Can Anyone Be Saved? Can Anyone Be Forgiven? Can I ever forgive anyone?
Last chapter was a pretty convicting chapter. It certainly was for me when I saw myself through that filter. However, once a person sees the depth of one’s own sin, the beauty of Christ’s love becomes all the more amazing.
Even in the time of Christ, people had a desire to compare themselves to other men, which is the wrong measurement.
A Pharisee and a tax collector went to pray. The Pharisee told God all the things he wasn’t and all the things he did that made him righteous. The tax collector only asked for mercy. (Paraphrase of Luke 18:9-14)
When we see our own sin, we understand our need. Now, once that happens, we see how merciful God, through Christ, can be.
We also already discussed the thief on the cross. (Luke 23:39-43) If that story doesn’t show you just how wonderful Christ’s forgiveness is, look at one of the most recognizable apostles ever.
Saul of Tarsus was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. (1 Timothy 1:13) He witnessed at least one stoning and confessed he voted to execute several other Christians before Christ approached him on the road to Damascus.
There are some people who truly mourn their sin. They punish themselves, feeling as though God couldn’t love them because of their sin. On their own, that’s true. With man, it’s impossible to reach Heaven, but not with God. (Matthew 19:26)
Through Christ, any man can be forgiven. Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, paid the price for whatever sin it is you carry. By God’s grace, we can receive the gift of forgiveness. There isn’t a thing you need to do. Heck, there’s not a single thing you could do. It’s a gift! He didn’t do it because you deserve it. That’s what mercy is.
Don’t let the sins you mourn cause you to look away or hide from Christ. Instead, rejoice! Rejoice that those sins have been punished. The list of our debt was set aside and nailed to the cross. (Colossians 2:14)
Repent means to turn away. I still emphasis the turning away as evidence. Stop the sin that weighs you down. Don’t continue to live in it simply because you feel it’s too late. It’s never too late. The thief one the cross taught us that. Don’t simply live in it because you feel you couldn’t ever be forgiven! Paul taught us that.
This was a huge stumbling block for me. I carried guilt with me, nurturing it in my heart because I thought I deserved to be punished. I took every bad thing that ever happened as evidence of my forsaken nature. I was blind to how wonderful forgiveness is. I was so focused on how horrible I felt, I didn’t realize just how light a burden Christ really is. (Matthew 11:28-30) I thought I had to earn redemption. I thought I had to earn righteousness.
The problem was I knew that one who’d already sinned in any way could never be righteous.
But then I stopped looking to myself. I looked to the only being in all the world in any religion who not only was perfect, but paid the price I couldn’t pay. And He did it for one reason: Love.
The other hurdle was wanting to live in a world where I could be forgiven but others could not be. I wanted to put myself on the throne of God, telling myself my sins weren’t “that bad.” I arrogantly decided that “these” sins were too great, but my sins were so much less horrible, and therefor tolerable. This put me on a horrid cycle of guilt and self-justification.
But then I stopped trying to classify sin and focused instead on Christ, whose blood washed away all sins. This meant I had to let go of my own self-righteousness and hate. Some who read the last chapter will say I’m lying and I’m still judgmental. Stating the truth that the price of sin (regardless of degree) is death is a far cry from offering a list of the saved and the damned. Challenging anyone to look at the sin in their life isn’t a condemnation; it’s simply a challenge.
When you accept that challenge under the correct mindset, realizing that sin leads to death, you realize your need is as equally desperate as any maniac or murderer. Once you see that, you understand that Christ still paid the price.
Through Christ, God forgave my sins. If I were to try and name or list my sins, even just the ones I was aware of and felt guilt over, I’d never be able to get to anything else. But if God forgave me all my sins, shouldn’t I be able to forgive the man who cut me off? Shouldn’t I be able to forgive the father who shattered our family?
Consider the worst sin you’ve ever committed. For you, it may not be “that bad.” Forget for a moment that sin is sin, and your sin is indeed “that bad.” Think about the guilt you carry. How heavy is it? Mine felt like a mountain I couldn’t crawl from under. Through Christ, God forgives. But if he can forgive all your sins, every, single, one, including the one that gives you the most guilt; can’t you then also forgive the person who did the worst thing ever to you?
I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying it’s “fair.” Fair means we’re all condemned. Grace means we deserve punishment, but we’re passed over anyway. Grace means we realize our guilt, but praise God for the gift of grace He’s given us.
Rather than live in a world where “some” people “aren’t perfect” but still get to go to Heaven and “other” people are “much worse” so therefore deserve condemnation, consider for a moment the beauty of a world where even though we’re all wretched sinners, we can have redemption through Christ.
Yes, that means we have to forgive, but is it really so terrible? Again, I didn’t say it wasn’t hard, but is it so awful to think that anyone could be forgiven? Is it so awful when you remember that you were forgiven, too?
Why not forgive as we were forgiven? (Ephesians 4:32)
I acknowledge it’s easier said than done, but I can also tell you from experience that it’s actually easier to forgive than it is to carry that resentment and anger with you your whole life. I can tell you finding the ability to forgive others is easier when you take stock of the sin in your own life first.
This doesn’t mean we just randomly forgive anyone all the time. At least, I don’t think it does. That’s the question I mean to ask in the next chapter.
For our panel: What verses do you turn to, to contemplate how wondrous the forgiveness you’ve received is? What do you do when you know you should forgive, but still find it so hard to actually do? Can God really, really, forgive any sin through Christ? Should a person who honestly doesn’t feel like the’ve commit an “unforgivable sin” contemplate their own salvation?