“Who is a God like you, offering forgiveness for evil-doing and overlooking the sins of the rest of his heritage? …His delight is in mercy. He will again have pity on us; he will put our sins under his feet: and you will send all our sins down into the heart of the sea” (Mic. 7:18-19, BBE).
Today I am sensing a nudge from Holy Spirit to share a follow-up post to the devo I shared with you on Good Friday. We talked about how Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, expressing His forgiveness to them even before they sinned by abandoning Him at Gethsemane.
The question becomes, how does this go with another vitally important truth: that we must repent and ask Jesus to forgive our sins, once we have committed them? If Jesus forgave His disciples before they deserted Him, did they still need to ask for His forgiveness after they deserted Him?
Yes. They still needed to receive His forgiveness then too. We even see Jesus reaching out in a specific way to Peter, the one who had betrayed Him the worst (besides Judas of course). He knew that Peter desperately needed to know he was forgiven. And this was in spite of the fact that He had extended forgiveness to Peter ahead of time. So, with deep, deep love, Jesus singled him out twice in order to restore him (Mark 16:7; John 21:15-19).
So how can both of these things be true? Can Jesus forgive us both before we sin, and after we sin? How does that make sense?
Think about it in terms of your own children. (Or if you don’t have any, think about it in terms of the very best earthly father-son relationship you have ever been privileged to observe). When your child disobeys you or does something hurtful to you, what if they don’t immediately come to you repentant? Do you hold a grudge until they are ready to admit their mistake? If you are a mature Christian, you most certainly don’t. Just like the prodigal son’s father in Luke 15, you have forgiven that child long before they approach you to ask for forgiveness. You are simply longing for them to be restored to unbroken fellowship with you.
Do they still need to repent? Do they still need to ask for forgiveness? Absolutely. Why? There are two vital reasons: 1) In doing so, the interruption to your relational harmony is erased. 2) Through repentance, now that child can continue to grow stronger in the area where they missed the mark.
Did the prodigal son ever lose his place as a son? Not for a moment. His fiercely loyal father made sure he tangibly knew that. Well before he even made it across the property line returning home, he found himself wrapped up in strong, welcoming, reassuring arms. Did he need to repent and ask forgiveness? Of course. The mercy he received through that moment of reconciliation healed his heart. The repentance gave him a new beginning. The requesting and giving and receiving of forgiveness restored him to intimacy with his dad.
Long before this wayward son had even thought of repenting, however, his father had already forgiven him. We see this beautiful truth in our Savior, nailed to the cross. As He hung there in agony, He cried out with these words: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34, NKJV). Had any of those killing Him asked for forgiveness? Not a one. Had they repented? Not a one. And yet, He forgave them all, and asked His Father to forgive them too.
Did that guarantee their eternal salvation? No. Any one of them that later came to a conviction of the truth of His identity, would still need to repent and seek His forgiveness. Actively repenting and receiving His forgiveness restores us to relationship with Him. His blood can then cleanse our conscience, that we might serve the living God! (Heb. 9:14).
Let’s also consider this verse for a moment: “For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy” (Heb. 10:14, NLT). Wait a moment. Isn’t this a contradiction? How can we already be perfect, and yet still need to become holier? It’s one of those both/and things in Scripture. So many truths are complementary in God’s Kingdom. The blood of Jesus has already made you perfect in God’s sight: perfectly righteous, perfectly forgiven, perfectly cleansed, once and for all. You will always be perfect in His sight. And yet, you still need to grow in holiness. You still need His blood to cleanse your conscience when you miss the mark.
So let’s quickly avail of the forgiveness He has purchased for us! Our Daddy God aches when a guilty conscience keeps us away from His intimate presence. I remember so clearly an occasion when one of my kids was a toddler. She disobeyed me, and I reprimanded her. I thought that she would run into the next room, upset over the scolding. Instead, she ran in the opposite direction: right towards me. She dramatically wrapped herself around my knees, crying and pleading, “Mommy, please forgive me!”
I wept with her. My heart melted, and of course I swept her into my arms. We were immediately reconciled. In that moment, the Father spoke to me. He said, “When you stumble or fail Me, this is exactly what I want you to do. Don’t run away from Me. I can’t bear to have you distanced from Me. Run into My waiting arms and let Me cleanse you with My Son’s blood!”
It’s true. You are going to miss the mark many more times before He takes you to your forever home with Him. Next time it happens, though, remember this. He has already forgiven you. He has already made you perfect by His blood. So don’t make His heart ache, by staying away from His presence for even a few minutes. Run into His arms… and allow His precious blood to cleanse you once again!
When Jesus said, “That’s why I’m telling you that her many sins have been forgiven. Her great love proves that. But whoever receives little forgiveness loves very little” (Luke 7:47, GW), what did He mean? Does every sinner that asks God for forgiveness frequently come to love Him deeply?