In the area of forgiveness and as far as the gospel is concerned, Seventh-day Adventists believe differently from many other denominations and Christians. We believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is at the heart of the Three Angels’ Messages, and for that reason it is called the everlasting gospel. It was first preached in the Garden of Eden and then repeated through many prophets and apostles. Jesus Christ presented this same gospel to the dying humanity in this world. For many thousands of years it has never been altered or changed.
Christians of other faiths often proclaim with jubilance that they are saved and have been forgiven. What does forgiveness mean to you? I have literally had a resurrection experience (after heart surgery), and I really feel that the life I now enjoy in my heart is a new life. This is a gift from God. We cannot entertain, we cannot abuse, we cannot create a single day of our lives, but the new heart experience is a precious gift from God every day. Each inhale and exhale, each heartbeat every moment of your life is an infinite, which should be received with gratitude.
Forgiveness is the act of pardon after a guilty party recognizes his/her wrong and repents. It can be the result when two parties both recognize they have not been right or fair and they forgive each other. Of course, we can never say we forgive God, but what happens between God and us when He forgives us? The answer to this is really the center discussion of the gospel. Our salvation begins with forgiveness. Through God’s grace and mercy, He forgives our sins, which is the beginning of our salvation.
When we believe that Jesus Christ has forgiven us, we believe that something tremendous was done on Calvary. Jesus was crucified on the cross as a redemptive sacrifice for us and prepared a platform for our salvation. This is not just the fact of forgiveness but the power of forgiveness. We all believe in God’s mercy and His love, but His forgiveness is more than a judicial act, it is more than a legal action from our condemnation. After all, we are condemned sinners and can do nothing about our sins. We cannot forgive ourselves, or save ourselves from sins or from our own false information. We are puppets to sin and can do nothing, except to trust that God will save our souls from condemnation and from guilt.
Unlike ourselves who have to physically put action to our words to accomplish any act, God is the Creator of all things. When He speaks, whatever it is that He says, happens. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” Psalm 33:6.
There is power in God’s word. When He speaks something is created, something is going to be transformed and changed. So when God forgives, something happens. His Word is a full promise of His forgiveness, and when read and received and believed and the gift of forgiveness is accepted, it changes the heart and behavior of the penitent. We celebrate the Sabbath because our God is the Creator. He has done His own work for our salvation. When we accept His work we accept His creative power. It is this power that keeps us from falling into the same sins; it guarantees us salvation and holiness.
Jesus Heals a Paralytic
“And He entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into His own city. And, behold, they brought to Him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” Matthew 9:1, 2.
Not only does Jesus heal a person by His power, but at the same time gives a living illustration to future Bible students’ understanding of what it means to be forgiven; to see what it means to be touched by God and be forgiven. Mark records this same incident in his epistle chapters 1 and 2, where we find out that the house in which this healing took place was the house of Peter. Wherever Jesus was, the crowds gathered, and Peter’s house was packed with people. Others stood by the doors and windows, everywhere; people surrounded the house that not a single other soul could enter.
This story reminds me of an experience I had several years ago while in China. I was standing in a small room (to hold about 100 people). I stood in the front and watched the people as they came in. They kept coming until I was pushed into the corner. I counted 92 people in that small room. It was jammed packed, and when I looked up there were two heads hanging down from the holes in the ceiling, not able to come down because there was no more room.
There was such a crowd that not another person could fit into the house of Peter where Jesus was. There was a man who heard that Jesus Christ had even cured others of the leprosy. His heart pounded with joy at the thought of seeing Jesus. He believed that his own crippled condition would be cured and his own sins forgiven, if he could only get into the house and talk to Jesus. He asked his friends to take him to Jesus. Seeing the crowd, they were not discouraged but took him up onto the roof and tore apart a section large enough to lower him down into the room.
You can only imagine the reaction of Peter seeing his home being demolished and the revival meeting being interrupted. This man needed Jesus, more than anybody that was crowded in the house. With ropes they lowered him on his bed. His muscles had become hard and stiff like a stick, and he could not move his hands or his feet. There are many Christians today that, even though they go to church every Sabbath, are crippled. They do not know how to walk, how to witness, how to share with others their salvation experiences. They are lame and palsied; they always need to be carried by their pastors and elders and their brothers and sisters in the church. They are sick and do not know how to move around and show the world about God’s healing power.
If you are one of those Christians, you need to come to Jesus Christ and be revived and healed by His power. We are talking here about the power of forgiveness. When the paralytic was lowered, Jesus Christ looked at him and had pity. When we come to Jesus Christ, we faint with yearning hearts appealing to Him and say, “Jesus, I’m here. All I want is Your simple touch. I believe and trust Your power. So come, put Your hand on me and save me.”
