September 7, 2014
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Forgiveness
#1—Receive it

Introduction:

Forgiveness is at the very core of the gospel.  I have some wonderful news for you!  You are fully forgiven and accepted by God.  Would you say this with me: “I am fully forgiven and accepted by God.”  Please tell the person next to you, “You are fully forgiven and accepted by God.”  This was the good news that Jesus sent His disciples to tell.

Luke 24:46–47 Jesus told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

What was the message they were to preach?  Repentance for the forgiveness of sins.   In other words, turn to God and you’ll be forgiven!  Did they preach that?  Here’s Peter preaching in the book of Acts.  When the people asked what they should do:

Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Here’s Paul preaching in the book of Acts:

Acts 13:38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.”

What was proclaimed?  Forgiveness of sins through Jesus.  Forgiveness is at the very core of the gospel—the good news is that through Jesus you are fully forgiven and accepted by God.  Forgiveness is the core of the gospel and is central to our relationship with God and our relationships with each other.  So for the next three Sundays, we’re going to talk about forgiveness.

  • Receive it: I want you to experience full forgiveness from God.
  • Give it: I want you to offer full forgiveness to others.
  • Share it: I want us to create an environment of full forgiveness in our church and community.

Bobby Moore, our college pastor is going to bring the second message next Sunday.  I asked Bobby to share because we are pregnant again!  Bobby is going to plant a new church in January at our campus on Nora.  It’s going to be our 10th daughter church and will be called River City Church.  Bobby is a wonderful pastor and next Sunday you will get to hear his heart when he teaches us about giving forgiveness to others.  But before you can give forgiveness, you need to receive it. 

Today is about receiving forgiveness from God…which leads to our first question. 

1. Why do I need forgiveness?

You might be wondering,  “Why do I need forgiveness?  What have I done that’s so bad?  I’m a nice guy.  I’m a pretty good person.  Why do I need forgiveness?”  Because…I sin…and it’s killing me!

What is sin? 

Is it doing bad things?  Yes, but it’s more than that.  It’s also failing to do good things.  There are sins of commission—we commit a bad deed; and there are sins of omission—we omit or fail to do the right thing. 

The word “sin” in your Bible is usually a translation of the Greek word hamartia, which means “a missing of the mark.”

ILL: I told you that I worked on lowering my golf score.  Sometimes I’ll hit a putt and just barely miss the hole; it will lip out, and I’ll say, “I hit a perfect putt!  I can’t believe I missed.”  The truth is that a perfect putt would have gone in.  Golfers have a saying: “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”  A miss is a miss—it’s one stroke whether you miss by an inch or a mile. 

Sin is a miss—we miss the mark of God’s perfect standard.  Sin is thinking, saying or doing anything that misses the mark of God’s perfection.  The little white lie, the slight exaggeration, the tiny embellishment misses the mark of perfect truth just like the outright bald-faced lie.  The little white lie lips out; the bald-faced lie goes ten feet left of the hole; but neither one dropped in cup. 

You might be thinking, “Wow!  If sin is thinking anything, saying anything, or doing anything that misses the mark of God’s perfection, I sin a lot!”  Hold that thought…

One other very simple definition of sin: it is rebellion against God.  In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, our ancestors Adam and Eve had the run of paradise with only one limitation.  Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They decided to disobey God—it was an act of deliberate rebellion.  They wanted to be gods, free to do whatever they wanted.  And every human being has followed their example and rebelled.  

We do it in different ways.  Some of us shake our fists in God’s face.  Think of the story of the Prodigal Son that Jesus told in Luke 15.  The younger son told his dad, “Give me my inheritance now; I’m out of here!”  Basically, he told his dad, “I wish you were dead!”  He declared his independence and left home.  Some of us do that—we shake our fists in God’s face, declare our independence and make a mess of our lives.

