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Episode 13 of Kindavangelical just released! Patriarchal Regrets

Am I Beyond Forgiveness?
5-DAY READING

Do you ever wonder if your sins are unforgivable? Do you live with extreme guilt based on things you’ve done in the past? In this 5-day reading plan, Pete Briscoe tells us what the Bible says about our sin, God, and the extent of His forgiveness.

Day 1

Is Anyone Beyond Redemption?

I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night. —Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner is on the shortlist of my favorite books. It’s not an easy story, but it’s a powerful one about two boys who do everything together, including kite fighting. Amir fights the other kites, while Hassan chases down their kite when the string is severed. When Hassan takes longer than usual to return, his friend goes searching for him and finds Hassan cornered in an alley. Too afraid to help, Amir cowers in the shadows as the bullies abuse his friend in cruel and perverse ways. Amir then pretended he never saw a thing, crossing a line into unforgivable territory—not by doing something sinful, but by neglecting to do something good. The two boys–once like brothers–experienced a wall in their friendship.

Another literary example is Fantine in Les Misérables, a prostitute who walks the streets, desperate and despondent. The songs sung by her character are filled with tangible hopelessness, as Fantine is convinced she’s crossed the line into the unforgivable and declares herself unlovable.

What’s your story? Are there events and choices you’ve made which haunt you, telling you that you’re beyond redemption?

In this reading plan, we’re going to silence the hopelessness that tells us we’re irredeemable. We’re going to rewrite the lie that says, “The worse your sin is, the less eligible you are for redemption.” There is no line of demarcation declaring us too filthy and too wretched for Jesus.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Just as He embraced broken people then, He’ll embrace people who sin now. So if you’re convinced that a holy God will never find you lovable, continue with me on a journey to encounter Jesus.

Lord, it’s one thing to say You came to save sinners, but it’s an entirely different thing to know my own sin and still believe that You love me. This week, soak me in the truth that sin doesn’t disqualify me from Your love. Amen.

Day 2

How Much Sin Is Too Much?

To sing a wrong note is insignificant, but to sing without passion is unforgivable. —Ludwig van Beethoven

Is there a line you can cross—a point of no return—that declares you unforgivable? Some of you philosophical readers are thinking, Ah, yes. Absolutely. There has to be a line.

But where would that line be?

Perhaps you’d respond, “Hitler,” because Hitler always comes up in these conversations. I mean, surely a man who kills one person might find forgiveness and redemption. Perhaps even an individual who kills six others can be forgiven. But 6 million? The line must exist somewhere between 6 and 6 million. And if we argue this is true of Hitler, then it’s an easy jump to argue it’s also true for human traffickers, abortionists, child molesters—the list can go on!

Are there certain people who are beyond redemption?

It’s time for the theologians to jump in, saying, “In Luke 12:10, Jesus drew a line! He says that ‘anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.’ This is the line of unforgiveness—the point of no return.”

But what does it mean to blaspheme? Scripture repeatedly teaches that the role of the Spirit is to draw us into a relationship with God. So if the Holy Spirit tries to draw you into a relationship with God, and you say, “No, thanks,” then you’ve blasphemed His Spirit. To say, “No, thanks,” is the spiritual equivalent of giving the Holy Spirit the bird (and I don’t mean a dove). Endlessly rejecting God’s saving work is unforgivable.

Did you notice what isn’t written in Luke 12:10? It doesn’t say that anyone who has killed 6 million people will not be forgiven. Nor does it say that child molesters won’t be forgiven.

The idea that the worse your sin, the less eligible you are for redemption is a lie. It cannot stand in the light of Jesus.

If you’ve bought into that lie for yourself or for others, I have some really great news for you.

Jesus, I have a list of things I think should be beyond forgiveness. But if my list doesn’t match Your list, then it’s time to crumple it up and toss it in the trash. Give me eyes to see the world not only as a people who need Your redemption but also as a people who can all experience Your redemption, starting with myself. Amen.

Day 3

Erasing Imaginary Lines

Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable. It is the one unforgivable thing, in my opinion, and it is the one thing of which I have never, never been guilty. —Blanche DuBois, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

“But you don’t know what I’ve done.”

No, I don’t, but I can guess:

Some of you have had an abortion.

Some of you have had an affair, and your spouse is still unaware.

Some of you have embezzled.

Some of you have neglected and abused your children.

The list goes on and on, and we struggle to forgive ourselves. Surely a holy God cannot forgive us or love us either.

And so we’re desperate to know: Is there any hope?

Luke 7:36-50 holds our answer. Jesus has been invited to dine with one of the Pharisees named Simon. Jesus is reclined for dinner, propping his weight on one elbow and extending his feet away from the table (this was the way they ate dinner in those days), when a woman enters the story.

