There’s an old saying that says, “The Gospel is bad news before it’s good news. It first confronts you with your sin before it offers you grace.” There’s a great example in Scripture of someone who was confronted or singled out for their sin. It’s found in Acts chapter 9,
Acts 9:1-9 (NLT) says, “Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains. As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.”
What makes this example from Scripture powerful is because I think that Saul paints a really good picture of someone who didn’t deserve forgiveness, he didn’t deserve grace. I think sometimes we slip into this idea that we can earn grace.
But here’s a guy in Saul that wasn’t a good guy. Here’s a guy that wasn’t helping anyone but himself. Here’s a guy that didn’t just mess up once, he was a repeat offender and yet we see God setting up to forgive him. God could have blasted him. God could have struck him dead right there on the road to Damascus. But what God chooses to do instead is to give you and I a really powerful reminder of His relentless grace. Saul is a great reminder that He (God) really does desire to forgive us. I think we develop this image of God like He’s in Heaven with this lighting bolt scepter just waiting to blast us, the first moment we screw up. While there are examples all throughout Scripture that talk about and deal with the justice of God, we can’t forget that God loves us and desires nothing more to be in right relationship with us. He desires to forgive you and there are some really clear components of forgiveness that I think we sometimes forget.
Here’s the first component for forgiveness: The sacrifice of Jesus.
I know to some of you that may sound like an elementary answer or something you heard when you were in 3rd grade Sunday School, but here’s the deal, if we really understood this idea, it would revolutionize our lives. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross of calvary makes God’s forgiveness of your sins and my sins possible. Without the cross there can be no forgiveness.
Acts 4:12 (NLT) says, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
John 14:6 (NLT) says, “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
I start with this because this is foundational to everything else. Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection from the grave is what makes our forgiveness possible. In other words you can’t out-sin the sacrifice of Jesus. When you become convinced that God can’t forgive you, what you’re really saying is that Jesus wasn’t enough. What you’re really saying is that what Jesus did on the Cross of Calvary was great and all but it wasn’t enough to for what I’ve done. It wasn’t enough to forgive my sins. That’s crazy to even think right? So will God forgive you? Yes. Will God forgive you again? Yes. Will God forgive you even when you keep screwing up in the same way? Yes.
Think about how often you and I cheapen the sacrifice of Jesus by assuming we're not or can't be forgiven. Chew on that, more to come tomorrow.