God sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins, so that we may be reconciled to Him, without spot or blemish. That incredible “act of love” was His choice. It opened the door to forgiveness of our sins and reconciliation with Him. What does He expect of us? He asks that we extend to others the same forgiveness that He paid for us at the cross.God's love is unconditional, but God's forgiveness is conditional. It's remarkable how stark the contrast is. God's love is for every person in all the world all the time, and he has extended himself in that act of love through Jesus Christ. But whether or not we receive forgiveness of sin is a conditional act based on how we respond to His love. We've done nothing to merit that love, but there is a response to it that determines whether or not that forgiveness will be ours.
First John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins."In Luke 24, Jesus' instructions to the newborn church are to preach the repentance and remission of sin. Repentance means confession, agreeing with God concerning that sin, and then turning from it. These sins are paid for by Jesus, but the appropriation of that forgiveness is conditional on confession and repentance.
The forgiven recognize that forgiveness is dimensional. One of the conditions of forgiveness is to confess our sins. The second of the conditions is to forgive as surely as we have been forgiven, as it says in the Lord's Prayer: "And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us." There is a linkage. When you realize your own personal debt, you have mercy on those who are indebted to you. "Forgive us" is not a mantra to be repeated; it's something to be experienced as a change in the way we think and live. The absence of forgiveness gums up the possibility of redemption being fully experienced. Failure to forgive brings bondage and despair.
In Matthew 18, Jesus talks about the master who forgave a servant a massive debt. As soon as that servant was forgiven the debt, he began to wring the necks of those who owed him money. As a result, the master took that servant and threw him into jail. In the same way, Jesus says, if you do not forgive those who have sinned against you, neither will your Father in heaven forgive you your sins. There's a conditional place of, "Lord, forgive us our sins and those who have sinned against us as well. Lord, let the experience of my forgiveness now be experienced by others who have become indebted to me." So it is that God's forgiveness is conditional.
Think about this... the reason your life in Christian fellowship may not be working as well as you would like or hoped, could be because you are holding unforgiveness in such a way that it has gummed up your personal relationship with the Father.
It isn't that God doesn't love you, but He's waiting for you to say, "I give up, and I forgive."
Written by Steven K. Haught, Th.D.
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