Someone once asked Martin Luther, “Do you feel that your sins are forgiven?” He answered, “No, I do not feel that my sins are forgiven, but I know it just as sure as that there is a God in heaven, for feelings come and feelings go, but the Word of God shall stand forever.”
When the devil tells us that we are lost, and our hearts believe him and condemn us, we should never forget what God says in his Word: “Whenever our hearts condemn us…God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” (1 John 3:20) Consider also the Lord’s word to Jeremiah: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (17:9) So... whom shall we trust?
God is greater than our hearts and he knows everything. If we know how sinful we are, our hearts will condemn us again and again, but we remember that God is the one who knows and judges. And what did God do for us? “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:33,34).
When our hearts condemn us, there is always a higher court to which we can appeal. We carry our case from this little “justice of the peace” court to the Supreme Court of heaven, and there the Judge tells us that for Jesus’ sake, we are not guilty, that “though (our) sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18a).
He tells us that the Lamb of God has taken away the sins of the world; he tells us that the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin. He reminds us that through Baptism, he made us heirs of heaven. He points us to the Lord’s Supper for further tangible evidence of forgiveness. If God himself tells us all this, what business do our hearts have to tell us something else?
Martin Luther was once asked if he wished his name were written in the Bible, as in, “Jesus forgave Martin Luther’s sins.” Luther responded that that would be of no comfort because there were likely other Martin Luthers in the world; how could he be sure the words applied to him? He treasured Jesus’ blanket assurance in John 3:16 – “For 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.”
Here, Luther said, is proof that my sins are forgiven. I am part of “the world.”
Don’t worry about “feeling” forgiven. Don’t listen to your lying heart. Listen to God’s Word. You are forgiven in Jesus. Facts, not feelings, matter.
To God alone be the glory,
Pastor Stephen Luchterhand