You Cannot Forgive More than God Has Forgiven You
The title of this post is extremely appropriate because it is absolutely true. You cannot out-forgive God. It is impossible, yet we are called to forgive as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).
About three months ago, God started taking me down this path to where I am today, essentially trying to get a better grip on the whole concept of forgiveness of my sin and fellowship with God. It all began the very day God began to show me how active and reprehensible my sin nature can be.
If you haven’t read that article – Today I was Reminded that I Have a Sin Nature – I would encourage you to do so because it is the starting point for how I’ve gotten here. I’m certain the Lord is not done yet either. In fact, there is no way He can be done with me as there is too much I have yet to realize about how much He has forgiven me and how much His forgiveness cost Him. Yet, according to Scripture, He was exceedingly glad to do it.
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2; KJV).
Jesus was filled with joy over the prospect of the cross for what it would achieve! Can you comprehend that? I know that I can’t. It is beyond my reach. Only God can reveal the depth of meaning to us.
What I’m learning – mentally for now – is that God’s love expressed itself in a way that offered forgiveness to humanity. This is what love does. It finds a way to forgive, to open and keep open the lines of fellowship.
This is the case even though people ruined His Creation through rebellion and ultimately, through sin. Satan was invited into this realm as overlord by our first parent’s sin. Once in he quickly began working to gain full control of the earth and everything in it. God allowed him to have control over many things. All this was done to allow Satan to bring his promises of Isaiah 14 to fruition. Satan did things by the book, by the law that God had set up. In order to overcome Satan and release people, the earth, and all of Creation from Satan’s grip, God would also have to work within the confines of His law to accomplish it.
God put His plan of redemption into motion that has succeeded in taking victory from Satan legally (Revelation 5) and handing back the title-deed of earth and Creation to God. God has done this because of one thing: love. It is because of His unfathomably infinite love that forgiveness has been extended to us at all. It is God’s character.
Satan has no capacity to forgive. It is not in him. Forgiveness is a constant reminder of God’s character. When God forgives, He does so because of who He is and when we forgive (as God forgives; from the heart, not the head), we are imitating God. I’m sure you can see why Satan would hate this since he has no ability to forgive and hates those who do. Satan has absolutely no capacity to forgive. He has no need for it and there is no room in him for it. It is anathema to him.
Being able to love as God loves (which is most clearly seen in extending forgiveness to others), is a sign that we were created in God’s image. Animals were not. Satan was not. The angels were not. When 1/3 of the angelic host fell by following Satan (Lucifer at the time), it is clear that they could not love as God loves even before their fall. In fact, even the angels who did not fall through disobedience but remained loyal to God, likely do not have the capacity to love as God loves (or even as we are empowered to love as God loves, when He loves in and through us). It may explain why Peter tells us they long to look into certain things (1 Peter 1:12). They cannot full comprehend love because that is not necessarily part of their make-up. Loyalty to God is though, which is why Paul calls them the “elect” angels, who likely did not have the ability to fall away from God (1 Timothy 5:21).
Loving others – even when we are wronged – is something we are supposed to do all the time. This is best evidenced in the form of forgiveness to them. It is easy to “love” people whom we like, isn’t it? It is easy to get along with people with whom we see eye-to-eye, isn’t it? But how about those people who push our buttons and rub us the wrong way? How about those gossips who attend our church and are constantly blabbing or badmouthing either us or someone else in the church? Are we supposed to love them? Yes, and that is best done through forgiveness. Of course, there comes a time when people like this are supposed to come under biblical discipline but the leaders charged with doing that are supposed to be mature leaders who mete out that discipline as tenderly as possible and without anger or haughtiness, or else they themselves may be taken captive by sin.
In general though, we are able to forgive only so far as we understand how much God has forgiven us. As I pointed out last time in Luke 7:47, Jesus pointed to the woman who loved a great deal because she had realized how much she had been forgiven. By the way, I want to be clear here that the woman cried as she anointed Jesus’ head and feet with the expensive perfume she brought to Him. I’m not trying to imply in any way, shape, or form, that she “forgave” Jesus as there was absolutely no need for her to forgive Him of anything.
