carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
The Issues and Elements of Worshipping God
Part 6 – Assurance of Pardon/Thanksgiving
“I forgive you.” Amazing words, are they not? When you can say those words to a husband, a wife, a child, a parent, a friend or co-worker, it is saying a great deal. The impact is not so much in the words themselves, really, it is in the motivation of the person to say them.
Think about what is involved in such an expression. If you are the one saying these words it means you have first been injured or harmed. You’re the one who has suffered at the hands of another person. You hurt. You feel the injury personally. It doesn’t matter if the damage was done intentionally and deliberately or accidentally and thoughtlessly. It hurts just the same.
And although it hurts no matter what the motivation, it does make a difference to you as to how it came about. If it was only carelessness, you, the injured party, feel an extra burden on your shoulders – to rise above mere anger and wrath, which you realize are out of place, and extend a forgiveness to the other person. You feel compelled to go the extra mile. “Forget about it,” we say, “it was an accident and accidents happen.” And you limp away.
But if it was intentional and though the pain is the same, we feel differently. We feel angry and righteous in expressing it. If the person is stricken with guilt and is truly sorry, we feel as though our anger is abated. It makes us feel better to swallow our pain and grant the person mercy. If the person is not sorry at all the anger is not directly dealt with and becomes a problem. We might seek only wrath and justice, we might let the consequences of this change the direction of our friendship and future. We want to grant him forgiveness anyway, with a smug expression of pride thinking we are the better Christian for it.
And then there are the times when we withhold forgiveness – to try to punish the other person, to get him to wake up and see your pain, to take stock of the consequences, to share in the hurt. But that always acts like a boomerang, doesn’t it? It comes back to haunt us and we let bitterness become our motive and that slowly consumes us and we never get the “pound of flesh” we are after.
Now imagine how God can possibly extend His forgiveness to us. First of all, He doesn’t have to do so. Just because we come before Him in worship and ask for forgiveness doesn’t mean He’s obligated to give it. Even though we might plead before Him for mercy we still only deserve justice.
Second, when God grants forgiveness, it isn’t because He has grown soft and compassionate, it isn’t because He’s impressed by how grief-stricken we can appear to Him. He grants us forgiveness because Jesus has paid for our sins with His own blood – the love of God for us meets the justice of God toward us.
Third, such forgiveness, therefore, only comes by one way – through our relationship to Jesus Christ and that by faith. That means, if our faith in Christ is dead, if it is not real, we cannot expect or claim God’s forgiveness. If there is no repentance, no turning from our sin, if the words of our confession are just that – words, then there is no forgiveness.
Fourth, such forgiveness, if it is received through faith in the work of Christ, is granted to you full and free. Just as we are to be assured of our election in Christ, so faithful Christians are to be given an assurance of His gracious pardon, His forgiveness for the sins we commit day after day in our struggle to become as Christ ourselves.
The assurance of God’s pardon means that God is saying “I forgive you.” You’ve hurt Him – again. Sometimes deliberately, sometimes accidentally, but He is the injured party. And yet, He is faithful. And He wants you to know that. But His faithfulness is only in Christ.
Great is not our own faithfulness, that is why confession of faith is such a vital and necessary part of the worship service. But the assurance of pardon is just as critical. Because in it, God calls us back to hope and new obedience, and that because we live under the greatness of His faithfulness.
David G. Barker, 2003
|David G. Barker