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Forgiveness

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 1 John 1:9, which says, "If we confess our sins, He [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." It's my favorite because I use it so much.

When I was a freshman at Baylor, I attended a Freshman Retreat sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. The first night there, the director spoke about that verse and then had us to take a piece of paper, get somewhere by ourselves, and then write down every sin that we could think of that we had committed. We could use more paper if we needed to. When we were finished, we were to ask God to forgive us those sins and then we were to write across those lists, in large print, 1 John 1:9. Then the final thing we were to do was to either to tear that list up or to burn it. In some way we were to destroy it because God had forgiven us for all those sins we had committed, and it was all on the basis of a repentant heart and the promise of His word.

But that's what God does. He forgives us of our sins when we sincerely ask Him to do so. This also precludes that we are sorry for those sins, whatever they might be. If we're not sorry, then don't bother asking for forgiveness because He won't forgive us. Verse 8 of 1 John 1 says "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." But if we confess them, that means that we agree with Him that what we said or did or thought was wrong and we are in need of His forgiveness.

Forgiveness also involves one other element, and that's repentance. Repentance means turning and going in the opposite direction. It means to turn away from the path that you are on and walking on the path that God has laid out for you to walk. It not only means being sorry for your sin, but being sorry enough for you to quit! It's a change of heart, not of opinion. In Johnstown, Pa., a tool-supply company received in the mail a $45 check to pay for a stolen hammer. The hammer was stolen more than 20 years ago. According to news reports, the check was accompanied by a letter that said, "Enclosed is $45 to cover the hammer plus a little extra for interest. I'm sorry I stole it, but have changed my ways." That's what repentance is, it's a change not only of heart, but of life as well.

And when we confess our sins, something else happens, peace. Peace with God and peace with the one we ask forgiveness of. Why? Because the wall that separates us is now torn down. And when that happens, friendship is once again restored.

When is the last time you asked someone to forgive you, and more important, when is the last time you asked God to forgive you? Why not do that exercise that I did so long ago at Baylor? You will be surprised at the peace it brings.

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