As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. -Joseph to his brothers in Genesis 50:20
The key to being able to forgive is to see God’s purpose in allowing what happened. There is always a much bigger picture than what you can see.
God had a plan for Joseph’s life and He used the sins of his brothers to bring it about. His brothers sold him into slavery and told his father that he was attacked and killed by wild animals. Joseph’s father was crushed and his brothers were able to live for years with the lies they told.
Joseph had the power to punish them, but he didn’t. He knew enough about God to know that there is sovereign purpose in everything that happens. Even the sins that change the course of lives.
God is not limited by sin. He is not rendered helpless when it comes to someone’s evil intent. Even sin answers to God. That means that you can stop looking at your past of ugly smears as though there were no sign of redemption. You don’t have to live in defeat as though God were powerless. You are not living a ‘second best’ life. That goes against God’s promises. If second best is all there is, then why did Jesus come?
You can’t do anything unless God wants it done. He knows you. He knows your shortcomings and He’s not worried about your inability.
People say that in order to receive grace, you must first repent. The words are correct, but the way it is usually meant is not correct. Repenting does not mean ‘asking for forgiveness.’ I always thought it did because that was what I was taught. In all of my studies, it didn’t add up because grace is free and has no requirements. Therefore, putting a requirement on it was in direct contrast with the nature of grace.
Some things we have been hearing all along are said correctly, but the meaning is too shallow because it makes it about ‘self’.
When traditional thought does not mesh with the whole of the Gospel, I dig to find what got twisted.
To ‘repent’ is to see in a new light after the fact. It’s an afterthought, not a forethought. It is a reversal of your state of mind. God gives repentance and/or leads men to it. It is turning from sin to God through faith. It’s a spiritual conversion. (Those last six sentences came from studying the definition in Vine’s.)
I’ll use Joseph and his brothers to illustrate the meaning.
Joseph’s brothers hated what they did to him and were sorry, but that is not what enabled them to forgive themselves. They were still turned toward their sin and it caused shame, sorrow and regret. You don’t have to still be sinning to still be looking at it.
Joseph, however, knew that God had a purpose for their sin. God’s purpose doesn’t make sin less of a sin, it only enables forgiveness and freedom in grace.
When Joseph’s brothers understood, after the fact, that their evil intent was used by God for good, they saw it differently. They were able to forgive themselves and actually be thankful for it. If they had not sold their brother into slavery, they would all be dead. Seeing it from the perspective of hindsight changed their minds about it. They saw God and not themselves. They were reduced and God was increased. That is what ‘repentance’ is. It’s a change of purpose.
He must increase, but I must decrease. -John 3:30
No one who has been granted this ‘change of mind’ would want to go back and go through it again. However, because of repentance they are able to thank God for it as they turn from their sin and move into their future.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. -2 Corinthians 7:10
Godly grief, or Godly sorrow, is another phrase with a twisted meaning. You can be sorry for your sins and hide from God, but that is not Godly sorrow. That is shame and condemnation and it’s caused by unbelief. You can’t be sorry enough to be granted forgiveness because that puts the power in your hands. Godly sorrow is completely different. It is not shame or condemnation. It is love and acceptance. Not acceptance because you’re in great condition, but acceptance because God still loves you and wants you in whatever condition you’re in.
- “For Godly grief…”: He is not your enemy. You can run to Him because He has a plan for this.
- “… produces repentance…”: He’ll show you how He is working every detail out for good.
- “…that leads to salvation without regret…”: You can accept His sovereign purpose and grace with relief. The ‘good’ intended by God defeats the evil intended by you.
- “…whereas worldly grief produces death.”: Living in defeat and regret is a result of unbelief and unbelief is death. “Worldly grief” causes you to hide from God. “Godly grief ’causes you to hide in Him.