Greg had been attending our campus Christian fellowship meetings at Penn State for a few weeks with some friends. It was not apparent outwardly, but Greg was inwardly unsettled. The message of Christ and His salvation had been moving him to consider himself and his past life. Greg realized that he was a sinner. He heard about how to accept Christ. But he was unsettled. One evening his heart was especially heavy. Like the Psalmist, he felt the weight of the truth that “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Ps. 130:3). That night he found himself in the library and rather absently flipping through the pages of a large dictionary. It fell open to the letter “F.” His eyes landed on one of the words in the column: “Forgiven.” That word changed his life. He realized that what Jesus had done on the cross brought God’s forgiveness to him. The burden of his sins was lifted. Now he could continue the thought of the Psalm. “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope” (Ps. 130:4,5). He had a new start. Greg came to our next meeting and we rejoiced with him.
Sue came to a Bible study that my wife was leading with several other college girls. Janice asked if I would join them one afternoon and present the study. Before I began, I asked if any of them had anything on their heart. Sue did. “I came to the presentation on ‘A Christian View of Sex.’ I didn’t know how wrong it was to do what I was doing. Now I found out I’m pregnant!” She could not go on but burst into tears and sobs. We turned to the passage in Psalms. “But there is forgiveness with thee…” We also looked at John 1:9. “But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Sue found new comfort in the truth that there is forgiveness with God. She suspended her studies, had her baby and eventually married the child’s father. Instead of giving in to despair, she turned to the Lord Jesus. “I wait for the Lord…and in his word do I hope.”
The need for forgiveness shows that there has been sin. Sin cannot be dealt with except by proper forgiveness. When the Prodigal Son came home to his father, he said, “I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.” When David sought forgiveness, he confessed to God, “Against thee, thee only have I sinned…” All sin is against God. And only God has standing to grant forgiveness of sins. “Who can forgive sins, but God only?” asked the Jews of Jesus. They understood part of the truth. What they missed was that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Cor. 5:19). There is no other way to find forgiveness of sins.
It is futile to deal with sin other than through God’s forgiveness. But people try. Post moderns indulge themselves redefining sin. It is not sin if “I was born that way.” That is exactly the problem. We were all born that way, for “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” It does not matter if one is born with the proclivity to stealing or to lying or to same-sex attraction or to angry outbursts or to substance abuse or to cursing or to any number of tendencies that are defined as sin. Redefining it does not change it. Nor can denying it or hiding it. “Be sure your sin will find you out.”
But there is forgiveness. John the Baptist commended it when he saw Jesus and proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” He takes it away! The songwriter said it like this: “The load of sin was more than I could bear, He took my sins away, He took my sins away!” And another said, “Yes I know, Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean.”
Where does He take our sins? Go back in time and place to a hill called Golgotha and watch the soldiers as they take the Lamb of God and lay him on the cross, stretch out His arms and drive spikes through those innocent hands. But on the back side of the hands of our Lord is more than the wood of the cross. There was the “handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us” (Col. 2:14). It was a document with your sins and my sins enumerated one by one. Every ordinance we had ever broken was on that legal record. It was enough to send us to hell, for we had sinned and the wages of sin is death. But Jesus snatched that document in His own hands and nailed it to His cross.
There on the cross Jesus blotted out all of our sins. Go get the document now with your name on it. If you have confessed your sins they are gone. You can say with Charles Wesley, “Arise my soul, arise. Shake off thy guilty fears. The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears. Before the throne my surety stands, my name is written on His hands.” Your name is there but now there are no sins listed. They are gone. It is something we can rejoice about. We are not the only ones rejoicing. We are told that the angels in heaven rejoice. It is not only us and the angels, but Jesus Himself is rejoicing. After He stretched out His hands on that cross and nailed those documents which would have damned us to His cross, He taunted the devil with it. He “spoiled principalities and powers” and “made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”
This is the message Peter preached in Jerusalem. “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). This was Paul’s message at Antioch: “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 13:38). This is the message to the Gentiles: “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:17).
No soap can cleanse your sin. No works can take away your guilt. No good deeds can nullify your sins. “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
“But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)