The Central Truth of the Gospel
I don’t know if I will ever completely understand what it cost God to forgive me until I reach eternity, but I believe that comprehending what I can of it now depends on my understanding God’s justice and what it cost Him to bless me with His mercy.
Until I realize that Jesus Christ has satisfied God’s justice, I cannot appreciate the incredible blessing of salvation by grace.
Human beings often think of judgment like this. “I am going to be punished unfairly” rather than “I am going to receive what I deserve” as though we are not really guilty. Some even go as far as saying, “Well, I know that I am technically guilty, but you need to understand why I had to do what I did, why it’s not really my fault.”
When we hurt someone, we often feel sorry for ourselves while we quickly pass over the fact that others were deeply hurt and wounded by our irresponsible actions. Without realizing it, we develop a double standard expecting preferential treatment from God and those we have wronged. We want them to express understanding and compassion to us for what we have done wrong, but when we are wronged, it’s another matter. We want justice and call for God’s righteous judgment.
“Judgment” is not necessarily a negative word. It simply means that a righteous God is putting wrongs right and compensating the innocent. Our definition of justice usually depends on whether we are the “victim” or the “perpetrator.” Because God is no respecter of persons, He cannot and will not compromise His justice for anyone. Instead, He executed judgment on Jesus Christ as He took all our sins upon Himself in dying for us on the cross. He died bearing the full weight and penalty of God’s uncompromising justice. In so doing, He satisfied the need for justice and laid the foundation for forgiveness. My sins are gone because Jesus took responsibility for them and paid for them in full.
Now I have a new way to live: receiving and giving mercy and forgiveness. Justice is good but mercy is far better. I need His forgiveness, too, for the sins I have committed. As I acknowledge my sin and guilt and believe in Christ Jesus to pay off the debt for me, thank God I now owe nothing. I’m out of debt. I am now free and completely forgiven—with one condition. If I want to be forgiven, then I must also be forgiving. I cannot expect grace for me but justice for those who sin against me and owe me.
RECEIVING AND GIVING THE GIFT OF MERCY
This is where faith comes in. In simple childlike trust, I accept this free gift of forgiveness that Christ is offering to me. And now He asks me to forgive those who have sinned against me, extending to them the same mercy that He gave to me. Yet it feels difficult to do. My sense of justice squirms and complains that it’s somehow not fair.
Have you ever wondered what all the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament were about? It is a symbolic picture of the good news of the gospel. The sacrificial lamb represents Jesus, the Lamb of God. The innocent lamb dies so the guilty man can go free. The Old Testament saints needed to bring a perfect, innocent animal to sacrifice. As the blood flowed out from the innocent animal, God would forgive the sins of the one who brought it. God was teaching the sons of Israel His standard of justice. Someone had to pay for the wrongs that had been done. Then God the Father would be free to extend mercy, which was His heart’s desire all along.
This is the New Covenant, ushered in by Jesus Christ.
The covenant that God now has with man is no longer based upon our good works and self effort. It is not based upon our ability to keep the Laws of God and be good; but rather it is based upon our placing faith and trust in what Jesus Christ has already accomplished. If our forgiveness is a free gift, simply by believing, our need to forgive others is also new and brought in with the New Covenant. Now I want to move away from a lifestyle of demanding justice, lest I get what I really deserve. I cannot expect mercy and forgiveness for myself if I am demanding justice for you. If I want to be forgiven, I must forgive; and forgiving releases the power of God
THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS
Recently in Chicago, Carol and I shared messages on the subject, “The Importance of Forgiveness.” That message made a great impact on a woman at the conference. She came to the altar and forgave some family members and friends who had deeply wounded her. Rejoicing in her new-found freedom, she shared this with her 93 year old mother, who now resided in a nursing home. Her mother was deeply touched by the message of obtaining freedom through forgiveness and resolved to put things right in her own life. The next day the elderly mother telephoned a sister-in-law to whom she had not spoken in 75 years. She asked the sister-in-law to forgive her for being so hard hearted and unforgiving for so many years. They both wept on the phone together, rejoicing as they came into their new-found freedom through forgiveness.
At that same conference, we were introduced to a lady who had just been released from prison. While this woman had been employed as a prison guard, someone talked her into smuggling a package into the prison where she worked. The package contained a handgun. When it was discovered, she was arrested, convicted and imprisoned herself. During her time in prison, she had come to know the Lord as her personal Saviour, but could really never feel free.
