The Depth of God’s Forgiveness

A prideful, judgmental Christian is an oxymoron.

The longer a person is a Christian, the more he realizes his massive guilt before God. When you first come to faith in Jesus, you know you don’t measure up to God’s standard because of one or two sinful things that have been with you for a while. Or, you know the world’s broken, you know that you’re a part of that brokenness, and you want that brokenness to be fixed, but you aren’t yet aware of the depth of your brokenness.

But then you start going to church, you start reading the Bible, you start getting serious about the sin in your life. And the more you do that, the more you see just how much Jesus died for–for you.

As a result, a prideful, judgmental Christian is an oxymoron. You can’t recognize just how much God has saved you from and say–or even think–about anyone, “Oh, they’re a lost cause.”

The prophet Micah describes God’s forgiveness:

Who is a God like You,
removing iniquity and passing over rebellion
for the remnant of His inheritance?
He does not hold on to His anger forever,
because He delights in faithful love.
He will again have compassion on us;
He will vanquish our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
You will show loyalty to Jacob
and faithful love to Abraham,
as You swore to our fathers
from days long ago.

Micah 7:18-20

I for one know how much God has saved me from. My rebellion was insane at the time of my salvation, and i now long for the day when He comes again to save me from the layers of rebellion still present in my heart. Some of these layers are related to things that i struggled with prior to salvation, but others are layers i never even knew existed until maybe two years ago. Sin is deceptive and dangerous and destructive. Sin leads to depression for the very fact that what Micah says here is true:

He will again have compassion on us;
He will vanquish our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.

Compassion again!
Iniquities vanquished!
All our sins cast into the ocean depths!

This is good news! But that’s where the depression attacks. “Has this happened, or will it happen in the future?” If it’s current, why do i still struggle with sin? Shouldn’t it be in the depths of the sea?

Now some might point out that Micah is talking to Israel and Judah, and as such, they might claim this is referring to the supposed “resurgence of belief” in Israel shortly before Jesus returns. (I say “supposed,” because while I understand the argument for this view, I don’t think it is the most faithful and consistent way to understand the text, especially if we follow the rule that ‘unclear passages are explained by clear passages.’) But to say that this passage is about a future time in history when there is a resurgence of belief in Israel, it makes this passage–and potentially the entirety of the Old Testament–unable to be utilized as a Christian book, even though Christian theologians have been using it as such since the first day of the church (cf. Acts 2).

Therefore, it seems to be more of a present day passage for anyone who puts his or her faith in Yahweh–the God who initially revealed Himself to Israel, but ultimately revealed Himself to the world through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But if it is a present day passage, why do i still struggle with sin? Shouldn’t my sin be on the bottom of the ocean? The deepest point in the ocean is the Mariana Trench, which is almost 7 miles deep at its deepest point. And even if my sin isn’t thrown into the deepest place, the ocean contains about 874 million cubic miles (1,406,640,900 cubic km). So if my sin was thrown in there, logic states that it should be gone. I shouldn’t be able to rediscover it. I shouldn’t be able to dabble in it any longer. I shouldn’t be able to access it.

So why do i?

Because this is primarily a future promise.

And the book of Micah itself is proof of this. The majority of the book lays out Israel’s sin. It calls them out for all the things they’re doing wrong. It tells them God is ready to judge them, but then in the very last three verses of the book, it promises a total and utter forgiveness. Their sins will be buried in the depths of the sea. God will remember their sins no more! However, interestingly enough, there is a curious little passage in Micah 5:2.

Bethlehem Ephrathah,
you are small among the clans of Judah;
One will come from you
to be ruler over Israel for Me.
His origin is from antiquity,
from eternity.

This describes Jesus. He came from Bethlehem, but His origin goes back way beyond that (cf. John 1:1). You see, God Himself came to earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth so that God need not anymore judge us for our sins. Our sins were judged on Jesus when He died on the cross.

When we trust Him by faith, we are saying, “I believe You took my place, the spot I deserved.”
If we fail to believe, we are saying, “I got this sin problem figured out on my own.”

The first option leads to eternal life.
The latter option leads to eternal death.

And this is serious, because we struggle with sin throughout our whole lives. Never a day goes by when our sin isn’t present with us.

Which is why Jesus says what He does in John 3:16,

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

It literally says, “so that the one who is believing in Him will not perish.”

The point is clear. Belief isn’t something you did as a kid at church or summer camp or even one Sunday at church as an adult. Belief is a constant thing. We must recommit ourselves to belief in Jesus every time we trip and fall–or even dive–into sin. We must daily recommit ourselves to the belief that our sins will be banished into the depths of the sea.

The beautiful truth of this passage is that even though we continue to struggle with sin until that future moment when Christ returns, God will not give up on us. It’s comparable to the beautiful words in 2 Timothy 2:11-13.

For if we have died with Him,
we will also live with Him;
if we endure, we will also reign with Him;
if we deny Him, He will also deny us;
if we are faithless, He remains faithful,
for He cannot deny Himself.

And when it’s all said and done, there is still a present aspect to the Micah passage as well, which is why, when a Christian sins, it bothers her so much. World history can be divided into four periods:

  1. Able to sin
  2. Not able to not sin
  3. Able to not sin
  4. Not able to sin
  1. Pre-fall (Genesis 1 – 3)
  2. Post-fall; pre-resurrection (Genesis 3 – Luke 23)
  3. Post-resurrection; pre-return (Luke 24 – Revelation 19)
  4. post-return; eternity (Revelation 20 – 22)

Jesus died. Jesus rose from the dead. This means we are in the period where we are able to not sin–if we are in Christ. As a result, sin isn’t natural to us. When sin pops up in our lives, we should be disgusted. And we especially have no excuse for old sins that we knew about at the time of our salvation.

If our sins were banished to the depths of the sea when we believed in Jesus, how foolish is it for us to go searching for them again?

We shouldn’t be content with the forensic charge of justification being stated about us. The guilt from our sins. Just because the guilt we incurred by our sin is in the depths of the sea, that’s not good enough.

We should strive by all the grace of Jesus to live practically out of our justification. Sin is more than an abstract concept that God says He removes from us. Sin is active rebellion against God. We must fight by all the grace of Jesus for our daily life to match what God declares true about us.

Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

“Some of you used to be like this.”

I certainly see myself in that list.

Do you?

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Every time we fall back into old patterns, it should cause us to ask, “Was I washed? Was I sanctified? Was I justified?”

The past tense of these verbs shows that those who are truly in Christ live in the phase, “Able to not sin.”

The reason we still sin is because we don’t have enough faith and we begin to doubt (cf. Matthew 14:22-33). Lack of faith will always cause us to sink! So the solution is simple:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

1 John 1:9-10

I need to confess.

Do you?

When we do, we realize we have no right to be prideful or judgmental. When we do, the resulting promise is beautiful:

He will again have compassion on us;
He will vanquish our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.

Micah 7:19

Let’s stop going back to find them!

In this with you.

Thanks for reading.

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