ForgivenessSince I was asked several weeks ago at our last study to have memorised the first eleven verses of the story of the adulteress and Jesus, I felt it to be more appropriate to focus my sermon on this passage of Scripture and I felt God could use me with this.
The passage reads in the NIV:
1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around Him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
I think its necessary to point out that Jesus forgave the woman after she had done the worst thing she could do, not her best. Often times, we have the tendency to think that if we are good and have somehow cleaned up our own sins, then perhaps we will be worthy of Christ's forgiveness.
Or maybe we tend to go to the other end of the curb and think that, after every time we stuff up, we've gone too far and there's no way He could forgive us after we did what we did and we think, "Surely He can't, not after that."
One of my favourite quotes on grace is by Jerry Bridges in the book, The Discipline of Grace, "Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of grace." In other words, there is nothing that you can do that is too beyond God's forgiveness if you sincerely seek it. Then the quote takes a different turn and Bridges says, "And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace."
Regardless of how we feel, whether it is good or bad, we are wholly dependent on the grace of God and the great thing about the forgiveness of Christ is that He not only takes just the past, present or future sins, but He takes all of them and nails them to the cross. Not only does He know all of them, but He forgives all of them.
There was a video I saw recently which talked about our baggage in life. The things that happen to us, maybe they're small things, maybe big, but they get to us and instead of letting go of it, we hold onto it and it weighs us down. And other time, this builds up and hurts us but when we come to Christ with all this baggage, this hurt, this pain, He doesn't condemn us. He gently says , "Let me take that for you."
And it is clear throughout Scripture that we no longer have a reason to fear but can now abide in Christ.
Matthew 11:28, 30 says , "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest... For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (NIV)
Romans 8:1 says, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (NIV)
1 Peter 5:7 says, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (NIV)
So we have these promises that He cares for us and that He brings rest for us when we seek it and once we have found this rest, we have peace... but we don't stop there. Not only has Christ forgiven us but He has commanded us to forgive others.
Matthew 6:14 says, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." (NIV)
Ephesians 4:32 says, " Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
And its great that the Bible is filled with such practical commands as these so we can follow Christ... but they're not easy commands, and we often find it hard to forgive those who we feel have wronged us. However, according to Galatians 2:20, we already have the mind of Christ, we already have the power to forgive what seems to us to be unforgivable.
Though we may not be able to forgive, He can. Though we may be weak, He isn't. Though we may have pride, He doesn't. As Christians, we have the mind of Christ and through His power can we forgive as He forgives and has forgiven us.
In the book, Just Like Jesus, Max Lucado wrote, "Relationships do not thrive because the guilty are punished, but because the innocent are merciful."
Isn't that so true? If a relationship is to grow, it must be based on forgiveness. We are all human, we all make mistakes, its inevitable. We will be disappointed and will disappoint others. Without forgiveness, relationships cannot thrive. Isn't it amazing that that is exactly what He has done for us? That He has chosen to hold back the punishment so that mercy may come forth in abundance andso that we may have a relationship with Him.
In the same book, Lucado goes on to talk about our pride and how, too often, we believe we are the offended party and that we deserve an apology. Though... don't we all believe we are right and the other person is wrong? Don't we all hold that pride? We may not always do, but sometimes we do... and even if we are innocent, should we not show mercy and humility?
The thing is, which is truly amazing, is that, often when we say sorry and get on our knees, regardless of whether we are right or not, the offending party does too and the peace of Christ is restored in the relationship.
So, I leave you with this question: do you take the time to stop and think about the offenses you store in your heart that pull you down and keep you in bondage, not only with your mistakes but with those you feel have been done against you?
Take that time.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NIV)