Written by Dave Urbanski
How do you respond to someone who says, “My sins are too great to be forgiven?” What if you are that person?
Well, God has an answer — and it’s all about how big and great and powerful he is … and also about how much smaller we are and utterly helpless without God we are.
Consider the long prayer from the Levites in Nehemiah 9 we went over Sunday. It encompasses these truths — and watch out, because they’re truths that will set us free. Free to surrender and receive God’s boundless love and free to let go of the lie that our sins are too great for God to handle.
First, let’s recall God’s attributes that the long prayer described. Namely, that God is far greater than we can imagine (vs. 4-5) … that the Lord keeps his promises (vs. 7-9) … and is faithful (vs. 10-11) … and is personal with us and communicates to us (vs. 12-14) … and is compassionate toward us and cares for us (v. 15) … and is forgiving, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love (vs. 17-18) … and is good (vs. 19-25). But another aspect of God’s love is that he disciplines us (v. 27). And in those times when we cry out for help? You’d better believe that God listens to us (v. 27). Not only that, he delivers us, even after warning us (v. 28). Indeed, the Lord is forever patient with us (v. 30) … and is gracious and merciful (v. 31).
Wow. What a portrait of just a few of the Lord’s amazing attributes and qualities! And have you noticed those qualities also have a major common denominator? Us! His people. They’re all about God covenanting with his human creation. And that brings us to our attributes — indeed, our failures. The prayer in Nehemiah touches on them, too, and it’s not a pretty picture — but it’s a true, accurate image of us. And we need to acknowledge that very human portrait so that through it we may grow closer to God. First off, we’re arrogant, stiff-necked, disobedient, poor listeners, forgetful, and rebellious (vs. 16-17). Yikes! Talk about a list of unappealing attributes to kick things off! But the prayer isn’t finished laying it out. In addition, we’ve even committed blasphemy (v. 18) and turned our backs on God (v. 26) and have done evil (v. 28). And verses 29 and 30 underscore how sinful we are in all of those respects.
So back to the original question: What if someone, maybe even it’s you, believes his or her sins are too great for God to forgive? Well, given that short list of our shortcomings, it’s no wonder we can get caught up in thinking stuff like that from time to time. But latch on to this: Isn’t that kind of thinking a way of elevating ourselves just a bit — or rather bringing God down to our level and measuring God’s abilities through our human lens? We must cast such temporal, faulty thinking aside and refocus on God’s attributes, which ultimately are unmeasurable by all our human efforts and intellect.
In the end, the question isn’t, “How can God forgive the truckload of sins I’ve committed over the course of my life — they’re too big and too many — because just one act of one of our human failures previously described (oh, and there are more!) separates us from the Father. But even facing that dire truth, the Good News is that all those amazing attributes of God flow freely, all the time — and God, in his unending patience, is just waiting for us to turn that nozzle on so his love can wash over us. Won’t you let that happen today, right now?
The verse we’re memorizing as a body — 1 John 3:1 — captures this perfectly: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.”
Let it flow.