"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Forgiveness (Page 1 of 2)

The Greater Scandal

A Pharisee invited Jesus for dinner (Luke 7:36-50). Somehow a woman of notorious reputation entered uninvited. She brought her tears and a flask of perfume. Kneeling at Jesus’ feet her tears fell upon them. She unlatched her hair and used it to wipe the teardrops from His unwashed feet. She kissed Jesus’ feet several times. Then she sacrificed what was probably her most valuable earthly possession by pouring the perfume over Jesus’ feet. (listen to this post here)

The host was scandalized. He sat silent, but inwardly he thought, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

Jesus knew what was going on inside Simon’s heart … and the woman’s.

So he said, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

Jesus told a story of two men who owed a moneylender. One owed him over one-and-a-half years’ worth of wages; the other about two months’ worth. The moneylender canceled both debts.

“Which of them will love him more?” Jesus asked.

“The one, I suppose, for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

“You have judged rightly” Jesus said.

But then another scandal took place. Luke sets it up, telling us, “Then turning toward the woman [Jesus] said to Simon …” (44a)

Simon has already judged four people. He judged the woman, Jesus, and the two debtors in Jesus’ story. He had “judged” the two debtors correctly, but failed miserably on the other two.

Picture the scene! Jesus rose from His position at the table, facing the woman but continuing to address Simon. Jesus looked the woman straight in the eye while He spoke to the judge who condemned her.

Jesus rebuked the Pharisee for failing to welcome Him by washing His feet and praised the woman for doing what he had not. Jesus said to Simon as he looked the woman in the eyes: “I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Then Jesus, maintaining His physical posture and eyesight toward the woman, spoke directly to her in the presence of her judge, “Your sins are forgiven … Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

If you are more like the woman than the Pharisee, you need to know that Jesus is doing this very thing on your behalf right now. We are told that Satan accuses Christ’s people night and day before the throne of God (Rev. 12:10). But the Bible also teaches us that Jesus is there at the throne of God interceding for us, alive forever to contradict all our accusers condemning judgements against us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 9:24)!

Thank you, Jesus, for dying and rising to forgive me my sins. Thank you for living forever to contradict every accusation that rises up against me. You have forgiven me so, so much. Enable me to love you supremely. Amen.

Forgiveness Prayer

I recently wrote the following prayer for a professing believer who, despite much study, Scripture memorization and overall maturity in the faith, still struggles emotionally with whether his own sins are actually forgiven by God. He has a clear testimony of faith, is well studied in the theology, is not walking in willful sin. But he struggles. So I wrote this prayer and challenged him to begin each day by standing up, planting his feet and praying this prayer slowly, thoughtfully aloud to God. I offer it in case it may be helpful to you as well.

Heavenly Father, I confess that I struggle to believe you have forgiven me of my sins. Please help me in this.

In view of this struggle, I confess to you all my sins—known and unknown. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24).

Father, I ask you to cleanse me from hidden failures and sins—known not to me, but certainly known by you. Keep me from presumptuous sins; do not let them rule over me (Psalm 19:13-14).

I affirm by faith that, having confessed my sins, you forgive me all of them and that you cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

I affirm by faith that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all my sin. I choose now to consciously rest in the declaration of your forgiveness. I rest in the righteousness of Christ provided to me by your decree of justification. I affirm that you have chosen to gift me with the standing of Jesus’ own righteousness and that you now view me not as a sinner, but as your child and son—loved, adopted, embraced, affirmed, made to stand in the grace you have provided to me through Jesus Christ.

By faith I stand against Satan, the accuser of the children of God, and all his demons and forces. I stand against their lies and intimidations. I bring the blood of Christ against them and declare their accusations invalid and powerless.

Lord, I declare that you have cast my sins behind your back (Isa. 38:17).

I declare that you have blotted out all my sins (Isa. 43:25).

I declare that you have chosen not to remember my sins against me ever again (Jer. 31:34).

I declare that you have tread my iniquities under your feet (Micah 7:19).

I declare that you have cast my sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).

I declare that you have clothed me in robes of righteousness (Isa. 61:10; Rev. 21:14).

I declare, Lord, that you have cleansed me from all sin.

