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Apostle's Creed 14: I Believe In Forgiveness

By Pastor Phillip Howle

web posted August 28, 2013

RELIGION – I mentioned last week the fact that I believe you should obey the law, but I still from time to time speed. I must say that I have been stopped twice in the past few years. Once for speeding, and although I was speeding, the kind officer gave me a warning. (I keep a Bible on the seat next to me, never hurts to remind the officer of the grace of God.)

Another time I was stopped for having a headlight out. I was also given a warning (Even though it was 12:30 am in downtown Ridge Spring. I was coming from a boxing event in Columbia and my two friends were giggling like idiots at their preacher getting pulled over. Their goal in laughing and talking loud was to see if the officer would issue me a field sobriety test, which I would have passed with flying colors!)  

In both these cases I was forgiven. I did not deserve to be, as I was guilty in both cases. But I was shown grace I did not deserve. I will be honest; the feeling of being forgiven of a ticket is exhilarating. There is the heart racing truth you are in trouble and the fear of the ticket and the increase of insurance. Then when you are given a warning and you watch the wonderful, hard working, underpaid and appreciated Police Officer walk away, you are just flooded with relief and elation.

Forgiveness is wonderful. Imagine the world without forgiveness. Imagine if husbands did not forgive their wives and wives did not forgive their husbands. Parents who refuse to forgive their children and children who did not forgive their parents. Imagine a world where everybody resented and punished every wrong done to them. Imagine a world of pure justice without mercy. I don't want to live in that kind of world.  So I believe in forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a powerful thing. The next phrase is “I Believe in the forgiveness of sins.” We are nearing the end of this long study. If you have found it long, boring, or offensive, then please forgive me.  Let me talk first about God’s offer of forgiveness to mankind. Our forgiveness before God is conditioned on our belief and admittance in our sins before God and our belief and acknowledgment in our personal inability to atone for them ourselves. I explain it to children like this: if you receive a gift, you have to take it and open it to enjoy it. No child would receive a birthday present and never open it to play with it. Likewise, we must ask and receive God’s forgiveness.
What sorts of sin will God forgive you of? Any and all of them. You may think you have done so much and bothered God so often you are beyond forgiveness or grace.  Ed Welch writes “Don’t say, “How could God forgive me for that!” (whatever that is). Don’t think that God’s forgiveness is a begrudging forgiveness and with that thought deny some of God’s glorious love. And don’t think that God’s promises are only for other people. If this is how you are thinking, you must realize that your own sins, no matter how big, are not bigger than God’s pleasure in forgiveness.”

John Macarthur writes that “In my mind, the worst sin that any human being could ever, would ever, or has ever committed is very clear. The worst possible sin would be to kill the Son of God. I can’t imagine anything worse than that; it not only embodies murder, but the most hateful, venomous, vicious rejection of God. Yet it is precisely that sin which Jesus demonstrates is forgivable. In Luke 23:34, as He hangs on the cross, He looks down at those who have taken His life, then He looks to the Father and says, “Father, forgive them.” Even killing the Son of God is forgivable. It isn’t the volume of sin that is unforgivable any more than it is the kind of sin.”

God’s pleasure is in forgiveness.  Think about that. God hates sin because sin messes up our relationship with Him. God longs to forgive, because God longs to be close to His children. God desires for nothing to stand in the way of that. So when you ask for forgiveness, he will show it to you! Jerry bridges writes that “We tend to drag up our old sins, that we tend to live under a vague sense of guilt…we are not nearly as vigorous in appropriating God’s forgiveness as He is in extending it. Consequently, instead of living in the sunshine of God’s forgiveness through Christ, we tend to live under an overcast sky of guilt most of the time.” If you feel as if God is continually holding something over your head and angry at you, then you will be distant and not want to be close to God.
But you may ask, can God’s forgiveness be abused? Yes and no. Understand that “There comes a time when God's patience runs out (Rom. 2:4-10; 2 Pet. 3:8-10; Jude 5). Those living in continual disobedience must not presume upon God's grace, falsely assuming that God's kindness means that he is winking at their sin. Nor should we take God's forgiveness for granted. We must not sin willfully, thinking that by doing so we are simply giving God another opportunity to glorify himself by showing forth his mercy. As Paul would put it centuries later, "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!" (Rom. 6:2). To do so is to reveal by one's hardened disobedience that the saving power of God is not really in one's life (see Rom. 6:2b-14).” (Scott Hafemann, The God of Promise and the Life of Faith, Crossway Books, 2001, p. 97.) So for the person who wants to sin and abuse God’s grace, it is evident that he or she has never truly experienced God’s grace.

Let me close with Colossians 3:12-14  “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  (13)  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  (14) And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
Pastor Phillip

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