Do you ever go through seasons when it feels like you’ve been sick forever? One bug after another finds its way into your system; or maybe it’s one nasty virus that keeps dragging on and on? This was my scenario for the past month. The bug that my son brought home from school the day before Christmas break spread to the entire extended family who had traveled to be together for the season. Not the most thoughtful Christmas gift our family has ever given away!
Everyone was on the mend by the time we returned home… everyone, except for me. My head was full of pressure, my energy at an all-time low, even my teeth hurt! The virus turned into a sinus infection and antibiotics were prescribed. Within hours of taking my first dose, the relief started to come… a welcomed reprieve after feeling sick for weeks! I realized how much I can’t STAND being physically unhealthy and unproductive. What a gift to have modern medicine help the situation when our bodies can’t fight it alone!
I can’t help but think about the soul-sickness we experience spiritually as we wrestle with sin in our hearts; especially the symptoms we can carry around with us of shame, self-bereavement, frustration, and depression. Untreated, the symptoms only get worse.
Maybe you’ve recently made a mistake, felt stuck in an unhealthy habit, said something you shouldn’t have, or have been made freshly aware of the glory-seeking selfishness in your own heart that goes against everything godly! We know the truth, and still we don’t live it well. With Paul in Romans 7, we cry out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of sin and death?” (verse 24)
To make the situation worse, we read the potent words of Jesus:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.’” (Matthew 5:21-22)
Jesus is explaining our desperate situation – INSULTING someone is as erroneous as murdering someone when referring to the guilt of sin. By definition, sin is “missing the mark of perfection.”
Jesus goes on to reiterate, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-20)
These passages shock us and leave us questioning because we know in our hearts the many ways we have fallen short of perfection, and how serious our righteousness (right-living) is to the Living God! 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 conveys further: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Maybe you feel as I do sometimes: “Is there any hope for ME, then?”
The weight of our sin leaves us spiritually sick – out of energy – unproductive. We hate ourselves for continually failing to live up to these holy standards. Weighted down by guilt, we become listless and hurting, effecting every area of our spiritual lives.
So, here we sit… reminded of our tendency to sin AND how much God hates sin. Only in the pain of these realities (and how important it is that we feel it!) are our hearts tilled to realize some important, life-changing truths…
Luke 7:36-50 tells a helpful story. I’d LOVE it (considering you have the time and freedom today) if you could OPEN your copy of the Scriptures instead of reading the text below; keeping your pencil nearby to underline and mark the parts of this record that are helpful, convicting, or encouraging.
Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him (Jesus) to dine with him, and He (Jesus) entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”
And Jesus answered him (Jesus answered his thoughts!), “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.” “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii ($31,500 today roughly), and the other fifty ($3,150ish). “When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. “You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. “You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Pop quiz to test your reading skills (especially the last eight words of this passage):
1. In order to be “saved” or forgiven, what did the woman need to have?
a. The willingness to waste valuable perfume
b. The boldness to come into the arrogant Pharisee’s house
c. A deep understanding of her horrific laundry list of past sins
d. Faith, or belief, that this Jesus could forgive her completely
2. What amazing gift did this woman receive from believing God’s forgiveness is real?
a. All consequences to her past sins erased
b. The promise of a life free of further temptation to sin
c. A new vial of expensive perfume
d. Peace for the turmoil of her soul
(d and d!) You see, we can all deeply relate to this “sinful woman.” Until we come to understand the great depths of our sinfulness, we feel no need to take such drastic measures as she did! Sometimes it takes the weight of our sin almost crushing us to get to the place where we can stop caring what people are seeing or saying of us, and come humbly to the feet of our Savior, in faith that He alone can help us.
The good news: God’s character does not ONLY consist of His holy perfection. If we turn the diamond of who He is and look from another angle, we readily discover a God of love, compassion, and grace.
