Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I like the story told by a minister who was asked to visit a lady in hospital. Her brother had asked someone to see her. It wasn’t good news. She was dying from cancer and she knew her time on earth was short. So she was anxious. When he arrived at her bedside she refused to speak to him.
He left, but in the next couple of days made two more visits. The same thing happened. She turned her head and didn’t talk to him. On his fourth visit, she realised he was well-meaning and started to talk about her life. She unburdened herself of all the regrets, grudges, anxieties, doubts, misdeeds and missed opportunities in her life. She turned that hospital room into a confessional, as he carefully and patiently listened.
Then she asked the question, Does God forgive me? He thought for a moment and said: Well, we know the Scriptures assure us that God is merciful and gracious. But she wasn’t happy and growled, I don’t want any of that Protestant namby-pamby stuff. Does God forgive me?, she insisted.
Well, he said, the Bible says somewhere that as far as the east is from the west, God removes our sins from us. Then she replied: Don’t quote Scripture to me. Just answer me: Does God absolve me of my sins right now? It was an angry, urgent question which the minister had never encountered before. With great insight he held her hand and prayed: Almighty God have mercy on my friend. Forgive her sins through our Lord Jesus Christ and keep her in eternal life. And then Joy (that was her name) smiled, relaxed, and was at peace for the first time in her life.
The great depth of God’s love
I have a feeling that a lot of people are like Joy. They struggle with the question, Can God forgive me after all I’ve done? It’s an important question, especially when someone is faced with death. I’m not even sure I deserve God’s forgiveness, is another thing people say.
Sometimes we don’t feel that God can forgive us. He can. If you feel that your sins are so bad that God can’t take them away, then you don’t know the great depth of God’s love in the power of forgiveness that is found in the sacrifice of Christ. I admit it is sometimes difficult to ‘feel’ forgiven because we know certain things we have done are so bad that we deserve to be punished, so we can’t understand how God would be so kind and loving to forgive.
But it’s true. His infinite love is greater than your finite sin. I have heard people say, How can God forgive someone like me? There are many people, both Christian and non-Christian, who think that they are unforgivable. They think that they have done something, or some things, so bad that God cannot, or will not, forgive them. This belief leaves many in a state of despair; they feel guilty and desperately seek forgiveness, but they just do not think it is possible.
Everyone can find forgiveness
The wonderful thing is this: it is possible. You can find forgiveness no matter what you’ve done. That’s why Jesus died on the cross over 2,000 years ago. Think about it. John wrote: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
God’s love for you is so deep that he did not spare his own son but sent him to die so you could be forgiven. Do you think, if you are wanting to turn back to God, that he would reject you? The answer is a resounding No! Jesus says all of heaven rejoices when even one person turns back to God (Luke 15:1-10).
The Bible also says:
- “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).
- “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear (know) him” (Psalm 103:12-13).
As far as the east is from the west? That’s pretty far!
Thankfully there is nothing too big and no person too bad for God to forgive. To carry around guilt of wrongdoing, whether it’s a lifetime of guilt, or guilt from something you did wrong last week, is like walking through life with a ball and chain around your ankle. The harshness of the guilt wears on you, slows you down in life, and interrupts everything you do.
Forgiveness is the key, and God holds it out to you because he loves you. It’s hard to imagine a God that is said to be ‘out there’ somewhere being able to love us personally. But he does; he cares about us. That is why he sent his son Jesus to die for all of our sins. He longs to forgive us and remove the shackles and chains called sin from around our ankles.