Faith of Forgiveness
Faith of Forgiveness
by Lonnie Lane
An issue that often troubles folks when they begin to honor God’s commandments (literally, instructions) in the Old Covenant is whether they are doing it right, or enough. Such is the heart in this dear person who wrote to ask a question about the same concerns. In this case it was about the Day of Atonement but the same question could apply to any of the instructions in Torah, be it occasion or life-style. While my answer presents a wider picture, it will hopefully provide greater rest for such concerns.
Q. Thank you for your articles, they bless me and our church and I learn a lot from them. I have but one question. On the Day of Atonement, I fasted and prayed, but I worked on stuff that could have waited. Will God look at me as being disobedient? This has worried me since, and I have already asked for forgiveness, just in case. We lead such busy, hectic lives that rob us of time that could be spent with God. But I know He is with me everywhere, because I feel Him. I just want to know from someone familiar with Judeo-Christian customs if God still honors what I did that day, even though I worked, which I’ll not do again. I am new to this change of lifestyle, and I am being very blessed, and Yeshua is helping me teach people in our church of getting back to our Jewish roots.
A. I want to commend you for what you have done in keeping the Day of Atonement. To answer your concerns, allow me to address several aspects in which the answers to your questions are embedded.
To put your mind at ease, I do not believe you have sinned by working a part of the day. I’m sure the Lord is pleased with any intention to honor the Day of Atonement and His Word. So be at peace! You are not in error or sin regarding this. It is true that if you had not done what is now pricking your conscience, you would have been more blessed than you evidently are, but you have not sinned in working a part of the day. We are, as you know, not under the curse of the Law. Yeshua already paid the price for our sins, failures and omissions. That includes your fear that working part of the day brought His displeasure. God assesses our faithfulness by what He sees in our hearts, and it sounds to me like you have a heart to obey. This was a learning experience of what God may be asking of you because He wants to bless you even more. Take the nudging of conviction as a sign of His love for you, not His displeasure.
The very nature of the Day of Atonement for Believers in Messiah Yeshua is to search our hearts and lives for how we might better walk in a manner worthy of Him (See Col 1:9, 10) because we love him. But it is not a somber day of fear that we might displease Him or that our names might not be included in the Book of Life, but in rejoicing that our names ARE ALREADY written in the Lamb’s Book of Life if we are Yeshua’s and are living a life where the “reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” (Prov. 6:23) In other words, we are sensitive to His Spirit and open to the on-going correction of the Lord, desiring to become more and more like Yeshua.
When we repent for what we feel is a sin we must then believe “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) You might ask yourself, Do I really believe He heard my prayer of repentance? He always hears a sincere repentance. Isn’t that what Yeshua’s Atonement is all about? And isn’t our faith about accepting His complete payment for our sins? Then rest in it.
I had an experience just yesterday that made this even clearer to me. I’m being candid with you here so hear it with kindness toward me, ok? I was writing an essay on forgiveness, telling a particular story of how God began to teach me about forgiveness a number of years ago. I told the story of what had happened and how He had shown me how unforgiveness affects us and how I learned to forgive not just a blanket “I forgive that person,” but to name what it was that I was forgiving that person for. Like naming demons, God had me name the hurts from which I was releasing that person from my wanting vindication or retribution. This way I was in touch with exactly what I was forgiving that person for which left no stones unturned. The story flowed along and was well written and I felt fairly good about it. So good in fact, that I actually thought about sending it to this person whom I had forgiven all those years ago.
This wasn’t entirely out of the blue. This person had called me just recently, though we hadn’t really spoken in a very long time, and mentioned how we had an amiable parting of the our ways. How out of touch with reality is that?, I thought. That’s not how I recall the situation at all. I so wanted to say something to balance out their assessment with how I saw it, and how hard I had to work at forgiveness of what was not so amiable from my end. But I decided to leave it with the Lord. A week later I wrote the essay. I had not thought of sending it to them for long when the Lord whispered in that teeny weeny small voice of His that makes you stop dead in your tracks and said, “What is your motive for wanting to send it?” Uh, well. I then realized I hadn’t fully forgiven them. And if I had before, hearing that they were so unaware of how they had hurt me stirred up an offense that had long since been dead. So I had to forgive them all over again, this time for being so out of touch with my end of the situation.
