Each week I have the great privilege to teach a group of men who were once defined by their addictions, but have been transformed by the gospel and now find their identity in Jesus Christ. It is encouraging to see and hear the stories of life-change from these men. Even though their hearts have been changed, many experience the same kinds of struggles we all do. Despite admitting and repenting of their sins, trusting Jesus as Savior and Lord, and being made a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), it can be hard to “feel” forgiven. How can someone experience true freedom? Can God really “forget” about our sin? If we understand God’s forgiveness of us, we can distribute that same forgiveness to others.
In the Bible, Micah 7:19 reveals God “will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot and cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” “He remembers our sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25). God has removed our sin “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). We should note three facts about God’s forgiveness.
First, God forgives because He loves. We deserved punishment, yet God gave us compassion. “He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God has extended incredible mercy and grace towards us. But God’s love and compassion for us does not mean there is no justice for our sin.
Second, God personally defeated sin. He “tread” our sin under His feet. The idea is stomping, subduing, knocking down, or making a path. Through the cross Jesus knocked down the dividing wall of our sin which separated us from God. Jesus said He IS the path: “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:5). The apostle Paul reminded us, salvation is “by grace through faith. This is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works…” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Through Jesus, those “who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace…” (Ephesians 2:13-16). Talk about an effective mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).
Third, God removed sin from us. We cannot remove sin and guilt from ourselves. Hebrews chapter 10 reminds us Jesus was the once-for-all sacrifice for sins. God himself took the initiative to “hurl” or “cast” our sins into the sea. I experienced a beautiful picture of this idea. I was once at the lake with friends when someone lost a pair of sunglasses. They forgot to take them off, jumped into the water, and… poof! They disappeared into the murky water below. Nobody even considered attempting to swim down to find them. We accepted the fact they were “gone.” God chooses not to dive after our sin because our guilt was removed by the cross. God “remembers our sins no more” not because he is forgetful, but because he is faithful. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us…” (1 John 1:9). Forgiveness means God chooses not to drag our sin backup to hold against us. Our sin was dealt with by Jesus.
Ex-convicts will tell you there is a difference between being free and feeling free. One can be imprisoned so long they don’t know how to experience and enjoy their freedom. Jesus said ,”If the Son sets you free, you will be free, indeed” (John 8:36). To be forgiven is to be free!
Dr. Chris Larmoyeux is the pastor at First Baptist Church Maumelle. He and his wife, Tonya, live in Maumelle with their three children. You can email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.