When we come as we are with that simple yearning heart not desiring anything else, Christ will perform the miracle that only the Creator can perform. Jesus said this: “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matthew 9:2). Jesus saw this as more important than physical healing. Healing came secondary as a result of the forgiveness of his sins. Do you want to receive the forgiveness that God wants to give you? So many Christians do not realize that to be forgiven by the Saviour is the most important single thing for your soul in the entire world. When Jesus looked at the man on the stretcher, He saw the heart-felt desire of his soul. He had made many mistakes, and when he was young, he was intemperate and committed many sins. He had many regrets in his life, and when he came to Jesus Christ, the thing that he really wanted was the assurance of his own salvation. Can I be saved? Can my sins be forgiven? He witnessed the priests, the scribes, Pharisees and Levites, who served in the service of the synagogues, look at him demeaningly because of his affliction. As he reviewed his life, all he saw was filthiness and wickedness and questioned if there was hope for him. He longed to find the hope and assurance of forgiveness and salvation from Jesus.
As he was being lowered down, Jesus could read his heart. So the first thing he spoke was, “Son, be of good cheer. Don’t be so desperate. Don’t be distressed or depressed. You have a hope, be of good cheer, my son. Your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9:2. He was so happy and relieved from the burden of sins and the guilt of condemnation that he wanted to jump up and stand. Jesus told him, “Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.” Mark 2:11.
There were many witnesses to this event. “And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?” Matthew 9:3–5.
Which one is easier? Is it easier to say your sins are forgiven? This can be spoken by anyone. Actors and actresses can say it, and I can say it. Jesus called Himself, Son of man. He became one of us, assumed our sinful nature, the incarnation, and lived our lives in our shoes, a holy life by the touch of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, a sinless life. You see, this was not because He was a different man. He was the same man with the same nature as we have, but He was filled with the Spirit of God.
New Life in Jesus
This same life of Jesus is available to all who consecrate themselves to Him; a life that is powered of God, with the authority of God. Jesus, as one of us, and as the Son of man, He had the authority and the power of God to forgive sins. I am not saying that we can have power to forgive sin, but Jesus did in His Father’s power. He and His Father identified with each other.
Jesus said, “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith He to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.” Verse 6. Jesus was here demonstrating the freedom of forgiveness. He said, Get up, take your bed with you and walk home. You are not tied to that filthy bed anymore. You do not have to stay there anymore. Rise and walk. You are, by the cords of condemnation, no longer tied down, but are free to live a new life. God has forgiven you and has given you the power to rise and to walk.
He immediately understood the meaning of freedom from sin, and in the sight of the crowd, he arose and took up his bed. He could walk again!
When the people saw him and heard him praising God’s name, they were amazed, having never seen anything like this happen before. As he departed to his house, multitudes saw it and marveled, glorifying God Who had given such power unto man.
When Christians experience this same power of forgiveness in their lives, others will notice they have been touched by the power of God and freed from the power and bondage of sin and been released by God’s word; their sins are forgiven.
When Christians are released from this bondage and arise and live and walk, praise and pray, and help others and live like a forgiven person, others will witness the true gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what it means to “Fear God, and give glory to Him.” Revelation 14:7.
Do you really understand what it means to be forgiven? When God forgives, He does not only forgive the sinful records of the past, as does a judge in a courtroom, reminding you of the amount of sins you have committed and then forgiving them. There is legal forgiveness, which is seen in the sacrificial service. But His main objective in forgiving is to heal. He restores you from the condemnation of sin. He cleanses, He claims you from the power of sin so that you do not sin anymore. Forgiveness releases you from the chains and bondage of sin so that you become a new person, a free person. That is not merely a judicial act, but that is power, the healing power of Jesus Christ who frees us from the bondage of Satan.
Jesus Christ, our God who created us, came down to this earth to save us from sin, not in the sin. I really believe it; do you? When we really understand this, then we will understand what is God’s salvation.
“But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name.” John 20:31. If we believe in Jesus’ name, then we are going to be saved. When we are saved, we are going to receive the life of God. When God gives us this life, we will be revived in Spirit, in our thoughts, in our desires, in our intentions. Our plans, our thoughts and our lifestyles are all going to be changed. We are new creatures, and we don’t dwell in the past anymore. We become a living witness of the Saviour, who has forgiven our sins. Salvation brings with it the forgiveness of God. When we come to Jesus Christ with a contrite heart, and say, “Lord, Jesus, I’m a sinner, I’ve sinned against Thee, only against Thee. Forgive me, cleanse me, and give me a new heart.” When we come to Jesus with all our heart, begging for forgiveness, Jesus Christ is going to forgive us with the power of the Creator. He will give us a new heart, new thoughts, new motivations, new desires, created for His honor and glory. This is the gospel!
