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Forgiveness allows a person to start afresh with what they have, and to those who have, as the Lord said, more is given.[1] Thus, the true power of forgiveness has been underestimated, and if Satan did underestimate God, as I once heard reported, then it is because he underestimated the power of forgiveness, for whenever God forgives, there is no mention of retribution, but as He said, “I am making everything new!”[2]

In case some of you are still stuck in a mentality of repentance and penance because of man’s traditions, listen to what Jesus taught in the parable. By the way, the word ‘penance’ is not in the concordance, just like ‘gambling’ is not a word in the concordance. As such, Jesus preached repentance when He said, “Repent and believe the good news,”[3] and “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”[4] He also taught forgiveness, and His parables are for teaching us the secrets of the Kingdom, not preaching. We preach or proclaim the news to allow people to make a decision as to whether they will believe or not believe, but we teach to make disciples out of believers, and we practise to make overcomers out of disciples.

Jesus never taught on penance as in retribution or repaying for the wrong, but rather, He taught that those who sinned should repent and those who are sinned against should forgive, especially if the one who sinned against you repents to you. Now, some will quote Zacchaeus to you as an example of penance, as the need to make good what your sin has caused or done, when he stood up and said to the Lord, “Look Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”[5] However, that was a spontaneous outburst from Zacchaeus, not a teaching or requirement of the Lord.

Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy seven times (seventy times seven).”[6] Then He told them of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, a parable of the Kingdom of Heaven. As you read the parable, you see that the king just wants all that the servant had to be sold to repay the debt, as well as the servant, his wife and children, but as the servant begged for mercy, “the servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.”[7] That means the servant got to keep his wife and children and everything of value that could have been sold to repay the debt.

That is why forgiveness allows a person to start afresh with what he has. Forgiveness is not an extension on the loan but a cancelling of the debt, so that whatever the debtor has or will have remains his. He is under no obligation to repay anything again, for the cancelled debt no longer exists. To put it in monetary terms that you might understand better, it is like a business that owes more than it is worth, it is insolvent. However, forgiveness would write off the debt whilst leaving the business intact to continue to do what it does as if it never ever had the debt, and it never has to budget or set aside the money to repay the debt. The insolvent business goes instantly from insolvency to profitability. If it owed $50,000,000 against $30,000,000 of assets, it now owns $30,000,000 of assets without any debts at all. It goes from -$20,000,000 to +$30,000,000 by one act of forgiveness and the business remains intact to start afresh with what it has.

So, when you see forgiveness the way Jesus illustrated it using the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, you can see how our tradition of penance denies the liberating power of forgiveness. To many of us, when we forgive someone their sin, we place on them a remembrance of the sin they have been forgiven of, even if they never commit it again. To God, when He forgives, He forgets, or rather, in His words, He remembers them no more. “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”[8]

He used the word ‘blot’ as one would blot out a written debt in an accounts book, and when a creditor blots out a debt in his books, it no longer exists, and the debtor gets to keep all he has without any further obligation of repayment. So, understand what it is to forgive sins, not as a principal or as a command of the Covenant, or as practice of words spoken, but rather, the attitude that you must have in your heart concerning the one you forgive. Once you have forgiven, they owe you nothing from then on. That is the attitude that is needed in the heart of the forgiver. The attitude needed in the heart of the forgiven is that of liberty, he is free to conduct his life afresh with what he has as if he never sinned.

Thus, repentance awaits forgiveness that liberates the forgiven to start afresh. Forgiveness without repentance allows the forgiver to start afresh with the unrepentant. Thus, forgiveness gives liberty to both the forgiver and the forgiven, but repentance restores the relationship. This is illustrated in the Lord’s teaching when He taught: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘everything may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”[9] The Lord said, “If he listens to you, you have won your brother over,” that is, the relationship is maintained at its former level, because the one who sinned, repented. That is why, although forgiveness gives liberty, without repentance there is no restoration. This truth is illustrated in the situation when the one who sinned will not repent even after the matter is presented to the church, and the Lord said, “Treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

Our knee-jerk reaction is to throw him out of the church and excommunicate him, yet we forget that before we became the church, we were all pagans and tax collectors. But what did Jesus say to a tax collector? “Follow Me.” And what did He say to a pagan woman? “Will you give Me a drink?”[10] And if we are to do what Jesus has been doing, then should we not treat those who refuse to repent as Jesus treated the tax collector and the pagan, by telling them to follow Jesus and to give Jesus a cup of cold water on a hot day. You see, there is still liberty, for although the sinner did not repent but you have forgiven, and in forgiving, you are free, set free from treating him as a brother. And set free to preach Jesus afresh to him so that you also start afresh with what you have, an ex-brother who is now a tax collector or a pagan whom you can teach to follow Jesus and use to give Jesus a cup of water.

There has been, however, no restoration of relationship. The brotherhood is dead and what is left is a relationship between a brother of Christ and one who is not yet a brother of Christ. Yet, even though the relationship of brotherhood is dead, you have remained inseparable to the person, because by your forgiveness, you have raised up a fresh relationship, and you are still with him. After all, it is the Covenant for the Forgiveness of Sins, and as long as one party of the Covenant says it is valid, the Covenant remains valid. Thus, as long as the one who has been sinned against forgives, there is still no separation. That is why forgiveness is what gives inseparable love its strength to hold on to that which seeks to break away, and sacrificial love gives power to reach out and take hold of the lost.

