What would life be like if we were all treated according to our worst moment? What if we all wore our own scarlet letter? A constant reminder to ourselves and announcement to those around us of what has gone wrong? These things would bring certain judgment, humiliation, anxiety and condemnation. While we don’t have the physical branding of our sins many of us continue to live our lives with the internal scars and still open wounds. We have allowed guilt and shame to become even greater problems than scarlet letters because the letters would separate us from each other, but guilt and shame separate us from God. When Adam and Eve sinned they were immediately afraid of God and ashamed of themselves and so they went and they hid. Guilt and shame continue to cause the same reaction in all of us; we hide. The Bible tells us to confess our sins one to another but shame makes us hide our sins from each other. It tells us “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us” and yet we live in fear of punishment and some sort of retribution. The truth of the matter is that we have believed more of what our enemy has said about forgiveness than we have of what God has said.
In Psalm 103 David wrote, “He (God) has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.” The thing that is amazing and powerful about this verse is that David did not write this as some form of theology, to teach us theories about God. When he was writing this it was not as prophesy to tell us some future thing that God would do. David wrote this verse as a testimony of his own experience with God. This verse is not conjecture it is reality. It is not hopeful, it is past tense, secured, accomplished. David had not been told this about God, he had lived it, experienced and enjoyed it. David had sinned greatly and yet he declares that in the greatness of his sin God was greater. God had not dealt with David according to his sin and He will not deal with us according to our sins either.
My question over the past week or so has been, “if He has not dealt with us according to our sin then how has He dealt with us?” David went further to write, “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him.” Paul wrote in Ephesians, “But God, who is rich in mercy because of (or according to) His great love with which He has loved us . . .” David proclaims God’s mercy and Paul declares that His mercy is because of His love for us. God has not dealt with us according to our sins because He has chosen to deal with us according to His love for us! Whenever God looks into our lives, and He is constantly looking, He looks through love. When God considers us it is not in spite of our sin, it is because of His love. He is not waiting for us to do enough good to outweigh the bad, He has tipped the scales and decided that His love, poured out by His blood, is always greater than our sin, always greater.
Paul wrote in Romans 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus”. If we are in Jesus then we must stop fearing condemnation. If we are in Jesus we must let go of our fears of the past, our shame of the sin and our guilt of the flesh. If God has chosen to deal with us according to His love then we must begin to deal with Him in the same way! We must begin “coming boldly to the throne of grace”, not because we earned it but because we believe that we are loved. We must begin believing that our sins and the stains that they brought have been washed away because of God’s love and we must begin living lives that not only have received forgiveness but now provide forgiveness as well. II Corinthians 5 pleads with us to be reconciled to God, to believe in the mercy that has been given and the live according to the love that has been chosen. From being reconciled it then says that we have been given the “ministry of reconciliation.” It is not enough to be forgiven, we must forgive. It is not enough to be redeemed, we must become vehicles of redemption. It is not enough to be reconciled and returned to God, we must become the ministers of reconciliation and those that lead others along the path of salvation.
Guilt and shame are lies from Satan. They are lies that try to take salvation out of God’s hands and put it in ours. Guilt and shame declare that we have not done enough to make up for the past; they work together and they have two purposes, to divide us from God and to destroy us with fear. I John gives us this great promise that needs to become a litmus test for our lives, “perfect love casts out fear.” Are you afraid of God tonight? Are you afraid that He won’t forgive? Are you afraid that you might get found out? Have gone too far or won’t ever be able to get it right? The perfect love of God longs to remove all those fears from your life. God won’t love you more, in fact He can’t, His love is already perfect and complete. The thing that is lacking is not a measure of God’s love it is our willingness to believe in His love. If we can believe that we are loved then we can receive forgiveness, we can enjoy redemption and we can become ministers of reconciliation. David knew better than most of us ever could how God dealt with sin. David had been confronted and repented, he had shared his heart with God and let God share His heart with him. While there were consequences to his sin, there always are, David found out that losing God’s love was not one of them. I encourage you today, God is not looking at your sin, He is looking at you. He is not plotting how to punish your sin, He is preparing ways to show you His love. God knows all of your sins, but He didn’t just learn about them, He knew them before you were born, He knew about them before the world was even formed and in the midst of knowing all of the sins that we would ever commit He loved us, He made a way of forgiveness and He gave His life for our redemption. David learned and I pray that we will also, that God does not look at us as the sum of our sins, He looks at us with the sum of His love.