The God Who Forgives
"Why should I be a Christian?" The very posing of this question implies that some people believe reasons exists why one should not be a Christian. Let us think about why someone would not want to become a Christian. Sometimes, a person hesitates in becoming a Christian because he believes that he is too wicked for God to forgive him. Often this person might feel like if he has not already, then some day he will inevitably go so far that God will not forgive him. The hesitant student is not the only person that fears this fate. Sometime even Christians wonder about God's continuing capacity to forgive, so let us consider what the Bible has to say about the God who forgives.
God Does Not Want Anyone to be Lost
Often people feel like God is a ferocious and cruel god, who longingly waits to instantly punish any man caught in sin. However, the Bible paints a different picture of God.
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." II Peter 3:9
God does not want anybody to be lost. In fact, he is patient with us so that we might not be lost. Being longsuffering, God mercifully provides frequent opportunities to repent. Although it is clear that God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:4), we still may wonder why God does not want people to be lost.
"But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live?" Ezekiel 18:21-23
From these verses we learn that God takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked. He does not enjoy their death because He loves them. This love was the reason why Jesus died on the cross for the whole world (John 3:16-17). How can a God who loves us and desires us to be saved not forgive the repentant who humbles himself before God?
Extreme Examples of God's Forgiveness
The extent of God's forgiveness can be seen in extreme examples from the Bible. One of the single-most extreme examples is that of the Judean king, Manasseh. Late in the history of the divided kingdom, King Manasseh proved himself to be one of the most wicked kings that Israel had seen.
"Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. But he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. ... Also he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger. ... So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel. And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen." II Chronicles 33:1-10
Although we see this stubborn king being more wicked than any before him, notice how he responds when he is punished by the Lord.
"Therefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon. Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God." II Chronicles 33:11-13
The text continues, mentioning how the penitent Manasseh destroyed all of the idols upon his return, repaired the Lord's altar, sacrificed peace and thanksgiving offerings, and commanded the people to worship God. This man was able to turn back to God, and God was willing to receive him back. How can we do more wickedly than this king, who among other evils sacrificed his own children to idols?
Among other examples, the apostle Paul could be mentioned who persecuted and killed Christians, but eventually repented and became one of the most well-known and influential servants of the Lord (Acts 9:1-22). The Corinthian church was filled with once worldly people, who committed grievous sins.
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." I Corinthians 6:9-11
Friend, there is not much that God has not forgiven. From murder (II Samuel 12:7-14) to the sacrificing of children (II Chronicles 33:1-13), we have record of God forgiving the most horrific sins. Even though we have examined these compelling examples, one more extreme example of God's forgiveness exists that we need to study.
We are all extreme examples of God's forgiveness. No man can boast that he is deserving of heaven because he earned it, or even because he sinned less than others. Sin is a terrible thing that separates all of us from God (Romans 3:23), condemning all of us to hell (Romans 6:23), even if someone committed only a single sin (James 2:10-13). Sin is just that bad.
Even though each of us would have stood without hope before God, the gospel reveals that God loved us before we loved Him (I John 4:9-19). Jesus came and died in our place for us, not as though we were deserving, but while we were ungodly (Romans 5:6-8). Though God requires that we respond to his gospel plea (Matthew 7:21-23; James 2:14-26), the Bible teaches that we have been saved by grace, not by meritorious works (Ephesians 2:1-10). Consequently, no man can boast of his salvation as if it was accomplished by his own merit. Therefore, each one of us is an extreme example of God's forgiveness to one who was undeserving.
Although sin and the temptations of the world may lure us into believing that we are too wicked for God to forgive, the Bible teaches that God does not want anyone to be lost. He desires that all men should be saved. The examples of King Manasseh, Kind David, the apostle Paul, the Corinthians, and many more illustrate God's capacity to forgive even the most wicked sinners. Finally, God extends his mercy to each one of us. We are equally in need of God's mercy. No one can boast in himself. Therefore, just as God has forgiven every previous convert, He will also graciously accept your repentance, if you are willing to humble yourself before the God who forgives.
May we assist you in accomplishing your desire to be saved? You may read more material on what the Bible says about the requirements for salvation, e-mail any of our local contacts, or complete one of our on-line Bible studies to learn more about your role in God's salvation for you.
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