The Lord has been so good to me I can’t contain it! In my declining years, He has led me to write these blog postings, and they have given me such joy and fulfillment that I want to express my appreciation to you for faithfully reading my musings each week! Much love and blessing on you for doing so.
We saw last week, via the eye-chart illustration, that forgiving others is not the cause of God’s forgiveness of me, but a naturally occurring result of God’s already-accomplished forgiveness of me. When I realize, for myself, the depths of God’s unconditional love and complete forgiveness, what others do to me becomes irrelevant. I find myself loving them without even thinking about it, just as I now know God loves me!
I have discovered I can’t make this happen. God does it sovereignly, in my heart, how and when He wants to. Resolve, determination, and self-control all may change my external actions, but in my heart of hearts, I have not forgotten what they did to me. So, no matter my gracious behavior, I have not forgiven them. At the cross (the inauguration of the New Covenant), God showed the whole world what the forgiveness that Jesus talked about is like: “‘(T)hey all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ says the LORD. ‘For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more’” (Jeremiah 31:34).
That is biblical forgiveness: I no longer even remember what they did!
However, we are addicted to the poisonous fruit of the fateful tree in the Garden. All we descendants of Adam evaluate everything we touch as “good” versus “bad,” according to our accepted standard of truth. That may be the Bible (as with serious Christians), the law of the gang, current societal standards of “wokeness,” etc.
As a result, when Christians see the verses calling us to forgive those who have wronged us, we very naturally see those verses as being right down our alley. We love to have something “good” to do. Me forgiving you makes me the “good guy” and poor, sinful, vindictive you the “bad guy,” firmly ensconcing me several steps above you on the righteousness ladder to perfection. I can go to bed tonight feeling really good about myself, because I have jumped through the “forgive-those-terrible-people-who-have-wronged-you” hoop, completely unchanged in my heart!
In the epistle of 1 John, John is dealing with the heresy of Gnosticism in the church, and he lays out the evidence throughout the epistle for genuine, born again Christians who are walking by faith. In the first chapter he examines the first two pieces of evidence, which just happen to address the two solutions that are the perfect anecdote to the forgiveness issue we are discussing. Not shockingly (because it fits perfectly into the pattern of how God works) it is the exact opposite of my “righteous, hoop-jumping-through performance” in the previous paragraph. We will address them one at a time, just as John does.
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6, 7).
The first of these two answers to our lack of genuine forgiveness for those who we think have wronged us, is to “walk in the light” with other believers. This is a concept that is foreign to many of today’s Christians. Being open and transparent about one’s private sin (which is what the phrase means—neither hiding nor pretending to have it all together) is often the last thing we do at church. There we are in an unspoken atmosphere of attempting, with the other members, to “look good” because Christians are “good people,” and I certainly want to be a “good person.”
If this is where we are, John says we are living a lie. But, he says, by “walking in the light”—sharing openly and ruthlessly our weaknesses and failures with our brothers and sisters—we will experience “fellowship with one another” in a new way for the first time. This genuine fellowship with them assures me that, right now, “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son (is cleansing me) from all sin.” This is the incredible power of the true fellowship with other sinners who are just like I am that only comes from “walking in the light” together.
This, however, as we are all aware, is not always the experience when we go to church. That was the case with the churches to whom John wrote this epistle. Just like today, the church was a mixed bag of people, all “Christians” because they said they were. Who were the genuine, truly “born again” (experiential) believers? John says not wanting to “walk in the light” with others about our sin is an indication of not “practicing the truth,” or not “walking by faith.” He then goes on to say that thinking we are free from sin altogether is evidence we have not yet even experienced being born again:
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).
It could not be clearer. The prima facie evidence is that if I am willing, in any and every situation to admit I am a sinner, this is a sign that God is forgiving that sin and “cleansing (me) from all unrighteousness.” I have successfully read the bottom line of the eye-chart!
I believe that these two ideas—walking in the light and confessing and then repenting for what that light exposes—are the solution for unconsciously forgiving those who have sinned against us, and then naturally even forgetting what they did!
Christianity is not an individual sport. It can’t be played alone, like golf. It is always a team game. The New Testament Church is the team—the perfect setting for this to occur. Every member is participating in the fellowship of ministering to one another, with all the gifts of the members on display. The inevitable result is that members are encouraged to walk in the light together, which, in turn, as John taught us, and James here reiterates, leads to “Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
Everyone is on God’s inscrutable timetable and travels on his/her own unique, perfect path to the City with Foundations. Continue to ask Him to show you His unfathomable, limitless love for you that will cause you to walk in repentance as you travel up that path!