Psalm 32:1 – “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Of course the Bible has MUCH to say about forgiveness since that is God’s desire for everyone – the whole reason for Christ coming to earth and dying in our place – and the task He has left for us is to proclaim that forgiveness to everyone, everywhere. God gives us some very basic steps to forgiveness that we will look at.
Illustration: Karl Menninger, the famed psychiatrist, once said that if he could convince the patients in psychiatric hospitals that their sins were forgiven, 75 percent of them could walk out the next day!
Today in the Word, March 1989, p. 8. (http://www.bible.org)
Sometimes we can struggle with forgiveness because we look at ourselves and all our mistakes and think we don’t deserve it. In fact, that is absolutely correct. We don’t deserve it! Thank God we are not forgiven based on our own merit.
I THE CAUSE OF FORGIVENESS
“For by grace are ye saved…”
The word saved in this verse carries the idea “to deliver or protect.” That is precisely what we need… to be delivered or protected from the consequences of our sin. Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death…” The only way we are going to be delivered or protected from that penalty is through forgiveness of our sin. As long as our sin is held against us we will be required to pay the penalty. If we are forgiven of that sin, it is no longer held against us and therefore the penalty is removed.
Our forgiveness/salvation comes by grace. This is simply God giving us what we don’t deserve. Why? …Because of His great, unconditional love. John 3:16…
Illustration: Runaway Daughter
Longing to leave her poor Brazilian neighborhood, Christina wanted to see the world. Discontent with a home having only a pallet on the floor, a washbasin, and a wood-burning stove, she dreamed of a better life in the city. One morning she slipped away, breaking her mother’s heart. Knowing what life on the streets would be like for her young, attractive daughter, Maria hurriedly packed to go find her.
On her way to the bus stop she entered a drugstore to get one last thing. Pictures. She sat in the photograph booth, closed the curtain, and spent all she could on pictures of herself. With her purse full of small black-and-white photos, she boarded the next bus to Rio de Janiero. Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money. She also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. When pride meets hunger, a human will do things that were before unthinkable.
Knowing this, Maria began her search. Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes. She went to them all. And at each place she left her picture—taped on a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, fastened to a corner phone booth. And on the back of each photo she wrote a note.
It wasn’t too long before both the money and the pictures ran out, and Maria had to go home. The weary mother wept as the bus began its long journey back to her small village. It was a few weeks later that young Christina descended the hotel stairs. Her young face was tired. Her brown eyes no longer danced with youth but spoke of pain and fear. Her laughter was broken. Her dream had become a nightmare.
A thousand times over she had longed to trade these countless beds for her secure pallet. Yet the little village was, in too many ways, too far away. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back was this compelling invitation. “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home.” She did.
Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, Multnomah Press, 1986, pp. 158-9.
The cause of forgiveness and salvation being available is solely and completely because of God’s grace. He planned it before the foundation of the world, just for you… After the plan was already in place, He created you in His own image. He carried through with His plan and accomplished everything necessary for its completion, just for you… We all deserved death because of sin… But instead, by His grace, He mercifully offers you forgiveness and salvation.
II. THE COURSE TO FORGIVENESS
“For by grace are ye saved through faith…”
That forgiveness comes through faith. The only access or path or course we have to that forgiveness is through faith.
Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” In other words you first BELIEVE that He’s there and then BELIEVE that He will keep His promise to do what He says He will do.
Do you BELIEVE the Jesus Christ (the perfect and holy incarnation of God) died on the cross for your sins? Do you BELIEVE that the shedding of His blood was a sacrifice made for you? Do you BELIEVE that His blood sacrifice was sufficient for the atonement of your sins before God? Do you BELIEVE that when they placed Him in the grave, He rose victorious the third day as full evidence that death had no hold on Him and in turn on you?
You see, God has promised that the Gospel (Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection) is sufficient for your salvation. He has promised that if you will BELIEVE Him and trust in this finished work of Christ, that He will forgive you your sin, and gives you life everlasting.