We, who have entered the Covenant for the Forgiveness of Sins by drinking the blood of Jesus and remain in Him by eating His flesh, will always be in covenant with Him as long as we forgive, even if He does not forgive. You see, the Covenant was forged between the Father and Son so that They would forgive sins, not so that They might be forgiven, for neither Father nor Son has ever sinned as we have sinned. So then, to be true participants of the Covenant, we must also forgive as They forgive, that is, to blot out the transgressions, the sins, and remember them no more.

Thus, to the brother who repents, the brotherhood is restored as if he had never sinned. To the brother who refuses to repent, the relationship is maintained as if you have never known him, except that he is a pagan or a tax collector who needs to follow Jesus or to whom Jesus is not ashamed to ask for a cup of cold water. Either way, the one who has been sinned against is liberated from all memory of the sin, the one who repented is liberated from all guilt, but the one who has not repented is convicted, for although he is at liberty because of the forgiveness, he has lost a brother. And conviction is as the Holy Spirit does convict with regards to sin, righteousness and judgement.[11]

Thus, we do not judge those who do not repent, but we forgive, and having forgiven, we are at liberty to treat them as we would treat all tax collectors and pagans by proclaiming the good news to them all over again. Now, when we see the juxtaposition of verses 18 and 19: “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on Earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by My Father in Heaven. For where two or three come together in My Name, there I am with them.”[12] These verses must apply first to the forgiveness of sins and its consequences. Thus, whatever sins we forgive, they are forgiven. Whatever sins we do not forgive, they are not forgiven. That is, whatever relationship we bind that we refuse to let go of, is bound by forgiveness. Whatever relationship we loose, that is dissolve, it is loosed if we do not forgive. But if there is anything we must agree on first, then it is the agreement to forgive and repent. When two agree about anything, that is, one agrees to show the other his fault, and the one at fault agrees to listen, then whatever is asked for is done, and the forgiveness asked for is done. Thus, when we forgot that the Covenant is for the Forgiveness of Sins, we took these two verses first into binding demons and devils, and agreeing with each other for our blessings. But when placed in the context of their positioning within the teaching that Jesus was giving, it all has to do with forgiveness, which then brings us back to another interesting question.

What then is the order of business of the Kingdom of God? For Jesus said, “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”[13] Yet, as often is the case; though many have sought what they thought was the righteousness of the Kingdom of God – holiness by cutting off oneself from the world, piety, charity fellowship and good works – the things that pagans run after have not been added. And so, many Christians live in poverty, hunger and worry. In the light of what we now know, is it that because we have not realised that the first business of the Kingdom of God is the forgiveness of sins, for that is what Jesus died for?

Thus, when we have not thought and taught to preach and practise repentance and forgiveness of sins as the first priority of the Gospel, it is little wonder that we ask for much but receive little. We sow much and harvest little, whilst the shepherds, who care not for the flock, fatten themselves on the weak and hungry, deceiving them with all sorts of fanciful traditions based on stories they have concocted, and holding out promises of blessings of material abundance. Yet all the while, the blind remain blind, the lame remain lame, and so on. The size of your congregations, the magnificence of your buildings, the thrill of your entertainments, and the longevity of your traditions are not the proof of authority.

Rather, it is the lame walking, the blind seeing, the lepers cleansed, the deaf hearing and the dead raised that heralds the good news the poor are waiting to hear. For the One John the Baptist was expecting was none other than the Lamb of God, for he proclaimed when he saw Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”[14] And when he heard what Jesus was doing, he sent his disciples to ask Him, “Are You the One who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”[15] To which Jesus replied, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised…”[16]

As an expansion of the signs that prove that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins, He is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world by forging the Covenant for the Forgiveness of Sins with the Father. And as the Father sent Him, so He is sending us.[17] As the Father sent Him as the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, so He said, “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”[18] Thus, as He took away the sin of the world, we continue to take away the sins in the world by forgiving them, for that is what we are authorised to do. “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven.”[19] And the proof of that authority is the lame walking as well as the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, lepers cleansed and the dead raised.

So, we repent of our disobedience and hypocrisy in not preaching repentance and forgiveness in His Name, and for not practising it when we preach it, so that having been set free from the burdens of our sins of disobedience and hypocrisy, we are free to start afresh with what we have. Just like Noah could start afresh with what he had, so we will start afresh with what we have. Yet, this time it will not be a flood of waters from the Heavens that will sweep away the unrepentant, but a flood of God’s forgiveness that will loose and dissolve all the works of sin and its power. After the forgiveness has been offered, then shall judgement come, and those who are wicked will come into their full stature and be shown for the rebels that they are.

Truly, Jesus has fulfilled this Scripture: “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”[20] And He who fulfilled this Scripture said to us: “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”[21] “You are My friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his Master’s business. I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from My Father I have made known to you.”[22] “Peace by with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”[23] Amen


 

[1] Luke 8:18; Mark 4:25

[2] Revelation 21:5

[3] Mark 1:15

[4] Matthew 4:17

[5] Luke 19:8

[6] Matthew 18:21-22

[7] Matthew 18:27

[8] Isaiah 43:25

[9] Matthew 18:15-18

[10] John 4:7

[11] John 16:8

[12] Matthew 18:18-20

[13] Matthew 6:33

[14] John 1:30

[15] Luke 7:19

[16] John 7:22

[17] John 20:21

[18] Luke 10:3

[19] John 20:23

[20] Luke 4:18-19

[21] Luke 5:20

[22] John 15:14-15

[23] John 20:21,23

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