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Knowing and believing that all of our sins (past, present, and future) have been completely forgiven through the blood of the Lamb is the doorway through which every child of God must walk before he can begin to truly understand the amazing grace of God. Trying to teach a Christian that he has a new identity in Christ, that the Holy Spirit now actually lives in him, and that his Heavenly Father loves and accepts him unconditionally will make little sense without him first believing that the sin issue between himself and God is over.
Perhaps no other aspect of our salvation in Christ has been so confusing, paralyzing, and even divisive within the body of Christ as the forgiveness of our sins. How tragic that one of the most glorious and foundational truths of the gospel has deteriorated into a perplexing doctrine that many Christians would prefer to argue was an incomplete work of our Savior rather than one that is actually "finished" (John 19:30).
Why the confusion on something so elementary and crucial to our salvation? Your enemy, the father of lies, does not want you to know and believe that you have been forgiven, once-and-for-all. Since he cannot alter your eternal destiny if you are in Christ, then he will do all he can to deceive you into thinking that your behavior is to be the primary focus of your life.
Some Christians seem to think that the key to experiencing the "abundant life" that Jesus promised is to "keep short accounts with God." Let’s wake-up, Church! The last thing that Satan wants is for you experience the freedom you now have in Christ (Gal. 5:1) through setting "your mind on the things above" where "your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:2-3).
You see, the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10) knows that if you believe the truth that your sins have actually been "removed" by God, "as far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12), you will begin to shift your attention off of yourself and onto your blessed Redeemer! The result? The supernatural, miraculous life of Christ will be expressed through you, bringing glory to God and producing the righteous behavior your new heart longs to display.
Many teachers today tell their listeners that the sinner can come to God just as they are and receive forgiveness of sins (salvation is much more than just getting forgiven). But just as quickly as the sinner responds to Christ by faith and is saved, they are told to make sure they keep all their sins confessed so they will stay forgiven! Huh?
But you are telling me that you will pay my entire past, present, and future debt as a gift if I will just receive it? Well, thank you! I accept! Gosh, I’m so excited I don’t know what to do next?! What’s that you say? I need to make sure I get all my future payments in on time or you will throw me in jail?!! But, I thought you said…
Let’s see, Mr. Banker. I’m 10 years behind on my mortgage and still have 20 years of payments to go.
It’s no wonder that the anxious questions from many of today’s Christians seem to have no end: "As a child of God, have I been completely forgiven through the shed blood of my Savior or not? Did He only forgive me for my past sins and now it’s up to me to keep myself forgiven? Don’t I need to continue to ask Him to forgive me? Isn’t it my ongoing, continual confession of my specific sins that makes me right with God? If I die today before asking, begging, pleading, confessing a certain sin to Him, am I on my way to hell? Didn’t Jesus himself teach that ‘if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions’ (Matt. 6:15)? Aren’t we all just ‘positionally’ forgiven? What if I miss a sin? Please, somebody tell me, am I forgiven or not?!!!!!!!"
There is only One "somebody" who can answer these questions. He is The Bible Answer Man…He is the Holy Spirit (John 16:13)! The Holy Spirit is the One who reveals truth to us through the written Word. We are dependent upon Him alone to show us from the Word "the things freely given to us by God" (1 Cor. 2:12). So let’s examine just a few of the precious gems in Scripture that speak to the topic of our forgiveness through Christ, relying upon the Spirit to show us what is true…
Have you placed your faith (depended upon) in the person of Christ as your only hope for salvation? If so, you can know that "everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins" (Acts 10:43). What have you received by trusting in Him? Forgiveness of sins! Is this reason to praise His name? You bet it is, but there is more…
If He has saved you, then "by His doing you are in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor. 1:30). Why is that important to know? Because, "in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses" (Eph. 1:7). Is our having forgiveness based upon our confessing, asking, pleading with God? No, we have forgiveness (now and forever!) "according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:7). His grace really is amazing!
But didn’t Jesus teach that we would only be forgiven if we made sure we forgave others (Matt. 6:14-15)? He sure did. At the perfect time in all of history, with the old covenant still in effect, "God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law" (Gal. 4:4-5). How was God going to redeem those who were under the Law? By coming down to earth Himself to show man and teach man that "by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight" (Rom. 3:20). Jesus’ teachings took the Law to a whole new level…impossibly unachievable! He took the Law past the realm of external performance to the realm of the heart to reveal the wickedness and hopelessness of all men. Why? So that they would come to Him for life (John 6:33; 8:24; 14:6)! Do you ever struggle with unforgiveness toward others? Then just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, friend, you need the Savior!
