Forgiveness in my mind, often played out as a great big delicious bowl of Halloween Candy. Chocolate, of course. An eternal bowl of chocolate goodness. In order to receive that heavenly morsel of sweetness, we had to do our part first. TRICK-OR-TREAT! My friends and I would call out. We were met with a pleasant smiling witch, usually, who would say how adorable we all looked as she dropped a sweet treat in our plastic dime-store pumpkin. The candy was already there; the candy had been purchased for us. But we couldn’t have it unless we asked first–and we had to ask in a specific way–by calling out in that time honored tradition: Trick-or-Treat!
Growing up, that was pretty much my take on God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness had already been purchased, and it had been purchased for me. However, there was a specific way I had to ask for it. There was that time honored ritual in calling out in that 1 John 1:9 style. If I did that, the Heavenly Father would place within my heart, the sweet treat of forgiveness while lavishing sweet encouragement to my soul. Just like having to call out trick-or-treat whenever I wanted a sweet treat, I had to call out in 1 John 1:9 fashion whenever I wanted (or felt I needed) more forgiveness.
Imagine my surprise when I found out years later that forgiveness is NOT like a bowl of candy. Forgiveness is not something that God hands out time after time provided we call out in the proverbial 1 John 1:9 fashion. Instead, God lavished His forgiveness on us the minute Jesus died on the cross. He gave everything He had. He didn’t just bestow the forgiveness to certain random people, rather it was given all the way back to Adam and all the way forward to the last person born. As far as God is concerned, He has forgiven all humanity. When we receive God’s gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, we also receive His forgiveness. All of it.
I’m not real sure where the Halloween mentality of forgiveness started. If one looks at 1 John 1:9 in context, it says nothing about asking. No inquiring, no inquisitive, nothing to try to obtain information–>nothing remotely related to asking. It does tell us to confess. Confessing is giving up information. Admitting something. It’s not asking anything from anybody. We confess, not in order to get something, but because we agree with God that yes, we’ve sinned. Something else, if God has cleansed us of all unrighteousness, how much is left to clean us up from? Nada. None.
In fact, we’re told in Ephesians 1, as well as Colossians 1, that in Christ, we HAVE forgiveness of sins. Looking back, why on Earth did I fall into the trap of asking God to forgive me over and over again? Although Ephesians and Galatians were read religiously growing up, what did I miss? Probably the fact that the difference between the Old Covenant (Law) and the New Covenant was lost on me. To me, it had simply been a dividing point on the time line of humanity. A way of dividing up the Bible. There was, “before Christ,” “during Christ,” and “after ascension” . The fact that there were only 2 testaments instead of 3, puzzled me. For awhile I simply shrugged it off, but there finally came a time when God wiped everything from memory and started my teaching over from scratch. For that show of love, I will forever be grateful.
What about you? Are you still treating God’s forgiveness like a big bowl of candy? I challenge you to look at the death of Jesus as the finished work that it is. Embrace God’s love, and be humbled by the fact that He CHOSE to forgive you. Completely forgive. Not based on your asking, but based on Christ’s giving. What about it? Are you up to the challenge?