We are now in the Season of Lent, on our way to the celebration of Resurrection Sunday. I hope what I am about to say will be of great encouragement to you as you consider your need for ongoing, daily repentance and the mercy of God for your forgiveness.
So, here is another truth of Scripture appropriate for our Lenten reflection. You’ll find it in the first chapter of Luke’s gospel. The context is Zacharias’ prophecy about his newly born son, John. Here are the verses:
“And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:76-77).
The Greek word Luke uses here for ‘forgiveness’ is a-fay-cease. It is most often best translated as the remission of sins. So, what does remission mean in the New Testament? It means MORE than simple forgiveness of sins. When sins are simply forgiven, they are not erased from the ‘ledger’ – so to speak. They remain in one’s memory. That’s why you and I, as fallen and fallible humans, can forgive an offense against us, but we can never really FORGET that offense. We simply choose to not bring it up again or to require the offender to somehow make it right.
However, REMISSION of sins – which only God can perform – remission means the sins are utterly, totally, and completely erased by Almighty God and treated as if they had never been committed.
You might want to read that again. When God ‘remits’ our sins, He treats those sins as if they had never been committed!
The Greek word for remission is the same word St Matthew used when he recorded this text in the 26th chapter of his gospel: “And he took a cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28, ASV)
I heard an illustration some time ago that helps illustrate what remission of sins means in the New Testament Greek language. When a person breaks a bone and the orthopedist places it in a cast, the bone eventually heals and is pretty much as good as new. BUT for the rest of the person’s life, an x-ray will always reveal the place where the bone was broken.
When we commit sin and break our relationship with God, confession and repentance restores our relationship and fixes the ‘break.’ That is why Scripture tells us that God casts the sins of the truly penitent as far as the east is from the west. You find that promise in Psalm 103. Scripture also tells us He casts our sins into the depths of the sea. You can find that one in Micah 7.
But more than casting our sins as far as east is from west or tossing them into the ocean depths, when we repent, God remits those sins. In other words, from God’s perspective, it is as if we NEVER committed the offense!
I’ve got to say that again: From God's perspective: WE. NEVER. COMMITTED. THE. OFFENSE.
I missed that incredible truth for decades and decades. I knew my sins were forgiven, but I never realized that God completely and totally erased my confessed sins. That means He no longer even REMEMBERS those sins – either now or in the future – because as far as He is concerned, I never even committed them!
Please. Take a moment to think of the absolute worst sin you have ever committed. The very worst sin. And now, have you asked God to forgive that sin for the sake of Jesus’ sacrifice? If you did, then let me repeat myself because this is so important:
God tells you through His unchangeable Word that He remitted that sin. In other words, from God's point of view, YOU NEVER COMMITTED THAT OFFENSE.
It doesn’t matter the depth and breadth and length and height of that sin – whatever it was. Once you confessed it to God and repentance took place, God counted that sin as if you never did it.
Oh! No wonder St. Paul wrote: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness [Greek: Remission] of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He LAVISHED [Greek meaning] on us.” (Ephesians 1:7-8a).
As I said, we are now in the season of Lent – the time set apart in the Christian calendar to focus perhaps more pointedly on God's mercy to forgive the truly penitent. It is His divine prerogative to remit – to utterly cancel – our confessed sins, to deal with them through the precious blood of Jesus in such a way that they will never, ever again be remembered by God – either in this life or at any time in our future.
And that is why when we confess, repent, and have our sins remitted, we can shout it aloud: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”