Many people avoid this topic.
Some deny that there is sin or a God or some absolute values.
Others believe that our values must evolve with the demands of the culture.
This makes the Bible unpopular, because the Bible does describe this disease called sin
that isolates us from God.
| Legal Definition|
The Bible describes sin in the following way. |
"sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3: 4)
But what is the definition of sin in the Bible?
If you examine the issue, there are at least three definitions.
The basis of all of these is that sin is a state of existence that separates us from God.
In our lesson on the colors of God, we explore the reasons for these definitions and we concluded that
sin is a separation from God, and in practical terms it is demonstrated as separation or rebellion
from the works of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
- Lawless (Separation from the Father). This is the classic definition. Sin is breaking the laws of God.
Lawlessness. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3: 4)
If you do not have access to all of the law, then sin is disobeying your conscience. The natural sense of right and wrong.
Neglect. Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin. (James 4:17 )
If you have access to the law, and then decide to pick and choose what you think you should obey, then this is sin.
Disobedience. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10 )
- Unbelief (Separation from the Son). Sin is not believing in Jesus Christ.
For whatever is not from faith is sin. (Romans 14: 23)
But this seems unfair. How can some people know about Christ if they have never heard of him?
This is where God assists us with the Holy Spirit, our conscience and reserves judgment for Himself.
Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
So God forgives those who cannot possibly know that they have sinned. But the Spirit speaks to your conscience.
- Stubbornness (Separation from the Holy Spirit). Sin is resisting the teachings of the Holy Spirit.
Sooner or later, God will expose you to more truth, if you resist or avoid exposure it is sin.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. (1 Samuel 15: 23)
The work of the Holy Spirit is to lead us to Faith in Christ, obedience to the law and repentance.
And He when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see me; and concerning judgment because the ruler of this world has been judged. (John 16: 8-11)
Origin and Consequences
Sin began in the Garden of Eden when our parents disobeyed God.
As a consequence, they were separated from God.
He no longer met face to face with them.
The separation resulted in specific physical changes.
- Death. The whole planet began to die.
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6: 23)
- Curse (Wrath). The planet was cursed. On our way to death the planet would suffer
physical, spiritual and mental impairments that would lead to war, famine, drought and disease.
- Contamination. This fatal decision by Adam and Eve was passed on to their children and the creation like a disease.
Therefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.
... For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 5: 12; 3: 23)
» Original Sin. This doctrine says that we are born as sinners because we have the death sentence. Babies are born dead or die young, even before they have a chance to make a choice about good or evil. Their potential to choose good or bad does not appear to cause this death sentence. They were born with this curse applied to them. So they were born "in sin" even though they have not sinned yet.
How does sin pass from one generation to the next and from one species to another? There are three possible models.
» Generational Debt Bondage. At this stage, sin is like a debt inherited by our innocent children. They are debtors through no fault or choice of their own. As young debtors what they inherited are the conditions of slavery, not the guilt or responsibility. As they grow and make choices they will incur their own debt and will be responsible for their debt when they make a conscious choice to do evil.
Christ was the only Child Who broke free of this bond by taking hold of the remedy by trusting and submitting to God.
- Infection (Physical). Sin and its effects are passed like a disease.
- Nature and Nurture (Mental). It is passed through our genes and our example and what we see and learn.
- Separation from God (Spiritual). The separation from God creates an environment which is lacking in the ingredients that are needed for our total welfare.
We could no longer physically live in the presence of God because we would die immediately.
Therefore, everything is degenerating physically, mentally and spiritually because we do not have the total benefits of the presence of God.
But why did the rest of the planet suffer?
Since Adam was the legal representative of this planet, the whole creation was subject to this punishment.
And, because God intended to rescue him, Adam and his family still needed a place to live. So the whole earth was affected by the separation. But from the creation, God made the heavens and earth so that it could sustain life in this horrible time of separation.
