Altogether Forgiven Forever

prayer at cross

“…we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7)

What word in any language could be more pleasing to someone guilty of sin than the word “forgiveness”? Is it truly possible that your sin can be altogether forgiven forever?

Forgiveness is the essential part of redemption (being freed from the consequences of sin). Paul used forgiveness in this verse in Ephesians as if it was everything that redemption is, since it is so prominent and important in redemption. In the Greek, the word translated ‘forgiveness’ here means the remission (release from the guilt or penalty of) of our transgressions (violations of a command or law), not merely passing over sin. It is the explanation of what it means to be redeemed. It includes not only deliverance from the penalty of sin, but also from its power to contaminate and conquer us. It is a proper satisfaction to a God who is just, which makes it possible for us to be reconciled (restored to friendship and harmony) to an offended God. When Jesus Christ shed His blood on the cross, that very moment remission of our sins became possible for us. He covered over all our sins—past, present, or future—with His precious blood, when He died in our place.

But redemption is not just forgiveness; it is the cause of forgiveness.

Therefore, forgiveness is the effect of it. It is not only the adequate fruit of redemption, but the primary and principal fruit upon which the other depends. But don’t suppose that this is the total benefit we receive from Christ’s death, or that this is all that redemption consists of. Yet it is the main (and probably the most) important one. Have you believed in what Jesus Christ did for you when He was crucified on the cross to pay for your sins? Then all your sins were forgiven at that very moment you did so, and forevermore—due to the pain and death His suffered there on your behalf, as your substitute. He forgave you everything, and He did it freely, fully, and for all time! O, how His free forgiveness displays the riches of His grace!

But this is not all—there is more! You also obtain the hope of heaven, along with many more benefits, including the influence of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of God to guide and support you in every trial. And when your time comes to die, then you will have peace, knowing your sins have been freely forgiven forever, and that nothing stands any longer between you and God.

Fading Footprints

shoreline with footprints

Children like to play the game of following another child by trying to step in each of his footprints behind him. The child who follows will do his best to keep up, but he may let his attention get distracted while the leader keeps walking and gets too far ahead. Before long, the one following will lose sight of the leader and become lost. After making attempts for a while to find the missing track of footprints, he may stumble across a different set, mistakenly thinking that he has rediscovered the missing tracks instead. He will be likely to follow the new prints immediately, without stopping to consider that they may belong to someone else. Only after he has traveled quite some distance will he come to realize that they are not the right ones. By then he will be nowhere near where he began and will have also lost the leader altogether.

Apply this illustration to following in the steps of Christ. When we first give our lives over to Him, everything is so wonderful, and we are willing and eager to follow Him anywhere He wants to lead us. Our intentions start out good, but when following in His footsteps becomes more difficult and challenging later, we tend to lose our zeal. Then we are likely to become distracted and lose sight of where He is heading. Sometimes we rediscover His path and return to following Him again. Other times we become lost by wandering around in places where He did not go, hoping to find Him there. But all too often, we end up following the wrong footprints and are never able to find Him again.

multiple footprints in the sand

Jesus gave us an essential command that would help us keep our focus on Him and keep us following His steps. He told us to “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Our “flesh” (physical self) is prone to getting distracted from God and tends to wander and fall for almost any temptation that may come its way. So we can’t depend on our flesh to find the way; we need to keep our focus on Jesus, especially concerning His victory at the cross. If we get distracted, we have stopped watching where He is going, and we often fail to pray. Even if we regularly seek God for forgiveness for the sins we have committed, we are still not necessarily watching and praying. We need to continually look to Jesus and stay prepared for what is coming. Don’t lose sight of His footprints due to the distractions all around us. Immediately after a victorious moment, our adversary, the devil, likes to come to steal our victory away, along with our joy. He’ll try to use a time like this to bring a heavy dose of doubt and unbelief into our lives. We therefore need to continually watch concerning our victorious moments, while being sure to seek God in prayer at the same time.

footprints in sand along surf

Success in keeping up with the footsteps of Christ only comes from maintaining our desire to stay with Him. But, if we lose interest in His Word, or in the desire to communicate with Him in prayer, we make ourselves vulnerable to distractions instead of following Him. As a result, we won’t notice that His footprints are fading, and will either end up detached from Him, or following another set of footprints that are not His—thereby leading us farther away from Him.