The woman cried because she realized who Jesus was and because of His ability to forgive her, her heart broke when she realized how sinful her life had been. Imagine the burden that must have lifted from her soul when she realized that she had been forgiven earlier. While some commentators believe this stemmed from the same incident that portrayed a woman caught in adultery, it probably was not the same event (Matt. 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8). In any case, something had caused this women to understand that she was forgiven and when she realized just how much, it brought her to tears.
Imagine in those days, a woman like this coming to Jesus and actually touching Him! Yet, Jesus did not rebuke her or send her away. He understood exactly what she was doing and the gratitude she felt because of the forgiveness she now realized.
How much have you been forgiven? Do you see it? I must confess that I am not aware of just how much God has forgiven me in Christ. I have a suspicion that He will reveal much to me though, either by the dam breaking or through a gradual understanding of my own sin and His forgiveness.
I am realizing that there is no other way to authentically live the Christian life, if we do not grasp this tremendous truth. We need to come to the end of ourselves and to do that, we must at least begin to comprehend the depth of our sin.
I also want to be clear that I am not saying that we need to do this so that we can beat ourselves up over it, or that we might somehow strive to gain even a modicum of ego because of it. Satan would like nothing more than to turn the reality of our sin into something that strangles us under the guise of “holiness.” There is nothing holy about our sin. The only holiness comes from realizing that without God, we are dead in our sin. There is no life or good thing in us.
To separate us from ourselves, God will give us an increasing awareness of – not our sin itself to dwell on that – but on how much God has forgiven us our sin. If the focus is on our sin, we begin to focus in ourselves, though it may appear a “righteous” or “holy” thing to do. It’s not. The focus should be on the efficacy of God’s provision for our sin, made possible through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This is seen in complete forgiveness for all our sin, past, present, and future, which allows God to legally label us righteous.
The focus should always be on how much God has forgiven and how great His love for us is and has been. There is the juxtaposition. While we see the terrible nature of our sin, it is completely overshadowed by the greatness of God’s love and the resultant forgiveness that is extended to us.
I believe that as God reveals the level of our sin, He will always do so compared to the greatness of His forgiveness. Without that, we are left to wallow in simply feeling awful about ourselves, which can easily and quickly turn into self-pity. God doesn’t want that. He wants our praise, our love, our dedication. He also wants us to see the level of forgiveness that is constantly extended to us and extend that to others. You cannot do that if you are simply focusing on how terrible you are as that does not honor God because if you are a Christian, our sin is gone. He considers it no longer as anything judicial. The only time He wants us to consider it is in comparison to how great His love toward us is now.
This is what brought the woman to tears. She was filled with unspeakable joy as well as a certain level of discomfiture for knowing that she had been living a life that caused God to need to forgive her in the first place. She was understanding what it was like to forgive others because she understood what it was to be forgiven.
This is what all Christians need. Do you want fellowship with God? If you do, you will need to understand just how much your sin cost God. I have to realize the same thing. Friends, we cannot create that knowledge or feeling within ourselves. If you are serious about wanting fellowship with God, it is something He will show you about yourself. You will then see firsthand your sin compared with His love and forgiveness. It will be different for each Christian, but the results should be the same. We should then begin to truly know what love is all about. We will see that there is no love without forgiveness.
Isn’t that true of any close relationship? The more you get to know your spouse for instance, the more you will also get to know yourself.
If you are not forgiving people today, right now, you are not in fellowship with God (1 John 4). That is the simple, devastating truth. If you so desperately want fellowship with God, then you must prepare yourself to see the truth of your sin as it compares to the overpowering greatness of God’s love. It can be no other way.
Entry filed under: christianity, eternity, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: 1 john 4, Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13, forgiveness, hebrews 12:2, luke 7:47, sin nature.