“But if you don’t do what you say, you will be sinning against God; you can be sure that your sin will track you down. Numbers 32:23 (TMSG)
Some of God’s people didn’t want to cross Jordan. They saw what the East Bank held and begged Moses to let them stake out their chosen place. They knew they were required to take part in the warfare that would secure the rest of the Promised Land, but they’d made their choice.
Moses warned them that promising to be part of God’s plan and family was a holy thing, and failure to fulfill those promises would carry consequences; their sin would track them down!
Most people are painfully aware of that “tracking you down” part as being the consequence of sinning against God. We also are quick to point out our New Testament perspective that God forgives us when we confess. Note the apostle John:
If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense.
On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a
clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our
sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8 - 9 (TMSG)
So….case settled, right? Even though we’ve sinned, we’ve confessed and been forgiven; God forgets it – books closed. Right?
We could say “right” and move on; hardly anyone would question such a doctrine as God’s forgiveness – except for that nagging little fact that any of us who have asked forgiveness have also still experienced consequences of those forgiven sins.
What’s up with that?
The drug addict who asks forgiveness still deals with craving. The thief still thinks about stealing. A child caught in disobedience still tries to distort the truth to head off sitting in time-out. What happened to all that forgiveness talk?
One of the problems of accepting “part” of a verse is that we get a wrong view of the entire verse. Even worse, we tend to pass on that view. Forgiving and forgetting is what God does, but He will not erase what you have done. What God does with the aftermath of forgiveness is something we tend to block out of the last part of John’s verse…purge us of all wrongdoing.
That’s what consequences are there for – to purge, or squeeze-out our bent towards doing wrong.
For example, you made a bad decision to exceed the speed limit by double, but you live through the meeting with that telephone pole. Immediately you beg God (and the traffic judge) to forgive you. You’re sincere, and you fully intend to change your ways – no more “lead-footing” for you…no sir! So God forgives, forgets and won’t bring it to the table again. The traffic judge isn’t so magnanimous - $450 fine and 30 days in jail.
A month later you get out of the slammer and you’ve lost your job because you didn’t show up these past 30 days. You’ve lost your license for 90 more days as part of the judge’s original sentence, and you’ve also got that mangled pile of junk that used to be your new Lexus. On top of all that mangled Lexus will stay a junk-pile because you forgot to pay your car insurance.
Whatever happened to forgiveness? Was God just playing with my head about that?
God doesn’t “play” at anything connected with sin. What he wants to do is purge it from your life. Dealing with a mangled new car, no job and a financial nightmare is how we connect the dots between our actions and the consequences.
God’s not done with us when He forgives and forgets – He uses our behavior to continue teaching us and purging unrighteousness, so we will stand taller in the long run. God’s in the rehabilitation business with humans, as much as the resurrection business.