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The Bible makes it clear that Jesus came to this world to save us earthlings from our sins and destroy the work of the devil. He came to proclaim the truth about a kingdom that was present when He walked the earth but also was yet to come, of which those who believe in Him will be a part. He came to give us joy in full, not just happiness—true joy in Him. Everlasting life, beautiful life indeed as opposed to everlasting punishment, which we deserve. To be His very sons and daughters. To set us free from guilt and shame.

It is that last sentence that I’d like to discuss for a moment.

Men and women who have committed shameful sins, tragic sins, sins that cause grief in the lives of others and in their own, struggle with believing that anyone could ever forgive them. They are overwhelmed with that feeling, which is given ample fuel by the accuser, the adversary, the liar—the devil and his deceitful troops. He is trying to destroy them through the sin they committed and with which he enticed them.

Such an iniquitous system. He tempts people to sin then bashes them over the head with shame and condemnation when they give in.

Then the great, loving Jesus comes along, washes over them with His Spirit and blood, cleanses their souls and minds completely, totally forgives them, and the Father welcomes them into His family.

Yes. The greatest story ever told.

However, even though such a person—let’s call her Kelly—has been forgiven and made clean and righteous by God, she may not receive such a forgiving welcome from others, her family, society, or even the church itself. Regardless of how her church or anybody else responds, however, Kelly must deal with her sins with deep humility and faith, because the accuser will remind her of the awfulness of her sin as often as he is able. Kelly, the forgiven, sinful one, must walk through this lonesome valley, as the old song says, by herself, trusting in the truth of His promise of mercy. Thoughts will come at the most unexpected times, thoughts that may make her cringe.

Each time, she must cry out for help.

Each time, she must confess her faith. “I know you have forgiven me, Father. Deliver me, please, from the evil one.” She may also add, “Bless those, Lord, who were hurt because of my actions. Help them overcome those injuries. Help them to forgive me.”

Scripture is full of promises of forgiveness and mercy, and the truth about righteousness. Here are a couple from both the Old and New Testaments that are short and easy to understand.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11–12). 1

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Yes. That’s right. Kelly has been given the righteousness of God Himself. It is in His righteousness she stands and lives, not hers. She is holy, as holy as Jesus Himself, because of what He did.

That’s a great relief.

What follows is one of the most precious truths in Scripture for those whom the accuser and possibly their own thoughts, condemn: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22–23). The Lord God will love Kelly—forever. The supply of His mercies cannot be exhausted—they never end. His mercies are new—every morning of her life, without fail. She can wake up the next morning, fresh and guiltless before God.

This is the valley Kelly must walk through alone. No one else can walk it for her. Her thoughts will show up at random, either from her own heart or from the helpers of the prince of the power of the air. It doesn’t matter the source. What matters is that she knows that she is a forgiven daughter of God the Father, God Almighty, and the sister of His Son, Jesus, her Savior, sovereign-over-everything King, and constant, comforting Friend.

This is joy, true joy indeed; joy that will make her overflow in thankfulness and praise to her loving God.

No matter what our history is. No matter what dreadful things we have done. And, yes, I’ll agree that they were dreadful. We were in league with the devil. We were selfish. Unkind. Disgusting.

Yes.

Do you know how I know we feel this way? Do have any questions about how I know what to do when the onslaught of negative garbage and vile manure is poured out upon a person?

I think you may already know the answer.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Image courtesy the Smithsonian Art Museum.

 

Eric and Sarah

Eric Karua, an associate pastor and musician from Papua New Guinea, is a friend of mine. Before Eric became a Christian, he was a very angry, hard-hearted, and violent man. When the Solomon Islands fought for independence from Papua New Guinea, he enlisted as a soldier with the Bougainville Resistance Army. But at some point, the Resistance Army divided, and the two factions began to fight each other. The war for independence had become a civil war. Eric joined the newly formed Bougainville Resistance Force. Sadly, that civil war, as do many such conflicts, pitted village against village, family against family and brother against brother. In fact, Eric told me he once put a gun to his wife’s head when he thought she was betraying him to her family. As I said, he was an angry man.

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