True Forgiveness

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, April 2, 2021 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

Today is “Good Friday,” the day that the bulk of Christendom celebrates the death of Jesus on the cross. Why do we celebrate the death of someone as a good thing? So few people understand the Gospel anymore because so few preachers are teaching what happened on this day. In an interview, Paul Washer recounted preaching on Isaiah 53 and after the sermon, a woman came up to him in tears. She said that she had been a Christian for 30+ years, loved the Lord, but never understood how the Romans beating up Jesus had anything to do with sin. The answer was: “Jesus was crushed under the wrath of God.” The problem with all this is there is such a focus on the “love of God” and such a lack of focus on sin. It seems rare to find a preacher that actually preaches against sin and what it really is. Washer also points out that he utterly despises any notion that says that “salvation is easy.” In reality, salvation was the costliest thing that could be imagined. We just don’t realize what it cost for it to be made available for us.

What happened at the cross was the forgiveness of sin, but few people know what forgiveness actually is. Matthew 18 has a lengthy passage about forgiveness. Jesus starts by talking about church discipline, how to handle a brother who sins against you. Then Peter asks, “How many times should I forgive them?” Jesus follows with the parable of the unmerciful servant. This parable is the key to understanding what Jesus actually did on the cross. I shared what I am going to share here on a Facebook post that addressed forgiveness. Someone replied that what you are about to read is the best explanation of what forgiveness is she had ever heard.

The common phrase is “forgive and forget,” but that is not what forgiveness is. Let’s instead go to this parable and we’ll see what it really is. A master had a servant who had stockpiled such a massive debt that working 120 hours a day for 100 years would still not pay it off (yes that’s impossible, and that’s the point). The servant pled for mercy and time to pay it off. The master had compassion and forgave the debt. I’ll come back to the rest of this later, but let’s sit here for a bit.

What happened to the debt? This is a critical thing. Tony Jones, one of the leaders of the “Progressive Christian” movement seriously asked this in “American Gospel: Christ Crucified.” He asked, “Why couldn’t God have just forgiven us? Forget death of someone. Just forgive it and move on.” Jones does not understand what forgiveness is. The debt of the servant never went away. If he owed $2 billion, having it forgiven doesn’t make even $2 show up. (Pay attention to this when you hear about student loan forgiveness arguments). The debt was still there. The master was still short $2 billion. It didn’t go away. When the master forgave the servant, all that happened was the servant was released from being held responsible for that debt. The master still had to deal with the debt; so what did he do?

He ate it. The master took the debt upon himself. The master took the massive loss, either his business or him personally; it doesn’t matter. The master himself chose to eat the debt. This is what happened on the cross. God’s righteous standards had to be satisfied. He could not just “let it go.” That debt had to go somewhere. So what happened? Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, took the debt upon Himself. God appeased His own wrath voluntarily. The cross itself did nothing. The cross was nothing more than an execution device that was used for the fulfillment of Scripture. It was so specific and because God didn’t want any attempted faker to have a means of being able to cheat the system. He called for an execution device from a foreign nation that would not rise to power nor invent that execution device until it was time for Jesus to be born. But it was on that cross where Jesus willingly took the sin of the world upon Himself and He bore the full wrath of God. He bore all the sin that man had done upon Himself, something that could only be done if He had no debt against God to begin with. And when Jesus shouted “It is finished!” the debt was settled. Salvation is not easy. It took the perfect, holy, righteous, sinless Son of God to surrender his life and to die so we could live. How dare we trample that gift?

But there’s more to it than that. For that debt forgiveness to apply to us, we have to appropriate it. We have to “receive” it. Let’s go back to the parable. That servant had his debt forgiven. The master chose not to hold the servant responsible for it. But he could revoke that claim as we will see. The servant held a debt for another servant that was ultimately just a few pennies worth, and he refused to give the other servant time to pay it back. So, the master called him in and forced the first servant to pay back the full debt that he would never pay off.

In Matthew 6:14-15 just after Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer, He warned us that if we don’t forgive those who sin against us, our Father won’t forgive our own sin. Likewise, if we do not listen to God’s offer for hope and salvation, despite the fact that Jesus took the debt, then that free gift will not apply to us. No man comes to the Father lest the Father draws him. No man can claim salvation unless God is offering it and that window is limited. It may open multiple times, but it may not.

We ALL have a debt we owe God. And this is not an infinite punishment for a finite crime. This is high treason against the infinite, almighty, Thrice-Holy God. Today’s preachers do not speak of sin as such a grievous deed. They do what they can to dismiss what it is and just pass it off as a “barrier between us and God’s blessing.” As a result, they end up as the Pharisees who make mockery of Jesus. They love little, because they viewed their own sin as such a trifle. But a sinful woman poured out her most precious treasure upon Christ. She was forgiven much, and she knew her debt, so she loved much. This is one of the great dangers those who were raised in the church (like me) face. I never had a “gutter” moment. While God preserved me, I have to be on extra guard because of how easy it is for me to take this gift for granted. I have my own sin that needs to be forgiven, but I have never experienced the dire consequences of that sin here in life. I’m still just in need of a Savior, no less than the drug lord or the mass murderer or the rapist. My end result, apart from Christ, is the same as the most wicked person we consider. We need to keep that fact in front of our minds.

Where do you stand? Go back over my posts since the start of the year on my series on idolatry and the Ten Commandments. Take a very serious self-examination and see where you compare to those Ten Commandments. All it takes is breaking one of them once to be guilty. Is there even one of the Commandments you haven’t broken? The rich young ruler thought he hadn’t and actually inadvertently considered himself as good as God. Jesus showed he really hadn’t kept the commandments by asking him to give away his wealth. That wealth was an idol and because he would not let it go, in his response he revealed he had a god (money) before the True God, he took the Lord’s name lightly by unintentionally equating himself to God, he lied about keeping the commandments, and it was a result of lusting after riches. And that’s just what was revealed in that encounter. He needed a Savior. You do too. So do I.

The Law teaches us what our debt against God is, but it is the grace of God that saves us. He died on that day 2000 years ago so we might live and become the righteousness of God. There is so much more worth sharing about this, and later on this year, I’ll take a serious look at and dwell on the Full Gospel. Time is so short, and we must plead for man to make terms of peace with God before his wrath takes its full force upon us. Repent and believe the Gospel and be forgiven of your debt.

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