Striking back at someone in revenge is nothing surprising. That’s just human (sinful) nature when you’re hurt. But forgiving out of a deep gratitude to God for the mercy you’ve received through Jesus is a miracle that grabs people’s attention.
Par for the Course
It’s not surprising to hear us “sorta” talk about our sin while “sorta” pointing out how it really isn’t all our fault. Hiding and blame-shifting are par for the course, but owning and confessing our sin as God sees it is something incredibly different. If we cry out to him with godly sorrow—God, be merciful to me, a sinner—with confidence that He is not only the righteous Judge who condemns sin, but also the merciful God who forgives sinners whose whole hope is in Christ’s work, then that’s a miracle.
“God Is at Work!”
The miracles of the Bible grab our attention. They shout, “God is at work right here, right now!”
Would we reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment as the sick woman did in Luke 8:40-48 and was healed? The Holy Spirit is the cause of such miracles, and in working them, He’s not just trying to make exciting stuff happen for the sake of excitement. He’s also not trying to draw attention to himself, nor to us. Rather, the Spirit works ultimately to draw our attention to Jesus.
J.I. Packer refers to this as the Spirit’s “floodlight ministry”:
It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over on Jesus, who stands facing us. The Spirit’s message to us is never, “Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me,” but always, “Look at him and see him, and see his glory; get to know him, and hear his word; go to him, and have life; get to know him, and taste his gift of joy and peace” (He Who Gives Life).
If the Holy Spirit, the divine Change Agent Himself, is content to focus our attention on Jesus and not Himself, then that gives us a clue as to how He works through us. Spirit-led, transforming lives will have this same quality: they will increasingly draw our attention to Jesus.
And there, for the one whose attention is fixed on Jesus, the Spirit works transformation (2 Cor. 3:18). Bottom line: the Spirit works through you to turn people’s attention to Jesus where they too can be changed. Let’s look again at our opening scenarios to see how this might happen in granting forgiveness and confessing sin.
How God Works through Us When We Grant Forgiveness
Jesus showed His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, he died for us (Rom. 5:8). While we were still His enemies, He loved us crying out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24).
When we love others as Jesus has loved us, we forgive them when they sin against us. The Spirit uses such Christ-like acts of forgiveness to draw attention to Jesus and make hearts receptive to the gospel. Notice, though, the Spirit is at work here exalting Christ, not our act of forgiveness.
How God Works through Us When We Confess Sin
When we go to others in sorrow for our sin against them—for godly reasons, not selfish reasons—we, in a sense, step out of the way and let God be seen as the righteous One who loves to work “righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed” (Ps. 103:6).
He loves those we’ve sinned against so much that he softens our hearts and makes us willing to repent and make things right. This is one of the ways He shows his love and goodness to others, which is ultimately and most clearly portrayed at the cross. God works through us by using our Christ-centered repentance to drive attention to the cross.
The Spirit is at work in you to do something through you that’s so much bigger than you. Look to Jesus.
Join the Conversation
How can God by His Spirit work through you as you grant forgiveness to others and confess sin to others?
Note: This post originally appeared at the Resurgence website and is re-posted with permission. You can also read the original post at: How God Works Through Us.