But what if Sterling were to repent? What if he were to seek forgiveness? Would it be there for him? -
Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.…(Matt. 18:21-22).During the time of Jesus' ministry there was no lower low-life than a publican. A publican was a Jew who worked as a tax-gatherer for the Roman's. He was a traitor of sorts, worse than extortioners or adulterers. The Jews understandably distained these individuals. They looked down on them as the worst of sinners:
And he spake also this parable unto certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote his breast, saying, 'God, be thou merciful to me a sinner!'" I say unto you, This man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:9-14)
So then, which sin keeps one from receiving forgiveness: being a low-life publican or the self-righteousness of the Pharisees? He who sees himself as healthy apparently has no need of a physician. But forgiveness for sin and justification from God comes to us only via faith in God's mercy offered to sinners in Christ, leading to repentance - not from our own works of "goodness."
Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
For Moses describes the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which does those things shall live by them. But the righteousness of faith speaks as follows: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:1-13)* Inspired by Scott Clark's Heidelblog post Outraged America