How much do we really want to be with Him? So much that we make sure we will follow close enough to Him that His footprints are never out of sight? Are we continuing to watch and pray so that we will not get distracted or be led away to follow the wrong set of prints? Does our focus continue to be on Christ and Him crucified, or has it turned to some distraction we have encountered along the way?

Breadcrumbs or Sawdust?

cut tree with sawdust

“What are you doing?”

“Feeding the ducks.”

“Hey, I thought ducks ate crumbled bread. That looks like sawdust.”

“It is! I figured it’s much cheaper and they don’t really know the difference.”

“But ducks don’t benefit from eating sawdust.”

“I know that, but they’re just a bunch of wild ducks, not pets. Look, some are eating it! I told you they wouldn’t know the difference.”

“Well, they still aren’t getting any nourishment from it.”

“As long as they’re fed and happy, it doesn’t matter what they eat. Besides, this is so much easier to obtain and distribute. It won’t get moldy or stale like real bread, and it lasts practically forever.”

“Except when it burns.”

“OK, but it still works for me. If they’re satisfied, that’s all that counts.”

“But they’re not satisfied. Look at the ones who ate the fresh whole wheat bread I tossed to them earlier. They look full. They’re grooming themselves and have no more interest in eating bread. Your group is still begging for more food. I don’t see any satisfaction yet.”

“That is because yours are just full prematurely. I’m sure they’ll be desperate for more shortly. I’ll just open another bag of sawdust and distribute it here and… Hey! Where are you going?”

“It’s been several hours since I left and you are still feeding those ducks?”

“They’re not just the same ones I fed earlier; a lot of new ones just arrived.”

“Well, it appears that the flock I fed is now on the other side of the lake asleep and contented. These don’t look contented.”

“True, but mine are with me and yours left. What kind of loyalty is that?”

“Um—does that include yours who are now looking kind of sickly?”

“What? Oh, I hadn’t even bothered to notice. They’ll be better later. They probably just ate too much too fast, that’s all.”

“No, I think it’s more of a case of eating too much of the wrong thing.”

“I know—I’ll just mix some breadcrumbs with the sawdust and give it to the rest. Maybe they won’t feel as bad as the others.”

“You know, this whole episode got me thinking while I was away earlier—about how many Christians are being fed like these ducks.”

“Stop right there! Did you just call me a duck?”

“No, I’m saying many are eating like your ducks. Here, give them the rest of my bread and come with me.”

“Wow! They really have to work on your bread, but they gulp mine down like it’s their last meal.”

“Exactly! When we feed on “ground-up wood pulp,” we think we’re getting lots to eat real quickly, yet we never feel satisfied and complete. Sure, we may feel ‘full,’ especially after we drink something and all that pulp swells up inside us. But it will either make us sick or long for more.”

“I’ve noticed the same thing almost every time I eat at a fast-food place. The food usually tastes great and I feel full briefly, but never fully satisfied. I end up eating more later—like ice cream or a milkshake.”

“When we feast on Christ through His Word, the Bible, it’s like that fresh whole wheat that you fed the ducks a few moments ago. They really had to work on it, but it made them full and satisfied.”

duck running towards food

“You’re right! Look at the ones who ate the bread you gave me. They cleaned up all of it and didn’t even touch the sawdust!”

“Jesus said in John 6:51, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” When we eat this Living Bread, we become satisfied and won’t grow hungry. Jesus confirmed this in John 6:35 when He said, “…I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” His Bread is not fast-food.”

“That explains why I feel empty inside a few days after my pastor’s message at church. I thought I did something wrong, or didn’t pay enough attention during the service.”

