If God should be as angry with me for every provocation as I am with those about me, what would become of me?
Matthew Henry (1662-1714)
[The believer] has, indeed, his daily failures and sins, which must needs be confessed and put away; but his confessions are those of a child at the feet of his father, and the Father’s forgiveness in the death of Christ washes off those daily sins, and thus he is kept clean every whit (John 13.10). He never becomes and accused culprit at the bar of Justice. His appreciative sense of the Father’s love of him will ever prompt him to be sensitive to sin, and cause him to purify his daily conduct; or, if his appreciations grow faint and feeble, and thereby he be betrayed into more or less carelessness of living, then will the Father deal with him according to a father’s discipline, but he remains uncharged. God is no longer his judge, having already judged him in Christ. He is accused of nothing and never again condemned. His daily failures are dealt with in the intercourse of Father and Son. Perfect in the perfectness of Christ, the Father sees him as without blemish, and feels for him the very endearment with which He looks upon His Only Begotten and Well Beloved. Uncharged of every claim, all his life long, is he who is in Christ.
W. R. Nicholson, Oneness with Christ (Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Assoc, 1903), 116-117.
Whoever lives beneath the cross of Jesus, and has discerned in the cross of Jesus the utter ungodliness of all people and of their own hearts, will find there is no sin that can ever be unfamiliar.
Whoever has once been appalled by the horror of their own sin, which nailed Jesus to the cross, will no longer be appalled by even the most serious sin of another Christian; rather they know the human heart from the cross of Jesus.
Such persons know how totally lost is the human heart in sin and weakness, how it goes astray in the ways of sin—and know too that this same heart is accepted in grace and mercy.
Only another Christian who is under the cross can hear my confession. It is not experience with life but experience of the cross that makes one suited to hear confession. The most experienced judge of character knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the cross of Jesus.
The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot comprehend this one thing: what sin is. Psychological wisdom knows what need and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the ugliness of the human being. And so it also does not know that human beings are ruined only by their sin and are healed only by forgiveness. The Christian alone knows this. In the presence of a psychologist I can only be sick; in the presence of another Christian I can be a sinner.
The psychologist must first search my heart, and yet can never probe its innermost recesses. Another Christian recognizes just this: here comes a sinner like myself, a godless person who wants to confess and longs for God’s forgiveness.
The psychologist views me as if there were no God. Another believer views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the cross of Jesus Christ.
When we are so pitiful and incapable of hearing the confession of one another, it is not due to a lack of psychological knowledge, but a lack of love for the crucified Jesus Christ.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 5 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 114-16.
Commenting on “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” in the Lord’s Prayer:
Wrapt up in its encouragement there is a check to conscience. We are not to be allowed to present the petition at all, unless it be from the deepest sense of our need, and of the greatness of the gift we seek; a sense which is in reality equivalent to true repentance, and which brings with it, as its uniform and necessary fruit, love to our neighbor. And every one who knows how apt we are to become either hypocrites or careless formalists in prayer, will recognize the suitableness of such a check, and will appreciate the propriety of its being appended to this petition rather than any other. For this, more than any other, has been a lip-deep petition, and has been shamefully abused by self-satisfied or careless petitioners, by ourselves when we ask forgiveness, as we often ask it, without any considerate remembrance of the cost of it, thinking it the easiest thing for God to give, and forgetting that this has been prepared for us at a far greater expense, at a more personal expense, than anything else we can implore. It has been the endeavor of many teachers to persuade us, and yet we need to be reminded, that a word could create and beautify a world, and “an act of will bestow it upon us,” but it has cost God the humiliation and suffering of His well-beloved Son to grant the boon which now we ask. And therefore we are here suddenly startled out of all dreamy and indifferent prayer, and are aroused by being brought face to face with our own real desires and our own real life; we are reminded that our prayer had far better be unsaid, if it is not of a piece with our state of heart; that we cannot pray as one person and live as another; that we do not look as earnestly as we ought for the remission of our debts, (and therefore need not expect it,) unless we be doing what we can to avoid contracting new ones; that, in short, we have no encouragement whatever to present this petition, unless conscience assures us that the love of God, on which we hope, has entered our souls and changed them, and has become the principle and law of our lives.
Emphasis mine: Marcus Dods, The Prayer That Teaches to Pray
The offense of the cross is this — that I am so condemned and so lost and so hopeless that if He, Jesus Christ, had not died for me, I would never know God, and I could never be forgiven. And that hurts; that annoys; that tells me I am hopeless, that I am vile, that I am useless; and as a natural man I do not like it.
D. Martin Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981)
Forgiveness is possible when the Holy Spirit works in our heart, directing our faith to the person and work of Christ, for the glory of God our Father – who forgave us and adopted us as his own.
Alfred Poirier, The Peacemaking Pastor (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 151.
Special thanks to Tammy H. who typed this week’s posts for me.
Forgiveness does not begin and end with the person who is forgiving, nor is its emphasis on how forgiveness can help me. Whatever benefit forgiveness may have to me personally, it is not about me – it is about us. It is about people created by God to live in relationship with him and one another. As such, we are in the depths of our identity lovers of people and restorers of broken relationships. We are indeed our brother’s keeper!
original emphasis, Alfred Poirier, The Peacemaking Pastor (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 148-149.
When we call a person to forgive another who has offended him or her, we are not asking the offended person to minimize the extent to which the offender is responsible for his or her sin (“Well, everyone sins”) or to minimize the offense (“It was nothing”). True forgiveness is when the offended looks upon the offender and see the offender’s sin as justly deserving the wrath of God in light of God’s great holiness.
Christian forgiveness, then is granted from a position not of weakness but of true moral strength and clarity of vision. Because biblical forgiveness alone recognizes the heinousness of sin against a holy God, it alone understands the immensity of the gift given in uttering the words, “I forgive you.”
This gift, of course, is full payment for sin, which is exactly what the gospel declares that Christ has given us! The forgiveness that is won by Christ comes at the price of his death for real offense, for true guilt.
Christ has not dismissed sin; instead, he has paid its price in full.
original emphasis, Alfred Poirier, The Peacemaking Pastor (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 147.