The tears were streaming down my face and I couldn’t do anything to prevent the steady flow of emotion. I was at a recent church service where our pastor, Robert Morris, was speaking about “The Family of God” and how God is our Father. Morris said God adopts us into a family of “Unconditional Love,” “Unmerited Favor,” and “Unearned Blessings.” Those are “uns” that touched my heart because if my heavenly Father had been unforgiving, I would never be able to stand before Him as a daughter. As a fatherless girl, I am so thankful for my heavenly Father! Here’s a link to the sermon in case you need a good cry of gratitude as well. http://gatewaypeople.com/ministries/life/events/blessed-families-a-gateway-series/session/2018/12/01/the-family-of-god
I am also thankful that God is a forgiving God and that through His Son’s sacrifice on the cross, He wipes the dirt off our slate and gives us some cleaning tools to live a more righteous life in His eyes. In today’s segment of “Knowing the Father,” we will look at how our heavenly Father forgives us.
God forgives us when we turn away from Him. In this case, I think of the story of the prodigal son, a depiction of God’s love for us. After a rich man’s son left home and squandered away all of his inheritance, he returned to his dad, never dreaming that he’d still be accepted as a son. He decided that working as one of his father’s hired servants was better than continuing to have pigs as roommates. But the passage in Luke 15 says the father saw his son “while he was still a long way off” and he “was filled with compassion for him…” This dad didn’t stand there, arms crossed with steam shooting out of his ears. Instead he was a love magnet. He “ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:21). Remember, the father wasn’t the one who left home. He had been there all along. It’s the son that moved. In the same way, God is never the One to drift away from us. While we’re off trying to make life work in our own power, He’s waiting sovereignly and patiently for us to realize our existence is empty without Him.
We have to understand nothing can fill His shoes.
And that we simply can’t make it on our own.
James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been running away from God. I was a runner for seventeen years. When we return, our heavenly Father is waiting with open arms and says, “I’ve missed you.”
God forgives us when we deny him before others. Sometimes we don’t want people to know who our parents are. For many years, my mother was a big secret that I didn’t share with others because I didn’t want to be associated with mental illness. However, after forgiving my mom and seeing her through God’s eyes, I now understand how the sudden death of my father, two months before I was born, could have created the emotional damage she experienced. We also deny God, but for different reasons.
- We are afraid we’ll lose a friend if we share our faith.
- We’re worried that we’ll be left out of events if we’re perceived as “The Church Lady” or “Holier than thou.”
- When we feel that pull to spend intimate time with God, we take a few steps back and find other things to do because we’re too scared to get up close and personal with our Maker.
God forgives us for all of our deficiencies. He understands our humanness. Jesus predicted Peter would deny Him three times and He probably knows we’ll deny him even more than that. But we know He forgives us because He is continues to give us more opportunities, whispering in our ear, “Tell them about me” or “Take a stand for my Son.” He also beckons us back to His presence. Isaiah 55:7 says, “Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
God forgives us when we don’t follow His instruction. This doesn’t mean there won’t be discipline along the way, but God will always forgive us if we are repentant after not obeying His Word. The Israelites were notorious for following the rules for a while, then conveniently forgetting what they learned. It cost them an extra forty-year stay in the wilderness, but despite their sinfulness at times, their heavenly Father still took care of their needs, feeding them Manna from Heaven and giving them water to drink. Even though most of the first refugees from Egypt died off, in God’s abundant forgiveness, he allowed their offspring to enter the Promised Land. Here’s the difference between us and them. If we have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are assured we won’t fall short of the Promised Land—spending eternity with God, despite falling short in obedience.
He forgives us of all of our past and current sins. This is a biggie, because without this forgiveness we’d have no hope. Colossians 1:13–14 says, “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
For what have you been redeemed and forgiven? Like the old movie, “Back to the Future,” I wish I could go back to those earlier years and change history, but if I did, I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog, birthed out of my experience with God’s grace. It doesn’t matter how far back the sin goes, God forgiveness covers all. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)
For what has God forgiven you? Are you thankful for your Father’s forgiveness? Where would you be without it?