Tuesday, November 30, 2010

God is not a Scrooge

As we consider the story of the Exodus and the highly ambiguous record of the Israelites in Egypt and even after coming out of Egypt, and God’s great acts of deliverance throughout the story, we can only conclude that we serve a God of overwhelming grace and mercy. We serve a God who loves to forgive, who loves to cleanse, who loves to heal, who loves to set free. If God is anything, He is the indulgent Grandfather, the dismissive Judge, the generous Fool. God is merciful and gracious and longsuffering and keeps mercy and forgives sins for thousands of generations; and He only remembers sins for 3 or 4 generations. He remembers mercy, He remembers forgiveness, He remembers grace, and God loves to forget about sin. He can only remember back a few minutes and everything else is love and grace and mercy. In 1 Jn. 1:9, the apostle famously reminds us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And I don’t think we usually hear carefully what John is saying that God does. John is not saying that as we confess our sins one by one, God will then forgive us our sins one by one, as though He has a ledger in heaven with all your sins listed and a box next to each one in which He checks off whenever you remember to confess one. God is not a Scrooge. God is not counting yours sins. God has no ledger. The promise from the apostle is that when we confess our sins, whatever ones we can remember, whatever ones the Spirit shows us, when we confess those, God washes us completely clean. He promises to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. When we confess our one or two or three sins, whether they are big or small or medium, God forgives us those and everything else. It’s like asking for three dollars off a billion dollar debt and having the whole thing cancelled. It’s as though we come to God having played out in a big mud puddle covered head to toe in filth and grime, and we ask God if He could please wash our hands, we think they might have gotten a little dirty, and God in His mercy, smiles and joyfully washes everything clean. But it’s even better than that. If anyone sins, the apostle says, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. Not only does He wash us clean, but God the Son is our constant representative in heaven. And that means that when God looks at your record, He only sees Jesus. He only sees the Righteous One, He only sees His Beloved Son crucified for sin. God only hears Jesus saying, he’s with me, she’s with me. They’re with me. And this means that we serve a God of overwhelming grace and mercy. We serve a God who loves to forgive, who looks for excuses to show mercy and grace. And this means that we must be this way with one another, with our children, and with our enemies.

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