I want you to understand the difference between God’s parental forgiveness, and His judicial forgiveness. When God withholds his parental forgiveness, he does not put us back under condemnation. Our sins can never count against us again because God has totally forgiven and forgotten them. He cancelled our debt and credited us with the righteousness of Christ. We received this judicial forgiveness once and for all by faith in the blood of Jesus. God, the righteous judge, judged all our sins on the cross and removed condemnation from our lives forever!
Now we can understand that our heavenly Father will never reject or abandon his children, even when we let him down. But when we sin, it hinders our fellowship with him, especially when we withhold forgiveness from others. The only way God blesses us is by grace, and when we move away from this principle, God cannot pour into our lives all the blessings he has for us. Therefore, the Father always calls us back to his grace. A person who is truly walking in grace will also walk in the light of God’s total forgiveness and will have no problem forgiving others.
Every day we come before our heavenly Father and thank him for his forgiveness – the forgiveness that makes us his sons and daughters. Every day we show him that we are walking in grace by forgiving others the wrongs they have done against us. And the blessings of the Father flow freely into our lives.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us principles to govern our daily life of prayer. For example, he taught us to depend on him for physical provision: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
He also taught that we are to walk in the light of his forgiveness: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Many people misunderstand Jesus’ meaning here. They think he is teaching that no sin can be forgiven until we specifically confess it to God. But remember God has already forgiven all our sins at the cross! We have received judicial forgiveness once for all.
Jesus is not going back on his word. In fact, the Lord’s Prayer calls us to remind ourselves daily that God is our heavenly Father – that we live under his judicial forgiveness and cleansing. This means we reject the kind of morbid introspection some religious teachers demand. They tell us to ‘keep short accounts with the Lord’ searching within ourselves for every imperfection and confessing every single new sin we discover, because until we do that, these sins remain unforgiven. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus took all our sins and nailed them to the cross. This means that the judgment of God has now been completely lifted from us. God has totally forgiven and forgotten all our sins – past, present and future.
Some people ask how God can forgive the sins we have not even committed yet! When Jesus died, you were yet to be born. You had not yet committed one single sin – all your sins were in the future. Jesus became your substitute sacrifice for sin more than 2,000 years ago. God has already judged all your sins on the cross, because you believe in Jesus. It would now be totally unjust for God to demand further judgement. Jesus carried your sins on the cross so that you would never have to carry them again.
We receive God’s total forgiveness by trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross. When we trusted in Christ, God declared us righteous, not by our own works or efforts, but by his grace. This means our sins will never again be held against us by God. This truth is clearly expounded by Paul in Romans chapter 4 as he quotes from one of the Psalms of King David.
Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.”
This shows us clearly that forgiveness is absolutely free – it does not depend on our works. We are forgiven because we believe right, not because we live right. Forgiveness is also total and complete. God will not allow any sin (past, present or future) to count against us. God will never impute sin or hold us accountable for the sins we commit. Instead, he imputes to our account the infinite righteousness of Christ.
Some say that this is impossible because it means we can go on sinning and it will not matter. That is not true. Holy living does not come about by living under the threat of judgment. It comes from knowing the genuine forgiveness of all our sins. We live right because we are forgiven Jesus said, “The one who has been forgiven much loves much.” In other words, when we walk in the grace and forgiveness of the Father, we leave aside the old way of living – in fact, we die to the old way of sin when we escape from its guilt and condemnation. Look at the way Paul deals with this point.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
We are set free from sin by walking in the forgiveness God has given us, and not by the constant thought that there are always more sins to be forgiven because we live imperfect lives.
When Jesus tells us to ask the Father daily to forgive our sins, he is talking about parental forgiveness, not judicial forgiveness. We are made right with God through the once-for-all judicial forgiveness granted at the cross. But, walking in parental forgiveness means fellowshipping with the Father day by day, depending on his grace and the continual cleansing of the blood.
By calling God “our Father”, we remind ourselves that all our sins have been dealt with at the cross. We come back to the principle of grace. Knowing the blood of Jesus has cleansed us and keeps on cleansing us from all sin, is the secret of walking in victory. John, the disciple who knew more about the love of Jesus than anyone else, teaches this principle in his letter to Christians:
My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
1 John 2:1-2
What does he say – we must confess our sins, otherwise we will be condemned? No! He reminds us that if we sin we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence – one who maintains our position of ‘no condemnation’ before God. Earlier in his letter, where John talks about the need to confess sins he is referring to how we came to Christ by confessing that we were sinners and needed God’s salvation. John makes it clear that the ‘blood of Jesus keeps on cleansing us from sin’ (1 John 1:7). Once we have confessed our sin and received God’s gift of salvation we walk in the forgiveness of God.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
1 John 1:8-10