Friday, May 9, 2014

This is part 6 of the 'Cultivating a Godly Marriage' blog series.

Part I — The Meaning of Marriage
Part II — The Husband Leads with Love 
Part III — The Wife Submits with Delight
Part IV — The Couple Communicates Openly, Honestly & Frequently
Part V — The Goal of Marriage: The Exaltation of God & the Christlikeness of Your Spouse

Part 6: the mystery, meaning & magnificence of real forgiveness
Forgive! That concept perhaps seems foreign to many people. Undoubtedly many misunderstand what forgiveness is because they’ve never received Christ’s forgiveness and are ignorant of its glory and importance.

In this brief essay, I want to uncover the tremendous riches of forgiveness. I want to describe the mystery, meaning, and magnificence of forgiveness by asking some diagnostic questions and then providing helpful, clear and understandable answers.

I. WHY: why is forgiveness needed?
Every needs forgiveness because of one reality — sin. Sin has so infected and corrupted every person in the universe that no person exists who lives without the need for forgiveness. Forgiveness is needed because of sin. This means, ultimately and preeminently, forgiveness must first be given by God to a repentant sinner. All humans have sinned against the Righteous God (Jeremiah 12:1; Romans 3:23) and are dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3) and desperately need God’s forgiveness (Luke 18:13). It is no different in the marriage relationship. Because two sinners have come together to form a new relationship, in a lifelong commitment, as sinners by nature, sin will occur. And where sin occurs, forgiveness must be granted by a believer when the other person asks for it.

2. WHO: who do I forgive?
Christ gloriously forgives all who come to Him in repentance and confession (1 John 1:9). He willingly receives sinners (Luke 15:2) and saves even the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). He pardons all who repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15). All who repent will be saved (Luke 13:3). He does not forgive anyone and everyone if they do not ask for it (Acts 13:38-39). God forgives anyone and everyone who genuinely confesses and forsakes his sin. Every sinner who genuinely repents of sin and comes to Christ for forgiveness finds Him gloriously merciful and everlastingly forgiving (Psalm 130:4; Ephesians 1:7). When a brother repents, a believer is obligated to forgive (Matthew 6:14). True forgiveness can only occur when a person asks for forgiveness (Luke 17:3). A believer, then, must forgive just as Christ has forgiven him (Ephesians 4:32). Christ forgives lavishly, abundantly, perpetually, willingly (Hebrews 10:17-18). Thus, in following the pattern of Christ’s forgiveness of sinners, a Christian must be willing to forgive anyone and everyone who comes to him asking for forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32).

3. WHAT: what is required in biblical forgiveness?
Biblical forgiveness includes a promise. Forgiveness is a promise of pardon. In biblical forgiveness, which is supremely demonstrated in God’s forgiveness of sinners in Christ, a promise of pardon occurs.

Thus, biblical forgiveness requires three crucial elements.

First, I promise to not bring up the sin to MYSELF
True love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). Just as God promises that He will remember the sins of His people no more (Hebrews 10:17), so the people of God must promise to not remember and dwell upon the sins of others. When someone humbly confesses his sin and asks for forgiveness, the Christian is obligated to forgive that sin and to refuse to add that offense to the list of wrongs. He actively chooses to not dwell on those wrongdoings.

Second, I promise to not bring up the sin TO OTHERS
A true Christian forgives like Jesus does. To speak of the wrongdoings of one person to others is slander. A godly person does not slander with his tongue (Psalm 15:3). Indeed, he who spreads slander is a fool (Proverbs 10:18). True believers are trustworthy and when they forgive an offense, they actively choose to not speak of that sin to others.

Third, I promise to not bring up the sin TO YOU

When a person repents and the other party forgives him, the one who granted forgiveness must not ever bring up that offense again to the offender. If it is forgiven, it cannot be brought up again as ammunition for the future. It cannot be kept as a bomb of power ready to detonate whenever it’s needed. How grateful the child of God is that God does not constantly remind him of his offenses against God. When God forgives, He removes the transgressions as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

To sum up, biblical forgiveness is a promise of pardon. It is not a feeling. It is not an apology. It is not a mere forgetting of something that happened. It is a transaction that happens when one party humbly repents of that sin, asks for forgiveness, and then the offended party willingly and generously lavishes forgiveness. All of this is patterned after the full and free forgiveness that Christ grants to sinners who humbly come to Him in repentance and faith. This is the kind of forgiveness that Christian couples must regularly practice. Forgiveness is vital for a healthy marriage.

4. HOW: how has Christ forgiven me?
Christ forgives graciously (Ephesians 1:7). God forgives all the sins of His people (Psalm 25:18). Indeed, God is good and is always ready to forgive (Psalm 86:5). The way that the people of God have received forgiveness from Christ should directly influence the willing, free, lavish, and unrestrained forgiveness offered to others regardless of the enormity of the offense. After all, no offense between two sinners on earth can equal the massive forgiveness that the repentant sinner has received from God Almighty! Indeed, God forgives us our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). In the marriage relationship, when a spouse sins — whatever that sin may be — and they confess that sin, humbly acknowledge it, and ask for forgiveness, the Christian spouse is obligated to forgive that spouse since Christ has forgiven his eternal debt of sin. As Jesus said, if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions (Matthew 6:15).

“Obviously the Omniscient God who created and sustains the universe does not forget, but He can ‘not remember.’ You see, forgetting is passive and is something that we human beings, not being Omniscient, do. ‘Not remembering’ is active; it is a promise whereby one person determines not to remember the sins of another against him. To ‘not remember’ is simply a graphic way of saying, ‘I will not bring up these matters to you or others in the future. I will bury them and not exhume the bones to beat you over the head with them. I will never use these sins against you’” (Jay Adams).

“Isn’t it great that God never emphasizes our failures! He emphasizes His forgiveness so that He gets the praise, honor & glory” (John Barnett)!
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