(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 4)
There are some of us, (unbelievers and believers), who have pasts that we are ashamed of. Some of us stole, lied, cheated, operated dishonestly in business, hid the fact that we were Christians, maliciously attacked others with our tongues, took drugs, drank alcohol to the point of intoxication, engaged in pre-marital sexually immoral activity, cheated on our spouse and therefore committed adultery, killed people, some accidental, some deliberate and many other abominable, wicked crimes and activities.
Now, although some of us have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ into our lives as Lord and Saviour, we still feel plagued by the ugliness of what we did and it is as if our sin tries to follow us, much like the Egyptians did the Israelites when they were delivered from bondage and were on their way to the Promised Land.
Yet, in reading a particular portion of scripture tonight, I was reminded that the grace of Jesus is sufficient and the blood he shed for all of our sins is enough, to free us from the burden and penalty of our ugly sins and to redeem and restore us to himself.
For, the scriptures contain examples of people who, like us, did horrible things and committed grievous sins but yet were pardoned by the Lord (the one who has the power to forgive sins) and therefore did not suffer the wrath they rightfully deserved.
To name a few:
1. There was RAHAB, a woman in the Old Testament who prostituted herself with different men for a living.
When Joshua sent spies to Jericho where she lived to spy out the land that God had promised the Israelites, she hid the spies from the men sent by the king of Jericho. Afterward she told the spies, that she knew that the Lord had given them the land, that Jericho (despite the towering wall which protected it, was already defeated), that she had heard of the great and mighty things that God had done for the Israelites and the victories he had wrought for them.
She declared, fully believing that the God of the Israelites was real and that he was the true and living God over all: She declared, fully believing that the God of the Israelites was real and that he was the true and living God over all: “…for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath…”
Based on this belief, she then acted in faith, by entering into a covenant with the Israelite spies, to spare the life of her and her father’s household, when they returned with the Israelites and overthrew Jericho. She had not a doubt in her heart that this would come to pass (despite the formidable and seemingly impenetrable wall that Jericho had up).
The spies agreed and told her to bind a scarlet (red) thread in her window when they returned and to keep herself and her family within that house so that they would not be killed along with everybody else in Jericho.
In full faith, Rahab did not wait until the men returned with the rest of the Israelite army, to put the red thread outside her window, as they had instructed her. She did it soon after they left because she was convinced that they would return, that God would find a way to get them into Jericho (because he was all powerful) and that the Israelites would be victorious in the battle.
The Bible states in Joshua 2:21, she therefore The Bible states in Joshua 2:21, she therefore “…sent them away and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window.”
Rahab was therefore a filthy harlot but as bad as her conduct in life had been so far because she (1) genuinely believed that the God of the Israelites was the only true and living God and (2) confessed him as ‘Lord’, her faith was counted for righteousness, like Abraham’s, she was forgiven of all of her sins and when the Israelites did return, all of Jericho perished but she and her father’s household were saved.
If the Rachab mentioned in Matthew 1:5 is the same woman (as I and other commentators are inclined to believe), it would mean that when she went to live with the Israelites, she apparently married, had at least one child: Boaz and was therefore the great great grandmother of David, the second king of Israel. It would also mean that God chose to include her in the lineage of Joseph, who God entrusted with the earthly fatherly responsibility, of taking care of the Lord Jesus Christ, as his son.
2. There was THE SAMARITAN WOMAN who, when Jesus met her at the well, had already been through five (5) husbands and was living with a sixth man that she was not married to.
In Matthew 5:32, Jesus set the record straight on the issue of divorce, remarriage and adultery, when he told his disciples:
- “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”
Later on, in Matthew 19:9, in response to the Pharisees who had asked him whether it was lawful for a man to put away (divorce) his wife for every (or any) cause, Jesus stated:
- “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Culturally, they had thought it was okay to divorce one’s spouse under the Old Testament law. They therefore asked Jesus further: “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?”
Jesus, who was greater than Moses and existed from the beginning, as the Creator of this earth and everything in it was not deterred. He maintained his position on the issue, as Lord over all and stated:
- “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”
Jesus therefore identified three (3) types of adulterers, all of which were sinners:
- The person who divorced his wife and got married to or entered into a sexual relationship with another (Matthew 19:9);
- The person who entered into a sexual relationship (whether through another marriage or otherwise), after her husband divorced her (Matthew 5:32);
- The person who got married to or entered into a sexual relationship with a woman that was divorced (Matthew 5:32;19:9).
