Forever Forgiven (1:14)
Jesus Christ, the one into whose kingdom we have been transferred (Col. 1:13), is also the one, indeed the only one, "in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:14).
It isn't in the keeping of New Year's resolutions that forgiveness is found, nor in the therapy of a psychiatrist's counsel. Neither good works nor good intentions nor the cultivation of a healthy self-esteem can wipe clean the slate of our souls. Forgiveness is found only in Christ.
And when it is found, it is found now and forever. Note Paul's use of the present tense, "we have." The forgiveness of sins isn't just a future hope, something that will one day be ours. It is ours now! It is an existing, ever-present, liberating and life-changing reality in the present moment.
But how does one describe the forgiveness of sins? In my book, "The Singing God: Discover the Joy of Being Enjoyed by God," I gave it a try, and I honestly don't think I can improve on it. So I want to take the liberty of citing what I said there.
Have you ever fooled around with an “Etch-a-Sketch”? It’s that toy with what looks like a television screen and two knobs that enable you to sketch whatever fits your fancy.
I never was much good at it. I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination. The “Etch-a-Sketch” was made for people like me. If you don’t like what you’ve “drawn” and especially don’t want to be embarrassed should anyone else see it, you simply tip the screen and your work of “art” vanishes!
It’s a crude and simple illustration, but that is a lot like what God does with your sin when he grants forgiveness. Through the course of our earthly existence we sketch an ugly scenario of sin and rebellion and ingratitude and jealousy and lust. There it is, vividly imprinted on the screen of our souls.
But when we confess our sin, God’s loving and gracious hand tips the toy and the slate is wiped clean! No matter how often we return to deface our lives with ugly pictures of hatred and anger and pride and envy, God is faithful to tip the screen. All it takes is confession. All it takes is the blood of Christ.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to what God himself says: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25). When we confess our sin and plead the blood of the Lord Jesus, God promises never again to bring it up, either to himself, to you, or to others. That’s forgiveness!
God’s not finished yet. He’s got another illustration to make his point. Hezekiah put it this way: “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back” (Isaiah 38:17).
God has taken your sin and placed it out of sight behind his back. All he sees now when he sees you is the blessed righteousness of his own dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Such is the love of forgiveness.
Still not good enough? Still not convinced? Still afraid that your sins will do you in? Then pay close attention to the word of the prophet Micah. He has something important to say about the kind of God we have: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19).
How much more graphic do you demand God to be before you enter into the joy of his forgiving love? All vestige of condemning guilt is gone. Again, “just as God said he put our sins behind his back, so here he says he will hurl them into the depths of the sea. They will not ‘fall overboard’; God will hurl them into the depths. He wants them to be lost forever, because he has fully dealt with them in his Son, Jesus Christ” (Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace, p. 40).
Like you, I watched with amazement as the latest underwater technology scoured for remains of the Titanic, recovering from the bottom of the sea what everyone thought lost forever. No! No! It won’t happen with your sins! The submarine has not been made that can submerge that deep. The equipment has not been found, and never will be, that can retrieve the slightest vestige of your transgressions. God forbids it. Such is the quality of his forgiving love.
I don’t know how all this affects you, but I agree with David when he says (shouts?), “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven . . . Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him . . .” (Ps. 32:1,2).
All hope for happiness is contingent on the forgiveness of sins. The word “blessed” in Psalm 32, by the way, is plural! As Charles Spurgeon has said, “Oh, the blessednesses! the double joys, the bundles of happiness, the mountains of delight” that abound to the forgiven (Treasury of David, 1b:82).
Having experienced for himself the joy of forgiving love, David encourages others to seek God’s pardoning favor: “Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (Ps. 32:6-7).
God is like a high rock on which we stand when the flood waters of adversity begin to rise.
God is a hiding place, a shelter in whom we find safety and protection from all that threatens the soul.
And remember, all this for men and women like David who have spurned his ways and transgressed his will.
What accounts for this willingness in God to forgive? To what do we attribute the peace and release and joy that flood the pardoned soul?
David puts his finger on it in Psalm 32:10 - “Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.” God’s love is the bulwark of our lives, the bodyguard of our souls, the atmosphere of immutable affection in which we move and live and breathe.
Like you, forever forgiven,