[Excerpt from Follow: Learning to Follow Jesus by Daniel McNaughton & Bryan Koch]
Many people struggle with believing God will forgive them. When we do not know we can be forgiven, there are only a few options for us. We might work to try to get God to like us and to forgive us (volunteer at church, help the poor, give money) in hopes that our good deeds will outweigh our bad deeds. We try to prove to God that we are worthy to be loved. But we always wonder if we did enough so we live under a cloud of fear. We might ignore the question of God’s forgiveness, trying to not think about it. Since there is nothing we can do about it, why dwell on it?
We might minimize our sin by saying “everyone does it” or “what I did want as bad as…” We might get angry at ourselves. It is a terrible weight to remember what we have done. Some of us beat ourselves up emotionally or in other ways, thinking that if we hurt ourselves enough, maybe we will never do the bad deed again…
We might even get angry at God. No one is perfect. “Since God is already upset with me for doing wrong, I might as well continue to do what pleases me.” We might do even more things that we know displeases God because we have given up trying to please Him. We might ask God to forgive us as well.
- What types of the responses do you see among the criminals crucified beside Jesus?
- What was Jesus’ response to the criminal who asked Jesus to remember him?
It is really important that you notice that Jesus accepted that criminal and that the criminal did nothing to deserve it. Jesus simply gave him the gift of forgiveness and relationship for eternity because he asked.
- What is your normal response to dealing with memories of past failures?
My (Bryan- the Author) natural inclination is to work. I tried various ways over the years to prove to others that I was worthy to be loved. This was especially true in high school when I was focused on becoming a good baseball player. I had a real performance mentality toward acceptance and approval. I really felt the better I performed the more I would be valued. While I did achieve some success, the feelings of happiness and self-worth were only temporary. I was coming to realize success in any area didn’t necessarily lead to feeling significant cant. I often though, “There must be more to life than this.” Have you ever felt that way? If so, what did you do to try to find meaning in life?
One of the problems with thinking this way is that we think our value is established by what we do rather that what Christ has done for us. When we do this, we live our lives based on a lie, that our worth is dependent on us and not God.
Jesus already paid the price for your sin. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more or love you less. No matter how hard you work or how perfectly or imperfectly you serve Him, He will not love you any more or any less than He does right now.
- What are you initial reactions to that statement?
- How will knowing this truth affect that way you respond to God?