The Power of Forgiveness


I think it’s safe to say that everyone needs the grace of forgiveness sometimes.   We can consider two people, the Apostle Paul and a man named John Newton, both of whose sins were especially awful.

But God not only forgave them both, but then used the talents of both of these great men for great good.   In the case of Paul, he went from becoming the biggest persecutor of Christians to one of the greatest apostles.

John Newton was a slave trader who had sunk as low as anyone could, but repented, went on to become a renowned clergyman—and wrote “Amazing Grace”, perhaps the most beloved of all Christian songs.

God is great in every sense of the word.  He is great as in mighty—when he forms worlds and creates life.  He is great as in good—His love is great beyond measure.

And happily for us, he is great in forgiveness.  Imagine if God remembered each and every one of our sins and held a grudge. What if he couldn’t wait to punish us with no chance of mercy?

That is too terrible to imagine.

And fortunately, just the opposite is true.  God cannot wait to forgive us and to reward us when we turn aside from our sins.

That is evident by reading just about any book of the Bible.

There are literally hundreds of references to forgiveness and mercy throughout both the Old and the New Testament.   It is one of the great themes of our faith.  Let’s look at just a few examples:

(Nehemiah 9:17)
You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and full of unfailing love and mercy.

(Psalm 32)
Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of sin,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
When I refused to confess my sin,
I was weak and miserable,
and I groaned all day long.
Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide them.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

(Psalm 51)
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a right spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

(Psalm 130)
From the depths of despair, O Lord,
I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
Pay attention to my prayer.
Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
that we might learn to fear you.

(Acts 13)
38“Brothers, listen! In this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. 39Everyone who believes in him is freed from all guilt and declared right with God

(James 5)
My dear brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back again, 20you can be sure that the one who brings that person back will save that sinner from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

(Psalms 25)
Forgive the rebellious sins of my youth;
look instead through the eyes of your unfailing love,
for you are merciful, O Lord.
The Lord is good and does what is right;
he shows the proper path to those who go astray.
He leads the humble in what is right, teaching them his way.

(Psalms 65)
Though our hearts are filled with sins,
you forgive them all.
What joy for those you choose to bring near,
those who live in your holy courts.
What joys await us
inside your holy Temple.

(Jeremiah 31)
For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will already know me,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness and will never again remember their sins.”

Forgiveness Is A Two-Way Street.   If We Want To Be Forgiven, We Should Be Forgiving Toward Others:

The Lord’s Prayer, which is very short, contains the word “forgive” twice.  “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  There are two sides to the forgiveness coin.

God wants to forgive us…and he also wants us to forgive others.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Here are some examples of this from the Bible:

(Matthew 6:14)
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins, said Jesus.

(Matthew 18:21)
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”  And Jesus replied, “No…seventy times seven”.

(Mark 11:25)
Jesus said:  Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you will have it. 25But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”

(Luke 6:37)
Jesus said:  Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. Stop criticizing others, or it will all come back on you. If you forgive others, you will be forgiven. If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving—large or small—it will be used to measure what is given back to you.”

Just as God would never trick us by twisting our prayers around, we should never try to fool God.  We should be truly sorry for our sins, and be sincere in our desire to avoid them in the future:  (That certainly doesn’t mean that if we weaken and commit the sin again that God will take away his forgiveness…but it does mean that we should always be honest with God).

(Romans 6:1)
Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?

(Jude 1:4)
I say this because some godless people have wormed their way in among you, saying that God’s forgiveness allows us to live immoral lives. The fate of such people was determined long ago, for they have turned against our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

(1 John 1:9)
If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. 9But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

The most important thing to remember is that God loves us beyond our understanding, and he wants to forgive us more than anything.

(Psalms 86)
Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive,
so full of unfailing love for all who ask your aid.
Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord;
hear my urgent cry.
I will call to you whenever trouble strikes,
and you will answer me.

One final thought about forgiveness:  Sometimes forgiving ourselves can be the hardest thing of all.   That’s the time to remember that when God forgives us, our sins are gone for good, and we need to be good to ourselves.