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I'm a Christian, married to a wonderful man, Steven, and mother to a wonderful little son. I have many interests and a few noteworthy journeys in life and I enjoy sharing them.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The True Miracle of Forgiveness

Some who will read this blog have read "The Miracle of Forgiveness" by Spencer W. Kimball, an LDS prophet. It is still sold in LDS bookstores, and people who find themselves before the bishop confessing sin are often encouraged to read it. Whether or not you've read it, here are some interesting quotes from it.

"Repentance is inseparable from time. No one can repent on the cross, nor in prison, nor in custody. One must have the opportunity of committing wrong in order to be really repentant. The man in handcuffs, the prisoner in the penitentiary, the man as he drowns, or as he dies---such a man certainly cannot repent totally. He can wish to do it, he may intend to change his life, he may determine that he will, but that is only the beginning. That is why we should not wait for the life beyond but should abandon evil habits and weaknesses while in the flesh on the earth... Clearly it is difficult to repent in the spirit world of sins involving physical habits and actions. There one has spirit and mind but not the physical power to overcome a physical habit" (p. 83).

"There is one crucial test of repentance. This is abandonment of the sin. ... In other words, it is not real repentance until one has abandoned the error of his ways and started on a new path... The saving power does not extend to him who merely wants to change his life." (p. 163) 

"One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation." (pp. 206-207)

"Your Heavenly Father has promised forgiveness upon total repentance and meeting all the requirements, but that forgiveness is not granted merely for the asking. There must be works-many works-”and an all-out, total surrender, with a great humility and 'a broken heart and a contrite spirit'™ It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could he weeks, it could he years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility your sincerity, your works, your attitudes" (pp. 324-325)

Kimball defines repentance as the perfect, successful abandonment of sin, through the following actions:
  1. conviction, in which "the sinner consciously recognizes his sin."[2]
  2. abandonment of sin
  3. confession to church authorities and/or other parties wronged by the sin
  4. restitution
  5. keeping God's commandments
  6. forgiving others 

How many of us can completely, perfectly abandon all sin? How possible is it to follow all six steps for every single sin we commit? What happens if we do the same sin again? Kimball would say you have to repent again for all the previous sins we had already repented of plus the new one, because its evident we didn't truly repent of the sin because we didn't abandon it. What happens if we don't manage to repent for all the sins before we die? He says its very difficult to repent of sins of the flesh when we are only in spirit after death, so maybe we wouldn't be able to repent completely in time for the resurrection.

Thankfully, Kimball is wrong.

John 6:28-29 "Then they asked him, 'What must we do to do the works God requires?' Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.' "
John 11:25 "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.'"
Acts 2:21 "And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Acts 13:38-39 "Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the Law of Moses."
Acts 15:11 "No! believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."
Romans 1:16 "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God of the salvation of everyone who believes."
Romans 3:22-24 "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."
Romans 10:9 "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

These are only from three books of the New Testament. I could go on, but I think the picture is clear. We are saved from and justified of our sins through faith, through belief, in Jesus. If we truly believe in our hearts, then God will not count our sins against us. We can't be good enough by ourselves, so He doesn't expect us to be.  No law can justify us because we will fall short in following it completely. "Rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:20b)

What is forgiveness and how exactly do we get it? Forgiveness is basically the overlooking of a sin (a mistake, a wrongdoing, not doing something we should have) so that the sin is no longer with us and we can move on from it. Hopefully, we won't commit the sin again, but realistically, there are many sins that we will do over and over again throughout our lives. We achieve forgiveness through Christ.

1 John 1:8-10 "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives."

If we confess to God that we are sinners, He will forgive us and take the unrighteousness out of us. He helps to make us better people as we do this. We could never purify ourselves or remove the unrighteousness from ourselves. We have to depend on Him to do this, and depending on Him to do so necessitates a belief in Him.

Does this mean that we can go and sin because He'll forgive our sins because we believe in Him? No! Not at all! "Do we then nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law." (Romans 4:25)

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 "Do you not know that the wicket will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of 
1 Corinthians 6:12 "Everything is permissible for me--but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me--but I will not be mastered by anything."
2 Corinthians 7:1 "Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God."
Galatians 2:17 "If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves our sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sins? Absolutely not!"
James 2:18 "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do."

Does this mean that we're not saved if we mess up, especially if its in something like sexual immorality or alcoholism or any of the other particularly offensive sins noted? Not at all. It means, however, that we're expected to seek forgiveness from those we've wronged and to pursue a change in our ways and of our heart, which is repentance. Sometimes it seems like only through God can we abandon these more serious transgressions.

2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"
2 Corinthians 5:19 "That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them."

We are encouraged to live life by the Spirit. If someone claims he is saved, but is not trying to depart from the obvious acts of a sinful nature, we must question if his faith is real. Walking in the Spirit will help us eventually turn from the negative actions and ways we follow when we our led by our sinful nature. Its not always an overnight change, and it will not be complete in our lifetime, but the process will happen throughout a believer's life.

Galatians 5:19-25 "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this (not changing their ways and not willing to try) will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."

Let's look at the differences:
Kimball says repentance comes through multiple steps done constantly, and they must all be completed before we can receive forgiveness, and that believing that we receive forgiveness automatically through Christ's grace is a teaching from Satan. He paints a picture that seems very difficult to follow and is very works-based. Yet, there's little in the book about living in love and letting the Spirit shows its fruits in our lives; its all about doing all the "right" things, instead of being all the right things.

The Bible says that we receive forgiveness through recognizing that we are sinners and need a savior and therefor placing true faith in Jesus and receiving forgiveness through the grace of God, and true faith will also lead to the Spirit helping us turn away from sins and receive goodness in our lives. It is not that we can't be good on our own, but that we can't ever be good enough without Jesus, and there are some things that are overwhelming to change on our own, especially when burdened by guilt because of lack of forgiveness. God is there to forgive us and help us become who we want to be just by having true faith in Him.

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