No Sin Too Bad
One time when I was in China, a pastor’s meeting was called. With the political climate, the meeting had to be held secretly. The pastors were asked to write questions for me to answer, and when one question came and was translated I thought it a bit odd, as I thought everyone at the meeting were either evangelists or pastors. The question was, “Pastor Kang, can God forgive my sins? Can my great sins that I have committed in the past be forgiven, even me and my sins?” That was not the kind of question I expected from anyone in that group. So, after the meeting I requested that the person who asked that question remain. I found out that the man was a layman who had tagged along with his pastor, for he wanted to attend the meeting and listen to the lectures.
This big man began to sob as he told his story. He told me, “Pastor, I had a wife and children and I was a gangster, a loan shark. I went from business to business and house to house to get the money for our boss and our gang groups. I have committed many, many great sins. I cannot even look up to heaven. I do not know if God is able to forgive me or not. I don’t know if He really wants to forgive me or if I’m condemned. But I heard you and I have a little hope in my heart. Can God forgive my sins?” I asked if he believed in the word of God, the Bible. He did, so I asked him to open his Bible and read a few verses with me.
“He will turn again, He will have compassion on us; He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:19.
“Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18.
I asked him, “Can you believe it? Do you see any conditions mentioned here? As long as you come to Jesus Christ, and say, ‘Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner, forgive me.’ That’s all it takes, if you come with all your heart.” I asked him, “Do you believe in His promise?” And he said, “Yes. I want to believe this promise.” “Do you want to, or do you believe it?” And he said, “I believe it.”
Praise God! I knelt down with him and I prayed, going over the promise of Jesus again in the prayer. I told the man to thank Him for His forgiveness. I finished the prayer saying, “Jesus, You heard his confession; he came to You with all his heart. As You have promised, forgive his sin now, so he may go with a happy heart and with a healing touch.”
With tears in his eyes, the man rose, he hugged me with a hug so hard it was suffocating.
You may attend church for twenty or thirty years or for all your life, but are you really forgiven? Do you know for sure that Jesus Christ has forgiven your sins?
When God forgives you, He reclaims you from the condemnation of sin. He heals you from all the scars and takes away the excess baggage loaded with past sins. When God heals the palsy and says, “Son, thy sins are forgiven,” at that same time He says, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” He means arise from your past. Shun all those weaknesses and problems, sorrows, pains and sufferings that are caused by your sins and iniquities. Arise from that; you don’t have to be entangled with them anymore. He is healing you just as He created the earth. He created the trees and flowers, the sun, moon and stars and with that same power He will heal you. He commands you, come, arise and walk in newness of life.
There is a power in God’s forgiveness, something happens. Many Christians believe that when God forgives, something happens on God’s part, that a contrite heart and confession in the spirit of repentance will cause in God’s heart the release of His anger and condemnation. They forget that God the Father is the One who sent Jesus Christ to save us. Long before we have a contrite heart, like the father of the prodigal son, He already has determined in His mind to forgive us. It was when the prodigal son remembered the love of his father that he rose and turned and began to walk home. But even before he made that decision to return, his father turned on the lantern on the porch every night in anticipation. He was waiting and waiting for his son to return. So when his father saw him in the distance, he immediately recognized him, saying, “That is my son!”
When the distance was still far, the father ran and embraced his son in his bosom and accepted him, even before he said, “Father, forgive me.” His father had already forgiven him, and just like that father long ago, our heavenly Father is waiting for our return. Many people say they are forgiven and that maybe it is only in the books or records, but God’s intention is to heal our soul from the problems caused by our iniquities.
This is good news. When God forgives, something happens to us, not to God. We can rise with healing.
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son; in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:12–14.
Through the blood of Jesus Christ, we are redeemed. Many Christians have a different gospel, claiming the forgiveness of God while retaining habitual sins in their heart. They claim forgiveness of the records of sin only and without the power to cleanse the heart.
“But forgiveness has a broader meaning than many suppose. When God gives the promise that He ‘will abundantly pardon,’ He adds, as if the meaning of that promise exceeded all that we could comprehend: ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:7–9). God’s forgiveness is not merely a judicial act by which He sets us free from condemnation. It is not only forgiveness for sin, but reclaiming from sin. It is the outflow of redeeming love that transforms the heart.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 114.
Pastor David Kang is the director of Light for Life U.S. Ministry operation out of Fort Lee, New Jersey. His sermons are broadcast weekly on New York and Virginia Korean television stations. Pastor Kang also frequently travels to Asia where he trains pastors who often work “underground.”