“Now you’re starting to see my point. You’re feeding on sawdust, not breadcrumbs, or bread itself. Sadly, many pastors and church leaders distribute sawdust—possibly because they’re feeding on it themselves as well.”

“But the pastor says things so well and makes many great points. He always makes me feel good after his message. How could he be feeding me sawdust?”

“The fact that you feel good about yourself afterwards is proof enough that you are feeding on sawdust. When we take in God’s Word, we should discover that we are nothing and Christ is everything. We should always see the need to grow and never be content with where we are spiritually. The Apostle Paul never minced words when he spoke or wrote to the churches. He always uplifted Jesus Christ, never himself or others. In First Corinthians 1:23-24 he wrote, “…we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” If what you’re hearing or reading doesn’t point to Jesus Christ, you might as well be feeding on sawdust.”

“That’s pretty strong. I have noticed that my pastor really likes to tell compelling stories, show videos, sing, and so on. In many services, he never reads from or even mentions the Bible. Come to think of it, quite a few people I talked to at church don’t really know much of what the Bible says or means. I’m beginning to sense that I’m receiving sawdust more and more even as I speak.”

“Sadly, so many enjoy sawdust instead of bread, since it’s so easy to eat. They enjoy and feast on the speaker’s words, not God’s Word. Yet they don’t realize that sawdust has no nutrition. The result is that they’re spiritually wasting away. Even though they drink fluids which make them feel full from the swelling wood, they are still dying from spiritual malnutrition.”

“So how can I get free from eating sawdust and increase my intake of bread?”

open bible

“The best way is to start reading the Bible for yourself, not just material about the Bible. Spend more time before God in prayer, and ask Him to reveal His Word to you as you read. The more time you spend with Him and His Word, the more you feed on the True Bread—not sawdust. Ask Him to show you how to get more of His Bread and be able to pass it on to others. If He shows you that the place where you’re meeting feeds you sawdust and not even breadcrumbs from the Bread of Life, then ask Him to lead you to one who proclaims words like these of Paul: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Most importantly, seek God for wisdom and discernment as to what is and what is not sawdust before you partake of any more.”

“That’s just what I’m going to do as soon as I get home. No wonder I feel weak and incomplete spiritually—I’ve been feasting on sawdust all this time! Hey, look at those ducks that ate the real bread you gave me. They’re as contented as the ones you fed earlier! But those other ducks I fed sawdust to look awful! I better get them some real bread, quick!”

“Now you’ve got it. That’s why we need to feast on the True Bread, not sawdust, for our own spiritual well-being.”

Abiding Under the Shadow

person and shadow

A shadow can be considered a nuisance or a benefit at various times, like when a cloud obscures the sun. On a hot summer afternoon, the shadow from a large cloud is a welcome relief, but on a bitter, cold winter morning, the shadow from almost any size cloud will cause discomfort. A shadow could be a sign of impending danger as well, like when a very large object is about to fall on someone. On the other hand, a shadow could also be an indicator of protection.

The psalmist declares in the first verse of Psalm 91, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” What a wonderful thought for us, the children of the Almighty, to be under His shadow! Imagine how our enemies would feel if they knew that someone the size of the continents of Asia, Europe, Africa, and Antarctica combined was hovering over us to protect us. Yet that represents only a fraction of how much God covers over us when we dwell in His secret place.

God protects and shelters those whom He loves and who are obedient to His Word. He is ready and willing to shelter us under His shadow at any moment. “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler,” the psalmist continues to declare in verse 4. His protection resembles a bird that spreads its wings to shield its young. Without the bird’s protective shadow, its young are helplessly vulnerable to predators that are quick to snatch them away. We are also helpless without His protection. His shadow is always ample to keep us covered, no matter how many enter under it, or how extreme the circumstances are outside of it. “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday” (Psalm 91:5, 6).