Of course, conversely, the same principle applies where a woman divorces her husband and gets married to or involved with another or where her husband that she divorced, gets involved with or marries another woman or in the case where a woman marries or gets involved with a divorced man.
Indeed, the sins of the Samaritan Woman, a seasoned adulterer were great. Yet, after Jesus let her know that he knew that she had had five (5) husbands and was living in further adultery with a sixth man she was now cohabiting with and when Jesus told her further, that he was the Messiah called Christ (which she knew would one day come), this adulteress believed him.
In fact, so overjoyed was she at what she had discovered, that she could not keep what she had encountered to herself. She felt the need to share the good news with those in her city. She therefore immediately left her waterpot and told the men in the city that she had met the Christ.
The Bible states in John 4:25-26,28-30 that:
- “The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he…The woman then left her waterpot and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?”
The woman who was therefore known in that city as highly promiscuous, as she was always in and out of a marriage relationship with a different man and was now sleeping with a sixth one that she had not even married, genuinely believed that Jesus was Lord (the Christ) and confessed this with her mouth.
In that instant, through grace (certainly not works), the blood of Jesus washed her of all of her guilty stains and through her faith, she was forgiven of all of her sins and pardoned from the wrath of God to come. She went from a sexually filthy woman, to a believer, that was now covered by the grace of the Lord, perfectly righteous through her faith in him.
As bad as her past was (and it was bad), it no longer mattered. She now belonged to God’s heavenly Kingdom and became a partaker of his eternal inheritance.
The Bible gives no details of what she did in relation to the man she was living with. However, given that (1) within her and as a result of her regeneration, she now had a “…well of water springing up into everlasting life…” (John 4:14) and (2) believing and acknowledging Jesus as Lord, requires us to renounce and turn away from all of our sins, it is implied, in my view, that the same way that she lost interest in her waterpot and instead began to share the good news (which was greater), that she would have also lost interest in that man who could never satisfy what had clearly been a longing in her soul and that she would have put an end to that sinful relationship.
3. There was PAUL, previously called Saul, who blasphemed the Lord and commissioned the brutal murder of some Christians (including Stephen), who was stoned to death.
Yet, when he was confronted by the resurrected Jesus on his way to Damascus, he instantly believed that he was Lord and confessed him as same.
The Bible states in Acts 9, after Saul had consented to the death of Stephen by having him stoned in Acts 8:1, that:
- “…as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecuteth: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?…”
Paul, previously named Saul, therefore genuinely believed in that moment, that Jesus was God the Son and confessed him with his mouth as Lord. In that instant, as a result of his belief in the truth and his confession that Jesus Christ was Lord, he went from being a murderer and a blasphemer, he was forgiven of his sins through the grace of God alone, he became a child of the most High and fit for service in His Kingdom.
His whole wicked past was instantly dismissed and the slate wiped clean. He was given a fresh beginning and from then on, continued to live a life submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 15: 8-10, Paul states of his experience:
- “And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain, but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
In 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Paul also states:
- “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry. Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever, Amen.”
4. There was ZACCHAEUS, the notorious tax collecting fraudster, the chief of the publicans, who dishonestly, greedily and wickedly used his office (which was to collect taxes on behalf of the government), to steal people’s hard-earned money.
This made him very rich and he was known by the people to be a very dishonest individual.
Despite his riches though, when he heard about Jesus, there was something about him that so piqued his interest, that when he heard he was coming his way, he wanted to see who he was. He had heard about him and maybe about all the miracles that he had performed and the things that he had taught and this birthed a desire in Zacchaeus to see who this man was.
All the riches in the world could not quench this yearning, maybe because Zacchaeus sensed that this man had the answer to the void in his life, a void which all his riches could not fill.
Given his stature however and the amount of people surrounding Jesus, Zacchaeus decided he would climb up into a sycamore tree, so that when Jesus passed that way, he would be sure to get a glimpse of him.
When Jesus did eventually pass, Zacchaeus got the shock of his life. Not only did he get to see who Jesus was but Jesus looked up at him and addressed him by name, although Zacchaeus had never met him before!
Jesus shocked him further by telling him to make haste and come down, as he would be spending some time by his house that day. As God the Son and Lord over all, Jesus knew everything and that Zacchaeus had yearned to see him. He knew all about his wicked ways and greedy lifestyle and in his mercy, he decided to not just go to meet Zacchaeus that day but to also spend some time with him at his home.
The Bible states in Luke 19:3-5:
- “And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully…”
This experience in the presence of Jesus was so powerful, that it led Zacchaeus to believe that truly, Jesus was Lord. How else could a total stranger, one he had never met in person, know his name, unless that stranger was the one who created him?
