This is blog #5 in “The Gospel” series that covers what Jesus Christ accomplished completely for us through His death and resurrection. We are looking at specific words describing what God did to cure our fatal sin disease.
The gospel is an announcement to the world of an accomplished fact. When Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He meant just that. Finished. Complete. Done once for all. We humans have a fatal sin disease. This sin disease not only separated us from our Creator God, but it also left us dead. Because of His love for us, God acted on our behalf. Jesus’ death on the cross completely took care of what we needed for a cure to our fatal sin disease.
Because of what Christ accomplished on the cross for us, everyone who puts their faith in Him has a completely revitalized relationship with God. It is much more than having your sins forgiven and going to heaven when you die. What has happened to you is described by 6 terms sometimes called the “words of the cross” representing what Jesus Christ accomplished completely for you and for me through His death on the cross.
You need to know these 6 “words of the cross” because they are in your Bible. If you stumble over them, you are going to miss the riches of understanding your salvation. When you read them, you need to know what they mean because they are so important to your experiencing a life of freedom and joy in Christ. They are gifts of the cross for you and me.
Because of His great love for people, God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross. Word of the Cross #1 is Propitiation. His anger against sin was satisfied. He is no longer angry at you, dear believer, because of your sin. Word of the Cross #2 is Reconciliation. You can dwell on the fact that the barrier of sin has been taken away and your relationship with God is restored and no longer broken. Word of the Cross #3 is Redemption. You have been purchased out of bondage and released into freedom from any entrapping sin and to serve God in obedience.
Word of the Cross #4 is Forgiveness. It means that “your guilt has been taken away.”
When Jesus was on earth teaching the Jewish people, He continually had to remind them about their greatest need. The Jews thought that their enemy was Rome, and they longed to be out from under the Roman occupation. The Jews relied on their system of animal sacrifices and thought it was sufficient to cover their sin. But, their true enemy was their sin. The sacrificial system was not sufficient to get rid of human sin and change their hearts to be in tune with God and His purpose for their lives.
The same is true for us today. Often, we look at our situations or relationships as the enemy. If we could only fix this or that, we would be happy, less stressful and can pursue lives of purpose. Yet, our sinfulness would accompany us into the next situation or the next relationship.
Many of us carry the guilt of our sins with us like a heavy burden, weighing us down. The continual reminder of our sins keeps us from experiencing freedom and from enjoying the relationship with God that we have by faith in Jesus Christ. We don’t just need a teacher. We need a Savior who comes in and does for us what we can’t do for ourselves: forgiveness. All of our debt of sin before God is enormous. We could never pay for it all.
You and I need to understand how complete and continual is God’s forgiveness of us. And, we need to know how to deal with any recognized sin in our lives so that we won’t continue to carry that burden of guilt.
So, what is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a familiar word. Of the 6 words we are studying, this one is probably the most familiar to you and to other believers as well.
In the Bible, the term “forgiveness” means “to send off or send away.” Our sin is transferred to a substitute, Jesus, and then taken away. People in Old Testament times were accepted by God and received eternal life in the same way as we are today—by faith in the merciful grace of God. For daily living, however, they had to bring their animal sacrifice to the priest. Their sin was transferred to that sacrifice. Then, they received forgiveness for their sins up to that point.
In God’s mind, this was only a temporary solution. God promised His people that one day forgiveness would no longer be a temporary solution but be complete and permanent. That happened on the cross when our guilt was transferred to Jesus Christ and taken away from us. He set us free from the burden of our sins.
Jesus Christ set you free from the burden of sins.
Paul declared this in Colossians 2. These are two of my favorite verses,
“When you were dead in your sins [fatal sin disease]…God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)
Once you place your faith in Jesus Christ, the Bible says that whatever you have done that was wrong in God’s eyes from the time you were born through the time of your death has been canceled. Taken away. All of it. Past, present and future. Nailed to the cross.
But, it’s even better than that. We read in 2 Corinthians 5 this declaration,
“…God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” (2 Corinthians 5:19)
Since your sins have been taken away, God is longer counting them against you. They all go on Jesus. Only one sin separates any man or woman from eternal life with God. That one sin is rejecting faith in Jesus Christ.
Once you have trusted in Jesus, Ephesians 1:7 says that forgiveness is something we possess as believers. We receive God’s forgiveness for all our sins (past, present, and future) from the moment we place our faith in Jesus Christ. That is very important for you to know. Forgiveness is complete and continual. We do not deserve this grace-gift. It is a gift of love.
