Forgiveness For All

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I came across an interesting online article this morning. The headline read “38 Stars Who Were Arrested in 2012.” My curiosity compelled me to click on the link. The article showed some of our beloved Hollywood A-listers, B-listers, even C-listers in a less than flattering light. We’ve seen them in movies. We’ve listened to their music. We’ve celebrated their athletic accomplishments. This time, however, they were posing for mug shots.

One celeb was sporting a brand-new black eye from a barroom brawl. Another looked as if she hadn’t showered in a year. And with each unflattering profile picture, a detailed description of their indiscretions was published for all to see.

Our celebrities may have grown accustomed to living above the law, but in these particular instances, the law won.

There were stories of drunk driving charges, drug possession, tax evasion. And the list went on. These celebrities seemingly had everything life can offer, but they apparently wanted more. And now they were paying the price.

A very public price, I would add. As if it’s not enough that these high-profile celebrities have been busted by the police, then the whole world is given a front-row seat from which to watch their weakest moments play out like a bad reality TV show. With the manner in which media covers this news it would appear that we, the public, certainly do love to see our celebrities fall.

We build larger-than-life heroes, put enviable icons on pedestals, and imagine beautiful people with pristine personas. Then we spy on them, following their every move, just waiting for them to slip. When that happens, those magazines that plaster these celebrity images on their covers, bragging about their beauty or abilities, don’t hesitate to put them on display again, but for a much different reason.

The religious community has its celebrities as well, and I have witnessed some of the harshest judgment ever from fellow believers who have misbehaved. More than a few celebrity Christians, ministers of megachurches, big-name gospel singers, and charismatic television evangelists have made a mistake, fallen short of perfection, and paid a painfully public price. And every time this occurs, we Christians appear shocked, stunned, disappointed, and appalled by the revelation that even the celebrity Christians are, as the old hymn says, “prone to wander.”

This is my point: Sin levels the playing field. Sin humbles the superhuman. When it comes to shortcomings, the scales between white collar and blue, between celebrity and non-celebrity, balance out in a hurry.

Maybe as you read this, you are thinking, I’m far from famous. What does this have to do with me?

The truth is, celebrities are just like everybody else. Whether you are a professional athlete or a professional plumber, you can add another title to your resume: sinner. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV, emphasis added). If you’ve ever thought you have nothing in common with a celebrity, now you know you do. And as much as you might wish that what you had in common is the amount of cash they have in a bank account or the villa they own in Tuscany, it’s a far less desirable similarity you share. It’s sin.

We all sin. We all struggle. We all wander from God’s way. We all need forgiveness. And God offers a solution that is just as inclusive as the sinful nature that plagues us all.

Even King David

I think of King David as one of the first celebrities in history. This guy could do no wrong — or so it seemed. Take down a bear? Easy. How about a lion? Sure. Kill a giant named Goliath that everyone else in the land was afraid to face? No problem. Become the king of Israel? Done. Have your pick of the most beautiful women in all the land? Can you say “Bathsheba”? And I would call King David a rock star if only the Bible had left out the little detail that he played a harp. (That’s not really a rock star instrument.) But on all other counts, David had clearly surpassed his shepherd status and exchanged it for royalty. Scripture says, “The Lord gave David victory everywhere he went” (1 Chronicles 18:13).

Yet even David — the only person in the Bible described as “a man after God’s own heart” — could not escape the all in “For all have sinned.” And like the celebrities featured in the article I read this morning, his weaknesses and sins have been recorded for all to see. The Bible’s detailed description of David’s indiscretions reminds us that not even a man after God’s own heart is beyond needing God’s forgiveness. Not only are we given a window into David’s world as it shattered around him because of sin, but we also have the chance to gain great insight from his journey to forgiveness. Psalm 51 captures this fallen man’s earnest prayer as he comes to grips with his sins of adultery and murder:

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins (Psalm 51:1).

In many other psalms a forgiven David sang the praises of the God who saved him:

Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things He does for me. He forgives all my sins (Psalm 103:2–3).

David’s prayer is proof that even though he was king, he knew he did not possess the power to meet his greatest need: David needed forgiveness. The same is true for me. The same is true for you. Everyone from the highest of us to the lowest, from the richest to the poorest, from the most well-known to the least known — “all have sinned.” Nobody is able to avoid sinning; no one is able to free himself from the consequences of sin. And nobody has to be bound by those consequences either.

The Bible erases the less from the word hopeless. God’s Word makes no mistake about the seriousness of our sin — “For the wages of sin is death” — but Scripture also presents the solution: “the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). And this solution is not only for a select few. God’s grace goes out to the same all who have sinned. Read these Scriptures and notice their inclusive language (emphasis added):

  • “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
  • “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • “To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” (Ephesians 4:7)

“All of us have sinned. All of us have been offered forgiveness by God. And one day all of us will stand before Him.

  • We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
  • At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Philippians 2:10–11)

Hopefully, you will never have to know how it feels for your sins to be on display for the world to see. And you’ll never see your mug shot printed in the pages of a magazine or your private sins described in great detail for all to read. But you will stand before the Lord one day. All of us will. Every knee will bow before God and every tongue will one day confess that Jesus is Lord (Romans 14:11). Perhaps the thought of standing before the Lord like that one day frightens you. Maybe you shudder at the thought of every day of your life being on display before the almighty and holy God.

Take heart! God has provided a way so that when you stand before Him, you can stand unashamed and totally free from any guilt. The step to take sounds too simple: like David, you must simply receive God’s gift of forgiveness.

Following the example of King David, pray as he prayed: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love” (Psalm 51:1). Then you can be confident that, regardless of your rap sheet, you are forgiven, and you can continue to follow David’s lead spending the rest of your days on earth singing, “Let all that I am praise the Lord!” (Psalm 103:1).

Remember, God doesn’t see people as celebrities or non-celebrities.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

He sees the hearts of His children and recognizes our need of a gift that only He can give. And He offers that gift to all of us. Forgiveness . . . for all.

* * *

Your Turn

Have you felt fear that the Lord wouldn’t forgive you because your sins, your mistakes, your disgraces have been too public? Too big? Too much for Him to handle? Isn’t it amazing that His forgiveness is a free gift if only we ask for it? Pause now and ask the Lord for His gracious forgiveness that He is eager to offer us all, no matter how great our sin. We would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment on our blog! ~Devotionals Daily

Matthew West

Matthew West is a Sparrow Records recording artist and an accomplished songwriter who has penned songs for many of today's top Christian and country artists including Rascal Flatts, Billy Ray Cyrus, Natalie Grant, Mark Schultz, and Point of Grace. He has won two ASCAP Song of the Year awards and has also been a columnist for CCM. Matthew tours nationally, performing 100+ shows per year. He and his wife, Emily, have two daughters.

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