Life-Changing Forgiveness

In Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables,” the main character had a life-changing experience of forgiveness. After finally being released following 19 years in a chain gang, Jean Valjean stole some silver from a kind bishop who took the risk of offering him hospitality for the night. Valjean was caught and arrested. Instead of condemning the thief, the bishop acted as though the silver were a gift and even gave Valjean precious silver candlesticks as well. This surprising, gracious act of forgiveness motivated Valjean to repent and change his ways.

The disciple’s position

On a grander scale, God has given the life-changing experience of forgiveness to every sinner who turns to Christ through faith. Yes, Jesus “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). The Psalmist celebrates God’s gracious forgiveness:

“As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

The pardon the Jesus purchased for the believer puts the “amazing” in grace:

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:13,14).

The disciple’s condition

God’s forgiveness motivates the believer to walk in “newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Although we have a saving relationship through Christ, this does not exempt us from temptation, nor prevent us from committing sins (1 John 1:8). As Miles Stanford puts it,

“When we rest in our position in Christ, we find that we are in the light. We know that our sins have been purged once for all and therefore our conscience is cleansed. At the same time, we are very much aware that although we abide in our risen Lord Jesus, our everyday Christian life is carried on in a sinful world. [Condition:] There are sins committed as we grow, because we take our eyes off the Lord Jesus and foolishly rely on self; a defiled conscience and broken fellowship are the result.” [1]

Have you wondered why we need to confess our sins which we commit after being saved, if they were all paid for at Calvary? The explanation lies in the distinction between our position in Christ and our condition in the Christian life. In Christ our position does not change (Rom. 5:1; 8:1). We are clothed in Christ’s righteousness (Phil. 3:9). Yet when we sin, our condition changes, i.e., we grieve the Holy Spirit and hinder our fellowship with God (Eph. 4:30; Psalm 66:18; 1 Pet. 3:7). To restore unhindered communion with the Lord, we must confess our sins, identifying and repenting of them (1 John 1:9).[2]

God not only restores us to unhindered fellowship as we repent, but He graciously teaches us even through our failures. As F.B. Meyer wrote,

“Through our sins we have learned, as never before, to appreciate God’s forgiveness; through our failures we have been taught our weakness, and led to magnify the grace which is made perfect in weakness.”[3]

May our hearts be filled with gratitude for God’s life-changing forgiveness so that we enjoy constant communion with our gracious Savior.

Our Father, we are so amazed at the infinite power of Christ’s work on Calvary’s cross. Thank you that the payment for all of our sins was finished there. Give us grateful hearts that we may walk in a new quality of life. Sensitize us to anything which grieves Your Holy Spirit so we may enjoy unhindered fellowship with You always. In Your grace, amen.

[1] The Complete Green Letters, p. 131. [It would be more accurate to describe the believer’s ‘hindered fellowship’, rather than ‘broken fellowship’ – 1 Cor. 1:9 – JBW]

[2] 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The context indicates that this forgiveness primarily refers to one’s initial forgiveness at salvation. But the grammar indicates that this present tense action of confessing sin continues in the lives of those who are children of God. The risen Christ calls on disobedient churches to repent (Rev. 2,3); genuine repentance includes confession of sin (2 Cor. 7:9,10). See Andrew Murray, The New Life, ch. 11

[3] Our Daily Walk, p.315.

Copyright by John B. Woodward, 1998; 2013. Biblical quotations are from the New King James Version (copyrighted by Thomas Nelson). Permission is granted to reprint this article for noncommercial use if credit is given to the author and Grace Notes.

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