While climbing to the top of Skogafoss waterfalls in Iceland, we noticed a ladder bridging a barbed-wire fence. This seemed to be quite customary in this country, and naturally, having spied a smaller waterfall up ahead, my mountain-goat-like family wanted to climb it.
But this ladder was not straight. It leaned backwards, and each step was heavily coated with slippery mud.
I watched as my family waltzed over the ladder, then with trepidation I tried to follow suite. Unfortunately I was carrying heavy camera equipment (or was it my tummy that had grown two sizes too big?), and gravity quickly took its toll. I never made it to the top of those stairs, much less to the other side. As I stepped back down onto terra firma, I couldn’t help but watch with sadness as my wife and kids took off up the trail.
I decided to thoroughly explore Skogafoss waterfall while I was waiting for them, and less than two minutes later a calf came running towards me, bleating as it ran. God sure has His ways of comforting His people!
On our way to experiencing God’s forgiveness, there is a very specific breed of believers who will stand in our way. Call them whatever you like, they are the ones who will proclaim to be sons of God, but in all reality they don’t even know their own Heavenly Father. They are the ones who will go out on crusades and kill “infidels”. They are the ones who will practice genocide in the name of the Lord. Quite contrary to what Jesus proclaimed!
You can see these groups in history books, but sadly, they still exist, sometimes even in our own churches! These are the ones who will utterly condemn you, telling you to your face that you are unforgiveable!
The prodigal son who returned to his welcoming father experienced this as well. Not by his father, but by his own brother!
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” (Luke 15:28-30 NIV)
Notice the wording used by this older brother to condemn the repentance of his own brother! He looked at all those years he had stayed with their father as “slaving” for him. What his father would say next never registered in his brain: “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'” (Luke 15:31-32 NIV)
To this breed of believers, no one can measure up to God’s forgiveness.
But in all reality, although that erring son who came back to his dad may not be considered worthy of forgiveness, the father forgave him anyway, no matter what others would think! This is reality: “For God so loved the world (which includes you and me!) that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV)
In our next devotional, we will discover where these specific criticizing believers come from. Be aware that they do not speak the truth! They are the ones who act as the barbed fence, hindering people from accessing the beauty on the other side. They are like that slippery, crooked, muddy ladder. Their purpose is to see us utterly fail! They don’t want to see anyone at the top.
Ignore them! God will receive you with open arms and His forgiveness will be abundant! No matter what your crime, you are forgiven! God has been waiting for you for so long, and He welcomes you home with an open embrace. Let’s celebrate! You have returned to your heavenly Daddy! Welcome home my son/daughter!
What about the barbed wire and the crooked ladder?
That’s not for us to worry about.
(To access the entire “Forgiven” devotional series, please click here.)