Skip to main content

Forgiveness after Forgiveness


Can a Christian be forgiven of sin committed after he or she first comes to Christ? The answer may seem obvious to you and me. However, there was a time early on in the history of the Church when converts would put off baptism until they were on their death bed. Their thought was that they could not be forgiven after baptism. Thus, the concluded it is important to be baptized as late in life as possible. The argument could be made that the sacrament of reconciliation (involving confession and absolution) in the Catholic Church evolved in response to this trend in the Church. By the sacrament of reconciliation Christians were given an opportunity, after baptism, to be forgiven of sin.

I will make no comment on this sacrament within the Catholic Church. However, there is clear biblical support for the idea of Christians confessing sin, repenting of sin, and receiving forgiveness from God. The Lord's Prayer demands this. Jesus gave this prayer as a model for all disciples to follow. It is clearly a prayer that believers address to God as Father. Jesus teaches us to pray, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." (Matthew 6:12)

However, here is a valid question: how can the Scriptural requirement for Christians to confess sin be reconciled with the teaching that at the moment of conversion we are forgiven of sin once for all and God "remembers our sin no more"?

One way to resolve this seeming contradiction is to recognize that God deals with human beings both as Judge and Father. Because of the sin of the first human beings, we are born into this world relating to God as Judge. We continue to have God as our judge because of our own sin. However, the moment we come to faith in Jesus, we are forgiven, judicially, of all our sin, once and for all. The Lord makes a legal declaration; we call it justification. God declares we are not guilty of our sin because of our faith in the shed blood of Jesus. Once that declaration happens, we can be accepted into God's family and we begin to relate to God as Father.

The problem is that even as children of our heavenly Father, we continue to sin in this life. Every time we do this, sin breaks our fellowship with God. Our sin, as Christians, does not change our legal standing before God, we are still God's children, but it does mar our relationship with God as Father. Therefore, even as believers in Jesus, we must come to the Lord on a regular basis to confess our sin to him. We are instructed to do just that in 1 John 1:9. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

This coming week, we will remember on Maundy Thursday Jesus' last Passover supper with his disciples. At that meal, Jesus washed his disciples' feet. When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Simon objected to having Jesus perform such a menial task. Jesus responded to Peter and said, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." Peter then consented to have Jesus wash his feet. Furthermore, Peter insisted that Jesus should wash his hands and head as well. Jesus again responded to Peter, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean."

Judicial forgiveness is like that total bath; it cleanses us once and for all of moral filth in our legal standing before God. Parental forgiveness is like the washing of our feet; it is something we need Jesus to do for us on a daily basis as we walk the road of life, as we continue to stumble and fall, and as our feet get dusty with sin.

I say this because as Christians it is possible for us to have one of two attitudes. It is easy for some of us to tune out the message of forgiveness as though it is something we do not need to hear anymore. But this is wrong. Though we have been forgiven once and for all judicially, we still need to be forgiven parentally on a daily basis.

The other attitude Christians are sometimes tempted to have is that of hopelessness. Some Christians feel overwhelmingly awful when they sin and conclude there is no hope for them. This too is a wrong attitude to have. There is hope for everyone and anyone who will humble themselves, come to Jesus, confess, and repent.

Tomorrow we will begin to look at the steps involved in receiving forgiveness....

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

C. S. Lewis on Homosexuality

Arthur Greeves
In light of recent developments in the United States on the issue of gay marriage, I thought it would be interesting to revisit what C. S. Lewis thought about homosexuality. Lewis, who died in 1963, never wrote about same-sex marriage, but he did write, occasionally, about the topic of homosexuality in general. In the following I am quoting from my book, Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C. S. Lewis. For detailed references and footnotes, you may obtain a copy from Amazon, your local library, or by clicking on the book cover at the right....
In Surprised by Joy, Lewis claimed that homosexuality was a vice to which he was never tempted and that he found opaque to the imagination. For this reason he refused to say anything too strongly against the pederasty that he encountered at Malvern College, where he attended school from the age of fifteen to sixteen. Lewis did not rate pederasty as the greatest evil of the school because he felt the cruelty displayed at Malver…