We have the sun and moon to give us light. It will not be so in the new earth.
Salvation and Righteousness
So how did God fix this problem?
How do we get out of this endless cycle of evil?
Different religions propose different solutions.
- Reincarnation. This is salvation by education. According to this method, we are born into endless cycles where we are given the opportunity to learn from our past mistakes and improve ourselves for the next cycle.
The problem is that education does not seem to civilize nations.
- Retribution. At death, you are sent to an intermediate place of torture where you are punished for your sins.
Once you have paid, you are sent to Heaven. If you refuse, you are sent to Hell.
The problem is that endless torture probably will not teach you to love God. It teaches you to be afraid.
- Redemption and Rehabilitation. Salvation is given as a free gift to whoever wants it.
The penalty and guilt are paid. This is redemption. You cannot help but Love God.
But God does not leave you in that state where you are no longer guilty but still incapable of doing what is right.
He sends His Holy Spirit to rehabilitate us.
With our consent, the Holy Spirit shows us what is right and wrong.
He helps us to love the Good. With this process He writes the good in our hearts and minds so that we mentally accept them.
We achieve this agreement through our own acknowledgement about right and wrong. Confession and repentance.
Jesus Christ: The Solution
God does this redemption and rehabilitation by three distinct processes.
- Justification (Past). This restores our spiritual relationship with God. God removes the past offenses by forgiving us and taking the penalty.
God, Himself, paid the penalty for all sin. He took our sin and guilt and shame and punishment. He took the death and the curse or wrath of God for us through the gift of Jesus Christ.
As the future becomes the past, God justifies us when we repent.
| The Free Gift|
The free gift of God is offered to us, but for it to become ours, we must believe in it and accept it from God.
The Gift. "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6: 23)
"For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God". (Ephesians 2:8 )
Saved from Death. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3: 16)
Saved from Wrath. "But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." (Roman 5: 8-9)
- Sanctification (Present). This changes our mental capacity. We will learn what is good and love it.
Since justification only takes care of what we have done, God also made provision for changing us into the people who will be obedient.
This is done through the work of the Holy Spirit who came to fulfill a promise.
God would make us instinctively want to obey Him.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days says the Lord; "I will put my laws into their minds and write it on the hearts. And I will be their God and they shall be My people
(Hebrews 8: 10)
The process of sanctification involves learning and responding to what we have learned.
As we apply what we learn so that we are in conformity with the will of God, we become more perfect. We are being sanctified.
Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth.
(John 17: 17)
- Glorification (Future). This changes our physical bodies. Our bodies will change so that we can live forever in the presence of God without dying.
This completes the total transformation of the sinner.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, you may be also. (John 14: 3)
God Removes Our Sin
We have a love affair with sin and are committing adultery against our Creator.
Since God hates divorce, He forgives our failures and forgets the past.
God restores the relationship by removing or ignoring our sins in several ways.
He is either hiding Himself or hides our sins or gets someone else to remove them.
- Passover (He Refuses to Look at Them).
Passover teaches us that God chooses to walk by and ignore our sins and sweep them under the carpet.
He chooses to be our advocate. Like the sons of Noah, He does everything to prevent Himself from seeing our disgrace so that we are not embarrassed. Then He covers our shame with His righteousness.
But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father's nakedness.
(Genesis 9: 23)
He turns off the light, covers His face and turns His back.
The Goodness of God.
God demonstrated His greatness at the cross, when He forgave our sins.
At the crucifixion God accomplished all of these during the three hours of darkness.
At that time Jesus became sin, and like Moses we stood in the cleft of the Rock as God turned off the light of the sun, turned His back on Jesus, hid His face, shielded us with His hands and declared that He had the right to forgive whomever He pleased.
- Closes His Eyes. He does not see them, especially when we do not know what we are doing.
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent:
(Acts 17: 30)
» Blind Spot. God winked at the cross and created a blind spot where we were hidden.
