Saturday, February 24, 2007

One of the Hardest Things to Accept

Have you ever been so eager to receive something in the mail, or a telephone call, or an email, that you wondered if you would ever receive it?

That's torturous to undergo, but there is something harder for a perfectionist like me to wait for at times: a sense of receiving God's forgiveness.

I know the Scripture; the Bible is clear. The Apostle Paul unambiguously states:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Eph 2.8-9 ESV)
In his Explanatory Notes for verses 8 and 9 John Wesley elaborates on the missionary's meaning:
Eph 2:8 - By grace ye are saved through faith - Grace, without any respect to human worthiness, confers the glorious gift. Faith, with an empty hand, and without any pretence to personal desert, receives the heavenly blessing. And this is not of yourselves - This refers to the whole preceding clause, That ye are saved through faith, is the gift of God.

Eph 2:9 - Not by works - Neither this faith nor this salvation is owing to any works you ever did, will, or can do.
Forgiveness is freely given. When God forgives, God forgives. His Son made it possible for instantaneous pardon for any violator who repents of his sin. What becomes hard for a person, at times, is to receive God's promise so easily.

Why is it so easy to be so slow in accepting God's forgiveness? Here are some possibilities:

1. A continuing sense of shame. Obsessing over how horrible the sin was can continue to haunt a person after God forgave him his sin.

2. A misplaced sense of needing to earn it. Let's face it: in this life, we get things by deserving them. The world pays us in a myriad of ways--after we've earned it.

The problem, of course, is that God's forgiveness is never given because we deserve it. Grace, by definition, cannot be deserved. Grace--unmerited, free favor with God--can only be given because God provides atonement for our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We will never deserve to be forgiven by God, never worthy enough to get that second, third, fourth chance.

God just gives grace to us because that's the kind of God, in Christ, he is.

Talk to yourself. Demand that you listen to yourself! Tell yourself the truth. When a person turns to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and truly repents of his sin, God forgives. Instantly.