How Thorough is God's Forgiveness?
Why is it so difficult for believers to believe the extensiveness of God's forgiveness? Is it because of a inadequate understanding that His grace and love is thorough through and through, or a refusal to trust that He has made us His perfectly righteous children in His Son?
Is it because we do not think of ourselves as forgiven of our present sinning in that His forgiveness applied only to our past sins and in an effort to conceal our present sinning we prefer the facade of pretending to be good decent people by pretending we do not sin. But the fact is saints sin! Our pretense of being so good that we do not sin may make us look good in the eyes of the religious hierarchy and be accepted as good enough to join the sect of our choice but, it is not pleasing to God!
It seems that after behaving good for a day or two, we begin to feel like we are a pretty good person and we begin to feel self-righteousness setting in and we are deemed to be "good christians" by whatever institutional group we are a member of. But conversely, if our natural fleshly self gets loose for few minutes and we perform less than the standard that is set by our religious affiliation we feel depressed, disappointed and frustrated that we are not looking good in the eyes of the religious hierarchical elite.
Given what we are, fallible human beings that are subject to sinning from time to time because to "err is human", why do we worry about how we are viewed by self-righteous people. Our concern in our sinning should be about our failure to honor God in choosing to follow paths of our own making, not to look impeccable to ourselves or to religious observers. If it were, then we would be free to see more clearly that in spite of our sin, we can rest in the atonement of Christ, for not only our past our sins are forgiven in him, our present are as well. The reason we need a Redeemer is because we need redeeming. The gospel declares that God has indeed redeemed us through Christ. In fact, Christ died for us ungodly people while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).
Now, I plead with you not to put on the self-righteous righteousness that we "were" sinners, but now we are not sinners because we are believers. Drop the rhetorical facade. If we sin...we are sinners...and believers sin! We are sinners. We do still sin after conversion. Every believer who ever lived continues to sin after conversion. That doesn’t make sin OK. It doesn’t condone sin. It is simply a fact, and one we would all do well to just admit and quit pretending that if we try hard enough we will become sinless.
There is one way, of course, in which we are not sinners. As believers we are in Christ, and as such we are not sinners in the sense that God does not count our sins against us (Romans 4:8). In other words, when we do not pretend that we are not sinners, but instead put our trust in Jesus Christ who saves sinners, God does not count our sins against us because He sees us through Christ His Son.
So what are we do about sin? We must trust God to forgive our sins. We must trust Him! He is our only hope. We are sinners, and unless God forgives our sins, we come under the condemnation all sinners deserve. We are not going to stop being sinners. I’m sure you have tried, like I have, and discovered that despite occasional bouts of improvement, sin is still alive and at work in our living life. But God says that if we trust Him He will take care of our sins and He will count us righteous in Christ who, for our sakes, became the perfect human.
The Bible is not a rulebook for a new and improved religion. It is the written word about God, it is God’s chosen revelation of Himself to us viewed thorough Jesus the revealer of God, declaring to us that in Jesus Christ He has dealt with the sins of the world so that whoever trusts Him will be redeemed. That is good news. It is the gospel. It is not religion. Don’t be afraid of it.
We are overcomers in Christ alone; when it comes to godly overcoming, there is no other way to be an overcomer.
When we trust Christ to be our righteousness, our behavior will be set by the Holy Spirit and we are on the road to improvement, regardless of whether you constantly set "overcoming goals" for yourself. But if you try to improve your behavior without trusting Christ to be your only righteousness, you may or may not be successful, and whether or not you are won’t mean a hill of beans of difference in terms of your standing with God.
In other words, salvation is not based on what you do; it is based on what God has already done. When you trust God, we are in Christ, and when we are in Christ, God does not count our sins against us. If we do not trust God, we are still in our sins, no matter how many sinner's prayers we may repeat, because we are not in Christ.
A truth nugget on this relational journey with God to be aware of is: don’t make "doing better" your main goal in you spiritual life. If you do, you’ll always be frustrated, disappointed in yourself and miserable, not to mention a judgmental and condemning prig. Will-powering yourself into a better you is a no-win life goal. Will-power goodness is the root of religion; it has no place in the gospel.
Instead, make your main goal in life knowing and trusting in the Lord your God for absolutely everything, including your behaviour. When you do that, your preoccupation with yourself and how good you are will fade, and your eyes will begin to open to the righteousness of God and the joy and peace of His kingdom. The Holy Spirit will reorder your priorities, and the pain your sins naturally cause in your life will more readily point you to God's grace for mercy and help to overcome.
Work on yourself and make every effort to change for the better...but not because you think it will make you less a sinner and get you in a better standing with God. Take overcoming sin seriously. Do it because God wants you to, because Jesus Christ gave you a new life, because it is right, because everybody who loves you wants you to, and because it will make your life much more blessed, rewarding, peaceful and pleasant. But don’t do it because you think that’s how you will gain entrance and maintain your staying into the kingdom of God. It isn’t.
Regardless of how much we improve and we need a lot of improvement, we are still sinners, and the only hope of salvation we've got is the mercy of God. Trust him, not your good life, when it comes to salvation. When it comes to salvation, trust the word of God that in Christ it is a faith accomplishment; when it comes to behaviour, trust yourself to the supervision of the Holy Spirit and put your heart into overcoming.
Don’t think that good behaviour results in salvation; but know that salvation results in good behaviour. But don’t let that make you think that poor behaviour equals unsaved and good behavior equals saved. It simply does not work that way; don’t forget that we all still sin. Sin involves not merely acts but attitudes, and God knows even the deepest secrets of our hearts.
Rest in this: God loves you; He has proven it in Christ, and He will make you into what He wants you to be. You can trust Him to do it. Get to know Him. Spend time with Him. Put your confidence in Him. Make Him the priority in your life, and you will begin to find His love influencing the way you live in the world and the way you interact with other people.
Whether we experience hardship or ease, prosperity or poverty, bad times or good times (and believers experience them all), our ability to cope with what comes our way will depend on our trust in God. But all the while, because we are in Christ, our salvation is not in question. We are saved by God’s grace through faith, and even our faith is God’s gracious gift to us.
Remember, the gospel is good news. It is "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). Therefore, as Hebrews 10:23 encourages us, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."