Victory and Freedom, two words that certainly go together. The Christian should know these words well because our Savior won our freedom when He was victorious over death. But why don’t I, and many brothers and sisters I know, live life in that freedom and the victory He has won us? I think we are taught at a young age that it can’t be that simple. We believe we can only live in the freedom that we achieve, not what Christ achieved for us. That is a big issue because the freedom I am referring to can only be bought by the blood of Christ. I believe the modern church has also helped keep us in bondage because forgiveness is often slowly granted and, even then, only when certain criteria have been met.
I struggle to see that example in Scripture. There are too many times where sins are forgiven because our God is that gracious and not as a result of anything we earned. In John 8:10-11 “Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.’”
Of course, this is the story of the woman caught in adultery. Notice that the only dialogue between Jesus and the woman was a question answered. I certainly don’t see where she did anything to deserve her forgiveness of sin. I am not saying that repentance is not huge in the forgiveness of sins; I am saying that the sweetest repentance is when it is a “response” to unmerited forgiveness through grace.
Please note again that repentance was necessary but, in this Scripture, it came after He chose not to condemn her. Her guilt was never the question. She was caught red-handed.
We can also use the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Again, I do not see where she earned her forgiveness. The part of that Scripture I love the most is the text “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” How often have we contributed to someone’s bondage because we failed to show them the grace Jesus demonstrated time after time? Have I been a stumbling block in someone else’s walk because I was expecting a certain behavior and they fell short of my expectations? How much more can He be glorified if I were to love those who offend me like Christ loves me?
There are just too many cases where God forgave those that could have never earned it. I believe the early disciples had to learn this lesson before Christ could use them to their full potential. Peter had to be “sifted” and then reaffirmed on the beach after Jesus’ resurrection. Saul had to meet Jesus face to face before Paul could go and preach the Gospel.
I believe that God shows His forgiving character in the story of the prodigal son. The father “ran” to the son from a distance to embrace and dress him in the finest robe and best ring. At that time, what could the son have done to “earn” the father’s forgiveness? Again, I am not proclaiming that repentance is not pivotal in the forgiveness of sin. I am only saying that we tend to put too many conditions on forgiveness and therefore demonstrate that the church is slow to forgive so you better have your act together before you enter through the doors. What about the ones that are already through the doors? How many Christians in the church fail to deal with deep-rooted issues in their lives for fear of condemnation from the church? We must deal with deep-rooted issues in our lives. If we don’t, we just place the Gospel on top of our issues and, in times of storms, our foundation proves weak because we have failed to deal with our stuff.
I am trying desperately to retrain my mindset. I am forgiven because of what He did, not what I try to do. I know that I can’t live victoriously and free until I get this.
I thank God for pastors that teach this message every Sunday, that we are free because of what Christ did on the cross and that He knew what a sinner I would be and still died for me and died willingly. I will never be able to repay Christ for that precious gift but I hope to spend a lifetime glorifying His name in response. Trying to earn forgiveness through works and religion can be exhausting. I pray that I can show the same grace that Christ showed me when I am wronged. I want desperately for the church to be viewed this way. The Scripture states in John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
We are called to love one another, to help our brothers out when they are struggling to receive God’s forgiveness so that they may be able to live life abundantly in the freedom and victory that our Lord and Savior paid so dearly for.