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Summary: The need for forgiveness is universal because sin is universal.

Last week, we kicked off the new year and the new millennium by considering the topic of "Making a Fresh Start." We looked at what the Bible has to say about making life changes, and we especially focused on our need for God’s help in making changes that are lasting and significant. This morning, I’d like to continue in that vein as we begin a new four-week series on the topic of "forgiveness".

Why Forgiveness? Because forgiveness is about making a fresh start in the most important part of life - relationships. Would you like to get along better with your husband, your wife, your parents, your children? Would you like your home to have less animosity, less destructive conflict, less fault-finding, less ill-will - and instead to have more genuine affection, more respect, more appreciation, more love. Well, I have good news. God wants that too. In fact, He not only desires that your relationships with other people improve, He desires that your relationship with Him improve. And in His Word He has given us the key to making that happen - forgiveness.

Forgiveness is about repairing relationships that have been bent, bruised and broken. Forgiveness is about restoring relationships with those who have hurt us - and with those whom we have hurt. Forgiveness is about resurrecting relationships which have been so damaged that they are all but dead.

Over the next three weeks, we will discover key principles from God’s Word that apply to every relationship we have - from our most intimate connections with husband or wife, children, parents, friends - to our deepest spiritual connections with God. These principles will help us strengthen and improve our relationships with other people, and guide us in repairing those relationships with things break down. They will free us from the destructive cycle of hurt, anger, disappointment, and bitterness. They will allow us to build bridges instead of blowing them up.

If all this sounds too good to be true, it is. The kind of change, the kind of transformation I’m talking about, is only possible with supernatural help. Only the power of God, applied to our lives through His Word and His Spirit, can bring true, lasting change. The good news is that He makes His power available to anyone who will ask. I hope that as a result of our study of the topic of forgiveness these next four weeks, you will seek and receive this power.

This morning, we’re going to lay the foundation for the next three weeks, and look at the need for forgiveness. Because in order to embrace forgiveness as the solution to the problem, we have to be convinced that there really is a problem, and we have to understand the nature of that problem. And what is the problem? Sin. Very simple. It is sin that breaks relationships. We sin against one another, and we sin against God. As a result, we need to forgive and we need to be forgiven.

Now, someone might object that this is too negative. Well, let me give you an example. I read in the paper yesterday morning that David Letterman just had emergency quintuple bypass heart surgery on Friday, after an angiogram revealed that one of his arteries was severely constricted. Now, when the doctor completed his examination and reported the news to Dave, how do you suppose he reacted? Did he complain that the doctors were being "too negative?" In the same way, a clear look at the problem is an essential first step in correcting the problem, which is what we all want. In order to get to the good news, you have to go through the bad news. Things are going to get a little dark for a while, but when we come out at the other end of the tunnel, I promise that the light will be glorious.

The Nature of Sin

First, what is sin? These days, sin is just a "snicker word." We use it to describe something that’s naughty or mildly scandalous. [chocolate that’s "sinfully delicious", unmarried couples living together "living in sin".] Sin is something to laugh at, to make jokes about. It certainly has lost any connotation of evil. It’s something funny or cute or naughty, not something serious.

Not surprisingly, the Bible takes a different view of things. The Bible sees sin, first and foremost, as rebellion against God.

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." -- Psalm 51:1-4 (NIV)

According to the Bible, God made us. He is the creator, we are His creatures. We owe our very existence to Him. Therefore, He has the right and authority to require obedience from us. Sin, very simply, is disobedience.

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