Thursday, March 24, 2022

How far does God's forgiveness really go?


As I've said on a zillion occasions, every now and then I get these really great questions thrown in my direction and I really love to share them with you.  Why?  Well, I figure it like this... If ANYONE is asking the question, then ANYONE should have the answer available to them.

Today's question comes from an older woman who has been through a lot in her life and is nearing the end of her journey.  But don't let her circumstances dictate how you "feel" about the answers.  Fact is, how you feel about the answers doesn't change the fact that the answers ARE WHAT THEY ARE.  Amen?

Question:  Pastor Keith, I've often been told that God can forgive anything.  I'm getting older and probably have less days in front of me than I do behind me.  I've done so many things in my lifetime, and there has been so much that I'm not proud of.  I have horrible guilt and sometimes I'm plagued by terrifying nightmares.  I'm so afraid that God isn't willing to forgive some or even all of my sins.  Is there anything you can share with me to help me really understand this once and for all?

Answer: Sister, you've come to the right place!  Like many Pastors, I can tell you "what I think", but I think it's safe to say that I don't think that's what you really need.  I'm betting you've heard enough of what people think and are finally ready to KNOW what God has to SAY on the matter.

So if you read through the bible, you'll actually find quite a lot about forgiveness.  Some of it is simply understood about how God forgives sins and the rest is mostly made up of ways that WE should forgive others SO THAT WE CAN UNDERSTAND HOW GOD FORGIVES US.

Allow me to start with the most powerful evidence and I'll build from there.

Psalm 65:3 (NLT) - Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, you forgive them all.

While I usually can't stand dynamic equivalence translations, that single verse from the New Living Translation happens to be the most eloquently worded way of putting it.  God knows full well that sometimes the sheer number of sins in our past can be monumental.  Just think about how many or HOW BIG our sins must be if we are "overwhelmed" by them.

Does God forgive homosexuality?
Does God forgive abortions?
Does God forgive accidental deaths?
Does God forgive giving up children for adoption?
Does God forgive putting down a sick or aged animal?
Does God forgive joining a cause that you later learned is bad/wrong?
Does God forgive killing people in war time?
Does God forgive giving out wrong information about HIM?
Does God forgive pulling the plug on a loved one?
Does God forgive not raising your children in a Godly way?
Does God forgive for selling my body for sex?
Does God forgive all of the drug and alcohol use?

God WILL (and does) forgive all of those things AND MORE!
How can you KNOW this?  Keep reading!

The key to understanding how forgiveness works, is understanding ONE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT word.  REPENTANCE is a word not often used in the English language, but something that God is pretty keen about.  As with many words in the English language, this word comes from a language other than English.  The word repent actually comes from the French language.  To repent is to "turn from".  If you were to repent of your sins, God would forgive them.  In other words, if one day you realize the NEED of repentance in your relationship with God (hopefully this happens sooner rather than later), all you need to do is LITERALLY turn away from your sin and go in a new direction.  God has been telling men to do this since Old Testament times!

2 Kings 17:13 - Yet the LORD testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, "Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets."

2 Chronicles 6:26-27 - "When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance."

Jeremiah 26:1-7 - In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the LORD, saying, "Thus says the LORD: 'Stand in the court of the LORD's house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD's house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word. Perhaps everyone will listen and turn from his evil way, that I may relent concerning the calamity which I purpose to bring on them because of the evil of their doings.' And you shall say to them, 'Thus says the LORD: "If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law which I have set before you, to heed the words of My servants the prophets whom I sent to you, both rising up early and sending them (but you have not heeded), then I will make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth." '" So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD.

Ezekiel 3:19 - Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

Acts 14:15 - ...and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them...

And of course there's plenty more where that came from.

Listen, if you're a practicing homosexual, it's impossible to be a Christian.  How can you be repentant of something you're IN THE ACT OF DOING?  If you're a prostitute, it's also impossible to be a Christian.  How can you be repentant of something YOU ARE DOING ON PURPOSE?  If you are unmarried and having sex with a man that isn't your husband and you get pregnant and get an abortion or otherwise give away your child, how in the world can you expect God to forgive you WHILE YOU ARE DOING WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO?

If however one day long after you have sinned you realize that your sin IS SIN, at that point you can (and should) repent of what you've done.  God also teaches us that when we sin against someone, we should go to that person and confess and pray for each other.

James 5:16 (KJV) - Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

God has so much written about sin and repentance that you could spend hours and hours just on that topic alone.  Remember, God is holy and as such, we can't be IN RELATIONSHIP with Him WHILE we are in an UNCLEAN state.  Repentance is our ticket to holiness.

In conclusion, if you don't repent of your sin, NEITHER WILL GOD FORGIVE YOU.  How could He?  That's like expecting someone to give you ANYTHING without asking first!  Ask and God says it's already been given to you!

Mark 11:24 - Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

If God has already forgiven you, it's time to also forgive yourself.  You will never receive any greater forgiveness than that which God has given to you already.  If you continue to suffer from guilt, it's not God punishing you, you're punishing yourself!

As always, I would ask that you share this teaching and indeed this blog with someone you care about or love.  It could make all the difference between them "believing" in God or actually having a "relationship" with Him.

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