Monday of Holy Week

Promise of Forgiveness

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”  —Mark 1:14-15

When Miranda and I lived in Mesquite, Texas, we had a neighbor who attended a Baptist Church. He came by one day to talk about their new pastor. He said he was doing his best to support this new leader, but it was difficult. This pastor measured his success by the number of people who would walk the aisle each Sunday. There were some Sundays, my friend said, when no one would walk the aisle and this made him uneasy. He confessed that he would occasionally come forward, even though he had been unmoved by the sermon, just to support the pastor. “I have repented for my sins so many times,” he said, “I am looking for new ways to sin, just so I can walk the aisle and support my pastor.”

When I thought of that conversation as I was writing this meditation, I had the image of a Whirling Dervish. The word repentance means “to turn around”. Once we have turned around, we don’t stay where we are and keep turning; we need to move forward. When we are sinning, we are walking away from God. To repent is to turn around and move toward God, to walk in His Way. We are to “walk in right pathways for His Name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).

When Nehemiah heard the call to rebuild Jerusalem, he immediately repented on behalf of the nation of Israel. Then, he turned his eyes toward the Holy Land and pressed forward to fulfill God’s call to rebuild the Holy City. The walls would never have been rebuilt if Nehemiah had not accepted the remission of sin that God was offering. He received God’s promise of forgiveness and moved forward in the power of a redeemed life.

At the beginning of our Lord’s earthly ministry, St. Mark tells us that “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel’” (1:14-15). The “time is fulfilled” simply means NOW! The Kingdom of God is present now, in this moment of time. It is time to believe the Good News. He has told us during this Lenten season what we need to do. He has forgiven our sins and called us to newness of life. We have accepted that call. Now is the time to move forward in “right pathways for His Name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). There are new walls to be built!

Many people have a hard time accepting that God’s forgiveness is assured. They spend their energy repenting of the same sins over and over again. We made a vow in our baptism that we would “persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord”. And we must honor that vow. But we must also respect the Lord and His gracious gift of forgiveness of our sins. We do not honor Him by repeatedly repenting of the same sins! His Word is sure. His promise is secure. We are forgiven. We need to accept that forgiveness and move forward in His grace, His love, His power.

As we move forward in this Holy Week, and look toward carrying out God’s call to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, let God remind us of His loving redemption. His promise of forgiveness resonates throughout both covenants in the Bible. We need to accept that forgiveness, put away the old self, and put on the new self in Christ. Here are a few Scriptures promising forgiveness. Take a few moments, read through these promises. Receive and cherish God’s gracious forgiveness.

Psalm 103:12  “…as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

Isaiah 43:25  “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Jeremiah 31:34 “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Micah 7:19  “He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities underfoot. He will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

Mark 2:10 “…the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…”

Ephesians 1:7  “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…”

Hebrews 10:17 “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

1 John 1:9  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

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