Is there anything more precious than God’s forgiveness? Truly it is one of the sweetest demonstrations of His mercy and grace, the soothing salve for a guilt-ridden conscience and the gateway to peace in both this life and the next.
But why do we seek divine pardon? What is our motive?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. In a Bible study recently, a friend asked this provocative question: Is Christianity basically a selfish religion because it appears that we come to God primarily to get something, whether it be forgiveness of sins or eternity in heaven or physical healing or the answer to 1001 self-serving prayers?
This question reminds me of the devil’s attack on the character of Job. “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan claimed that Job’s devotion to God was insincere; he followed God merely for the material benefits.
Why am I a Christ-follower? Is it purely for selfish reasons? Am I a Christian only because of the perks, which are incredibly great? Why wouldn’t someone become a Christian? Look at the rewards we’ve been promised!
I believe that Psalm 25:11 sheds light on this issue. David says, “For the sake of your name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.” We seek forgiveness for many reasons: a clear conscience, the removal of guilt, reconciliation with our Maker, the promise of heaven and avoidance of hell. But if those are our only motives, is our faith genuine?
David told God that he wanted forgiveness “for the sake of your name.” The name of God is synonymous with the glory of God. God’s name refers to all that He is – His manifold attributes and holy character. So David is saying that he wants forgiveness so that God will be glorified. Sure, we get the benefits, but our forgiveness results in the praise, worship and adoration of the King of glory, because forgiveness is something that only He can do. It puts the magnificent love and kindness of God on display.
When we do something so that God’s name is exalted, our motive aligns with His sovereign plan. And certainly the glorification of our Creator is at the top of the list of His purposes. Paul told the Corinthians that “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Shouldn’t “whatever you do” include the seeking of forgiveness? If I only want pardon so that I feel better, something is amiss. I should also desire the mercy of God “for the glory of God.”
The essence of faith is to look away from ourselves to the only One who can meet our needs. And we definitely need God’s forgiveness; without it we’re in big trouble on Judgment Day. But we would do well to remember that the two-fold purpose of every gift offered us by God is both His glory and our benefit.
Two more passages express this truth quite well:
“Yet [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20-21). Like Abraham, when we come to God, believing that He can fulfill a promise (such as forgiveness of sins), we get the blessing and He gets the glory. The act of faith gives glory to God.
God tells us to “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15). This is another wonderful verse that unpacks the two-fold purpose of salvation, whether physical or spiritual. When we cry out to Jesus for deliverance, we are rescued and He is glorified. It’s the best of both worlds for both God and His people.