shadow of cross

But God’s shadow is only available to us when we earnestly seek it. When we enter and stay in His secret place, we obtain His protection. This place can only be found through prayer and communion with Him. It is an area where we can dwell alone in an intimacy with God that can never be shared with another. As long as we stay in His secret place, His shadow will continually be over us. But when we allow ourselves to be lured away by the cares of this world, we leave the protection of His shadow and expose ourselves to the enemy. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

God expects His children to continually rest under His shadow. When we choose something else, we deny ourselves the abundant protection that He provides. The devil will try to keep us from abiding there, but God will never keep us out. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Why should we continue to expose ourselves out in the open when He is willing and able to shelter us bountifully? “For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall” (Isaiah 25:4). Why wait until tomorrow, or next week? Come now into His presence, His secret place, and lodge under His shadow. Allow Him to be your refuge and habitation.

Candied Liver and Glazed Brussels Sprouts or Sugarcoating the Truth

cooked calf's liverbrussels sprouts

I told you how much I love bread in a previous entry. It doesn’t matter whether it’s fresh baked white bread, Italian, rye, sourdough, or naan—I’ll eat it! Flavor it, toast it, grill it with butter—I’ll be right there, big plate in hand, ready and waiting! This time I want to mention a couple of foods I don’t love—beef liver and brussels sprouts. Fry the liver, grill it, braise it, or smother it—it will still retain that flavor I’ve never loved. The bitter taste of brussels sprouts strikes a bad chord in me as well. But I don’t absolutely despise either one. Both are very nutritious and I’m certainly not against anyone else eating them. In fact, if you coat or infuse them with a very sweet sauce, I just might enjoy them as much as I do ground beef and green beans. Yes, their nutritional value would be greatly affected, and they’d likely be more detrimental to my health than in their original form. But here’s my theory—if the foods we like the least were covered with enough sweetener, most of us would eat them without hesitating. Coat some chipped wood liberally with a really sweet sauce or maybe rich milk chocolate—how many would readily devour it like candy? Now don’t feel insulted. I just want to point out how inclined we are to desire something just because it’s sugarcoated, whether it’s good or bad for us!

The reality of sin and truth fall into this category of being unpalatable too. Both have been, and still are, a problem to everyone on Earth. We don’t like to be told the truth about sin. We don’t want to be told it’s wrong, or that there will be eternal punishment if we don’t repent of it. But we don’t want to experience the ugly side of sin either.

Sin in its full glory is very enjoyable for the sinner. When we live in sin, life appears good and pleasurable. As long as we stay within our own sin-laden circles and don’t anger or upset others living in their sin, life functions pretty smoothly. The problem is that we slowly become desensitized to the sin that we’re actively involved in and begin to crave more. Our conscience warns us not to partake of any sin, but Satan is prepared for this. He’ll make sin even more appetizing by masking its putridness and the parts we don’t love with something else very appealing. He may redefine or sugarcoat it. Then it no longer seems questionable or repulsive to us. As a result, we embed ourselves even deeper and become thoroughly surrounded with sin. But it does not stop there. We soon tire of this sin too, and begin to desire some even deeper sin than this. Engaging in sin puts us on a slippery slope to destruction. Once we are on it, we can no longer leave it in our own strength and ability.

Meanwhile, sin takes its toll on us. Its byproducts, like disease, uncontrollable rage, or ultimately death, begin to surface. Sin always ultimately breaks down and destroys and is never of any benefit to us. It keeps us in bondage and brings us no real hope. It not only harms us individually, but also affects everything and everyone around us. The whole world is falling apart more each and every day because of sin. Divorces, wars, famines, health epidemics, poverty, greed, destruction of life and property, abuse of innocent children, etc.—all are derived from sin. But Satan will cover up and shift the blame for the problem to something completely the opposite of sin. He’ll sugarcoat the issue, thereby making it more palatable. He baits us with hopes and promises that will either partially or never come true, and keeps us locked in sin.