- Turns His Back. He walks away from our past and turns away from the present.
- Lapse of Memory. God chooses to forget our sins.
"They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
(Jeremiah 31: 34)
For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.
(Hebrews 8: 12)
- Turns Off the Light. He makes it dark so that He cannot see them or see our shame.
- Covers Our Sins (Mercy Seat). He hides our sins by sweeping them under a rug and puts them away.
How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!
(Psalm 32: 1)
You forgave the iniquity of Your people; You covered all their sin.
(Psalm 85: 2)
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.
(Proverbs 10: 12)
- Separates Himself. He hides Himself behind a curtain so that we are not destroyed.
God Hid Himself in the Darkness At the Cross.
Then Moses said, "I pray You, show me Your glory!" And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion." But He said, "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!" Then the LORD said, "Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.
(Exodus 33: 18-23)
» Seeing The Face of God. What does this mean?
Notice that He covers His eyes, we do not cover ours.
If we could see the unshielded face of God, then God could see us.
The reason death occurs is not because we cannot live if we see something unusual in His face, it is because if He looks at us then He would see our sins.
So He covers His face or He covers us with His hand. Either method prevents Him from seeing our sins.
Because if He saw us in our sinful state He must respond with death by law.
So He chooses not to be an eyewitness.
- Pentecost (Cleans Up Our Mess).
If He has to confront our sins He dusts, wipes, disinfects and washes away our sins.
Since He will not get rid of us, He has to wash us clean. This is the covenant He kept when He sent His Holy Spirit (Hebrews 8: 10).
Sends the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God's great cleaning service and pharmacy.
- Washes Them Away.
Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.
(Acts 22: 16)
There is a divine laundry service. God does laundry the old-fashioned way, He beats them on a Rock.
If we are broken by the Rock named Christ we will be saved.
And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.
(Matthew 21: 44)
- Wipes them Away. There is a divine house cleaning service.
I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
(Isaiah 43: 25)
"Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.
(Isaiah 1: 18)
- Stomps on them with His Feet. He grinds them to dust and disposes of them as garbage.
He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot ...
(Micah 7: 19)
- Throws Them into the Bottom of the Deepest Sea.
... You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
(Micah 7: 19)
- Throws Them Far Away. He removes them as far away as possible from us.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
(Psalm 103: 12)
- Breaks the Bonds of Slavery. We are chained to sin like slaves and God broke the bonds and freed us.
For long ago I broke your yoke and tore off your bonds ...
(Jeremiah 2: 20)
- Writes a Prescription to Cure the Infection.
With the Holy Spirit as the pen and the blood of Christ as the ink, God writes His law on the pages of our mind.
- Yom Kippur (Blames the Deceiver).
One day, the pile of sin under the rug will get so big that He cannot ignore it. He sets a day to remove them.
He puts the sins back to the root cause, declaring that since they enticed us to sin they are unjust accusers and do not have a right to appear in His court against us.
The Justice of God.
He has not made an excuse for sin, but He has found a way to reconcile Himself with us and forgive us, while making us law abiding citizens again.
- High Priest. Jesus intercedes for us and removes the pile of sins and cleanses the temple.
- Blames Someone Else. The scapegoat ceremony shows that God will place the blame on Satan.
- Challenges Our Accusers. He vigorously defends us.
No weapon that is formed against you will prosper. And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn this is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their vindication is from Me, declares the LORD.
(Isaiah 54: 17)
- Covers His Mouth. He does not accuse us. And if we have no accusers then He will not condemn us (John 8: 9-11).
- Covers His Ears. He does not hear our accusers.
- Banishes our Accusers. He throws out our accusers so that He does not have to hear them.
"And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down which accused them before our God day and night."
(Revelation 12: 7-10)
- Suffers the Consequences Himself. And if all else fails, He takes the blame.
- Puts Them on His Back. He bears our sins. The cross is a symbol of this burden.
