WILL GOD FORGIVE?
By Larry White
The foremost blessing that we Christians enjoy when we come to Christ is the forgiveness of our sins. God just wipes the slate clean and we start our lives all over again. We enjoy the sweet comfort of knowing that God has nothing against us and we have the clean and pure conscience that we have nothing against ourselves.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints that are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm in Christ: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved: in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and understanding,
But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were beseeching by us: we beg you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God. He who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
But there are some Christians who do not enjoy these blessings - not that they do not have them to enjoy, but because they have had problems in their lives in overcoming recurrent sins or have had a particularly bad failure in the past from which they think that God just could not forgive them, or forgive them yet another time for the same sin.
What happens when the Child of God sins? What happens when your own child does something you told them was wrong or harmful? First it grieves you. Then you chastise them until they repent, and then you forgive them. It is the same with God: he is our father...
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
But there are Christians who get into situations where they think God will not forgive them, even though they have repented and confessed their sin a number of times. Is it a lack of faith? It is not that simple. For two reasons: and these reasons are related and feed on each other.
1.) Erroneous teaching that favors a legal, cut and dry view of God's grace.
For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries. A man that has set at nought Moses law dies without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, think you, shall he be judged worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
For we know him that said,
"Vengeance belongs unto me, I will recompense."
"The Lord shall judge his people."
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
This will scare the daylights out of one who thinks that God will not forgive them. It sounds that way.
But not in context.
To whom was Hebrews written?
Why was it written?
Review the word "sacrifice" throughout Heb.10
What he is saying is, that if a man rejects the sacrifice of Jesus, there is not going to be another one. He is talking about a man who leaves the church and goes back to Judaism and rejects the sacrifice of Christ. It is not that he cannot repent - this man will not repent.
For as touching those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
What is he saying is impossible here? That it is impossible for a Christian that has sinned to come back to God? No. Again he is talking about the person who will not repent no matter how hard you try to renew them. He is not talking about the Christian who is crawling back to God on their hands and knees and begging God to forgive them. That is exactly what God wants to see in this person.
For the land which hath drunk the rain that comes oft upon it, and brings forth herbs meet for them for whose sake it is also tilled, receives blessing from God: but if it bears thorns and thistles, it is rejected and nigh unto a curse; whose end is to be burned.
This is the person. A hard and obdurate heart who has crucified Jesus again in his heart and is remaining that way and will not repent.
Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord: looking carefully lest there be any man that falls short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby the many be defiled; lest there be any fornication, or profane person, as Esau, who for one meal sold his own birthright. For you know that even when he afterward desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place for a change of mind in his father, though he sought it diligently with tears.
Is he saying that a Christian who has left the church can never come back? That there is no place of repentance for a penitent child of God who wants to come back to his father and make his life right?
First, what type of a person is this?
Example of Esau.
Profane = ungodly
Sold his birthright to Jacob.
Then some time (maybe years) later when he would have received the inheritance there was nothing he could do - it was gone, even though he wanted to repent.
We have a birthright, an inheritance. When do we receive it? At the judgment in the last day. And the whole world knows already that that is not the place of repentance. Here and now in this life is the place of repentance.
He is saying that you can sell your birthright here in this life and go live it up - but when you meet God in the judgment you will not have anymore opportunities to repent. So again, he is talking about a person that leaves Christ and will not repent.
Therefore what do we learn from these scary passages? The same thing it says all the way through the rest of the Bible, "If you repent and confess your sins, God will forgive you. If you will not repent- then you are lost."
For great is thy lovingkindness toward me;
And thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest Sheol.
O God, the proud are risen up against me,
And a company of violent men have sought after my soul,
And have not set thee before them.
But thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
Yet you say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel: Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? When the righteous man turns away from his righteousness, and commits iniquity, and dies therein; in his iniquity that he has done shall he die.
Again, when the wicked man turns away from his wickedness that he has committed, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Because he considers, and turns away from all his transgressions that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
Yet says the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the Lord Jehovah.
