Forgiveness: No Fishing Allowed

A pastor's son and his mom had been to a shopping mall and the boy had badly misbehaved, whining for this and that, running off, etc. As they were driving home, the boy could sense his mother's displeasure and said, "Mother, when we ask God to forgive us when we are bad, He does, doesn't He?" She replied, "Yes, He does." The boy continued, "And when He forgives us, He buries our sins in the deepest sea, doesn't He? The mom replied, "Yes, that's what the Bible says." The boy was silent for awhile and then said, "I've asked God to forgive me, but I bet when we get home, you're going to go fishing for those sins, aren't you?"

Too often, we do "go fishing" for other people's sins. But one of the wonderful aspects of God's forgiveness is that He promises to remember our sins no more (Isa. 43:25; Jer. 31:34). The past -- with its iniquities, brokenness, and self-recrimination -- is gone, dead, crucified in Christ. What God forgives, He also forgets.

Bruce Larson tells the true story of a Catholic priest living in the Philippines, a much-loved man of God who carried a secret burden of a sinful past hidden deep in his heart. He had committed a grievous sin during his days in seminary. He had since repented and suffered years of remorse for the transgression, but he still had no peace, no inner joy, and no sense of God's forgiveness.

In the priest's parish there was a woman who deeply loved God and claimed to have visions of Christ, where she would speak with Him and He with her. The priest, however, was skeptical of her claims, so to test her visions he said, "You say you actually speak directly with Christ in your visions. Let me ask you a favor. The next time you have one of these visions, I want you to ask Him what sin your priest committed while he was in seminary."

The woman agreed and went home. When she returned to the church a few days later, the priest asked, "Well, did Christ visit you in your dreams?"

She replied, "Yes, He did."

"And did you ask Him what sin I committed in seminary?"

"Yes, I asked Him."

"Well, what did He say?"

"He said, 'I don't remember.'"

Would that we would learn to forgive others as God has forgiven us. The Scriptures command: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Eph. 4:32).

How wonderful the model of God's forgiveness! God didn't wait for us to come and make everything right before He extended His compassion. He sought us out, desiring reconciliation. Billy Graham has often said the uniqueness of Christianity is that in Christ God is seeking man. In every other religion, man is seeking God.

Moreover, when forgiveness is granted, Jay Adams in his book, From Forgiven to Forgiving rightly contends God then goes on record saying: "I will not bring up these matters to you or others in the future. I will bury them and not exhume the bones to beat you over the head with them. I will never use these sins against you."

Can you imagine what it would do for our relationships if we would genuinely seek one another out in the spirit of reconciliation, granting forgiveness and making the solemn promise not to remember someone's sin by not ever bringing it up to them, to others, or to ourselves? The impact would be profound!

In fact, the congregations at New Life Baptist and Springs Road Baptist Churches in Conover, North Carolina, can tell you just how profound. In a recent article of the Biblical Recorder, the newspaper for North Carolina Baptists, Norman Jameson tells how a revival meeting that eventually stretched for 35 nights resulted in "testimonies of families being brought back together again, a lot of forgiveness and receiving of forgiveness, families that had been broken apart and children leaving, those who had bitterness toward others were reconciled .... "

Steve Clark, New Life's pastor said, "We repented seemingly over and over again as nights of revival went on." But Clark added he knew the church needed to go further. Sixteen years earlier, New Life formed with a 150-member core group that split from Springs Road over a personnel issue. Clark was convinced it was time to ask Springs Road "for forgiveness for hurtful things said and done during that time."

At first, letters between the two churches asking and receiving forgiveness were exchanged. But Clark and Springs Road pastor, Arthur Yount, came to believe the effort to reconcile could better be served by a special worship service at Springs Road. During the service, Yount told members of New Life: "We accept your confession of forgiveness and extend to you our own heartfelt sense of forgive us also because forgiveness needs to be in both directions." Later, both churches took out a full-page ad in the local newspaper and asked the community to forgive them for having previously failed to provide a good testimony of the love and forgiveness of God.

Oh the power of forgiveness!!!

Corrie ten Boom, in her book Tramp for the Lord, had these words to say regarding forgiveness: "It was 1947 ... I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander's mind, I like to think that that's where forgiven sins are thrown. 'When we confess our sins,' I said, 'God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever ... Then God places a sign out there that says No Fishing Allowed!'"

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