By Dr. Bert Bauman
ARE YOUR SINS FORGIVEN?
You might give one of several answers to the question above:
If your answer is negative, as in number 1, please read on. The question is much too important for you to be satisfied with a "no". Your answer should be "Yes".
Should your answer be number 2, let me enlighten you, they can be forgiven -- every one.
If your answer is uncertain as in numbers 3, 4 or 5 let me assure you -- you can know.
Answer number 6 leads to a lifetime of hopeless trying and failing in which satisfaction and peace will never be found -- but I have GOOD NEWS for you.
Number 7 reveals either a callused conscience or a deep ignorance of the depravity of your own heart and together with those who answer with the carelessness of number 8, you are headed for God's judgments which will lead you to a change of mind and heart known as repentance.
If your answer is the positive "Yes" of number 9, I must ask you one more question . . .
HOW DO YOU KNOW? Many answers may also be given to this question: "I feel like they are forgiven", "God answers my prayers', "I pray and do good things to make up for my sins", "God is good to me and life is going well", "I was baptized", "I take communion and keep my church's rituals, etc.", "I give to the church, support missionaries and do good" -- and you may have a special answer all your own. Some merit may be found in any of these answers but none is the right one. It is possible to think your sins are forgiven and yet your assurance may be based upon the wrong reasons.
There is only one right answer to the question, How do you know your sins are forgiven? It is found in Ephesians 1:7, <I>"In whom (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace."
The Blood Of Jesus
The blood of Jesus is not a talisman or charm. It is significant and meaningful because it stands for Jesus death. Because of sin, death became a permanent intruder into the human family in the Garden of Eden. Ever since, mankind has been hopelessly subjugated to it with no escape. Only God could help, but not even He could change the consequences of sin articulated in scripture: "the soul that sinneth shall die" and <I>"the wages of sin is death". All who have sinned must die and remain dead. If God would rescue the human race it was necessary for Him to become one with mankind and take upon Himself sin's consequences. The love God has for His creatures were forever confirmed when He took flesh upon Himself. God became man and lived with and in His creation as the Son of God. Jesus is His name. The innocent, sinless Jesus fully paid the penalty due and completely redeemed the world. The "world" means all. He took all the sins of humanity upon Himself, paying the penalty due for all mankind, dying in its place and stead. Reference to the blood of Christ is another way to express His death. Moses taught, the life (soul) of the flesh is in the blood, therefore, Jesus poured out His life (soul) in His blood. He tasted death for every man, providing for the ultimate and final removal of death from the creation of God. Death cannot be said to have ended or been removed so long as one of the human race remains dead. Jesus died on behalf of humanity, therefore, all mankind must be raised from the dead one day. Every one who has died must be made alive; not one can remain dead because Jesus died instead. He died for all and that includes you!
Judgment And Forgiveness
Again, I repeat, the only basis for the forgiveness of sin is the death of Jesus. You are not forgiven because you repent, do penance, make restitution, observe religious ceremonies and rituals or do work of any kind. Forgiveness is not based upon an act of yours but upon the work of God through Christ by grace. Therefore, God does not hold your sins against you. Since the day that Christ died for sin, God no longer takes account of it. However, this does not mean God will not judge the sinner, but God does not judge as men do -- not for the same reasons or purposes and not with the same results. The essence of God is love; therefore, God does not hold your sins against you. Since the day that Christ died for sin, God no longer takes account of it. However, this does not mean that God will not judge the sinner, but God does not judge as men do – not for the same reasons or purposes and not with the same results. The essence of God is love; therefore, the judgments of God come out of His love. Though His judgments are often spoken of as coming out of His wrath, they are, nevertheless, designed to correct and chasten so that the one who is judged will benefit. The subject of God’s judgments is much too complex to undertake here. In this pamphlet we are dealing only with that aspect of judgment in which God judges sin in the human race upon the cross of Jesus Christ. One day all will be judged according to the deeds done in the body but that is quite a different matter from what we are examining here. Jesus was made sin for us, though He knew no sin Himself, in order that God might judge Him with the judgment the human race deserved. This judgment of sin in Christ is the only basis for our forgiveness. Since God judged Jesus in our place it would be unjust for Him to visit judgment for sin a second time upon Adam'’ race. That would be the same as judging the sinner twice for the same sin.
