A. Once there was a man who carried a secret burden of a long-past sin in his heart.
1. No one knew what he had done, but he had repented and asked God for forgiveness.
2. In spite of this, he had lived with years of remorse over the incident without any sense of God’s forgiveness.
3. One day he met a woman who claimed to have visions in which God spoke to her.
4. The man was a little skeptical of her claims, but was desperate for help.
5. He asked the woman, “The next time you speak to the Lord, would you please ask Him what he thinks about that sin I committed so many years ago?”
6. The woman kindly agreed to do so.
7. A few days later the man came to the woman and asked her if she had spoken to the Lord.
8. She said, “Yes, she had.” He asked her, “And did you ask Him about the sin I committed?”
9. She said, “Yes, I asked Him about it.” “Well, what did the Lord say?” asked the man.”
10. She replied, “The Lord said, ‘I don’t remember the incident.’”
B. Ernest Hemingway wrote a short story about a father and his teenage son who lived in Spain.
1. Their relationship became strained. Eventually it shattered and the son ran away from home.
2. The father began a long journey in search of his lost and rebellious son.
3. After failing to find his son, he decided to place an ad in the Madrid newspaper as a last resort.
4. His son’s name was Paco, a very common name in Spain.
5. The ad simply read: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the Madrid newspaper office tomorrow at noon. All is forgiven. I love you, Papa.”
6. Hemingway writes, “The next day at noon in front of the newspaper office there were 800 ‘Pacos’ all seeking forgiveness.”
C. Do either of these stories strike a deep chord in your heart?
1. Do you, like Paco, long to be reunited with God the Father? Do you long to be forgiven?
2. Or do you, like the man in the first story, struggle to accept the forgiveness of God and therefore continue to suffer remorse for things that God has long forgiven and forgotten?
D. One of the greatest truths God offers and one of our deepest needs is forgiveness.
1. Marghanita Laski was one of England’s best-known novelists and secular humanists; she was an avowed atheist.
2. Shortly before she died in 1988, she gave a television interview in which she spoke with surprising candor, saying, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.”
E. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the gift of forgiveness.
1. At the very heart of the Christian faith is the truth of God’s forgiveness.
2. That forgiveness was brought about at a very high price and given to us because of God’s love.
3. Forgiveness is something that every one of us needs, because all of us are sinners.
4. Paul declares in Romans 3:22b-24, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
5. Look at Colossians 1:13-14, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
6. And Ephesians 1:7-8, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”
F. So there is no doubt, we are sinners, but we can find redemption and forgiveness of sins in Jesus.
1. God loves us and wants us in the kingdom of the Son He loves.
2. And God has lavished on us the riches of His grace.
3. This kind of preaching doesn’t always get a lot of time in American churches today.
4. The reason is because it draws attention to our sinfulness.
5. It is not a popular notion for modern people to think of themselves as sinful.
6. We are nearing the point where it will be illegal to call sinful behavior, sinful behavior.
a. Greed and selfishness are called prosperity and ambition.
b. Pornography and obscenity are called art and free speech.
c. Abortion is called choice.
d. Adultery is called open marriage.
e. Sexual immorality is called sexual freedom.
f. Homosexuality is called simply an alternative lifestyle.
g. And the list could go on.
H. The truth of the matter is that sin is rampant, not just out there in the world, but in here in the church.
1. We all are sinners – past and present.
2. Some of our sins are quite blatant, others are much more subtle.
3. You and I would be practicing the ultimate denial to pretend that we are perfect and sinless.
4. The apostle John wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:8-10)
5. Hopefully, as we grow in Christ our sins become less blatant and numerous.
6. Hopefully, with the assistance of the Spirit, we will put behind us the obvious and overt sins that may have plagued our pre-Christian days, and we will begin to deal more with the subtle sins of the heart – like pride, judgmentalism, and envy.
I. Nevertheless, throughout the process, the acknowledgement of our sin is the first step to finding forgiveness.
1. If we are unwilling to admit our need for forgiveness, we will never seek it and find it.
2. As we already read from 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faith and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
3. That certainly is an important “if” isn’t it? “If we will admit and confess our sins…”
4. In Psalm 32:5, David wrote, “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”
J. Now, having established something about our need for forgiveness, I want us to marvel at the fact that God has forgiven us.
