God is and what forgiveness means and, hopefully, by the end of these lessons, you will have a clear understanding concerning forgiveness.
Let me start with a little personal story to illustrate a point. One weekend my brother Reggie was letting my nephew Greg stay at his house for a couple of days. But before the weekend was over, Greg did something to make Reggie seriously angry. This is what happened: Reggie got in his work truck and went to work for the day, while Greg was left back at Reggie's house. When work was finished, Reggie headed for home. As Reggie drove down Crenshaw Boulevard going north, about a mile from his house, he noticed in the other lane a car that looked just like his coming south in the distance. Reggie recently bought a brand new Lexus and kept it in his garage. He mostly drove it on special occasions. The car coming southbound looked like a similar car. Anyway, as Reggie got closer to the car coming the opposite way, he soon realized that it wasn't just a similar car. It was his car, and that it was our nephew Greg behind the wheel. Greg had decided to borrow the car without asking!
When Reggie and Greg were parallel to each other, Reggie honked his horn and yelled out the window to Greg and gestured to him that he'd better turn around right now! Greg could probably tell by Reggie's voice and the look on his face that he was pretty upset.
You know what Greg said to Reggie when they were back at the house? He said, "Uncle Reggie, I can see that you are mad that I took your car without asking, but you know that you are going to eventually forgive me, so let's just not even make a big deal about it." Obviously, on Greg's part there was no real remorse, only a little embarrassment that he had gotten caught. But basically he was just making light of the situation and taking Reggie's goodness for granted.
Sadly, that's exactly how many people treat God. They take God's mercy for granted, just assume that He is going to forgive them, and never even truly repent of their sin. They just have an attitude of "Whatever. No big deal."
Well, God is not your favorite uncle. God is not someone that you should play with or take for granted. Folks seem to have it in their head that God is so loving and full of goodness, that He just overlooks all of their sins. People seem to believe that they can just do whatever they want, sin all they want, and never have to worry about a thing. Or they mistakenly believe that they can sin today, say they're sorry tomorrow, and then sin the next day, and that by somehow doing this, they don't have to worry about judgment or hell. Well, let's see what the bible has to say about those who think only "Oh, God is love. He understands. He forgives," and who play this sin today/ask for forgiveness tomorrow game.
First of all, yes, the Bible shows us that God is a God of love, but the Bible also tells us in Psalm 7:11, "God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day." Here are similar verses that show that God does not overlook sin or the sinner: Psalm 5:4-5, "For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity." Psalm 145:20, "The Lord preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy."
Some people will try to say, "Well, God hates the sin but loves the sinner." That is not what the Bible says. God hates the sin and the sinner. It is not the sin that will go to hell. It is the SINNER. The act of lying doesn't go to hell. The LIAR does. The lustful thought doesn't go to hell. The FORNICATOR does. The bible does not say that God hates just the works of iniquity: It says that HE HATEST ALL WORKERS OF INIQUITY!
Micah 5:15, "And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard." Nahum 1:2, "God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies."
Again, these verses are speaking about the people, not just their acts!
Yes, we've all seen the bumper stickers that say, "God loves you," and everybody seems to know the verse in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world"... but they forget that the verse goes on to say, "he that believeth not is condemneth already."
What is my point? Don't underestimate who God is. God is not some big, soft teddy bear or someone you can disrespect and dishonor. Hebrews 12:29 tells us, "For our God is a consuming fire." And Hebrews 10:31 reads, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
If you are God's enemy, you need to recognize who God is and understand your need for forgiveness. Who is God's enemy? Anyone who wilfully sins and breaks God's commandments. Are you someone who lies? Someone who steals? Someone who has sex outside of marriage? Someone who has hate and murder in your heart? Someone who is disrespectful to your parents? Someone who uses God's name in vain? Someone who puts the will of others before God's will for your life? If you break or have broken any of God's commands, here are some verses that you need to hear: Romans 13:4,"But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."
Ecclesiastes 12:14, "For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."
