Last week I talked about the church – the first reference in the Apostles’ Creed that was not directly about God. Yes, Mary and Pontius Pilate were mentioned, but they were mentioned in their relationship to the Son – they were not the direct focus.
Last week, the focus did turn to a portion of mankind – the church. On a day when we celebrate the Resurrection (the WHAT), it was good to see a part of the WHY. Without the resurrection, Jesus could not have fulfilled His promise, but because He rose again, His statement, “I will build my church” is still being fulfilled today (Matthew 16.18).
But this week, the Creed moves fully to the place of man – and the description is not favorable. We are sinners. That is, we fail to keep the commands of God. God never fails to keep His promises to us, but apart from the Holy Spirit living in and through us (click here to read post of April 8), we can do nothing good (Romans 3.10).
It is because of this sin that Jesus had to die. It is because of this sin that we are condemned (John 3.17-18, see the post on April 1). We desire forgiveness. We expect forgiveness. We need forgiveness. God grants forgiveness. That is the message for us today.
We Desire Forgiveness (Matthew 6.12, 14)
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6.12). This phrase comes from the prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray – commonly called the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray these words (not just say them), we do so showing our desire to be forgiven. And God wants to forgive us. He wants it so much that He made the way for us to be forgiven – the sacrifice of Jesus.
But the forgiveness we desire in that prayer comes with a cost. Notice the words, forgive us as we forgive. That is, we are only asking God to forgive us if we forgive others. Now, here is the most challenging part. The words “us,” “our” (twice), and “we” are personal plural pronouns. Why is this important? Because if we pray that prayer together and you forgive someone, but I don’t, then well, WE may not be forgiven. Ouch.
But we do desire forgiveness. And so, we ask. And God desires to forgive us. Two verses later, Jesus says that if you (plural) forgive others, then God will forgive you. That is God will focus us. He wants to forgive us; but He wants us to be forgiving as well.
But the point is that we pray for forgiveness because we desire it. And I will share why in just a few more minutes.
We Expect Forgiveness (Matthew 18.21-35)
This passage has a similar point to the previous one – we want to be forgiven, so we should forgive. But these verses contain a parable that provide a little clarity.
The servant in this parable thinks he is better than others. This first servant does desire forgiveness. He falls on his knees pleading for mercy (Matthew 18.26). But when he receives it from the king, he does not extend it to others. Why? Because he thinks himself better than others. The people who owed the servant money pleased in the same way (desiring forgiveness), but he did not grant it. The debts that the first servant owed the king far outweighed what his fellow servants owed him, but that did not matter to him. Why? He thought he was better than them.
This parable is similar to Jesus teaching in the Sermon on the Mount about removing the log from our eye to see clearly enough to help another person by removing the speck from their eye. But when we think we are worthy of forgiveness and others are not, we have a serious problem. This man desired forgiveness, but his attitude after receiving it showed he did not appreciate it so much as he expected it. And if we expect forgiveness, we are much less likely to extend it to others.
Ultimately, it comes down to thinking that what we do is as bad as what others do. Ultimately, when we take that attitude, we will forget our desire for forgiveness because we will lose our understanding that we need forgiveness.
We Need Forgiveness (Romans 5.12-21)
It is sin that brought death, and that death came through one man. 1 Corinthians 15.22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
The Bible is clear that we sin.
Psalm 143.2: “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.”
Romans 3.10: “None is righteous, no not one.:”
Romans 3.23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
1 John 1.8: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Some will say that mankind is basically good. That teaching is nothing new, but it certainly contradicts the Bible. David shows that our sin is not just from the lives we lead; rather, it is a part of our being from before our births.
Psalm 51.5: “Behold I was brought forth iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
The sin of which David speaks is not his mother’s sin, it is his.
So, these verses and other show our propensity towards sin. It is a part of our nature. And the sin we have leads to death. The first part of Romans 6.23 makes this clear. So does Romans 5. Read Romans 5.12-21. Adam’s sin is the cause of all sin. And because of his sin, Adam eventually died. Furthermore, we sin because of Adam’s sin, and statistics show us that we will die too.
But, and this but is important, the death of the body is one thing; the death of a soul is another.
We die because of Adam, but if we have faith in Jesus, we will live because of Him. That is what Paul is trying to communicate to the Romans. It is what he communicated to the Corinthians in the verse I mentioned above. Adam sin leads us to death; the gift we receive through Jesus leads to life, if only we choose to receive that gift.
Think of it this way. When Adam sinned, God removed mankind from the Garden. When Christ died, Jesus provided a way back in at the proper time.
God Grants Forgiveness (Ephesians 2.4-5)
Ephesians 2.4 is one of the great “But God” verses. I will share another one in a moment. In Ephesians 1, Paul has stressed the importance of the people knowing the truth of God and that their salvation rests in Him. Then, as he begins the next section, he turns to the idea that they were dead in their transgressions, following the world, and were sons (and daughters) of disobedience. They deserved wrath (Ephesians 2.3). But God. God made a way – even though He did not have to do so. He made a way through the man we know as Jesus.
Romans 5.8 says something very similar – “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Here is the most important point I can make today. We desire forgiveness. We even expect forgiveness. We desperately need forgiveness. But if God did not grant us what we desire, expect, and need, then it would not matter. We would be doomed. And we should be doomed.
But God. God grants forgiveness.
And He does so even before we knew we needed it. He did so even if we do not desire it now. He made it possible because of His love. And all we must do is confess. As John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
People often cry out for fairness. But God does not offer fairness. He offers grace. Fair would be allowing us to die in our sin. Grace says we can live – eternally with Him. Fair would mean that because of what God has done, we stop pretending to be the rulers of our own lives (which requires us to ask for forgiveness again and again). Grace says, “I wish you wouldn’t, but I love you.”
God made a way for us knowing we could not make a way for ourselves. What God allowed His Son to endure was not fair, but it was necessary for His purposes.
And all we have to do is respond.
So, yes, as the Apostles’ Creed says, I believe “…in the forgiveness of sins.” And I do. I believe it not because I desire it, although I do. I believe it not because I expect it, although I do. I believe it not because I need it, although I desperately do. No, I believe it because the Bible tells me God offers it.
But I wonder if we feel the weight of our sin. In Psalm 51, David said he could not escape the torment of his sin (v. 3). Do I constantly sense the heaviness of my sin?
The reality is that we probably don’t feel the weight of our sin because we don’t like to talk about sin. But if we are not willing to talk about our sin, then we will likely not confront our sin. And if we are not willing to confront our sin, then we have no need of Jesus. Again, if we do not realize the gravity of our sin, then effectively we have NO NEED FOR JESUS.
But again, the Bible says differently. Let me close by reading just a few more verses.
Romans 6.23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
2 Corinthians 5.21: “For our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
1 Timothy 1.15a: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came in to the world to save sinners,…”
And one final one, which I mentioned above, 1 Corinthians 15.22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Let us choose to overcome death, by choosing forgiveness in the One who died for us.