Great News: God offers forgiveness

The Gospel means “good news.” As news, it narrates an event, but an event with staggering implications.

The True Living God has a good news, a great news for the human race.

So what is the great news? It is this: Jesus Christ was crucified and was resurrected, about two thousand years ago in Jerusalem.

What does it mean? What makes the event good? For one answer, we look to the Apostle Peter. In Acts 10, he gave this summary: God anointed Jesus with the Spirit and with power to do good; Jesus was put to death on a tree as a cursed man; but God raised Jesus to glory on the third day, appointing him to be the judge of the living and of the dead. “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The Apostle heralds that in Jesus’ resurrection-appointment, Jesus ascended the highest throne as Judge of All. For Jesus to be Judge Over All is great news! In the light of this event, God announces and offers a word of pardon: Anyone who submits to Jesus (in faith with joy) receives forgiveness of sins. What an offer! No more guilt! No more condemnation! Freedom from sin! Freedom for God and others!

So believe this good news: God forgives the sinner who returns to Him through Christ; no righteous wrath awaits him on Judgment Day, but only joy and glory.

But the unrepentant and the unbelieving have no rest.

Children do us good

Children are a blessing from the Lord, so the Bible tells us. This post gives some reasons why. For a start, a child is an elect one given by God for a couple and a family. They did not chose him. He is God-given, with all the accompanying qualities he has. And then the child challenges our self-centeredness, doing us a lot of good, if we respond by faith to God’s grace.

Christopher Ash argues in Married for God: Making Your Marriage the Best it Can be (57-8) that it is a “false choice” to ask whether we serve God or have children: “We serve God by having children.” For most moms, “what they do as parents will prove more significant in eternity than the most glittering career in the eyes of the world.”

The premise is that children are a blessing, a claim about which Ash is anything but Pollyannish: “A child may be an inconvenient blessing. A child will usually be an expensive blessing. A child may and often will be a blessing that takes us well outside our comfort zones and into the arms of grace. A child usually is a blessing that will be accompanied by sleepless nights and many tears.” Yet a blessing nonetheless.

And one of the strange blessings of having children is the grace of being forced to welcome little strangers into the home: “Husband and wife have chosen one another. But, however much they may have wanted a baby, they did not choose this baby with these particular characteristics! This baby comes into the family circle as a stranger, to be welcomed whatever his or her character and future. And therefore in parenting we learn to welcome the stranger, the one chosen by God for us to love. . . . the only home it is safe to be born into is a hospitable home which welcomes outsiders into its circle.”

Parenthood is mercy ministry, and since children come as strangers, they “challenge our self-centeredness and do us good” as well.

– See more at: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/page/3/#sthash.zaza855X.dpuf

We matter immensely

Donald Macleod’s exposition of the love of God is lucid and worshipful. He first remarks that treating God’s love as a “mere sub-division of His goodness” does not do justice “to its importance in biblical revelation.” Macleod affirms that love is God’s “innermost nature.” “He not simply has love or exercises love. It is His very form that He looks on the things of others (Philippians 2:4f.) and it is in this above all that He stands forth not as an abstraction but as a person, confronting others in the offer of fellowship (1 John 1:3).”

The Bible’s revelation of a loving God – who created Adam and Eve in His image out of love and delight, who promised a conqueror-redeemer after they sinned (Genesis 3:15), who gives good gifts despite human rebellion and wickedness (Genesis 8:20-22; Matthew 5:43-48; Acts 17:25), who died as Jesus on the cross for His people (Matthew 1:21) – is also a revelation that we sinners are highly valued. In fact, writes Macleod, “we matter immensely.”

Before this true God, our lives are not meaningless. Before this God-man Jesus, our pains and losses have a point – He makes all things to work for the good of His people, to those who love Him and are called according to His gracious purpose.

Before this loving God of the Bible, we can sing, play and dance.

