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Pointers along the way #675

Forgive me

- Jacob Ninan

Have you realised there is big difference between asking God to forgive our sins and asking Him to forgive us? Of course, we need to ask for forgiveness for our sins (1Jn.1:9). But there is more depth when we see ourselves as needing forgiveness for the way we are, than for what we have done! When the tax collector stood in the temple and prayed, he said, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" (Lk.18:13). Some scholars point out that he said "the sinner" and not just "a sinner."

It is possible when we ask for forgiveness for our sins that we may be thinking we are generally good people except that we slipped up in this one instance. It is good we are convicted of our particular sins. But how much more cleansing can take place when we see that we, as individual people, are corrupt to the core? Even the good things we do are tainted by the corruption of selfishness in some form. When God enables us to do something we take some credit for it. When things go well we tend to backslide by becoming careless about spending time with God (1Co.10:12). Our concern for other people's needs becomes polluted by looking down on them. Etc.

When Christ came to pick us up we were dead in sins and dead towards God (Ep.2:1). We were living independent of God, doing our own 'thing' (4:18,19). This is the 'old man' the remnants of which we are still carrying about, the 'flesh' from the desires of which we are being tempted (Ga.5:17;Jas.1:14). It is this deep inner corruption from which Jesus is setting us free, as we yield to His Spirit (Ro.8:13). As we move closer to God in honesty, openness and sincerity we see that we sin because we are sinners, and that it is not the sins we fall into that make us sinners! It is God's desire that we become 'true', 'real' and holy in the deepest parts of our life (Ps.51:6). This perfection will be completed only when we have been 'glorified' in eternity.

At the same time, that is to be the direction in which we move towards God. We ought not to be satisfied by getting our particular sins forgiven but we ought to press on in the direction of perfection (He.6:1).

Paul illustrates this truth by the fact that he was progressively seeing himself as the least of the apostles (1Co.15:9), the very least of all saints (Ep.3:8) and finally as the chief of sinners (1Ti.1:15) while at the same time becoming more like Christ in his life and understanding and also more powerful in his ministry!

What have we learned from God in the past year that we didn't know before? Have our opinions about ourselves become smaller and more realistic? How has our life been bearing the fruit of the Spirit? How much useful have we become to others in Jesus' name? Has our gratitude increased towards God just for loving us?

It's not just about God 'accepting' us (Jn.6:37), but also our progress. We are not perfect. But are we in the right direction? Remember, God looks more intensely at our heart than our outside appearance (1Sa.16:7).


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