What have you done? What mistake have you made that will not allow your soul to rest? What part of your past haunts your dreams and deprives you of peace? What pain have you caused a loved one, leaving a seemingly impassable gap between you? What error have you made that torments you at night and keeps you lodged in the past? For what will you not forgive yourself or allow yourself to forget?
Friend, whatever burden is weighing you down, hear me when I say, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Maybe you have convinced yourself that what you have done is unforgivable or you are beyond hope, but neither has to be true. You can allow it to be true and forever seal your life as hopeless, or you can choose to give it all to the One who will forgive you and accept you exactly as you are. No cleaning yourself up first or getting your act together before you start. No paperwork is required nor a sliding fee. All you need to do is take all that you are—flowers and thorns—and give yourself to the One who made you.
As you may have guessed, this One is Jesus. No, this is not some ploy to sell you a religion. Hopefully by the end of this you will agree because when it truly is all about Jesus, there’s no “selling” anything, nor is there any religion involved. Jesus came to dismantle all the lies that tell us something lies between our acceptance of Him and His redeeming of us, also known as works (earning forgiveness rather than receiving it as a gift only God can give).
Are there things Jesus asks of us? Absolutely! Are any of them required prior to turning to Him? Only one: that you approach Him honestly and vulnerably. It’s not a checklist of do’s and don’ts. It’s not a set of behaviors you must master. It’s not a book you must memorize. It’s simply your heart He wants. As long as you give Him that—in all its cracked, super-glued and bandaged beauty—He will handle the rest.
This does not negate your responsibility. In fact, you will quickly find that giving your all to Jesus goes against everything you have done in the past. What once brought you pleasure will seem repulsive in time, but it’s the in between where life gets difficult. However, because you have given your life to Christ, He will be with you through it all. While you are in the thick of warding off temptations (doing the things you did prior to knowing Jesus, things which are direct contradictions to what He says to do), Jesus promises to be right there with you (John 14:21, Hebrews 2:18). When your strength is spent, He will supply His (Isaiah 41:10, Matthew 11:28-30). When you have no idea what to do, He will share His wisdom and peace (James 1:5). When all seems hopeless, He will remind you of the glory that awaits you with Him in Heaven (John 14:1-4).
However, because you have given your life to Christ, He will be with you through it all.
Don’t believe me? That’s fine. I’m not asking you to take my word for it. Actually, I’d prefer you see what Jesus has to say before you believe me. After all, He’s the One who wants you and has the love and power to forgive all your wrongs. Only His word is absolutely true all of the time (Proverbs 30:5, John 17:17). Only He can give you a life worth living and a peace unimaginable. All I can do is point you to Him, and that’s exactly what I aim to do. So, let’s get to it, shall we?
Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible tell of numerous examples of how God (embodied as one Being in three distinct Persons: God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ and God the Holy Spirit) chose, redeemed and used people of all backgrounds. Each had undesirable pasts and personality traits, all had made and continued to make mistakes even after they were chosen and none of them were worthy to be chosen. Yet God chose them anyway.
Oftentimes these “heroes of the faith” are exalted and dubbed “Christians+;” they did no wrong, never doubted and always obeyed. Sadly, this is common rhetoric in our churches, especially in children’s books, Sunday school and vacation Bible school. Yet, the Bible, God’s Word, tells us differently.
Abraham, the father of the faith and the One whom God personally referred to as His friend (Is. 41:8, James 2:23), lied twice about Sarah being his wife out of fear one of the pagan Egyptians would kill him to take her as his wife (rather than trusting God to protect him, like He said He would; see Genesis 12:10-20 and 20:1-18). He also slept with his servant Hagar (at the direction of Sarah, by the way) out of impatience to have the blessed child God had promised them (Gen. 16:1-6). (Again, he did this instead of trusting God to keep His word, which He did, in His time, a few years later through Abraham and Sarah’s marriage, like He said He would; see Gen. 21:1-2.)
Jacob, the man whose name God changed to Israel (signifying His promise to Jacob that nations would come from him, see Gen. 32:28 and 35:10) and whose sons would become the 12 tribes of Israel (one of which, Judah, would be the line leading to Jesus), was known as a cheat, impatient and for favoring his son Joseph (see Gen. 27:1-29). Though the grandson of Abraham and the son of Isaac, Jacob was well into his adult life before he recognized his need for God and saw Him as his personal Lord, versus the God of his grandfather and father (see Gen. 32-33).
David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), the one who was so zealous for the Lord he believed he could, with God’s help, defeat a 9-foot giant with only a slingshot and a stone (which he did, see 1 Samuel 18:41-50), sullied his name by committing adultery and murder (killing the husband of Bathsheba, the one with whom he had the affair, in an attempt to cover it up; see 2 Sam. 11:1-27).
These three men are just some of the hot messes God chose to love, redeem and use. All were immensely flawed, but all were part of the lineage that would lead to Jesus Christ, their and our Savior (see Matt. 1:1-16). They, like many others, prove that God can and will use anyone for His purposes. They also demonstrate the love God has for the broken, misguided and rebellious, a love perfectly manifested in the sending of His only Son to bear the penalty for the sins of all mankind.
They also demonstrate the love God has for the broken, misguided and rebellious, a love perfectly manifested in the sending of His only Son to bear the penalty for the sins of all mankind.
And this does not even scratch the surface, for space prevents us from highlighting Gideon (who hid from God in a hole, see Judges 6), Jonah (a prejudiced man who ran from God and ended up in the belly of a big fish; see the book of Jonah), Solomon (who had 700+ wives and 300+ concubines, see 1 Kings 11:3), Elijah (who was so frightened of Jezebel, he hid in a cave and asked God to kill him on the spot; see 1 Kings 19), Moses (who had a stutter and a temper and tried to convince God He picked the wrong person; see Exodus 4:10-13, Numbers 20:10-13) and many others.
