There are two main incorrect approaches to forgiveness and getting right with God. Either, people try to clean themselves up as much as they can on their own and then go to God or they “accept” God’s forgiveness and then try to pay it all back. In both situations people are trying to earn the forgiveness and righteousness they receive.
How strange would it be if someone won millions of dollars in the lottery, more money than they could possibly ever earn through their job, and then before cashing in the ticket, they tried to save up as much money as possible to pay for it? If they first tried to pay off their student loans and credit card debt and whatever other debts they might have by their own work and then started to “earn” the money they won in the lottery. They could work their fingers to the bone and never make enough to “pay” for the lottery.
“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’
“Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” – Micah 7:18-19
I mentioned this passage in the devotional yesterday and was struck by the beauty of the phrase that God “delights to show mercy.”
In Luke 7 Jesus is invited to the house of a Pharisee. While there, a “sinful woman” came in and “she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.