Summary: 1. We all stand in need of forgiveness. 2. We are all offered forgiveness. 3. We must individually receive God’s forgiveness.
Last week the news broke that Dr. Laura Schlessinger is no longer a practicing Jew. Dr. Laura, the psychologist whose radio talk show is second only to Rush Limbaugh, is heard on 300 radio stations with an estimated 12 million listeners. She comes from a home where her mother was Roman Catholic and her father was a Jew. After many years of being an avowed atheist, she converted to Judaism about 10 years ago. She now says, “the spiritual journey [into Judaism] — as hard-core as I was at it — just didn’t fulfill something in me that I needed.” It may seem ironic then that after researching her new book: Bad Childhood, Good Life, she “is more convinced than ever that religion is the most powerful force in turning people’s lives around.” The answer is apparently a new spiritual direction in her life. According to WorldNetDaily, “Schlessinger said she has envied her Christian friends who talk about their relationship with God.” The inference is that even though she may not have completely stepped over the line into the Christian faith, she is seriously being drawn to Christianity because of her friends who talk freely about how they feel connected to, and loved by, God.
When it comes right down to it, this is the difference between Christianity and the other religions of the world. We have a God who confesses his love for us, claims he wants to know us, and expresses his desire to forgive us. We do not have a God who instills fear and dread, or who is distracted and preoccupied with other concerns. He is closer than our next breath. He could have remained distant, but chose to immerse himself in the world as a human. He came searching for us, declaring his desire to be in relationship with us. Instead of demanding that we bow down and kneel before him, he knelt before us and washed our feet. Instead of demanding our death, he died for us. The scripture that describes him best says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17). The apostle Paul wrote: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).
Christianity is unique in that no other religion of the world talks of a God who loves his creation and desires to have a personal relationship with them. This is the great Good News — what Christians call the “Gospel.” There is a God who loves us and wants to forgive us. The purpose of his forgiveness is that he might come near to us and know us, and be known by us. This is why I believe with confidence in the forgiveness of sins.
The first thing that it is important to point out is: We all stand in need of forgiveness. Whether our sins are seen by others as great or small, all of us stand in need of God’s forgiveness. Deep in every human heart is the desire to be forgiven and deeply accepted. In our honest moments we understand profoundly that we have a need for forgiveness. We feel alienated and separated from God. The Bible acknowledges that when it says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). The apostle Paul wrote: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). You will notice there are no exceptions in those verses. We deserve nothing from God, but he chooses to freely forgive. The Good News is this: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). My sins are not excused, but they are forgiven when I turn to God with confession that springs from a humble heart and genuine sorrow for my sin against him. The Bible says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). My sins are not excused or passed over, they are forgiven and taken away as though they never existed when I come to God with a proper attitude of the heart. I confess my sin, I no longer try to hide it.
The only people who cannot be forgiven are those who refuse to believe they need forgiveness. The self-righteous Pharisee who said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men,” was not forgiven. Those who don’t care what God thinks are not forgiven. Those who sin arrogantly and whose world centers around themselves and what they want to do are not forgiven.