The only course that will take you to God’s forgiving grace is faith. Believe with absolute confidence in God’s Word and the finished work of Christ that His Word tells us of.
III. THE CREDIT FOR FORGIVENESS
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God…”
We can’t even take credit for the faith because it is only because of God that we have that faith. Romans 10:17 – “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” We must fist hear something before we can choose to believe it or not believe it. The only place the truths of God are going to come from is from His Word. (God gave us His Word.) The only way we are going to understand the things of God, is through the Spirit of God because it is simply beyond the wisdom of man. (Read 1 Corinthians chapter 2) (God gave us His Spirit.)
What I’m trying to say as simply as possible, is for you not to even consider your worthiness when it comes to your forgiveness. It’s the worthiness of Christ that matters. God forgives you because of His own compassion for you. He loved you so much, and wanted you to be forgiven so much that He took care of everything to make that possible. Romans 5:8 – “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
You don’t seem to have any problem recognizing your sin… you just need to realize what God has done about your sin so that it could be forgiven. Romans 3:23-28 – “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (that word means to be everything that God required through the sacrificial shedding of Christ’s blood to atone for your sin) through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
You are forgiven, not because of what you do or deserve, but because of what Christ did for you and in your place. You must believe it and accept it.
IV. THE CLAIMING OF FORGIVENESS
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”
So how does all this forgiveness work? He says clearly that it’s not of works… that it is all of God. We have no room to take any credit because of anything we do. We see that we don’t deserve it and we can’t do anything for it, so how can I receive it for myself? I MUST CLAIM IT, PERSONALLY!!!
The steps are very straight forward. We have already seen that our Faith or Belief is the only course that will take us to it. “for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” We must believe and have faith that God is there, that the Bible is God’s Word, and that if we seek Him He will reward us by doing what He says. Creation will tell us that God exist, but it is only in His Word that we come to recognize our sin, the consequences of that sin, and the requirements for dealing with that sin. Only in His Word can we come to understand what Jesus Christ did for us to make forgiveness even possible.
The steps for dealing with sin are the same for everyone, whether a sinner coming for the first time to be saved, or a Christian that has been saved for years. Whether you are here today as a lost sinner or a born again Christian, the need for dealing with your sin great and the steps for dealing with your sin are the same.
This is where we recognize our sin for what it is… SIN! Sin against God! This is one of the reasons the Holy Spirit was given to us. Jesus spoke these words when preparing his Apostles for His crucifixion. John 16:7-8 – “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:” Of course He first comes and convicts us as sinners and allows us to see our lost condition and need for Christ. But then, as Believers, He lives within us and convicts us of sin in our lives that needs to be dealt with. Those words “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” take on real meaning. We must recognize and admit our sinfulness. After recognizing our sin, follows…
2. Repentance –
This is where, upon seeing our sin, we come to agree with God about that sin. We see our sin as God sees it and turn from it. We cannot be forgiven for sin we are still holding on to. Repentance is about letting go of our sin and turning away from it. When we see it as God sees it, we will be repulsed by it because of what it is and the consequences of it. Because of our love for Him we do not want anything to do with it. Our love for Him becomes greater than the desires of the flesh. We turn from the sin and turn to Christ instead. It has been described as a change of mind that leads to a change in action.
Jesus said in Luke 5:32 – “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” If Jesus came to save sinners and forgive their sin, then it was a necessary part of that work to call them to repentance. God, throughout the Old Testament, through His spokesmen and prophets, delivered a message of repentance… John the Baptist, in preparing the way for Christ in the New Testament, preached repentance… Jesus preached repentance… The Apostles and the early church preached repentance… It is clearly something that we find in Scripture from beginning to end. It is a necessary ingredient for forgiveness and I could fill pages with verses relating to it. Through conviction we come to see and recognize our sin for what it is… SIN!
