Whose Soever Sins Ye Remit
The sixth commission of Jesus to the church is found in John 20:19ff. It is on the first day of the week, we are told, when Jesus came and stood in their midst. He first announced His peace to them; then He showed them His hands and side so they might enjoy the peace. When He had their attention, He gave them a commission, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you."
He then breathed on them that they might receive Holy Spirit. That is John's record of Pentecost. They were empowered. He then continued, "Whose soever sins ye remit are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." Jn 20:23 The Greek verbs can translate better in the past perfect tense, "whose soever sins ye remit have already been remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they have already been retained.
It would seem that God has made His position clear. He is willing to forgive and set free all whom we are willing to forgive and set free. When we exercise the authority of Jesus in the power of Holy Spirit, we are sent to open the Kingdom of God through the remission of those things that stand between people and God. It is a very hard saying for anyone who is not willing to see the necessity for nurturing our relationships with one another as we nurture our relationship with God.
It is very similar to the statement of Jesus at the Confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi. In that passage Jesus said, "I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Mt 16:19 This is the rock on which Jesus will build a church. The gates of hell cannot prevail against it. That seems to mean that they cannot keep us out or keep us in. The Keys of the Kingdom stem the authority to remit Sin and open the Kingdom to those who are bound..
Some see this passage as the authority to bind Satan or loose him, but I hardly believe we would be able to loose Satan in heaven. The church has historically believed that it embodied the authority to remit sin; and that it also embodies the necessity for us to remit sin if people are to be loosed. The language is much more in the terminology that sees Sin in terms of bondage that causes behavior rather than behavior itself.
Sin is far more than misbehavior, and forgiveness is far more than excusing what someone has done. Misbehavior is the symptom of Sin within. We do not go to a doctor simply to treat symptoms. We go to seek treatment of the disease from which the symptoms issue. It follows that forgiveness is more than the pardon of the behavior. It is the removal of the barriers that have been thrown up between people and God, and between people and people; and it is the treatment of the inner condition that has caused the symptoms.
While many people I know have a misconception of forgiveness, nearly everyone I know has an idea of what it means to remit something. If we have enough money at the end of the month, we write checks to cover the bills, and we remit them. When we have done this there is no claim upon us. The barriers to our freedom have been removed. When I remit the Sin of anyone, I write the check on the account that was established for us on the Cross at Calvary. When that is done, I give it to God who puts it far away from the person whose Sin is remitted. The account of the Cross is fortunately, inexhaustible. There is always enough at the end of any day to cover the need for atonement.
If we know someone who has been diagnosed as a cancer patient, and we hear that the cancer has remitted, we know what that means. The cancer has gone away. God intends to set our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. We are not simply excused for making a mistake, intentional or otherwise. We are delivered from the consequences of the mistake. The Sin has no more claim on us and we are free. God takes it and redeems it, and in some way uses it to His own glory. It does not stand between us any more.
One of the problems in our thinking about sin stems from the fact that there are many aspects of sin. We have a tendency to talk about sin simply as the transgression of the Law. That is one of the definitions that John gives it in his first epistle. Most of us in western civilization think of Law and transgression as a behavioral problem. If we fail to think of the Law as a principle God has built into the creation, we see sin as some act that disobeys the Law and incurs guilt. We see sin as something that is primarily behavioristic.
The behavior always points to something within that needs to be changed. It is not a matter of guilt for doing something against the will of God that should concern us. It is the fact that we are not able to obey God that should concern us. Guilt issues as much from the idea that we might be able to obey God if we tried hard enough, as it does from the action itself.
The Law may truly be seen in the same light as the vital signs of righteousness. We check the vital signs to determine the state of our health. We have the seven danger signals of cancer to alert us to look for something beyond the signs to treat, something that is not in accord with wholeness. If my temperature was 101, I would not feel guilty. I would try to find out where the infection was and treat the disease. If I find that I am given to abuse of alcohol, I do not just feel guilty; I look within to deal with the character defects that lie beneath the abuse
The Law is given that we might know what a whole life would be like. It is the absolute that the psychological disciplines are seeking. It is the lifestyle that Jesus demonstrated in His life. It is the ground of moral wholeness. It is not that we are able to keep the Law when we have learned what it says; but we are able to see that the life we are living is miserable because we are not being what we were created to be.
