A legend is a story that has some historical truth in it but has probably grown bigger than life. You know what a fairy tale is right? A fairy tale is a story with fairies. A fairy tale is a fantasy story filled with mythical creatures with a moral to the story, but it is outright fiction.
I want to tell you about a God who is not a fairy tale. One whose story seems too good to be true… he calls it good news. Gospel. It is not a fairy tale. It has been minimized instead of growing bigger than life that's why I’m telling you it's no fairy tale what God did in the gospel! BUT a lot of the things we believe about forgiveness and the gospel are closer to fairy tales than they are to fact. So let’s look at some of those:
Fairy Tale #1- Some people think that the point of forgiveness is so that you can go to heaven.
Many American Christians misunderstand the nature of forgiveness. They think that the point of the forgiveness is that you are forgiven of your sins so that you can go to heaven. Did you know that is not in the Bible?
You are not saved by forgiveness, you are saved by the free gift of his righteousness.
Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
You were crucified with Christ, you were buried with him through baptism, you are seated together with him before the Father. SO… whatever is true of Jesus is true of you!
Because of bad theology people end up being told that every night before they go to bed, or at every meal, they are to stop and ask God for forgiveness for anything that they have done wrong. Because… if not, and they die in their sleep, then they won’t go to heaven.
But do you know what the Bible teaches regarding forgiveness happening before the cross:
Psalm 103:1-2, Bless the Lord o my soul and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord oh my soul and forget not his benefits. Who forgives ALL our iniquities and heals all our disease.
Matthew 9:2 “Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”
THEN to prove he represented the Father in forgiving the man… before the man asked, before he confessed, and before the cross Jesus heals the paralyzed man on the spot! That’ll make a Pharisee mad. It still does today!
In John 8 it says that the religious leaders brought a woman caught in the very act of adultery and put her at his feet. Then after telling them… he who has no sin cast the first stone… and all of them from the oldest (more familiar with their failures) to the youngest walked away. Then he turned to her and said, "neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more." She never asked for it, she never confessed her sin, she never shook the preachers hand. Jesus gave her grace first, THEN from a place of no condemnation empowered her to go sin no more.
The point of forgiveness is not to go to heaven, the point of forgiveness is relationship which leads me to another fairy tale about forgiveness that is taught-
Fairy Tale #2: The goal of salvation is sinlessness!
If the goal of being a Christian is to not sin, then there are some Muslims and very moral atheists who are more Christian than the majority of Christians.
If the goal of being a Christian is to not sin then all the focus on preaching is going to be about sin. All your personal focus is going to be about sin. People left our church once because I didn't preach enough about sin. I told them, "I don’t preach about sin, I preach the solution to sin!" We are called to preach GOOD NEWS!
If the goal of a Christian is not to sin, then all your prayers are going to be focused on not sinning. It will be prayers to help you not kill your next door neighbor, instead of prayers to help you love them! Remember when Jesus prayed for Peter? He didn't say, "I've prayed for you that you sin not!" NO! He prayed the solution. He said, "I've prayed for you that your faith fail not!" (More on that another time).
If the goal is not to sin, then you will seclude yourself away from every temptation… you will blame every woman for your lust... you will not go out to eat because there is wine there and you might drink it and then get drunk. It will be all about what NOT to do.
The thing is the Christian life is not about trying not to sin. In fact, we aren’t to be focused on sin at all. Rather, Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that you might know him, the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent.” The purpose is not even to go to heaven when you die. It is to know Christ and by knowing him you become more and more like him. Jesus is not the way to heaven per se, he is the way to the Father (John 14:6).
Do you realize that God doesn’t think about sin? I’m not saying he is blind. But he says your sins are as far as the east is from the west. That they are buried in the sea (Micah 7:18-19). In fact there is a passage I frequently quote from 2 Corinthians 5:19 which says, “God was in Christ reconciling the WORLD to himself, not counting men’s sins against them!”
Have you ever been told to “keep short accounts with God.” God isn’t into accounting. In fact 1 Cor 13 says, “love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.”
We are told that your sins can separate you from God. But God seems to think that nothing can separate us from His love in Christ (Rom.8:38-39).
Ephesians 1:7 says, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.” Are you IN HIM, then you possess the forgiveness of sins and there is so much forgiveness there that it is called the riches (more than enough) of God’s grace.
Yes, but doesn't the Bible say that he will be called Jesus for he will save his people from their sins? Yes it does. Yes he did. That is why he is declaring forgiveness over us if we will receive it.
ARE YOU PROMOTING SIN? No, it is promoted by overly focusing on it instead of focusing on the answer to it.
One time I randomly asked the Lord "what are you thinking about?" His answer came quick and astonished me. He said, "I am meditating on my triumphant glory!" Maybe we should do the same.
Fairy-Tale #3- Forgiveness is the same thing as pardon.
How many of you have a photographic memory where you never forget anything. Other than when your wife gets historical… not hysterical, but historical and she brings up everything you have ever done wrong, do you think that you might have missed confessing a sin? Then if forgiveness means a legal pardon, then you are risking your entire salvation on the basis of a forgotten sin!
We tend to read everything in the Bible through legal lens. We inherited that from Augustine and Western thought. But when you look up one of the primary words for forgiveness, it means to send away (863 aphíēmi (from 575 /apó, "away from" and hiēmi, "send") – properly, send away; release (discharge).)
On God's side when did this happen? 2000 years ago Jesus became the Lamb of God. John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the SIN of the WORLD.”
So what about 1 John 1:9 and confessing our sins? Some think that this passage was written to the lost or Gnostics. That is possible, but it really misses the point. Please notice-
1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
So why ask if he has already forgiven us? Because there are times when guilt or shame begin to grab hold of our hearts. So we come to the Father, and confess our sins… the word confess means to say the same thing, to agree. Who are we agreeing with? God.
When we say the same thing about our sins that God does… that he has forgiven them, then he is faithful and just for forgive… literally to send away from OUR hearts. Not from himself. He already sent our sins away when as the Lamb of God he took our sin away. But he sends guilt and shame away from our hearts.
We think forgiveness is for Gods sake, but it's not. It's for our sake.
I know some of you are thinking… if that’s the case then why don’t I just do whatever I want to do? God’s no fool. He always had a counter-balance. It’s called Christ in you the hope of glory. It is God who works in you to will and do of his good pleasure! Therefore, Paul says, “Work out your own salvation” or to say it another way, let your salvation work itself from the inside to out. It is in trusting who you really are in Christ and naturally-supernaturally living who you are as a new creation!
Just don't forget what Paul in Acts 13:38 declares, "Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is PROCLAIMED to you."
It's no fairy tale! But it does have a happy ending.
A VIDEO version of this is posted below.
Picture: Mr MoonID 208820, © Ng Dreamstime Stock Photos
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