“Behold you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness. Let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:6-10
We are blanketed in snow these days. That’s just how it is at this time of the year. On a nice sunny day, it’s really beautiful even though it’s terribly cold. The psalmist prays to be made whiter than snow. As I look out my window, I find it hard to imagine what could be whiter than fresh snow. It looks so pure and clean as it covers everything on its path. Just like the grace of God that covers my iniquities, and apart from which, my heart stands no chance of becoming white as snow (more like volcanic ash!). And so I praise the God who has forgiven me.
“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Psalm 32:1
Forgiven and justified…
The list is extremely long for things I am thankful for. But at the very top of that list is the fact that I have been forgiven and freed from the penalty of sin. There is no life, no joy to speak about, if one has not yet known salvation in Christ and what it’s like to be forgiven by a God who is both Merciful and Just. Everyday, I live, breathe and walk as a debtor whose enormous debt has been paid; with nothing of my own to boast about, but with everything to be thankful for. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 His pardon does not lead us to a position of pride but a posture of meekness and freedom that the world can not comprehend.
Forgiven and called to forgive…
As followers of Christ, repenting and seeking forgiveness for our sins, and graciously forgiving those who sin against us ought to mark our days as we are being sanctified. Our Lord Jesus himself taught his disciples to pray “forgive us our debt as we have also forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12) because of its importance in our personal walk with him, in our life within the body of believers and in our mission to the world that has yet to know him.
I’m sure I’m not the only Christian who is frustrated about particular sins or idols that keep coming back into our hearts. For some of us, it seems as if we have driven on the same road many times yet somehow we manage to still sink our tires in the same potholes. The good news is that genuine repentance always receives genuine pardon from him who is Faithful and Just. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 We need not be discouraged. Our God continues to forgive.
“There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins, And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains, And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains” (William Cowper, 1731-1800)
As sinners who have been forgiven, we are to extend the same forgiveness to others when we are sinned against. Ephesians 4:32 says “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” The same fountain flowing from Immanuel’s veins pours out the grace to forgive, regardless of the nature of the offense or our relationship with the offender. For us created beings to withhold forgiveness from others after we ourselves have been forgiven by our Creator makes no sense at all. I have gone through times of not wanting to forgive (or at least delaying it). Those were not the wisest moments, much like refusing a good treatment for a terrible cancer. Unforgiveness only puts us in bondage. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15
A heart surrendered to Christ is a heart that is unable to hold a grudge. It is a heart that overflows with gratitude that there is just no room for bitterness or resentment. Yes, it grieves over the same sins that grieve the heart of the Father, and it is zealous for righteousness, but it is also quick to run to the fountain from which God’s forgiveness flows, knowing it has no power on its own to forgive. Let us run to that fountain to be cleansed again and again and again, knowing that someday, sin will be no more, and we, the bride of Christ, will be made whiter than snow.
“Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him….Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness….And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on his. When he tells us to love our enemies, he gives along with the command, the love itself.” Corrie Ten Boom