Through His once-and-for-all sacrifice on the Cross almost 2,000 years ago, we have been forgiven (Col. 3:13). Unlike the old covenant sacrifices, Jesus’ blood did not atone or cover our sins…He took them away (John 1:29; Heb. 9:26). There will not be a future payment (Heb. 10:12). He will not, and does not, get up on the Cross again and again to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world (Heb. 10:10, 18; 1 John 2:2). When He said, "It is finished," He meant it!
Consider the following. Like the Apostle John writing to a gathering of people in Ephesus toward the end of the first century, I am writing this brief teaching to not only the people on our mailing list, but anyone else who may read it here at the end of the 20th century. Do I know for certain that every person on our mailing list and all those who will read this teaching are saved? No, I don’t. Can you say for certain that everyone who gathers in your church building on Sunday mornings is saved? Was John 100% convinced and assured that all those who assembled in Ephesus were born-again? It is only God who knows the heart.
So let me ask all of you who read this teaching a couple of questions: "If we," any of us including myself, were to "say that we have no sin," and "that we have not (never) sinned," wouldn’t we be "deceiving ourselves," calling "Him a liar," and "the truth (John 14:6a)" and "His word is not in us" (1 John 1:8,10). After all, a prerequisite to salvation is admitting you are a sinner in need of the Savior! On the contrary, "if we," any of us including myself, "confess" (agree with God, acknowledge, say the same thing that God says about; see Rom. 3:23, John 8:24) "our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Has there ever been a moment in time when you realized your sinfulness and your need of Jesus Christ to save you? If so, having placed your faith in Christ and Him alone, you can be sure that He not only forgave you, cleansed you of all unrighteousness, and did away with the old you (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:6), but you can be just as certain that He has raised you up as an entirely new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) and "has given (you) eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son (that’s you!) has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life" (1 John 5:11-12).
So, are you forgiven or not? Saints, either He did it all or we’re up the creek. Look at the weight of Scripture and meditate upon the Word in light of the finished work of the Cross. Have you forgotten that the new covenant promise from our faithful Lord is that our "sins and (our) lawless deeds I will remember no more" (Heb. 10:17)? If He has chosen to remember them no more, why do we insist upon parading them before Him day after day? That may make you feel better, but are you walking by faith?
Have you ever considered the fact that since "whatever is not from faith (a.k.a. unbelief) is sin" (Rom. 14:23), that each time you ask God to forgive you or do anything to gain further forgiveness from Him, you are saying that you do not believe (a.k.a. sin) that His death on the Cross was sufficient? And what about all the moments in your past that you chose not to walk by faith (a.k.a. sin)? Have you enumerated each and every one of those acts of sin to the Lord? Are you getting a little overwhelmed? Do you see why Jesus had to do it a-l-l? Are you beginning to see that He "will not give (His) glory to another" (Is. 42:8)?
It’s time for the body of Christ to humbly, yet boldly, declare the truth of the complete forgiveness that is available through Jesus Christ. Choose to believe, no matter how you may feel, that you have been forever forgiven! Share the good news with others! Forgive others just as the Lord forgave you (Col. 3:13)! Make a choice to rest in the finality of the cross of Christ. Let us "give thanks to the Lord, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; make them remember that His name is exalted. Praise the Lord in song, for He has done excellent things" (Is. 12:4-5).
"I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name" (1 John 2:12)
NOTE: God’s forgiveness of us does not stand alone as a separate element of our salvation. In fact, it is an essential prerequisite to our having also been reconciled, redeemed, justified, and made righteous. Each time the word of God declares those who are in Christ have been reconciled, redeemed, justified, and made righteous, it is also declaring the believer to have been forgiven (Please note Rom. 3:24,28; 4:5,11,13,25; 5:1,9,10,11,16-19; 8:10,30,33; 9:30; 10:4,10; 1 Cor. 1:30; 6:11; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Gal. 2:21; 3:6,13; Phil. 3:9; Col. 1:20,22; 1 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:7; Heb. 9:12,15)
John Moneypenny, "Used by permission, Grace Walk Ministries, Atlanta, GA"