- Pays The Price. He purchased us back with His own blood.
- Substitutes Himself. He takes the penalties Himself by suffering and dying.
The Holy Spirit: The Solution
God does not excuse our sins. He has chosen to ignore our sins. But ignoring our problems does not solve them.
So God solves the problem of the desire to sin with the Holy Spirit. He changes our desire by teaching us to hate sin and love righteousness.
| Prayer of Commitment
Dear Lord Jesus, |
I believe You are the Son of God and that you died to forgive me of my sins. I know that I have sinned. I ask you to forgive me. I turn from my sins and I ask you to come into my life as my Lord and Savior. Thank you for saving me. Please help me to live for You. Amen.
- Repent. We must first acknowledge that we are sinners. Our methods are inadequate. We have no real solutions. We need something or Someone else.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1: 9)
- Faith in Jesus. We must accept God's gift. Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation.
"But as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:" (John 1: 12)
But what about people who do not know Jesus Christ or who are not Christians?
Even these people are saved through Christ, even if they do not recognize Him.
Jesus died for all.
Now, the reason why they do not or cannot recognize Christ is a problem for God to solve.
This is why God says that we should not judge. He will judge people by the light they have accepted or rejected.
We cannot evaluate this.
- Submission and Obedience. Having faith in Jesus automatically leads to obedience because of the work of the Holy Spirit.
Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 7: 21 )
- Baptism. Baptism is a public sign that God wants us to honor.
It is the equivalent of a marriage ceremony. It is the sign to the universe that we have joined into a covenant relationship with God. It is also the sign that we have died to sin.
"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2: 38 )
"He who has believed, and has been baptized, shall be saved; and he who has not believed, shall be condemned." (Mark 16: 16)
While outward signs do not save us, we should not ignore them.
They usually have an importance that may not be understood until far into the future.
The blood of animals could never take away sin. But Israel had to do it.
Two thousand years later we see why.
If the Jewish people had not obeyed the commandments and had not kept the laws, we would not understand Jesus Christ now.
The apostles and the Gentiles would have rejected Him.
But they had this body of evidence written down and practiced in their traditions that was a testimony to Christ.
Our willingness to be baptized is our testimony that we have subjected ourselves to God.
- Communion. While baptism is the sign that Christ has died for us, communion is another outward sign that points to the fact that Christ has suffered the wrath for us.
God Hears Sinners
Who is a sinner? Does God hear them?
Since we all have sinned then we are all sinners.
Since perfection still eludes us and all believers relapse and periodically need to confess sins, then believers are still sinners.
So when does God stop hearing sinners?
- God Does Not Hear Sinners. The Bible appears to teach that God does not hear sinners because our sins have created a barrier between Him and us.
Our Sins Hide His Face.
Behold, the Lord's hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that He does not hear.
(Isaiah 59: 1-2)
No Sinners Allowed.
We know that God does not hear sinners, but if anyone is god-fearing and does His will, He hears them.
(John 9: 31)
This statement was made by a blind man who was arguing that Jesus must be righteous otherwise God would not give Him such powers.
The Jews had a lot of incorrect opinions. He was expressing a commonly held opinion, not expressing doctrine approved by Jesus.
Nevertheless, let us assume that he is correct.
- God Hears Sinners. We can also demonstrate that God does hear sinners.
- Common Sense. How can a sinner come to Christ initially if He does not hear them? And how can the professed believer receive forgiveness for sin if God does not hear them?
At some point God must hear sinners in order to forgive their sins.
The Bible teaches that even our initial response is because God appeals to us. He takes the initiative to make first contact.
God Woos Us.
And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted from the Father."
(John 6: 65)
- Biblical Examples. The Bible has many examples that show that God not only hears sinners but He is proactive in trying to establish communication with them.
The Tax Collector.
But the tax collector, standing some distance away was even unwilling to lift up His eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast saying, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!"
