Questions People Ask the Church: Can God Forgive Me
The greatest need in any man's life is forgiveness. God stands ready to freely offer it. The great tragedy of the human condition is that too many are too proud or two stubborn or too unconcerned or too preoccupied to receive it.
The more basic problem in our society today is that too many people do not believe in sin any more. Ask the typical theological liberal today what they feel man's fundamental need in life is and they will probably tell you that what men need today is not forgiveness, but enlightenment. Ignorance, not sin, they say is man's real problem. Many Americans have bought the lie. In the early seventies Karl Menninger, a noted psychiatrist, wrote a book entitled: Whatever Became of Sin? In it Menninger rightly lamented the disappearance of sin from the vocabulary of the nation. He even deplored its absence even from the teaching and preaching of the church.
What has been the result? Most Americans see little relationship between their belief about God and faith in Christ and their behavior with their body.
Since wisdom is the answer to our eternal hope, many in our culture believe it does not matter what one does with his or her body.
Believing the body to be quite separate from the soul, they assume that it does not matter what the body does. Their actions, they believe, have no effect on the soul. The result was a wicked lifestyle. The notion of sin and the need for forgiveness is alien to them.
Orthodox Christian faith, on the other hand, teaches that mankind has a spiritual dilemma called sin. The only answer to this dilemma is the forgiving grace of God.
I. MAN HAS A SPIRITUAL DILEMMA HE HAS MADE HIMSELF THE ENEMY OF GOD
- James 4:4 "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God."
- every man outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ is a friend of the world
- the word friend in this passage has an interesting meaning
- it refers to the bridegroom's close friend who on the groom's behalf asked the hand of the bride and rendered the groom various services in closing the marriage and celebrating the nuptials
- what's the point in this grammar lesson you ask?
- when James talks about being a friend of the world he's referring to a relationship where we willing solicit the affections of another
A. WE ARE ENEMIES BY CHOICE
- man is, by his very nature, rebellious and not seeking the true God
- Isaiah 53:6 "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."
- Romans 3:10-11 "As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God."
- without a saving relationship with Christ, a man is the enemy of God
- it is the kind of hostility that leads to determined opposition
- in effect, a state of war exists between the souls of lost men and God
- God does not feel the same way about lost men as lost men feel about God
- ILLUS. The great preacher and theologian H.A. Ironside, in referring to his journey toward Christ, hatred was all on my side but I needed reconciliation, and I have found it in His death.
B. WE ARE ENEMIES BECAUSE OF SIN
- Rom. 3:12-18
- who is Paul talking about?
- he's talking about himself
- he's talking about my life
- he's talking about your life
- he's talking about what the lives of all men were like before they came to know Christ
- sin sets up a barrier between man and God
- it is a wall that man, try as he might, cannot scale, find a way around nor tunnel under
- it is a wall that separates man and his exceedingly sinfulness from God and His awesome holiness
- ILLUS. no where is this better illustrated than in the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple.
- he is morally, ethically and spiritually bankrupt
- Romans 1:18 "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;"
II. GOD HAS AN ANSWER TO MAN'S SPIRITUAL DILEMMA HE HAS MADE HIMSELF OUR FRIEND
- Matthew 1:21 "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."
- the birth of Christ was God's great expression of love for sinners
- even His name was special
- in the Hebrew is Iesous (ee-ay-sooce')
- it means "Jehovah saves"
- it would be through the life, death and resurrection of His only begotten son that God would provide a way through that wall which separates men from Himself
- through Jesus alone, atonement would be made available
- Romans 5:8 "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
A. ATONEMENT IS THE CENTRAL IDEA OF BOTH OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS
- the word we translate atonement' is the Hebrew word "kaphar"
- it occurs 110 times in the Old Testament
- it comes from a root word that literally means "to cover"
- it is the same word used in Gen. 6:14 when God tells Noah: "Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch."
- just as the pitch that covered the ark, keeping out the storm, so the shed blood of Jesus keeps us safe from the wrath of God against sin
- Jesus has become our ark of safety
- Romans 5:9 "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him."
- the word atonement literally means "restoration to divine favor"
- our sin disqualified us to deal with God
- but the life and death of God's only son qualified Jesus to deal with God on our behalf
- Romans 5:10 "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."
- Hebrews 7:25 "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them."
- because of Jesus, it is possible to become one with God
- the idea is that of bringing together those who have been enemies into a relationship of peace and friendship
B. JESUS IS THE SACRIFICE AND SCAPEGOAT FOR OUR SIN
- the Day of Atonement was the most important day in the year of the Jewish calendar
- on that day the High Priest would take two unblemished goats
- one was sacrificed upon the altar, its blood collected, taken inside the temple to the Holy of Holies and sprinkled atop the Ark of the Covenant which was called the Mercy Seat
- the High Priest would take the second goat, lay his hands upon it confessing the sins of Israel over it upon which it was released into the wilderness in order to "bear away" Israel's sins
- this goat was called the scapegoat
- but there was a problem: "But in those [sacrifices there is] a remembrance again [made] of sins every year." Hebrews 10:3
- the sacrifice of goats could not take away sin, but the sacrifice of God's only son can!
- Hebrews 9:14 "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
- ILLUS. The well-known Southern Baptist preacher, R.G. Lee was once visiting the sight of Calvary, near Jerusalem where our Lord was crucified. Lee told his Arab guide he wanted to walk to the top of the hill. At first the guide tried to discourage him, but when he saw that Lee was determined, he went along with him. Once on the crest, the minister removed his hat and stood with bowed head, greatly moved. "Sir," the guide asked abruptly, "have you been here before?" "Yes," replied Dr. Lee, "Two thousand years ago."
- Romans 5:11 "And not only [so], but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement."
III. MEN HAVE A DECISION TO MAKE TO RECEIVE OR REJECT THE ATONEMENT GOD HAS OFFERED
- when the angels appeared to the shepherds in the skies over Bethlehem their message was:
- Luke 2:10 "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."
- did they assume they were hallucinating?
- did they ignore the message?
- did they say, "We're awfully busy right now. We will go and see tomorrow."
In a poem entitled "My Advocate," Martha Nicholson
portrays the adequacy of Christ's death on the cross. She
I sinned. And straightway, posthaste, Satan flew
Before the presence of the most High God,
And made a railing accusation there.
He said, "This soul, this thing of clay and sod,
Has sinned. This true that he has named Thy name,
But I demand his death, for Thou hast said,
The soul that sinneth, it shall die.' Shall not
Thy sentence be fulfilled? Is justice dead?
Send now this wretched sinner to his doom.
What other thing can righteous ruler do?"
And thus he did accuse me day and night,
And every word he spoke, O God, was true!
Then quickly One rose up from God's right hand,
Before whose glory angels veiled their eyes.
He spoke, "Each jot and tittle of the law
Must be fulfilled; the guilty sinner dies!
But wait suppose his guilt were all transferred
To Me, and that I paid his penalty!
Behold My hands, My side, My feet! One day