Sin Can Never Catch Us
As far as the east is from the west,So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Throughout the Scriptures, God goes to great lengths to convince us that He completely forgives us. Why does God repeat Himself so often and describe His forgiveness in so many ways? The answer is because we’re so slow to believe it.
In all the eras of human existence, people have lived with a strong sense of justice: People should get what they deserve. This perception is a God-given strength, one that we should value highly. Imagine what society would be like without it! This strong drive for justice, however, can effectively blot out the message of God’s amazing grace. Over and over again, God reminds us in the Old Testament that the Messiah would come to pay for sins, and in the New Testament, we see Christ paying the price on the cross.
In a beautiful psalm, King David tells us that God’s forgiveness is out of this world- “as high as the heavens are above the earth”(Psalm 103:11).God’s grace, though isn’t only as high as the heavens; it’s also as wide as the east is from the west. No matter how far east we travel, we never reach a stopping point on the globe. And no matter how far west we go, we can always go farther. When He forgave us, God removed our sin “as far as the east is from the west- an infinite distance.
God longs to convince us that His grace trumps justice. Because of His immense, unending love for us, we don’t get what our sins deserve. Instead of punishment, we receive forgiveness; instead of shame, we are filled with hope; instead of fear, God showers us with His love.
The Good News is not too good to be true, it’s too good not to be true.
My own definition of the grace of God is this: the unlimited and unmerited favor given to the utterly undeserving.
I freely confess that I don’t understand grace and mercy- God’s grace and mercy. It is far beyond my comprehension that a holy and righteous God would even consider, much less have, a relationship with someone like me. The old song says it this way, “I was lost and undone without God or His Son, when He reached down His hand for me.” John Newton penned the words to the familiar hymn, “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me,” and that captures the amazement we have when we try to make sense of such grace and mercy. The truth is that even the writers of scripture, writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit weren’t successful fully explaining the amazing love of God and His grace. David wrote these words that perhaps expresses the amazement we as the children of God have when we think about God noticing us much less loving us:
“When I see and consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,The moon and the stars, which You have established, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of [earthborn] man that You care for him?”
Psalm 8: 3,4
We as humans struggle with forgiving even minor infractions and most of them pale in comparison to our disobedience and rebellion toward God. In our world, we are often driven by a strong sense of justice, at least when we feel that we have suffered injustice. I’m not so sure that our desire for justice is quite as strong when we are the ones who are facing it. When we feel wronged or when we see those we care for wronged, we cry out for justice. And for that reason when we have sinned against God and He offers us true forgiveness and true grace and mercy, we have a difficult time believing it’s true. Our guilt and shame is so powerful that we feel a need to somehow pay for our crimes. We somehow feel it’s wrong to be freely forgiven and the penalty of our sins cast as far as the east is from the west. We aren’t quite used having someone forgiving us and then never holding it over us again. We don’t know how to act when God not only forgives our sins but also casts them from us into oblivion. I know we hear this over and over but I want to say it until it sinks so deep into our soul that we start to believe it. You and I will never be free from our past until we somehow begin to grasp that God truly loves us and He keeps His promise of forgiveness when we confess our sins. Not only that but our future in Him isn’t conditional on our past- we aren’t on probation- we’re fully pardoned. None of our confessed sins will ever be brought up by God.
Here’s the issue. It’s bad enough that the devil tries to hold our past over our heads and people around us may still remember us before we came to Christ and may judge or categorize us by our past, but the most unforgiving and judgmental person is ourselves. We may say that we believe that God forgives, and we’re sure of that for others but we aren’t sure that it applies to us. We know our record, our broken promises, and our failures. I sometimes wonder if the devil really has to work very hard to convince us that God doesn’t truly love us. We do a pretty good job ourselves.
I think we can only be convincing to others when we believe what we tell them. And if we can’t believe that God has forgiven us, how will we convince someone else.
The evidence of God’s grace is overwhelming, but it’s also simple. The proof of grace is the cross and the One who died on the cross. You see God loved you so much, that He placed the penalty and punishment of your sins and mine on Jesus. It is in Christ that justice is carried out. The just penalty for sin is death and Christ satisfied justice by dying in our place- our substitute. Since He paid the penalty for our sins, He alone has the power to forgive those sins or to hold them against us. The devil, our past, other people and ourselves have no authority to condemn those who have come to Christ and received His pardon. It’s really no different than a legal pardon in worldly justice. Once someone receives a pardon, they can no longer be charged with the crime. Pardon isn’t based on innocence or guilt. It’s an executive decision by the one who has the power to execute justice or grant a pardon. And Christ, the Supreme Judge offers us pardon if we will confess our sins. I don’t ask you to fully understand or comprehend such grace and mercy. Like most everything about God, we just accept it as fact because God had declared it to be so.
Some time ago God spoke a powerful truth to me and I want to share it with you. God said, “What I have decreed, you can declare.” So go ahead and declare you have been forgiven, pardoned and cleansed. You can declare it because God has decreed it. May your soul be liberated from the weight of your past and may your heart sing with freedom- the freedom of grace and mercy.
Dr. John Thompson