We are not able to do God's will, because have not yet become what He created us to be. It is almost as if God created us, and gave us the Law so we could see that we need something more. We need to be recreated with the internal power to walk in God's will. When we are able to see our actions as indications that He has not completed His work in us, we are then open to seeking remission of Sin in terms of the interior dis ease as well as the pardon of what we have done wrong. We will then find that with our mind we serve the Law of God, but the law of Sin is at work in our members, and we can ask, with Paul, "Who will deliver me from this body of death."
The reason that I labor this point is that I have seen so many Christians lost to despair when they found that they were not able to obey the will of God in their own will power. While some would tell them that they need more "won't power," they need to know that they will not be able to walk in the Spirit until they have been healed within by the grace of God. The issue of Sin is more than behavior. It is being.
I recall that I got into an argument over the Atonement when I was in seminary, and I went to the authorities trying to find out which Doctrine of Atonement the Episcopal Church embraced. The first thing I encountered was confusion over who or what bore authority in the Episcopal Church. After looking through a number of tomes and talking with a number of professors, I discovered that there is no clear view of authority in the Episcopal Church. There is only the basis of Scripture, Tradition and Reason used as a basis to derive authority.
The other thing that I discovered in my search was that through our history there has never been a single Doctrine of Atonement that the Church has embraced to the exclusion of all of the others. There are about five that have been set forth and embraced by the church through the centuries. Each of them speaks to the remission of some form of Sin that we find in the Scriptures.
Most of us who grew up in the south, received our religious education by osmosis. It was an accepted conclusion that sin was drinking, smoking, or indulging in illicit sex. Some would add dancing, but that one was not catholic since it was not universally accepted. The way sin was forgiven was by our being sorry that we had done it. When we were sorry enough, God would excuse what we had done, and say, "Never do that again, or I will lose my patience with you. When I travel to the north, I find the same understanding seems to reign in that area of the country also.
This common understanding of sin is deceptive when it comes to our understanding of forgiveness. When people talk about sin and forgiveness in terms of action, guilt, repentance, and excusing someone for what they have done, they seem to disregard the nature of the Sin we have been discussing. While these elements are involved in the Biblical understanding of sin, they are insufficient to enable us to deal with sin in all of its impact on our lives.
Paul Tillich came up with a definition of Sin that is as comprehensive as any I have ever read. Sin is our estrangement from our destiny, which is an intellectual way of saying Sin is the total difference between us and God's will for us in His Kingdom. It is not only the behavior that results from our estrangement from God. Our separation and inability to find God and be reconciled to Him is also Sin.
It is significant that the occasion for the separation of man and God in Scripture, is the Fall, when human nature found itself with a new capacity. It could know good and evil. It was at that moment equipped to make moral judgments. The other side of the coin was that human nature did not have an accurate measure of good and evil. It had a moral capacity without the ability to supply the content of what is actually good, and what is actually evil.
We might point out that Adam began his encounter with that capacity by judging Adam. He saw that he was naked, and that his wife was naked. Since there were no local department stores where Eve could go shopping, they made aprons of fig leaves. The second person he judged was Eve; and the third person was God. He believed that he knew how God would deal with him, if He caught him naked; and so both Adam and Eve hid. Perhaps this is where we see clearly that God created man in His own image, and man promptly retaliated by creating god in his.
While they apparently hid in the bushes until God called them to account for their actions, we hide within ourselves. We have developed the capacity to bury those things we find too painful at the conscious level into what Freud calls the subconscious, Jung calls the unconscious, and the Bible calls the heart. We live in what is commonly called denial. Our hidden lives become the secrets of our hearts, what the Psalmist would call "my secret faults."
I find that capacity evident when I see God dealing gently with people I would simply eliminate. If I were God, there would not be a human race left. I would have improved it or stamped it out. I have listened to enough people talk about enough other people to know that I am not alone in this particular inadequacy. I have seen few who were not judgmental. Some do not hesitate to usurp God's throne, and condemn their brothers and sister to hell, because they do not conform to some image that is held by the judge to be a minimum standard of good.
