Monday, June 10, 2013

Paradigm of God’s Forgiveness and the Reason to Repent

We are creatures of habit. We experience our circumstances and environment, gain knowledge, take decisions, and form our comfort zone. If I travel regularly on a particular road, I seldom ignore it, unless a diversion forces me. When I experience a better alternate, I view it with skepticism, but when I am convinced, the alternate is my comfort. This may be true to all facets of life - roads, relationships, and even theology. We could habitually think of God as if HE were human, and even find comfort in knowing HIM as one. But God isn’t human! Any thought of God as a human is assuredly erroneous. God does not forgive as humans do.

God cannot be contained in time. HIS attributes of infinity and eternality defy time. God has no ‘before’ and ‘after’ (HE is conscious of our past, present and future). We live in time; we are in the ‘present,’ reminisce the ‘past,’ and ignorant of our ‘future.’ At best, our knowledge of future may be based on educated assumptions, which could be incorrect. But God knows everything (omniscience). HE knows our speech even before that word is on our tongue (Psalm 139:4). Hence, God’s forgiveness should be seen in light of HIS attributes.

God is like a person seated on the top floor of a high rise building, observing the action on the ground. Below the high rise, in a narrow lane, the person sees two cars traveling towards each other at a high speed. The drivers cannot sight each other because of a blind curve in the road, but the blind curve does not obstruct the person on the high rise. Although the drivers are unaware of their imminent collision (future), the person on the high rise is.

Being seated high above ground, the person transcends time by observing all events on the ground. At a specific time, he sees events occurring at different places on the ground that the ground dwellers are unaware of. When one transcends time, the knowledge of various points in time is gained.

When someone repents for offending me, I forgive him in ignorance, for I am ignorant of a repeated offense. My forgiveness is based on a blind belief. But God knows our future. When we repent of our sin against God, we will repeat the same or another sin in the future.

If I truly repent of a sin, God forgives me. If I repeat the same sin after 3 days and repent, I am confident that God has forgiven me. If I repeat the same sin after 30 days and repent, I am still confident of God’s forgiveness. In reality, I am travelling through time – I commit a sin on day 1, and repeat it on day 4 and 34. We travel through time, but God is outside time. We ought to incorporate this fact about God when we comprehend HIS forgiveness.

When God forgives me, HE knows precisely when and where I would repeat that sin in the future. HE also knows what other lesser or greater sins I will commit. God is not only infinite and eternal, HE is omniscient.

When God forgives me, HE forgives me not because of what I do, but because of what HE has done through the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ died and rose again for the sins of our past, present, and future. When man repents of his sins and accepts the Lord Jesus as his savior, he is forgiven once and for all.

The repentance of a person who refuses to believe in Christ would not be forgiven in an absolute sense, for he is bound to sin again.1 He lacks the protection of Christ’s perfect sacrifice, which is through belief. Since God is omniscient of our future sins, it is impossible for us to receive absolute forgiveness without believing and accepting Christ as savior. We need absolute forgiveness for we are sinful beings.

Examine this situation from the human perspective. A person lies to his friend. After a couple of days, he lies again, repents, and his gracious friend forgives him. If he continually lies to his friend over a span of a month, the friend will refuse to take any repentance seriously, and probably won’t forgive him anymore. Even if he forgives, his forgiveness will be soaked in disbelief. On the contrary, if this individual wasn’t a perpetual liar, the friend would have considered the repentance as genuine. If the friend possesses knowledge of the person’s inability to speak the truth, his repentance will not be considered genuine and worthy of forgiveness. There is no absolute forgiveness for sins, since God knows that man is a chronic sinner. However, God’s love, grace, mercy, and compassion will never cease, hence man exists.

But why repent if God knows we are chronic sinners? For the sake of clarity, we should observe the christian and non-christian dimensions.

God has blessed us with the second person of the blessed trinity, Jesus Christ, (HIS sinless life, death and resurrection) as the only means for forgiveness of sins. Outside of Christ, there is no sacrifice for sins and hence no forgiveness (cf. Hebrews 10: 26-27).Those who believe and accept Christ as their only God and savior are forgiven of all their sins. This is the christian dimension. The non-christian dimension is that there is no forgiveness of sins, because the one who refuses Christ remains a sinner till his last breath; hence God does not forgive him. Thus repentance without believing in Christ is a futile exercise for a non-christian.

Why must a christian repent, when he has been forgiven of all his sins – past, present and future? Repentance, for a christian, is a plea to God and a volitional affirmation of his continuous endeavor, by the power of God, to overcome his sinful nature into a loving obedience to Christ. This is an on-going growth process of holiness in a christian. Both God and the christian know that sin is imminent, but there is an effort on the part of the christian, with God’s help. The effort succeeds through prayer and God’s power. Sin can be overcome, but not to sinless perfection. Moreover, holiness should not be imprisoned in time. Some, by God’s grace, discard their sins sooner, and some later. But we are so full of sins that being sinless is impossible in this time and age.

Sin separates a christian from God (Isaiah 59: 2), but not from an eternal perspective. When a christian sins, he cannot receive God’s blessings to the fullest (cf. John 15: 5). Thus a christian pleads to God for power to discard sins, the desire to love and obey HIM, and to be in constant fellowship with God. Thus repentance enhances his love for God, and the spiritual blessings of God increases in the one who depends on God for his sustenance and this man enjoys God abundantly.

Finally, will God forgive a man who genuinely repents of his sins, but hasn’t forgiven his debtor (cf. Matt 18: 35)? God will judge this man from an earthly perspective and not eternal. If I don’t forgive my debtor, I will not be a resident of hell in eternity, but I will have to face God’s judgment, whatever it may be, in this time and age.

If you disagree, then please do not hesitate to enlighten me. Amen.

Notes:

1 Man is sinful from birth. No one teaches a child to lie or covet, but the child lies and covets.  

5 comments:

Sam Carr said...

Man is told to forgive another for their sins 'umpteen' times, i.e. without limit. Where does the scripture tell you that God will do less?

Raj Richard said...

@ Sam Carr: Could you please elaborate your question?

Sam Carr said...

"There is no absolute forgiveness for sins..." throughout Jesus teaching He contrasted how we would wish to behave with how God our father will behave. He was specifically asked about chronic sin and replied that forgiveness must continue indefinitely. Will God do less?

Sam Carr said...

"There is no absolute forgiveness for sins..." throughout Jesus teaching He contrasted how we would wish to behave with how God our father will behave. He was specifically asked about chronic sin and replied that forgiveness must continue indefinitely. Will God do less?

Raj Richard said...

God's plan for forgiveness is through the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who believe in Christ will receive the blessing of forgiveness (am staying within the context), those who refuse to believe in Christ, will not. So you are right, God has indeed done it all, and that's what I have said in my blog as well.

So God hasn't done less, HE will never do less. That's not God.

Christ is God's plan for the redemption / salvation of mankind. But those who do not believe in Christ will fall away due to their choice. God cannot be blamed.