As we commemorate the Easter season, I wish to highlight John Stott's book, ‘The Cross of Christ.’ This vital piece of literature thoroughly explores the importance of the cross in Christianity, delving into its numerous aspects, including its significance in both the Old and New Testaments, the complexities of forgiveness, God's satisfaction, and God's self-sacrifice. I urge you to read this book and trust that these devotionals, which are based on its contents, will encourage you to ponder more profoundly the centrality of the cross in our faith. Today's devotional is centred on the fourth chapter, ‘The Problem of Forgiveness.’
1. CHAPTER SUMMARY
In chapter 4, Stott discusses the problem of forgiveness, exploring the nature of sin and guilt and how they relate to God's holiness and wrath.
1. The gravity of sin
The first section examines the gravity of sin and the ways in which it has a corrupting effect on human nature, making forgiveness a necessary and urgent matter. He uses the illustration of a hypothetical scenario where a judge pardons a criminal without imposing a penalty or offering any justification for the pardon. This leads to the question of how forgiveness can be just without any satisfaction of justice.
2. Human moral responsibility
The second section considers human moral responsibility and the role that guilt plays in our understanding of sin and our need for forgiveness.
3. True and false guilt
The third section focuses on the distinction between true and false guilt, and the importance of distinguishing between them in the process of seeking forgiveness. Stott argues that while true guilt acknowledges the reality of our wrongdoing and takes responsibility for it, false guilt arises from a distorted sense of guilt and leads to self-punishment and shame.
4. God’s holiness and wrath
In the fourth section, Stott explores the nature of God's holiness and wrath, emphasszing that these attributes are not contrary to his love but are rather an expression of it. He uses several metaphors, including height, distance, light, fire, and vomiting, to illustrate the profound gulf that exists between sinful human beings and a holy God, and the urgent need for forgiveness to bridge this gap.
Overall, the chapter underscores the seriousness of sin and the necessity of forgiveness, emphasising the centrality of the cross in providing a solution to the problem of sin and guilt.
This chapter underscores the seriousness of sin and the necessity of forgiveness, emphasising the centrality of the cross in providing a solution to the problem of sin and guilt.
‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.’ (Romans 3:23-26)
Chapter 4 of John Stott's book "The Cross of Christ" explores the problem of forgiveness. In this chapter, Stott explains the gravity of sin, human moral responsibility, true and false guilt, and God's holiness and wrath. He also uses metaphors such as height, distance, light, fire, and vomiting to illustrate the holy God's rejection of evil.
As we read Romans 3:23-26 and reflect on Chapter 4, we are reminded of the depth of our sin and the holiness of God. No one is exempt from sin, and it separates us from God. But God in His mercy has provided a way for us to be forgiven and reconciled to Him through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
Remember that forgiveness is not cheap. It came at a great cost, the shedding of Jesus' blood. Therefore, let us not take sin lightly or think that forgiveness is something we deserve. Instead, let us humbly confess our sins to God and receive His forgiveness with gratitude and awe. And let us strive to live holy lives, reflecting the character of our holy God who has forgiven us.