Monday, December 15, 2014

God’s Forgiveness

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Note: Brethren, please don’t take offense when I use some of my own or other people’s experiences when presenting the Lord’s messages. The Lord taught us that the best way of getting the message across is to demonstrate, through our experiences, our wrong conduct and how through our failures we applied His Word and received correction. I honestly don’t seek to promote myself or any other person, but to make our message simple, personal and applicable. Our aim is therefore not to be "theological" in our message, but to identify ourselves as sinners who apply the Word of God by faith to experience His truth, love and forgiveness.

Forgiveness Involves Confessing Our Sins to God

When I was about 10 years old or younger, I heard from my elder sisters and other children that walking in the rain would wash my sins away, and that if I died I would go to Heaven. Being at that tender age, I also heard from elderly people that swearing, stealing, lying and fighting, which are common sins in this age group, were sinful. As a boy, I was always conscious about the wrong things I did and how to overcome feelings of guilt.

Now with respect, I saw how some Catholic people made the "sign of the cross" and I thought this was a way of prayer and asking for God’s protection and favor. After observing that and having gone to some Catholic church services, I started doing the same, hoping that by so doing it might grant me protection and favor with others. You may laugh! But I had my successes in this practice, and I also had my misfortunes. My participating in that religious practice as a boy was based on ignorance and lack of true faith, thinking that I could earn God’s favor and forgiveness simply by making the sign of the cross sign and saying a three-sentence prayer line.

Furthermore, since this was really all I knew about "being right with God", I grew up doing this and believing that was the way of salvation. I honestly and ignorantly thought I was right and that I was not going to share my "secret" with anyone, despite the many challenges I experienced, including a suicide attempt to get my Aunt Lily’s (see Salvation Received on Deathbed article) attention; this resulted in me getting a very good spanking for my egocentric efforts.

As it is, I parted ways with my practice in February 1990, when I started reading the Bible for myself and thereafter made a commitment to Christ. Without repeating my testimony, I read in Romans 10:9-10 on how to make a confession of faith and forgiveness, accepting Christ as Savior (1 John 1:9). This experience was very real as peace from the Lord Jesus Christ filled my conscience, leaving me guilt-free. This is when I really knew I was saved. Like we said previously, the born again experience is by faith and the accompanied joy from the Lord is only known by the person being saved. The unbelieving, doubters, skeptics, agnostics and atheists must first experience by faith this joy before slandering our Christian experiences as illusions and wild imaginations.

How Do We Ensure God’s Eternal Forgiveness?

In the Old Testament, the Lord required animals to be offered for the people’s sins, and once a year God commanded Aaron to take two (2) goats from the people to atone for their sins; one (1) to be killed as a sin offering and the other one (1) for Aaron to lay his hands on and confess all the sins of the people of Israel to God. The goat (or "scapegoat") carried all their sins on itself to a place where there were no people (Leviticus 16:15, 20-22). But under the new covenant, Christ took all our sins upon Himself through His death, resurrection and shedding of blood (Isaiah 53:5-6, 12). As the Bible says: "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Since Christ died and rose again for our sins, we are required to humbly confess and repent of our sins. There is no blessing for those who hide sin, but there is mercy for those who confess and renounce their sins (Proverbs 28:13; Psalm 103:12).

After experiencing God’s forgiveness of our sins, we have a duty as Christians to obey and walk in the new life (Colossians 3:5-10; Ephesians 4:17-32). Our acceptance of the Lord was an acknowledgment that we are guilty before Him through the condemnation of our conscience accusing us of sin (Romans 2:15). Therefore having confessed, we promised or vowed to God that we will no longer do the wrongs we did before with an attitude of willful disobedience (Psalm 19:13). If we confess, the Lord does grant us forgiveness; if we ask, He forgives without reservations. I am going to share some experiences some of us had in this ministry as a way of demonstrating that our willful sinning hurts the Lord and arouses His wrath (Isaiah 63:10). The Lord God of Israel has not changed; He has only changed the requirements of receiving salvation (Romans 11:28-32; Hebrews 8:13; 9:11-12).

