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Life: God is forgiving

• The Bible Studies for Life lesson for June 22 focuses on 1 John 1:5-2:2.

There is tremendous power in forgiveness. It withholds from offenders what they deserve. This is called mercy. It offers offenders something they don’t deserve. This is called grace. It sets the one who forgives free from holding grudges and being captive to the past.

How can I make these assertions? The power of forgiveness is something I have experienced personally. God has forgiven me of my sin. I have learned to forgive those who have hurt and betrayed me. Forgiveness is sweet and freeing.

Acknowledge your need for forgiveness

Every person who has lived or will live needs forgiveness. We are broken people who need to be forgiven and to offer forgiveness. The Apostle John wrote about the power of God’s forgiveness.

God is holy. His forgiveness is a holy forgiveness, unlike any other. We are forgiven because Jesus paid the price for our sin. Today, as in the first century, there are many false teachers who take the gospel and twist its message. One reason John wrote this epistle was to refute the false messages of Gnosticism of his day.

God is spirit, which the Gnostics believed was good. Jesus came to earth as a man. Gnostics believed the body or matter was evil. They asserted a good God could not come in bodily form. For Gnostics, salvation was achieved by special knowledge, not by faith in Christ. Today, we need to know and understand the same truth John taught.

John begins his first epistle with the testimony of having seen, heard and touched the One who died so sin could be forgiven. But not just forgiven. John says we can have fellowship with God. Beginning in 1 John 1:5, the apostle shows how this fellowship is possible.

Walk in the light

As an eyewitness, John stated God was light, and there was no darkness in him. It is not possible for evil to dwell in holy God. We cannot walk in darkness—sin—and claim to have fellowship with God. The only way to have true fellowship with God and other believers is to walk in the light of God.

Fellowship carries the connotation of association, community, communion and intimacy. It is not for casual acquaintance, but for relationships with depth, meaning and importance. This kind of fellowship is possible because of the blood of Christ, who purifies us from our sin (1 John 1:7).

Confession is necessary for God’s forgiveness. One of the most beautiful pictures of confession is found in the exchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman recorded in John 4:4-25. Read through the passage, but rest on verses 17-18. In his conversation with the woman, Jesus asks about her husband. She “confesses” or admits she doesn’t have one.

Instead of Jesus blasting her for her immoral behavior, he agrees with her and simply says, “You are right when you say that you have no husband. … What you have just said is quite true.”

God already knows our sin. He is waiting for us to recognize it in our lives so we can agree with him that we need forgiveness. Listen to 1 John 1:8, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” We deceive ourselves; however, God is not deceived. “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives” (1 John 1:10).

Sandwiched between verse 8 and 10 is life-giving verse 9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Our unlike-any-other, never failing God will forgive us and take away all sin. He makes us pure and clean.

Rely on the work of our advocate

One of the great mysteries of the Christian life is how we can be forgiven and yet struggle with sin. With great tenderness and love, John tells his readers if they sin, they have an advocate before the Father. His name is Jesus, and he alone is worthy to plead our cause before the Father. He is the Righteous One.

God’s just nature requires a sacrifice for sin. The sinless Lamb of God is the means of appeasing the wrath of God. He is the atoning sacrifice. And not just for the sins of those who first heard John’s words “but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

Jesus is our advocate. He comes to our aid, standing by our side and pleads for us before God. Does that knowledge humble you? What depth of love Christ has for us. What lengths he has gone to so we can have fellowship with God.

Paul writes in Ephesians 3:18 about being able to grasp how wide, long, high and deep the love of Christ is. I don’t know who said it, but I have written in the margin of my Bible these words, “God’s love is wide—for all mankind; long—lasts forever; high—puts us in the heavenly places; deep—to reach people dead in sin.”

Dare to be forgiven

How can sinful man refuse the forgiveness of God? When we refuse to acknowledge our sin, we feel we have no need of forgiveness. Challenge yourself and others to share this good news with people who may have never heard this life-giving message. Ask them to dare to be forgiven.

       
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