And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with] the Holy Spirit.”
“Are we ever forgiven?”
That’s the cry of Joel Maisel’s heart on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” After blowing up his marriage and life, he turns to a total stranger and asks if we are ever forgiven.
It’s an important question. It’s a haunting question. And it’s a confusing question
because we’ve changed the meaning of forgiveness to something more convenient, simpler, easier to swallow, achieved quickly and with little to no effort or pain. We want that “plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is” kind of forgiveness. A forgiveness that:
· Costs nothing.
· Demands nothing.
· Changes nothing.
But that isn’t John the Baptists’ kind of forgiveness or repentance. It wasn’t come down into the water and have your sins washed away just so you could go back out and do the same thing again. And again. And again.
His baptism came at a cost, and it was a high cost.
· Confessing – they agreed with God on who he was and his view of life. His view of reality. His view on how he made us. Confessing puts us in a position of submission to God, who he is, what he thinks is pure and perfect. Confessing put’s God’s truth, his view of reality, ahead of what we might think, or what to think. Confessing also moves God’s view of reality into first place over and above what’s popular at any particular moment in time. Confessing is NOT feeling sorry for the pain in our lives, but for the pain it caused God.
· Their sins – they were to list the different ways that they had missed the target of what God said was right. What God said was true. What God said was good. What God said was real.
· Public – It’ one thing to confess your sins to God, but it’s an entirely different thing to confess in public.
Forgiveness does not come from:
· Feeling sorry for what you’ve done.
· Overcoming your weaknesses.
· Repairing what you’ve broken.
· Giving back what you’ve stolen.
· Inching towards improvement.
· Vainly doing it on your own.
· Eliminating what you’ve become.
Forgiveness comes when we point to ourselves, admitting that we are wrong in comparison to God and his view of life and reality. But it doesn’t stop there, we then commit ourselves to God’s authority and power to change our lives, and this change will make itself shown in our actions.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
A flywheel is something that’s designed and made to keep on going. Once you get it moving, it will keep on spinning, and spinning, and spinning. And once it’s started, it takes little effort to keep it going.
The gift of forgiveness from God is like a flywheel. Once it’s started, it leads to a changed life, and a changed life leads to a greater sense of forgiveness.
So, the question is how desperate are we to move away from where we are and towards aligning ourselves with the one who made us, who loves us, the one who died for us? It’s one thing to say we're sorry, but it is an entirely different thing to repent, to commit ourselves to change into the kind of person God wants us to be.
Are you ready for that kind of changed life?