Triumphant Forgiveness
Robin Weidner, September 2008

"But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to make you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…"
Colossians 1:22

Last night, I had a guilt-drenched dream. In it, I went to get my small children ready for school and realized they had no clothing that fit them. I rushed to the mall, causing them to be late for school.  Then I forgot about them until 6 pm, when I suddenly realized that I hadn’t picked them up from school.  I woke up with my stomach in knots.

This dream pulls from a real-life event that happened over twenty years ago when Dave and I had a mix-up about who would pick up our oldest child Josh from kindergarten. Since we were both in different places doing the work of the full-time ministry, I didn’t realize until I walked in the house and found a voicemail from the principal that Josh hadn’t been picked up. 

I ran to his school and found Josh outside the principal’s office dripping wet. The principal explained that Josh had tried to walk the two blocks home on his own in the pouring rain. (We were living in a partially renovated neighborhood in downtown Indianapolis.) A homeless man found Josh wandering around in the lot next to our house. Recognizing Josh and seeing his distress, the man kindly walked him back to school.

Now the truth is that even in our weakness, God took care of our son.  (Who knows, perhaps the “homeless man” was an angel!)  And Josh (now 26) assures me that he has absolutely no memory of this happening.  But Satan saw the opportunity to set an accusation in my soul …the terrible things that could of happened were your fault!

From Accused to Accepted
He forgave you and all your sins and wiped out the charge-list, which set out all your self-admitted debts, a charge-list which was based on the ordinances of the law, and was in direct opposition to you. He nailed it to his cross and put it right out of sight.”
—  Colossians 2:13-15 (NRSV)

Last night, Satan sought to dishearten me in current circumstances by adding the fear/shame of past mistakes.  In fact, I’m convinced this is one of Satan’s most underhanded attacks — seeking to use past situations to increase the shame of current struggles.

Although Satan would try to make us think we can’t relate to each other, I’ve found that this battle is much the same regardless of our struggles and life circumstances. For one person it may come in the arena of purity, another parenting, another finances, and another relationships.

And when we listen to these accusations, we may ourselves tempted to...
  • Hide out from others and from God.
  • Medicate the pain with television, eating, shopping or even performance.
  • Shrink back from the situations we fear rather than look to God for help (Job 10:15).
In this scripture, Paul gives us two powerful word pictures that can help us expose the lies in Satan’s accusations (remember Satan is the father of lies) and instead embrace our acceptance in Christ.

Nailed to the Cross

First, Paul reminds us where we’ve come from—having been dead in our sins. The word that he used to describe this condition, cheirographon, translated in the NRSV as “charge-list,” was a concept everyone in his time understood.  This charge-list of sin was a note signed by a debtor acknowledging his debt.  A self-confessed written accusation.

Jesus nailed this charge-list to the cross. And as I died in baptism my sins died. Disappeared. The charge list was crucified, excused, never to be seen again.  Amen!

But what I didn’t realize when I came to Christ is how much I would struggle in my Christian life.  If fact, at this point in life I’ve spent a lot more time following Christ than I have without God and have had time to amass an impressive list of after-Christ sins.

And so Satan wants to set up a charge list in my mind. He wants me to think I’ve still got a cumulative contract of accusation against me.

Removed Without a Trace

Here’s where the second word picture comes in.   Colossians 2:13 says that God wiped out the charge list. This word is the Greek verb exaleiphen. As William Barclay says in his New Testament commentary,

“To understand that word is to understand the amazing mercy of God. The substance in which ancient documents were written was either papyrus…or vellum. Both were fairly expensive and certainly could not be wasted. Ancient ink had no acid in it; it lay on the surface of the paper and did not, as modern ink usually does bite into it.

Sometimes to save paper, a scribe used papyrus or vellum that had already been written on. When he did that, he took a sponge and wiped the writing out. Because it was only on the surface of the paper, the ink could be wiped out as if it had never been. God in his amazing mercy banished the record of our sins so completely that it was as if it had never been; not a trace remained.”

What does this mean to me? I picture my Father with a giant sponge continually wiping away my sins, my tears and my fears.  And not a trace of sin, accusation, or guilt is left!

Free From Accusation
This explains so much for us as followers of Jesus...
  • Why we can walk with God without fear, without shame, blameless and holy.
  • What the Bible means when it says that perfect love casts our fear.
  • How our consciences can be completely clean, even when we fall short.
Barclay calls this triumphant forgiveness. I call it amazing grace.

This all-sufficient grace allows me to pick up my head and say “No!” to Satan’s accusations. It allows me to quiet the voices of judgment in my mind, so that I can hear and respond to the Spirit’s guidance. But most of all, it allows me to take on life’s challenges with God at my side, knowing that He works in my weakness, brings good in spite of my flaws, and covers my sins. 

“He stripped the powers and authorities of their power and publicly put them to shame, and, though the cross, led them captive in his triumphal train.” (Colossians 2:15)

Psalm 130:2-5, Micah 7:18, Luke 1:76-78,  Ephesians 1:5-7, Colossians 1:13-14

Ask yourself:
In what arena am I most prone to shame?  An external struggle like parenting, finances, marital status, or ministry or an internal struggle like purity, depression, anger, anxiety?  How does Satan seek to multiply my shame?

Listen to God’s voice:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and who sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:2)

Use the two word pictures in the lesson to take you to the cross.  Picture a written accusation against you.  What words would it contain?  Now watch as God wipes your record clean and instead writes the words... justified, forgiven, saved, cleansed, rescued, free.  How do you feel?  How can you thank him?

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