St Paul's UMC
December 25, 2022
  • Angels We Have Heard on High
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • Doxology
      • Matthew 26:27–28NIV2011

      • Colossians 1:12–14NIV2011

  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • [RECORD]
    Krista and I were on the phone with our daughter the other night - just catching up and hearing about how her life is going. She shared with joy how close she is to paying off her car loan. She bought the car two years ago, put down a decent down payment and has consistently paid more than her minimum monthly payment - knocking down her principle (the original loan amount) pretty quickly. As much as I would like to take credit for her financial discipline - she has proven to be more self-controlled than I ever was.
    Soon, the car will be fully hers. While she has been able to enjoy the use of the car, and very well perceives it as her own, the reality is that the car belongs to the bank until her loan is paid off. There is a lien on her car that must be satisfied, otherwise - she will penalized and could in fact lose the car.
    That is the thing about debt - until it is paid off, you are bound to service that debt. One of the principles of handling money in the Bible is to avoid debt if you can.
    Proverbs 22:7 ESV
    The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
    Proverbs 22:26–27 ESV
    Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you?
    Romans 13:8 ESV
    Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
    Now, ever since the Fall of humankind, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and original sin entered into our DNA, there has a been a debt to be paid.
    As Paul so famously wrote, Romans 6:23
    Romans 6:23 (ESV)
    For the wages of sin is death...
    Sin leads to death. Death in our relationship with God, death in our relationship to others, death in our relationship with ourselves. Because of sin, we experience both spiritual death and physical death.
    The only way to satisfy sin and reverse the curse of death is through forgiveness. To have someone else pay the cost of sin so that you may be free.
    Let’s say, for instance, that you attend a party in the home of a very wealthy individual and in the course of that party, as you are trying to wow the guests with your dance moves, you knock over a very expensive vase from the 18th century and it shatters on the floor. The vase is worth more than you earn in a decade. While a bit shocked to say the least, the owner of the vase turns to you and says, “I forgive you.”
    Who bears the costs of the broken vase? The owner does. The costs does not just go away, there is a big negative amount now recorded on their balance sheet. The owner absorbs that cost in the act of forgiving.
    For the ancient Israelites, those we read about in the Old Testament of the Bible, God provided a way for them to receive forgiveness of sins. It was through the institution of a sacrificial system. The blood of animals would serve as a substitute for the people. It did not satisfy the debt, the animal sacrifices did not have the power to do that, but it serviced the debt until such a time in the future when the debt would actually be paid.
    In his book, Foundations of the Faith, Timothy Tennant writes, “The Old Testament had a provision for the forgiveness of sins, but it was partial and incomplete. When the Old Testament believers sacrificed a bull or a goat in God’s presence it was like signing a promissory note with a bank. The document is signed today, promising full payment at some point in the future. The definition of a promissory note is “a written promise to pay at a fixed future time a sum of money to a specified individual.” You receive the benefits immediately, but you have promised a future payment. If you do not pay off the debt at the fixed future point, then you are in default and what you have received will be taken away from you and penalties or imprisonment will be incurred.
    “The sacrificial system was a symbolic teaching tool that would hint at the kind of ultimate sacrifice required for forgiveness of sin. Animal sacrifice was a pledge to God in the present that a future provision, under the new covenant, would satisfy our debt.”
    Jesus’ death on the cross satisfied the debt of all of humanity’s sin. The promissory note of those faithful believers who lived before Jesus was born was now paid in full. The sins of all who placed their faith and trust in Him, both those who knew him during his life on earth and all of those who have placed their faith in him for the last 2000+ years - have been satisfied. He bore the cost.
    1 Peter 2:24 ESV
    He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
    When we turn to Jesus, confess our sins, and repent (turn around - change direction) - we receive forgiveness of sin. This is a beautiful gift of God, this is His grace being poured out on us.
    To truly receive this gift is to be changed. All the sin you have ever committed, and will ever commit, all the harm and destruction your have caused by your words and your actions, all the hurt that has resulted, has been forgiven, the costs absorbed by Jesus on the cross.