But there are other ways to rebel.  Remember the older son in the story?  He stayed home and obeyed his father.  But when his younger brother returned and the father threw a big welcome home party, the older brother pitched a fit.  He told his father, “I slaved for you all these years and you never threw a party for me.”  He was a good boy, but he was as far from his father as the younger son had ever been.  He rebelled against the father’s grace and mercy shown to the younger son.  “No fair!” he said. 

Why do I need forgiveness?  Because I sin. 

  • I sin by rebelling against God, asserting my independence, going my own way.  I’m a rebel. 
  • I sin by thinking, saying and doing things that miss the mark of God’s perfection.  Sometimes I lip it out; other times I miss the hole by a mile.
  • I sin by doing bad stuff, but also by failing to do the good I know I should do. 

I sin, and it is killing me.  And I’m not the only one.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Who has sinned?  All.  Can I see the hands of all?  “All” pretty much means “all”—including me, including you.  Paul goes on to say that sin is killing us.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What does sin pay us for wages?  Death.  God told Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed and ate the forbidden fruit, they would die.  They sinned and death entered our world.  They died, and everyone after them has died.  Sin kills us, not only physically, but spiritually.  It separates us from God. Isaiah said:

Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

Why do I need forgiveness?  Because I sin, and it’s killing me.  It’s separating me from God now and for eternity.

Some of you are still thinking, “Aw come on!  I’m not that bad.”  So here’s the second question. 

2. How much do I sin?

The answer is: A lot!  Way more than you know!

In Matthew 18, Peter asks Jesus, “How often should I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?”  Peter thought he was being generous.  The rabbis taught that you should forgive someone up to three times.  So Peter took that number, doubled it, and added one for good measure.  “Up to seven times?”  I’m sure Peter was smiling, waiting for an “attaboy” from Jesus.

“Not 7 times, but 70 times 7!”  Jesus didn’t mean that we forgive someone 490 times and then stop—that would be a bookkeeping nightmare!  He meant that we forgive every time, no matter how many times the other person sins.  

Then Jesus goes on to tell a story to illustrate the importance of forgiveness.  A king decides to settle accounts with some of his subjects.  One of them owes him 10,000 lifetimes of salary—it was 10,000 talents, and a talent was a unit of money roughly equal to a man’s wages over a lifetime.  It was a staggering debt.  Unimaginable.  You wonder how a guy could rack up that much debt!  Do you get scads of credit card offers in the mail?  Maybe this guy accepted every card and maxed them out!  But even then—10,000 lifetimes of salary?  You’ve got to work hard to rack up that much debt!  He begs the king for time and he’ll repay it all—like he’s got 10,000 lifetimes!  Here’s the amazing thing: the king is filled with mercy and forgives the whole debt.  The whole thing—gone!

This guy goes out and finds another guy who owes him a couple months salary—not pocket change, but nothing compared to 10,000 lifetimes!  When the guy asks for more time, the man who’d just been forgiven refuses to forgive and has him thrown in jail.  Unbelievable!

Other subjects see all this and rat the guy out to the king who calls him back and rescinds his forgiveness and reinstates his debt.  If you’re forgiven, you’ve got to forgive!  Bobby is going to cover this next week.

Here’s what I want you to notice.  Who is the king in the story?  God.  And who is the guy with the huge debt.  Me; you.  Jesus is implying that each of us has racked up a debt we can’t pay.  We have sinned more than we ever imagined. 

We all tend to view ourselves through rose-colored glasses.  “I’m not that bad,” we think.  “You, on the other hand…”  Someone said, “Sin is the disease that we all suffer from, but we feel our neighbor’s case is far more advanced than ours and ours is on the verge of being cured.”

But in this story, Jesus implies that we’re all far worse than we think, that our debt is larger than we ever imagined.  We think we are better than we really are. But the best among us has sinned a lot and needs lots of forgiveness. 

ILL: For example, if you are a conservative sinner and only sin an average of 10 times a day, by the time you were 10, you would have racked up 36,500 sins.

  • By 20, 73,000 sins.
  • By 30, 109,500 sins.
  • By 40, 146,000 sins.
  • By 50, 182,500 sins.
  • By 60, 219,000 sins.
  • By 70, 253,500 sins.
  • By 80, 292,000 sins.