When we become so sure that we know good and evil to the extent that we know, and can administer the mind of God without inviting Him into the consultation, we demonstrate the Sin that does so easily beset us, the confusion of the Law and the Gospel. It is not our commission to go forth to condemn the world. We were commissioned by Jesus who sent us, as the Father had sent Him. He came not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
CHRIST IN OUR PLACE
Perhaps the best known and most popular of the Doctrines of Atonement is one set forth by Anselm, a one-time Archbishop of Canterbury. In his classic Cur Deus Homo, (Why the God Man) he presented the case as a court scene in which we had committed unpardonable acts of sin. The consideration was one which considered sin as behavior. As the sinner stood before God, and was willing to plead the cross of Christ, God punished Jesus for the sins of the culprit who was on trial.
It is this Doctrine of Atonement with its consideration of sin as behavior, that is the basis for much of the evangelical preaching. It points out our misbehavior, Jesus' sacrifice, and God's inclination to pardon what we have done. We draw on the account that Jesus accrued on the cross. He has suffered for all of the sins of humanity in all times and in all places. When we plead that sacrifice, we are delivered from suffering that we deserve on the basis of our behavior.
That particular understanding is the one that leads us to see forgiveness as pardon. It is certainly a part of the Biblical understanding of sin, and it is one of the elements in remission of sin. The Sin that we accrue from our behavior is guilt. It is not so much the behavior that inhibits us. It is the guilt that we find as a result of the action. When we find guilt between ourselves and any other person, it puts severe stress on our normal relationships.
The removal of the guilt through pardon is of great importance if we are going to step into that relationship of intimacy with God wherein we will find the remission of the underlying Sin that has led to the behavior. When we know that we are loved, both infinitely and unconditionally, we are more of a mind to step into a relationship with our lover. This is true, not only with God, but with anyone else. When we have wronged someone, we are reluctant to stand in an intimate relationship with them until we have done something to reestablish the relationship. That something must entail forgiveness in the form of pardon. It requires an affirmation from my beloved that I am loved just as I am, and that I love them just as I perceive them.
One of the problems that we encounter in this area of forgiveness is the fact that we cannot avoid "wrong doing." We are victims of our conditioning. We have been reared in dysfunctional families. It is the fault of someone else that I do these things. I may be innocent of any intentional offense myself, but I cannot avoid falling into inadvertant sin and guilt that is the fault of some other person or persons.
I remember a conversation I had with Francis Macnutt who said, "Al, do you know that 95% of all American families are dysfunctional?"
When I thought about that for a while, I could answer, "What happened to the other 5%? They didn't have any children?" It dawned on me that the measure I had always heard when referring to dysfunctional families, hinged on the condition of the children that had grown up in such families.
It also seems to me that dysfunctional families are what we get when the sins of the parents are visited unto the children, even unto the third and fourth generation. That is original Sin. That is the condition in which we are born and reared. There are many who protest that newborn infants are innocent. They have not had any real opportunity to commit sin.
That thought is true in so far as behavior is concerned. There are no sins that can be attributed to a baby. St. Augustine, in his Confessions, makes the sinful state in which the baby is born a matter of self-centeredness. The baby is at the center of its own universe; and where it is able to do so, it will declare itself as god. Most of our sins as behavior issue from that reality.
When you allow a child to sit in a mud puddle, the child cannot avoid getting dirty. That is our condition at birth. When we are born into the world as a normal child, we cannot help behaving in a sinful manner. When we find the child in the mud puddle, it is not sufficient to pick the child up, wash it, and put it back in the same place, expecting it to stay clean. We must do something about the child's wisdom, by showing it the desirability of staying out of the dirt, or separate it from the mud.
If we are to deal with the issue in terms of grace, we will attempt to teach the child the advantages of staying out of the mud. That approach works much of the time. Since there are a variety of reactions from children, the length of time depends on the willingness of the child to perceive the truth you hold, and begin to embrace it as the child's own truth. Some children seem so obstinate that it is necessary to physically separate them from the mud by force.
That principle holds true for the whole realm of law enforcement. It is far better to teach people that it is destructive to commit a crime, which a particular society has determined is unacceptable within the social structure. When someone refuses to stay out of the particular mud puddle, it is necessary to restrict their options by placing them where they are not able to reach the puddle, or commit the crime.
