Friday, April 12, 2013

Forgiveness Past, Present and Future

Yesterday it was my privilege to hear a moving conversion story from a young man who opened his life to Jesus Christ a month ago. Not raised in church, losing his father to a tragic car accident before he was even born, and living his life of twenty-four years without God or any plumbline of morality, this young man teared-up as he described how in a very dark moment of his life last month, the knowledge of his need for Christ became a reality, and he gave his life to God, expressing his belief that he was on a path to ruin, and only God could turn him around. He came to me because Emmanuel was really the only church he attended during his immoral days where "he felt loved and not condemned" and he wanted to be baptized at Emmanuel to publicly share his new life in Christ.

I offered some words of encouragement and then gave him a copy of Happiness Doesn't Just Happen. Do you know what my words of encouragement were? You may be surprised. Here is what I told him.

"You have been saved. You may not realize all that means right now, but it's all good. God has loved you, reached down in His mercy and opened your eyes to your need of Him and revealed to you what Christ has done for you. He has become the Father you never had. You have been born from above. His love for you is unconditional, His kindness toward you is immeasurable, and His mercies will be new and fresh every morning. Everything in your life He will now ultimately work for your good. He is that good. That's His name - God - the abbreviation for the English word good.
You are going to screw up again. You will morally fail again. You will struggle in the future with the desire to party the way you used to party. Your old friends will seek to pull you back with them. Your old patterns of living are not gone - the battle is just beginning- and there will be days you will fail miserably.
Remember this. When Jesus died all your sins were future. He carried all your sins away. Your future screw-ups no more cause Him to love you less than your past screw-ups. You can't promise Him things to get Him to love you more, and you can't perform better to get Him to be good to you. He treats you just as if you never sinned and just as if you never will sin even though you have sinned and you will sin. Your relationship with the invisible, immortal and omnipotent God of the universe is good-to-go because of your faith in Christ, and all blessings of the obedience of Christ toward the Father are now yours because of faith. God sees no sin in you anymore. Period.
Then why change? Why transform? Because of the nature of sin. Sexual immorality, hatred, drunkenness, stealing, cursing, (_________ fill in the blank) is sweet like honey when it happens, but in time it is like gravel in the mouth. Living life without thought of God brings only temporary pleasure and guaranteed pain. You can't help but change because your perspective is changing. You are now thinking of the eternal. You recognize that there is more to life than just the immediate. You change because you are changed - by God.
My job is to help you realize that your relationship with God is like no other relationship you will ever have. Everyone else loves you, accepts you, stays with you, embraces you, guides you, protects you, enjoys you because of your performance. Not God. His favor towards you never changes because His Son has accomplished for you in the past what you will never be able to accomplish now or in the future. The great privilege of being a Christian is to unlock the riches of His grace and to continue to discover His immeasurable love."
I am convinced that if we preachers spent more time exalting Christ and less time being concerned about people's present or future screw-ups, more people would experience the life changing transformation of God's amazing grace through faith in Christ. I am often accused of being an antinomion ("one with no law"). So be it. Christ is the end of the law for me.

In His Grace,



Eric said...

You wrote: "I am convinced that if we preachers spent more time exalting Christ and less time being concerned about people's present or future screw-ups, more people would experience the life changing transformation of God's amazing grace through faith in Christ. I am often accused of being an antinomion ("one with no law"). So be it. Christ is the end of the law for me."

That is so true. I have to wonder if our preoccupation with the sins of others isn't more of a sign of the sins we are dealing with (or not) inside our own hearts, rather than a real concern for the purity and holiness of the congregations.

Wade Burleson said...

Pretty perceptive Eric!

Tanya Kennedy said...

call me if I can ever help.. :)

Tom Kelley said...

Excellent message, Wade. It's sad that what ought to be our primary message to the world and to the church is hard so little these days, and it so often obfuscated by church rules, regulations, polices and programs.

One question (and definitely not a major point) -- can you tell me a source for your statement that the name God is an abbreviation of the word good? I was under the impression that the came from different root words.

Bob Cleveland said...

Somewhat ironic that Sunday's Gospel Project will be on our identity in Christ, and that it is solely in Christ, and in no one or no thing else.

I'll be emphasizing what I think is a vastly under-emphasized point: to my knowledge, Jesus said He came to earth for two reasons: one was to seek & save that which was lost, but the other was that we might have life .. abundant life.

I often use the illustration with my class, that the real authority on the purpose and use of a machine or tool is the guy that manufactured it. Since God manufactured us, He's the source of the information on how to live an abundant life. And He told us how, in the scriptures.

Obedience to what He's told us is not to avoid punishment or gain His favor .. it's to have an abundant life! And everyone I've ever discussed this with has, without exception, said they wanted abundant life, regardless of how God will define it in our lives.

No fear. Only hope and expectation.

Victorious said...

You can't help but change because your perspective is changing.


I loved this post...every time I hear of a new convert, I relive my own conversion and remember how prior to it life seemed so meaningless.

