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Summary: How do we receive God’s forgiveness?

This morning we consider a topic which reminds us that the Christian religion is not merely helpful. Now, of course Christianity does help us to be better parents, husbands, wives, citizens. Following Christ has many practical benefits, and they are not trivial. But every once and a while, we need to be reminded that Christianity is about something far greater. Christianity is about God fulfilling the deepest longings of the human heart.

You and I, deep down, want more than anything else to be loved -- by God. And what makes Christianity more than just another helpful philosophy is that it offers us a way to experience that love. It provides a means of overcoming the barrier of sin that stands between us and God. It allows us to be forgiven, to have all the junk and filth washed away, so that there is no longer anything keeping us apart.

This morning, we’re going to look at how we can receive God’s forgiveness; how we can respond to the "ad" He’s placed in this book inviting us to return to Him. If we will follow these steps, we will find that all really has been forgiven, and we can know Him and be loved by Him as we have always longed to do.

Recognize that you are a sinner

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" -- Romans 3:23 (NIV)

"There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins" -- Ecclesiastes 7:20 (NIV)

We’ve looked at these verses before, but they bear repeating. In order to be reconciled to God, we have to acknowledge that there is a separation between us, and this separation is due to our sin.

This is true both of believers and non-believers.

· For an unbeliever, sin prevents you from having a relationship, period.

· For a believer, sin prevents you from enjoying all the benefits of the relationship.

So the first thing necessary is to recognize that there is a problem, something standing between you and God, and that the problem is your own sin.

Confess your sins; don’t conceal them

What’s the natural human reaction to having our sin exposed? We try to hide it, either before the fact, or afterwards. We conceal, cover up, pretend, lie, deceive - anything to prevent our sin from being uncovered. Why? Well, we fear the consequences. But we also feel a sense of guilt and shame. In fact, you could almost say that the decision to sin carries with it the intent to hide the sin. Sin and concealment go together.

We have a vivid example in the behavior of our current President. And it would appear that this is not an isolated incident, but that he has maintained a pattern of deception in this area going back many years. Unfortunately, this is not a one-party problem. In fact, it would be difficult to identify a president in recent history who did not attempt to conceal his misbehavior.

But you don’t have to look to world leaders to prove the point. Look at your own children. Children are cute because their attempts at deception are so transparent. "No, daddy, I didn’t eat any cookies," while they have chocolate chips smeared all over their mouth. Incredible stories invented to explain a broken vase.

Or look at yourself. How often do you shade the truth to make yourself look better, or to avoid an argument? Let me ask you a question: Have you, in the past week, attempted to conceal something from your husband or wife because you knew that they would disapprove? (no hands)

It is a universal human impulse to hide our sin. However, there area a couple of problems with this strategy. First of all, it doesn’t work.

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." -- Hebrews 4:13 (NIV)

"For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." -- Ecclesiastes 12:14 (NIV)

’Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God." -- 1 Corinthians 4:5 (NIV)

What these verses tell us is simply that all attempts to hid our sin are doomed to fail. Nothing is hidden from God, not even our motives, our inner thoughts. We may look great to the outside world, but if there is sin in our hearts - envy, bitterness, anger, selfishness, pride, lust - then we are guilty before God. And He will judge us for those "hidden" sins.

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