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Can God Forgive Me?

By Kyle Pope

When the Lord called the prophet Isaiah, in wonder and fear he said, “Woe is me, for I am undone!  Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5a, NKJV).  Isaiah was neither the first nor the last to feel as if his past failures made him unworthy of God’s attention.  Simon Peter went so far as to ask Jesus to leave him.  Recognizing the awesome power of Jesus to cause the nets to overflow with such a large catch of fish, he said to Him, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8).

            It is easy to feel that the sins of our past are just too much for God to forgive.  We have hurt others and ourselves.  We have lied.  We have cheated.  We have broken vows to God and man.  We have stolen what belonged to someone else.  We have said things we should not have said.  We have used our bodies in ways that we should not have used them.  We have put into our bodies things we should not.  We have thought and done things we wish we could take back.  And yet, as Shakespeare said, “What’s done cannot be undone” (Macbeth Act 5, Scene 1.62) or as the Chinese proverb puts it, “A word once spoken cannot be called back even by a team of four horses.”

            The Apostle Paul at times must certainly have had such feelings.  This man could look back to a time when he had violently opposed faith in Jesus.  He was with those who stoned the first Christian martyr Stephen (Acts 7:58; 8:1).  He dragged Christians out of their homes and into prison (Acts 8:3).  Scripture tells us he breathed “threats and murder” against believers in Jesus (Acts 9:1).  And yet, this hard cruel man was brought to his knees when the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:2-9).  He was taught the gospel by a Christian named Annanias (Acts 9:10-19) put his faith in Jesus and was baptized washing away his sins (Acts 22:16).  Years later he reflected on the wonderful mercy God had shown to him.  He wrote, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (I Timothy 1:15). 

            As human beings we find this hard to accept.  When we are wronged we hold a grudge.  We get even!  While certain things might “roll off” our back, if a line is crossed, that’s it.  The relationship is ended.  With God, it is not that He is any less offended by wrongs done to Him, but rather he is much more patient.  He extends every opportunity for repentance and eagerly awaits our return to Him.  His very act of sending Jesus to die for our sins demonstrated both how serious sin is but how much He was willing to do that we might be reconciled to Him.

            After describing himself as the chief of all sinners Paul went on to write, “for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life” (I Timothy 1:15-16).  If we should ever say to ourselves, “I am just too far gone--Jesus can’t forgive me!”  Paul tells us, look at me!  If Jesus was willing to forgive a man like Paul He can forgive anyone—even you and even me.

            The challenge is that we must not allow God’s merciful nature to lead us to forget how serious it is to disobey what God commands.  Every bruise that Jesus endured, every thorn that pierced His forehead, every nail that ripped through his hands and feet was because of my sin and yours!  While Paul recognized that nothing he could ever do could make up for his past, he also realized that the way to show gratitude for the Lord’s forgiveness was through complete and whole-hearted obedience to Him.  If we would seek God’s mercy we must fully obey Him as well.   

Pope, Kyle. "Can God Forgive Me?" Amarillo Uptown 1.10 (October 2007): 53  

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