Ever had those days where God is teaching you something… or rather… He HAS TAUGHT you something… and you get it (you think)… but He just keeps teaching it to you over and over again as if you had never heard Him in the first place?
This happened to me once before, years and years ago, when I was listening to some teaching on an audiotape about forgiveness… and the speaker said this phrase, this critically important phrase… and I GOT IT… I thought. But God just kept saying, “Nope, you missed it. Rewind. Play it again.” And He just kept on keeping me at this for 30 minutes, until finally it was like a dam burst in my soul and suddenly I really got it, all the way through me, and my life was never the same. I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to share this phrase with the rest of the world. The phrase, by the way, was…
“The power of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, the strength of His blood and forgiveness, was so complete and so perfect that it forgave all sin for all time, past, present, and future… and removed it from us, as far as the east is from the west… such that there is no further room in the life of the Believer for any ongoing sense of sin, guilt, or shame.”
And while my “head” and my “mouth” could have said this for years, I’d always secretly lived in the little “Perry Mason Heresy”… thinking that while I would, indeed, get to heaven because I belong(ed) to Him… I was still going to have to go through some ridiculous and shameful “courtroom scene” when I died, trying to justify or explain all the stupid things I’d ever done in this life. Somehow I had managed for years, even in ministry, to miss the significance and implications of “take away sins”, or “washed whiter than snow”, or “putting on the righteousness of Christ”.
I was free! Totally and utterly free! Free to respond fully and wholly to the magnitude of such love! O my… changed me forever.
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Well, that was a long time ago… and yet, here I am again, hearing the truth, knowing the truth, believing the truth, and yet hearing God say to me… “Nope, you missed it. Hear it again!”
Perhaps ye can help me, Gentle Readers, for I truly think I’ve “got this”. And yet… I am convicted that I’m missing its true significance.
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What am I missing, you ask? Glad you asked.
* hears echoes of ‘what then do I yet lack?’ *
It’s this truth…
God… forgives… FIRST!
I mean, it’s simple and obvious, isn’t it?
“God so loved the world that He gave…” (Jn 3:26)
or “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8 NASB)
Tol’ja it was simple, didn’t I? And yet… and yet… I’m not getting it, not fully, not yet.
I almost know where my problem is. It’s this little niggling hiccup… like a tickle in the throat. It’s this temptation to say, “Yes, but…” in recognition of our traditional thinking that says, “in order to be forgiven, we have to be sorry, we have to say so, we have to feel guilty, and we have to resolve never to do it again!” I mean, if we don’t do all those things, if we don’t beg God on our knees for His gracious forgiveness, trembling in fear… then it can’t really be God, can it?
I mean really, be honest, aren’t you cut from the same cloth? Isn’t there this little knee-jerk conditioned part of you that says, “Well, grace is all well and good, but after all… not even GOD can be THAT Good! I mean, we’ve at least got to feel bad and be sorry… even if we don’t need to totally BEG!”
I mean, really… we must have to do SOMETHING… haven’t we? I mean, we can’t be supposed to really just depend on GOD… HIMSELF… ALONE… to deal with our forgiveness and redemption, are we? He must need us for SOMETHING, doesn’t He?
Here’s the essence of my niggle and conscience.
I get it… I do… really… Grace. God Alone. God did it. God does it. His sovereignty. His authority.
And yet… and yet…
God says, “Nope, you’ve missed it. Go back over that again!”
And so I do.
And it is just so amazing, I guess I struggle to let my head wrap around it.
We get it so backwards. Like that WE have to start all this. WE have to conceive of a grace and love so big it encompasses the possibility of forgiveness and redemption. WE have to suggest it to God. WE have to persuade Him to this path. Like its all OUR idea rather than His.
How can I even START to think this way!?
But even now, God says…
And this singular image comes to my eyes. Jesus saying, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing…”
And I ask myself, “How many of THEM are sorry or seeking that forgiveness? So… Who does that forgiveness depend on, them? Or Him and HIs will alone?”
So… which came first… Contrition, or Forgiveness?
Is it possible, is it just possible, that perhaps it is God’s forgiveness, the grace that flows from and through that, that makes it possible for us to experience repentance and contrition?
Am I the only one who tends to think backwards?
So a work in progress, Gentle Reader. Keep me in your prayers!
Grace to you!