Friday, September 7, 2018
Ephesians 1:3-8 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
WOW! What a marvelous passage of Scripture that speaks of our reconciliation to God. He chose us. He determined to adopt us. He has lavishly bestowed His glorious grace on us through Jesus Christ. He has redeemed us. He has forgiven us. He has made His will known to us. How do we even find a starting point in all of that? Well, for me, it all starts with forgiveness. If we are going to truly understand the marvel of reconciliation, we must wrap our minds around the amazing concept of forgiveness. My heart is overwhelmed with joy as I think that God, based on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, can and will forgive us when we humbly confess our sin, and will restore us to perfect relationship with Himself. That, my friends, is truly awesome.
One of my favorite writers and preachers is Charles R. Swindoll. In 1983 he published a book entitled Growing Strong In the Seasons of Life. It is copyrighted by Multnomah Press of Portland, Oregon. Chuck’s writing is powerful and expressive, and I want to share with you one of the passages from his book that deals with the issue of forgiveness. I pray that it will touch you as deeply as it has me.
It is quite probable that someone reading my words this moment is fighting an inner battle with a ghost from the past. The skeleton in one of yesterday’s closets is beginning to rattle louder and louder. Putting adhesive tape around the closet and moving the bureau in front of the door does little to muffle the clattering bones. You wonder, possibly, “Who knows?” You think, probably, “I’ve had it.. . can’t win.., party’s over.”
The anchor that tumbled off your boat is dragging and snagging on the bottom. Guilt and anxiety have come aboard, pointing out the great dark hulks of shipwrecks below. They busy themselves drilling worry-holes in your hull and you are beginning to sink. Down in the hold, you can hear them chant an old lie as they work: “The bird with the broken pinion never soared as high again…”
Allow me to present a case in opposition to these destructive and inaccurate accusers. It may be true that you’ve done or experienced things which would embarrass you if they became public knowledge. You may have committed a terrible and tragic sin that was never traced back to you. You may have a criminal record or a moral charge or a domestic conflict that, to this moment, is private information. You may wrestle with a past that has been fractured and wounded by a mental or emotional breakdown. Futile attempts at suicide may add to the previous scar tissue and increase your fear of being labeled “sick” or “nervous.” It is possible that you live with memories, covered now by the sands of time, of an illicit relationship or a financial failure or a terrible habit or a divorce or a scandalous involvement. You feel that any one of these things might mar or cripple your reputation if the dirty details ever spilled on the table of gluttonous gossipers.
But wait a minute. Before you surrender your case as hopeless, consider the liberating evidence offered in the Bible. Take an honest look at men and women whom God used in spite of their past! Abraham, founder of Israel and tagged “the friend of God,” was once a worshiper of idols. Joseph had a prison record but later became prime minister of Egypt. Moses was a murderer, but later became the one who delivered his nation from the slavery of Pharaoh. Jephthah was an illegitimate child who ran around with a tough bunch of hoods before he was chosen by God to become His personal representative. Rahab was a harlot in the streets of Jericho but was later used in such a mighty way that God enlisted her among the members of His hall of fame.
Still unconvinced? There’s more. Peter openly denied the Lord and cursed Him, only to return and become God’s choicest spokesman among the early years of the infant church. Paul was so hard and vicious in his early life the disciples and apostles refused to believe he’d actually become a Christian. . . but you know how greatly God used him. The files of heaven are filled with stories of redeemed, refitted renegades and rebels.
How magnificent is grace! How malignant is guilt! How sweet are the promises! How sour is the past! How precious and broad is God’s love! How petty and narrow are man’s limitations! How refreshing is the Lord! How rigid is the legalist!
Mark it—when God forgives, He forgets. He is not only willing but pleased to use any vessel—just as long as it is clean today. It may be cracked or chipped. It may be worn or it may have never been used before. You can count on this—the past ended one second ago. From this point onward, you can be clean, filled with His Spirit, and used in many different ways for His honor. God’s glorious grace says: “Throw guilt and anxiety overboard. . . draw the anchor. . . trim the sails. . . man the rudder.. . a strong gale is coming!”
Thanks, Chuck, for the great reminder that none of us lives beyond the reach of God’s grace, and that His forgiveness results in complete healing and reconciliation.