The Haunting Question
We’ve been spending the last few times together talking about forgiveness. But before we get to the good news-the way home, let me first address this haunting question being asked by many of you:
“What about the forgiveness I can’t give myself? How do I forgive myself?”
Bill and Bruce would do this much better, but they’re probably on some Polynesian island with friends, drinking fun concoctions from the shells of coconuts. So, today I’m all you’ve got.
To forgive myself demands I not only trust the shed blood of Jesus to completely purchase my salvation with God in heaven. I must be absolutely convinced it allows Him to never be disgusted with me while I am maturing into who He says I now am. He says I am righteous even though I often don’t yet behave like it. He says I am holy though I surprise even myself with the outlandishness of my selfishness. He says I am absolutely and completely beloved. He is actually unable to love me more and refuses to allow anything I do to cause Him to love me less.
It is stunningly and overwhelming shattering to face that He saw every single betrayal, obsessive repetition of failure, and my repeated hurting of those I most love long before I performed them. And having seen even the degradation I’ve not had a chance to yet act out, He said, “Yes, that one. That’s the one I want to bestow all my love upon. All of it. Uniquely, particularly and with as much unbridled love as I have for my only begotten Son.”
And now, what delights Him most is that I’d just believe it. Not perform penance for Him. Not beat myself up to prove I mean business. Not take the all-forgiving nature of that love as a reason to carry disgust for myself when I fail. Not degrade myself before Him under the self-disdaining groan of “What’s wrong with me? I should be better by now. What a loser!” Those words no longer fit; not for one now literally fused in nature with the God of the universe.
It’s hard to conceive that the very power over the next failure you will not want to not forgive yourself for, is found completely in trusting the power of this scandalous, outlandish, stunning love. Trusting God with my sin, allowing His solution, is the entire basis for releasing the redemptive power of the Cross. Period.
The only thing I might want to be upset at myself for is refusing to take this gift. For me to somehow imagine that I “should be…if I were any kind of Christian”, diminishes the sacred purpose of the cross and thinks far too highly of myself.
It is a choice of humility that says, “I’ve played judge and jury far too long. I’m weary of it. You alone have authority to judge and prosecute. I’ve been dragging around what has never been mine to carry. I’m done fighting this one by myself, foolishly imagining You don’t care enough or have the power to redeem every one of these failures. Either You are God and can fully vindicate, validate, redeem, protect, exonerate, defend, make me blameless, or this whole thing has been a cheap carnival magic show. I’m done with the trite contention that I’m just too failed to be forgiven by You or myself. I’m done demeaning what you did for me. Forgive me for this arrogance most of all my dear God.”
When Paul says in Romans 8 that no one gets to bring a charge, condemn, or separate us from every fiber of His unfathomable love, included in that “no one” is us!!
This all sounds good and well-until you do the one thing you thought you’d never do. The really big one. The one God lovers don’t do. That’s when we may have to go through that dark night of the soul to discover whether we’re convinced the shed blood was that powerful.
No, this does not excuse my sin. Yes, I will need to make things right with those I’ve wronged. Yes, I will need face the reality of what I’ve done, along with the consequences. But there are two things I must not do:
*Refuse His complete, absolute forgiveness and unchanging assessment, love and affection.
*Refuse to accept His complete acceptance, fellowship and delight after what I’ve done.
For these, as noble or pious as they might sound, actually deny the efficacy of what Christ did for us.
He has no need of such rehearsal of shame. That day is over. You are free. You are right on time. You are deeply, always precious and front row with Him. And this new life within you will never want to take advantage of it, given the chance to live in it. This magical, all encompassing love, when risked and trusted, forms the basis for real, beautiful, stunned worship.
The Cross was that powerful, your God that incredible.
John-one of the three amigos, part of the ever-growing tribe of grace