I declare that you have forgiven me all my sins.

I declare that there is no condemnation for me as I stand in faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:1).

I declare, Lord, that you have removed my sins from me as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

I declare that you have pardoned me from all my sin and its judgment (Jer. 50:20).

I declare that you have reconciled me to yourself and I am loved, embraced, cherished, protected and kept by you.

I declare that you have sealed me to the day of redemption by your Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30).

I declare that you have canceled the record of my sin debt, having set it aside by nailing it to Jesus’ cross (Col. 2:14).

I declare that you have taken upon yourself, Lord Jesus, the shame of my sin and replaced it with the favor and honor of salvation as a child of God (Heb. 12:2).

I declare that far from being shut out from your salvation, O God, you have made me an heir and a co-heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17).

I affirm that “you … God [are] ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and [have] not forsake[n me] (Neh. 9:17).

I rest in your redeeming, saving, accepting, blessing, enfolding, inclusive love, O God! Convince me in the deepest parts of who I am of your love for me.

By your Spirit, O God, witness to my spirit, that I am a child of God (Rom. 8:16). Fill me with your Holy Spirit and release Him to spread abroad in my heart your great love, O Lord (Rom. 5:5).

In the Name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Plucked from the Fire


On August 31, 1894 a firestorm swept across the woodlands of northeast Minnesota, swallowing the thriving town of Hinckley and several other smaller burgs as it cut a swath thirty miles wide as it plunged northeastward. As the inferno hit Hinckley temperatures soared to as high as 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit and the wall of flame soared up to one hundred fifty feet high. The heat vortex may have ascended as much as 30,000 feet into the sky. Under the intense heat steel wheels on train cars and the tracks upon which they once ran melted and ran into pools like water seeking its lowest level. Hundreds of lives were consumed by the flames as people frantically tried to outpace the driving firestorm.

Daniel James Brown in his account of the tragedy in Under a Flaming Sky recounts the story of one particularly fortunate group of the endangered from the tiny village of Partridge.

“A few of the villagers commandeered handcars and stated pumping their way up the tracks; others simply ran along the rails behind them. The largest group, though, remaining remarkably clearheaded, set out on a road toward a logging camp where a hundred acres had previously been burned over by another fire. It was three miles away—a long haul—and there was no chance to pause or rest, as a survivor later remembered: ‘All the time the fire was right behind us. The smoke had gathered again and thickened into a grayish-black mass which rolled forward at an incredible speed with a deafening roar, whining and rumbling. We had barely reached our place of refuge when the great wall of smoke behind us split, or rather was flung asunder, and a blood-red flame of fire shot out like a flash of lighting. In a moment, every particle of smoke had disappeared and in its place we saw a sea of fire as far as the eye could scan.’” (p.122)

Jesus echoed the prophets before Him in promising a judgment by fire. On the last day He separate the peoples and “will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matt. 25:41).

Indeed, the end of the Book tells us all, “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).

But there is hope, for Jesus bore the judgment of God against our sins in His own body on the cross. In those moments the fires of God’s holy wrath swept over Jesus who stood in our place, His death accounted as ours that we might be free.

This act in which Jesus satisfied the just wrath of God against us is called “propitiation.”

  • “Therefore [Jesus] had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17).
  • Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
  • “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10)
  • “God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:25a).

Jesus is the only safe ground from the coming wrath of God. When we flee in faith to Him we find ground where the fiery wrath of God has already burned over and where the fires of judgment will never again be visited. Flee to Jesus and be saved!

A Single Cross on a Single Day


“… through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20).

Paul has in view reconciliation not merely on a personal, but a cosmic level (τὰ πάντα, “all things”). The same expression was used three times in verses 16 and 17 to depict, as it does here, “the whole of creation” (BAGD, 633). The totality of created reality is in view. Something happened upon that cross on that Friday that was reality-altering for everything, everyone, everywhere, for all time.