In the moment that he believed that Jesus was Lord, a transformation took place in Zacchaeus’ heart. The void that he had had despite all the money that he had amassed, was gone. In its place was Jesus and Zacchaeus’ soul was now the joyful recipient of the promise of eternal life.
The Bible states that he received Jesus joyfully into his home and I am certain he ensured that Jesus was served the very best.
People muttered in disapproval though. For, knowing Zacchaeus’ crooked practices and past, they said that Jesus had gone to be a guest at the home of a sinner.
They did not realize that this was the purpose for which Jesus left heaven and came to earth, to save wretched sinners like Zacchaeus from sin and to give them a new beginning.
In Matthew 18:11-13, Jesus, referring to himself as the Son of man, said:
- “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.”
That day was the turning point in Zacchaeus’ life. Being in the presence of Jesus, hearing him speak and what he said, Zacchaeus was convinced that Jesus was the Son of God. This belief produced repentance for his own wicked ways. For, standing in the presence of Jesus who was perfectly holy, was in such stark contrast to his own wicked past, that in genuine repentance, Zacchaeus humbled himself and told Jesus that he would make amends to all those he had wronged.
He knew it was useless to pretend in Jesus’ presence that he had not sinned or that what he did was not very bad. For, the Lord knew everything! He therefore acknowledged his sin and was eager to make retribution, understanding that if he confessed his sins, Jesus was able and faithful to forgive them (Proverbs 28:13).
The Bible states in Luke 19:8-10:
- “And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Although Zacchaeus was a dishonest publican therefore and may have been this for many years, in the instant that he believed that Jesus was Lord, he was no longer a crooked tax collector but a saint. People could have said what they wanted but that could not change the fact that Zacchaeus had had an encounter with the one who had the power to forgive sins and when he believed on him, all his sins were erased, he was redeemed and brought into God’s family.
This brings to mind another situation as recorded in Mark 2:15-17, where it reads:
- “And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
5. There was THE THIEF ON THE CROSS (one of them), who had committed such criminal thievery in his lifetime that he was sentenced to be put to death for it.
At some point (although we don’t know exactly when), he believed that Jesus was truly the Son of God. This was clear based on his response to the second thief, who, although being crucified alongside the first thief and Jesus, joined in with those who were mocking and criticizing Jesus with their words, while he was suffering in agony on the cross.
In Luke 23:39, it tells us: “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.”
In response, remorseful for his sins and convinced that he and the second thief were in the presence of God the Son, one that was perfectly holy, the Bible states of the believing thief:
- “But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.” (vs. 40-41)
This thief then said to Jesus: This thief then said to Jesus: “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” (v. 42).
He said this because he believed that as Lord, only Jesus had power to forgive him of his sins, that, although he (the thief) was fast leaving the world, that there was still hope of eternal life for his soul, in Jesus, that Jesus would rise again from the dead, that he had a heavenly Kingdom and the authority to decide who would enter it.
From the moment the thief believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, having confessed him as Lord, the ugliness of his criminal past and all his other sins were erased as if he had never sinned. In that moment, through God’s grace which was sufficient to quell his sins, his wretched self was clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus. In short, he received the unmerited gift of eternal life, offered through faith in Jesus.
This was his moment of breakthrough. Through faith in Jesus, his whole destiny changed. For, although he had lived a life that many would have said was deserving of the hottest part of hell, Jesus said to him: This was his moment of breakthrough. Through faith in Jesus, his whole destiny changed. For, although he had lived a life that many would have said was deserving of the hottest part of hell, Jesus said to him: “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (v. 43)
BELIEVING ON JESUS AND CONFESSING WITH THE MOUTH THAT HE IS LORD
Faith in Jesus does not discriminate, nor does it care how ugly or colourful one’s past may have been. All that came to Jesus in faith, believing that he was Lord and confessing this with their mouth, received his forgiveness, their slate of sins were wiped clean and they received the promise of access to eternal life in heaven.
In John 6:37, Jesus said: “ALL that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
Today, the same is true for you and for me. Jesus turns away no one that earnestly seeks after him. No matter what we have done, Jesus invites us to come to him. In Matthew 11:28, he stated: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
In Isaiah 1:18, God stated: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Today, God’s Word assures that if you would not harden your heart but believe the truth, which is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God died for your sins but was raised back up on the third day and if you would then confess with your mouth that he is truly Lord, you will be saved from God’s wrath to come and your soul would escape eternal hellfire. Instead, when you die or when Jesus returns (whichever is sooner), your soul would go to heaven, not because of any thing that you have done but solely because of your faith in Jesus.
