Text: — Jeremiah 31:34 — 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord.“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” [NIV84]
The Big Idea: Lifestyle worshipers, I understand that forgiveness is truly and solely a divine act, that is, only God can forgive sins.
Have you heard statements like this: “God may forgive you, but I never will,” “Even God won’t forgive me,” and “God’s punishing me for my sin?” It is statements like these that shout to me there is no hope in a given situation, and often in a given relationship. I hear the oft said, “You’ll never change,” echo in my soul, and wonder: Is there any hope?
When it comes to forgiveness, I know many struggle with the many nuances and inflections of it and how each individual defines it or demonstrates it—or not. But for me, this is a very dear and profound reality. I have pursued it and studied it for some time, and I have discovered that the best place to go is the Word of God. I believe He can give us a more consistent and accurate definition of forgiveness.
Of the many nuances and components of forgiveness, I would like to focus on two in this blog. The first is expressed in the text from Jeremiah noted above: “To forgive is to forget.” To me, if we honestly look at the above passage with fresh eyes, we will see the clear connection between forgiveness and forgetfulness, at least from a divine perspective. For if the Lord forgets our sins when He forgives us, then forgivingness is necessarily connected to forgetfulness. (There are other passages that express this very component of divine forgiveness: Psalm 10311-12; Jeremiah 50:20; Isaiah 43:25, for instance.) Some may say, “I cannot forget what they did to me. It would be wise, let alone dangerous.” I understand, and this naturally leads to the second component that I want to focus on in this blog.
The second component of forgiveness is perhaps a debatable one, though I think the evidence is rather overwhelming: Forgiveness is a divine act. Lifestyle worshipers, as I understand it, forgiveness is truly— dare I say—and solely an act only God can perform. Only He can forgive sins. I believe this because of the standard He set for forgiveness: He will forget our sins. This is clearly beyond our feeble human ability; at least, I know it is well beyond mine.
Bare with me a wee bit longer, please. I am saying that we cannot forgive anyone per se, but we can enter into the forgiveness that the Lord Jesus offers, especially that on the cross….
So, when someone says, “I cannot forgive them,” they speak rightly, for indeed they cannot forgive ‘them’. They do not have enough will power or chutzpah to do so. But when they say, “I will not forgive them,” we have an entirely different issue. This is a hard, bitter heart, (and I have had one of these all too frequently. A dear friend once put it to me years ago, “Michael, you have a broken wanter.”) In order to forgive someone, anyone, including myself, I must ‘want’ to forgive them. Once I come to the place where Jesus’s Life in me overcomes the hurt and sparks a desire to forgive them, I enter into the power of forgiveness the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated and offered on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV 84). (Thus, I frame a pray for forgiveness as expressed in the prayer below.)
Again, forgiveness is a very, very big subject, and I am barely scratching the surface here. And in answer to the question I posed in the introduction, “Yes, there is hope!” Forgiveness, to me, offers hope, a hope on all levels: hope of a new life, a fresh start, a new day, a new beginning, a second chance. Does this offer of forgiveness in the New Covenant that Jesus sealed in His Blood do the same for you?
Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts
Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, because this is My blood of the new covenant that is being poured out for many people for the forgiveness of sins.”
— Matthew 26:27-28 (ISV)
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
— Colossians 3:13 (NIV84)
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
— Ephesians 4:32 (NIV84)
Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I forgive ________ for ________. I ask You Lord Jesus Christ, to bear the consequences of their actions. Remove the pain and shame they have caused me. Be that part of my Life that has been damaged by _______. I release ________ into your hands. In Your Name, Amen.