Yesterday I began a series touching on principles I have gleaned from Scripture over time that inform my overall view of things. As I said then, some of these are overtly put before us in the Bible, and others are gathered up from surveying the broader scope of the Word. But they stand as landmarks in my own thinking, and may prove to be beneficial to you as well.
I should add here that in some cases, the ideas discussed may be a bit controversial or will goad us into thinking more deeply about areas we may have previously viewed in a more surface manner. All along, what I am hoping for things that will be joggin’ the noggin.
Today, I would like to note as Principle #2 that: Forgiveness of sins is personal – even with God, while
First, we need to remember that God does not simply sweep sin under the carpet. Forgiveness language in the Bible often employs financial images to help us understand that in all forgiveness the one doing the forgiving, willingly takes a loss and does not seek restitution. Forgiveness costs something. It is free to the forgiven, but costly to the forgiver. In the case of God providing an atonement for our sin, He absorbed the losses of the honor we were due to pay Him, the obedience and the duty to reflect His holy image. More, in Christ’s death at Calvary, He even took on the punishment due us for those sins. This is the breathtaking wonder of the Cross. In Christ, God didn’t just say “I won’t punish the guilty” – but instead, punished the innocent One, that the guilty might be truly free!
Now all of this must touch on two different spheres. In human justice, people are punished for breaking the law, their offenses are against the state – it isn’t personal. But in God’s case, His holiness IS the law. When we sin, we do not sin against a code, impersonally – we sin against Him – very personally. He fully encompasses both the “judicial” and the personal in Himself. And as such, we continue to relate to Him in both ways. We relate to Him as the eternal Judge (Gen. 18:25) and, as the eternal Father. And this is where the rub comes for some – where a bit of confusion can arise.
Some, have confounded these two aspects in God, and as such have thought that because they are “justified” – judicially declared righteous by God through faith (Rom. 3:26, 30; 4:5; Gal. 2:16 etc.) – that they then no longer need to confess sin to Him and seek ongoing forgiveness. When in fact, the judicial act which has bestowed the righteousness of Christ upon us freely, does not remove the reality that our ongoing sins are still personal offenses which must be addressed if we are to retain a close, intimate relationship with Him.
This idea is brought home to us in the Teaching of Jesus as He gave us what is called “The Lord’s Prayer.” In it, while teaching His disciples to pray (and no doubt us by extension) He instructs us to pray “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Why? Aren’t we already justified? Isn’t Christ already our righteousness? Are we in right relationship with Him or not? And of course, all of that is true. But what is ALSO true, is that our relationship with and to Him is not ONLY judicial, it is personal. And in that respect, personal closeness requires dealing with sins against Him regularly, constantly, so as to preserve the sweetness of intimacy that belongs to a close personal relationship wherein offenses are always dealt with and the air always clear.
We are justified only once. But we seek and obtain forgiveness continually.