The Good News Concerning Forgiveness
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
“Be generous to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32 NEB).
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 55:6–9
The blog for today has your address on it, and it is marked “Personal.” This is true because “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). Paul stated it clearly: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
Each of us is guilty of sins of commission. We have broken God’s holy law and have done that which is contrary to God’s will and to our own conscience. We are guilty of doing that which has been hurtful to others. All of us must admit that we are sinners.
Each of us is guilty of sins of omission. We have neglected to worship God and to pray. We have refused to serve. We have failed to behave as we should. We have neglected and refused to give of our time and of our substance to others. We have neglected to give our testimony concerning the goodness of God. We have refused at times to listen to the still, small voice within. We are probably guilty of more sins of omission than of commission.
Each of us is guilty of sins of disposition. We have had times when we have been motivated by false pride and by a self-righteousness that was hurtful to others and was actually hypocritical. We must confess that we are often motivated by unadulterated human selfishness. It is so easy to think of “I, me, and myself.” Who is able to declare that he has never harbored a critical fault-finding spirit that looked for flaws and defects in the lives of others? Perhaps we have been unwilling to admit it even to ourselves, but at times we have harbored hate and hostility toward others.
Sin, in its variegated forms, always affects people in a destructive manner. Sin creates a sense of shame and guilt in the heart of the offender. Sin causes people to flee from the presence of God. Sin causes people to fear death and eternity. Sin creates despair within the heart and robs people of a meaningful purpose for life. Sin alienates people from God and from their better selves. Sin separates people from others and destroys all of those things that are most beautiful and satisfying in life.
The miracle of miracles is that a holy God offers forgiveness to sinful people. This is such good news that it is difficult for people to believe it; it is almost too good to be true.
Through Isaiah, God declared that he forgives sin because of his own nature and for his own joy (Isa. 43:25). Through Ezekiel, the prophet to the exiles, God communicated his desire to forgive sin and to see people enter into eternal life (Ezek. 33:11). The psalmist rejoiced in the free, full forgiveness of God (Ps. 103:1–4). Forgiveness is described in many ways in the Bible. It is a “blotting out of transgressions.” It includes a divine forgetfulness in which God chooses to remember our sins no more. He covers our sins so as to conceal them even from his own penetrating eyesight. Forgiveness is the removal of a charge against an offender, a restoration of kind feelings. Forgiveness is also defined as a decision to repudiate the right to retaliate and punish the offender.
God offers forgiveness to us through faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins (Acts 10:43).
1) Through forgiveness, God lets us get right with himself.
There is no way by which sinful people can atone for their own sin, can purchase redemption from punishment, or can be good enough to earn God’s favor and title to an eternity of fellowship with God. People are totally helpless at the point of either purchasing or meriting the favor of God. Isaiah described the worth of human efforts to earn the favor of God as having no more value than filthy rags (Isa. 64:6).
God offers us forgiveness as a gift of his mercy. He offers us the privilege of being right with him as a free gift. Forgiveness will never come by purchase or by human achievement. It comes through the grace of the God who has loved us and manifested that love through Christ Jesus. David described the joy of being forgiven in Psalm 32:1: “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (NIV).
2) Through forgiveness, God leads us to get right with one another.
The words of our text tell us that because God has forgiven us, we should be forgiving toward others. Inevitably each of us will experience injury at the hands of others. Some of these injuries will be accidental; others will be deliberate. We can live by the law of retaliation and seek to punish those who mistreat us. But those who do so will discover that hostility within the heart brings more harm to the vessel that contains it than it does to the victim upon which it is poured.
The model prayer our Lord gave to his disciples reveals that if we would experience God’s full forgiveness, we must practice forgiveness toward others (Matt. 6:12, 14–15).
3) Through forgiveness, God enables us to get right with ourselves.
Some people find it exceedingly difficult to forgive themselves for their own sins. They continually punish themselves for their past mistakes. To refuse to forgive ourselves is to refuse to do what God has willingly and graciously already done for us. To refuse forgiveness for ourselves is to be guilty of painful self-destruction as time goes by. To forgive does not mean that we condone or permit something that is wrong. To forgive means that we renounce the right to retaliate and so restore kind feelings.
Every pastor could bear testimony concerning the agony that some of his members experience because of their refusal to forgive themselves for a mistake they made in the past. Perhaps their feeling of guilt is a part of the wrath of God upon them because of their sins. Perhaps the feeling of guilt is due to their personal refusal to forgive themselves and to accept God’s forgiveness.
The apostle Paul could have spent his life in a mood of melancholy self-condemnation because of his mad career of persecution before he was converted. However, when God forgave him, Paul forgave himself. He recognized that there were some things in the past that must be forgotten if he was to face the future positively and constructively (Phil. 3:13).
We Christians do ourselves, God, and others no service by continuing to dwell on our own past failures and sins. We must forgive ourselves if we want to live in God’s love and grace.
4) Through forgiveness, God encourages us to worship with joy.
The heavenly Father wants us to approach his throne of grace in love, with gratitude, and with praise in our hearts and on our lips.
God wants the time of worship with his people to be a time of joy and victory. He wants us to lift our voices with joy and happiness. This we are able to do only when we have accepted his forgiveness and when we have forgiven ourselves.
A sense of guilt can be good only if it leads to confession and an experience of forgiveness and cleansing. When God causes us to feel guilty, it is in order that we may experience cleansing and the joy that follows.
5) Through forgiveness, God invites us to engage in service.
After Isaiah experienced cleansing from the filth of sin, he was able to hear the voice of God calling for those who would serve him (Isa. 6:8). After he had experienced this cleansing, gratitude within Isaiah’s heart caused him to say, “Here am I; send me.”
It is impossible for us to labor under a burden of guilt for unforgiven sin and to serve God and be the greatest possible blessing to others at the same time.
6) Through forgiveness, God fills our hearts with hopes and dreams
The heavenly Father does not want people to live in fear of missing the heavenly home at the end of the way. He wants us to live in the glad consciousness that we are to be a part of God’s family and that we are to dwell in the Father’s house forever. Our Lord sought to comfort his disciples with this precious promise as he informed them of his immediate departure from them (John 14:1–3).
To have the assurance that heaven is to be our eternal home encourages an indescribable love for God. It gives rise to gratitude within the heart. It makes possible a life of service and sacrifice based on thanksgiving.
Now in Conclusion
Although God offers forgiveness that is full and free and forever, he does not bestow this gift indiscriminately. Forgiveness can be received only by those who are willing to seek the Lord with all their hearts as they inwardly turn from the attitudes and ways that are contrary to God’s will (Isa. 55:6–7). Forgiveness comes when we are sincerely willing to turn from evil and trust God for the guidance and help that is necessary to turn from evil. Conversion is primarily a change in the basic inner attitude toward God, toward sin, toward self, and toward others. When this occurs within our hearts because we have heard the good news of God’s love, divine forgiveness takes place (Acts 3:19; 10:43).
God is a forgiving God. He is interested not only in forgiving past sins, but is also interested in delivering us from the destructive practice of sin in the present and future. Repentance, a deep inward change of attitude that involves turning from sin to God, makes it possible for God to bless us with forgiveness that is full and free and forever. You can have forgiveness now.
God bless you all, Pastor Mike