Accepting Forgiveness

April 11, 2021

All Scripture from NIV unless otherwise documented.

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” Romans 3: 21 – 26

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6: 23

Today and next week I am going to do a two-part message on forgiveness. The focus of today’s sermon is on accepting forgiveness, from God, from self, and from others. The focus on next week’s sermon will be on giving forgiveness to others.

First, can we all agree that we are sinners in the eyes of God and that we are all deserving of death, not the physical kind of death, but the spiritual kind of death which results in eternal death? Can we all agree on that? That is what Paul said in

Romans 3: 23 when he stated that “all have sinned (past tense) and fall short (present tense) of the glory of God.” We are all sinners. King David in remorse wrote in Psalm 51, which is a Psalm of repentance for his sin with Bathsheba, “surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Verse 5  I believe that the Apostle Paul shed light on David’s statement in Romans 5: 12 where he wrote: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way, death came to all people, because all sinned.”  We are all sinners at birth because of Adam’s sin. We are all deserving of eternal death, even if we never sin. (But how many of you can make that claim?) Paul said as much in Romans 6:23 where he wrote: “23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Now let me be clear about something before I go any further. I believe that children and those who do not have the mental capacity to understand and receive the gospel are covered by God’s grace. I believe that there is an age of accountability, and that in part is why the Jews chose the age of 13 for a boy to become a man through Bar Mitzvah. The term Bar Mitzvah literally means “son of the

commandments.” . At this age, the boy was deemed personally responsible for fulfilling all the commandments. I have found that children reach a level of maturity and understanding concerning the gospel at varying ages. Some, especially those raised in a Christian home and exposed to the teachings of the New Testament, come to understand their need for forgiveness of sin by Jesus, and make a decision to follow Him and be baptized much earlier than age 13. And I have found through church camp that children aged

11 and 12 are more likely to make a decision for Christ at camp than any other age. After age 13, due to peer pressure and especially for those not raised in a Christian home or exposed to the word of God through church, youth groups, camps, etc., are less likely to make a decision to follow Christ.

That being said, let us talk about our need to accept forgiveness from God, from ourselves and from others.

First, God loved us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin. The Biblical term is propitiation, and it means to appease. It is the act of making things right with someone after having done something wrong. We are sinners, but on the cross Jesus made things right between us and God.

Let us go back to Romans 6:23 for a moment and see what else Paul said besides “the wages of sin is death.” The second part of that verse says: “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Eternal life is a gift from God, there is nothing, repeat, nothing that you can do to earn it. In Ephesians 2: 8 – 9 Paul wrote: “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eternal life means that your sins have been forgiven. You have been forgiven by God.

Even so, you must accept that forgiveness for it to go into effect. It is not enough to know that Christ died for your sins and rose from the dead. It is not enough to know what you have to do to receive eternal life. In Acts 2: 38 Peter commanded those he was preaching to, to “Repent and be baptized, . . . in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So, the first part of accepting forgiveness is to accept the forgiveness that God offers to you through faith in Jesus Christ.

The second part of accepting forgiveness is to personally forgive yourself for your sin. I have met a lot of people who carry around with them a great burden of guilt because of sin. And even though they know that God has forgiven them or that He will forgive them, they are unable to forgive themselves for what they have done.  I find that sad because like I stated previously, there is nothing they can do to earn forgiveness from God. Likewise, there is nothing they can “do” that will help them forget about their past sin. I believe that many people think that if they could just put their past sin out of their mind, it will make them feel better about themselves. Even though we cannot forget about the bad things we have done in our lives, we do not have to let the sins of our past paralyze us to the point that we are unable to serve our God.

There are many who have done despicable things in their lives who have gone on to be great servants of God. But that was not possible until they were able to forgive themselves of the sin they had committed. Earlier I mentioned King David and his sin with Bathsheba. Let us go back again for a moment to Psalm 51. In verse three David said: “my sin is always before me.” In other words, he was constantly aware that he had sinned before God, and the memory of his sin did not go away. But in verse 7 he wrote: “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” And then in verse 12 he wrote: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”  Accepting forgiveness from yourself requires that you trust God to forgive you and restore you to Himself.

Likewise, the Apostle Paul, a man powerfully used by God, was a sinful man prior to finding forgiveness from God. He stood by and held the garments of those who stoned Stephen to death. Acts 9: 1 – 2 says of Paul: “Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” In 1 Timothy 1: 15 Paul said of himself, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” And although Paul was continuously aware of his sin, he became one of the most powerful advocates for the gospel, writing 13 of our 27 New Testament books, embarking on four missionary journeys, and saving countless people through the preaching of the gospel.

Yes, you are a sinner, and yes, you may have done some despicable things in your life. Get over it. You have been forgiven and God wants to use you to His glory, just like he did the Apostle Paul, the worst of sinners. Forgive yourself. I believe that self-forgiveness is essential if you are to be able to forgive others.

When Jesus was asked by one of the teachers of the law, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus responded “The most

important one, is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 29 – 31. Love your neighbor as yourself! Let me ask you a question. If you cannot forgive yourself of some sin in your past, how can you love yourself? And if you do not love yourself, how can you love others the way God wants you to?

Finally, we need to accept the forgiveness that other people extend to us. The New Testament speaks of our need to forgive one another. Ephesians 4: 32 says: “32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Colossians 3: 13 says: “13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Forgiveness is not something that is just given, it is also something that is received. It is a give and take issue. If you have sinned against someone else, you need to seek forgiveness, and when it is offered, you need to accept it. To not accept the forgiveness of someone else, is to say to them that they are not valued in your eyes, and that you are not really repentant of what you did to harm them.

In an article on forgiving from Focus on the Family it says that “It is sometimes hard to receive forgiveness, isn’t it? Why is this so? Because at our core many of us know we are unworthy of it, hopelessly filled with a multitude of issues. We struggle with pride and shame, hatred, bitterness, jealousy, fear, insecurities, selfishness, and other betrayals of the human heart. Therefore, our biggest surprise does not come when someone is unkind, ungracious, or unforgiving, because after all, this is familiar; and sadly, if we have lived long enough, many of us have come to expect that we will not be forgiven. Rather, our biggest surprise is when we are forgiven in spite of all that we are and all that we aren’t.” . . . When we receive forgiveness, our hearts are softened. We no longer have to hide our flawed selves. We can live out of our imperfections because we know that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). When we know forgiveness, we also know that inadequacies do not mean the end of love; instead, they give love and forgiveness a chance to shine in the darkness our imperfections.”

We all need forgiveness in our lives, forgiveness from God, forgiveness from ourselves, and forgiveness from others. I know that practicing forgiveness is not an easy thing to do, but according to the Scriptures, it is essential to your faith. In order to forgive, as God has forgiven you, you need Christ in your life. If you have never accepted the forgiveness that He has freely provided for you, won’t you decide to follow Him today by giving your life to Him?