John 3:14-18 tells us how every human being can obtain forgiveness for his sins and access to eternal life for his soul in heaven. In referring to himself as the Son of Man because he came to earth through the passage of a woman, Jesus, the Son of God, stated of the death he knew he would die but of the salvation that he would offer freely to every person that believed that he was Lord:
- “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Romans 10:8-13 also states:
- “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto ALL that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Isaiah 55:7 states: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
In the examples provided above of great sinners, all who believed God and came to the Lord in faith were abundantly pardoned and made righteous.
WHAT IF WE MESS UP AFTER WE HAVE COME TO JESUS? DOES JESUS FORGIVE IF WE SIN AFTER BELIEVING ON HIM?
When we come to Jesus in faith, our lives are transformed because his Spirit comes to dwell in us and we are regenerated or made spiritually alive. Although we still have our sin nature lurking within, we have been given God’s divine nature and so this results in an inner struggle between the two natures, for dominance.
The Bible tells us as Believers, that we should not allow the sin nature to win and every true Believer desires to live a successful Christian life that is pleasing to God.
However, sometimes, even after coming to God and having relationship with him through Jesus Christ his Son, by faith, we mess up and sin. While sinning should not be characteristic of us or our lifestyle anymore, if we do fall into sin, once we genuinely repent, provision has been made by God through Jesus, so that fellowship with him can be restored.
1 John 2:1 therefore reads: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
1 John 1:9 also tells believers: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
In fact, there are examples in the Bible of people who were in close relationship and faith walk with the Lord, who messed up and sinned but who, once they genuinely repented with Godly sorrow for their wickedness were forgiven and restored.
There was DAVID the adulterer and murderer in the Old Testament.
He committed adultery by having sex with another man’s wife and then had that innocent man killed, so as to cover up the fact that he had gotten his wife pregnant. When he was confronted by God through his servant for what he had done, he repented and was forgiven, although he still suffered some painful consequences, as a result of his sin.
In the New Testament, there was also PETER, one of the disciples of Jesus, who, despite insisting that he would never deny the Lord, even if it meant that he died, did just that.
When put to the test, he denied knowing him or having any affiliation with him, on three (3) occasions, even cursing those who suggested that he did.
He did this selfishly after Jesus had been captured, so as to preserve his own life. He repented of this sin though and in shame and guilt, wept bitterly over what he had done.
As a result, in mercy, he was forgiven by Jesus and restored. In fact, when Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to him and the rest of the disciples, he was not scolded, ostracized, put down by the Lord Jesus or made to feel lesser than the others, as Jesus, knowing all things and knowing his heart and how sorry he was for his sin, forgave him. As a result, Peter was included in the mandate that Jesus gave to the rest of his disciples, to go into all the world and tell people that he (Jesus) had risen from the dead and that whosoever believed this and confessed him as Lord, would receive forgiveness for their sins and eternal life in heaven.
Whosoever you are therefore, whatever you may have done, whatever people may have said about you or muttered behind your back, no matter how colourful your past or ugly your reputation thus far, KNOW that there is hope for you yet, in Jesus.
God’s GRACE is sufficient and the BLOOD of Jesus is enough.
If you would repent of your sins and fix your gaze in faith on Him, he will cleanse you of all your guilty stains and give you a new beginning. If you are a believer, upon your confession and repentance for your wrong, even if people continue to cast their nose down at you or think less of you, He (the only one with power to forgive sins), will restore you beautifully and bring you back into fellowship with him.
This is good news! Ephesians 1:3 and 7 read:
- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ…In whom we have redemption through his BLOOD, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his GRACE.”
(Written on 25th October, 2018, added to on 19th October, 2020)
Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be edifying, useful, informative, beneficial or interesting, I invite you to also read the following:
- Note 37 – ‘What Intrigues Me About Rahab The Harlot’
- Note 234 – ‘Blood – What God Requires For You To Obtain Forgiveness’
- Note 237 – ‘Why Your Good Deeds/Works Are Not Enough To Earn You A Space In Heaven’
- Note 250 – ‘The Blood Of Jesus Gives Spiritual Life’
Additionally, under the ‘BROKEN Daughters of God’ Page:
- Note 15 – ‘A Light Above The Brightness Of The Sun’
- Note 16 – ‘Come Away…To Jesus’
- Note 19 – ‘What Jesus Thinks Of You Is All That Matters’
- Note 20 – ‘God’s Power To Save Is Greater Than Your Sin’
- Note 24 – ‘The Dying Thief’