A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Achan’s Scales which led us to the question: if God has forgiven our sin, and his wrath and anger our turned away, does that mean when we sin as believers there are no consequences?
This is an important question, one we will tackle on two fronts; when the Bible says God forgives us, what does that mean? Secondly, does God’s forgiveness remove the consequences of sin in the believers life?
One of the many treasures of grace we receive in Christ through the cross is the forgiveness of sins. The Apostle John says,
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9
When we confess our sins, which is agreeing with God what we have done is sin, he has promised forgiveness. But how? Why?
If we skip down a few verses in 1 John we see that Christ is the propitiation for our sins. Which means God’s wrath was placed on Christ at the cross in the place of the sinner and his death is sufficient to pay my sins.
When I repent and believe in Christ as my Lord and Savior God’s anger is taken off me because it was placed on Christ at the cross. I am forgiven of the penalty of my sin because Christ died for me. It was his life for mine.
Forgiveness of sin is a judicial term. Have you ever received a traffic ticket? I have, I was pulled over for speeding and given a ticket. The fine for the ticket was high. But when I showed up to court, the judge said if you are willing to go to traffic school, I will lower the fine and take the ticket off your record. Through traffic school and a smaller fine, I am forgiven from the penalty of the ticket. It will no longer be held against me, wiped clean from my driving record.
Christ does this for us, on a much grander scale, through the cross. Christ pays the fine and goes to traffic school for us, so our record can be wiped clean. The Lord says,
“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. – Isaiah 43:25
Does that mean God forgets? No, what it does mean is God no longer holds my sins against me. I no longer have to pay the penalty of my sin, which was hell, because Christ’s death on the cross was sufficient payment for my sins.
Does this forgiveness remove the consequences of sin from our life, when we sin?
Here is where I think we mix up retributive justice, God punishing or penalizing us for unconfessed sin, with disciplinary consequences for our sin.
A great way of illustrating this is with parenting. Let’s say your child deliberately breaks curfew and this curfew is a very well known household rule. The consequence for this is losing car privileges for a month.
Why do you give out consequences? Are you doing it to satisfy your anger?
When we give out consequences to our children we want them to realize (1) what they did was wrong, (2) breaking household rules is a serious offense, (3) through the consequences we want them to develop better habits of life, be where you are required to be when you are required to be there.
This is what the Lord does for his children, John Piper points out,
But the aim of God-sent consequences of forgiven sin is not to settle accounts demanded by retributive justice. The aim of the God-sent consequences of forgiven sin are (1) to demonstrate the exceeding evil of sin, (2) to show that God does not take sin lightly even when he lays aside his punishment, (3) to humble and sanctify the forgiven sinner.
God’s aim when giving out consequences isn’t to pay you back or give you what you deserve. His aim is life change, to help you see the destructive nature of sin and make you more like Jesus. There is a very instructive passage in the book of Hebrews which highlights God’s work of disciplining the follower of Christ.
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. – Hebrews 12:5-10
What should we do when being disciplined by the Lord?
- Have a proper perspective. When being disciplined by the Lord we can’t be light hearted or treat the discipline of the Lord like no big deal. On the flip side, we shouldn’t think the Lord doesn’t love us anymore. On the contrary you are being disciplined because you are loved.
- Realize you are a son/daughter in God’s family. God disciplines those who are in his family, which means we should take comfort in God-given consequences because he is treating us like sons/daughters. Second, because we are in a Father/child relationship we must realize we are going to do things that offend our Father, his consequences are not to harm us but bring us back into a right relationship with him.
- Recognize the Goodness of the Lord. If we believe God is ultimately good, then the consequences he gives are ultimately for our good.
- Respond to His discipline because it is designed to make us more like Him. When God gives consequences, the purpose is so we can share in his holiness.
Until Next Time
Walk in forgiveness