Silence: Take a moment to get still and ask God to center your heart on him.
Scripture: 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Devotional: Yesterday, we learned about the concept of sin and that it’s a part of the Christmas story. Sin can be defined as evil, rebellion, something deserving of punishment or missing the mark God has set for us. Our life is full of sin – anger, impure thoughts, greed, jealousy, envy, etc. – and sin has separated us from relationship with God.
We must be forgiven of our sins if we are going to restore our relationship with God to the way it’s supposed to be and avoid the punishment we deserve for our sin.
My favorite story of forgiveness comes from one of my favorite books – The Hiding Place. The Hiding Place is the story of Corrie Ten Boom and her family who helped hide their Jewish friends when Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands. Eventually, Corrie’s family was caught and shipped off to concentration camps.
Corrie ended up at an all woman’s concentration camp called Ravensbrück. This prison was brutal. They forced the women to work until the point of exhaustion, barely fed them, didn’t take care of them when they got sick and let many women die. During the time the prison was open 50,000 women died, including Corrie’s sister.
Corrie was eventually released and Germany lost the war. In 1947, Corrie returned back to Germany to preach at a church on God’s forgiveness. After her sermon, a man approached her who had been a guard at the camp and asked for her forgiveness. How could she forgive a man like this? A man who had allowed suffering, brutality and her sister to die?
Here’s what she said: And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”
For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.
Our sin is like that prison guard. We have done so many terrible things to God. We have ignored him, rebelled against him, grieved his heart, offended him and told him we haven’t loved him. We need to be forgiven of our thoughts, actions and emotions.
God’s response is like Corrie’s but with no hesitation. Through belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection, along with the confession of our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us no matter what sin we’ve committed.
When we do this the scripture says God erases our sins and removes them as far as the east is from the West. Or, as Corrie Ten Boom says, “When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.”
This advent confess your sins, ask for forgiveness and trust in Jesus – our Redeemer, our Rescuer and the Forgiver of sins.
Question: Is there anything you need to confess to God and ask for forgiveness?
Action: In light of the truth that God has forgiven us, is there anyone in your life who has offended you and you need to forgive? Ask God for the strength to forgive them this Christmas.
Prayer: God, I have sinned so greatly against you and I don’t deserve your forgiveness. Yet, you are rich in grace and have given us a path to forgiveness through your son Jesus. All we must do is confess and believe and you forgive. Please give me the strength to forgive others like you have forgiven me. Amen.