*We do not forgive each other, as we ought. Husbands and wives fail to do so in their marriages. Instead they allow the sun to go down on their wrath. The same happens in many other relationships in the home and among fellow saints. Either we reluctantly and halfheartedly forgive (which is no forgiveness at all), or we completely fail or refuse to do it. We have our excuses, of course. But in reality we are following the ways and actions of the ungodly. A grudge instead of forgiveness. A desire for revenge instead of forgetting. We say we forgive, but then still tell others of how that person has sinned against us. It all amounts to hatred instead of love.
*Selected from the Standard Bearer, October 1999 written by Rev. Daniel Kleyn
Do you ever feel guilty? The word guilt means that some punishment is due for some unlawful action or behavior. People are born guilty, because they inherit the guilt of Adam. Although God created Adam a perfect man, Adam sinned and the guilt of his sin passes on to all people. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). You not only inherited Adam’s sin nature; you also practice sin against God and against other people. “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). The Bible states, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). When people sin against God, there is a broken relationship. When people sin against each other, there is a broken relationship. The only way to have the guilt removed and restore the relationship is to pay for the sin or have someone else pay the penalty for you. Your sin erects a wall between you and God. Sin severs the relationship between God and man. The only remedy for that separation is forgiveness. Is there any forgiveness? Yes, through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ who paid the penalty of death for those whom God has called to Himself.
Sin causes guilt and forgiveness is the only way to relieve the guilt and heal the broken relationship. It is the guilt of sin that burns in the human heart. So, how is the guilt removed? Confession, repentance and forgiveness remove it. Martin Luther said the “forgiveness of sins through Christ is the highest article of our faith.” The reason Luther said that is because of his understanding of God’s holiness and man’s sinful heart. You may take great comfort in the inspired words of the apostle Paul. “God has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).
The only way to know how to forgive is to model our forgiveness after God’s forgiveness. The Bible says “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
God’s pattern of forgiveness in the Bible begins with confession. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”(1 John 1:9). Confession is part of forgiveness because confession is the means of verbalizing the offense. Repentance is also necessary for forgiveness. “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him”(Luke 17:3). Repentance is a change of mind and endeavor to turn to God in obedience. To put it another way, repentance is a change of attitude and direction.
We pattern our forgiveness after God by saying “I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31;43). “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). Feelings don’t determine the reality of forgiveness. What counts is objective reality, which is found in the word of God. We must judge with truth, not how we feel about truth. God doesn’t forgive because he feels like it. God forgives because of his grace and mercy.
Does anyone deserve forgiveness? The Bible says, “If you O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3). God, by His pure grace, forgives you of your multiplied sins against Him. If you believe in the forgiveness of sins you believe that you have been forgiven of the thousands upon thousands of sins that have been removed by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, you must pattern your forgiveness after God’s forgiveness. To forgive the other person means to remove from your mind any wrath, hatred, or desire for revenge. To forgive means to willingly, gladly, generously, and finally forget any injustice you may have experienced in your relationships with other people. Forgiveness means that the sin will never be brought up again and the relationship is restored, thus reconciliation of the two parties. God promises to forgive, but woe to the person who refuses to forgive and be reconciled.
When we practice or refuse to practice the biblical doctrine of forgiveness, it is evidence of a spiritual condition. I cannot stress mutual forgiveness enough. The doctrine is very clear. God, by His pure grace, forgives you of your multiplied sins against Him, then you must forgive others who sin against you. When you forgive, truly forgive, you are simply following the example of your Lord and give evidence of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ present in your soul. If you are not able to forgive others who have offended you and sinned against you, then you have not received any forgiveness from God. The Lord says, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
The result of forgiveness is reconciliation. Reconciliation is not optional among believers. Reconciliation means peace. Do you want peace with God and peace with other Christians? If the answer is yes, I urge you to remember the words of the Psalmist. “I acknowledged my sin to Thee, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord; And Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin “(Psalm 32:5).
Review the three elements necessary for forgiveness:
God commands confession for forgiveness. Confess means you acknowledge the sin and agree with your brother that it is sin (1 John 1:9; James 5:16; Matthew 18:15).
Repentance is necessary if the confession is sincere and true; “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).
Reconciliation is just as important as repentance. Forgiveness means that the sin will never be brought up again and the relationship is restored (Matthew 5:24; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Psalm 103:12).
The one word I want and I hope you want the same written on your headstone is: Forgiven.
If you want to worship and fellowship with other Christians who believe in the biblical doctrine of forgiveness and reconciliation, you are welcome to leave me a message.