Sin Is Fruitful
Though judicially forgiven, the acts of sin continue to bear their unwholesome fruit, for whatever a person sows he will harvest. Misery and grief may continue to dog the individual even though God has forgiven through Christ. Some might deceive themselves by thinking that now that their sins are forgiven and God overlooks them, they can continue living in sin. As I have already said, sin has its consequences -- so to continue in sin is to keep on reaping the evil results. Knowing your sins are forgiven is the beginning, but deliverance from the bondage of sinful acts or attitudes is an absolute necessity for wholeness of life to be enjoyed. This begins with the acknowledgment of a problem. "If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I John 1:9. The death of Jesus not only purchased forgiveness for you but it also redeemed you as a purchased possession for God. Since you now belong to God because He bought YOU, He has the right to intervene in your life and deliver you from sin's consequences by making you right. Jesus is your God-appointed Savior from your sins. As you pray, tell God you will receive Jesus and trust Him to be your own personal Savior.
Hindrances To Forgiveness
Many Christians who believe in the forgiveness of God are, nevertheless, under continual condemnation because they do not acknowledge their sins or because they harbor an unforgiving attitude. Jesus taught us to pray, "forgive us as we forgive others". If we refuse to forgive others for what they have done to us, assurance and peace will elude us -- An unforgiving attitude hinders faith in Jesus' finished work for me. Subconsciously, my unforgiving attitude will not allow my own heart to forgive myself or to receive forgiveness from God. As in the parable of the unmerciful steward, if after hearing and receiving the good news of forgiveness through Christ, the believer refuses to extend the same grace to others, God will not allow peace to remain in the heart of the believer, nor will He act in behalf of the believer to deliver him from the consequences which his own sins are producing. The believer finds himself under the chastening judgment of God, who judges us according to our judgment of others. Nevertheless, the foundation remains sure and solitary ... Christ died for the sins of the world -- and that "world" is you. The world is made up of individuals, so if Christ died for the world, He died for each individual. There can be no world without individuals just as there can be no forest without individual trees.
The Fruit Of Ignorance And Unbelief
Since Christ died for all, all are forgiven but all do not know it, and so the world continues to bear the burden and results of sin. Jesus directed his disciples to carry the good news of forgiveness into all the world -- to every creature. It is needful to tell the world of God's solution because no one seeks a solution to a problem if one does not know a solution is possible. Only those who know the message of Jesus and believe it can rest in its truth and be saved from sin's burdens. If you do not know your sins are forgiven, or you do not believe and receive the proclamation of sins forgiven, you must continue to struggle under your burden. Neither can you find release and peace if you do not acknowledge your problem (confess your sins), and repent (have a change of mind about your condition). Confession and repentance are necessary to help your faith and gain peace of mind, but they are not the reason you obtain forgiveness from God. It is futile to trust in your works of repentance and remorse or obedience to a religious ritual in order to earn or be rewarded with forgiveness; however, these works may be helpful as a way to receive and personally experience that which God has already given to you through the work of Christ alone. God gave the sacraments for this reason. They were not intended as mere ordinances to be kept for the sake of obedience alone, but as an aid to faith, giving you a tangible way to receive or take the invisible forgiveness and grace of God. Baptism is a perceptible way in which you may personally receive the washing away of your sins. The Lord's supper, also, can help your faith to receive the forgiveness of sins. As you drink the wine, you are personally receiving the blood of Christ which was shed for the sins of the world, and as you eat the bread, you personally receive the body and life of Christ, to strengthen you. All has been done . . . it can only be received and enjoyed by faith!
The Nature Of Truth
At this point, it is necessary to consider the nature of truth. Fact, Truth and Reality are one. Science is a search for fact. Theories are not considered fact until they are proven to be real or true. Truth, reality, fact are self-existent. By that, I mean their existence does not depend upon anything or anyone. God is reality. He exists, even if no one believes in Him. The atheist denies God but that does not change reality -- God is God, moreover. He is the atheist's God also, though unrecognized by the atheist. 2+2 still equals 4, even if you doubt it and never use the equation. The scriptures remain true even if not a single person upon earth believes them. Truth is fact whether it is believed or not, and it is reality even if the whole world be ignorant of it or call it false. Unbelief does not change reality and faith does not create it. If something is not true and real there is nothing to believe in -- believing does no make it so. It is deception to believe in something that is not real. God never asks us to believe in something that does not exist, nor to bring something into being by believing it. We sometimes hear the phrase, "creative faith". There is no such thing. Miracles that seen to be created by faith are simply the manifestation and experience of that which God has already created. Faith can do no more than receive, or believe, the truth. Faith comprehends reality; it does not create it. All this seems obvious, I know, and yet in the realm of theology it is often forgotten. Obvious principles are sometimes lost in the maze of doctrines, rules and dogmas. No doubt this is why Christianity is in such massive confusion, even though all insist they stand upon scripture alone for their teaching.
