It’s Wonderful to Be Forgiven
Author: Bob Kellmen
The Big Idea: Learn how to help others to receive the wonders of Christ’s forgiveness. (Excerpted from Spiritual Friends.)
When a brother or sister repents of sinful patterns of the heart, we need to become dispensers of Christ’s grace who communicate “it’s wonderful to be forgiven.” Three categories summarize the types of gospel conversations that enlighten others to grasp the wonders of forgiveness:
• Calm the Conscience
• Assure the Conscience
• Comfort the Conscience
Calm the Conscience
Since little counsel can be received when the conscience is in intense turmoil, refuse to let sin overwhelm the conscience. The worst sin of all is denying grace. Therefore, the worst thing that you can do is to allow Satan to overwhelm others so they despair of grace in the midst of their sin. Sin can be forgiven, but believing that sin can’t be forgiven leaves people hopelessly despairing. Satan tempts us to deny Christ’s claims, claiming instead that our sin is greater than Christ’s forgiveness. To calm the conscience, help people to distinguish between law and gospel, as Martin Luther did:
It is the supreme art of the devil that he can make the law out of the gospel. If I can hold on to the distinction between law and gospel, I can say to him any and every time that he should kiss my backside. Even if I sinned, I would say, “Should I deny the gospel on this account?”
To counter Satan’s lies, engage in spiritual conversations:
• Where were you recruited into the idea that God is angry with you and rejects you when you sin? Who modeled this idea for you? Does it seem to square with your understanding of the Bible? Of grace? Of Christ?
• In the Scriptures (Psalm 1, Psalm 32, Psalm 51, and Romans 8:1-39) and throughout Church history, Christians have meditated on images of God and Christ. What images could you meditate on to increase your conviction that God is gracious to you even when you fail him?
• Christ always loves you and accepts you. What mental pictures have you used to keep this truth in the forefront of your mind?
• What do you think a person should do when they feel overcome and overwhelmed by sin?
• What does the Bible suggest that you do when you feel overwhelmed by sin?
• What does your pastor suggest that you do when you feel overwhelmed by sin?
• What do your Christian friends suggest that you do when you feel overwhelmed by sin?
• What do you tell others to do when they are overwhelmed by sin and crushed by guilt?
Assure the Conscience
The spirit of bondage enslaves the fleshly conscience, causing it to feel that it’s still under the weight of the law and the condemnation of God who it views as a harsh Judge. The Spirit of sonship liberates the spiritual conscience, causing it to understand that it’s now under the freedom of grace and the forgiveness of God who it correctly views as a merciful heavenly Father. The Spirit of sonship frees the conscience from fear, releasing it to trust. Knowing these truths, spiritual friends benefit from spiritual conversations:
• Throughout the Scriptures (Romans 5:1-11; 8:1-39; Galatians 3:1-29; 5:1-26) God tells us that we have peace with him through Jesus Christ. When do you experience his peace to the greatest extent? What are you doing differently when you experience his peace?
• Tell me about your experience of God’s peace. What is it like for you?
• I’m wondering how peace with God motivates you to love God and others.
• The Bible assures us that we’re no longer under condemnation. The spirit of bondage to guilt has been defeated. We’ve been set free to experience the Spirit of sonship—forgiveness, acceptance, and liberty. How are you allowing the Spirit of sonship to reign in your heart? By faith, how can you accept your acceptance in Christ?
• According to the Scriptures, who are you in Christ? Who are you to Christ?
Comfort the Conscience
The Bible teaches that believers are priests (1 Peter 2:1-8) and that God commands Christians to confess their sins one to another (James 5). Throughout Church history, believers knew mutual confession as the mutual consolation of the brethren through private confession.
When we have laid bare our conscience to our brother and privately make known to him the evil that lurked within, we receive from our brother’s lips the word of comfort spoken by God himself. And if we accept this in faith, we find peace in the mercy of God speaking to us through our brother (Luther, Bondage of the Will, 1531/1947, p. 201).
You can help people to experience a comforted conscience through spiritual conversations like:
• Tell me about times when you’ve experienced God’s forgiveness. What was it like?
• What Scriptures have you turned to, to find Christ’s forgiveness? Grace? Love? Friendship?
• The Bible talks so much about God’s grace, forgiveness, and acceptance of us based on our faith in Christ’s death for our sins. When are you most aware of and impacted by these truths? What does God seem to do to bring you to these points of awareness? How do you tend to be cooperating with God as he brings you to these points of awareness?
• How are you allowing other Christians to help you to enjoy and appreciate God’s grace?
• Let’s talk about ways that you’re using the spiritual disciplines to appreciate God’s grace.
• What passages are you meditating on to help you to cling to Christ’s forgiveness?
• Who offers you human tastes of grace that somehow mirror God’s infinite grace?
Posted on February 8, 2014