Our Greatest Need – Forgiveness
“Sometimes salvation is found in agony.” ― Alexandre Dumas
It was a very somber day in September 1998, when then United States President Bill Clinton delivered a speech at the annual White House Prayer Breakfast attended by over 100 ministers and religious leaders. Mr. Clinton was facing possible impeachment for various offences resulting from his duplicitous relationship with then White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. What he said was unexpected from, at that time, the most powerful man in the world…
“I may not be quite as easy with my words today as I have been in years past, and I was up rather late last night thinking about and praying about what I ought to say today…
First, I want to say to all of you that, as you might imagine, I have been on quite a journey these last few weeks to get to the end of this, to the rock bottom truth of where I am and where we all are. I don’t think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned…” – President Bill Clinton, 1998
He then goes on to say how important true repentance was and how terrible he felt in not living up to the expectations of the American people, especially the youth. He promised the nation that he would seek to move forward with a truly broken spirit and contrite heart.
How unexpected it is for someone of President Clinton’s stature, power, influence, and position to acknowledge before scores of people around the world that indeed, like all of us, he too was a sinner who needed forgiveness. Sin is the one thing that all of us have in common. The presence of sin in our lives is the most inescapable and obvious of all human conditions.
But often, our pride deceives us in thinking we have it all together and don’t need God’s forgiveness. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day thought that they were above the rest of humanity and prided themselves in being ‘better’ than most of their countrymen. It was this pride that blinded them to the truth that we have all sinned and have transgressed God’s standard. They missed the whole point of the Messiah’s coming. The Christ came not to set them free from Roman bondage, but from their slavery to sin.
Paul, who himself was once part of the religious elite, wrote a thorough discourse on the depravity of man in the Book of Romans chapter three, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood…”
Jesus is always there ready to forgive the moment we acknowledge our need of his mercy. It is never too late to repent, even for those who seem hopeless and beyond redemption.
“There was a very capable evangelist whom God used in a significant way in the British Isles. But he lost his interest in spiritual things and drifted into a life of sin, for a number of months. Some of his sin was done in secret but ultimately, it became public knowledge and even made the headlines. At first, all he could think of was that he had been ruined for life, but, finally, he realized what a fool he had been, and he came back to God like the prodigal from the pigpen.
He found exactly the same thing the prodigal did. The Lord welcomed him with open arms and began to strengthen him and bless him. Finally, after a period of waiting, he felt pressed back into a public ministry for the Lord. He was afraid that his sin would be found out and brought up all over again, but after he felt sure it was hidden and tucked away in the past, he went back to preaching, rejoicing in the forgiveness of God.
One night, when he was in Aberdeen, he was given a sealed letter. Just before the service began, he read the unsigned letter. It described a shameful series of events he had been engaged in. His stomach churned as he read it. The letter said, “If you have the gall to preach tonight, I’ll stand and expose you.”
He took that letter and went to his knees. A few minutes later, he was in the pulpit. He began his message by reading the letter, from start to finish. Then he said, “I want to make it clear that this letter is perfectly true. I’m ashamed of what I’ve read, and what I’ve done. I come tonight, not as one who is perfect, but as one who is forgiven.” God used that letter and the rest of his ministry as a magnet to draw people to Jesus Christ.” – Gary Inrig
At the scene of Jesus’ death, was a thief also being crucified. Despised by the whole nation, he was probably the last person in Israel deserving salvation. Externally he was nothing like the religious leaders of the day. But towards the end, he acknowledged his need for forgiveness and turned to the One who could save Him. He called upon Jesus Christ, his last hope. Luke 23 reads,
“Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”
Harold Willmington wrote a verse on the spiritual blessing of The Thief on the Cross, who himself became a true son of Abraham through his astonishing last minute conversion:
In the morning he was nailed to a cross;
In the evening he was wearing a crown.
In the morning he was an enemy of Caesar;
In the evening he was a friend of God.
In the morning he was spurned by men;
In the evening he was fellowshipping with angels.
In the morning he died as a criminal on earth;
In the evening he lived as a citizen of heaven.
How wonderful to know that no sin is beyond God’s forgiveness. Jesus promises real freedom for those who would know the Truth of His salvation. His forgiveness frees us from our guilt so we can become all that He created us to be and accomplish all that He commands us to do.
There is a world out there that needs the saving knowledge of Christ. As we see and know His relevance today in our life, the day will come when people will ask us why we think He is relevant to them. I pray that as we convey and share our wonderful experiences with the Risen King, the words from our hearts would truly be full of His wisdom, power, compassion, and love!
Jesus is relevant today. There is no one like Him.
“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” – Psalm 32:5
“Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.” – Psalm 51:113
There’s No One Like You – Vineyard Cafè Music