Believing Is Living
People live by what they believe. If their belief system is false, they do not live in reality. Everything which is contrary to reality is deception. This is the reason why God asks us to live by faith, that is, live by the truth of His word. God tells us that which is real and true in order that our lives may be founded upon reality. What He asks us to believe is real, though, in this age it may not seem so. All about us are delusions and false ideas. We grow up in this floating mass of fallacy and error coming from the world's philosophies, religions and often the Church itself. All this is fostered by the prince of this age, the great deceiver. Because mankind believes in the unreal world of Satan's making, it suffers the misery and heartache we see. But his world cannot remain, because it is based upon delusion. Scripture tells us that which is seen (the world in deception) is temporary and that which is unseen (truth and reality) is permanent. This present age is shrouded in deception and it is passing away. Eventually, only reality will remain. With doubting Thomas, we shall all believe one day because we see; but in this age we are especially blessed if we believe though we do not see. Jesus came to restore reality. Those who today hear the Gospel and believe it are privileged to live in reality now, before it is revealed in the ages to come.
Remember, truth is self-existent. Whether you believe it or not, Christ died on a cross outside of Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago. Whether you believe it or not, in that death He paid for the sins of the whole world reconciling the world unto God. So, whether you believe it or not, Christ paid for your sins and you are therefore forgiven by an act of God. Through the blood of Christ, shed upon that cross nearly 2,000 years ago, you were forgiven, redeemed, reconciled and bought by the Almighty God. You belong to Him and He loves you — whether you know it or not, whether you believe it or not. This is reality. To believe anything else is to live in delusion. Rejecting reality only keeps you from enjoying its benefits. Ultimately, the reality of Christ's death for all will be seen. After the deception, false religions, judgments and corrections of God, in the ages to come, it will be seen that what Jesus did on the cross was beyond the imagination of mankind. The reality of God's love, forgiveness and grace will endure beyond all the false notions and ideas of this present age.
Living By Faith
"But I don't have enough faith". Yes you do! Doubt is faith. But it is believing the wrong thing. Faith is believing God, and doubt is believing someone or something other than God. To most of us, doubt is believing what we feel rather than what God says. Positive faith is a rational choice based upon fact rather than feeling. What we are feeling today is the result of past experiences and beliefs -- which are often based upon false information. Feelings can be changed by faith based upon fact. The formula is: Fact + Faith = Feeling. The natural tendency is to revise the formula, thus: Feeling=Fact=Faith, that is, feelings are fact, so believe what you feel. The consequence is, the more you believe what you feel, the more you feel like what you are feeling. Once a downward trend begins with this fallacious formula, a nether ward, accelerated spiral is set in motion. This descending spiral can only be broken by persistently choosing to rely upon truth rather than feeling. The negative feelings we have were developed over a long period of time and it will take time to change them. That is the reason God commends patience (another word for persistence) along with faith.
Truth has two enemies, those who do not believe and those who do not use it. Truth must be accepted and used to benefit the hearer. It does little good to hear the truth and ignore it. In this regard, there is no difference between the one who doubts and the one who claims to believe. Truth must be lived. If you cannot find peace in the forgiveness of sins, it is not the fault of God. He has forgiven you through the death of Jesus -- you must build His word of forgiveness into your daily life through faith. "The just shall live by faith", was the key scripture that sparked the Lutheran Reformation. Faith will always cause reformation. Faith is the key to your life just as it was to Martin Luther. He struggled on painfully for years, seeking to merit forgiveness of sin until one day he realized his labor was in vain since God had already forgiven him through the cross of Jesus Christ. Faith begins when you stop working. You must quit trying to be forgiven and simply rest in what God has already done for you through the death of Christ. You enter into rest by giving up and saying, "Thank You, Father, for the forgiveness of my sins".
