I think many of us sometimes feel trapped, weighed down by guilt, shame, remorse, regret, or maybe all of the above. Even though we know God is forgiving and loving, and even though we know Jesus died on the cross so our slates could be wiped clean, we still find ourselves thinking that we’re undeserving, unworthy. In all reality, we really don’t deserve God’s abundant grace and mercy. But He gives it to us regardless because we are His children who He desires to have a relationship with.
The sad thing is that we sometimes feel like we’ve lost all our chances although this is far from truth.
Jesus doesn’t just forgive us our sins. He erases them. Like the cookies on your computer. You can’t undo erasing them. You can’t bring them back after all has been said and done. They’re gone for good.
Despite our depravity and sinful flesh, we are forgiven again and again when Jesus is our Lord and Savior. This doesn’t mean that he forgives but doesn’t forget. This doesn’t mean he holds things against us or keep a list of all of our wrongdoings. Because the Word says we are made clean and we are made new, that’s exactly what we are.
Satan can try to catch us in his web of lies, tricking us into thinking that we’ve messed up too many times for redemption to be possible. But at the end of the day, God is still God. He always welcomes us back with loving arms, like the father of the prodigal son.
We can’t do anything to earn or deserve His grace and love. What we can do is accept His grace and love. We can accept the truth as what it is, and stop believing these doubts filling our mind.
We are loved. We are forgiven. We are redeemed.
And now it’s time to step out of this hole into new light.
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-15)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
A question we all must ask ourselves at some point or other is “Do I really mean what I say?”
Sure, we might make promises to God, and maybe for the most part, we carry them out. But there are those times when we say things with the best intentions, thinking we might just mean it, when in all actuality, we don’t. We’re all talk and no action.
Peter knows what this is like.
On the Mount of Olives before Jesus’ death, Peter tells Jesus, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” In response, Jesus predicts Peter’s denial of him, to which Peter says, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:31-35)
For the people who read this for the first time without any knowledge of what is to come, this might seem a reality. They believe that what Peter is saying is true, even if Jesus predicts it otherwise. They want to believe it is true. After all, this is a follower of Christ. How could Peter speak such a strong vow if he doesn’t have the intentions of keeping it?
For those of us who already know how the story ends, Peter does indeed disown him. Three times. And when he realized that what Jesus said was true, “he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:75)
Peter messed up.
Yet when Jesus is raised from the dead several days later, who does he say to announce his presence to? “…his disciples and Peter.” (Mark 16:7). Once he reached his disciples, he then gave them the authority to make disciples across the earth, what we refer to as the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus closes with, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of age.”
If you look again at Mark 16:7, you see that Peter was called out of the bunch. Why?
Because even when he messed up, Jesus wanted him and us to know that he loves Peter and forgives Peter all the same.
Like Peter, we too are often guilty of not giving Him the glory He deserves. We are sometimes ashamed of the Gospel, too afraid to reach out to our neighbors or claim that we are walking with Christ. We might say we’re Christian to people who ask, but the words stop there.
We might tell God on Sunday mornings in church that we will follow Him wherever He leads. We say that we’re surrendering our lives to Him and we’re going to do all we can to live for Him. Yet when we go back to our lives the following day, our routine continues and the words we spoke the day before are forgotten.
God sees our hearts. He knows we may say these things, but not really have the intentions of following through.
Yet what we learn from His Word is that He loves us and forgives us all the same. He still gives us chances to proclaim His name. He allows us the opportunities to take up our cross.
What have you been telling God lately?
Do you really mean what you say?
A few years back, I read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, a woman’s account of her time spent in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. Even to this day I am amazed at how people who suffer immensely, beyond what I can even imagine, can still keep their faith in God. Corrie Ten Boom is truly an inspiration.
“Corrie ten Boom has long been honored by evangelical Christians as an exemplar of Christian faith in action. Arrested by the Nazis along with the rest of her family for hiding Jews in their Haarlem home during the Holocaust, she was imprisoned and eventually sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp along with her beloved sister, Betsie, who perished there just days before Corrie’s own release on December 31, 1944. Inspired by Betsie’s example of selfless love and forgiveness amid extreme cruelty and persecution, Corrie established a post-war home for other camp survivors trying to recover from the horrors they had escaped. She went on to travel widely as a missionary, preaching God’s forgiveness and the need for reconciliation. Corrie’s devout moral principles were tested when, by chance, she came face to face with one of her former tormentors in 1947. The following description of that experience is excerpted from her 1971 autobiography, The Hiding Place, written with the help of John and Elizabeth Sherrill.
It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavy-set man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. …
And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!
Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent. …
‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying. ‘I was a guard in there.’ No, he did not remember me.
‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, …’ his hand came out, … ‘will you forgive me?’
And I stood there — I whose sins had every day to be forgiven — and could not. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’
And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘Jesus, help me!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’
For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”
Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe when I hear about people who show that much compassion and love to their enemies or the ones that inflict the most pain. Corrie ten Boom’s act of forgiveness was nothing short of radical and it’s this sort of thing that makes me want to weep out of both sadness and joy- sadness for the fact that it’s hard to see past the people full of hatred and bitterness when I look around me, joy for the fact that this kind of love and mercy truly does exist.
Knowing that there are people in this world who can stand above hate despite the worst circumstances, gives me hope. I wish to be one of those people. If I was in Corrie ten Boom’s place at that very moment, stuck at a crossroads- one road leading to forgiveness, the other leading to harbored bitterness- I pray that I’d have the strength to choose the road less traveled by. I want to be able to prove to others that love truly does exist, just as Corrie proves to me.
What about you?
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice forour sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:9-12)
The book of Exodus is not just a story of the Israelites’ deliverance, though when read without really engaging, it may seem to be. The passover, referring to the protection of the Israelites from the plague on the firstborn, is parallel to Jesus. Stick with me here.
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” (Exodus 12:12-13)
The Israelites were told to smear the blood of a lamb over their doorway, giving them protection from the plague that would affect the unbelieving Egyptians. In the morning, all the Egyptian firstborns would be dead, but the Israelites would be spared by God. The plague “passed over” them, hence the name “passover” for the remembrance of this event in history.
When reading about blood from a lamb, you may just think about a literal lamb. But when you make the connection to Jesus, it’s so much more. Repeatedly in the Bible, Jesus is called the lamb:
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
“In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!'” (Revelations 5:12)
After really thinking about it, you can see how Exodus is like a sign of Jesus’ coming. Jesus is the passover lamb whose\
blood ultimately rescues us from God’s wrath. This is why the book of Exodus is so much more than just a story. The events that happen in Exodus are miracles all by themselves, but when paralleled to Jesus our Lord and Savior, it just makes them so much more miraculous as reminders of God’s faithfulness and ability to change hearts and lives. Just like the Israelites, we are led out of slavery into freedom. “You were made free from sin, and now you are slaves to goodness.” (Romans 6:18) And that is surely something to rejoice about!