God's judgment is real, and it is no joke. If you know that you are guilty, then you need to sincerely find out what you must do to be forgiven and saved. If you don't believe that you are guilty, you are only fooling yourself. The bible says, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). Whether your sin is as "small" as telling a lie or having lustful thoughts or as "great" as murdering another human being, in God's eyes you have transgressed His law, and you need His forgiveness.
We've just seen why forgiveness from God is necessary and important. Let's now look at how we sincerely ask for God's forgiveness. What does God think of those who, for example, steal on Monday, say they are sorry on Tuesday, steal on Wednesday, say they are sorry on Thursday, etc.? Is that person truly sorry? Will that person be forgiven? No!
God's Word tells us that repentance comes before forgiveness. To repent means to see your sins the way God sees them and be willing to turn from them and live the way God would have you live. Here are some verses that show that repenting is important in asking for forgiveness:
Acts 8:22, "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee." Acts 3:19, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." Luke 13:3, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."
Isaiah 55:6-7, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
2 Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
You see, there are conditions to forgiveness. Yes, Christ died on the cross to take the punishment that you deserved. But until you admit that you are guilty and truly see your sin and hate it the way God does, you cannot fully appreciate what Jesus' sacrifice meant or receive forgiveness and be washed in Christ's shed blood. Your turning from your sin is not what saves you. Jesus' shed blood is the only thing that saves. But if you are truly sorry and sincere in your coming to the Lord, you will show that by repenting of your sins.
Here is one last important point: If you are someone who keeps asking for forgiveness for the same sins over and over (because you keep committing the same sins over and over), know that you have not truly come to a place of sincere sorrow. There are two kinds of sorrow. Make sure yours is the real, soul-saving kind! What do we mean?
There is the, "Oh, man. I feel so guilty" kind of sorrow, or the "I got caught. I'm going to get in trouble" kind of sorrow, or the "I hate what I'm doing, but I just can't stop doing it" kind of sorrow. With this kind of sorrow, you are maybe sad and upset, momentarily, and you may even shed a few tears. But then before you know it, a little time passes and the "guilty feelings" pass, and you are right back willing to do the very thing that you were so sorry for. That kind of sorrow you are experiencing is sorrow of the world. It has nothing to do with someone who has truly experienced God's righteousness and holiness and is in shame because they have sinned against their Lord and Savior. If it were godly sorrow, it would be enough to make you stop committing the act that you are supposedly sorry for (repentance).. The bible tells us so in 2 Corinthians 7:10. It reads, "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death."
When you are truly sorry to the Lord, your life will be changed. If your life has not changed, that is evidence that your sorrow to the Lord was insincere. (Tell the story of the drunkard who killed his friend's son while driving drunk) Was this man truly sorry? His friend's son died because of his sin (the sin of alcoholism), yet this man went right back to the very thing that was the cause of the young man's death. Are you going right back to those things that caused Jesus' death? Are you dishonoring His shed blood by your actions?
God is not a fool. He knows your heart. He knows fake tears from true heart-changing sorrow. If you keep on saying you are sorry and asking for forgiveness and then doing the same old sins over and over, friend, you are obviously insincere and more than likely not saved.
If you are someone who has never truly thought about what your sins mean to God, think about it now. Don't just be sorry because you got caught or because you feel bad or even because you are scared of hell. Realize that you have sinned against holy, righteous God Himself. Recognize that by your actions you were disrespectful to the Lord, trampled His grace and mercy underfoot, and made a joke out of His dying on the cross. Hate your sins so much that you will do whatever it takes to turn from them and live a life pleasing to God. That is the kind of sorrow that will change your life and make you want to stop sinning.
And if you get to that place, the good news is that when you sincerely ask God for forgiveness, God promises that your sin and iniquity He will remember no more! 1 John 1:9 reads, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." And Psalm 32:5 reads, "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." And you can make Psalm 86:13 your own personal gift, "For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell."
Because Jesus died on the cross and sacrificed His own life for the sins of the world, the person who truly comes to the Lord seeking forgiveness can go from being someone who was guilty and on their way to hell, to being forgiven and blessed and whose sins are covered: "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." (Romans 4:7-8). Thank God for His forgiveness!