I tell you this man went home justified ...
(Luke 18: 13)
... And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you either. From now on sin no more."
(John 8: 11)
God Reasons With Sinners.
"Come now, let us reason together", says the Lord.
"Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool".
(Isaiah 1: 18)
» All Prayers Welcome.
God's own law says that the righteous must help their enemies. Therefore He answers other prayers of sinners, not just the prayer of repentance.
God pursued Paul. He sent Nathan to reason with David. He judged in favor of the adulterous woman. He heard her case and answered with forgiveness and instruction before she even asked.
- The Terms Of The Covenant. How do we resolve the contradiction? Does God hear sinners or not?
The answer lies in the terms of the covenant. If you persistently sin, there will come a time when God will ignore you.
||All Unrepentant Sinners
||Believers Who Sin
||Warn (1) ||Warn (2) ||Warn (3) ||Warn (4) ||Sin ||Wrath
||Sin ||Repent ||Forgiven
||God Does Not Hear
The Wrath of God: No Prayers Heard. I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars.
... and I will not smell your soothing aromas.
(Leviticus 26: 30-31)
Prayer is symbolized as the incense rising up from the altar of incense to God in heaven.
The terms of the curses say that God will plead with those who sin deliberately for four periods of time and He will hear them.
However, if they continue in disobedience and hostility after rejecting a series of four warnings He will respond with wrath and abandon them and the sanctuary at the fifth warning.
This is when the separation occurs and He will hide His face. But before this His ears are open to our cries of repentance and before He reaches the point of rejection He will send warnings.
The record shows that even after He rejects and abandons sinners, He will woo them back and repeat the five cycles of warning again.
Who can Forgive Sins?
If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them;
if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained. (John 20: 23).
|False gods, Idolatry, disrespect, break Sabbath ||First Four Commandments|| God ||People|| God |
|Steal, kill, covet, lie, adultery, disrespect||Last Six Commandments|| People||People |
|Destruction, neglect||Love||People |
| The Unpardonable Sin |
... any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. (Matthew 12: 31)
The unpardonable sin is the sin of rejecting the Holy Spirit.
The sin is not unpardonable because it is so vile. It is unpardonable because
in rejecting the Spirit we have rejected God's method of removing sin.
How does this happen?
The Holy Spirit is only given to those who obey God (Acts 5: 32). Why?
He keeps revealing sin and if we are unwilling to obey there is no point in leading us to further obedience.
This continued rejection leaves God with no method of "writing His laws into our heart".
There is no sin that is so horrible that God cannot forgive us.
But there is a cherished sin that is so small that it will separate us from God forever.
One church has used this verse to set up a priestly system by which the sinner comes to them for forgiveness, not to God.
In this system, even God cannot forgive a sin if the priest refuses to forgive it.
When any sin is committed there are always two victims, God is the ultimate victim and the next is the person, animal or living thing that is injured.
God is the victim because it is His law that we have violated.
This process of forgiveness begins with the acknowledgement that all sins are ultimately against God.
Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge. (Psalm 51: 4).
So the Bible teaches that only the victim and God have power to forgive sins. This power does not belong to a third party.
- God. Christ has the authority to forgive sins on earth. Ultimately all forgiveness comes from Him.
So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2: 10).
To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him. (Daniel 9: 9).
- The Human Victim. People can forgive each other. God wants us to behave like Him and freely forgive.
If we forgive, He will honor our agreement and forgive also.
But He added a very noticeable condition on this power.
If you do not forgive others, He cannot forgive you.
Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, Just as God in Christ has also forgiven you. (Ephesians 4: 32).
For if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others, then your father will not forgive your transgressions.
(Matthew 6: 14-15).
Do not judge, and you will not be judged, and do not condemn and you will not be condemned; pardon and you will be pardoned. (Luke 6: 37 ).
How Do We Remove Sins?
Through the death of Christ, there are two ways to remove sins.
