It is common this time of year to see statuses and posts about all of the things that people are thankful for. I love the sentiment: it is always appropriate to thank our God for the blessings and compassion He has given, which truly are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-24). Along the same lines, I would like for every Friday of this month to be dedicated to thanking God for a spiritual blessing He has given us. Today, I would like to focus on forgiveness.
I am a sinful person. While I try to walk in the steps of my Savior every single day, I'm not perfect. I struggle with complaining, being negative, being critical, judging others, and not doing the things that I should as much as I should (reading, praying, visiting the sick). I try with all of my might to serve my Lord the best that I can, but I fall short day after day. That is why I'm thankful for forgiveness. Along those same lines, I'm thankful that I live in the year 2012.
Hebrews 10:4 tells us that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins. Under the old covenant, people were reminded, year after year, of their sins. They were made to offer tedious sacrifices to God so that their sins could, in a sense, be rolled forward for another year. Then Jesus came. And now we don't need to offer animal sacrifices. We don't have to live in a state where our sins are constantly before us. Instead, since Jesus died once and for all (Heb. 10:10), we can have forgiveness of our sins in an instant. When we are baptized, all of our past sins (and we all have them--Rom. 3:23) are wiped away, and we start anew--clean and pure in His sight. After we have been baptized, we won't remain perfect. We'll sin--maybe even that very day that we are washed. But that is the beauty of Jesus' sacrifice for our sins. So long as we are trying to walk in the light, His blood will continually cleanse us from unrighteousness if we'll confess it to Him (1 John 1:9). Forgiveness is not available to me, however, if I continually, habitually walk in my sins and don't repent. Forgiveness is not available if I defy God's laws for my life and do things on my own terms. But if I am truly penitent, I will want to tell God that I'm sorry. I will feel guilt and shame for my sin, because I know that I am trampling underfoot the sacrifice Jesus offered on the cross (Heb. 10:28-30).
I know that I am unworthy of this forgiveness. I feel so terrible every single day when I have to ask God to forgive me for my thoughts and actions of that day. I feel so undeserving of the extreme sacrifice Jesus made in coming to earth and dying a cruel, painful, torturous death on the cross...for me. That's why I am so thankful for God's grace in extending forgiveness to me.
The beautiful thing about God's forgiveness is that it covers everything. In our limited, human perspective, we tend to categorize sins. We may think lusting is a small sin, where adultery is a big sin. To God, all sin separates us from Him, and therefore He hates all sin. Whatever sins you have in your live, past or present, can and will be forgiven by a loving and understanding God. If you are willing to repent (to own up to your sins and turn away from them as I recently heard it put by some high schoolers) and submit to God's terms, forgiveness is yours. And not just forgiveness as we sometimes call it--where we 'forgive' it but keep it right near the surface so that every little mistake someone makes we can throw back in their face. No, God forgives and wipes clean. He keeps no remembrance of our wrongs (Jer. 31:34).
I am thankful, every single day, for the forgiveness my God and Father grants me. Though I can empathize with Paul when he calls himself the chief of all sinners--still, Christ has washed me. Thanks be to God for His grace!
Forgiveness is a beautiful gift that we have been given through Jesus Christ. Come back tomorrow for a post on how we can access this wonderful blessing and so many more.