The parallel is to point out that changing behavior requires change of the person at some level of their being. There are many people who can change their minds without changing their behavior. When I tell the alcoholic that I pardon his sin of abuse of alcohol, and he had better quit drinking, I am remitting the sin of guilt over his past behavior. If I cannot go further to enable him to receive the grace to quit drinking, I have not remitted the Sin that drives his life.
It is interesting to note that Jesus not only pardoned the sinner, He also changed the sinner. He cast out the demons that controlled their lives. He healed the diseases that kept them from living a full life. In short, He pardoned their sins, and also remitted their Sin that drove them to the sinful actions.
We must certainly deal seriously with behavioral sins, but unless we see the Sin that yield the symptoms, we have done little more than clean up the child, and put it back in the mud. The Scriptures are concerned that we move on toward the remission of Sin, and consider the necessary change that must take place within the person as a part of the total remission.
Human forgiveness tends to be limited to the level of pardon of behavior. I can excuse what you do, but I cannot change you. I cannot even change myself. Perhaps the best way for me to see forgiveness is the willingness to love you the way you are instead of the way I perceived you before I was offended. That does not mean that you have done anything amiss. It means that my perception has been insulted, and I must accept you as you are, if I am going to love you at all.
God's forgiveness is one that is all inclusive. He loves us as we are. He pardons our actions, because He knows that we cannot do more than we do. He then changes our interior to set us free. He acts to enable us to become whole. When we are whole , we will be able to live out wholeness, and act out the righteousness of the Lord as Holy Spirit incarnates Him within our flesh.
If we are to get beyond Anselm and the court room scene of Atonement, we must press on to see what Jesus has done, and what Scriptures teach us to practice in the remission of Sins. If we are commissioned by Jesus to remit Sins, then we must be about His business in more than one small area of the commission.
CHRIST AS REVEALER
The only way to remit the Sin of ignorance is through revelation. It is not simply a matter of teaching someone what they are to do or not do. It is a matter of bearing in our flesh the presence of the Lord Jesus, that He might speak through us to the hearts of those to whom we are sent. That is the meaning of the statement that we are to be His witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth.
In my own life, that revelation has come through a number of people. One of them, whom I call my spiritual mother, spent an hour one day sharing with me a vision of Jesus which had been given to her. She also shared the fact that He was still in the business of healing people. The story was at the teaching level. She had shared that story with some who did not receive it. For me it was a great "Aha!" For the first time something made sense out of the miracles of the New Testament.
A remission of at least a portion of the Sin that had stood between me and God was accomplished in that exchange. I was able to see some reality that I could not see prior to that time. It was not because someone had said, "I forgive you!" It was because someone had brought God's grace into my life in a way that He could use it to open my eyes. That which she remitted, was remitted by God.
In this case there was not a great deal of guilt. I was not responsible for my ignorance. I was born with that. What I needed to know, I could not know until it was revealed to me by Holy Spirit. I was never the less separated from this particular aspect of God's revelation until it was given me through a human being by Holy Spirit. The Sin was ignorance. The remission was through the witness by Holy Spirit's presence. This is an important distinction since it is the way the commission is to be fulfilled. Witness may not sound like forgiveness or remission, but for the Sin of ignorance, it is the tool of choice for Holy Spirit in most cases.
John's Gospel has a recurring phrase that is relevant to the remission of the Sin of ignorance. It is "Come and see!" Listen to those who have met the Lord. They may be less mature than you are; yet when they are willing, God will use them to reach even His mature saints. One of the great revelations I received in my life came from a little girl about three years old.
I was preaching the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and I suppose I was getting a little hot in my proclamation. The little girl turned to her grandmother and said, "Grandma, let's get out of here. He's mad at all of us." Setting the humor aside, there is a profound revelation to me that we cannot proclaim love in anger. Love is never a "you have to." It is always a "you are invited to exercise this privilege if you would like to be free."
I was hot in pursuit of confessing the sins of the congregation by telling them that they had to live in a different way. I have found it to be true that when I confess the sins of others, they are never forgiven. It is when I confess my own that remission occurs. It is when they confess their own that they find the same reality.