Forms of forgiveness

The minister of Emmanuel Evangelical Church in Southgate, London posts something that can help us appreciate aspects of forgiveness. Here’s Steve Jeffrey in full:

When, after a high profile crime such as murder or an act of violence, there is a public announcement by the victim or relatives of the victim that they “forgive” those who committed the crime, there is considerable room for confusion. The subject of forgiveness, it turns out, is more complicated than it sometimes seems. For this reason I’m very grateful to a friend of mine for the following notes on the subject, which go a long way towards making some of the ncessary clarifications.

First some basic concepts:

  • There is “full restoration of proper relationship” between the two parties (offender and offended). Call this “forgiveness 1” or F1.
  • There is “a demeanour of forgiving-ness, a readiness to forgive” on the part of the offended. Call this “forgiveness 2” or F2.
  • There is “a willingness to forego due restitution, compensation and/or a willingness not to prosecute the offender” on the part of the offended. Call this “forgiveness 3” or F3.
  • And there is repentance (with apologies, endeavours to make restitution etc) on the part of the offender.

It should be obvious that there cannot be F1 without repentance.

That being the case, when the offended stands to declare, “I forgive those who killed my son” then they might mean F2 or F3 but they cannot – independently of the attitudes and actions of the guilty party – mean F1.

F2 is always required of the Christian and is, indeed, the “Christian” response. And F2 carries with it true love, namely, a desire for and willingness to take action to achieve the well-being of the other person.

It is possible that, in the absence of repentance from the guilty party, the love which accompanies F2 would see that the well-being of the guilty party is best furthered by taking steps which will bring them to repentance. It is possible that insisting on prosecution or full restitution may be the most loving thing that the offended can do (the thing most likely to achieve the well-being of the guilty party). This may arise not from a desire for revenge but in order to secure the best for the guilty party.

Similarly, the expression of anger towards the guilty party for the crime he has committed may also be a loving thing to do (just as God expresses his anger towards his people for their sin – because he loves them and intends to wake them up to the harm it is doing to them. Sometimes a parent will even “pretend” to be angry for the good of the child – when the child has done something funny but naughty). And that expression of anger will flow from and co-exist with F2.

So in summary, “I forgive them” from the victim in the absence of repentance from the offender

  • never means F1;

  • always means F2;

  • only means F3 where it is the most loving thing to do;

  • can co-exist with an expression of anger and an insistence on prosecution.

Limits liberate

God made us finite. We are not omni-knowing, omni-present, or omni-potent. These limitations are good news. They allow the Lord to be for us and for others. Here is how:

Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being:

First, we can only be at one place at one time, which means that Jesus will teach most of us to live a local life.

We will resist and want to act like we are omnipresent. But he will patiently teach us that as human beings we cannot be, and this admission will glorify God.

Others will likewise resist Jesus and want you to be omnipresent. They will use his name to praise or critique you accordingly, but they too will have to learn that only Jesus can be with them wherever they are at all times. This fact is actually good news for them and for us. . . .

Second, we cannot do everything that needs to be done, which means that Jesus will teach us to live with the things that we can neither control nor fix.

We will want to resist Jesus and act as if we are omnipotent, but we will harm others and ourselves when we try.

Others will also resist Jesus. Using his name, they will praise or critique us according to their desire that we fix everything for them and that we do it immediately. But they will have to learn too that only Jesus can fix everything and that there are some things Jesus leaves unfixed for his glory. . . .

Third, we are unable to know everyone or everything, which means that Jesus will teach us to live with ignorance, our own and others’. In other words, we are not omniscient.

Jesus will require us to stop pretending that we are.

Others will resist Jesus and in his name praise us or critique us on the basis of their estimation of what we should know. They will have to learn that only Jesus knows everything they need; his invitation to faith and to trust in his knowing is a good one. . . .

Ask yourself this question: Which are you more tempted to pretend that you are: an everywhere-for-all, a fix-it-all, or a know-it-all? What do you feel you will lose if you stop pretending in these ways and entrust yourself to Jesus? . . .

Jesus invites everywhere-for-alls, fix-it-alls, and know-it-alls to the cross, the empty tomb, and the throne of his grace for their time of need.

—Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 55-56.

HT: Crossway Blog via Justin Taylor