Last week in Does God Forgive You Before Or After You Repent? we saw the scriptural evidence that God forgives before men repent. We then talked about how forgiveness and salvation are not the same. Jesus’ sacrifice atoned for the sins of the whole world and made the way of salvation for every man, but men must still come and put their faith in Him to be saved. Today we continue with a look at how understanding this helps us to minister to unbelievers.
God Isn’t Counting Your Sins Against You, So Be Reconciled To Him!
In the NT the message is “Repent, because God has forgiven you and is offering reconciliation.” For example, look at what Paul wrote in 2nd Corinthians:
2 Cor. 5:18-21 (NRSV) All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
What does it say? God is not counting the world’s sins against them. Our message is “God isn’t counting your sins against you. He has forgiven you, so be reconciled to Him through Jesus.”
Do you remember the message that angelic heralds proclaimed at Jesus’ birth?
Luke 2:14 (YLT) `Glory in the highest to God, and upon earth peace, among men — good will.’
Do You Understand God’s Attitude Towards Sinners?
When I was a teenager I was heavily influenced by certain preachers and “prophets” who were heavily into the Old Testament judgement passages. They often applied those passages to the United States, prophesying fires, earthquakes, war, and other disasters in retribution for the nation’s sins.
When you are always expecting God to pour out his wrath on sinners, it’s hard to have much faith for miracles in their lives. If you think the latest disaster was God showing his anger at someone, it’s hard to have faith in the next moment for God to heal that person. It’s double-minded.
One of those leaders prophesying judgement on America was one of the most respected Christians leaders in the US. He truly did leave a great legacy, including helping many people to get free from drugs and alcohol. He said that judgement would “surely” come before he died, and that no amount of prayer or repentance could avert this disaster. He died a few years ago, and what he said didn’t happen. This man had taught me valuable truths, but his view on God’s attitude towards sinners harmed me. To be honest, there is a long legacy of failed predictions among people who hold to the mindset he had. And as Kris Vallotton has pointed out, it’s not hard to prophesy an earthquake in California!
God is yearning for sinners to come to know him! He loves healing them. He loves blessing them. Sinners are enemies of God, but God loves his enemies!
Colossians 1:21 (NIV) Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.
Matthew 5:44-45 (NRSV) But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
As my theology about God’s attitude towards sinners changed, I began to see so many more miracles when I prayed for sinners. You have to understand how God’s heart is bursting with goodwill towards people who don’t know him in order to have faith for the miracles God wants to do in their lives. If you don’t understand God’s heart, it will hurt your faith.
What About God’s Judgement?
This teaching on forgiveness may bring up questions about God’s judgement. Yes, scripture teaches that God will judge the world and will judge every man. How is that truth compatible with what we’ve been talking about today?
If you’ve seen much injustice, I think you understand the need for judgement. Judgement isn’t necessarily about forgiving or not forgiving. It’s about setting things right. It’s about bringing truth and light to every area. Men who do not respond to God’s forgiveness continue to abide in death. God’s wrath is against unrighteousness itself. (Romans 1:18) God’s judgment is giving men over to what they have chosen. (See Romans 1, for example.)
Isaiah 61:1-2 (NIV) The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God
Notice that this scripture says the “year” of God’s favor but only the “day” of His vengeance. Jesus stood up in the synagogue and quoted this passage, but he stopped short of saying “The day of the vengeance of our God.” Then he said “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (See Luke 4:14-21) Why didn’t Jesus quote the whole thing? Because it was not yet the day of God’s vengeance.
Do you believe that we are in the year of God’s favor and he is not counting men’s sins against them?
Next week we’ll talk about the authority Jesus gave his disciples to remit sins.
If you liked this post, you may want to check out the Heaven Now book trilogy. It contains many insights into understanding simple gospel truths and exercising heaven’s dominion on earth. It’s also filled with testimonies of what happened when I put these truths into practice. I’m sure these books will encourage you and help you learn to walk as a heavenly person. Not only that, but your purchase supports our missionary work in Brazil and in every other place we go!