This is a Bible Study that I wrote this morning for my Spanish class. It is simple because I am getting ready to translate it. However, because this was such an important message, I wanted to share it in English too.
Today we are going to talk about forgiveness, but in a different way than you might expect. Have you ever done things that have caused lingering regret? Are there things in the back of your mind and heart that still cause you shame years after the fact? Are you struggling to let something go?
The past couple days I have really been dealing with that as well. I don’t know about you, but if I have been wrestling with something for a certain amount of time, in my case four years, I have a hard time believing that God can help me with it. Part of me believes that I missed the opportunity to be healed from it. I would never expressly say that is my theology, but practically speaking, I believed it was something that I was just going to wrestle with my entire life.
It is a different matter in forgiveness when I am letting something go that someone did to me. In some ways, it is much easier to let things go when it is someone else. However, when the matter is my fault, I have such a high standard of conduct that when it is broken, it is basically an unforgivable sin. In my eyes, it is unacceptable and therefore I must punish myself by carrying it with me for all eternity. Of course, it is all for the sake of the person that I hurt. I would never want him to think that what I did was ok. Therefore, I take on the consequence multiplied by every moment I carry the sin on my shoulders.
In this particular instance, I had placed the matter on the back burner in my life. Back burners are nice because they aren’t in the way…that is until God starts doing the dishes and…oh no…there it is. So in starts the punishment again. In starts the self-hatred that says, “I would like to say that I can’t believe you did that, but I know you did. You must be an awful person. This is who you are. This defines you.” Then you not only dislike yourself, but you start to frustrate everyone around you because your attitude is far less than attractive.
Over the past couple days, God has been gently urging me to bring the matter to Him. I consistently found something else to do. I did not want to talk to Him about this. I wanted to continue to punish myself, because surely that is what I deserved. I carried this heavy heart with me for so much longer than I needed to cart it around, until finally I melted down last night. God let me cry, and then He led me to a couple scriptures that I want to share with you today.
We are going to read from Matthew 9:1-8.
“Jesus climbed into a boat and went back across the lake to his own town. Some people brought to Him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.’
But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, ‘That’s blasphemy! Does He think that He’s God?’
Jesus knew what they were thinking, so He asked them, ‘Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk?’ So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.’ Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!’
And the man jumped up and went home! Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for sending a man with such great authority.”
There are several things that stuck out to me in this passage. First, of all the first things that Jesus could have said to the paralyzed man, He chose to begin with, “Be encouraged.” If I were Jesus looking at a sinner, I feel like I should be reprimanding him in some way or making sure that he understood the seriousness of his crime against God, because sin is a serious thing. However, for some reason, Jesus said, “Be encouraged.”
The second thing that Jesus said was, “Your sins are forgiven.” Just like that. In a moment, Jesus undid the entire consequence of this man’s actions against God. We do not know what he did, but if we could imagine ourselves on that mat for a moment, we might see clearly how incredible this moment is. I will put myself on the mat for example. For four years, I have been unable to walk in a sense. My friends bring me to Jesus and He says, “Be encouraged. Your sins are forgiven.” Bam. Done. Four years wiped clean. Just as if I had never sinned. Could I comprehend that?
Immediately following this simple and profound statement, there is a little grumbling going on in the hearts of the onlookers, but Jesus always knows what everyone is thinking. Nothing is hidden from Him. He tells them that He in fact is God, that He does in fact have the authority to forgive sins, and he tells the man to get up and walk. The absolute most profound thing to me in this instance is that Jesus makes the two things equal: forgiving the sins and standing up and walking. Not only does Jesus ask us to bask in forgiveness, but He tells us to stand up and take our mat home. We walk a new road. We are different. We are healed.
We are going to read from Ephesians 4:21-24.
“Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God-truly righteous and holy.”
Bam. Did you know that there is truth? Jesus is the one who speaks the truth. Sometimes we believe things for many years that are not true. For example, I believed that what I did was unforgivable. I believed that I needed to punish myself for what I did. That is only fair. That is justice, right? However, I was paralyzed spiritually because of the unforgiveness I had in my heart…toward myself. I had believed a lie of deception. It became a part of who I was, when that was never meant to define me.
Jesus brings us the truth, however. This truth is that we are forgiven. Just like the paralyzed man, being forgiven means the same thing as standing up and walking. I must throw off the old me that was paralyzed by this deception and let the Spirit renew my thoughts and actions. I was not created to be paralyzed; I was created to be righteous and holy like God. That is the new me. I live by a new truth and standard. That is what it means to be forgiven.
Here is a question for you. Are you holding onto something that you did in the past that you believe deserves punishment? Here is the truth: your actions do deserve punishment, but Christ took that punishment for you when He died on the cross. The shame that is paralyzing you: God never desired that it should stay. Forgiveness is not just for other people; it is for you too. The Bible says that everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s standard. However, what Christ has set free is free indeed. He undid the chains of death. He ended the consequence that our actions deserve. He says, “I am making you new. Stand up and walk!”
What sin do you need to let go of today?