YOUR SINS AREN’T BIG ENOUGH
Written by Doug Ponder on November 15, 2014
The Fountain of Love Is Forgiveness of Sins
The Scriptures repeatedly establish a connection between the forgiveness of our sins and our gratitude and love for the one who has forgiven us. “How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!” (Psalm 32:1)
Jesus reinforces this idea when he says, “Her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But whoever is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). In other words, to the degree that we feel the guilt of our sins we will experience the joy of forgiveness in Christ. If we think we are only guilty of a little sin, we will think we only needed a savior just a little. But if we see how great our sin is, then we will understand how great our Savior is too.
Here’s how British pastor Charles Spurgeon explained it, complete with a couple of extra letter u’s: “Too many think lightly of sin, and therefore think lightly of the Saviour. But he who has stood before his God, convicted and condemned, with the rope about his neck, is the man to weep for joy when he is pardoned, to hate the evil which has been forgiven him, and to live to the honour of the Redeemer by whose blood he has been cleansed.”
Whoever thinks they are forgiven of little, will love Christ little. But whoever see that they have been forgiven of much will love Christ much. That’s the power of forgiveness.
Your Sins Aren’t Big Enough
The natural response of sinful humanity is to excuse or deny our sin. But because of the connection between forgiveness and love, this “strategy” has a deadly consequence: when we belittle our sin, we simultaneously belittle our need for Jesus.
What should we do then? Martin Luther’s advice to his friend Melanchthon was this: “Let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger.” Here’s the quote in full context:
“If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary [mercy] but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard, for you are quite a sinner.”
What powerful words! God does not save those who are imaginary sinners. That means God does not save those whose life anthem is, “Not my fault!” Rather, Jesus saves those who know their many sins are very much their fault, who feel the weight of their guilt, and who humbly ask Christ to forgive them in his mercy. If you go to him, he will not cast you out.
Even for those who are Christians, those who already acknowledge their need for Christ, the words of Martin Luther have great relevance. Most of the time, your sins aren’t big enough. Let them be strong. This is not a way of saying, “Sin more!” Rather, this was Luther’s way of pleading with us to see our sins as they really are. “Let them be strong,” he says, because they really are strong. There is actually no such thing as a small sin, not when every sin, no matter the size of its earthly consequences, is committed against the Lord of the universe, the righteous Judge, the gracious Savior. As C.S. Lewis famously said, “It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost him crucifixion.”
So let your sins be big. Call them what they are. Feel the heavy weight of sin around your neck and feel the fires of hell that should have been yours. But do all this not so that you will beat yourself down with guilt. Do all this so that you may experience the joy of knowing that your sin has been removed by Jesus, completely and utterly. As Luther says, “No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins?”
Murder? Adultery? Is he really serious? Where did he get that idea? “Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39). So let your sins be big, but let your trust in Christ be even bigger.
Doug Ponder is one of the founding pastors of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he serves in many of the church’s teaching ministries. He has contributed to several published works and is the author of Rethink Marriage & Family. His interests include the intersection of theology, ethics, and the Christian life. Follow him on Twitter @dougponder.