I was about eight years old. It was Saturday morning. My little brother was still in bed. Cartoons were on TV. All was right with the world. Except that while my eyes were looking at the television, they weren’t seeing the cartoons. My mind was preoccupied with a problem. What if I died? Would I go to heaven? I wanted to go, but I wasn’t sure. I knew what I needed to do — after all, I’d done it before — so I asked for God’s forgiveness of my sins.
There. That settled it. Until the next Saturday while I was sitting alone in front of those same cartoons, flooded by the same questions and concerns. I distinctly remembered asking for forgiveness, but what if God didn’t? It seems an incredulous question, but to my simple mind, it was deeply felt. Does God really forget our sin? Does He really forgive us — for all time and eternity? It seems too incredibly good to be true. But true it is.
In his first epistle, John reflects on some of the wonders of forgiveness in chapter 2:
“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.” (1 John 2:12; NASB)
While we are the recipients and beneficiaries of His gracious forgiveness, did you notice why He forgives? It is for His name’s sake. It is so His actions will remain in accordance to His character and attributes and name. What good is a God who promises forgiveness (or anything else, for that fact), and then reneges on His promise? Nothing. There is no benefit. So God faithfully keeps His promise of forgiveness as a demonstration of His unchanging compassion, mercy, grace, justice (that’s right, justice), holiness, righteousness, and love.
And what does this forgiveness look like? God sends the sins away so completely that they will never again be found (Mic. 7:10), they are blotted out and removed from the record (Is. 43:25), they are removed as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12), and they are placed behind His back so that they will never again be looked at by Him (Is. 38:17). The essence of these statements? God will never again hold our sins against us. There is nothing left to condemn us. What was a barrier to our fellowship with Him is eternally removed.
All of this in the simple statement, “your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.”