Since you have your Bibles open ☺, turn with me to a most beautiful section of God-breathed truth (I’ll paste the text here, too, if you’re pressed for time). As we read Psalm 103: 8, 10-12, underline in your own Bible any description of God’s character and dealings with us…
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness… He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
God promises US, just like the woman in the Pharisee’s home, that the following is true: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
The word “forgive” in the above passage is, in the Bible’s original language, the Greek word ἀφῇ (pronounced aphé), which means, “to send away.”
Forgiveness from Jesus, because of His perfect sacrifice, is final and complete. To not believe and live in that truth, is to make light of (or deny) His gift of absolute forgiveness. Just before dying, after paying the penalty for all of our sin, Jesus declared, “It is finished!” (John 19:30)
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
There are some things in life we just can’t fix on our own! Some sicknesses need the help of an antibiotic. Our sin situation is one of those! We NEED to take the pill of believing that God’s forgiveness is big enough to cover our situation, 100%, completely.
Otherwise, we will go on talking the talk about Jesus’ offer of forgiveness, while at the same time wallowing in our untreated soul-sickness that leaves us out of energy and unproductive in the Kingdom of God.
For years, it was me who was stuck in this place, destroyed by shame and crippled by the constant remembrance of my own failure. Past experiences of interacting with friends and family (and even church!) taught me that forgiveness is conditional, that penance is important, and that I can only be used by God if I could just get the AMOUNT of my sin to a minimum. These things just aren't accurate.
When I was in Bible College at CIU, I met a dream-guy named Dan. 🥰 He was amazing – spiritually wise, extra patient, and even humble at heart. BUT, as we got to know each other deeply, he OCCASSIONALLY made a mistake here and there. (Please know I’m being facetious – we both made tons of mistakes!)
When Dan came to me in repentance to confess something he had done wrong, I reacted the only way I knew how: listened to the whole story with growing frustration, made sure I felt the appropriate amount of pain about being treated wrongly, and did all I could to communicate just how hurt I was. This was a big deal and would not be tossed aside too quickly! For days I kept Dan at a distance, making sure the pain was treated as significant, and made him feel even more terrible than he already did for sinning against me.
Not long after that, it was my turn. I had really messed up, and I knew from the Lord’s conviction that I had to confess to Dan. I prepared myself for a long, hard road and began the conversation. Before I had even explained the full story, and every angle of my sinfulness, Dan was excited to extend forgiveness. He was hurt, but nonetheless anxious to have our relationship restored, and even more for me to know the PEACE of his pardon.
I.was.dumbfounded. Absolutely speechless and humbled after the ridiculous display of unforgiveness I had exhibited just days before.
After forgiving me, Dan’s next question was, “What do you want to do today?” As if he had FORGOTTEN the ugliness I had just confessed to him! In my wrestling, I asked Dan how he forgives people so easily. His answer: “I guess I just always go back to how incredibly the Lord Jesus has forgiven me; then it’s easy!”
Can you imagine if, in the misery of the “Christmas virus” I had last month, I decided to pick up an antibiotic, put it on the shelf, and then wallow on the couch with all my head pressure and pain? How stupid that would be! And yet, spiritually, for lack of understanding forgiveness, that’s how I lived many years of my early Christian life. I see it in the lives of our students at Timberline, and in other people I know and love… living without peace and freedom because it’s just too hard to BELIEVE we’re FORGIVEN.
Friends, it’s a beautiful thing to be AWARE of our sinfulness and need, and I pray we are; but please realize that what Jesus offers us today is complete and total forgiveness when we confess our sin to Him. When we have peace in our relationship with God vertically, we have all the tools we need to extend peace to our relationships horizontally. It’s time to accept the help we know we need – to take the full dose of His complete forgiveness and experience health again – or maybe health for the first time. Swallow the pill.
**Hey sweet readers! The above two photos are my gift to you! My friend of almost 20 years gifted her handwriting to us to create these awesome, downloadable images - the first for your computer desktop, and the second for your phone. Let's keep reminding ourselves where our forgiveness and peace come from! Only then do we have the footing to forgive and live at peace with everyone else in our lives!