The Rest Of Faith
The forgiveness of your sins is not up to God -- it is up to you. He has done all He can. The table is set and the call is out, Come and eat!" Eating and faith are alike in that they both
partake of that which has been prepared. The last breath from Jesus' body spoke the finish of God's preparations. It is now time to partake -- to receive. It is a time for faith alone. Everything that builds your faith in God's finished work through Jesus is valid. Work at believing, but do not work to be saved. "Strive to enter into rest", says the writer of Hebrews when exhorting his readers to faith. Because of our human slowness of heart to believe, God has given us aids to faith: prayer, repentance, Bible study and sacraments are means you may use to build your faith. Many misinterpret these as works which are commanded to be obeyed in order to merit salvation, but God gave them as means to help us receive what He has given. His gifts are never given as a reward for what we have done. They are given out of His love and grace. There are rewards to His faithful servants, but that is another matter. Rewards for works are given to those who have before received His free gifts.
Finding Faith Through Works
The truth that Jesus paid for the sins of the world, including yours, is a self-existent reality. Your faith or unbelief does not change that. It is true whether or not you believe it, so you might as well believe it. If you have trouble receiving it for yourself personally, do the following things:
1) Confess your sins to God. This is the way to acknowledge and admit your need. Usually there is one special thing that haunts you. Tell God what it is. 2) Repent. This word has been misunderstood. It means to change your mind or attitude about something, so change your mind about your sins -- turn against them, don't justify, excuse or pamper them, rather, renounce them. This does not mean you have not repented unless you stop sinning, as many teach. After all, if you had the strength to stop, you would not need God's help, but you must make a choice against them. So long as you defend sin, God is not free to come to your aid. 3) Pray, ask God to forgive you. Even though you are already forgiven through the death of Christ, it will help you to experience forgiveness personally if you ask personally. 4) Thank God for His forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ. It does no good to ask over and over again if you do not take what you ask for by faith. TAKE the answer by saying "thank you", and thereafter allow no thought in your mind that suggests you have not been forgiven, 5) Invite Jesus Christ into your life and ask Him to be your savior, teacher, companion and Lord . . . and know that He is with you now because He has promised to respond to such an invitation, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29.
6) If you still have trouble believing, God has given a visible word in baptism. Baptism is, in a sense, a visual aid in which He promises to wash away your sins and join you as one with Jesus Christ. It is the way God has given to put on Christ -- a tangible aid to faith. If you were baptized as an infant, trust that God gave you Jesus then, even though you just realize it now, or, be rebaptized. God won't mind if you are baptized many times. Neither does God care how much or how little water gets on you. The goal is faith. Use as much water as it takes for you to believe God. The point is, when the water hits you, it is an individual experience. Christ died for the world -- but it is you and not someone else who feels the water, and God is not now dealing with the world but with you, personally. As you are being baptized, thank Him for washing away your sins and giving you Jesus! Take the Lord's Supper, or Communion. All I have said about baptism applies here. About the wine, Jesus said, "This is my blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins". As you drink the wine, you are receiving the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Not someone else, but you. So also with the bread. As you eat it, you are becoming one with Christ, for He said, "This is my body". As that bread is assimilated and becomes part of your very self, so Jesus Christ becomes one with you personally. Believe it, receive it, with thanksgiving. An obstacle to experiencing forgiveness of sins is usually dealt with in the communion service. Most forms include an admonition to "search yourself". It is a time to examine your heart to see if you have anything against anyone. If you do, you must choose to forgive that person. So tell God that you do before you ask Him to forgive you. Read the Word of God and subject yourself to good Bible teaching. Learn the Word. Faith comes and grows through hearing it, that is, the kind of hearing that seeks to make it a part of your life.
Again, I emphasize, none of these things will earn your forgiveness, they are simply a means to build faith so you may personally experience that which God has already done for you through Jesus Christ. I trust that by now you have come to full assurance that God loves you and your sins are forgiven. If not, Don’t give up! God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. He is faithful, for even if you are unfaithful, He cannot deny Himself.
I pray you may find joy and peace in believing.
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Revised: September 16, 2009
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