And this power belongs to both the sinner and the victim.
- Forgive Sins.
If you have been wronged, you have the power to retain sins or not forgive.
But if you do not forgive, it is a sign that you are resisting the Holy Spirit, because He leads you to repentance and forgiveness.
If you act like that then it shows that you truly do not understand God. So eventually, He has to judge you by your own standards.
Judged By Your Own Standards.
Do not judge so that you will not be judged.
For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure it will be measured to you.
(Matthew 7: 1-2).
This is not teaching that you can escape the judgment by being so open minded that you agree with the actions of everyone.
It teaches that you will be subject to God's righteous standard of judgment,
in addition to your harsh standards. So, let your standard be forgiveness.
Our power does not make God powerless or leave the sinner in a state of hopelessness.
God can forgive the sins that the victim does not forgive, since He was also a victim.
It is just that His preferred solution is for everyone to forgive each other immediately and from the heart.
Ultimately, we must also ask God for forgiveness also. Because all sins are against Him. (Psalm 51: 4).
Retain Sins. God will forgive you of all your sins. But, if you do not forgive sins, then at the judgment you will be found bearing the sins of others that you chose to hang on to.
At that point God is no longer in the business of wiping away sins. And only one Righteous Man was capable of bearing the sins of others.
- Confess Sins.
If you have sinned, confess your sins to God and to the person you have wronged.
If you are aware of sins, pray for the sins of others and the nation. God will respond by revealing errors to the sinner.
This is not a system to replace confession to God. It is a system of reconciliation to the person wronged.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
(James 5: 16)
- High Priest. Jesus is the great High Priest Who is defending us on the day of atonement by removing our sins.
Therefore He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
(Hebrews 7: 25)
The Anatomy of Forgiveness
What does forgiveness look like, act like, feel like or think like?
Most people treat forgiveness as a set of actions whose goal it is to "start up where we left off" and to pretend that the misunderstanding never happened.
Here, remorse is a superficial analysis of the minimum combination of the right amount of words, tears, emotions, tokens of repentance and suffering that will make the guilty look and feel better.
All of this is evaluated by the victim and none of it is verifiable.
- The Tokens of Forgiveness. The pathway to forgiveness goes through many stages for the victim and the perpetrator.
The fact is that neither party may want to extend or accept forgiveness. But since God is always in the business of forgiveness, each person can attempt reconciliation and comfort with God
- The Thoughts of Forgiveness. Forgiveness begins when either party wants reconciliation. Success is more likely if the victim seeks reconciliation.
For the guilty party the path to forgiveness begins with remorse for sin and acceptance of their responsibility.
- The Sounds of Forgiveness. For the guilty party forgiveness sounds like, "I am sorry", "I will never do it again" and "please forgive me".
For the victim forgiveness sounds like, "I forgive you", "I accept your apology", "I hold no grudges" and "I want us to be friends again".
- The Acts of Forgiveness. For the guilty party forgiveness looks like tears, shame and sorrow. Practically, forgiveness also looks like restitution and mitigating damages.
The guilty party should pay back or repair the damage done if possible.
The victim can choose to forgive some of the debt if payback will be burdensome on the guilty.
The victim will therefore befriend and console the guilty, "bear the burdens" and "accept the cost".
- Feeling Forgiven.
Depending on the magnitude and the effect of your sin, forgiveness may never come with a feeling.
Often victims exacerbate this feeling by refusing to forgive and constantly reminding you of your sins.
They do not forgive or forget your sins and they never let you forget.
But God forgets.
So, even if you do not feel it in your heart, you must know in your mind that you have been forgiven by the one Person who really matters.
And He not only forgives, He forgets our sins.
"Come now, let us reason together", says the Lord.
"Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool".
(Isaiah 1: 18).
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgression from us.
(Psalm 103: 8, 12)
- Superficial Forgiveness.
