It can leave you a lonely, grumpy old man. It can take away your love, joy and peace. It can keep you enslaved. It can be like being behind bars in a jail cell, separated and cut off from the rest of the world. What is it? Bitterness. Sounds like a grim reality for many. I know of persons who have gone to their grave like this and it is a sad and tragic story. But there is a solution. It is called forgiveness.
And that is why the Bible so closely links the two together. We are commanded to put away all bitterness and we are commanded to forgive as God in Christ forgave us(Ephesians 4:31-32).
So how did God in Christ forgive us? Let’s look at some word pictures the Old Testament writers paint for us to help us understand how God in Christ forgave us.
1) God has cast all our sins behind his back(Isaiah 38:17). Note that is not just some of our sins, but all our sins, which includes the most heinous sins. Note also that it is God’s initiative to cast them behind his back. And he doesn’t turn His head as we would every so often to look at them behind His back.
2) God remembers our sins no more(Isaiah 43:25; Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12).
“Forgetting is passive and is something that we as human beings, not being omniscient, do. Not remembering is active; it is a promise whereby one person, in this case God, determines not to remember the sins of another against Him. To not remember is simply a graphic way of saying, “I will not bring up these matters to you or others in the future.””
-Jay Adams(From Forgiven to Forgiving)
3) God has hurled all our sins into depths of the sea(Micah 7:19). They did not accidentally fall over. He intentionally hurled them. And they are not on the surface of the water, but in the depths of the sea, where they cannot be seen.
Despite our obstinance and rebellion, God is ready to forgive, because He is gracious and merciful.
“They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.”
I mean, think about it for a moment, if God were to keep a record of our sins, we would be doomed.
“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”
In the parable of the unforgiving servant(Matthew 18:21-35), Jesus shows us the stark contrast between how large a debt we owe God, yet in His mercy He has granted forgiveness, and how small a debt others owe us, yet we refuse to grant forgiveness. To understand the weight of Jesus’ argument here, you must understand the 10,000 talents the first servant owed to his master. One talent was equal to 20 years of wages. So this servant owed 20 years times 10,000, namely 200,000 years worth of work. Furthermore, to give you some more perspective on this, the total revenue collected by the Roman government every year was 900 talents. Yet his master was merciful and cancelled his debt, one that he owed but clearly could never pay. The other servant owed 100 denarii, equivalent to 3 months of wages. Yet the first servant who was forgiven such an incalculable debt, hardened his heart and withheld forgiveness.
Only when we see the gravity of our sin before the holiness of God and consider how much we’ve been forgiven do we then realize that any offense someone else has caused us is like a drop in the bucket compared to how we’ve offended a thrice holy God.
I say to the glory of God and in utter humility that whenever I see myself before God and realize even something of what my blessed Lord has done for me, I am ready to forgive anybody anything.”
You see, the axiom is true, forgiven people forgive. Are you forgiven by God? You can be and you can know that you are forgiven, but only through Jesus Christ. God is so holy, so pure, so righteous, without sin, stain or blemish, that He requires sinless perfection. So much so that he will hold you accountable for breaking his entire law and commandments even if you just disobey once(James 2:10). Today, won’t you turn to Jesus Christ alone who died to pay the penalty for sin and in whom there is redemption, the forgiveness of sin(Ephesian 1:7)? If you believe on Christ, God will forgive you all your sins by cancelling the record of debt that stands against you(Colossians 2:13-14).
“To be forgiven is such sweetness that honey is tasteless in comparison with it. But there is one thing sweeter still and that is to forgive.”