When I become aware of the fact that there is yet more for me to see, that I see God now through a glass darkly, I am also aware of the fact that I have Sin that needs remission if I am to grow in Christ. I can ask God to speak into these areas of my life that I might see and hear more clearly. It is not accomplished simply from reading another book, unless God sees fit to speak through the book. It is not something that I can do by listening to all of the best preachers on TV or in churches, unless God sees fit to speak through the preachers to me.
It is a matter of my confessing the need in my life, and God's engineering the circumstances in which He can use someone to witness in such a way that Holy Spirit may bring that truth alive to me. I confess the Sin of Ignorance. It is remitted through some witness that brings revelation. Until that remission occurs, the ignorance will bear fruit in the form of behavior that does not conform to the will of God, and pardon will be an essential element in my life for the removal of guilt.
SIN AS BONDAGE
Sin is also seen in Scripture as bondage. Paul writes about being in bondage to Sin. He talks about being set free from Sin to walk in newness of life. He writes, even about his own dilemma of being torn between the will to serve the Law of God with his mind, while the law of sin is at work in his members. The remission of Sin as bondage must come through a grace that is more powerful than that which holds us in its grasp. Someone or something which holds greater power than we can generate, must come to our rescue. That which binds us must be broken if we are to be set completely free.
Anyone who has been addicted to drugs or alcohol, or food, or tobacco, or sex, or TV or anything else they might have used to try to fill that God-shaped hole within them; knows that they are powerless to do anything about getting themselves out of bondage into freedom. The great witness to this truth lies in Alcoholics Anonymous, which exists because the church overlooked the sense of Sin as bondage, and demanded of alcoholics that they set themselves free, and stop drinking. Perhaps the "demon rum" was an appropriate label to put on alcohol in some circles. While there are some people who are free to use alcohol, there are many who are used by alcohol. It seems to literally possess those it holds in bondage.
How much simpler it would be if our people were told that they are indeed powerless over Sin that binds them in addiction. They would not have to argue that it is not Sin but sickness. We would instead say, "God's grace in Jesus Christ has been given to set you and me, and every other person who is willing, free from bondage to Sin, to walk in the glorious liberty of the children of God."
In my own case of bondage to alcohol, the freedom came as a side effect of a deliverance ministry. I had used alcohol to fill that God-shaped hole within, but I had subsequently found that God did a better job of filling the other sections of the hole, and I had begun to allow Him to make the inner changes in my life that He wanted to make.
When anger became intolerable to me in my relationships to my children I sought someone who would be able to set me free from that bondage to anger. I found Brother Dunstan, a Franciscan priest I had known for some years, who would listen to me. I told him about the anger, and I told him about the ministry of exorcism that I had found helpful to others, but I was not able to wield that authority in my own life. I needed someone to remit that Sin of anger.
When my friend had heard me out, he prayed casting out the spirit in the Name of Jesus. He prayed for the Lord to fill any empty places with His love, and I left. It was about two days later that I realized that I was no longer acting out my anger toward my children in the violence that had marked my relationship to them prior to the ministry; and I no longer needed to drink alcoholic beverages. It still does not bother me for other people to drink; but I have no desire to drink. That Sin and bondage has been remitted through the ministry of deliverance.
I do not know what God used to refill that part of that hole within me when He removed the alcohol from its place; but I suspect it was with Jesus Himself. When all of the rest of the little idols that I have used as a substitute for God to give meaning to my life have been removed, and God alone fills that hole within me; the Sin of bondage will be totally remitted, and I shall be completely free to walk with Him. Until that time, I will have to relinquish those little things that have compelled me to serve them. I will have to continue to confess those idols on which I depend as God reveals them to me. When I have confessed them, I can look to Him to find someone through whom the Sin can be remitted, and His righteousness supplied through His indwelling presence.
I found that in the remission of bondage to tobacco. I recall the night that God told me, "You are going to quit smoking." I misunderstood Him to say, "You have to quit smoking." As one who tries to walk in obedience, I set my mind and will to quit.
I became extremely intolerant to those who smoked. When I quit, everyone had to quit. I became extremely hard to live with, my wife and even my children would ask me to smoke a cigarette or something to become human again. After a few years of this pattern, I told God, "Lord, I am not able to quit, and I am not enjoying smoking when I do smoke. I am going to do what I can, and you do what you can. I am going to enjoy smoking. When you are ready to 'quit me' go ahead and do it."