A Prayer at Ground Zero

Christmas Day Thought from Henri Nouwen

"I keep thinking about the Christmas scene that Anthony arranged under the altar. This probably is the most meaningful "crib" I have ever seen. Three small woodcarved figures made in India: a poor woman, a poor man, and a small child between them. The carving is simple, nearly primitive. No eyes, no ears, no mouths, just the contours of the faces. The figures are smaller than a human hand - nearly too small to attract attention at all.
"But then - a beam of light shines on the three figures and projects large shadows on the wall of the sanctuary. That says it all. The light thrown on the smallness of Mary, Joseph, and the Child projects them as large, hopeful shadows against the walls of our life and our world.
"While looking at the intimate scene we already see the first outlines of the majesty and glory they represent. While witnessing the most human of human events, I see the majesty of God appearing on the horizon of my existence. While being moved by the ge…

Sheldon Vanauken Remembered

A good crowd gathered at the White Hart Cafe in Lynchburg, Virginia on Saturday, February 7 for a powerpoint presentation I gave on the life and work of Sheldon Vanauken. Van, as he was known to family and friends, was best known as the author of A Severe Mercy, the autobiography of his love relationship with his wife Jean "Davy" Palmer Davis.

While living in Oxford, England in the early 1950's, Van and Davy came to faith in Christ through the influence of C. S. Lewis. Van was a professor of history and English literature at Lynchburg College from 1948 until his retirement around 1980. A Severe Mercy tells the story of Davy's death from a mysterious liver ailment in 1955 and Van's subsequent dealing with grief. Van himself died from cancer in 1996.

It was my privilege to know Van for a brief period of time during the last year of his life. However, present at the White Hart on February 7 were some who knew Van far better than I did--Floyd Newman, one of Van's…

Mentoring

The first of four posts by yours truly is now up on the Next Leadership Blog. Check it out by clicking here: Mentoring.

C. S. Lewis Tour--London

The final two days of our C. S. Lewis Tour of Ireland & England were spent in London. Upon our arrival we enjoyed a panoramic tour of the city that included Westminster Abbey. A number of our tour participants chose to tour the inside of the Abbey where they were able to view the new C. S. Lewis plaque in Poets' Corner.


Though London was not one of Lewis' favorite places to visit, there are a number of locations associated with him. One which I have noted in my new book, In the Footsteps of C. S. Lewis, is Endsleigh Palace Hospital (25 Gordon Street, London) where Lewis recovered from his wounds received during the First World War....


Not too far away from this location is King's College, part of the University of London, located on the Strand, just off the River Thames. This is the location where Lewis gave the annual commemoration oration entitled The Inner Ring on 14 December 1944....


C. S. Lewis occasionally attended theatrical events in London. One of his favorites w…

C. S. Lewis's Parish Church

The first time I visited Oxford, in 1982, the porter at Magdalen College didn't even recognize the name--C. S. Lewis. I had asked him if he could give me directions to Lewis's former home in Headington Quarry. Obviously, he could not and did not. (Directions to Lewis's former home are now much easier to obtain. Just click here for directions and to arrange a tour: The Kilns.)
Things have changed a lot since 1982. Now Lewis is remembered all around Oxford. At the pub where the Inklings met, at Magdalen College, and not least--at his parish church--Holy Trinity Headington Quarry. The first time I visited the church I only saw the outside and Lewis's grave, shared with his brother Warnie.
Since that first visit I have returned to Holy Trinity a number of times and worshiped there. Father Tom Honey is a real gem. Under his leadership the congregation has grown and now includes a number of young families. I was overwhelmed by the number of children who came into the sanctuary…

Fact, Faith, Feeling

"Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods 'where to get off', you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith." Mere Christianity


Many years ago, when I was a young Christian, I remember seeing the graphic illustration above of what C. S. Lewis has, here, so eloquen…

A Christmas Psalm

Psalm 110
The Lord says to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet."

The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion;
you will rule in the midst of your enemies.
Your troops will be willing on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy majesty,
from the womb of the dawn
you will receive the dew of your youth.

The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
"You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek."

The Lord is at your right hand;
he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
He will drink from a brook beside the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.

C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms,
Chapter XII, paragraphs 4 & 5:

"We find in our Prayer Books that Psalm 110 is one of those appointed for Christmas Day. We may at first be surprised by this. There is nothing in it about peace and good-will, nothing remotely sugg…

Love Your Enemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:43-48

"We must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves--to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good. That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not." C. S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity"