Category: Forgiveness (page 1 of 8)

What Jesus Did

For the past two thousand years we’ve developed dozens of intricate theories as to why Jesus HAD to suffer and die on the cross to forgive our sins. The ransom theory says Jesus had to die to pay our debt of sin. The substitution theory says I belonged on the cross but Jesus took my place. Propitiation says God’s wrath had to be satisfied so Jesus took the punishment instead of us. The apostle Paul uses legal language and sacrificial imagery and military terms and financial lingo to explain WHY Jesus HAD to die on the cross.

But in the Gospels, in the story itself, it’s not about what Jesus HAD to do; it’s about what Jesus DID.

He died for us.

He died a terrible death.

For us.

What kind of love does our Lord have for us — knowing our sin, knowing our failure, knowing our past and future betrayals — to still willingly die for us?

Remember, Jesus the Christ is God. This is God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. So, God doesn’t inflict pain on someone else to appease his wrath. God is on the cross, absorbing all the pain and violence and evil of the world into himself. He becoming our sin for us. Our God is nothing like the pagan deities who demand the blood of humans for their anger to be satisfied. No, our God becomes human and offers his own blood.

This is how he saves you. This is how he loves you, to the point of absurdity. He loves you all the way to the cross — purposefully, willfully, stubbornly, dying on the cross.

Peace,

Allan

Jesus is God’s “Yes” to You

“God is not a man, that he should lie
nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?”
~Numbers 23:19

amenscrabbleWhat God says, he will do. What God promises, he will fulfill. God is faithful to his Word. What God has said about your life, what he has said regarding your past, what he has promised related to your right now, what he has promised concerning your home, your family, your job, your well-being — he is faithful. He can be trusted to keep his Word.

There are a lot of promises in the Bible. God promises to do a lot of really great and eternal things. But I think we struggle sometimes to believe his promises are for “me.” Church people, Christians, — us! — believe God in the abstract, but we struggle to believe him personally. We believe in theory. But it doesn’t always translate to “me” very well.

I totally believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross and that he was raised from the dead for the forgiveness of sins. Yes, I believe God promised to forgive sin and I believe God worked through Jesus to accomplish it. Amen, yes, I believe in the forgiveness of sins…

…unless we’re talking about your sins, maybe.

Well… I’ve got some really bad sins. I don’t know. I mean, I still sin. I’m not a good person. I can’t believe my sins are totally taken care of. Not all of them.

Look, I’ll be honest here. I can have a hard time with this, too. It doesn’t always take much. Bad things can start happening and I can question and doubt the faithfulness of our God.

“No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ!” ~2 Corinthians 1:20

Everybody loves to hear “Yes.” You’ve never heard anybody say, “If I could get a few more ‘NOs’ in my life, I’d be a happier person.” Two children talking together in a bedroom have never said, “Let’s don’t ask dad, let’s ask mom; she always says ‘No!'” We all want to hear “Yes.” We love to hear “Yes.”

Scripture reminds us that all of God’s promises find their “Yes” in Jesus. Not half of God’s promises, not some of God’s promises, not a conditional percentage of God’s promises — the answer to every single promise God has ever made is “Yes” in Jesus!

How do you really know God’s promises are true for you? Can you really trust that all your sins are truly forgiven? How do you know?

Scripture says if we look to ourselves for the answers to these profound and valid questions, we’ll struggle and doubt for our entire lives. The solution is to look to Jesus. Find the answers in Jesus. Fix your eyes on Jesus and your confidence and faith in God will grow.

How do you know God is fully in charge and he really is going to fix everything that’s wrong with the world and me? Look at Jesus. Look how he heals the lame, how he gives sight to the blind, how he feeds the hungry, how he drives out the tormenting demons, how he raises the dead. God will fix you. It’s a promise.

amenblocksHow do you know God can really forgive my worst sins? Look at Jesus. Look how he loves the prostitute at Simon’s house and says to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Look how he saves the woman caught in adultery and tells her, “I don’t consider you guilty.” Look how he forgives the tax collector in the tree, the best friend who betrayed him, the paralyzed man. Look how Jesus prays from the cross for his accusers and executioners; how with his dying breath he prays for his killers: “Father, forgive them.” God will forgive you. It’s a promise.

How do you know that God is really for you, that he’s not indifferent toward you, that he really loves you and he’s in tune with you and paying attention to you and he wants the very best for you? Look at Jesus on that cross. He died for you. He suffered and died for you.

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? 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, along with him, graciously give us all things?” ~Romans 8:31-32

There is no event in salvation history, there is no promise made by God to his people, that is not coming true in Jesus. God is faithful to keep his Word to you. It’s a promise.

Peace,

Allan

N. T. Wright on Forgiveness

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I’ll occasionally use this space to pass along something I wanted to use in Sunday’s sermon but, for whatever reason, didn’t. While preparing for last week’s lesson on the line about forgiveness in the Apostles’ Creed — “We believe in the forgiveness of sins” — I came across this excellent passage in N. T. Wright’s “How God Became King.”

“[Forgiveness of sins] includes, of course, just what it says to most of us: we are all overdrawn at the moral bank, and need to know again and again that God wipes out the debt and fills the account with his own freely given treasure. But when we step back from our own personal anxieties and awareness of guilt, we recognize that the world as a whole needs, longs for, aches and yearns and cries out for forgiveness — for that collective, global sigh of relief that means that nobody need seek vengeance ever again; that nobody will bear a grudge ever again; that the million wrongs with which the world has been so horribly defaced will be put right at last; that in God’s ultimate new world there will be no moral shadow, no lingering resentment, no character warped by another’s wrong. ‘Forgiveness of sins’ is not a purely negative term, getting rid of the moral stain and guilt that we all incur, though it is that, too. It is the positive presence of God and the Lamb, the Lamb whose shed blood has wiped the record clean.”

“We believe in the forgiveness of sins” doesn’t just mean we’re forgiven by God’s love and grace in Jesus. It also means we believe forgiveness is the way God is fixing the world. Forgiveness is the key to everything our God is doing. It’s how he’s decided to make everything right. So, as his children and disciples of his Son, we join him in his salvation work by forgiving. If we desire to mend the things that are broken, if we want to help people, if we want to change the world the way our Father is changing the world, we will forgive.

Peace,

Allan

Forgiveness Fixes Sin

forgiveness

In the Bible there are more than fifty different words for “sin”: debt, evil, wickedness, trespass, unrighteousness, guilt, transgressions, disobedience, rebellion, etc., But exposing the sin and naming the sin is not what matters. That’s not what fixes the problem. Keeping score is not the Gospel. Witch-hunting is not the Gospel. Shaming people and punishing people is not the Gospel.

Forgiving sin — that’s the Gospel, because it’s the only thing that works.

If something’s going to be done about sin, it’s not going to be with laws and commands or with judgments and punishments. Do we really think what’s wrong with the world is something we can fix with more rules or more creative ways to practice judgment? No, forgiveness is the only way.

The ancient Apostles’ Creed reminds us that disciples of Jesus believe in and practice forgiveness. We are eternally blessed by God’s merciful forgiveness and we, in turn, bless the world by generously sharing our own forgiveness.

God forgives. And we, his people, are the stage where that divine forgiveness is made visible and real in the world.

Peace,

Allan

In Community with Sinners

“This son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes!” ~Luke 15:30

brothersangrybroThere’s a problem when we don’t see ourselves in community with sinners. We are all sinners. We’re all stained with sin.

In Jesus’ timeless story, the older brother’s sin is not breaking the father’s rules, it’s the pride he has in keeping all the rules. It’s not his wrong-doing, it’s his righteousness — his self-righteousness — that’s separating him from his father. The younger son wanted to make his own decisions, he wanted control of the wealth, so he left. The older son wanted the same control and he tried to get it by staying. “I’ve never disobeyed you,” he says, “Now you have to bless me.”

Both brothers had faulty hearts. They both resented the father’s authority. They both looked for ways to get out from under the father’s rule. They each tried to do things their own way for their own benefit, not matter how it impacted the relationship. But the older son doesn’t see himself as a sinner.

“This son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes,” he says. “He may be your son, but he’s not my brother. You can claim him as yours, but I don’t want any part of him. And remember what he’s done! Remember his terrible sins! We’re not just going to ignore his sins, are we?”

You’ll never forgive anybody if you think you’re better than they are. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. How do we forget that? Hanging out with sinners isn’t going to accomplish much, if anything, if you can’t see that all of us are in the same boat.

The good news is that the father’s love and grace covers every single kind of sin. Jesus gives us this story so we can see that God’s love and forgiveness can pardon any and every kind of sin and restore any and every kind of broken relationship. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. The father says, “I’m not going to wait until you’ve paid off your debt. I’m not going to wait until you’ve begged. You’re not going to have to earn your way back in to the family. I’m just going to take you back. I will cover your nakedness, your poverty, and your shame with the glorious robes of my love.”

The father pounces on his sinful son before he can clean up his life, before he can prove he has a changed heart, before he can even say his repentance speech. The father is only concerned with getting rid of the sin in order to restore the relationship. And the only way to get rid of sin is to forgive it.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” ~2 Corinthians 5:21

Sin destroys relationship with God. So God took care of it. God made his Son to be sin for us. And our sin died with Christ Jesus on the cross. God is reconciling the whole world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. God takes care of the sin. He forgives it.

“For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation!” ~2 Corinthians 6:2

The Father is waiting for you. He’s looking and searching for you. And he’s waiting, not to condemn you but to welcome you. With a gracious heart, he’s running to you. With compassionate arms, he’s hugging you. With merciful lips, he’s kissing you and speaking to you words of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Peace,

Allan

Turn and Live

“Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” ~Ezekiel 18:23

JesusHealsInCrowdThe Bible tells us God wants all men and women to be saved and to come to a knowledge of his truth. And our God doesn’t just make that change possible, he makes it his top priority. He’s so committed to your change, he gave up everything to come here in person to show us what it looks like.

The sinful woman at the Pharisee’s house where Jesus is eating is a prostitute. She’s a woman of ill reputation. Exchanging sex for money. Maybe she had terrible parents. Maybe her husband died. Maybe at the time she saw no other way. She’ll be a sinner her whole life, right? Nobody will give her another chance. She’s a hooker! But she comes to Jesus. She kisses the Christ and anoints him in a selfless, dependent act of true repentance. And Jesus says to her, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” And she leaves that dinner party a changed woman. The Son of God has given her life. Christ Jesus changed her.

JesusHealsBleedingWomanThe man on the side of the road was born blind. Blind since birth. Really bad luck. He’s going to be a beggar his whole life. It’s awful. He’s blind! Jesus’ disciples ask, “Why is this guy blind? Somebody sinned here. Was it him or his parents?” And Jesus says, “Nobody sinned. This happened so the work of God can be displayed in his life.” And Jesus heals him. Jesus gave the man his sight. The man says, “This is from God!” Jesus changed him. He gave him life.

As soon as they submit, as soon as they let go, as soon as they come to Jesus and give their baggage to the Lord, God in Christ changes them. He changes everybody.

The naked demon-possessed guy. No name. No clothes. No home. No family. No community. No nothing. Satan had taken from this guy everything it means to be made in the image of God. He’s been conditioned by his village to believe he’s destined to live among the dead. But he comes to Jesus. And he’s changed. He’s wearing clothes. He’s in his right mind. He’s got a home. He has a family, a community. And he’s got a mission.

JesusHuggingZacchaeus was a selfish, crooked tax collector, hated by the people of God and an outsider in his own town. But Jesus calls him and now he’s giving half of everything he owns to the poor. He’s repaying the people he stole from four times the amount he took and he’s being called a son of Abraham by the promised Messiah. He’s changed.

The Samaritan woman was the town sleaze. Now after an encounter with Jesus she’s the town evangelist. She’s changed! Saul was the Church’s biggest enemy, the killer of Christians. But just a little talk with Jesus and Paul is the greatest writer and preacher and church planter in history. He’s changed! The Philippian jailer was beating Silas. Now he’s washing Silas’ wounds and cooking him dinner. He’s changed!

“Am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” ~Ezekiel 18:23

If you’re an alcoholic. If you’re a mean-spirited person and your overly negative and critical because that’s the way your dad was. If you’re addicted to pornography and you have been for almost 20 years.

You can change. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Come to me and you’ll never be hungry again.”

If you’re arrogant or selfish because everybody in your line of work has to be that way. If you’re an adulterer. If you use illegal drugs. If you’ve tried to quit six dozen times but you keep sliding right back in and there’s nothing you can do about it.

You can change. Jesus says, “Come to me. Come to me and drink living water.”

If you’re a liar and you’ve always been a liar. If you’re divisive. If you’re a racist because that’s the way things were back then and that’s the way you were raised. If you’re a cheater. If you’re a thief. If you’re abusive, physically or verbally. If your life is not what you planned it to be.

You can change. Jesus says, “Whoever comes to me, I will never drive away.”

You can change.

But it’s not going to be an intellectual deal. You’re not going to change because of rational arguments and logic. You’re going to have to experience it. It’s going to take an encounter with the crucified and risen Son of God. You’re going to have to turn to the One who died for you, you’re going to have to submit to the One who calls you. You’re going to have to give yourself fully to him. Let his holiness transform your conscience. Let his truth nourish your mind. Let his beauty purify your imagination. Let his eternal purpose shape your will. Let his limitless love melt your heart.

“Rid yourself of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die? I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” ~Ezekiel 18:31-32

Peace,

Allan

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