“A Word of Forgiveness”
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34, ESV
Excerpts from a sermon preached on Sunday, January 7, 2018 by Dr. Joe Alain at Carrollwood Baptist Church, Tampa, Florida.
The first word Jesus spoke from the cross may be the most important word because in its message is the foundation and hope of the Gospel. Forgiveness is necessary to restore broken relationships due to sin. Jesus, through his death on the cross has brought us forgiveness. We are now forgiven.
We live in a broken world, a world of hurt, a world that wounds us. You have been hurt and wounded. And the most natural thing to do in those situations is to strike back, to vindicate ourselves, to take matters into our own hand. But Jesus offers us another way, the way of forgiveness. It sounds simple doesn’t it, extend forgiveness. C. S. Lewis said, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.” Our ability to forgive others will largely be dependent on our ability to grasp the depth of God’s forgiveness for us.
The joy of God’s forgiveness can be seen in the different words used to express forgiveness for sin in Psalm 32:1-2, NRSV (my emphasis). Three words are used to describe the completeness and joy of God’s forgiveness. Each of these words is helpful for us to understand how to extend forgiveness to others.
1 Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
A New Year’s Resolution
Since the New Year is usually a time of new resolve, let me suggest a resolution in line with the text of Psalm 32:1-2, a resolution to be forgiven and to forgive.
1. Lose the weight, “forgiven” – “Forgiven” here means to “lift up,” “to carry away,” “to release.” God removes the heavy burden of sin from our lives. The weight of guilt is removed. Are you shouldering a heavy load of guilt and sin that is weighing you down, making you weary, sapping you of strength and joy? Being forgiven and extending forgiveness to others serves to unload your burdens, renewing your joy.
2. Clean house, “covered” – “Covered” means to “blot out” or “erase forever.” The New Year is the season of cleaning house, getting rid of old stuff. Getting rid of sin and guilt is cleaning your spiritual house. In my Bible concordance, the word “forgotten” follows “forgiveness” and that is what God does to your sin. When God forgives, he forgets. Isaiah 43:25 says, I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” And Jeremiah 31:34 says, “I will remember there sin no more.”
3. Get out of debt, “imputes no iniquity” – The word “imputes” means “to charge to an account.” January means the Christmas bills are coming due. It’s also a time to assess your finances and make some headway to get those outstanding accounts cleared. In Christ, God clears our sin account. Our record is cleared! The slate is wiped clean! The NLT translates this word, “whose record the Lord has cleared.”
What God does for us is amazing, why are we so hesitant then to forgive as God has forgiven us? We are genuinely hurt or wounded but it will help us put our personal feelings aside if we can see that sin against us is ultimately against God Himself. Sometimes we have a difficult time forgiving others because we feel in the right and that the other person feels no sorrow over the matter. And yet here on the cross Jesus was extending forgiveness even though there was no prayer of confession or repentance on the part of his crucifiers. In fact, Jesus says, “for they know not what they do.” We want people to come completely clean, to confess their part in the wrong, but if God treated us like that we would never be saved. Romans 5:6, 8 says, “For while we were still weak [powerless], at the right time Christ died for the ungodly [me and you].” “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were still God’s enemies and undeserving, he died for us. It is only the recognition of God’s great mercy that has broken our heart and brought about repentance.
We forgive others not because we feel like it, not to deny real offenses and hurt, but we forgive as the Lord has forgiven us. We stand forgiven (reconciled) not because God overlooked our sins but because He gave his Son for our sins. And when we look at the cross, we see just how serious sin is to God. Forgiveness is not saying “nothing happened.” Just the opposite, something terribly is wrong, there is a broken relationship due to sin. Forgiveness is turning the situation and the offense over to God, and by doing that it is releasing it from destroying you and others. And this is why you “must forgive” (Col. 3:13).
When we do not forgive others, when we keep track of offenses, when we fail to let them go, it is like adding useless weight to our lives keeping us down, it is like adding clutter that causes us to be constantly confused and angry, it is like piling up unpaid debts to our account. “Forgiveness is necessary to restore broken relationships due to sin.” It’s not always easy, but it’s the only way to keep the slate clean and to move forward in your life. So let the Lord unpack your burden, take your sins away, cover them over, and clear your accounts. Hear Jesus say to you, “Father, forgive.”
For His Glory!
“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3