As a native New Yorker transplanted to the state of Texas, there are a certain number of Adirondack norms that I truly miss. Snow is definitely one of them. I love waking up on a crisp northern morning to a blanket of freshly fallen snow on the ground.
The other day this happened in Texas! Texas! It was crazy. School and work were cancelled for two days; our cable was out for one. Trees broke under the strain of the heavy snow; and the little white lines on the highway all came up. It was utter chaos and devastation to the average Texan.
Yet as I stood in the stillness of my home looking out the kitchen window at the backyard laden in snow, my mind immediately went to Isaiah 1, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” What a great promise of God! No matter how dark the sin of my life gets because of Christ, I am washed clean…clean as freshly fallen snow.
There are many benefits that one receives simply because God gives it to them. Forgiveness is definitely one of the most confounding ones. There’s nothing I did to deserve it. I didn’t earn it or work for it. God simply bestowed it on me because of who He is. In fact, if I get nothing else in this world and have to live in a box on the street, eat garbage, and enduring being beaten to the brink of death every day of my life, I’ve already gotten more than I deserve – I HAVE THE FORGIVENESS OF MY SINS.
In Psalm 103, forgiveness is one of the main benefits David talks about perhaps because David knew himself the way I know myself. He reminds us of truths like, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us,” and “He does not deal with us according to our sins.” What great promises these are to hold onto when days come where I seem to fail at every turn. David reminds his readers that, “The Lord is merciful and gracious. He redeems my life from the pit.” I love the visual of that last truth. He redeems my life from the pit! That’s where my life was without God – the pits! That’s where my life returns when I reject His involvement in it and control of it, I’m back in the pits! Praise GOD for his benefit of Psalm 103:9, “He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.”
I sit here after reiterating these mind-blowing truths and I wonder “Why?” Why would God choose to look on me with loving-kindness and tender mercy? Why, knowing the depths of wickedness my heart can steep to, would He choose to forgive such a debt? Only one thing can explain this unfathomable fact: The Cross of Christ.
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Colossians 2:13- 15
Last semester we studied the book of Colossians in Greek class and it quickly became a favorite. We studied this portion of Scripture rather intensely, and let me tell you – it is an AWESOME Word of God! In these three short verses, we can see how God is able to forgive us. It’s not because he’s a pansy and just loves us so much that he just can’t be without us so he excuses us from being depraved and simply wipes our slates clean – no, God is no pushover! Quite the contrary, these verses testify to the fact that God is a VICTOR! HE is FIGHTING for us – and he WINS! That “record of debt” that He cancelled out? In Greek, it carries with it the idea of a handwritten note of debt, an IOU of sorts, written in my own handwriting of what I owed because I could not meet the requirements of the Law. I owed my life before I came to Christ. And it’s as if God grasps that note of debt and with a strong and passionate fervor nails it to the cross – paid! Done! FINISHED! Forgiven! And then God turns to the authorities and rulers (Satan and his henchmen) who are throwing warranted accusations our way and silences them! (Rev. 12:9-11) Putting them to open shame literally means “to lead them through a processional” like a parade in old Roman times when the winning side would strip their enemies down and parade them through the streets of their city and openly mock their defeated state. THAT is what God is doing here – Parading them through Christ! What an amazing picture of a victorious Lord defeating the enemy, bringing about the forgiveness of my sin! That is what God did for me! That is why I can live victoriously! That is why I can now fight! Life is no longer meaningless! I can celebrate like the Psalmist, “He forgives all my sins!!!” Praise GOD!
Nothing else matters. When I’m having a bad day, I can smile because He forgave all my sins! When my hurting heart feels as though it just might break? But He forgave all my sins! When life seems as though it’s spinning out of control? But He forgave all my sins! That thorn in my flesh that daily reminds me of my weaknesses? Oh, praise God, He forgave all my sins!
Five years ago, my friend Jenny and I went to go see the theatrical debut of The Passion of the Christ. On the drive to the theater, cares and concerns of future plans monopolized the conversation. We lamented and worried about what and even if God was going to do something amazing in our lives soon, both feeling discontented with where we found ourselves. I remember it clearly after we walked out of The Strand Theater. We had just spent three hours watching all that Christ endured so that we could live. We cried when he cried out to God; we wept when he was taken from the garden; we sobbed as he was stripped of all dignity and unjustly accused; and we were overwhelmed when he was tortured and then crucified on the cross. And as we walked away with blood-shot eyes, Jenny threw up her arms and shouted, “WHO CARES what I’m doing with my life! Jesus died for my sins!” Our perspective had changed. For it’s true: not much else really matters.
If I get nothing else in this world and have to live in a box on the street, eat garbage, and endure being beaten to the brink of death every day of my life, I already have gotten more than I deserve –
I HAVE THE FORGIVENESS OF MY SINS.