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What follows forgiveness?

Mar 23, 2016, 12:01 PM | Article By: Galandou Gorre-Ndiaye

It is heartening to know we have been forgiven all our sins just because Jesus paid the price on the cross, not once a year as the high priest did, but ‘once and for all.’ It is even more reassuring to be a part of those whose sins will not be counted against them; for our sins have been entirely erased and washed clean. To those who will receive his forgiveness it would mean turning a new page. Our Lord Jesus has given us a new lease of life to herald us into an epoch of commitment and fellowship with the Father. We begin anew. Tell me, what should be our behaviour from then on? Would we return to heaping more sins on our heads or would we repent (change and renew our minds) to reflect our new status?

Our forgiveness must not be mistaken as license to sin all over again; it is rather a call to adjust, to display a willingness to be obedient to God’s word. God did not have mercy on us so we could start flirting again with the enemy. That would make complete nonsense of God’s forgiveness. Such behaviour would be undeserving of his mercy which is at no cost to us, but totally free.

We are called to break away from our old habits and practices, to take deliberate steps to turn our backs on our wicked ways that have enslaved us over the ages. When we make a conscious move, with the help of the Holy Spirit we are bound to succeed. God knows our hearts and he will guarantee victory and steadfastness. In the New Testament Jesus on a number of occasions met with sinners and transformed their lives totally. They never left the way they came.

When a Samaritan woman Jesus met at a well where she had gone to fetch water at midday (unusual) and alone, Jesus exposed her sin - for she had lived with five husbands and her current man she was co-habiting with was not her husband. She was so stunned; she ran back to her village and invited everyone to meet a stranger who knew all about her. In a way, she was saying to her co-villagers here was a man who had not condemned me as a result of my sin. We expect it was never business as usual thereafter. Her testimony had triggered a whole village to accept Christ. 

After Jesus was arrested, Peter, one of Jesus’ close collaborators, denied ever knowing him – to the point of swearing – when challenged. Imagine the guilt feeling that must have nudged him everywhere he went. However, after Jesus’ resurrection, he was fully restored and given a heavy assignment to feed his sheep and feed his lambs - meaning his people. (John 21:15-16) Peter thereafter became a changed person, bold and fearless to teach and to preach the gospel – the good news anywhere. His restoration brought about a change in both his attitude and character.

It is recorded that after healing a man who was invalid for thirty-eight years, Jesus warned him; “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5: 14) That our sins have been forgiven implies a commitment on our part to avoid falling back into sin. It is an opportune time to be transformed from the inside out (being born again). If we look only to ourselves, it would look pretty impossible; but we serve a God for whom nothing is impossible. He can change our circumstances overnight.

One such incident happened in the case of Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus. She had an awful reputation “...had lived a sinful life in that town...” (Luke 7:37) It is believed she was the one Jesus had saved from being stoned to death for having committed adultery. Before she left the scene, Jesus had asked her the whereabouts of her accusers. Apparently, they had left when they were challenged by Jesus: “If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8: 7) Before dismissing her however Jesus told her “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)

The next time we heard about this character, she had burst into Simeon the Pharisee’s house where Jesus had been invited for dinner. There she poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet ... (John 12:3) She was showing appreciation for the forgiveness she had enjoyed.

Benefitting from forgiveness and having our sins completely wiped out not only calls for repentance but it pushes us to action in return for God’s bounty towards us. Such goodness is an eye-opener to the goodness of our God, “for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Let us for a moment reconsider how gracious God is in forgiving us our sins and let us bask in his love. It is a free gift. It would be much greater sin to reject or refuse such goodness particularly when we have not deserved or merited it in the first instance. We cannot earn it either – however hard we may try.

For long, the picture we have of God is someone with a whip punishing us for our wrongdoings. How erroneous! As we have probably observed, our God is forgiving and kind. His desire is that all should come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:4) Jesus loves you and me; this is the reason why he went to the cross and faced that shameful and painful death. Do not take forgiveness for granted!