Do all the bad things you’ve done bother you? All the hurt and pain you’ve caused others through your thoughtless words and careless actions. Not to mention all the hidden sins that only you know about. It feels like you’re carrying the whole world on your shoulders.
Now close your eyes and imagine for a moment that God forgave you, for every single thing you’ve ever done. Wouldn’t that be an enormous weight off your mind? A fresh start! Wouldn’t that suddenly make life become a whole lot more attractive? It sounds too good to be true, but is that really the case? Maybe you’re sitting there and thinking: Can God really forgive my past?
God is not human
As human beings it doesn’t take much for us to become bitter. We readily bear grudges, are easily offended and we derive a subconscious satisfaction in clinging to things certain people have said or done towards us. With this kind of track record it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s almost impossible for us to comprehend God’s extraordinary capacity to forgive. Forgiving others seems like a world away, out of the question! That would be like pretending things never happened, letting people off the hook, scot-free!
“But they don’t deserve…” What was that? Stop right there for a minute and reflect on your past again. Are you really in a position to decide what other people deserve? Are any of us?
Both the Old and New Testaments spell out in black and white what it is that we, as sinners, really deserve. The Apostle Paul puts it this way: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die.” Romans 8:13. God is righteous and His Word stands forever. Things aren’t looking pretty—clearly we all deserve the death penalty.
Jesus Christ – a ransom for mankind
Yes, this is the end that would have awaited all of us; we would have died in our sins, if it weren’t for an incredible display of love by God Himself: “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6.
Jesus Christ gave Himself a ransom for mankind! He voluntarily came down to earth and paid what God required, in full. Jesus died an innocent man, just for you! He died for all of us, paying for our sins with His own precious blood and opening up a way back to God in the process. Paul describes the greatness of this sacrifice in Romans 5:7-8. “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The conditions of forgiveness
But it also says in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” This makes it clear that forgiving others is not just a favor or a request that God is asking us in return. It is a condition and without this condition we will not receive forgiveness.
The second condition is given in Acts 3:19: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out,” This repentance is a conversion. Turning from the old ways to the new. It is not simply a feeling of shame that you have sinned but a whole-hearted desire to never sin again!
These are vital points, and two key questions to ask yourself: How quick am I to forgive others? And have I really repented from my sins?
This should stir each one of us to a deep, lasting gratitude and fervent love for Jesus Christ, who paid this sacrifice for us. He took upon Himself flesh and blood, so He could be like those whom He came to save, and be able to help them. He wants people to live like He did; He wants them to overcome sin and glorify God in their bodies, just like He did. That is also the reason He wants to forgive our sins: after we are forgiven, we can start this new life and show our love and gratitude by following Him. We can be among those whom He is not ashamed to call His brethren. (Hebrews 2:9-18)
As you ponder this, recall the love Jesus had when He died for you—the just for the unjust—and never forget that you have been cleansed from your old sins. For where would any of us be if we had gotten what we truly deserved?
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.