forgiveness

Why We Preach

“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:11:21.

God has reconciled the world to Himself through the death, burial, and resurrection of His son, Jesus. He was the sacrificial Lamb of God that came to take away the sin of the world. The price has been paid for all mankind, even those who will never accept it. No one will be going to hell because they didn’t do enough, or because they had sinned too often. It will be because they rejected this great salvation and refused to believe.

Once you have believed, you are obligated to tell others that they have been freed from sin. This should be great news! But not everyone will appreciate this. Many want to keep their sin. Many more will object that some sins need to be avenged. Grudges must be held. But the Christ we preach died for the ungodly.

A Savior who died for the whole world has consequences beyond our own sin. Our attitude toward the sin of others should make us the bearers of forgiveness and repentance, not accusations and score setting. And accusations are hard to give up. They are the firey darts that make your enemies miserable, and they give you temporal power to inflict pain. But this does not bring reconciliation. It brings a new round of anger and rage until someone finally forgives.

Overlooking a Fault

“When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!” 1 Corinthians 6:1-8.

We became Christians because we believed the good news that God was no longer holding our sins against us because of what Jesus did on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:19). What we sometimes forget is that He also did that for everyone else. So, holding grievances against one another violates the very thing we want for ourselves. And it is compounded when we demonstrate before the world, who we are trying to reach with this good news, sees that we don’t apply the same good news to others. Or at least we do so selectively.

This is hard to overcome because we want justice. God wants justice, too. It’s the reason Christ had to die for our sins; the just dying for the unjust. God’s claims of justice against us had to be satisfied, and our suffering leaves Him unsatisfied because He loves us and wants peace and intimate friendship with us. So Jesus willingly suffered our punishment to get that.

So Paul asks us why we wouldn’t rather willingly suffer to do the same thing for our brother. Do we really want to defeat our brother to satisfy our claim? Is the Gospel just a “get out of jail free card” for you, but not for him? Or is it the central organizing principle of our lives, and do we do this so the world knows that we love one another?

No Sin For You!

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

“For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.'” 1 Corinthians 5:1-13.

Christ did not die for our sins so we could get away with sinning. He came to take away our guilt and shame so we could have peace with God, not so we could be at peace with our sin. And our sin will be with us until we are free of our mortal bodies. But we are at war with sin and temptation. Otherwise why would Jesus have said, “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” (Matthew 18:7).

John also writes in 1 John 1:7-9, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If we were free to sin without consequences after we were saved, why would this mechanism of confession and forgiveness be necessary? It is to remind us that if Christ is our Passover lamb, then we must purge sin from the house.

When I sin and confess, I am declaring my need for a Savior. If I don’t confess and receive absolution, I become sin’s ally, and a traitor to Christ. That is why I would get turned over to Satan for the destruction of my flesh. That’s why Jesus said, “And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” (Matthew 18:8-9). It is better to endure punishment in the flesh than to forfeit eternal life.

Living on God’s Love

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39.

True forgiveness only comes on God’s terms. And those are that He paid for your sins and the sins of the whole world with the blood of His son, Jesus Christ. Even the forgiveness we extend to others must be on those terms. Otherwise, we assume the burden of guilt, which leads to harboring bitterness to be revealed later. Depending on your own mercy and goodness to forgive others will get thin fast.

Someone has to pay for that sin that offends you. Jesus already did. He is the reason that both the offender and the offended can be reconciled. But if you take Christ out of the equation, the offended person has the burden of just “letting it go.” And without God’s love, that gave His only Son, our frail human love can bear the burden of forgiveness for only so long. Eventually, a root of bitterness takes hold. As the writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” (Hebrews 12:15).

Every kind of trial, tribulation, persecution, and all manner of calamity shall try to separate us from the love of God. These outward perils try to get you to doubt God’s love for you. But you are more than a conqueror when you can say, “Forgive them, for they know not what they are doing,” because you know that Christ died for them, too.

Blessed by Believing

“What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.'” Roman’s 4:1-8.

To reach the Jews with the Gospel, Paul had to persuade them that his message was consistent with the scriptures. In order to do that, he had to demonstrate that righteousness could be obtained before Moses gave the Law. Later he would demonstrate that the Law was given to reveal our sin, not take it away.

Only God can forgive our sin. It is not a transactional process where we can buy God off with our deeds. He has to forgive us on His terms. And the only transaction He accepts is the blood of His son, Jesus, who willingly died in our place. If you reject that transaction, you will die in your sins and face the punishment of being separated from God forever. Accept the transaction, and you will live.