How Far Does God's Forgiveness Reach?
- Michael Jakes Pastor, writer
- 2020 23 Jul
“But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you’” (Mark 16:7).
Here we see one of the most comforting passages in the entire Bible. It resonates with all the grace, mercy and compassion that is only available through the Lord. It also reveals the true heart of our Savior, as He sets forth one of His most essential qualities that should bring a praise to our lips on a daily basis. Without this distinguishing attribute, we would find it most difficult to live the type of life that would be pleasing to the Lord.
What is this essential quality? It is forgiveness. While the word does not appear in our verse, its fingerprints are all over it. We can see this divine act in the simple phrase, “and Peter.”
During this most painful season in his life, we can safely conclude that Peter may have been feeling like somewhat of an outcast. The severity of what he had done cannot be denied. He had denied ever knowing his Lord. Scripture records the actions of Peter and the disciples on this fateful night:
“But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled. And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end” (Matthew 26:56-58).
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God’s Forgiveness Reaches Up to Where We Are
Peter’s sin was the product of his pride and stubborn will. Pride is that high place we live in when we perceive ourselves to be something that we are not. It can be very subtle and we must be careful not to allow this attitude to overtake us.
The Bible says that a man should beware when he thinks he is standing, because a fall is imminent (1 Corinthians 10:12). Though we know he meant well, it can be said that Peter was a man who thought highly of himself and his belief that he would stay beside the Lord to the very end:
“But he replied, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death’” (Luke 22:33).
With his pride as the catalyst, he would make this proud proclamation. Coupled with Jesus’ sobering and prophetic words to him, he would be plunged into personal despair as he left the scene of his crime:
“Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75).
I can see Peter running away and crying uncontrollably, as the Scripture indicates, and seeking some way out of his dilemma. Satan must have brought to his mind just what Jesus told him, attempting to do to him as he had done to Judas; but this was not to be the case because in spite of this horrible sin, Peter never lost his faith. When Jesus spoke the words, “tell His disciples and Peter” it signaled to all that though Peter had separated himself, Christ had received him. It was now Jesus’ words to him that would come to pass:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).
How does all of this affect us? If we are not careful, Satan can use our unconfessed sin against us. He has not changed his tactics. He desires to have us and shake us to a point where we become so frustrated, that we turn our backs on the Lord. But like Peter, we must seek refuge in the arms of our loving Savior.
But just how far does His pardon extend? And just how much can we expect Him to forgive us?
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God’s Forgiveness Reaches Down to Where We Are
I am thinking about the great King David. We know him as a man after God’s own heart. But what does this mean? It means that David, at his core, knew who his God was, and desired to live in obedience to Him. He had lived a life that was marked by trust. A careful reading of the Psalms bears out the great love he had for God and His Word. This love and trust would carry him through his difficult days.
This warrior king would eventually “go against the grain,” and sin greatly. At a particular season, he would remain at home, rather than be in the field with his men, and plunge himself into months of despair. This sin would bring him low, but God would reach down to him, just as he does with us.
If you have ever thought that you have gone so low that you can’t get up, it is the Spirit of God that will bring you back. He does this because He longs to forgive us and bring us back into proper fellowship with Him. God’s forgiveness will reach down to where we are:
“Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me. Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning” (Psalm 38:2-6).
These troubling verses show us the depths to which we can fall, and the stark effects of conviction on the body, spirit and mind. Conviction is not meant to be, but can be a painful experience—especially when we choose to fight against it. We read more from Psalm 32:
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:3-5).
The Lord reaches down to where we are and He is ready to forgive us when we acknowledge and admit that we have sinned.
I will cite one final case to reveal that there is no limit to God’s forgiveness; no matter how extreme the case. Maybe you have never been in such a state, but it will illustrate that no matter how far an individual may have gone, God’s forgiveness is available.
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God’s Forgiveness Reaches Out to Where We Are
“When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones” (Mark 5:2-5).
We are not told how this man ended up in this condition. Whatever had happened to him, he was no longer in control of himself. Anyone who has ever been in the throes of an addiction of any kind would understand to certain degree the plight of this man. By no means do I mean to imply that addiction equals possession, because it does not; however, both conditions need supernatural deliverance from the Lord. This event is not just clear evidence of the Lord’s power to heal, and restore, but it also tells us that it does not matter how far an individual has gone, because His forgiveness is limitless. We read further:
“When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid” (Mark 5:15).
This man was now basking in the direct results of what the Lord had done for him. What exactly did He do?
“Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you’” (Mark 5:19).
The mark of God’s compassion is forgiveness. By it we are comforted, and by it we are restored.
What is your story? Has He shown himself to be gracious to you? I am sure that He has. Only in eternity will we fully see and comprehend the awesome measure of His forgiveness.
“Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).
Thank him today for His abundant forgiveness toward you – He is worthy!
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