Thank you for sharing your excellent advice to him as well, Wade. I'll keep this young man in my prayers.

Wade Burleson said...


is a link that can begin your search.

Michael said...

Great wisdom and well said Wade! I posted the following on facebook yesterday. "Many people have been trained religiously that life is mostly about 'not sinning,' which creates quite a problem. And that is, that the dominant thing on that persons sin! The beauty of embracing grace and living in Him is that it lifts a huge burden from ones shoulders which allows a person to live life, not as an obstacle course, trying to avoid sin, but by walking a straight line, with great confidence and head held high, assured of full forgiveness by the Spirit of God living within. What a joy to live in truth!"

Steve Martin said...


"Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for all those who believe."

He is enough. He is enough.

Wade Burleson said...

Very well said Michael!

Wade Burleson said...

Ditto back at you Steve!

Aussie John said...


Thank you for an excellent article. Like much of what you and your Dad write, it deserves a wide audience.

Unknown said...

Could I use this quote, with your permission, as long as I cite you? I would like to share this with my congregation.

Wade Burleson said...

Absolutely Joe!

A. Amos Love said...


“I am often accused of being an antinomion ("one with no law").
So be it. Christ is the end of the law for me.”

1 - We are delivered from the law. Rom 7:6.
2 - We are - Dead to the law. Rom 7:4.
3 - We are - Not under the law. Rom 6:14
4 - We are - Free from the law. Rom 8:2.
5 - The law worketh wrath. Rom 4:13-16.
6 - We are - Redeemed from the curse of the law. Gal 3:13.
7 - We are - No longer under a schoolmaster. ( The law.) Gal 3:23-26.
8 - The law is not made for a rightous man. 1 Tim 1:9.
9 - By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified. Rom 3:19.
10- The law is not of faith. Gal 3:2.
11 - No man is justified by the law in the sight of God... Gal 3:10-11.
12 - ... the strength of sin is the law. 1 Cor 15:56

Thank You Jesus

Anonymous said...

Romans 8:3 says the law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. Thanks be to Jesus Christ for coming to fulfil all the demands of the law of Moses on our behalf. This he did by perfectly observing all the laws of Moses, by teaching a higher standard of behavior, by giving himself as a perfect and worthy sacrifice for sin, and by sending his Holy Spirit to be our inner spiritual motor, according to the new covenant promise of Jeremiah 31:31. We are now outside, beyond and above the laws of Moses--not being without law toward God but being under the law of Christ( 1 Cor. 9:21).
Jesus calls us to put our faith in his divine person, our trust in his atoning work, and to follow him all the days of our life. Through his inspiration we now feel the need to aspire to prayerful communion with him, to being 'fishers of men', and to doing deeds of love to all. In his strength, we choose to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit, and seek to avoid becoming entangled with the idols of this world. The book of Hebrews warns us in several paces not to run aground by being careless of our behavior. But if we sin, we have an advocate with our gracious heavenly Father, who is always ready to forgive and restore those who come to him with a humble and contrite heart.


Chris said...

Christ is ever good that no mater how many times we sin and fail Him, He is always there to remind us how we are loved and how important we are. Instruments and channels like ministries and churches are around us to let us see light in our darkest hours. And when we see light and embraced the path towards God, it is then that evil will persist to pull us back to darkness. It is then that our new-found faith in Christ will help us through.

Rex Ray said...

All you guys…especially Amos Love,

Do you realize you would be facing being stoned by the Jerusalem Church (Acts 21:22) who was “zealous for the Law of Moses. (Acts 21:20)

To break the Law was death (Man gathering wood on the Sabbath was stoned. (Numbers 15:32-36), but to preach against the Law was worse.

“Some say that I preach Jewish laws are necessary to the plan of salvation. If I preached that I would be persecuted no more. The fact that I am persecuted proves that I preach salvation through faith in the cross of Christ alone.” (Gal. 5:11 Living)

Rex Ray said...

Were the ‘Powers that be’ bragging or complaining when they told Paul?

“You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law.” (Acts 21:20 Holman)

Who but the church leaders keep their flock informed?
“But they have been told ABOUT YOU…” (Acts 21: 21)

Who kept the church leaders informed?

Spies always report to their ‘bosses’:

“…some so-called “Christians” there—false ones, really—who came to spy on us and see what freedom we enjoyed in Christ Jesus, as to whether we obeyed the Jewish laws or not…” (Galatians 2:4 Living)

A report given to the Church of who was good and bad Christians in Third John:

“…traveling teachers…have told the church here of your…loving deeds…” “I sent a brief letter to the church…Diotrephes…does not admit my authority over him and refuses to listen to me…what wicked things he is saying about me…” (Living)

Maybe Diotrephes practiced Paul’s advice: “Let God’s curse fall on anyone…who preaches a different kind of Good News…” (Gal. 1:8)

Who was this John?

History records not long after his brother, James, was killed; John the apostle was boiled in oil. Thus he could not have written Third John in 90-95 A.D.

I believe Third John was written by who he said he was “John the Elder.” Would Obama refer to himself as a Senator?