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Forgiveness

Part I, God and My Guilt

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(4/16) Healing for the Past, Peace for the Present, Hope for the Future

Introduction - Our Lord Jesus had been baptized by John and then disappeared for a while, having been led by the Holy Spirit into a desert region where He fasted and was tested by the devil. When that ordeal was over, He returned to Galilee where He began preaching in the elementary schools and eventually made His way home to Nazareth, (Begin with Luke 4:13-21, and re-read verse 18). "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,

Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed;" To proclaim liberty and to set at liberty, the captive and the oppressed.

There are several things that hold us in bondage, whether we realize it or not. One is religion. Religion can be a prison of sorts. India is a good example. Hinduism and its karma and caste system is holding people in bondage. Religion can be heavy with expectations and things we must do or things we must believe. I even know of some who think that they have to have exemplary faith and never allow a negative thought or word come across their minds or it will break Godís ability to work bless them. Others fear they will lose their salvation if they say or do anything wrong. And these things place an incredible weight of bondage on people. I believe it was this bondage that our Lord addressed when He said, "Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28-30). He called some hypocrites because of the religious bondage they place people under (Matt. 23).

Another, is living a life without purpose; that is, just going through the motions of life. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. We try to fill the void in our lives with pleasure, or something, but we donít feel any sense of purpose for our existence, like an inmate in jail. We get up, eat, work, exist, sleep, and repeat that everyday. To you Jesus says, "Follow me, and I will make you to become fishers of men, I have a purpose for your life."

Third, the Power of Sin can hold us in bondage. That might be addictive behavior, like tobacco, alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, food addictions, shopping, etc. or intentional sins like lying, stealing, cheating, a rebellious spirit, etc. Young people especially, listen to me carefully; the things that we often think are marks of freedom are really chains of bondage. I believe this is what our Lord was referring to when He said in John 8:34, 36, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave to sinÖ.therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Fourth, and Hand in Glove with the third, is the guilt of our sins. This could be known guilt or just the fact of guilt; either way, it keeps us in bondage and from enjoying a life of freedom that comes from being clean before God. Listen to David in Psalm 32 as he describes a time when he tried to hide his sins and describes the effects of guilt (Psalm 32:1-5).

There is at least one more thing that holds us in bondage and that is un-forgiveness. Un-forgiveness is a prison that we bind ourselves in when we hold unto anger, hatred, a grudge, etc. and we seek revenge and refuse to forgive. Matthew 18:34-35, makes it clear that it is torture to be forgiven and yet be un-forgiving.

My goal for these next few weeks is to help you to experience the joy and peace of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the key to Healing your Past, Enjoying Peace in the Present, and having Hope for the Future. It is the key to being free. Look at these verses again (Luke 4:16-19) and remember Jesus came to give you liberty, to free you from the bondage of the guilt of your past and the pain of your present.

I. A Definition of Forgiveness.

The word, Forgiveness, or Remission (KJV word) is a word that literally means, "To be loosed, to be set free, to let go, to no longer obligate to pay, or to cancel the debt." In the financial world it generally refers to releasing someone of a debt that they owe, and in effect saying, "You donít have to repay what you owe. The debt is cancelled. It is forgiven," (cp. Jesus and Simon and the two men forgiven, it was a financial illustration, Luke 7, & Matt. 18:21ff.). In the moral or social world, it refers to not seeking revenge or wanting the injurious party to have to suffer for what they have done. It means not holding a grudge, or hoping for vengeance, or pursuing some type of personal justice for offenses or injuries received. It means that I willingly give up my desire for the person to hurt or pay for what they have done. Do you understand this? But before we talk about how to do this, we must make sure that we begin at the beginning and first receive Forgiveness from God. All forgiveness is based on Godís forgiveness (Eph. 4:32).

II. A Grievous Problem.

When our Lord Jesus taught us how to pray, he said to pray, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." Our sins have placed us in Godís debt and the debt must be paid. We have established many times over the last few months that all of us under heaven have a sin problem. Scriptures like Romans 3:9-23; 5:12; Eccl. 7:20 and others tell us, that all of us have missed Godís standard of perfection, we have all fallen short. We have failed the test. We are all guilty, whether we feel that guilt or not. We have all sinned. Some of our sins have been done in ignorance, some have been intentional, and some have been flagrant and rebellious. Let me remind you how much of a problem it is. Remember how much sin it took to bring sin and death into the world? It wasnít much, was it? It was just one small act of disobedience. Now, remember that any wrong thought can be sinful (Matthew 5:22; 28); any wrong word or speech can be sinful (Matt. 12:36; 15:18-20); any wrong deed can be sinful (Exodus 20:1-17); and finally any thing that we know we should do but donít do is sin (James 4:17). How much do you sin in your thoughts, words, deeds, and/or have neglected to do what you should have done? If we were to add them up from the time you started making conscious decisions how many would it be? Consider 3 a day x 365 x your age and try to imagine standing before any judge with that many charges against you. There is a case in Pa. where a former football coach has over 50 charges pending. How would I do with over 60,000? How would you fare?

III. Guilty by Nature

We were all born with a nature that is bent on sin. (Ephesians 2:1-3). Toddlers prove this.

