Have you heard of the Apostle’s Creed? The Creed is a document created by the early church to tell people who God is and what we believe about Him. They didn’t have Bibles back then and this was 109 words that they could easily share about what they believed. It’s like an elevator speech about the good news of God. If you were sitting down with someone over coffee and you wanted to communicate with them what you believe about God, what would you say? There are some things in the creed you might mention:
- You might talk about our loving heavenly father
- You might mention the power of the resurrection
- If you were really bold you might tell them about the power God provides us through his Holy Spirit.
But there are a whole lot of topics you’d probably avoid:
- You probably wouldn’t lead with I believe in the virgin birth. Conception isn’t a great conversation starter anyways, but talking about how God was conceived can be a difficult way to start.
- You probably wouldn’t say Jesus descended into Hell. The topic of Hell tends to be a party killer.
- You certainly wouldn’t tell your friend that you believe Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead. You probably aren’t going to want to go for judge-y in that moment.
If you were sitting with a friend over coffee and you were talking about what you believe about God, I believe that there are some things you would avoid, but today’s topic is not one of them. I think it would be in your top five things to bring up about God, in fact it might even be the very first thing:
The Forgiveness of Sins
We have a winner. I’m guessing if you were sitting in Starbucks drinking a pumpkin spice latte and a friend asked you why you believe in Jesus, you would start here. I believe because I made a mess of my life. I believe I could do it on my own and it didn’t work out so well. I believe because Jesus forgave me…for all of it.
We all believe in forgiveness. We all want it and think that it’s a good idea, but I’m not sure we completely understand what is meant when the Apostle’s Creed when it says, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” If we did then it would be a game changer. Understanding this statement about Christianity and what Jesus did for us when he died on the cross has the power to change everything about our lives. Once we completely understand, accept, and practice this concept, it will drastically change the way we live our lives and relate to the people in them and we will finally be set free. Do you want that? I know that I do, so in this blog I want to show you what you need to do to get it. It’s not hard, but it’s something that we all seem to resist. Are you ready for it? Here it is:
Live a No-Regrets Life
Total acceptance of God’s forgiveness means we can put down all that baggage we’ve been carrying, even if we’ve been carrying it for our whole lives. Forgiveness isn’t just a concept. It’s not an act. It’s a lifestyle. If we were to learn how to fully embrace forgiveness in our whole lives, we would be better as people. We would live more freely. Our relationships would be better. Our stress levels would drop. To accept that kind of forgiveness we need to believe that when you come to God you no longer have a need for regret. Many people technically believe in forgiveness; they’ve been to enough Good Friday and Easter services to understand what Jesus did, but just can’t get over the stupid mistake they made. Here are just a few mistakes some people think are worth holding on to:
- I cost my company thousands.
- I bought my house at the wrong time.
- I slept with the wrong person.
- I hurt my children and may have really messed them up.
If you are one of these people, you might be thinking: Forgiveness is a great concept, and God, I want to thank you for it. But I don’t feel it. I still feel like a jerk for what I did.
You are Not Alone
Years ago I found myself in a conversation with a friend of mine; we’ll call him John. To look at this guy, you would think he didn’t have a care in the world. John was always smiling. He was always serving. You couldn’t find a nicer guy. But John carried around a secret and he could never get over it. Over lunch he told me his story:
When John was in high school he had a girlfriend we will call Mary. This relationship started with a high school crush. Looks were exchanged, notes were passed. That crush became a steady and then a romance. They went to every prom and Sadie Hawkins and homecoming and they had the pictures to prove it. John and Mary were in love. One day Mary came to John with words that would change both of their lives. “John, I’m pregnant.” Ultimately, the decision was made for Mary to have an abortion. I’m guessing if I opened up the topic of abortion on this blog, I’d get a lot of heated comments and there would be people eager to debate each side, but there was no debating this fact: John felt guilty. He felt like he ended a life. He felt like he permanently hurt Mary. John and Mary went their own separate ways soon after, but the scars remained. By the time we talked that event was 25 years old, but John lived the guilt like it was yesterday. He could never get over it. I tried to talk to him about forgiveness and how Jesus paid the debt in full, but he could not grasp the concept. He has since left the church and I think his guilt was one of the reasons.
Absolute Forgiveness Forgives Absolutely
Conceptually John got that Jesus died for his sins, but he couldn’t fully grasp it mentally so he carries this burden that pursues him in dark hours and still wakes him up at night. John doesn’t truly believe in the forgiveness of sin. If he did he would be free. He would have peace. He would know that his Heavenly Father still loves him.
Let me ask you this question. Do you believe in the forgiveness of sin? Do you believe that the mistakes of your past are truly in the past? Or do you carry around guilt. Are you still trying to do penance for them? “If only I did enough good deeds I could prove myself.” Or, “If only I go on enough missions trips or feed enough homeless or walk enough old ladies across the street, I would make up for my alcoholism or my affair or my anger issues.” Somewhere inside of you is this little perfectionist that tells you that you should have done better and God knows that. If you have confessed your sins to God and admitted your mistakes to the person you have hurt and asked for forgiveness and yet you still have this little nagging thought that you have to do something more to be forgiven, then you do not believe in the forgiveness of sin. If that is you, I have a verse for you.
23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.– Romans 3:23,24
All have sinned. We’ve all made mistakes. If we were to open the books on all of our sin, we would be shocked by what we are capable of doing and thinking. But here’s the good news: there is no sin that is beyond God’s forgiveness. The Bible is proof of that. Here’s a short list:
- Abraham was a liar. I don’t mean he lied on his taxes or he lied when his wife asked if her dress made her look fat. He lied to the king of Egypt because he thought his wife was so good looking that the king would kill him to get his wife. So he lied and said she was his sister. Then she was taken from him anyway and given to the king. He basically sexually trafficked his own wife to save his skin. Still God used this man as the founder of the nation of Israel.
- Moses had an anger issue that lead to murder. Now the person he murdered was a slave master who was beating a slave, so in our minds we have some understanding of why he did it, but can you imagine hitting someone so many times that he died? What kind of mental scars does that leave? Despite that, God chose Moses to set his people free.
- When the nation of Israel finally reached the Promised Land, they sent spies in to scope out the land and the spies were saved by Rahab, the prostitute. If you grew up in the church, you’ve heard that name over and over and it’s lost some of it’s impact so let’s be clear: this woman was literally responsible for damaging hundreds of marriages. Hundreds. This isn’t just one affair. This was a lifestyle of affairs. Still Rahab is in the genealogy of Jesus. She’s mentioned as a great woman of faith.
I could go on and on. Samson killed thousands with his bear hands. David had an affair and was also a murderer. Solomon had a sex addiction. Peter denied Jesus in his hour of need. Each of these men and women did the unspeakable and each of them were forgiven. God didn’t hold their sin over their heads. He didn’t make them continually do penance. He forgave them. He has forgiven you. I love what Psalm 130 says.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?--Psalm 130:3
The answer is? Nobody. Look, I don’t know what you’ve done in your past. I don’t know what kind of mistakes you’ve made or people you’ve hurt. But I do know this. If you come before God and ask for forgiveness and you go before the person you hurt and do what you can to make it right, then you are forgiven. If you still are carrying guilt around after that, it ain’t from God. If you are still trying to work your way to freedom and try harder to earn your forgiveness, then you need to simply say this to yourself today: “I believe in the forgiveness of sin.” To fully embrace the forgiveness of sin, we need to understand that we no longer have a need for regret.
I believe in the forgiveness of sin. Who’s with me? Let’s start living fully into this belief and see what God does in our lives.