I know that some church traditions teach that you must do certain things to pay for your sins and show repentance. Nowhere does Scripture teach that performing certain works (sometimes called “doing penance”) or punishing yourself will make restitution for sin. It is not our works that make us right with God. The practice of “penance” is unscriptural because it focuses on human works in order to be forgiven rather than the blood of Jesus and our relationship with Him.
The only requirement to receive this gift of love is faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. You are forgiven based on your faith alone. No works on your part can do anything to earn it. There is nothing you need to do or can do to be forgiven apart from faith in Christ. What a relief that is!
The biblical process for dealing with recognized sin
Although our God does not hold our sin against us any longer, and His grace is continually forgiving us of sin, that does not give us permission to intentionally sin. Intentional sin does not fit with who you are as a forgiven Christian with a new life to enjoy.
But, as long as we live in these earthly bodies, we will be tempted to sin. Sin will happen—whether intentionally or unintentionally. So, as an already forgiven Christian, you might ask, “How do I deal with sin when I recognize it in my life?”
That’s a great question. Here’s the biblical process for dealing with sin as a believer:
Step One: View yourself rightly.
Your identity is not “_______” (coveter, greedy, gossiper, whatever that sin is).
You are in Christ, a child of God, who sometimes “_____” (covets, is greedy, gossips).
Step Two: Recognize (confess) the truth regarding your sin.
To confess biblically means to agree with God about what you and He both know to be true. Confession is not a formula, a process, or dependent on a mediator. Regarding sin in your life, it is not saying, “I’m sorry.” It is saying, “I agree with you, God. I blew it!” You see your sin as something awful!
Using sexual immorality as an example: while reading 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, the Spirit convicts you that sexual immorality in any form is not pleasing to God. You are instructed to "flee/avoid immorality." You recognize this sin in your life. You agree with God that your immoral sexual behavior is seeking love and acceptance from the wrong source. It doesn’t fit someone who knows God. That is confession.
Step Three: Confession is incomplete without repentance.
Repentance means to change your mind about that sin, to turn away from it, to mourn its ugliness, resulting in changing your actions. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 that godly sorrow brings repentance. It’s saying, “I recognize what I am doing is wrong. This fills me with sorrow because it hurts You, God. Please help me to live differently.” And, that’s how our lives get transformed.
For sexual immorality: You want to live in order to please God, and God wants you to avoid sexual immorality. So, you pray, “Lord Jesus, please have your Spirit nudge me when I am not holy and honorable with my body. Help me to say no to temptation and to give up any relationship that is not honorable to you. By faith, Lord, I want you to do that in my life.” That is repentance.
Repentance isn’t repentance until you change something. You can confess “until the cows come home” (daily, habitually) and never change anything. Jesus called for people to “repent” not “confess.”
Step Four: Repentance leads to dependence.
Depend on the living Christ inside you for that change to take place, whatever it is. Our Lord Jesus Christ is not interested in our compliance or outward conformity as much as He desires our obedience from the heart.
For sexual immorality: Memorize 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 and any other scriptures that deal with staying pure and not rejecting God’s instructions. Be sensitive to the Spirit’s nudging when you are tempted to do otherwise. And, choose to desire a life that pleases God. It’s okay to say, “Lord Jesus, I can’t do this on my own. I trust you to do this in me and through me.” Then, watch what He does!
Forgiven…no longer burdened
Because you’ve trusted Christ and are now found in Christ, you can know and live with confidence that you are forgiven…no longer burdened by your sin and guilt. Allow Jesus to cleanse your conscience from any residual guilt. Will you take Him at His word? If there is any past sin for which you are still feeling guilty, claim God’s complete forgiveness today.
I like this suggested prayer written by my friend Sue Bohlin.
"Thank You for forgiving me, thank You for cleansing me…Thank You for being bigger than my sins, and being able to turn things around in ways I cannot imagine. With Jesus' help, I receive the assurance that You have forgiven me. Help my heart catch up with my head on this. Help me to see that You allowed me to go down that dark path into sin because You are able to redeem even the worst things we do." (Sue Bohlen, Probe Ministries, Sept. 2012)
Now, choose to believe you are forgiven. Every time you think about it again, thank God for this amazing gift of the cross to you by your faith in Christ! How does that make you feel? Embrace it. Dance! Shout! Sing!
As Paul wrote in Colossians 3:12, you are dearly loved!
Let Jesus satisfy your heart with His finished work on the cross. Then, live in the freedom of your new life in Him.
Go to the next “word of the cross”: Justification.