I once heard a story about a little girl who claimed to hear from God. All the people in her village eagerly lined up to hear what God had to say to them through her. But there was a priest in the village who was anything but pleased by the little girl’s claim. Surely, if someone as holy as he was didn’t hear from God, neither could this small child. He set out to prove she was a fraud. He told her that he would be going to confession and that the next day, he wanted her to as God what the sins he had confessed. The priest spent that night on his knees, swept up in a spirit of repentance and earnestly pouring his heart out to God. He confessed anger, doubt, jealousy, bitterness, pride, and a host of other sins. The next day, the priest went back to the girl and asked her if she had asked God what sins he’d confessed. She said that she had and that God’s response was, “I don’t remember.”
The two most over-used words in my vocabulary are ‘I’m sorry.’ Ask my husband. In fact, ask anyone who’s known me since I was a kid.
I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime during my childhood I stopped feeling forgiven. I guess I must have figured I’d messed things up so badly or so frequently that that was it, no more grace.
Another reason is that I was raised in a Christian home and was always a ‘good girl.’ So when I asked Jesus into my heart as a child, there wasn’t a noticeable difference in my behavior or circumstances. I figured the conversion must not have stuck. So I repented of my sins again and asked Jesus to come back. And again. And again.
Am I the only one out there who figured Jesus didn’t come to stay when I asked the first time?
Even now, when I lose my temper or tell a lie or doubt His goodness, I don’t apologize just once; God gets several ‘I’m sorry’s and so does everyone else involved.
I’m coming to realize, however, that this is a very wrong mindset. This understanding began when I apologized to my husband (then boyfriend) one too many times. I could see in his face and read in his tone that he was growing hurt and frustrated by my repetitive apologies. I understood that from his perspective, I was essentially saying that I didn’t believe him when he said he forgave me. I wasn’t taking him at his word and I was doubting his love for me.
The same holds true for God. When I walk around feeling guilt ridden for past sins and doubting my salvation in Him, I am essentially saying God is a liar. All those verses in the Bible about His goodness, grace, forgiveness, and love were all a load of hooey in my mind. Surely God is not as forgiving as He claims to be, my subconscious insisted.
Here’s the beautiful thing though: God is who He says He is. He does forgive as easily and readily as He says He does. If He didn’t, then Jesus died for naught.
Isaiah 43:25 says
“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake;
And I will not remember your sins.”
For God not to forgive me would mean breaking a promise and going back on His word, or in other words, denying His character as well as negating His Son’s sacrifice. And 2 Timothy 2:13 says “He cannot deny Himself.”
If it’s true that God lies and/or that Jesus is insufficient, then the entire Bible is forfeit. That’s one of the many things I love about the Word of God; it’s a package deal. We can’t pick and choose the parts we like and ignore the rest of the script. Everything in the Word is connected to everything else and it’s all or nothing.
Either Jesus’ sacrifice was enough for all my sins, or it wasn’t enough for any of them. Either God is everything He says He is, or He is nothing that He says He is. It’s all too closely linked to be able to separate.
The good excellent news then is that God’s love is unconditional and Jesus’ sacrifice is enough to cover all my sin. I no longer need to walk around under the burden of guilt. All I have to do is repent, then enjoy forgiveness. This is, of course, not a free pass to do whatever I want (See Gal. 5: 13) but rather permission to believe in forgiveness and give myself a break.
It’s also a chance to spread this grace around and extend forgiveness to others. Because another aspect of the Gospel is that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough for all of us, or it was enough for none of us.
I must confess that this is one of those messages that is having a hard time working its way from my head to my heart. But God isn’t finished with me yet and I’m looking forward to the day when I can forgive myself and others easily as well as accept forgiveness easily. Because it wasn’t easy for Christ to secure it for me. I was bought with a price (1Cor.6:20) and it is for freedom’s sake that I was set free (Gal.5:1).