Monday, April 20, 2015

Witnesses of Repentance for Forgiveness; Luke 24:36-48, I John 3:1-10

Last week, we saw that John wrote his gospel so that we may know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, we may have life in His name. We also saw that every gospel contains a Great Commission by Jesus. Jesus did not spend time after His resurrection trying to convince new people to believe in Him. He spent time visiting with those who were already His disciples, further explicating the Scriptures and showing how everything points to Him, all with the purpose of sending them out. Today, we take a look at Jesus’s commission according to the gospel of Luke. Luke gives us this commission in verses 46-48…READ Just as in the gospel of John, the proclamation of forgiveness of sins is important. Jesus took sin seriously, and He still does. But the good news is that Jesus died and rose so that our sins can be forgiven. Reformed worship includes a prayer of confession and a declaration of pardon. We do this because we are to take sin seriously, and to remind ourselves of our great need for grace and that that precious grace has been given in Jesus Christ. In our prayer, we not only acknowledge personal sin, but also corporate sin. We take into account that the things we do affect others, and that our sin causes harm to the Body of Christ. Our Wednesday night Bible study reminded us that disciples fail, but Christ forgives. Even so, we still probably do not realize the depth of our depravity. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” The answer is only God does. Do we gloss over prayers of confession like a checklist on the way to the benediction? Jesus told a parable about two debtors who were forgiven by their master. He asked the one who was listening, “Which do you suppose loved the master more?” The man answered, “The one who had the greater debt.” Jesus replied, “Those who have been forgiven much, love much, and those who have been forgiven little, love little.” If we want our love for God and others to increase, we need to realize more and more how much grace and mercy we have received. Those who understand forgiveness for themselves are more able to extend it to others and to also tell others about how great God’s forgiveness is. I think this is what made Peter such a great preacher post-Pentecost. He knew how much he had been forgiven, and certainly, Paul was a great missionary for the same reason. In our epistle reading, John is addressing a church with some problems. A group of people who had been in the church had now separated from the church and were trying to take others with them. They claimed to have superior knowledge and wisdom. One of the things they taught was a dichotomy of flesh and spirit, with the spirit being good and the flesh bad. At the same time, they downplayed sin. John tries to correct this bad teaching that has caused havoc in the Church. First he emphasizes that Jesus really did rise from the dead in a physical body. He was not a disembodied spirit. Our flesh is also redeemable. We will one day have incorruptible bodies, as the apostle Paul explains. We will be fully whole. John also emphasizes that Jesus was raised to take away our sins and further teaches that the sign of true righteousness is not superior knowledge but love for God and neighbor, which is precisely what Jesus taught and commanded. The false teachers showed themselves to be false because they were not loving, and they did not take sin seriously. Their life exhibited no transformation for all the knowledge they claimed to have. Those who belong to Jesus have transformed lives because Jesus lives in them. John says yes, that when we abide in Christ, we do not sin, but the truth is, we do not always abide in Christ, and therefore we need to confess and repent of our sins. Does your life exhibit transformation because Jesus lives in you or do you only know about Jesus? There are folks today who downplay sin and even try to justify their sins by calling it something else altogether. But Jesus took sin seriously and emphasized after His resurrection that He died and rose for the forgiveness of sin. Rev. Bryan Findlayson writes: It is because of God’s perfection that we cannot pretend to be in a relationship with Him while claiming that sin doesn’t matter, or that we are free from sin, or even worse, that our evil behavior is not sinful. Sin does matter.” Dorothy Solle tells us why sin matters—“When the tradition says that sin is the destruction of our relationship to God, it doesn’t mean individual ‘sins’ but rather a general condition, the destruction of our capacity for relatedness. Everythings seems to us to become shadowy, unimportant; life loses its taste, we can take it or leave it. Sin means being separated from the ground of life; it means having a disturbed relationship to ourselves, our neighbor, the creation, and the human family.” A test to show if we are loving or sinning in these various relationships is to ask ourselves, “Am I using this person, this resource, etc. for my own personal gain or to honor God or help this person become more of who God may want them to be? In this relationship, am I acting superior to or am I putting this person’s interest ahead of my own?” Remember that the context of Jesus’s statement of why He died and rose is given as a commission. We are to proclaim forgiveness and remission of sins. We don’t need to beat people up with their sins. This news is good news, not depressing news. Jesus died and rose so that we don’t have to live under guilt and shame. Jesus died and rose to restore our broken relationship with God and with all of God’s creation. Forgiveness is given in Jesus’ name because of what Jesus did. This forgiveness is found through repentance. One of the ways we practice the preaching of forgiveness of sins is by offering forgiveness to those who have wronged us. We can do this because of Jesus’s power in us. Again, when we realize from what we have been forgiven, it becomes easier for us to extend grace and mercy to others. Like Jesus, forgiveness means that we take sin seriously, not lightly. We acknowledge the damage and pain the wrong has caused, but we also move toward the healing and wholeness that Jesus wants all of us to experience. Jesus came so that we can be called the children of God and there still awaits more for us. And Jesus gave us the power of proclamation in giving us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives boldness and gives us the words to share with lost, hurting, and hopeless people. We preach repentance. Jesus forgives us and calls us not to stay where we are but to live in Him for Him. We cannot take our sin lightly because Jesus does not take it lightly. We are not to love our sin, but to loathe it. Instead we are to love God and to love people. Charles Spurgeon in his sermon “Beginning at Jerusalem” said: We are also to preach the motives of repentance—that men may not repent from mere fear of hell, but they must repent of sin itself. Every thief is sorry when he has to go to prison: every murderer is sorry when the noose is about his neck: the sinner must repent, not because of the punishment of sin, but because his sin is sin against a pardoning God, sin against a bleeding Saviour, sin against a holy law, sin against a tender gospel. The true penitent repents of sin against God, and he would do so even if there were no punishment. When he is forgiven, he repents of sin more than ever; for he sees more clearly than ever the wickedness of offending so gracious a God. Jesus told us we are to preach this message to all the nations; it is the truth for every ethnic group, but we start where we are. We must be careful not to criticize and judge people for their sins without offering to them to good news that they can be forgiven regardless of what they have done. We must extend the hope that there is a different way by turning to Jesus. As we go, Jesus goes before us to pave our way, and He goes with us to direct our path. Let the Lord lead you.

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