Totally Forgiven

We enthusiastically tell the world that if they receive Jesus, all their sin with be forgiven and God will remember it no more. In fact when we surrender our life to Jesus, the record that would have condemned us has been erased. The Father can do that because of the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross. Some people even proclaim it with a bumper sticker that reads; “Christians are not perfect, just forgiven”. Those same people while believing that their sin is forgiven and they’re going to heaven, continue to ask for forgiveness and by doing so contradict what they profess. Most would not agree with that conclusion but their actions confirm that it’s true. The following thoughts are my views about the forgiveness of sin. I don’t’ claim infallibility but I have given this subject a great deal of thought and prayer. I urge you to also do this in the spirit of Acts 17:11 because this verse is confirmation that the Bible is our only standard, not someone’s opinion.

I believe that ALL my sin, past, present and future has been completely forgiven. I am confident of that based a large number of scriptures including what Jesus Christ Himself said; He said, ”Those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will NEVER be condemned for their sins but have already passed from death to life.” (John. 5:24) The Apostle Paul amplifies it by saying; “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave ALL our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” (Col. 2:13-14) And in the Book of Hebrews we read: ”I will NEVER again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” Heb. 10:17) The cross is the only basis for the forgiveness of sin and since it is a onetime event, all sin past, present and future was dealt with there.

The majority of believers would agree with that so why do they continue to ask God for forgiveness on a regular basis. Since it’s not taught in Scripture it must be because of the many prayers they’ve heard, teaching, modeling and general church culture. If that is an issue for you, ask yourself these questions; “How many of your sins did Jesus bear on the cross?” (Answer, all of them) How many of your sins had been committed at that time? (Answer none) All your sins were future sins so it’s obvious that God doesn’t have a problem forgiving future sins. If you agree with that, you can trust that He has forgiven all of your sins, past, present and future.

There are only a couple of Scriptures that cause people to think they must continue to ask God for forgiveness. We’re taught to pray the Lord’s Prayer and in it we ask God to, “forgive us our sins as we forgive others”. (Matt. 6:12) That very clearly states that we are inviting God to forgive us in the same way that we forgive others. And Jesus states it even more forcefully in Matthew 6:14-15 when He says; “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins”. Since no one can do that perfectly, if it’s required for forgiveness of sin, none of us have a chance. Thank God that the New Covenant supersedes this way of having our sins forgiven. It was instituted by Jesus in the upper room and confirmed by the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The New Covenant of grace makes forgiveness a free gift and it’s clearly stated in Eph. 2:8-9; “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it”. For me it’s clear that the verses before the cross which say God’s forgiveness is based on my actions are “Old Covenant”. It’s a new thought for some that Jesus was born and lived under the law so therefore taught many old covenant principals especially by example. He kept the Mosaic law…Made animal sacrifices…Worshiped on Saturday…Ceremonial washings, etc. He also taught his hearers some truly impossible standards of perfection like, “anger equals murder, looking with lust equals adultery, cut off your hand, pluck out your eye, be perfect, forgive others in order to be forgiven by God, etc.. Everything Jesus said was true but it’s critical that we understand the changes that came with the New Covenant. Examples: We worship on Sunday not the Sabbath, we can eat pork or shrimp, it’s not mandatory that we circumcise our sons, etc. etc..

Another verse that confuses people about forgiveness is 1st John 1:9. It says: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and will cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.” As a non-believer I did that and was cleansed from ALL unrighteousness. Some teachers say that this verse is like a bar of spiritual soap and we need to faithfully apply it in order to stay clean. When a person agrees with that it moves them back into the legalistic camp, meaning our efforts are what keeps us acceptable to God. That is not only unbiblical it is un-realistic as well because it is impossible to apply that verse for every sin, every improper thought etc. That means there will always be some un-confessed sin in every person’s life. We should always be ready to confess sin and repent (i.e. live life in the opposite direction) but not in order to get it forgiven. I believe that a careful study of this chapter will reveal that just as today there were unsaved folks in that local church who claimed that they had not sinned. One of the reasons John wrote this letter was to deal with those who believed the Gnostic teaching that Jesus had not come in the flesh – that He was an illusion, in fact sin was an illusion. We cannot develop this thoroughly here so I will leave it to you but I urge you to study 1st John carefully.

While speaking at a Pastors conference one man said that he agreed we don’t need to continually ask forgiveness for salvation. Then he explained, relationship vs. fellowship and in fellowship vs. out of fellowship. He said we still need to ask forgiveness to regain fellowship. My answer to this was, the Bible says that the penalty for sin is death, not getting out of fellowship. (Rom. 6:23) I asked him to remember that all the prodigal son had to do was repent (live in the opposite direction) and go home. He tried to ask forgiveness but the Father wouldn’t listen to him but rather said, let’s throw a party, my son has come home. This is a parable about how God views His sons. Another illustration that’s helpful is the Laodician Church in Revelation Chapter 3. It had grown lukewarm…out of fellowship and the answer was to open the door and fellowship would be restored.

I think these two illustrations show us what to do when we have sinned? We should repent and go home or open a door that has been closed to Jesus. My prayer when I become aware of a sin is something like; “Lord I agree with you that I have sinned and I am truly sorry. I don’t want to live like that so would you help me be more consistent in my behavior. Thank you that you forgave all my sins when you placed me into Christ. I know you’re not mad at me because on the cross you took out all your anger for my sin on Your Son. Thank you that I am completely forgiven and you see me as spotless as new snow. Once again I surrender and ask you to continue to live your life through me.” Then I go forward and continue to follow Jesus. You may fear that believing themselves to be totally forgiven will cause people to live careless lives but for me the exact opposite has been true.

However after hearing that God has removed all our sin as far as the east is from the west, (that’s infinity) it’s possible that someone may either misunderstand or distort what it means. In Romans 6:1 Paul anticipates that, so he asks the question; “does that mean we can continue to sin” and then he gives an emphatic, “may it never be”. Again in verse 12; “Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.” And in verse 15; “Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not!” But what if I do sin? 1st John 2:1 has the answer, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous”. (Another term for advocate is, defense attorney.) My sin, past, present and future has been freely forgiven so when I sin Jesus is my defense attorney and reminds the Father; Remember that one was paid for also. A sin does not cause me to stop being a son of God but I do not take lightly Gods potential response. In both Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:6, it says, Those he loves he disciplines as a father disciplines a son.

If we don’t understand, appropriate and teach Gods TOTAL and COMPLETE forgiveness, We’re going to continue to produce believers who are thankful they’re going to heaven but who live lives that lack the freedom and joy we are meant to have.

Here are some of the things we say we believe, We are: In Christ; Spiritually Reborn; Redeemed; Saved; Name is written in the Lambs Book of life; Forgiven; We’re a new creation. Look at those again, THEY ARE ALL PAST TENSE. It is very important to understand this because what we believe about our standing with God impacts our entire spiritual life.

We call ourselves believers: Let’s start believing what we say we believe.