FORGIVENESS AND ITS BASIS
The prospect of Christ’s imminent return and the belief that our sins are too great to be forgiven or that we have not performed enough righteous acts in our life can often fill our heart with fear. Similarly the ecclesia may feel that the offending parties, despite their contrition, are in a “state of sin” and cannot be received back into fellowship unless repentance is evidenced by deeds that have no Scriptural basis! This is a modern form of Judaistic thinking that contributes to how we as individuals cope with our personal failings, and how ecclesias deal with cases of sin and transgression. These problems of which we speak were graphically illustrated in the Lord’s meeting of the demoniac of the Gadarene country (Mark 5).
This man called himself “Legion” and embodied in his mental torment the “many” neuroses and schizophrenia that could ever possess the stricken mind. Legion’s plight emphasised the deranging effect that sin has at different times upon us all, seizing us often without warning, and causing us, like Legion, to dwell in the land of the dead (Mark 5:2–3) “… no man could bind him, no, not with chains”, no matter how great a man’s effort; no! Not by man’s “might” or by man’s “power” could Legion be restrained from the effects of his madness. This is symbolic of the sin power and the nightmare of its imprisonment upon a mind that remained untouched by the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet there was one redeeming thing about this man. During those fleeting times between the fits of malady, he considered his desperate need and the hopeless devices of man to help him, and came and fell down at the feet of Jesus in abject humility, worshipping him. In this very act, he experienced what all God’s servants feel at times very acutely: the holiness of the Lord and our own utter wretchedness, even madness.
In the Lord Jesus’ day there were many who thought that by their own “works” they could be “justified” and consequently did not recognise their desperate need to come to Christ in faith. But many, burdened with every type of mental, moral and physical illness, did come in faith and hope. The united authority of the Gospels tells us simply, “he healed them all”. Is there any reason to believe that what Christ did then, he cannot do now—cast out Legion’s madness and destroy it in the depths of the sea?
Here is the practical solution to all our problems; the comfort and unutterable peace of all those who, being healed, “sit” no longer naked but “clothed” with the righteousness of Christ’s sin-covering garments and in our “right mind” (Mark 5:15). For many, this experience is the renewal in us of a “right spirit” (Psalm 51:10) i.e. a “Steadfast constant spirit” (RV); the spirit of faithfulness to God. It is this new state of mind that pleads; “Cast me not away from thy presence and take not thy Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11). This constant steadfast spirit of faith must also be a holy (set apart) spirit, a mind set upon God’s holiness determined to do his will.
Thus, as Jesus was about to depart, the man who “had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him” (Mark 5:18). The Lord’s command to this man and to all of us who have also been similarly affected is, “go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (verse 19; ESV).