Then someone gave her our little booklet, “The Importance of Forgiveness.” As she read it, she realized that she had been blaming herself and holding herself in judgment and condemnation for her foolish act. Failing to forgive herself, she placed herself in a second prison of guilt and condemnation. She struggled to forgive herself. When she finally did, peace and joy flooded into her heart. She was overjoyed to come to that conference and meet us to tell us how the booklet had helped her forgive herself.
This last November during our Father Loves You Conference in Toronto, Carol and I shared about forgiveness in a workshop. Following the teaching, Carol led the people into a time of ministry for physical healing. She invited those who had been in pain for more than 20 years to come forward for prayer.
A lady in her mid-thirties responded saying that when she was a teenager she had fallen of a horse. She had been in much pain ever since. Incredibly, she had made a career of riding, jumping and showing horses, and so she suffered much every time she rode. She wept as she shared her story with Carol who asked her if she had forgiven herself. She blurted out through her sobs that she could not. It was her fault. Just before the incident on the day she was injured, she had become angry with her horse and whipped it causing it to rear. The horse tripped and fell on top of her permanently damaging the woman’s spine.
Carol said, “Pray with me”, and then led her in a heartfelt prayer to forgive herself for her anger and her mistake. Then peace came which quickly gave way to surprise and then great joy as she realized the pain of 17 years was going, going, GONE! We rejoiced with her as she testified publicly. It was thrilling to see her dancing at the front with her husband during worship completely pain free. He could scarcely believe it.
In the same workshop, a lady from the USA responded who had been in pain for 35 years. An angry drunk driver had rammed her car repeatedly four or five times, causing severe neck, shoulder and back injuries. She had been in intense pain and on prescription painkillers since the accident. As soon as she forgave that driver for injuring her and ruining her life, she immediately fell out under the power of God.
Carol returned to her fifteen minutes later and asked how she was doing. “Test your back,” she said, “and see if anything had happened” She began yelling out, “It’s gone! It’s gone! It’s gone! “
She bent down and experienced no pain. Then she raised her arms over her head shouting, “I could never raise my arms above my shoulders!” Jesus had healed her while she lay on the floor. Her decision to forgive had broken the enemy’s power to block her healing.
WHY FORGIVENESS RELEASES GOD’S HEALING POWER
Why does forgiveness release such healing power? God is very anxious to heal and bless His people, but His blessing only flows through the riverbed of grace and mercy. As long as we are still blaming ourselves and others for sins and shortcomings, we are binding ourselves to the Law and the Old Covenant and short circuiting the grace and blessing of God. The minute we forgive and step up into the place of grace, the river of God’s blessing and healing flows.
His power does not flow at a justice level, but when we step into grace and mercy by faith, miracles happen.
Perhaps the Holy Spirit of God has brought something to your attention right now. Perhaps you have had prayer for healing many times and could never seem to break through. You see, there is also power in unforgiveness, the power to keep you in pain. Perhaps reading this has sparked faith in your heart. Maybe there is a root of unforgiveness that the Lord is showing you right now. Whatever it is, it can be removed by a decision on your part to forgive.
“But they don’t deserve to be forgiven,” you protest. “You don’t know how deeply they hurt me!” Right there is the very reason that you really need to deal with these issues. Jesus Christ died on the cross for things He did not do, for your sins. The greatest injustice in the history of the world occurred when cruel hands and hearts unjustly murdered the Son of God. At the moment of the greatest injustice ever committed, the Victim cried out, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” The blood of Jesus still cries out for mercy and forgiveness today.
Forgiveness is the central truth of the Gospel.
It is pivotal to understanding God’s grace. The Grace of God is a free gift to the one who will have it. It is free, but it is certainly not cheap. It cost Jesus everything to purchase this gift for you. Don’t hold back. Give the one who hurt you a gift that they do not deserve, your forgiveness. To the degree that you need that undeserved gift of forgiveness, let it go now and pray with me:
“Father, I now choose to forgive this person that you have brought to my mind at this moment. I give them a gift of my forgiveness, just as You have given me the gift of Your forgiveness. They owe me nothing. I release them from my judgment. I want to be free from every root of anger, fear and bitterness. I let it all go, Father, at the foot of the cross of Jesus. By faith I now receive the freedom and healing that Christ has purchased for me. It is mine. I receive it now. Thank you, Father, in Jesus’ name.”