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Lombard CRC

Experience the Wonder of God's Presence Through Our Pardon

Many people don’t normally use the words

David used in his song of forgiveness: Psalm 51.

transgressions

iniquity

sin

guilt

 

Today we tend to focus on our selves

rather than our souls.

We focus on self-improvement

and self-preservation.

We prefer the language of mistake,

weakness and ‘that’s just the way I am’

to sin, guilt, temptation and repentance.

We’re quick to blame,

to protect ourselves,

to play the victim card.

We’re not so good at saying ‘I’m sorry’

or ‘I was wrong’

or to exercise patience, forbearance, or mercy.

 

But the way to experience God with us

is through confession and forgiveness:

confession is good for the . . . soul.

That part of us that connects with God.

 

My hope for you today

in spending a few moments with this psalm

is for you and me to gain in a fresh way

the language of forgiveness.

One powerful, lasting way we experience our Savior is through the pardon of our sins.

John Newton found this out

after trying almost everything else first.

The writer of the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’

sought to make an amazing life for himself

without the grace of God.

When life was hard on him, he was hard

on life and on others.

When presented with choices

he put himself first.

He thought he was master of his life;

he found out he was mastered,

a slave to selfishness, bitterness, and hopelessness.

 

It was the forgiveness of God that changed him,

this amazing grace that saved a wretch like himself.

So even to our day, over 250 years later

people still sing ‘Amazing Grace’

at personal and public times of loss and wonder.

 

In his old age,

he said about himself: "I am not what I ought to be—

I am not what I wish to be—

I am not what I hope to be—

Though I am not what I ought to be,

what I wish to be,

and what I hope to be—

yet I can truly say, I am not what I once was—

a slave to sin and Satan!

I can heartily join with the apostle and acknowledge, "By the grace of God—I am what I am!"

When I was young, I was sure of many things.

But now that I am old, there are only two things which I am sure of:

  One is that I am a miserable sinner!

  Secondly, that Christ is an all-sufficient Savior!

 

Forgiveness is what God is like.

Forgiveness is experienced by most

of the people encountering God in the Bible:

Adam and Eve,

Jacob

Joseph’s brothers

Isaiah

Paul

and the writer of Psalm 51, King David,

after he has sinned with Bathsheba

and arranged for the death of her husband Uriah.

 

In many ways, the story of forgiveness in the Bible

is how this is YOUR story of forgiveness by God.

 

Notice the words used to describe God’s actions

in response to human sin and brokenness:

blot out my transgressions

wash away all my iniquity

cleanse me from my sin

create in me a pure heart

renew a steadfast spirit within me

restore to me the joy of your salvation

grant me a willing spirit.

What is God doing in your life?

Will you thank God with me

that he is doing these things in your life?

 

God acts in mercy

regarding your sin, guilt and shame.

We each come to know God

and rely on the Lord best

when we receive forgiveness for our sin.

Have mercy on me, O God,

    according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion

    blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity

    and cleanse me from my sin.

 

Jesus never stopped accenting

the reality of God’s forgiveness:

the father who runs out to his prodigal son

the landlord who cancels a debt too large

for the servant to even begin to repay

stooping down to the woman caught in adultery

the word to the thief on the cross

the risen Lord restoring Peter on the beach

saying Follow me

The ascended Lord stopping Paul

on the road to Damascus saying

quit kicking against the goads

 

Yet we can’t quite stop kicking.

Forgiveness sounds so incomplete.

The easy way out.

Where’s the justice in it?

 

1 John 1 says this about the forgiveness of God:

If we confess our sins

God is faithful and just

and will forgive us our sins.

Forgiveness is not a sweeping under the rug

or an ignoring of the facts,

it is the application of justice and mercy in Christ.

In Mozart’s Requiem we hear this:

Remember, merciful Jesus,

that I am the cause of your journey . . .

That journey took Jesus to the cross,

the innocent one

shouldering every selfish thought

every sinful act

each wasteful, racist, greedy, lustful judgment

of your mind and heart.

There’s the justice.

That God would do this for you.

Because when someone sins,

someone’s gotta pay.

And God had mercy on your soul,

Jesus gave his life.

 

That’s the wonder of the cross:

God breaking the power of sin and death

by shouldering the curse of every sin

in order to say with authority: Father, forgive . . .

And we are each and every one of us

the thief on the cross,

can you hear Jesus say to you:

today you will be with me in paradise?

 

Forgiveness is where we meet God

in all mercy and grace.

 

To see God more clearly

we must see ourselves more clearly in his light.

And that means coming in confession

and receiving forgiveness

from our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ.

It is to confess our sin.

Not excuse it.

Not justify it.

Not rationalize it.

Not defend it.

It is a surrender to God’s mercy.

 

That’s the language of the psalm.

David gives no excuses.

He offers no justification.

He pleads for mercy.

 

And if your response is well,

what David did was horrible:

adultery with Bathsheba

arranging for Uriah’s death,

it was really murder.

Compared to that I’m pretty good.

Look again at the healing words of this psalm:

vs 4 – against you, you only, have I sinned.

 

What he means is that God sets the standard

of right and wrong

just and unjust

acceptable and unacceptable.

It’s not about comparing yourself to someone else

or deciding for yourself what is sinful.

You don’t get to re-write the ten commandments.