OK, so I won’t send it, I thought. But obviously this had deep roots and I really had to release it all to the Lord. I sensed Him telling me to delete the file. Just blip it away. Let it go so it was no more. I really didn’t want to as I rather liked the way the story was written. One of my better ones, I thought. A bit poetic even. But I had the distinct impression that I would learn something more about God’s forgiveness if I deleted it. So before I could think more about it, acting in obedience, I deleted the whole file. At that moment the Lord said to me, “That’s what I’ve done with your sins.” Well, Amen to that!
For the sins we’ve committed and even for the sins we’ve not yet committed, our God who holds Time in His hands, who knows the beginning from the end, including all our days and what fills them, has deleted the file that contained our sins. Unretrievable! Gone! Lost forever! That’s how complete the Atonement was.
If a Hebrew could be relieved that their name was in the Book of Life one more year, how much more can we be relieved and live in peace with God (Rom 5:1) that our names are in the Lamb’s Book of Life forever with no chance of any sins ever being retrieved and counted against us. That means, of course, as long as the intentions of our hearts are to obey the Lord. Yes, it is true that “the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God” (Rom 8:7) and so we fight a battle with our flesh. But we side with the Lord and hate our flesh, don’t we? (See Romans 7 to 8:1) That’s what God sees – the deep down true desire of our hearts to honor Him and His word.
What we repent of we then need to leave with Him, accepting the forgiveness and the cleansing, even if we don’t “feel” forgiven. To not accept His forgiveness is to be in unbelief because we are still carrying a sin which He has said He’s forgiven once we confess it!
With regard to following the commandments in the Torah, we are to live not by the letter of the Law but by the Spirit of grace and love. And accordingly, we live out the commandments by the Spirit, that is to say, in love as Yeshua summed up the whole of Torah. (See Mt 22:37-40). We follow His Word because we love Him, not because we fear displeasing Him if we don’t. It’s a matter of attitude of the heart. He is not pleased when we keep the letter of the law out of performance rather than out of love. That does not bring Him pleasure as it’s not out of loving Him that we’re doing it, but out of a sense of duty. An expression that I find helpful says, “God is most pleased with us when we are most enjoying Him.”
To put wanting to keep God’s instructions in Torah in perspective I’d like to reiterate that the church has shunned anything having to do with Torah since the early fourth century officially and earlier unofficially. As more and more Gentiles came to faith in Yeshua, and there were fewer and fewer Hebrews to bring correction through their understanding of God’s Word, gross misunderstanding and misinterpretations of what the New Covenant meant came to dominate the doctrines in the church. Soon anything Hebrew was disdained and eventually outlawed.
For anyone who called themselves a Christian to have wanted to keep the Day of Atonement or any other feast or convocation day, or the Sabbath on a Saturday, you ran the risk of being disenfranchised or excommunicated by the Church, which to the Church leadership meant you’d go to hell. Imagine the emotional torment that would bring. All because you might have a sense that God was asking you to follow what He gave to Israel in the Torah. At other times throughout history, you might have paid with your life, or would have been subject to excruciating and cruel punishment or shame; even burned at the stake, supposedly to save your soul. How’s that for erroneous theology? When we juxtapose all that with what is happening today in the church regarding the desire for and honoring of the Hebrew roots of our faith, it is nothing less than a miracle and can only be counted as God’s sovereign doing.
So the fact that anyone is troubled by NOT keeping the Day of Atonement or any other instruction in Torah properly or fully enough is one amazing feat of Holy Spirit history-making wonder. That you wish to please God by keeping the instructions in Torah by the Spirit at all is surely one huge indication that we live in most significant and prophetic days. That anyone individually or as a church are seeking to keep God’s instructions in Torah by the Spirit is surely a sign of Yeshua’s soon return. It is part of the Tikkun ha olam, the restoration of the world under the Lord’s loving authority. Now that’s cause for rejoicing!!!
As you walk out your new life in the Hebrew roots of your faith, remember that the disciples and the first Believers were in much joy and freedom as they lived their Torah-observant lives now by the Spirit in love. I welcome you into that joy and freedom. Please don’t let anyone put you under a letter of the law saying, “Do this; don’t do that – or God will be displeased with you.” When the Spirit corrects you He does so with encouragement to obey, not condemnation because you didn’t. He is so delighted with you that you are heeding His unction to follow His Word as you who are reading this no doubt are doing. Do what you do for love of God, and enjoy Him and the amazing fact that He has welcomed you into His joy!
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundationk, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.