This afternoon, I opened the windows--because that's what you do when it's 70 degrees on Leap Day. While I'm sitting at my computer, grading essays, I hear something rare--a dove cooing. Hearing one always makes me pause. Its calming trills make me exhale. And for a moment, I ponder what the dove represents: peace... And, a promise. The dove was the symbol of Noah's security. God sent her back, and with hopeful confidence: "yes, you will be saved. You will be mine."
Considering the season we're in, it seems like an optimal time to explore the topic of forgiveness. In a few weeks, we'll celebrate the ultimate gift of forgiveness: our God came down, died on a cross, and took on the full burden of our sins. We are now free from the penalty of death, we are free to love, to receive love, and to walk in the power of His Spirit.
I don't know about you, but this "new creation" doesn't always feel so new. I often feel like I'm dragging around the old carcass: the one that is impatient and unkind and sometimes harsh. The old person who tries to play god too much and feels guilty for all the ways I can't...and don't measure up. Hello, pride. I've done some horrible things: losing my temper, slandering, gossiping, idoling, lusting, craving with greed, hating--and that's all been in the last week. I know I am a mess. I won't be perfect--not this side of Heaven--but the Lord doesn't just leave me in the mess and say, "Ah well...someday I'll be able to look at you and accept you as whole. For now, I'll just have to tolerate you. But stay hidden, would you? Stay out of my way." Those are lies from the Enemy, not our Father.
He accepts me know, just as I am. Not because I earned it, but because He did. He paid for us to have relationship. He paid for my slate to be wiped clean. He doesn't see the smudges; He sees the beauty. Psalm 103:12 says He removes our transgressions from us...as far as they will go.
Colossians 3:13 commands us to forgive as the Lord forgave us. Which was how? Conditionally? Reluctantly? Begrudgingly? No. He forgave us completely. Think The Prodigal Son returns! That kind of joyous complete forgiveness.
I confess I don't often forgive that way. Sometimes, I "keep a record of wrongs." Sometimes I judge and limit my mercy. I do this to others sometimes...but I most often do it to myself. I punish myself. I say that God's gracious forgiveness isn't enough. And I condemn myself to a life of guilt and regret. If I can't accept Christ's love and acceptance, than I am banished to a life of performance and "retribution," essentially trying to repay what can't be bought. My thoughts reel with "I can't forgive myself. I can't let this go. I can't believe what a sordid mess I am. I'm sure he's given up on me; I have. I am hopeless." These lies mock at the full cost of the cross.
Do we feel conviction and sorrow over our sins? Absolutely. Do we continue to dwell on them in guilt after Christ has absolved us? Absolutely not.
To do so is to diminish the abundant life we have in Him. Because we don't truly believe we are fully "off the hook," we won't fully live in our birthright and we'll feel discouraged by the lies that grip our identity. Discouragement is a vastly effective tool to keep us inactive in our faith.
Believe me; I know full well.
We're studying the role of Enemy in Bible study right now. Discerning his ways gives us more actionable intel to fight back and not be defeated by his cunning.
We have to know how he operates. He knows our weak spots. He knows our insecurities. He knows what lies will be most useful to bait and snatch us.
So, we have to know the truth better. We have to remind ourselves who we are...often.
I've only read Bondage Breaker, but Neil Anderson targets this very topic of freedom in Christ, helping believers truly grasp what they believe. His books are about displacing lies and fighting the Enemy with victory--not because we're so great and deserving, but because we must walk out in trust about who God says we are.