You don’t get to pick and choose which neighbors to love.

You don’t get a passing sin-grade based on a curve.

 

‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . .’

Romans 3:23 sums up

the condition of each and every person in this room.

Down your street.

Throughout the world.

You included.

 

Sinners are born, not made,

that’s the teaching of vs. 5 –

surely I was sinful at birth

sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Meaning,

sin goes far deeper in us

than an examination of our thoughts and actions.

We aren’t sinners because we sin

and have been found out,

we sin because we are sinners,

this is our fallen nature outside of Christ Jesus.

This is called the doctrine,

the biblical teaching,

of original sin.

 

This brokenness can only be made whole by the

forgiving mercy of God.

This is why we are given the words of this psalm,

so we develop the habit of our confession to God.

It is to dare live by God’s mercy.

God accepts me

not the way I am but because of the way he is,

in order to make me into the person

he desires me to be.

 

Grant me a willing spirit, is the prayer of vs 12.

This is a holy change in us.

For we are born willful.

If a 1 week old baby is hungry

at 3 in the morning

she does not stay quiet

because she doesn’t want to disturb your sleep.

She cries,

and cries until you respond.

She exerts her will to get her way and be fed.

Our willfulness grows and gains expression

through the terrible twos, testy tweens,

troubled teens,  tentative twenties, and on.

It is a mark of spiritual maturity

when our willfulness gives way

to a willingness we call

following Jesus,

living out the prayer of Christ,

NOT my will but yours be done.

 

50 years ago yesterday

Dr Martin Luther King came to Chicago.

During his visit he was struck in the head,

someone threw a rock at him.

He didn’t retaliate.

He submitted his will to the will of the Lord.

He brought a message of reconciliation

not by force

or political power

but by the grace of God:

the weapons of suffering and forgiveness,

the hope of reconciliation.

50 years later there is much yet to do,

much yet for the Spirit to accomplish

in our own hearts and lives.

Much that will only be accomplished

by confession and forgiveness:

by bringing the following transforming habits

from my will to thine,

into our prayer and devotion:

  • see what went wrong: a behavior, action, thought, judgment or lack of judgment
  • name our sin for what it is and name what is going on inside us that is not of God’s will
  • confess what I have done and not done
  • promise to follow Christ in repentance: renunciation, restitution, reconciliation, remembering Christ, renewal

 

If only for the brokenness

we see around us in our society today

will you take time this week

to bring your heart’s confession

to the Lord about

our fears and silences and separations

from the race and poverty issues in our city?

Don’t try to explain it

or justify yourself

or in pride figure you have the solution,

instead begin asking forgiveness

for all the deep and subtle ways

racism and judgment

have found a place in your heart.

 

NT Wright says: The "problem of evil"

is not simply or purely a "cosmic" thing;

it is also a problem about me.

And God has dealt with that problem

on the cross of his Son, the Messiah.

When we apply this as individuals

to today's and tomorrow's sins,

the result is not that we are given license to sin because it's all been dealt with anyway

but rather that we are summoned

by the most powerful love in the world

to live by the pattern of death and resurrection, repentance and forgiveness,

in daily Christian living,

in sure hope of eventual victory.

So,

If forgiveness seems unreal to you,

the way to receive it fresh and new

is to exercise forgiveness yourself.

Because God forgives,

made in his image, we are to forgive.

Someone has hurt you deeply.

Someone has let you down in an unimaginable way.

Your life has been altered by the actions of another.

You have been victimized.

Because life is hard you can be hard on life

and on others who you think

have made your life so hard.

You can put your energies into your self-preservation

instead of trust in God’s will.

You might think you’ll regain mastery over your life

but you may find out instead you are mastered

by selfishness, bitterness, and a spirit of judgment.

 

Henri Nouwen challenges us:

God’s forgiveness is unconditional;

it comes from a heart

that does not demand anything for itself,

a heart that is completely empty of self-seeking.

Our forgiveness is an act of faith.

By forgiving another I am trusting

that God is a better justice-maker than I am.

By forgiving, I release my own right to get even

and leave all the issues of fairness

for God to work out.

I leave in God’s hands the scales that must balance justice and mercy.

Tho wrong does not disappear when I forgive,

it loses its grip on me and is taken over by God,

who knows what to do.

 

On the back of your worship handout

is a spiritual practice for you to apply this week:

Practicing the Presence of Christ Jesus

Through the Pardon of our Sin:

 

  • spend a few moments in quiet then read Psalm 51
  • sing to yourself the first stanza of ‘Amazing Grace’ or some song that assures you of our Father’s forgiveness
  • review your day / week focusing on what went wrong, what disturbs or frustrates you about your behavior, actions, judgments, or lack of righteous and merciful living
  • name your sin for what it is and name what is going on inside of you that is not of God’s will
  • confess to God in the name of Jesus what you have done or left undone
  • sing or say the first stanza of Amazing Grace again or the song that speaks to you of forgiveness
  • promise to follow Christ in repentance: which of the following actions is called for in light of your confession and in assurance of your forgiveness?

renounce your sin

discern restitution if you must go to another to confess your sin and ask forgiveness and make things right with that person

seek reconciliation where sin has separated you from another

remember Christ and his forgiveness with thanks

renew your trust and obedience

 

 

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