IV. Guilty by Intent

We all made conscious decisions to do wrong, to be rebellious, to seek what we want, instead of what we should have done. By Intent or by ignorance we have all broken:

  • Godís laws, standards, and mores
  • Societies laws, standards, and mores
  • Our Familyís laws, standards, and mores
  • Our Own laws, standards, and mores

V. A Guilty Conscience

A. Excused Guilt - Some of you know the pain and grief of a guilty conscience. Some of you donít. Some of you have just have learned how to not think of the wrong that you have done especially if it got you what you wanted like; less taxes or a bigger refund; a good job; where you wanted to go on time; out of trouble with a parent, spouse, boss, teacher, etc. Some donít feel guilt because they have sinned so often that their conscience is calloused. Still others have learned how to let someone or even themselves talk them in justifying or excusing their sins, or learning how to blame the sin on someone or something else so it really is not your fault. Adam blamed Eve; Eve blamed the serpent; and the serpent didnít have a leg to stand on (Gen. 3:12-13). When Aaron gave into the peopleís requests and made the golden calf, he explained to his brother Moses, that all he did was put the gold in the fire and out jumped this calf (Ex. 32:24). Itís not really my fault, its my genes, my environment, my poverty, my Twinkies, my parents, my circumstances, and anyone would do the same thing. So and so does it all the time, and there is no law against it, and no one has the right to tell me what to do, after all I deserve it, or they deserved it and on and on we go with rationalization and excuses. In 1984 a jet crashed in the mountains in Spain. The black box recorded that moments before the crash, a computer synthesized voice from an automatic warning system started saying in English, "Pull Up, Pull Up." However the pilot thought that it was malfunctioning and said, "Shut up, Gringo," and turned the warning system off just before the plane crashed into the mountains and everyone on board died. Thatís what we do when we make excuses for our sins; we try to turn our consciences off.

B. Felt Guilt - However, there are some, whose consciences are working fine. But the results are that there is felt guilt. You have been living with regrets, perhaps some shame. You see that your current condition is because you violated Godís, Societyís, your Familyís, or your personal codes. Why did I ever do that? What was I thinking? Why didnít I listen? Oh, if only I hadnítÖ.or, Of Only I had. Listen to the results of one manís guilty conscience. (Ps. 38, Eugene Peterson, The Message)

Take a deep breath, GOD; calm downó don't be so hasty with your punishing rod.

Do you remember Edgar Allen Poeís short story The Tell Tale Heart? In 1998, I was the Chaplain in the Carroll County Detention Center and there was a guy in there who wouldnít talk to me except to say, that He could never be forgiven, God couldnít forgive him because of what he had done in Vietnam. What that was I can only imagine because he wouldnít tell me. But whatever it was, it haunted him and affected his life and he was sure, regardless of what I said, that he was un-forgivable. Is that true? No.

VI. God and My Guilt

God hates your sins. He knows that it causes you harm, it harms your family, your society, and it is an affront to His holy nature. It separates you from Him (Isa. 59:2) and the end result of sin is death, ultimate separation from God in hell forever (Romans 6:23; Rev. 20:11-15). But from the beginning of history, God has made a way to have His sins covered or atoned for. Do you remember where the first clothing came from? God killed a couple of animals and skinned them for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21). God did that for them. God came up with a substitute system of sacrificing innocent animals to die instead of people for peopleís sins. God did that. But He knew that the blood of animals canít take away sins (Heb. 10:1-4). There is only one way to really provide forgiveness and still satisfy divine justice. A perfect person would have to die for sinners. He would have to be infinite in His being to count for everyone. Only one person met the qualifications; God the Son - Jesus. Hebrews 10 reminds us that He willingly came to exchange His life for ours so we could be forgiven. Understand, that God was in Christ seeking to reconcile the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:18-21). He didnít impute or charge our sins to our account; He charged them to His own account and paid for every thought, every word, every deed, and every neglected act we are guilty of when He died on that Old rugged cross. The wages of sin is death; the soul that sins must die, but God commended His love towards us that while we were yet sinners Christ FOR US (Rom. 5:8). And, then He offers us a gift.

  • Reconciliation Ė Restoration to a right relationship with Himself
  • Remission or Release Ė forgiveness- never to have to pay for our sins because Jesus paid it all. There is no purgatory, and God promises to remember our sins no more (Heb. 10:17; Jer. 31:34); that is He will never bring them up to charge us with them or use them against us again.
  • Righteousness Ė Declared not guilty; just as if we had never sinned
  • Relationship Ė adopted as Godís child, He becomes our Father
  • Reservation Ė with Him in heaven in a place prepared by Jesus
  • Freedom to be what He intended us to be and to enjoy the peace of being forgiven. Listen to how David describes the release of His guilt as He receives Godís forgiveness. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered.

Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit.3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old

VII. God and Our Growth

How do we get this forgiveness, and experience this freedom?

  • Hear with the intent to act (Matt. 13; Rom. 10:14-17)
  • Repent Ė You humbly turn from sin and self, and turn to God
  • Confess - Jesus as your Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9-10)
  • Continue in His word and not in the worldís philosophy (John 8:32) and you will experience forgiveness.
  • Use your past to minister grace to others. Understand that the regrets and consequences of sin will remain, however, you can now use those to minister grace to others. Listen to Paul, " And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Tim. 1:12-17)

Read part 2: Have I Gone Too Far as a Christian?

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman