Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Your Sins Are Remembered No More

As Christians, all of our sins are forgiven. Not only the sins we committed before we were saved, but all of the ones we will commit in the future. The Bible is very clear about how God views our sin after we are saved. In Hebrews 10:15-18, the Bible says, "The Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, 'This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws upon their heart, and on their mind I will write them,' He then says, 'And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.' Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin."

In Psalm 103:12, the Bible says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." And again in Micah 7:19, "He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."

Yet, even though all of our sins are forgiven, many Christians continue to ask God to do what He has already done...ask for forgiveness. By continuing to ask God for forgiveness, we are telling Him that His sacrifice on the cross was insufficient. We are calling Him a liar for saying "It is finished!" We are, in effect, crucifying Him all over again. No where in the Bible does it tell Christians to keep asking for forgiveness. Why? Because we already have it!

In Hebrews 10:14 the Bible says, "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified." As Christians we are children of the Light and, "If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)

Charles Spurgeon in his devotional "Faith's Checkbook," wrote the following:

According to this gracious covenant the LORD treats His people as if they had never sinned. Practically, He forgets all their trespasses. Sins of all kinds He treats as if they had never been, as if they were quite erased from His memory. O miracle of grace! God here does that which in certain aspects is impossible to Him. His mercy works miracles which far transcend all other miracles.

Our God ignores our sin now that the sacrifice of Jesus has ratified the covenant. We may rejoice in Him without fear that He will be provoked to anger against us because of our iniquities. See! He puts us among the children; He accepts us as righteous; He takes delight in us as if we were perfectly holy. He even puts us into places of trust; makes us guardians of His honor, trustees of the crown jewels, stewards of the gospel. He counts us worthy and gives us a ministry; this is the highest and most special proof that He does not remember our sins. Even when we forgive an enemy, we are very slow to trust him; we judge it to be imprudent so to do. But the LORD forgets our sins and treats us as if we had never erred. O my soul, what a promise is this! Believe it and be happy.

It doesn't get much better than that! Knowing who you are and where you stand in Christ is where true happiness is found. Too many people think that the Christian life is all about self examination. Nothing could be further from the truth. The "life" is about knowing and loving God and allowing God to love others through you. This is only possible when you believe in your heart that nothing stands between you and God...not even your sin. You are righteous (II Corinthians 5:21), accepted, holy (Ephesians 1:4) and completely free from condemnation (Romans 8:1). Even when you sin!

When God brings our sin to our attention, it is not so we can ask for forgiveness. It is so we can accept His revelation, confess it (agree with Him) and to thank Him that He is at work in us, both to will and to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Oswald Chambers in his devotional "My Utmost for His Highest," puts it this way:

If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He doesn't ask you to make it right; He only asks you to accept the light of the truth, and then He will make it right. A child of the light will confess sin instantly and stand completely open before God.

We have freedom in Christ, however many Christians have placed themselves back in prison. They continually examine themselves to "see how they measure up." They continually ask for forgiveness for sins, both real and imagined. They berate themselves because they don't measure up to the standard. They don't see themselves as growing in Christian maturity fast enough. They live bound in chains behind a prison wall because they believe God sees them the way they see themselves.

But what does God see when He looks at a Christian? He sees His precious son Jesus, in whom there is no sin or guilt. You are in Christ and He is in you. The righteousness we have comes from Him and Him alone. You may think that God is somehow disappointed with you, but that is impossible. God never expected anything from you anyway, how could He be disappointed? We are not responsible for "cleaning ourselves up" or even for our spiritual growth. We gave that responsibility to Jesus when we asked Him into our heart.

In Galatians 2:20, the Bible says, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." The only way to enter into the life that God has for us is to trust Him and surrender ourselves to Him. He will do the rest! That will never happen as long as we make ourselves, and our holiness, the primary focus of our attention. It is only when we focus on Him that we can rest in Him.

9 comments:

Judah Himango said...

It is a valid point that God freely gives forgiveness for those who seek it. I'm not sure we see eye-to-eye on forgiveness: does it take a repentant heart longing for forgiveness or is it a given that we're forgiven, even if our heart is hardened and bitter?

It's dangerous to say that we are not responsible "cleaning our selves up"; I think that could be interpreted wrongly. While we are not the ones who clean ourselves up spiritually -- no matter how perfectly we observe God's laws (the Torah, the "works" spoken of throughout the NT) -- and we cannot be righteous solely by works, it does not mean we are free to be as "dirty" as we want because we're not responsible for our own cleanliness. On the contrary, it is only by the forgiveness of God we have through the Messiah that we have righteousness and spiritual cleanliness, and that forgiveness is available to all who want it, there has to be a wanting of forgiveness. And in that sense, we are responsible: responsible for wanting that forgiveness.

I find too often many Christians assume this "free forgiveness" gives an all-exclusive pass to Sin City. A Christian once told me he was struggling with pornography. While he tries to resist temptation, he said he sometimes "just had to give in and acknowledge that I'm forgiven in Christ."

I'm curious to hear your beliefs on this. To me, while works does not make one righteous, faith in Christ, without works of the Law, is dead, as James mentions. If works are important, then doing wrong works (sin) requires a repentant heart. What do you think Gary?

Good post by the way. I'm usually not one to get into Christian evangelism, but some of Spurgeon's stuff is really good; his authentic excitement and wonder at the free & open forgiveness of God is apparent from the text.

Gary Kirkham said...

Hi Judah,

Thanks for taking the time to comment on my post. I value your comments even though you disagree with some of my points. I think that people can disagree without being disagreeable. :) It makes for good discussion and I think it helps people to solidify their beliefs by trying to defend them.

We seem to agree that we can't clean ourselves up and I believe it to be the truth of God's word. How could truth be dangerous? I believe the only time we are in danger is when we believe and live a lie. You say that, "we cannot be righteous solely by works." The Bible says that we cannot be made righteous by keeping the Law (Galatians 3:11, 21). If you are guilty of violating one Law, then you are guilty of violating them all. If we could be made righteous by keeping the Law, then Christ died in vain.

In fact the whole book of Galatians deals with Christians who believed they where perfected by the Law (Galatians 3:2,3). We are no longer under the Law. Thank God! This trips up so many people, but the Bible says that the Law is a curse (Galatians 3:13).

The Law was an external set of rules that we could not follow before we were saved and we cannot follow after we are saved. However, we have someone living in our hearts that has lived in complete obedience to the Law and who will live the life of obedience in us and through us. The Law of God is now written on our hearts, His name is Jesus.

We can never be made righteous by keeping the Law and Christians can never be made unrighteous by not keeping them. The Law says, do this and you will live...grace says, live and you will do. One is sensible in appearance, but is death. The other is absurd in appearance, but it is life. That is what is so amazing about grace. A life of obedience can be obtained only by resting in God’s grace.

You rest by surrendering to God and having faith that He is at work in you to change the things in your life that are contrary to His character.

On the subject of forgiveness...When we saved it is by grace through faith...not of ourselves, it is the gift of God...not of works. We repent and ask the Lord to forgive our sins and come into our hearts and be our Savior. Are you saying that now, after we are saved, our continued forgiveness depends on us? On us wanting it? On us repenting of every last one? On us asking for forgiveness? Is it no longer about what He did, but about what we do? To me that is a scary way to live and one we were given freedom from by His grace.

Anonymous said...

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Guess Who

Judah Himango said...

Gary,

The Law cannot save, nor does it make us righteous. I think we agree on that point. Only by faith in the Messiah can we be righteous; the blood of the perfect Passover Lamb is the only atonement.

The Law defines what is sin. Without the Law, we don't even know what sin is. The New Testament is not a book of laws -- it doesn't define what is sin -- nor did Jesus make any new laws. Traditional Christians like yourself will probably agree with me that murder is wrong, rape is wrong, adultery is wrong, promiscuity is wrong, homosexuality is wrong, and the 10 commandments are a fundamental of our faith, yet all those ideas come from the Law itself. Without the Law, we have no basis for what is sin. The Law is God's prescription to his people for living a healthy, Godly lifestyle and it has not been abolished by any means (Matt. 5:17). I think the rejection of the Law is a reason you see confusion in the institutional Church today: is homosexuality acceptable to God? The New Testament doesn't have much to say on it. Yet God's laws clearly state that it is a sin and an abomination to God.

As Paul says, because of Jesus, we are not under the Law; that is to say, even though I deserve death for my sins (my breaking of the Law), I still have life because of the blood of the sacrifice Lamb, Jesus.

Now here's the point I wanted to make in my last post: because the punishment of death for sin doesn't apply anymore (as we're not under the Law), some Christians take that to meaning we can sin as much as we please. As James points out, without works, faith is dead; mere faith in Christ does not mean we can sin freely without remorse.

On the contrary, we are to refrain from sin. A great example of this is when the Messiah saw the adulteress who was about to be stoned; according to the Law, she deserved death for her sin. But what did Jesus do? We know too well the "he who is without sin cast the first stone" quote, but a part of this story often omitted is that when, after the stone throwers left, Jesus said to her, "Go on your way and sin no more.

So when we do sin, as every human does, what then, should we say, "Heck, it doesn't matter cause Jesus forgives me!"? No, we are not to sin, yes Jesus forgives us and we are covered, but we must repent for our sins. Without a repentant heart, we are only sewing a fertile field for future sin.