God’s grace is beyond measure. It’s so big that it can take care of any sin. However, there’s too much cheap grace going about today.
Illustration: Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace…is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship, Christianity Today, February 7, 1994, p. 39
Someone confronted Martin Luther, upon the Reformer’s rediscovery of the biblical doctrine of justification, with the remark, “If this is true, a person could simply live as he pleased!” “Indeed!” answered Luther. “Now, what pleases you?”
What pleases you today? Your sin… pleasures of the flesh… or truly turning your back on that sin and those fleshly desires and being filled and controlled by the Spirit of God???
Illustration: The Greek words for joy and grace are related; grace causes joy. In the Christian understanding, nothing brings joy like the good news of what God has done in Christ to bring us salvation. Salvation by grace is “through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works…” (Eph. 2:8-9). God’s grace also brings about qualities of conduct in the believer (2 Cor. 9:8; 12:9; Eph. 4:7). The word grace came to be used as a kind of prayer (“grace to you”) in Christian greetings at the beginning and end of some of the New Testament letters (2 Cor. 1:2; 13:14).
The Shaw Pocket Bible Handbook, Walter A. Elwell, Editor, (Harold Shaw Publ., Wheaton , IL; 1984), pp. 250-251. (
True repentance is necessary. We need to have a change of mind through repentance in not wanting to have anything to do with that sin anymore and therefore let go of it, turn away from it, turn our back on it, and turn to Christ instead. When we turn to Christ, we take the next step…
3. Confession –
We confess our sin to God! Concerning salvation for the lost, in Romans 10:9-10 – “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” V. 13 – “For whosoever shall call upon the Lord shall be saved.” And then concerning those already saved, we find in 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It begins in the heart but comes out through the mouth. When we recognize and turn away from our sin, believing in our heart that Jesus Christ died and rose again for our sins in full payment, we must confess and call upon the Lord for forgiveness. If this has come from a believing heart, to come out through our lips, God has promised both to save and cleanse us.
Remember that FAITH is the avenue to GRACE. Do you believe God will do what He promised? Do you believe that the sacrifice of Jesus was sufficient for all sin and that by His resurrection we know it was accepted by God the Father? You will always find new sins in your life that hopefully through the above steps you will deal with and put them away. Unfortunately, in this life we will never be little Gods. Hopefully we can continue to make progress in being more like Him. Remember that we have all missed the mark. His glory is the bull’s eye that we are aiming for but we will always come up short. That’s how we grow. Once you turn from a sin and confess it, it is under the blood… it is covered forever… it is wiped clean. Remember this verse in Ephesians 1:7 – “In whom (speaking of Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” We have, as Believers, (in the present tense… right now… redemption through His blood.) What a tremendous verse!!! What a promise to claim!!!
Take God at His Word! When you see sin in your life (which for all of us is often), deal with it in the way God has prescribed and then accept the forgiveness He has promised. If we have followed the steps He gives us, HE has forgiven you! Then look for the good things in Jesus. They’re not hard to find at all. Remember that God sees you, as a Believer, in Christ rather than in you. He actually sees all the goodness of Christ if you are hid in Him. And then seek to let the goodness and beauty of Christ show through you to those around you. He’s the One that deserves all the glory anyway, so let them see and know that it is Him that they are seeing. All your goodness will never save another human being – the goodness of Christ can save them for eternity. Be so yielded to Him and filled with His Spirit that He overshadows everything about you. If they can see enough of Him you will kind of disappear into the background, which is precisely what we want.
HAVE YOU CLAIMED HIS FORGIVENESS TODAY? LOST PERSON?? CHRISTIAN??
DO YOU NEED TO COME RIGHT NOW? DON’T DELAY!
RESPOND TO THE HOLY SPIRIT WHILE HE IS PRESENT AND WHILE HE IS CALLING!
Psalm 32:1 – “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”