Return ye, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, wherein you have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies, says the Lord Jehovah: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Come now, and let us reason together, says Jehovah: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land: but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured with the sword; for the mouth of Jehovah has spoken it.
And he said, "A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of your substance that falls to me.' And he divided unto them his living.
And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together and took his journey into a far country; and there he wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that country; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
But when he came to himself he said, 'How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight: I am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of your hired servants.'
And he arose, and came to his father. But while he was yet afar off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight: I am no more worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring forth quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat, and make merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to be merry."
Do you think the Christian who has left the church can come back?
Yes, they can.
Will God forgive them?
Yes, God will forgive them.
2.) Another reason that a Christian can get himself in the predicament that he thinks God will not forgive him, is from the overwhelming sorrow that can come from sinning against the God he loves so much.
When we sin grievously against God, the poor human heart can be crushed and turn against itself and believe that God will not forgive such an unworthy person as himself. Then when faced with a few unloving brethren who scorn and shun the repentant sinner, who do not understand the grace of God and want to make that person pay somehow - then that heart can cave in upon itself and leave scars that will take a lifetime to heal.
For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that you should be made sorry, but that you might know the love that I have more abundantly unto you. But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow, not to me, but in part (that I press not too heavily) to you all.
Sufficient to such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the many; so that contrariwise you should rather forgive him and comfort him, lest by any means such a one should be swallowed up with his overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you to confirm your love toward him.
For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether you are obedient in all things. But to whom you forgive anything, I forgive also: for what I also have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, for your sakes have I forgiven it in the presence of Christ; that no advantage may be gained over us by Satan: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
God is more merciful to a penitent sinner than our brethren will ever be. We need to forgive the person and confirm our love for him. Right then, that is the best medicine he could find - the loving support of his brethren. Then notice verse 11; we do it also because Satan can step into this situation and plant the doubts and suspicions that can ruin that soul and send him into a dark despair from which he may never recover.
This despair may be what Paul is referring to in
For though I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it: though I did regret it (for I see that that latter made you sorry, though but for a season), I now rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you were made sorry unto repentance; for you were made sorry after a godly sort, that you might suffer loss by us in nothing. For godly sorrow works repentance unto salvation, a repentance which brings no regret: but the sorrow of the world works death.
For behold, this selfsame thing, that you were made sorry after a godly sort, what earnest care it wrought in you, yes what clearing of yourselves, yes what indignation, yes what fear, yes what longing, yes what zeal, yes what avenging! In everything you approved yourselves to be pure in the matter.
If despair of forgiveness is what Paul is talking about, I can see why it works death. It turns against itself in the heart and commits psychological suicide. The person feels unworthy and is full of self condemnation and self punishment. He will not forgive himself. Then it projects all this on to God and believes that that is how God must think too. When all the while God is not thinking that way at all.
What this ultimately does is it destroys the person's faith - and since the person's faith is on the rocks, he will not be enjoying the blessings that we have in Christ: freedom from sin, the encouragement and power to live a life of holiness. Without faith the will gets overcome by the flesh and that leads to death.
All this is unnecessary. If we teach the compassion and loving mercy of God and the terrible consequences of sin in our life and the damage it can do - then there is no reason for anyone to despair; not in this world; despair comes in the next world for those who obdurately refuse to repent.
(2Pet.3:9) Peter says that "God is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
Who? How many? ALL.
Does that mean me too? YES. That means you too.
We get the word "will" in the wrong place.
It is never a question of will God forgive.
But it is always a question of will we repent.
If in the future should you find yourself in this situation - here are some suggestions.
1. Recognize that it is not God's problem but your own. And then make your heart right with him. Trust him. Take him at his word.
2. Pray to God for him to heal your heart and he will - he is faithful and just and he will cleanse you from every stain. God can heal your backsliding. (Jer.3:22)
3. Never give up. God will not give up on you. He will forgive you 70 x 7 until you finally overcome. Always bring your sorrow to him, for he cares for you.
(Originally delivered as a sermon in Eagle Point, OR Oct.28,1984)