    The curse of death is removed. Restoration of relationship with God, with others and with yourself is now possible. Mortal life now leads to eternal life.
    But there is an expectation. Having received such a gift, you now must forgive others.
    Jesus teaches us this in the model prayer he taught his disciples:
    Matthew 6:9–15 ESV
    Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
    We believe in the forgiveness of sins. We believe that Jesus has forgiven us and we are to forgive others.
    And yet, in the Church (the body of Christ), there are those who have not forgiven someone else for an offense. They harbor hatred for another, and the longer the time between the offense and the present time grows - the harder it will be to ever forgive.
    Forgiveness is costly - it costs God’s only begotten his life. It is hard to do. I believe part of it has to do with the desire for justice. The thought being that if I forgive someone, then they get off scott free and I want them to pay. So to make them pay, I will withhold forgiveness. But all that ends up doing is harboring resentment within yourself which turns to bitterness and poisons your soul. It prevents you from receiving peace and healing from the Lord.
    Romans 12:17–19 ESV
    Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
    Forgiving others is saying “I will bear the cost of this offense”, I will not exact revenge, I will give that to the Lord.
    Mark 11:25 ESV
    And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
    There is an immediacy to forgiveness. Whenever you are praying, we are talking multiple times a day, you forgive. Even before you really feel like it, forgive. If you say to yourself, I have to work my way toward forgiving this person - you likely will never forgive them. Forgiveness is not based on our feelings changing over time - it is an intentional decision that we make and then we allow the Lord to help us live it out and heal our hearts.
    We also need to take the Lord at his word and trust that when we come to him in faith and confess our sins, we are indeed forgiven. There is no new sin under the sun that the Lord has not seen before and is not willing to forgive. One of Satan’s ways of keeping us from walking in the light is to bind us up in shame - convincing us that we are beyond forgiveness. It is not true. If you are feeling convicted of sin, it means that the Holy Spirit is at work in your life and that the Lord desires you to confess it. Sin guilt should lead to confession which leads to pardon and forgiveness. Shame, on the other hand, leads to hiding and a sense of unworthiness - there is no freedom found there.
    I want to wrap up with a prayer tool that I have found very helpful in my own prayer life. It has deepened my prayer time which I must confess was getting a bit stale and usually ended with my mind wandering all over the place. If you are easily distracted - this may help you as well.
    We have an excellent resource of prayers for us to use in our time with the Lord and it is called the book of Psalms. This book, found right in the center of the Bible, is filled with all kinds of prayers for all types of occasions.
    The prayer tool I have started using is based on the acroynm:
    FACTS
    F - Faith
    A - Adoration
    C - Confession
    T - Thanksgiving
    S - Supplication
    For each of these focus areas of prayer, I start by reading and meditating on a related Psalm.
    For instance, for F - Faith, I may choose to read Psalm 62 which begins:
    Psalm 62:1–2 ESV
    For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
    and I will spend time expressing my Faith in God in all matters of my life.
    [I have bookmarks if you want]
    Now, in keeping with today’s topic of Forgiveness, I’m going to invite you to pray with me the prayer of C - Confession. For this particular prayer, I’m going to pray out loud Psalm 51. This prayer is attributed to King David after he was confronted with his sin of adultery and murder by the prophet Nathan. I will read a segment of verses, then you will respond with the Jesus prayer - and ancient prayer based on the times in the Gospel where people yelled out to Jesus “have mercy on me”.
    The Jesus Prayer:
    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
    Ready? Ok, Psalm 51.
    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.
    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
    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; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
    Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
    Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
    Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
    Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
    You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
    In the name of Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven. Glory be to God.
    Amen.
      • Proverbs 22:7NIV2011

      • Proverbs 22:26–27NIV2011

      • Romans 13:8NIV2011

      • 1 Peter 2:24NIV2011

      • Matthew 6:9–15NIV2011

      • Romans 12:17–19NIV2011

      • Mark 11:25NIV2011

      • Psalm 62:1–2NIV2011

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