That is the dangerous idea that I was speaking of before: the idea that Jesus == freedom to sin, when the reality is that Jesus == freedom from sin.

JimBob said...

Judah & Gary,
1st Gary --- agree with almost all that you say. Thanks for encouraging us to get our eyes off of ourselves. I have to call you on the statements you make about what a person is saying when they ask God for forgiveness, though. I believe all that you say...I know I am forgiven before I ask...but I choose to ask forgiveness when God convicts me as a part of the personal relationship I enjoy with the Lord. I don't see it as required (since I already asked forgiveness when I was saved --- only repentance is necessary now --- which involves turning away from the sin and back to Him). I don't ask for forgiveness in the sense that I hope He gives it... as if the answer is in doubt --- He already has given it. I ask in the sense of respecting Him as the One who is so good to me and who I know already has forgiven me. So I think to state what every person who asks for forgiveness is saying may be making grace legalistic.
Now Judah --- I appreciate your repsonses to Gary --- but I think you may miss his point. He would have us live holy lives. He has simply understood the Biblical truth that we cannot live this life in the strength of the flesh by trying to do good and trying to resist sin --- and that the only way to live like Christ is to get our eyes off of ourselves, stop focusing on our sinfulness and trying to fix ourselves (flesh can't subdue flesh) and get our eyes on Jesus putting our trust in Him and surrendering to Him to allow Him to live the life through us that we could never live on our own. Gary's theology will lead to much more godly living than man's attempt (even saved man) to live "for God". What do you think?

Judah Himango said...

Really the only thing I think I disagree on here is that of a repentant heart. If there is no repentance, the heart is hardened.

Repentance to God is what? Saying "Lord, forgive me, I was wrong! I sinned!"

If you throw repentance out the window, what could we say, "oh gosh, I sinned, but it doesn't matter because Jesus forgives me even if I'm not sorry for my sin." It's a slippery slope; you can then keep on sinning, without remorse, knowing you're forgiven. I don't think that's what Jesus intended.

JimBob, I agree with your statement, "we cannot live this life in the strength of the flesh by trying to do good and trying to resist sin." I would also argue the reverse is true, you cannot live a holy life by believing in Jesus and then going around sinning without remorse. As James points out, such faith is dead, because it has no works to go along with the faith.

Anonymous said...

People as a whole want their ticket punched. Have you ever seen anyone that states, "I want to go to hell". Of course not, but many want their cake and eat it too....many do this throught the Baptist, Once Saved Always Saved doctrine. In other words, many love to Lord to go to heaven, but do not love Him enough to repent, forgive, and change in His name.

Rocky Moore said...

I agree with Judah, in 1 John 1:9 is says "if" we confess our sins He is faithful and just to "forgive" our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. In James 5:14-16 is says "...and if he have committed sins, they shall be --fogiven -- him..."

There is the story of the wedding in Mat 22 where man calls everyone from the street that the the party should be full. There was however one that did not wear a wedding garment and was bound and cast way. To me, if a person does not continue to be tender to God and keep a repentant heart, they will also be cast away.

There is the story of the three servents in Luke 12. One is a blessed servant who is doing the work when the lord arrives. Another is one knew the lord's will but did not do it suffered, but was not lost. Then there is the servant with the hard heart that lived a life of violence and drunkeness who the lord cast him in with the unbelievers.

I believe the servent that suffered is those who try but fail to live the life we should. They have a tender heart and want to do good but do not seem to get the victory.

The third servent though seems to have a hard heart and intentionally continues to do wrong. Even though he "was' a believer he was later cast in with the unbelievers because of the wickness who allowed in his life.

I think the goal is to focus on God and hunger after Him so that we do not walk in the ways of our flesh. Should we slip (I do not know of anyone who does not slip) we have a faithful loving God to seek fogiveness for that issue and restore us as before as long as our heart is tender and we say what we mean not just words.

Gary Kirkham said...

Rocky,

Thanks for dropping by. It's OK that we disagree. If you want to discuss this further, I hope you don't mind if I ask you a few questions.

Who is 1 John 1:9 written to? I think it tells us in verse 8 and 10. Look at John 1:1, 14

Does 1 John 1:9 tell us to ask for forgiveness?

According to your interpretation, if a person sins and fails to ask for forgiveness, do they lose their salvation? Are they no longer forgiven?

The reason for the last question is that some have different notions about that forgiveness.

In the passage you referenced in James, who is doing the forgiving? Any time you see a "therefore" in scripture you have to ask "what's it there for?" It points you to what came before. The passage is talking about our relationship with each other as brothers in Christ. Notice the passage says nothing about confessing them to God. If I wrong my brother, then I go confess that to him and he forgives me...our relationships are healed in addition to our body being healed.

Take Care,
Gary