Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Simple Truths To Live By (2)

Continuing from my previous post, let me share with you another simple truth which I live by and which I stubbornly refuse to be shaken from after learning and studying through these last seven years of NCC's ministry:

Simple Truth No.2 - God has forgiven ALL (past, present and future) of my sins

Among us Christians, one of the most basic truths of our Christian faith - God's forgiveness - has always generated great debate because we still cannot agree with one another on what kind of forgiveness we receive from God.

Some Christians believe that God forgave all of their sins from birth up to the point of their rebirth i.e. up to the point in time when they received Christ as their saviour and became Christians but after they became Christians, God forgives only the sins which they confess to Him. These Christians usually base this piece of "theology" on 1 John 1:9 - "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.". 

Mis-interpretation of 1 John 1:9

However, I do not subscribe to this belief as I have learnt that their interpretation of 1 John 1:9 is flawed.  1 John 1:9 should be read in context of the whole chapter of 1 John 1 and not as a standalone verse.  I have written several posts on this misinterpretation of 1 John 1:9 and basically, the point is that the first chapter of 1 John was not directed at Christians but rather Gnostics who were "a group of people who believed they possessed superior spiritual knowledge. They believed that all flesh is evil and that only spirit is good. Because they believed that, they didn't believe that Jesus really came in the flesh - they believed He was an illusion. They also believed that because sin had to do with our flesh, there really wasn't sin - sin was also just an Illusion. (That's similar to people today who believe sickness is an illusion.) 

The church in Ephesus was filled with people who not only didn't believe Christ came in the flesh, they didn't believe sin was real. "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life" (I John 1:1). 

In other words, John is establishing that he was an eyewitness to the fact that Jesus truly did come in the flesh. He did this to convince the Gnostics that Jesus was not an illusion.

 "We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ" (verse 3). This verse says two things. First, John repeats the fact that he, the rest of the apostles and other people saw Christ in the flesh. He wanted the Gnostics to realize that there were many people who could testify to the reality of Christ. Second, he is saying that there are some people in the audience who were not in the fellowship with Christ."(source: http://www.realanswers.net/realaudio/forgiveness.htm)

Now that we can see that 1 John 1 is not directed at Christians, let's take a look at 1 John 1:9 together with verses 5-8 to see the full context:

5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

John is telling the Gnostics in 1 John 1:5-7 that sin is real and they are living a lie when they sin and yet deny they have sin by claiming that only the body is sinning but the spirit remains pure and can never sin. Hence, John says they are not true Christians since they do not acknowledge that they are sinners BUT if they acknowledge that they are sinners, then the blood of Jesus will take care of the sin problem by cleansing them from all sin.

This line of argument by John is continued into 1 John 1:8-9 where he encourages them to not deceive themselves but to acknowledge that they have sin by confessing and God is faithful to forgive them of all their sins. 
Looking at verses 8 and 9 in tandem, I submit that John is actually painting a scenario of 2 choices available to a non-believer: 
1) v8 - Say that you have no sin i.e. refusing to admit that you are a sinner and therefore not accepting the truth of the Gospel; you don't need the Saviour because there is nothing to be saved from. 
2) Confess your sins i.e. admitting you are a sinner and therefore needing and receiving God's forgiveness of all your sins and made righteous before God i.e. cleansed from all unrighteousness.

1John 1:9 is describing what happens at the point of salvation for an unbeliever. When the unbeliever confesses before God that he is a sinner and in need of the Saviour, his sins are all forgiven and he is cleansed from ALL unrighteousness, thereby making him fully righteous. I use the word fully to emphasize the absence of any unrighteousness because strictly speaking, righteousness is a state of being so you are either righteous or unrighteous. 
When you become a believer, you are made righteous before God; you have been cleansed from ALL unrighteousness, so how can there be any unrighteousness left in you for God to cleanse again and again?

The Timelessness of the Cross
Now if all this examination of the verses is giving you a headache, then let's look at this forgiveness issue from the point of view of the Cross.  When Christ paid the penalty for sin on the cross, was it for only those who were alive on earth at the point of His death? Of course not!  Christ paid the penalty for every single person who ever lived or will live on this earth.  Now, we know Christ died on the cross more than 2,000 years ago, therefore at the point of our salvation, even those sins which we consider as past, i.e. from our birth up to the point of our salvation, were in actual fact "future sins" when viewed from the time of Christ's death on the cross.
Christ's sacrifice on the cross is good for ALL time - past, present and future.  Christ wiped the slate clean once and for ALL and what Christ has cleaned will remain clean for ALL time:
Hebrews 10:10-14 (Amplified Bible)
10And in accordance with this will [of God], we have been made holy (consecrated and sanctified) through the offering made once for all of the body of Jesus Christ (the Anointed One).
    11Furthermore, every [human] priest stands [at his altar of service] ministering daily, offering the same sacrifices over and over again, which never are able to strip [from every side of us] the sins [that envelop us] and take them away--
    12Whereas this One [Christ], after He had offered a single sacrifice for our sins [that shall avail] for all time, sat down at the right hand of God,
    13Then to wait until His enemies should be made a stool beneath His feet.
    14For by a single offering He has forever completely cleansed and perfected those who are consecrated and made holy.

What happens when you sin? Do you need to confess to God your sin?  For me, when I sin, I don't bother to confess my sin to God because firstly, God already knows about it and has already forgiven me through Christ's sacrifice on the cross, and secondly, God says He won't remember my sins anymore, and thirdly, God is not angry with me anymore. I just thank God for his grace and ask Him for wisdom to learn from my mistake.

If you need more assurance about God's forgiveness of your sins, then check out the following verses:

Heb 10:17 - "He then goes on to say, And their sins and their lawbreaking I will remember no more."

Col 2:13-14 - "13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."

Isaiah 54:9 - "For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I sworn That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you."
Jeremiah 31:34 - "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

Yes, there will be people who abuse this truth, treating it as a license to sin and therefore have no desire to live out a life worthy of their calling as a child of God BUT this is still the truth, and holding on to this simple truth has saved me (and will save you) from living a life under condemnation and guilt.


Anonymous said...

Amen Stanley. Awesome blog

I think I heard Rob Rufus or someone ( I can't remember
who now)said that when you find yourself being sin conscious say/pray something like this

“Thank You Jesus for the perfect work of the cross that has removed my sins completely. Thank you Holy Spirit for convicting me of righteousness, not my own, but the righteousness given to me as a gift and I praise You that nothing that I do can ever change that or ever separate me from your love!!!” Grace does not mean the denial of occasional mistakes in our lives"

Praise God.

Stanley Wong said...

That's a really great prayer to remember, hagere ... thanks :-)