I almost broke out laughing, the other night at The Safe Haven. I mean, right in the middle of my message.
As a part of my weekly sermon preparation, I pray diligently for God to touch the hearts of the precious people who are a part of the Safe Haven family — literally (as in those who attend) and virtually (as in those who listen to the podcast).
But last Saturday night, it was almost as if I was sitting in one of the comfy padded chairs listening to someone else speak. It was my voice alright, but it was like I was a listener rather than the speaker. Weird. But the thing of it was this: My voice was saying EXACTLY what I needed to hear. (I don’t know why I find that to be ironically bemusing, but I do.)
Boiling it all down to one succinct and simple soundbite, what I “heard” that night was this: God forgives sins.
Or more to the point (if you’ll permit a little self-indulgent narcissism here): God forgives MY sins. ALL of my sins.
Now, I know that you already know that. But before you write that off as another nice-sounding “tell me something I don’t already know” kind of pious platitude, just think about that for just a moment longer. God forgives sins. Or to put it another way, you and I are forgiven. We are forgiven of everything. Everything.
Don’t take my word for that. Take God’s Word for that:
“You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love” (Nehemiah 9:17).
Psalm 32:1-2, “Our God, you bless everyone whose sins you forgive and wipe away. You bless them by saying, ‘You told me your sins, without trying to hide them, and now I forgive you.'”
“If you kept record of our sins, no one could last long. But you forgive us, and so we will worship you” (Psalm 130:3-4).
Daniel 9:9, “But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.”
Micah 7:18, “Our God, no one is like you… You freely forgive our sin and guilt.”
And then this, my favorite! God Himself says, “I — yes, I alone — will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again” (Isaiah 43:25).
Trouble is, God will never think of our sins again, but so many of our “friends” surely do — non-Christian and Christian alike. It’s almost as if they love to remind us that they do still think of them: with furrowed brows when look at us; or patronizing tones in their voices when they speak to us; or the gossip that they spread to others about us; or the unkind things they say about us. Reminding anyone and everyone — lest they forget and give us a pass for our past indiscretions– that we are flawed.
Which shouldn’t surprise us in the least, given the fact that one of the names of Satan is “the accuser of our brothers and sisters” (Revelation 12:10). He NEVER lets us forget. And he delights in using those around us, often even those closest to us, to rub our noses in our past failures.
But the devil and his unwitting minions notwithstanding (because it really doesn’t matter what he or they say to us, or about us), God says — HEAR IT NOW — the three most beautiful words in the English language: I FORGIVE YOU!!!
Meaning this: We are forgiven! We don’t need to wallow around in the pigpens of our past filth. We don’t need to be spiritually paralyzed any longer by the shameful memories of things we have done. We no longer need to carry around on our sagging shoulders the dead-weight of our guilt. We no longer need to feel ashamed of our past poor choices.
We are now free. Free from all of that.
We are now free to do exactly what the Apostle Paul did: “My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done” (Philippians 3:13-14).
And just what is it that “Christ Jesus has done” for us? Say it with me: Forgiven us. Forgiven us of everything.
So let those around us — non-Christian as well as Christian — say whatever they want about us. They can gossip about us to their hearts’ content. They can ever-so-subtly frown whenever our names are mentioned in their hearing. They can look so sorrowful as they feel the need to spread whatever hurtful things they so desire. They can paint however an unflattering picture of us they care to draw. Their opinions don’t matter. Their words mean nothing. Only God’s Word means anything. And what does God’s Word say about you and me? Hear it for yourself:
“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?… Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one — for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us” (Romans 8:31,33-35,37).
Or to put it much more simply than all of that: “We are forgiven!”