Pastor Noel, who is 86 and a saint, is well over 300,000. That’s a very conservative estimate…10 sins a day.  And that’s not counting leap years!

I love this prayer:

ILL: Dear Lord, So far today, I’m doing alright.  I have not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish or self-indulgent.  I have not whined, complained, cursed, or eaten any chocolate.  I have charged nothing on my credit card.  But I will be getting out of bed in a minute, and then I think I’ll really need your help! 

Shoot, I can rack up 10 sins before I get out of bed!

The point is simple: we sin more than we think.  Remember the huge debt, the 10,000 lifetimes of salary.  That’s me; that’s you.  And God forgives it all.  Which leads to the third point and our big idea.

3. How much does God forgive?  All of it!   

The king in Jesus’ story forgave the whole debt—the whole 10,000 lifetimes of salary.  All of it!  Every bad thing you’ve ever done, big or small, is forgiven.  Every good thing you’ve failed to do, big or small, is forgiven.  Everything you have ever thought, or said, or done that misses the mark of God’s perfection, whether it’s a lip out or a ten feet wide, is forgiven.  Every bit of rebellion, large or small, loud or quiet, is forgiven.  You are fully forgiven!  And it’s all because of Jesus.

John 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

There is another meaning to those words, “It is finished.”  Jesus wasn’t just saying that his torture was over.  The Greek word is tetelesthai, and it means “paid in full”.  It is the very word that was stamped on a bill or a debt that had been paid.  Jesus paid it all.  He paid every cent of your 10,000 lifetimes of salary debt.  It’s finished, paid in full.  You are fully forgiven!  Paul writes:

Colossians 2:13–14 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

He forgave us how many sins?  All.  Paid in full.  In fact, Paul uses that very image in verse 14.  Jesus “canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness.”  The New Century Version translates it, “He canceled the debt, which listed all the rules we failed to follow.”  Imagine a list of all your sins, large and small—a huge list—and stamped across it, “Paid in full.”  He forgave us all our sins.  You are fully forgiven.  Here’s

The Big Idea: The good news is that God forgives us completely—every time!  You are fully forgiven.

I want to finish with a story.  You might be wondering why I spent all that time on how much we sin.  This story will explain. 

In Luke 7, a Jewish religious leader, a man named Simon invites Jesus to dinner.  He was one of those folks who believed that his neighbor’s case of sin was far more advanced than his and his was on the verge of being cured.  During the dinner, a lady from that town who had lived a sinful life crashed the party.  We don’t know what she had done, but everyone there knew, and they all thought she was a very bad person.  This lady made a beeline for Jesus and started weeping on Jesus’ feet, kissing them and pouring perfume on them.  Kinda weird.  If I was Jesus, I might have shooed her off.  Awkward!  But Jesus let her do it, and everyone there was horrified.  They were all thinking, “If Jesus were a prophet, a spiritual man, he would know that this woman is a sinner and he wouldn’t let her touch him.”

Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he turned to Simon and said, “I have question for you.”

“Fire away,” Simon said.

“Two men owed money to the same lender; one owed $50,000, the other $5000.  When neither of them could pay him back, the lender graciously forgave both.  Now, which of them will love him more?”

Simon, who was good with math, said, “The one who was forgiven more.”

“You’re right,” Jesus said.  “Do you see this woman?  When I came to your house, you refused to give me the customary kiss of greeting, but this woman hasn’t stopped kissing my feet.  You refused me the common courtesy of washing my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and dried them with her hair.  You refused the common courtesy of offering perfumed oil for my face, but she has poured it on my feet. 

Luke 7:47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Forgiven little, love little.  Forgiven much, love much.

You can persist in your belief that you’re pretty good and don’t need forgiveness—you won’t love much.  Or you can get honest and own up and let God forgive everything—you’ll love a lot. 

You are fully forgiven and accepted by God.  Turn to God and receive the gift of full forgiveness. 

We are going to do that today by taking communion together…