“A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house.” (Luke 7:37a)

“Sinful life” can be translated “line crosser.” Imagine the awkward hush that fell upon the room as she entered. Imagine the heightened tension as she cried on the guest of honor’s feet and wiped them clean with her hair. Such a gesture further proved her sinfulness, as a woman of good social standing would have kept her hair covered at all times.

Let me ask you, what might you have done if this were your dinner party? You invited the pastor over, and a prostitute is now kissing his feet—would you speak up?

Jesus’ host says nothing, but he does think something, “If [Jesus] were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39).

Ironically, Jesus reads his mind: “Simon, I have something to tell you…” (v. 40).

Jesus is about to speak into Simon’s thoughts toward this woman. The days of ostracizing those considered too sinful needed to end.

Jesus, open my ears to hear what You have to say about those irredeemable moments in my life and in the lives of others. You allowed a woman marked by poor choices to engage with You intimately. This is my hope. Lead me into this intimacy. Amen.

Day 4

Raving Fans

If I am able to look at the world with the eyes of God’s love and discover that God’s vision is… of an all-giving and forgiving father who does not measure out his love to his children according to how well they behave, then I quickly see that my only true response can be deep gratitude. —Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal

Imagine you and your neighbor work at the same manufacturing plant until, one day, you both lose your job. Soon, you’ve both missed payments on your home, and before long, you’re both called down to the bank, “Come in and let’s talk.”

You see your neighbor sitting in the lobby, and the man behind the oversize mahogany desk calls you into his office first. “You’ve missed some payments.”

Yeah, I know.

“You owe $35,000 on your loan.”

Yeah, I know, but it’s more than I’ve got.

“But here’s what I’m going to do,” the banker says, “I’m going to write off the loan.”

You skip out of his office and past your neighbor and declare, “What a top-notch banker!”

Your neighbor goes in for her turn and has the same conversation, but her debt was $350,000! Both of you are grateful, but who’s the bigger fan? Your neighbor, right? She’s a raving fan; everywhere she goes, she says, “You’ve got to meet this banker!”

This is the story Jesus tells in Luke 7, minus the mahogany desk.

“Simon,” Jesus says to His dinner host, who’s struggling with the sinful woman washing Jesus’ feet, “Which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said, (Luke 7:42b-43).

When Simon tried to define this woman by her sin, Jesus flipped it around and defined her by His forgiveness.

“Her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown” (Luke 7:47). She’s a raving fan.

The lie tells us that the worse our sin, the less eligible we are for redemption. But Jesus tells us that the worse our sin, the more grateful we are for redemption—the more grateful we are for Him.

Jesus, the more sinful I am, the more grateful I will be. This statement flips my own logic upside down and inside out. Show me how to rest in Your forgiveness with a grateful heart. Amen.

Day 5

The Reason for Jesus

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless. —G. K. Chesterton

If you’re raising a student-athlete, or have been one yourself, then you know that eligibility is linked with school performance. There’s an academic threshold, and once it’s been crossed, that athlete cannot step onto the field or court. That student becomes ineligible to play.

This performance-driven mentality can follow us into theology too. When we believe our behavior is linked to God’s ability and willingness to forgive us, we categorize sins as major versus minor. Minor sinners can experience Christ. But major sinners? We aren’t sure there’s hope for them.

Friends, listen carefully: Sin does not make you ineligible for redemption; sin is the reason redemption is necessary.

It frustrates me that our enemy so expertly twists the truth. He convinces us that our sin cancels the invitation to Christ, and our sin drives Jesus away from us. But here’s the truth: Because of our sin, Christ came for us. Because of our sin, Jesus invites us to Him.

The only question you have to answer is: Do you believe you were saved nearly 2,000 years ago on a hill outside Jerusalem?

“Do you see this woman?” Jesus asks His dinner host, as the rest of the room watches a sinful woman wash Jesus’ feet beneath an awkward hush. “I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven…” (Luke 7:44, 47).

Jesus looks at the woman crouched over his feet, her hair matted with dirt and tears, and says to her, “Your faith has saved you…” (Luke 7:50).

This woman believed Jesus was her Savior, and her only response to having her numerous sins forgiven was gratitude. This is the way the Kingdom increases: the greater your sin, the greater your gratitude will be for the finished work of Jesus.

Lord, am I the woman who has come to You in faith and washed You in gratitude? Am I the Pharisee struggling to understand how sinful people can experience You so intimately? Or am I the disciples, silenced by the awkwardness of Your unconditional acceptance of sinners? Thank You that Your Spirit indwells me and invites me into Your way of doing things. Lead me to Your feet, Lord, and use me as an invitation for others to join me there. Amen.

Reflection:

  1. Have I accepted the forgiveness that God has already given me?
  2. No sin is too big for God to forgive. Do I believe this is true for me?

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