On the other hand, when we are steeped in sin, we don’t want to hear the truth. We don’t want to be told that sin is wrong and or that punishment will someday follow. We don’t want to know how ugly sin is, and that we have been deceived into believing that it is good. We don’t want to be robbed of the pleasure sin provides—even if it is destroying us.

two sugar donuts

Satan is happy to oblige us, once again. He’ll gladly sugarcoat the truth by disguising the painful or undesired areas that the truth discloses just as much as He sugarcoats sin. He’ll encourage us to pass by a church, or to give our Bible to a thrift shop. He’ll make sure we’re too tired or preoccupied to pray, or to even watch a religious program on TV. Of course, if we feel better by going to a church, then Satan will make sure we go to one with a real ‘sweet’ message. The pastor there won’t want to offend or drive anyone away. He’ll deliver (‘preach’ is too harsh a word) an inspiring message after some modern songs, all of which leave people feeling good about themselves when they leave. But when we are living in sin, the truth hurts. It quickly snaps us out of our sin-induced pleasure, so naturally, it is painful and undesirable. It convicts us and leaves us feeling awful.

How ironic—truth, the very thing that gives us freedom and victory over sin, is what we despise most.

The Bible says “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Why hide what the truth reveals when it is so beneficial to us? And why do those who proclaim the truth make us feel so uncomfortable when it’s presented to us? Can’t we just accept the truth and go about our lives? The answer is that truth is not a concept, ideology, or philosophy. Truth is a person, and His name is Jesus Christ. He declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6 emphasis mine). When we hate hearing the truth, we actually hate or reject Christ and what He has done for us on the cross, because He is the Truth. He brings out in us the sin we’d rather not know about or let go of.

Jesus and sin don’t mix. We either live in sin and die eternally lost in perpetual judgment, or we completely yield ourselves to Jesus and live forever with Him with real joy and peace in Heaven. Disguising the truth and what it reveals by sugarcoating it is like a sick person who hates the taste or after-effects of the medicine given to cure him. Many prefer to thoroughly dilute medicine with something more enjoyable, instead of just taking it the way it is. The end result is better tasting—but completely ineffectual. Ultimately they consider the medicine useless and continue to be sick, hoping for a better cure while slowly dying each day.

This is the reason Jesus willingly came to Earth to offer His life as a sacrifice for us by dying on the cross. He knew that we could never be free from the bondage of sin by our own ability. He knew that without divine intervention, sin would destroy everything in time and life would cease to exist. God did not create this universe as one solitary act with everything in it designed to die off and never continue. He wants us to be with Him now and forever. That is the reason He sent His sinless Son to fulfill all of the laws or demands He set forth, since we could not fulfill them on our own because of sin. Now He wants us to come to Him and willingly love and obey Him. When we insist on living our lives without Him, we are living in sin, and are disobedient to Him and His Word, the Bible.

candy coated donuts

The inevitable is only delayed when we constantly refuse to know the truth because we have sugarcoated it or covered it up. The more we live for the pleasures of sin and fall for the ‘sweetness’ we are offered, the deeper we go in sin—until we die for all eternity, separated from the only cure. The Bible says, “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). After we die, there is no hope any longer. We don’t get another chance. There will be no more sugarcoating sin or anything else then, because we will have reached the bottom of that slippery slope—the point of no return. Here the real ugliness of sin rears its head and won’t let us go. The pain and repulsiveness of the truth no longer matter either, since it can no longer help us.

There is good news though! Jesus is fully able to pull us up from that slippery slope before we reach the bottom—if we will just cry out to Him and let Him. There is no depth of sin He cannot bring us out of. Throughout history, man has always been the one who left God. But (contrary to what we may have been told) God has never left us. No matter how sinful we may be, God is always ready to forgive our sin and allow us to be His children, if we ask Him to. We need to stop sweetening or covering up what the truth reveals in us and allow it to free us from the bondage of sin instead. We need to seek forgiveness from God for our sinful ways and repent of them. Then we can accept Jesus into our heart. When we feed on what has been heavily sweetened, it will only leave us dissatisfied in the end, longing for even more sweetening. But if we feed on the whole Truth, Jesus Christ and His Word, we will find complete satisfaction.

For more information on how to know God click here.