The story of this little boy perfectly illustrates the missing ingredient.
The story is told about a little boy who dialed the telephone operator. He couldn’t speak clearly so she didn’t understand what he was trying to say. After he had repeated himself four times, the boy said: “Operators are stupid!” and hung up the phone. Hearing this, his mother got upset. She called the operator and made her son apologize. Later, when his mother wasn’t at home, the boy called the operator again. “Is this the same operator I spoke to before?” “Yes,” she replied. “Well.” said the boy, “I still think operators are stupid!”
There is something not quite genuine to this little boy's apology!
And so it is with knowing how to gain forgiveness. KNOWING all the we know about the subject isn’t enough. We have to do something about what we know. And what we do has to be GENUINE. Keep that word in mind.
First of all, let’s look at the Seven Great Truths about Salvation. These seven truths take some big words and break them down into phrases that we can easily understand.
1. SUBSTITUTION: JESUS DIED IN MY PLACE.
2. JUSTIFICATION: JESUS MADE ME RIGHT WITH GOD.
3. RECONCILIATION: JESUS MADE PEACE WITH GOD POSSIBLE.
4. ADOPTION: JESUS MADE ME PART OF GOD’S FAMILY.
5. REDEMPTION: JESUS PURCHASED MY SALVATION WITH HIS
6. PROPITIATION: JESUS SATISFIED GOD’S JUSTICE.
7. FORGIVENESS: JESUS SENT MY SINS AWAY FROM ME
Think about your own spiritual journey and what it was that first made you realize that you needed the forgiveness that God was offering through Jesus Christ. All of these seven great truths are important, and like facets in a diamond, all are necessary. But at different times in our lives, different facets become more important to us. When I tell the story of my spiritual journey, I say that at 11 years old I was only a little conscious of sin, but I was very conscious of avoiding hell, so probably truth number 6 was the biggie then: Accepting Christ saved me from the hell that I deserved as a sinner. Today, the aspect of salvation that is the most meaningful to me is probably truth number 4: I am loved by God as a member of His family because of what Christ did for me on the cross. The facet that is most important to you will depend on where you are in your spiritual journey right now. But they are all important—including that first step of genuine repentance.
With that first step, none of these seven great truths about salvation applies. And this isn’t a “ho-hum” moment. Perhaps the greatest danger we face today in our spiritual journeys is our reluctance to talk about genuine repentance. If we talk about repentance we have to talk about sin, and sin is something strangely avoided. We talk about getting our lives on track, turning over a new leaf, becoming more spiritual, etc. etc. I am concerned about this avoidance because I’ve read too many stories of how people came to know Christ that never once mention repentance from sin. And repentance is the foundational step to true faith.
However we package the message of Gospel somewhere in there we have to talk about “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief” as Paul wrote 1 Timothy 1:15.
So let’s go.
Genuineness is everything when it comes to repentance. It’s easy to mumble the words when we get caught, or if its to our advantage to do so, but to really mean what we say when we repent is the “cut above.”
Read Acts 3:19, 14:15, 26:20
"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord..."
"...turn from these worthless things to the living God..."
"...I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds."
In two of these verses the genuineness of the repentance is characterized by that word “turn.” For repentance to be genuine, there must be a commitment to stop the sinful behaviour. When John the Baptist preached repentance, there was always this aspect of “turning.” In Luke 3:8, he tells his audience: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” If they were really repentant, their commitment to change came as part of the package. This isn’t “fire insurance”— a "get out of hell free" card. This was a changed life. In the last verse Paul repeats this: “...and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.” This isn’t a works theology, this is a “show-me-the-proof” theology. Genuine repentance will be demonstrated by a changed life.
When we come to the next set of verses we add some more valuable ingredients to genuine repentance.
Acts 10:43, 26:18, 20:21.
"All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
"...I am sending you to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me."
"I have declared to both Jews and Gentiles that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus."
To believe means, in the general sense: to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in.
In the religious sense, it means:
in a moral or religious reference
1) used in the NT of the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of soul
2) to trust in Jesus or God as able to aid either in obtaining or in doing something: saving faith
3) mere acknowledgment of some fact or event: intellectual faith
So when that word appears it can have a variety of meanings and we can usually figure out from the context which one is being referred to. In this case Acts 26 and 20 enlighten us when it comes to genuine belief. We are talking about saving faith, the accepting of the means that God has provided for us to be saved, the repentance and trust that what Jesus did on the cross is sufficient to pay for the sins that we have committed.
Even in the Old Testament, and before the moment of salvation, there was a commitment to turning away from evil, i.e. Isaiah 55:6,7:
"Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon."
BELIEVING AND REALLY BELIEVING
Many people protest, sayng, "But I believe in God!" James 2:19 reminds us: "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." Believing is much more than head knowledge. A response is needed—and it better be more than a shudder, though that is a good start!
John 1:12: "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." The word “believe” is often connected with the name of Jesus. Why? Because the name “Jesus” had a significance in Bible times that is doesn’t have today or in our culture. Matthew 1:21: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” “Jesus” means “the Lord saves.”
John 3:16-18, 5:24: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."
"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eterna leife and will not be condemned; he has passed over from death to life."
The results of saving faith are: no condemnation, no judgment, and the promise of eternal life.
The opposite of saving faith is found for us in John 3:36: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." You can accept everything about Jesus as an intellectual fact, but not have saving faith. You can believe without REALLY believing and the result will be the judgment of God. Notice the idea in the verses of a "rejection." This rejection is a refusal to believe what God says about our sin and how we can deal with that sin. It is a refusal to accept Christ's offer of salvation through an act of repentance.
One of the best illustrations comes from a simple chair. I can say that I believe that the chair in front of me will hole my weight if I sat down on it, but until I actually sit down on the chair, I cannot claim to have genuine faith in what I have said.
"Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged by 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."
The whole of this psalm is really beautiful. From verse 6 on we are given some details on what being forgiven means. It tells us about the confidence that a person who is forgiven can have in the God who has done the forgiving. But we are only going to look at the first five verses for our present discussion.
We have here in the psalm an example of the “godly sorrow” that wasn't present in the story of the little boy. This is the same genuine repentance that Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 7. This whole chapter is precious but remember these three verses: “yet now I am happy, not because your were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us [note to the shrinks who say that we should lay guilt trips on people!]. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regrets, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.” (vss 9-11).
A person who is genuinely repentant of their sin will be driven crazy by it until he confesses it and until he deal with it. That goes for any sin—as we find described for us here in Psalm 34 and described in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. David was sick, depressed, weak, because of his sin.
Eric Wright in Revolutionary Forgiveness says:
“David Seamands, a counselor, writes: ‘Many years ago I was driven to the conclusion that the two major causes of most emotional problems among evangelical Christians are these: the failure to understand, receive, and live out God’s unconditional grace and forgiveness; and the failure to give out that unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace to other people.’ In prison, Paul knelt before the Father and prayed for the Ephesians: ‘that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ...that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God’ (3:17-19).”
David was unhappy because of his sin. He had to deal with because of the effect it was having on his life. The only solution to his problem was to acknowledge his sin to himself (that’s always a first step) and then to confess it to God.
The result of this acknowledging of sin, its confession to God, and receiving by faith the gift of salvation that Christ offers based on His sacrifice on the cross, was forgiveness, happiness, and the blessed relief of a restored relationship between us and God.
That same forgiveness is available to us today.