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Finding Forgiveness: Discovering the Healing Power of the Gospel Paperback – November 25, 2016
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About the Author
Stanley D. Gale serves as senior minister of The Reformed Presbyterian Church, West Chester, Pennsylvania. He is the author of numerous books and articles, leads seminars on various topics, and is the founder of Community Houses of Prayer.
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Gale rightly begins, not with how we are to relate with one another, but with how God has related to us through His Son. He clearly states that, "The Bible is a redemptive document that focuses on the person and work of God's Messiah. At the heart of that message is forgiveness of sin to be received not by reformation of one's ways but by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah of God...
Here is where our knees buckle in wonder and our hearts flood with love, gratitude, and awe. Where an audit of the depth of our sin exposes greater and greater liability to the justice of God's holiness, every invoice we find will be stamped "paid in full" at Calvary, where Jesus announced, "it is finished." This was a pronouncement that the debt of the sin He bore was paid - in fullness and finality." The depths of the forgiveness that God has shown through Christ is staggering, truly a knee buckling thought that will drive how we relate to one another.
Gale is also helpful to remind the reader that this is not just a merely intellectual exercise, studying about a theological topic to gain head knowledge, but rather something much greater. He states, "forgiveness is not merely a theological construct to be studied, it is a divine accomplishment to be savored and offered to others." To be able to offer forgiveness to others, sometimes to those who may have injured us greatly, means that we first must drink deeply from the depths of forgiveness that has been accomplished for us. From here Gale guides the reader into thinking about forgiveness biblically. I found his short section on what it means to "remember not" others sins to be very helpful. Gale offers three ways that we are to "disremember" others sins: 1) no longer bring it up to the other person 2) no longer bring it up to others 3) no longer bring it up to ourselves. Most everyone recognizes that the first way is a crucial part of forgiveness, but sometimes we can bring sin up to others and call it venting. Or perhaps bring it up in counsel with a friend that turns more into a gossip session than anything that would be biblically helpful. We can also never speak a word about the sin to anyone, but continually replay it in our minds. All of these way are crucial for us to not remember sins against us.
I found Gale's writing to be clear, concise and overall a very helpful book on the topic of forgiveness. This is certainly a book that would be a great resource for pastors and others who give counsel to have readily available to give to people who are struggling with understanding biblical forgiveness. The "Discovery Questions" at the end of each chapter also make it a great resource to be able to work through devotionally, one on one, or in a small group. Excellent resource!
I received a copy of this book from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.
"Q. What is Justification?
A. Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 33"
This is an important starting point because it sets the question of forgiveness squarely within the context of gospel grace and not as a transactional and meritorious exchange with God. This is important for the reader to grasp because the following chapter (called Forgiveness as Kingdom Currency) could make any reformed reader sweat bullets if the author hadn't already set the context within the gospel.
The second chapter is critical for the reader to understand before moving into such practical applications of forgiveness as forgiving others as well as ourselves. If you skip this chapter you will miss the theological foundation for the task of living out forgiveness. Don't skip this chapter. I have to confess, when I first received the book in the mail and read through the chapter titles I was a bit nervous when I saw a chapter with the word "currency" in the title. I was not familiar with the author and wasn't sure where he stood on the Reformed understanding of grace. I was comforted by the fact that Finding Forgiveness is published by Reformation Heritage Books and that held my worry at bay while I worked my way through the chapter. Having just read chapter 1 in which Gale affirmed that our justification is by grace alone, I was confident that he would resolved the tension and end up at a theologically orthodox position -- the way in which he did this was masterful to say the least.
"Confession would be opening an accounts receivable ledger, looking up the debt of the sin we confess, and finding it has already been paid. We don't draw on Christ's blood to pay. We draw up to the ledger to discover it has already been paid by Him; the debt is wiped clean. God calls us to the throne of grace not to be forgiven but to find forgiveness."
This distinction is important because the predominant concept of how believers relate to ongoing confession is that we confess our sins in order to be forgiven all over again. In this understanding of confessing our sins, we are told that though we are made clean upon justification, we must return to the cross continually in order for God to dust off the residual sin that accumulates between confessions. In this view, confession is a currency which we pay to God in order to for Him to be able to forgive us. Gale leaves no room for this and is thoroughly Reformed in his explanation of forgiveness.
With the theological stage set, Gale rounds off the book with a brilliantly pastoral treatise on the practicalities of forgiveness. Here he deals with such issues as how to practice forgiveness with others, the "alter of forgiveness" that we have in the Lord's Supper, and forgiving ourselves.
Finding forgiveness helps the believer understand his/her own forgiveness rooted in the gospel and understand how and why we forgive others. This book is just for a subset of Christianity- it is a book that the entire Church would benefit from reading. The grace of forgiveness and its continuing role in the Christian life is central to Christianity and the character and nature of God and the issue of forgiveness is important for us to get right. This is a book that you will want to read, set down, and come back to after a while. Forgiveness is a life-long grace that we partake of and in. I would absolutely recommend this as a part of a homeschooling curriculum as many of the existing character formation units tend to focus more on behavior modification rather than addressing character as something that God works in us through the gospel. The questions at the end of each chapter are perfect for family discussions if this book is read as a family.
Finding Forgiveness: Discovering the Healing Power of the Gospel
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Reformation Heritage Books in exchange for an online review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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