It was not long after that I found myself with a cold, and when I had spent some time listening to a friend who had some problems she needed to air out and pray over, I asked her to pray for healing for my cold. As I recall, she did not mention either tobacco or smoking. I am not even sure she mentioned my cold. I do recall that she prayed a long time. When she was finished, I still had my cold, but I went home trusting the Lord to bring me some relief. It was about four hours later that I found myself looking through my pockets for my pipe; and when I became conscious of the search, two things dawned on me. I had left the pipe at the office, and I was not really interested in something to smoke. I have not wanted anything to smoke since then.
There were no withdrawal symptoms. I did not immediately begin to gorge myself with food to replace the comfort I had formerly derived from nicotine. It did not bother me if the whole rest of the world smoked. I did not want to smoke. As I reflect on what happened, God did not take something away from me. He gave me something better than what I had. I had freely given him permission to change that area of my life that was comforted by nicotine. He replaced the nicotine I had chosen as one of my messiahs with His own indwelling presence. I was delivered by the true Messiah, from excessive tension and self consciousness.
The nature of the ministry in remission is not always the same. We are not delivered by a method or a technique. We are delivered by God. In some cases it will involve exorcism as a deliverance from some spirit. In others it will involve some other sort of prayer such as intercession.
Whatever the means used to remit bondage of those for whom Christ died, we are sent to set them free. We are authorized by Jesus and empowered by Holy Spirit to remit sin. We are not authorized to tell people how they ought to behave without also showing them the power of God's love to live that way. When we see Sin simply as behavior, we bind those who are powerless to help themselves, and often find that we are bound by the same idol as the one we condemn.
In a world where diet is the focus of much writing and conversation, we are not aware that dieting is normally idolatrous. The idol is food, and its impact on the body. The argument is that it is necessary to take care of the body because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Our decisions are made on the basis of what we know about food, and what it does to the body. The dieters I know tend to talk more about food and calories than about the God who lives within.
Dieters tend to make their decisions relative to food rather than the will of God. When we are focused on the will of God, we will eat what He tells us to eat. He probably knows a bit more about the characteristics of our own particular body, and the food we are putting into it. He knows more about the compulsions that plague us, and He is an ideal replacement for our own individual effort at shaping our lives through diet.
I remember a young woman in my parish who was standing in the hall talking with a friend about a new diet. She had tried a continuing series of diets. None of them had worked for her. We discussed the possibility that diets were idolatrous, and that she might want to ask God to deal with her eating problems. She decided to try God instead of the new diet, and her weight loss has been permanent.
Bondage is not simply a matter of being out of control in handling some aspect of God's creation. It is the idolatry of seeking to use some particular thing to do in our lives that God alone can do. Remission invariably involves putting God in the proper place in our lives so that the improper can be displaced, remitted, put away from its position of control in our lives, so that God might be given His place as God.
SIN AS APATHY
Many people have a grasp of the Gospel with their intellect, but are somehow never ready to move toward the goal set forth. Perhaps they were people who were taught to sing "Jesus Loves Me This I Know" when the were young, but have not yet grasped the depth of that love as a reality. They talk about theology, but they are not plugged into the circuit that makes them move.
When I was growing up with an image of Father as an ogre and Jesus as a knight errant, I was reluctant to come anywhere close to God. I was about as fearful of Abba as I was of Hell. If He wanted to send me there to punish me eternally, why should I want to get close enough for Him to begin punishing me now? The image of God that I had been given by that part of the church I had heard talking became Sin for me.
I knew that I had to do something about my life and its condition, but I would wait until just before I died. I didn't trust God enough to approach Him. The remission of that Sin came through the revelation that God really did love me. It was not just a matter of singing songs about Jesus. He walked where I walked, and was available where I was seeking to meet and struggle with the world.
When I was able to see that the love that is in Jesus is Abba's love, I was free to come to Him and seek the grace of which I read in the Scriptures. It was not through fear that the Sin was remitted, but through the love of a God who sent His Son into the world to die for me, and for all of the rest of the people like me, who did not truly deserve anything better than death. Abba had sent Jesus to provide for me a way to come into a new relationship with Himself, to receive the gift of life rather than the wages of sin.