1. In Psalm 32:1-2, king David, who had sinned greatly, wrote, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.”
a. How blessed and wonderful to have the burden and guilt of sin removed!
b. I thank God for forgiveness in my own life.
2. Look at what the Lord said in Isaiah 1:18, “‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’”
a. Yes, our sin is like a dark red stain on our souls, but that sin will be removed and our souls will be white as new fallen snow. What an unbelievable thought!
3. In Psalm 103:11-12, we read, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
a. Just how far is the East from the West?
b. If you head East do you ever arrive? If you head West do you ever get there?
c. No, you can head East forever, or you can head West forever.
d. That’s how far God has removed our sins from us! Praise the Lord.
4. In Isaiah 43:25 God says this about Himself, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
a. Quoting Jeremiah 31:34, the writer of Hebrews wrote, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Heb. 8:12)
b. God truly promises to forgive and forget! Aren’t you thankful?
K. How might we describe what it is like to experience forgiveness?
1. One fundamental idea behind the biblical notion of forgiveness is the idea of “letting go.”
a. Picture yourself being pulled over in your car by a police officer.
b. That siren and those red or blue lights are terrifying, aren’t they.
c. The officer sternly asks for your license and registration and then looks them over.
d. Then picture him smiling and saying something like, “I’m letting you go this time. Try not to do that again.”
e. Oh, the wonderful relief of forgiveness.
2. Another part of forgiveness is the idea of pardon.
a. This time try to picture yourself much further along in the criminal process than the first scenario.
b. You have been caught, tried, and found guilty. Then the judge throws the book at you.
c. You are on death row sentenced to die.
d. You hear footsteps coming toward your cell, and you know your time has come.
e. When the steps end at your cell door, the warden looks at you, smiles and says, “You have been pardoned. You are free to go.” Oh, what a relief it is!
3. Perhaps more realistically for most of us is the idea of having someone cancel a debt.
a. Suppose your VISA bill comes in the mail tomorrow.
b. “Oh, no!” you think to yourself, “I owe thousands of dollars and I don’t even think I will be able to make the minimum payment this month.”
c. But when you open your bill you see “Paid in Full” stamped in large red letters across it.
d. There’s a note attached that says you are the lucky winner in a random drawing that pays someone’s bill in entirety each month.
e. The weight of the world has been lifted from your shoulders!
4. When we roll all these notions together, we come to understand something of the forgiveness of God.
a. God has paid my debt and your debt with His own funds.
b. God caught us “red-handed” in sin and has chosen to let it go.
c. God has come to death row with a pardon in hand and has announced that we can go free.
5. Paul declared these truths so beautifully in 2 Corinthians 5, when he wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:17-21)
L. In Luke chapter 7, we read about a powerful incident that happened during Jesus’ ministry.
1. The Bible says in verse 36, “Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.”
a. The Pharisee’s name was Simon. As a Pharisee he was a Jewish religious leader who attempted to adhere to the letter of the Law.
b. From the narrative, it is clear that Simon did not invite Jesus because of his love for him, or because he believed in him.
c. Rather, it appears that he invited Jesus in order to set him up in some way.
d. Certainly, Jesus was aware of this, but He accepted the invitation because He loved Simon and longed to call him to repentance.
2. When Jesus arrived at Simon’s house, it appears that Simon didn’t even show him common courtesy.
a. Good manners in that day required the host to have his servant wash the guest’s feet.
b. The host was expected to greet his visitor with a kiss on the cheek and anoint the guest’s head with oil.
c. Simon did none of these things, and it is apparent that his actions (or lack thereof) were deliberate.
d. Imagine being invited to someone’s house and when you arrive and extend your hand or try to give them a hug, they turn their back to you and walk away, saying, “come on in.”
e. Jesus did not react to the impropriety, but came right in and took His place at the table and began participating in the meal.
