What if we Christians found out that we really did not have forgiveness? Can you imagine the shock? Below is what Jesus said to those who believed they were right with God in Matthew 7:15-23
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
So many Christians just want to tell God they are sorry and move along. It is almost therapeutic for us. It makes us feel better after we have sinned. I admit that forgiveness makes us feel better because feeling better is the byproduct to forgiveness. But the point of forgiveness is that we need to change God’s mind and heart. I suspect that most Christians approach forgiveness with the intent to simply bring peace to their minds. Since we all have sinned, we must receive forgiveness from God.
Forgiveness is life-changing. It is not something that we simply reach for so that we can pay debts that we continue to run up repeatedly. If I am to seek real forgiveness, then I must be willing to change the way I live. After all, the way I live, along with inherited sin, is why I need to get forgiveness from God. Yet, if I continue to live a way that is contrary to God, then I do not receive forgiveness. In other words, if I have no intention of changing, God knows it. Paul said that when we received forgiveness we were justified and then we were known by God. So consider this when you read what Jesus said in the passage that I shared earlier.
AC/DC wrote a song called “Have a Drink on Me.” In this song there is a verse that says, “Forget about the check, we’ll get Hell to pay!” In other words, keep the party going we won’t pay. As a bartender I used to keep a tab for people who wanted to pay at the end of the night, or who promised that they would pay later when they got some more money. The problem with those tabs was that people kept buying and did not remember, or care, that they still have to pay for what they used. It was a real shock to them when it came time to pay up. Some even argued that they did pay. I just forgot to write it down. Not true.
This is the same kind of attitude that many Christians seem to have about forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a blank check. People, the reason lives are not being won from sin is that our lives have not been won from sin. If our lives have not been transformed we cannot help others to be transformed. So the question is, “Have you really received forgiveness?”