Forgiven Part 2: How Failure Ends


The heart of Jesus loves us as we are, not as we should be, beyond fidelity and infidelity, beyond worthiness and unworthiness, he who loves us in the morning sun and the evening rain, without caution, regret, boundary, limit or breaking point. Brennan Manning

God is always moving forward.

He does not camp out in your past. He is not immobilized by your choices. Jesus fought his way to the cross for a reason. Ephesians 5:25 reads “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, so that…”

God always has a so that.

The apostle Paul declared, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6 ESV).” And “He who calls you is faithful, and he will surely do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24 ESV).” And “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another. It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand (Romans 14:4 ESV).”

God brings his work in you to completion. God is faithful in his call of you. God makes you to stand.

Every time you have sinned, every time you made a lapse in judgment, every time you chose a wrong course of action, God responded in the same way. God chose to use that moment, that circumstance, that decision to move you forward. He has no other way. What seems a step back to us is always a step forward by his Spirit.

You came to Jesus to be made more like Jesus. Nothing steers God away, slows God down or stops God at all from accomplishing just that.

But why? What is it about you that he can’t let go of? Why do we hang on?

God is always moving forward because he is true to himself.

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities (Psalm 103:8,10).

The Lord is. He does not change.

In any aspect of our life, whether it is what we do or what is done to us, whether in good times or bad, the same question is most important: How do you see God? Your enemy wants you to see God as others have made him out to be: Offended, critical, indifferent, punishing, silent, impatient. We often believe God is like those to whom we were first attached. Though they had good qualities, they represented to us subtle but false messages: We were not enough of this; we were too much of that. We assume God regards us the same way.

But God wants you to see him as he reveals himself to be, which is perfect love. Jesus, God with us, proved it.

Every day, every moment, without fail, God is love toward you. God is merciful and gracious toward you. God does right by you. When everything seems to shout the opposite, God is.

Commenting on Psalm 51, written by King David after his adultery, Eugene Peterson observes: “There are only four different words used to name the sin…These four sin words are sufficient to adequately map the entire country of sin. But the central action is carried by nineteen different verbs used to invoke or declare God’s action of forgiveness and restoration. We have a finite number of ways to sin; God has an infinite number of ways to forgive (italics mine).

God is always moving forward because he is true to who you are.

When you fell, who fell?

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).”

The word for workmanship in the Greek is the origin of our word, poem. It describes the completed work of an author or poet. Something has been made. Something came from creative imagination and has been given shape. The one thing poets and authors and artists do when they are finished is sign their work. God has so made you in Christ that he puts his name to you. You are his artistic expression.

The word workmanship in its noun form is used only one other time. In Romans 1, we read that God’s invisible attributes are known by what has been made. God, who made himself known through creation, now makes himself known through you, his re-creation.

As we trace the usage of this word further, our identity in Christ becomes even clearer. The word workmanship in its verb form is made. We find it in Revelation 1:6, “Jesus Christ, King of kings, has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father.”

As workmanship, you represent God in partnership with him, doing and saying what God wants done and said.

The word created has two meanings. The first is habitable. The second is useful. You have been created to be inhabited by God. As he lives through you, he uses you to make the difference you desire to make.

We ache to be meaningful in this life. We were created for good works. Though the word good has a moral quality to it, it also has a functional quality (something works like it is supposed to). God is setting things right, and he does it through us. Scripture exists so that we may be equipped for good works; leaders exist to prepare us for good works (2 Timothy 3:17; Ephesians 4:12).

These good works were prepared beforehand by God. The phrase appears in Isaiah 28:24 to describe a farmer preparing his field, and in Romans 9:23 to speak of God preparing Gentiles for his glory.

God makes you ready for someone and something.

God makes someone and something ready for you.

This is your identity. You are a partner with God. He inhabits you. His power is in you. Your heart beats to do what you know you were meant to do. There is something more, and God has prepared you for it. He goes ahead of you as your advance party. He prepares people and opportunities for you.

When you fell, God did not put you in a room to think about what you did. He didn’t take a moment to himself so that he could cool off. Most importantly, when you fell, the Spirit did not leave you!

According to Romans 8, between now (when we suffer much) and then (fullness of our salvation), the Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us, joining God’s will to our situation. He does this so that we can partner with God. Romans 8:28 is a tricky translation, but the best sense is “God works with those who love him to bring about good in all things.” The result is that we become more like Jesus (v.29).

Relationship with Jesus is always with. We rise. And we rise because God is true to who he is and to who we are, and because no knockdown from the enemy is a knockout for those who believe God is faithful to his love. Not only did the Spirit not leave you, he immediately began to move forward with you.

Your sin does not stop God from seeking to bring you into fullness. He is moving you forward into three incredible realities.

The first is radiance. You will be his glorious bride.

Ephesians 5:26-27 promises that Christ loves you and gave himself up for you “so that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (ESV).’

Second, God is preparing you for a rich welcome.

“You will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:11).”

Third, in his rich welcome, God promises us reward.

Romans 8 describes us as fellow heirs with Christ. The idea of inheritance is prominent in Scripture:

• You will receive the inheritance as your reward, Colossians 3:24
• That they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith, Acts 26:18
• (He has caused us to be born again) to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you, I Peter 1:4.

In addition to an inheritance, we read about receiving crowns:

• They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we, an imperishable, 1 Corinthians 9:25
• There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing, 2 Timothy 4:8
• When he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him, James 1:12
• You will receive the crown of unfading glory, 1 Peter 5:4

Inheritance and crowns are another way to describe eternal life. The radiant Bride enters the eternal kingdom and there enjoys the fullness of everything God has intended for her without limit or restriction.

My guilt has been great. The shame I have felt from others was a weight I had never borne before. There was really only one thing that kept me going: I knew that God had a different end in mind. Despite the harsh rejection from people, and in spite of the sinister intent of the evil one, I kept my eye on the truth that God is faithful to who he is, and he is faithful to who he says I am.

He is faithful to you. He knows how you want to isolate yourself. He knows the distorted thinking with which you struggle. He knows the anger and confusion that arises. He feels when you are numb; he knows when you are depressed. When trust is hardest for you, he draws near.

My belief that God is always moving forward changes how I see and treat people when they fall. I now see treasure spilled. I see beauty with a skinned knee. I see strength ganged-up on.

We are a champion for the fallen. We elevate the dispirited. We stand against the accomplices of the Accuser who refuse to extend forgiveness to the repentant, who trample underfoot as disgrace the blood of Christ, who spit upon the cross as insufficient and pry off the fingers of those who cling to the throne of mercy. Until our last breath is drawn, we devote our energy to silencing them, for those who fall are more than fallen. They are destined.

(Excerpt from Forgiven: How To Move Forward From Guilt And Shame, Joe Woodruff, used by permission and available on Amazon):