I therefore share some of my moments of disobedience and the Lord’s reaction. One evening I had an incident involving one of my daughters, and this led me to say things that I was not permitted to, and what I said clearly hurt everybody in the family. This particular incident also hurt the Lord and for my effort I received a stunning rebuke from Him that left me licking my emotional pains for weeks, feeling ashamed of my conduct. As it is, what the Lord told me was embarrassing, and I felt that He was angry with me for what I had done. That night was the most unfortunate in my life as a Christian and I felt the anger of the Lord with great fear and trembling. Even though the Lord had been speaking to us more than 2 years then, I felt that I was all alone and that God was against me. The moment following my outbursts I was conscious-stricken like David when he had the Israelite army counted (2 Samuel 24); I felt ashamed even to the point of not knowing how to ask the Lord for forgiveness. Through a strong conviction by the Holy Spirit I summoned courage and I went to bed that night praying and asking the Lord to forgive me. I knew that He might bring me a message, and He did. Being a gracious and forgiving God (Psalm 86:5), He accepted my repentance prayer and forgave me. This was evident in the subsequent message of rebuke that He gave me. Although the rebuke itself was strong and filled me with fear for God, I could also sense His love for me. He removed the guilt that tormented me (1 Chronicles 21:8) and what remained was just the embarrassment and a great lesson learnt. This was good for me as it served as a warning and humbling experience.

In another incident, we have a very dear sister in this ministry who is in the habit of covering up her children’s mistakes, giving other children the blame and not acknowledging the mistakes of her own children. I can tell you, the Lord is very displeased with parents who "seal up" or "cover up" their children’s wrongs and do not correct them on how to treat and live with others. That is a very dangerous position of parenting, including overlooking our children’s mistakes and siding with them when they’re wrong. This is like saying to them when they are wrong: "what you are doing is right and I am at your side to defend and protect you." The Lord handed this sister a strong rebuke which led her to tears of humility as she confessed her wrongs to the Lord. Although the rebuke came with a promise of punishment, after seeing how she humbled herself the Lord relented His anger and forgave her (1 Kings 21:29) saying that the vision was only a warning.

These above two examples are not they only ones we have experienced in this ministry. Other brethren elsewhere had their moments of sharp rebukes from the Lord.  However, when they would show a humble and obedient attitude, the Lord would graciously wipe the tears of the rebuke away and give some heart-warming encouragement to express His approval and forgiveness.

There are also many instances throughout the Bible where God displays His forgiveness and compassion. For example, God had intended to destroy the city of Nineveh within 40 days. After giving them a warning through Jonah, they believed Him and humbly repented of their sins (Jonah 3:3-9). When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened (Jonah 3:10). God's mercy is indeed great and beyond our understanding. Manasseh was one of the most wicked kings that Israel ever had and the Bible details his many sins:
From  twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. He did evil in the sight of the Lord... rebuilt the high places... raised up altars for the Baals, and made wooden images; and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them... he caused his sons to pass through the fire...; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger. He even set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God. Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel" (2 Chronicles 33:1-9).
Furthermore, the Bible says that "The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen, "therefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon." (2 Chronicles 33:10-11).  In this deplorable and helpless state, deeply afflicted, Manasseh sought God's grace and forgiveness: "... he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty (prayer request), heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God" (2 Chronicles 33:12-13). After Manasseh repented, he (Manasseh) forsook his wicked ways and began reversing all the wicked and detestable things he had done before (2 Chronicles 33:14-17). If the Lord God loved, forgave and restored this king who had committed such gross wickedness, how much more is He willing to forgive you for your sins if you likewise confess and repent? "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). 

In concluding, the Lord is not pleased when we take advantage of His forgiving nature and keep sinning willful. Also, willful sin results in habitual sin, and such behavior becomes addictive and sadly this drives the Lord away from us. As I have come to know Him, when we turn back to Him in submission and obedience, He will forgive us and keep us from falling from His grace (1 John 1:9; Ezekiel 18:21-24). Before closing, I would like to confess and testify that while the Lord is a forgiving and loving God, He cannot be fooled by people who try to manipulate Him into action to deliver a blessing. Instead such provocative behavior earns punishment. We must confess our wrongs and remain faithfully obedient; only then do we secure salvation (Matthew 24:13; 25:1-10). Let us honor the Lord and value His forgiveness.
Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases (Psalm 103:1-3).
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy (Micah 7:18).
Are you missing out on God's favor and forgiveness by hardening your heart and failing to humbly confess and repent of your sins (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34; Psalm 51:17)? Are you weighed down and imprisoned with the guilt of unconfessed sin? If you would like to receive in God's forgiveness and be set free from the guilt of sin, please begin by with a Prayer of Sincere Repentance. For any questions or comments on this article or our ministry, please contact us.

Blessed regards in peace in Christ,
Brother Glenn.