Forgiveness – Our right response to God
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As Christians we do not believe in universalism. In other words, we do not believe in the universal application of the forgiveness of sin, through the blood of Jesus Christ, to every single human being on the earth whether they believe it or not. There is a choice to make. That is why Billy Graham held evangelistic crusades, why I help to run Christianity Explored courses, why we pray for friends and relatives who are agnostic or atheist. We long for people to know for themselves, the greatest gift that they could ever receive. For those of us who have experienced this gift, the joy and freedom that comes with being washed clean by the blood of Jesus is overwhelming!
One of the most humbling aspects of the forgiveness we receive through Jesus Christ is that we know it is undeserved. It cannot be earned, and no bribery is allowed. It is a gift pure and simple – held out to us to accept or reject.
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” (John 1:12)
It might seem obvious, but in order to understand forgiveness correctly, it is important to clarify three essential components that make up a genuine response to the offer of or request for forgiveness: acknowledgement, sorrow, repentance.
1) Acknowledgement - unless we acknowledge and take responsibility for our wrongdoing in the first place, there is nothing to be sorry for and no need to repent. The first part of that acknowledgement, as Christians, is to recognise that we have sinned against the Lord.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. (Psalm 51:4)
2) Sorrow – genuine acknowledgement of my wrongdoing against the holiness and will of God will lead to genuine sorrow in how my actions have grieved the Lord. Do we weep as we should?
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Ps 32:5)
3) Repentance – genuine sorrow will bring us before the Lord in a spirit of repentance, longing for his forgiveness and desiring to change.
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation…” (2 Corinthians 7:8-10)
If any one of these components is missing, then we must wonder whether or not an honest and actual request for forgiveness is authentic. At every point on our journey to seek forgiveness from the Lord, our pride will be challenged. How hard it is to admit when we have done wrong. I was reminded recently of the pride in my own heart when I made a mistake at work. Although it was an oversight of something that should have been done and not a wilful action of wrong, my immediate thought was how the situation could be deflected away from me. However, I said a prayer, swallowed my pride, owned up to my mistake and was prepared to accept the consequences – a bruised ego. I was grateful that the Lord revealed to me an area in my life that still needs checking.
Today, let us thank the Lord that he revealed to us our need to receive his forgiveness.
Pray with us today's prayer request:
Three weeks ago, we prayed about the situation in the grounds of Yei Cathedral, South Sudan. Around three thousand Internally Displaced Persons had taken refuge there following violence in the area. In the short term, praise God that Anglican International Development has been able to organise emergency food relief. However, the situation is unsustainable. Pray for peace in the area so that the families can return home and plant their crops.
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