The Sin was remitted by more than one person. That Sin was remitted by the communities in which I sought to live out the life that Jesus has given to us. It was no longer a matter of my individual salvation, and going to heaven. It was a matter of sharing God's love here and now with people who were willing to seek Him together with me as we gave and received the love that God had bestowed upon us.
Perhaps that remission of apathy was most visible in one who came to set me free in my prayer life to develop a discipline that has stayed with me from the time we began it together. I had been trying by myself, unsuccessfully, to find a prayer life for fifteen years. When I shared that with someone else in the community, their response was, "So have I. Why don't we meet and do that together?"
That was the beginning of a supportive love that was able to deliver me from apathy, and draw me into the love that God had revealed for me in Jesus. Once there, I have had little trouble maintaining it because the love that I find in that solitude holds me gently, but firmly in His presence. The love first shown me in and through my friend has been revealed clearly as the motivation which moves the world. It is perhaps that love that Abba uses when He draws us to Jesus. Perhaps it is the unfolding of the saying of Jesus, "No man can come to me unless the Father draws him."
As we pointed out in an earlier chapter, God's love is not indulgent. He does not always give us what we think we want. Nor is it benevolent. He does not impose His will upon us, but allows us to choose to come into that relationship as we see with the Prodigal Son. My Father's servants have more than I. I will arise and go to my Father. I will choose to be drawn by that love I see revealed for me in Jesus Christ.
SIN AS FLESH RATHER THAN SPIRIT
The summation of the discussion of Sin and God's treatment of Sin is found in the concept of the incarnation of Jesus in us as individuals and as His Body the Church. When the Lord has cleansed the God-shaped hole within us and filled it with His own presence, we will be complete. We will no longer hold a vestige of the first Adam. We will be in the image and likeness of the last Adam.
It is in this incarnational activity of God that we find His forgiveness and His judgment coming together as a complete action. His forgiveness in the fullness of the meanings we have discussed above will declare that the work of Jesus on the Cross was both sufficient and complete. The judgment will be exacted that the justice of God might be fulfilled. We will certainly collect our wages which are death. That which is within us that is contrary to life in the Kingdom will be purged out of us, that the new might be made manifest fully and completely with no taint of Sin. The flesh will be purged from us that the spirit might come to wholeness.
Paul wrote, "Our outer nature is wasting away. Our inner nature is being daily renewed." The flesh is not a reference to our body, but to the orientation of the body. Flesh and blood will not inherit the Kingdom of God. That which is sown perishable must be raised imperishable. That is the transformation to which we look as we embrace both the judgment and forgiveness of God.
The transformation is the ground of our participation in Jesus Christ and in our part of the Kingdom that God prepared for us before the foundation of the world. It is the culmination of His pardon of every act of sin that we have committed. It is the enlightenment of our darkness as the One who is the Light comes into our lives that He might give us His own mind, that we might have the mind of Christ. It is the breaking of every bond that we might freely choose God, and walk in a love that makes no demands. It is freely given and freely received to be given again to another. It is our intimate knowledge of God's love so that we are moved to an obedience that does not hold a separate and additional reward. It is our reward - life in the Kingdom of God.
As we go out to proclaim the Kingdom, we are also going out to remit Sin in some way. When we make a disciple by Baptizing them into the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, there is a remission of the separation between the person and God. That does not mean that they are whole. It means that they are in a new relationship with God where wholeness is a possibility for the first time.
When the first remission opens the relationship, the rest of the remission may begin. When I have chosen to accept God's offer to make me His child, I am open to ask for His continued revelation to dispel darkness. I am open to ask for His power to break bondage. I am open to become the incarnation of His Son in the world for which Christ died, and to which I have been sent to be His presence for others.
The commission that we receive from Jesus is one that requires authority and power from God. Jesus did not send them out before He breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Ghost..." Luke would record it a bit differently, "Tarry in Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high." Matthew would set the authority in the context of the Great Commission. "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.....Go make disciples...Lo, I am with you always.."
To fullfill the commissions of Jesus to become His healing presence in the world for which He died and to which He has sent us, we must find the source of authority and power to enable us to do with Him all that He has given us to do. He is the Vine and we are the branches. We can do nothing worth doing without Him.