3. Verse 37 picks up with the story, “When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” (Lk. 7:37-38)
a. The woman who came in was described as a “sinner in that town” which typically meant that she was a prostitute.
b. A meal such as the one Jesus was attending was not a private occasion.
c. Uninvited people could come in and watch what went on, but it was unheard of that a sinner like that woman would enter the house of a Pharisee.
d. In our day and time, a woman like her would be wearing a short skirt, high heels and a low cut blouse. But in that day, she was likely wearing clothing similar to what most women wore.
e. What made her stand out was the fact that her long hair was not tied up, but was hanging loose, and she had a vial of perfume hanging around her neck by a cord.
f. I’m told that prostitutes of that day often wore that vial of perfume around the neck, because in a culture where bathing was infrequent and perfume was an extravagance, it was a necessary tool of their trade.
4. We have to wonder what she had heard about Jesus that had caused her to come, and whether what she ended up doing was something she had decided in advance to do.
a. Can you picture the woman slipping into the room by a side door, hoping to go unnoticed?
b. Perhaps her jar of perfume was a gift for him that she hoped to present and then leave.
c. Perhaps she intended to get Jesus’ attention and ask for healing and forgiveness.
d. We really don’t know what her intentions were.
5. What we do know is that as she stood near Jesus she began to weep.
a. Perhaps being near Him simply overwhelmed her.
b. Something within her broke and tears began to flow.
c. The tears fell onto Jesus’ unwashed feet and left streaks in the dirt and grime that Simon had refused to wash away.
d. In her embarrassment she fell to her knees and began wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair.
e. She kissed his feet and poured perfume on them.
f. Lost in her emotions, I’m sure the woman had forgotten where she was and was oblivious to everyone but Jesus.
6. I’m sure everyone else in the room stood there with their mouths open – they couldn’t believe what was happening.
a. As Simon watched this little drama unfold, I can just picture his shocked face, slowly turn to a devious smile.
b. He thought to himself, “Gotcha Jesus. If you were really a man of God you would know what kind of woman this is and you wouldn’t have anything to do with her.”
c. But Simon was oh, so wrong in his judgments.
d. Jesus not only knew what kind of woman this was, but he knew what kind of man Simon was.
7. Jesus proceeded to tell Simon a little story, “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” (Lk. 7:41-42)
a. One did not need to be a genius to know the answer to Jesus’ question.
b. Simon replied grudgingly, “I suppose it was the one who was forgiven of more.”
c. “Bingo! Simon – you have judged correctly.” Jesus said.
d. Then to be sure that Simon understood how all this applied to him, Jesus explained, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Lk. 7:44-47)
e. Then Jesus spoke four of the most beautiful words that woman had ever heard anyone say to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Lk. 7:48)
f. Every person who has ever loved Jesus and put their trust in Jesus has received the same words, “Your sins are forgiven.”
M. Now let me ask you a question - Whom do you resemble in this story?
1. Do you look more like Simon who loves Jesus very little because he has been forgiven very little? After all, in his mind he doesn’t need forgiveness because he’s not a sinner.
2. Or do you look more like the sinful woman. In other words, you know you are a big sinner who needs a lot of forgiveness.
3. This woman stands as a great example that anyone can be forgiven. If she can be forgiven, then anyone can be forgiven.
4. The ultimate question is not how big or little a sinner you are, but whether you and I will recognize our sin, and then look to the only one who can offer the forgiveness we need.
5. In Isaiah 55:6-7 we are given great advice, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”
6. To receive God’s forgiveness, we first must become a Christian – Acts 2:38.
7. Then as a Christian, as we sin, we must repent and confess, and God will freely pardon.
8. If we are in Christ, there is no need to continue to carry the burden of guilt for our sins.
N. I’m told that not far from New York City there is a cemetery where there is a grave with a headstone with only one word inscribed upon it – “Forgiven.”
1. The one I have pictured here is from Rochester, N.Y.
2. The one near New York City is undecorated by the sculptor’s skill.
2. There is no epitaph, no eulogy.
3. There isn’t even a name, or a date of birth or death, unlike the one in this picture.
4. All that is on the headstone is the word, “Forgiven.”
6. But if you think about it, isn’t that the most important thing that can be said of any of us and our sin.
O. Let’s be sure we understand and embrace this blessed truth – We are forgiven.
1. And because we are forgiven – we are saved.
2. And because we are forgiven – we can forgive others (But that’s a subject for another day).