What’s more is this list is just some of those mentioned in the Old Testament; it doesn’t even delve into the New Testament (the time from Jesus’ birth to His death, resurrection and return to Heaven, plus the work of the early Church thereafter). We have yet to mention the 12 disciples, all of whom had plenty of flaws, doubts and mistakes. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest 3, denied Him three times prior to His crucifixion (Matt. 26:69-75). Then there’s Paul, a one-time brutal persecutor of those who believed in Jesus (Acts 26:9-11), and Mary, whom Jesus delivered from seven demons (Luke 8:2).
This is a mighty list, not because of the merits of those named but because of the One who loved them. Their grit and “flawless” characters did not gain them forgiveness, but the love of the Forgiver. They were saved by grace through faith, and it was only by God’s plan of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for their sins that they were forgiven (Acts 4:11-12, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Ephesians 2:8-9). Yes, David was at one time a valiant warrior, but nothing he did could have covered the sins he committed. Yes, Peter was hand-selected by Jesus Himself to follow Him, but he never would have obtained a right standing before God on his own. God saw each and every one of their sins—not one escaped Him—and He chose to love each person anyway.
He did not love them because of their sins, He loved them in spite of their sins (Romans 5:6-8). He did not accept their sins, He accepted their heart when they gave it all to Him (Deuteronomy 6:3-5, Luke 10:25-28). His forgiveness did not give them free reign to keep sinning, His forgiveness began a new work in them to help them overcome the temptation to sin and embrace a life free from sin (2 Cor. 5:17, Eph. 4:22-24).
Were they saved because of their good works? Absolutely not. No work is good enough, nor is any person good enough (Rom. 8:28, Eph. 2:8-9). However, because of the forgiveness they received from God and the new work He did in them, they desired to do things pleasing to God (Eph. 5:8-10). Their works did not gain them salvation, their good works proved their salvation (Titus 3:4-8). Even though Abraham and David were alive thousands of years before Jesus came into the world, they believed in God’s promise of one day sending a Savior who would deliver them of their sins (Rom. 4:3, Heb. 11:39-40). Once sinners condemned to eternal suffering in Hell, now redeemed saints guaranteed eternal life with God in Heaven.
The same can be said of you. No matter what you have done, the same choice that was presented to these misfits is the same one presented to you. Despite histories of distrust, manipulation, adultery, murder, betrayal and demon possession, they were forgiven by the only One who can forgive such sins, and all sins for that matter. These people recognized their emptiness, purposelessness and hopelessness without God, and they humbly, vulnerably went to Him and asked for forgiveness.
All sinners, but because of God’s love, they were all sinners saved by grace. Their histories were still very much a part of who they were, but they were no longer defined by them. The moment they turned from their sins (repented) and acknowledged their need for God as Lord of their lives, their names—and eternal destinies—were changed.
Abraham Liar, Adulterer Child of God
Jacob Liar, Cheat Child of God
David Adulterer, Murderer Child of God
Gideon Coward, Idolator Child of God
Jonah Prejudiced, Ungrateful Child of God
Solomon Adulterer, Idolator Child of God
Elijah Doubter, Coward Child of God
Moses Murderer, Doubter Child of God
Peter Hot Head, Betrayer Child of God
Paul Legalistic, Persecutor Child of God
Mary Magdalene Demon-possessed Child of God
You ? Child of ?
You can be on this list if, and only if, you turn away from your sins, ask God for forgiveness and accept Him as Lord of your life (Acts 2:38, 1 John 1:9). We repent of our sins because they separate us from a holy God and only lead to death (Rom. 6:23, James 1:14-15). We ask God for forgiveness because He is ultimately the One we hurt with our sins and only He can truly forgive us. We accept God as the Lord of our life because He is the One who made us and it is His will—not our own–which we seek.
Once you do this—with a true, humble heart—you are forgiven. Once sullied by sin, you are now as white as snow. Once separated from God, now His precious child (John 1:12). Once destined for torment in Hell because of your willful disobedience to God, now guaranteed a place hand-prepared by Jesus in Heaven because of His work on the Cross (and your acceptance of it; see John 14:1-7).
We ask God for forgiveness because He is ultimately the One we hurt with our sins and only He can truly forgive us.
Until you enter that place though, your work on earth is not done. As long as God has you here, you have a purpose, one entirely God-ordained and Holy Spirit-powered. You are to seek first God’s will (Matt. 6:33), live to make Him known to everyone (Matt. 28:19-20) and willingly submit to the new work He wants to do in you (1 Peter 5:6-7). The process will not be easy, nor will it be pleasant, but God has remade you for harder things, and He promises to never leave you nor forsake you (Deut. 31:6, Heb. 13:5-6), working all things together for good, for those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).
None of that begins though until you turn—turn away from your sins and turn toward Jesus as your Lord and Savior. If you don’t, your fate will be secured, but rather than as a child of God in Heaven, you will be a child of Satan cast away in Hell (John 8:42-44, James 4:4). The former is eternal joy with your Creator, the other eternal torment with your Enemy (John 3:16-18).
Jesus is saying to you, “Come as you are.” Give Him your heart, and He will make you into something new. Your sins will be washed away and your destiny forever sealed in His arms. All that remains is for you to go as you are and say, “Yes, Lord, I am coming.”
English Standard Version Bible. (2001). Crossway Bibles.