There the Father moved to reconcile “to Himself” (εἰς αὐτόν) an entire creation that had been hurled into opposition against him. “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but … in hope” (Romans 8:20). The realization of that hope was purchased on the cross. For it was there that God the Father “made peace” (εἰρηνοποιήσας) by bringing wrath—not upon our rebellious race and the creation we’ve taken with us into chaos, but by bringing His wrath upon His own Son whom He appointed to stand in our place. The peace-making tells us how the reconciliation was effected. Through our autonomy we made war on God, through His obedience Jesus made peace for us with God.

The means or instrument (διὰ) employed by the Father (at His good pleasure, v.19) to make that peace was “the blood of His cross” (τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ σταυροῦ αὐτου). The blood of Christ effected propitiation (Romans 3:25), justification (Romans 5:9), redemption, the forgiveness of our trespasses (Ephesians 1:7), and, as here, reconciliation (Ephesians 2:13). It is the ground of all the blessings of the new covenant the Father extends to us in Christ (1 Corinthians 11:25).

When Paul speaks of Christ’s blood he is using a figure of speech known as metalepsis. Thus, in the first place, “blood” stands for blood-shedding (i.e., the death of Christ). Then, secondly, Christ’s death stands for the full and complete satisfaction which is made by it and for all the merits of the atonement which is brought about by it. Thus, says Bullinger, to speak of the blood of Christ “means not merely the actual blood corpuscles, neither does it mean His death as an act, but the merits of the atonement effected by it and associated with it” (610). The blood is called “of His cross” (τοῦ σταυροῦ αὐτου) because, of course, it was upon the cross where Jesus gave up His life in death to effect the singular event that would change all things forever.

Everything, everywhere, for everyone, for all time – “… this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” on that single cross on that single day so long ago (Hebrews 7:27).

Unintended Consequences


David sinned. In this he was like us. David sinned in many ways and at many times. In this too he was like us.

Normally, David was quick to acknowledge is sin and to turn from it (e.g., Psalm 19:12; 139:23-24). We think of his surreptitious theft of the corner of Saul’s robe (1 Sam. 24). He had no more than snipped it than his conscience was stricken (v.5). This seems to be David’s pattern: sin—confess … and quickly. This too should be our pattern (1 John 1:9).

Yet when it came to his badly timed stroll on the roof (2 Sam. 11:2), David was not so quick in the acknowledgement of his sin. He hadn’t gone with the army when perhaps he should have (v.1). He went outside for a breath of fresh air. He saw Bathsheba in her backyard bath. He let his eyes linger, his heart ponder, and his imagination have her. And he sent for her. He had her—this time not simply in his imagination. She became pregnant. He tried to cover up. Her husband was too noble. David had him killed. Quick wedding. Child is born.

Hush. Hush. Hush.

It was perhaps a year after his rendezvous with the wife of one of his greatest fighters (compare 1 Sam. 11:3 and 23:39) that God sent in His prophet, Nathan: “You are the man!” (2 Sam. 12:7a). Now, finally, David was quick and succinct in his confession: “I have sinned against the LORD.” (v.13). Just as quickly the prophet delivered God’s word of pardon … but revealed that He would not remove all the consequences of his sin: “The LORD has put away your sin; you shall not die … the child who is born to you shall die” (v.14).

Note that: “you shall not die … the child … shall die.”

“The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Every time. Without exception.

Someone (or something) always has to die when sin strides on stage. There can be forgiveness and mercy, but there must always be justice.

In the case of David’s sin two of his children would die. Most immediately, the child of adultery died (2 Sam. 12:15-18). His brief life and sudden death testify that, while God is lavishly gracious and quick to forgive, He does not thus necessarily cancel all the consequences of our sin.

A second son of David would also die as a direct result of David’s sin. Over a dozen times in the Gospels Jesus Christ is called “the son of David.” The New Testament’s opening words witness to the fact: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David …” (Matthew 1:1a).

David’s first son died as a consequence of his sin. His second son died as atonement for his sin—and, thankfully, not only for David’s, but ours as well.

The brother of that first son would later write, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Prov. 28:13). One wonders just how much family history and personal emotion is tied up in Solomon’s proverb. We are wise to heed what he says. We do well to cry, as did the blind men along the road, “Have mercy on us, Son of David” (Matt. 9:27). When we do, Jesus is glad to say, “According to your faith be it done to you” (v.29b).

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