Apostles’ Creed: The Forgiveness of Sins

Do we recognize what forgiveness is? Let’s dive into Deeper Waters and find out!

C.S. Lewis has a wonderful essay in his book The Weight of Glory on the forgiveness of sins. Don’t we all believe in that? Oh we say we do. But do we really? Lewis points out that many times when we say we want to be forgiven, what we really want is to be excused. Many times when we come to God in prayer, we list our sins and we often tell about how it happened and why we did what we did and how we tried so hard to resist a temptation and we just gave in. Then we ask for forgiveness.

When we ask for forgiveness, we really mean that we want it treated as if it never happened. Too often however, we ask not for forgiveness, but for our sins to be excused. We want God to simply understand why it is that the sin happened. We want Him to overlook what happened, but when we do that, then in essence, the sin is still there. (Of course, I do think God truly forgives it, but for us, it is there.)

Forgiveness is not excusing however.

You see, there are realities many times that can make it harder to resist a sin. A guy with sexual addiction for instance could have a hard time driving past a store selling pornographic supplies even if he is a Christian. Now someone like myself who is someone who very much enjoys sex, really has an attitude of wanting to avoid that as much as possible and wanting to honor my wife with my eyes. Can there still be a temptation? No doubt, but that temptation is not as strong as it is for someone with an addiction. I would be more prone to fall short in other areas, like losing my temper unnecessarily with my Allie or in a struggle with pride.

So let’s suppose someone with the addiction goes in anyway and then later confesses. The reality is, God knows all the excuses the man can give. In fact, He knows them better than the man does. He also knows what a struggle it has been for the person. He knows there are several factors at play. But He also knows one thing on His own. He knows that there is a sin. There can be no excuses for the sin. In the end, the person did do something wrong even if it was harder for him to resist and that part cannot be overlooked. That part is a blight on the face of God.

You see, sin is in many ways a sort of divine treason. Let’s look at all the things we implicitly say when we sin.

We deny the goodness of God because we think He is keeping something good from us.

We deny the love of God because we think He is being unloving keeping something from us.

We deny the omniscience of God because we think He doesn’t know that this is something we should do.

We deny the omnipresence of God because we think He doesn’t see.

We deny the omnipotence of God because we think He won’t judge.

We deny the righteousness of God because we think He has no place to judge.

We deny the rule of God because we are rebelling against Him.

In fact, we are committing divine treason. We are saying that God should not be on the throne. We should be. We want to be deity.

I have a theory also on seeing sin as uncreation. In creation, God makes a world good and beautiful. Our sin changed much of that and whenever we do sin, we are undoing the work of God. When we do that which is righteous, we are extending the work of God. We are being traitors to our own side and we will be held accountable for that.

Unless we are forgiven.

So really think about that. God does what we think could not be done. He really forgives us. He knows there is no excuse for what we did. There is no justifying it. Nothing can ever make what we did right. Yet despite all of that, He willing to treat it as if it didn’t happen and He is willing to restore us to a place that we don’t even deserve in the first place, in fact, to a place even better than the garden.

God never justifies sin. He cannot. He will not. There is no justification for anything that is done wrong. God justifies sinners. His hatred and disgust of sin will never change. But so also, His love of those of us who struggle with it will also never change. You cannot do something to make God love you less. You cannot do anything to make Him love you more. It’s constant.

Because God already loves you, He will forgive you when you ask. You do not earn forgiveness. You never could. It is a gift and it is a gift that is freely given. When God forgives you, He truly does. He no longer holds your sins against you. Too often it is we who still hold them against ourselves. If only we could grasp for a moment even the forgiveness of God and live with it for the rest of our lives.

Rest assured Christian. If you have confessed, you are forgiven, but go and sin no more. Yet when you do, confess and be forgiven. God is with you in your struggle.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

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2 Responses to “Apostles’ Creed: The Forgiveness of Sins”

  1. labreuer Says:

    I think it is very dangerous to omit the communal aspect not only to supporting sin, but to overcoming sin. Two passages spring immediately to mind:

    Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (Ja 5:13–20)

    Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. (Gal 6:1–5)

    On one level, we get the James bit, via accountability partners. However, I’m not sure we really do. Take Mark Driscoll’s resignation letter, for example. He did nothing like dig into the root causes of his sins. He didn’t do a spiritual analysis. Well, at least he didn’t confess them openly, like James and Mt 18:17 indicate. And so, we end up treating symptoms and not causes. Doctors know better than that; why don’t we?

    When it comes to the Galatians bit, I have very rarely had that done to me—and I mean to include v2. Instead, I got a big dose of Mt 23:1–4, including the version where the “do not practice” bit doesn’t hold, but ignorance of and disobedience against Rom 2:4 definitely was the case. We think pointing the finger works, despite passages like Is 58:6–10 (see v9b).

    Why can’t we get that overcoming sin is hard and needs to be done in community? Our radical individualism is so terrible! It makes us not even able to understand verses like 1 Cor 12:26.

  2. Mark Richmond Says:

    I very much agree with you. Community on a deep level is almost non existent in some Christian circles. Some many wear masks as though they have already reached glory. I believe the 12 step movement of the 80’s and 90’s was a direct response to this lack in the churches. Its sad because the church should be the place. Not to air dirty laundry as so many see it- but to be able to be honest and see more clearly where one is and know that none of us are spiritual giants.

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