Too often the outward tokens of forgiveness are superficial.
This benefits the person who is wrong.
Genuine repentance and forgiveness are only achieved with the right thoughts and feelings.
Only God can evaluate this. Therefore we must accept these tokens by faith.
- Perpetual Punishment.
The other side of superficial forgiveness is what occurs when the victim is in control.
Often, no amount of words, tears or expressions of regret will appease the victim.
We want punishment. We want them to hurt.
The idea that a guilty person will never suffer is appaling to some.
But the bible does not support this idea of retribution.
Genuine sorrow is enough for God. This person will never sin again because he or she recognizes that Christ suffered.
A broken heart and contrite spirit are the tokens that God requires.
The truth is that we cannot truly evaluate the genuineness of a person's words or actions.
We have to accept their statements by faith and evaluate everything based on love. If our emotions and hurt are still too raw, we must evaluate our response based on the love of God.
My enemy is valuable because God loves them.
This person is my enemy because of a sin committed 6000 years ago. We are all in the same sinking boat. All condemned, all fearful, all weakened through no fault of our own.
If we acknowledge this then maybe we can have more compassion and forgive more quickly so that we can lift each other out of this sinking quicksand.
- Trust. In my opinion, trust is the issue that remains after the victim accepts the response of the offender or unilaterally extends forgiveness for the sake of a path to reconciliation.
- Confess (I Can Trust Me). The victim must believe that you are sorry. If possible you must undo the damage. Reverse the wrong you did or mitigate the effects.
But it is not enough to say "I am sorry". Actively find out what your actions caused. Then you must articulate what you did or failed to do and why your actions were wrong.
This is not an attempt to punish or embarrass you. If you explain what you did, and the victim responds with how that particular action hurt it can only help both of you.
But it helps certain victims in other ways by allowing them to make sense of what has happened to them.
When a righteous person is mentally, physically or emotionally assualted constantly it also sets up an environment of self doubt.
You must reassure them that there was nothing wrong with their thinking or behavior or they will never be able to trust themselves or anyone else again and will retreat into a shell where nothing will ever hurt again.
I can trust my self again if I realize that your collective behavior left me no other options.
- Walk A Mile in My Shoe (I Can Trust You). Experience my pain. A victim is more likely to reconcile if they realize that you have also been the victim of a similar event.
If you have shared my pain, then I know that you understand what you have done to me. As you remember your own pain, you cannot possibly repeat this offense if you believe in the Golden Rule.
Therefore, I can trust you again.
- The Love Chapter (1 Corinthians 13).
Genuine tokens of forgiveness are always based in love.
Every statement of this chapter is always true if you apply the words to someone who genuinely loves you.
Because you know that God genuinely loves you, you can always respond to Him in this manner in all circumstances.
[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1 Corinthians 13: 7)
On the other hand, if you love someone, some of these attributes may be deadly.
"Love believes all things" cannot be applied to a loved one who is constantly involved in criminal and unfaithful behavior.
Your love cannot make this true. You might decide to "bear and hope all things", but "believing all things" will not make them true no matter how much you love.
But when it comes to forgiveness and reconciliation, you can choose to believe that their expressions of remorse are genuine.
Just by showing genuine faith and trust you may be fostering true remorse.
You can overcome every sin that plagues you no matter the source.
Unfortunately, the world is on a mission to support and promote sin, denying both the need to overcome sin or the idea of sin and absolute values.
- Removing Temptation.
There are certain actions that are your responsibility if you truly desire to overcome sin in your life.
Sometimes God gives instant victory and at other times getting the victory over sinful desires and actions is a long process.
- Desire Change. The first requirement of victory is to genuinely require change for the right reason.
Your reason cannot be that you want to go to heaven or that you want a blessing from God or you want to conform to what is popular.
Your reason has to be based on wisdom.
You want to change because it is the right thing to do and you whole-heartedly agree with the principles of the kingdom of God.. Anything less is destruction and support the values of the kingdom of Satan.
You must realize who you are and the great destiny that awaits you and the enemy who is trying to destroy you.
You must defend your family name and honor.
Do the things that please God because you love Him and care for His kingdom.
- Know Your Weaknesses. Know the things, smells, people, sights and sounds that will be a source of temptation.
Know how your own body can sabotage your mind.
Changes in hormones, certain foods can affect your desires and derail your efforts.
Sometimes, knowing that your subconscious is automatically responding is enough to defeat the process that is undermining your efforts.
- Clearing House.
Actively remove all sources of temptation from your life until you have the victory.
If you are an alcoholic, remove all the alcohol or drug paraphernalia that you have,
Avoid the people who do not want you to change.
Avoid the places that will derail your plans. Do not go near bars or events where drinking is acceptable.
- Believe. Know and believe that victory is possible. You can be perfect.
If you accept the possibility that failure is an option you are creating an excuse for failure.
You cannot lose if God is your helper.
- Support. Arrange for people and activities that will support your efforts.
- Substitute. Depending on the scope of the sin in your life, you need to replace it with activity that God approves, otherwise you will be left with a time vacuum that will cause boredom and return to the sin.
- Know God. Since God is the guarantor of your victory it is time to get to know him through prayer and personal Bible study.
- Confidence. Do not let guilt, shame or failure undermine your confidence. Your genuine desire to change is what matters.
- The Holy Spirit.
Overcoming sin is a miracle, it is not a twelve step program. You can have total victory over all sinful desires.
There is no such thing as a perpetually "recovering" sinner, always on guard because your desires will make you stumble.
What God offers is total victory and enmity with sin. You should expect to hate the sin, not hate yourself and be in constant fear and vigilance. Sin should not have dominion over you.
The only way to overcome sin is with the Holy Spirit.
If you continue to fall despite the fact that you want to change, then you need to request that the Holy Spirit does His job.
Place the burden for victory on God.
He is the only one who can put enmity between you and your sins and replace it with a genuine love for the things of God.
Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who revere Him.
For He Himself knows our frame, He remembers that we are but dust.
(Psalm 103: 13-14).
For some reason Christians want to operate from guilt instead of joy.
They do not forgive themselves. They are not sure if God has forgiven them, probably because they do not feel forgiven or feel worthy of forgiveness.
And with that single attitude they make God a liar and an ineffectual savior.
Instead of looking at the Savior and the wonderful gift of God, they look at themselves and their unworthiness.
Here is the reality. If you sinned at anytime in the past and you have asked for forgiveness, then you have been forgiven.
If you are ever tempted to look back at the past and to feel unworthy and to be afraid of your status before God, remember this analogy.
The Baby And The Bath Water.
God is the loving Parent.
You, the sinner, are a three month old baby.
Sin is everything in your diaper.
It is God's responsibility to clean up your mess because you are incapable of doing it.
It is His joy to always love you and guide you because You are His beloved child.
God will never say, "I have got to throw out this useless baby with the bath water, because this baby is just too poopy! Honey, let us get a new baby."
So when you continue to agonize over past sins and worry about how God looks at you, you are accusing God of neglect.
You are also returning to the garbage can to remove your dirty diaper.
You are saving the bath water and throwing away the baby.
Everywhere More Poop!
Now, the nature of sin and sinners is that they keep on sinning.
The nature of babies is that they keep on eating and pooping.
There are no super babies.
Sooner or later babies will learn as their parents potty-train them.
Sooner or later you will learn as the Holy Spirit teaches you and your sins no longer have any control over you.
Every time you sin, ask God to forgive you and believe that He does.
At the Second Coming, you will realize that you have been potty trained.
Study to show yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2: 15
||Time: 60 minutes
Print: 9 pages
Updated : April 2, 2005. July 2009
Author: Laverna Patterson. Editor: Patterson (January 2008)