Do you ever find yourself trying to do more to win God's forgiveness? To win his favor? We tell ourselves we believe in justification by faith alone on Sunday and by Monday morning we revert to doing things that will make God accept us. Let's face it, we function in the realm of works righteousness more often that we'd like to admit. Getting at the root of this problem I think involves learning to accept God's forgiveness. For whatever reason, we just don't believe God forgives us or can forgive us. I'm too sinful. I'm too far gone. I can't change my ways. God is too holy to ever want me. Any of those sound familiar? They all ring true true to me.
One of the best books I've come across that addresses this problem is Experiencing God's Forgiveness by John Ensor. Let me share a few lines I have highlighted in my copy: If God is punishing us through the hardships of life, then the cross cannot be our complete atonement, and the Apostle Paul overstated the case when he said, "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Some lingering judgment must be causing bad things to happen. But the truth us, "since we have forgiveness of sins and God is no longer our enemy but our Father, we can allow His peace to rule in our hearts experientially, despite life's sufferings" (Romans 5:1). If we admit that God forgives us but we don't forgive ourselves, are we not insulting His judgment and exulting our own, as if we have a higher standard of justice than He does? The very question of self-forgiveness may reflect a resistance to glory in God's mercy and a preference to grind our teeth for failing to be as good as our pride always assured us that we were. (Pgs 132-133).
That first sentence hit me like a truck - "If God is punishing us through the hardships of life, then the cross cannot be our complete atonement." That means the atonement truly was lacking or I'm making God out to be a liar. Which is it? We know all know the answer. Ensor goes on to remind us that we must silence this thinking and replace it with the truth of Scripture.
Specifically, Romans 8:31-35 which states, 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died more than that, who was raised who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
May we spend some time meditating on the truth of this doctrine and rejoice in our forgiveness.