As I pulled in to the church parking lot this morning there was an elderly man sitting on one of the benches we have in front of the church. I didn’t recognize him, but assumed he was from the neighborhood, because he was there without a car - which meant he had most likely walked to the church.
My assumption was proven true, as I got out of the car and he pointed to the apartments across the street and said: “My neighbor told me to come up here to talk to the pastor, that you?” I replied that yes, I was indeed the pastor - and then asked how I could help him. He replied, “I need to go to church, what time do y’all meet?” I sat down on the bench next to him and gave him the information about our church services. Then we spent a few minutes chatting about other general, get-acquainted type things.
After a few minutes of this chit-chat, he said: “I’m glad I found a church, because I just got saved, so now I need to figure out what that means, and my neighbor said church was the place to do it.” He then went on to tell me about a life spent following his own desires and passions, which led to addictions and heartbreak. A few weeks ago he was in jail on drug-related charges, and he heard the gospel message from a prison chaplain, and gave his life to God. He finished his testimony by saying, “After all I did that was wrong, all it took was one prayer, and God took all that stuff away. It’s hard to believe.”
What a great reminder of how simple the gospel message is! John 3:16 puts it like this: “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” God's love knows no bounds, His grace is complete, and His forgiveness is free. All we have to do for our sins to be wiped away is believe, and accept those truths.
The problem comes when we try to make our faith complicated - when we get so caught up in what we need to be doing that we forget the simplicity of what God has already done for us. And in doing so, we forget that what we need to do is believe, and give control to God to work on the rest - changing us into the people He's calling us to be. Philippians 1:6 puts it this way, "God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished."
So today, let's remember the simple truth of what God has done for us. Let's take time to put aside all the distractions and busyness of our lives and focus on the fact that God loves us, and that He sent His Son to die for us, so that we can live for Him. Then as we move forward in forgiveness, let’s continue to thank Him for all He’s done to clean our slate.