Sermon Title: Standing Forgiven Before God
Grace, to you and peace in the name of Jesus, the Savior born in Bethlehem. Amen.
We are nearly in the Advent season. The Advent season of the Church Year is that time before Christmas that we use to prepare for and anticipate the birth of the Christ Child. Advent, and the anticipation of Jesus’ first arrival on this Earth as a human being, is tied to the anticipation of His second coming, when He will return with power and might. The two are rarely separated. So as we are gathered here in this church we have two things to think about.
The first is the fact that Jesus the Christ Child was born. We have just celebrated that wonderful event. It is wonderful because it is when when Jesus, the Son of God Most High, the God King Emperor of the created universe and Author of Life, came down to live like one of us. To soil His feet on dirt.
Without that single event in time there would be: no hope, no joy, no peace, no love or mercy for any of us. Without the birth of the Christ Child we would be living in nothing but despair, depression and sorrow. He came, as the Prince of Peace, to bestow peace to His people on Earth.1 That is the true miracle of Christmas and the real reason for the season we celebrate. The birth of that Holy Child who brought salvation to you.
He did that by taking every bad thing we have ever done, or ever will do, on Himself. He never held anything against us. When the Pharisees and Sadducees were ridiculing Him,2 when the Roman soldiers were mocking Him,3 when the criminals were cursing Him,4 He said, “Father forgive them.5”
The question is often asked, “What would you have done?” If you had been there and this guy was claiming to be God, the Savior of the whole world, while being tortured to death, and accused of crimes against the ruling authority, what would you have done? Would you have recognized Him for who He really is? Would you have been any different than any of the other people that were there?
It’s a tough question to answer for some people maybe because if they are really honest with themselves they know what the answer would be. So what about those Pharisees and Sadducees, those roman soldiers, and those criminals. What happened to them? The Bible does tell us that some of them changed their thinking and became believers.
The criminal on the cross next to Him heard Jesus say, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.6” The roman soldier who watched Jesus die said, “Surly this was the Son of God.7” Scripture also records that even some of the Pharisees and Sadducees came to faith in time.8 Here you have people who spit on Jesus, lied about Him, beat Him, tortured Him, and spent years trying to destroy Him, and for those who hearts were changed what happened when they stood before the throne of God where Jesus sits in judgment? Did Jesus say to them, “I never knew you9” or did He say, “Welcome home.10”? If you were Jesus, sitting in judgment over them, what would you have done?
That brings us to the second thing we have to think about. The first was Jesus birth, the second is that day when each of us must stand before His throne alone and give an answer. Jesus, our Lord on High, came to this Earth because He was desperate to love us and He desperately wanted to save everyone.11 He never hurt us but we hurt Him. The human race hurt Him, even hated Him, and executed Him, and He did nothing to deserve any of it. That is what we all do to Him. We push Him away. We hurt the One who came to love us. We cause God frustration, exasperation, and disappointment, because we do not live our lives the way we should, and we fill our hearts with the poison of sin.
Yet for each and every one of us the day of your own personal final judgment will come, must come. How will God judge you? What is the standard, what is the bar we must reach so that we can be: declared acceptable to God, loved by God, and welcomed home by God? How good do we have to be? What do we have to do to pay for all the pain, grief, and frustration that we caused for God and others?
Jesus said, if you miss one comma in the Law of God, if you miss one period, you are guilty of breaking all of it.12 So how do you make it right again with God whom you pushed away with your own sin? What will we do? That was the very question Peter was asked on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came with wind and tongues of fire.13 How do we fix the mess?
The answer is you don’t, you won’t, you can’t. You can’t do anything to fix all that you have messed up between you and God. He has every right to throw you away and never think about you again. We’ve all done things that fail to show love for God. He calls Himself our Heavenly Father, He sent us His only Son to die for us, and still we don’t act the way we should, we still push our Heavenly Father away, we still push Jesus away. God would be well within His rights to hate us but He won’t. He doesn’t. He forgives.
How can God forgive us when we’ve done so much to Him? To answer that question we really need to understand what forgiveness is and what it is not. When God forgives it does not mean He approves of what we’ve done. It does not mean He makes excuses for what we’ve done. It does not mean He denies what we’ve done. Forgiveness is God choosing to pay your bill.
If you stood in His place, if you sat on God’s throne, and saw all of the mess and sin in the world what would your heart be like? It would be filled with poison and bitterness. Yet God’s heart is filled with love for us. It is filled with love because God chooses to forgive. He chooses to not keep a record of our past. He chooses to not punish us for our past.
When all of the mess we’ve made in this world finally brought Him to the cross, when everything we had done had finally nailed Him to those boards, He said, “Father, forgive them.” Even there He would not allow bitterness in His heart.
For those who believe on Jesus Christ, for those who rely on Him to fix what we’ve have broken, no matter what we’ve have done, there is forgiveness.14 That is the real miracle of Christmas. After all we had done, and still do, Jesus came to us as an innocent Child. A Baby had come to save the world. There is where Lois put her faith and trust.
When you look into that manger you see more than the sweet face of a baby. You see the face of God, and there is care, love, concern, and forgiveness in His eyes. That is the reason for the season. That is the true miracle of Christmas. That is a real reason to be thankful.
God knows that life on this Earth can be hard, frustrating, and difficult at times. It is for that reason He took salvation out of our hands, and took care of it Himself.15 He did that so that no matter who we are if we call on Him and His name, and believe in Him and His salvation, there is for us forgiveness in the face of that little Child. There is forgiveness in that same face which you will see when you stand before the throne of Heaven, just like Lois. Standing in that faith, just like Lois, you will hear those words, “Welcome home.”
The Bible says:
For those who believe on His name,
He gave the power to be called children of God.16
May the Holy Spirit teach us all how to fill our hearts with the truths and promises of God’s Word. May He teach us, as He taught Lois, that we can be, and are, forgiven. That we can be, and will live, in Heaven forever.
In Jesus’ name.
1Luke 2:14 – “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those who have his good will!”
2Matthew 27:41-42 – The chief priests together with the experts in Moses’ Teachings and the leaders made fun of him in the same way. They said, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself. So he’s Israel’s king! Let him come down from the cross now, and we’ll believe him.
3Matthew 27:29 – They twisted some thorns into a crown, placed it on his head, and put a stick in his right hand. They knelt in front of him and made fun of him by saying, “Long live the king of the Jews!”
4Matthew 27:44 – Even the criminals crucified with him were insulting him the same way.
5Luke 23:34 – Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
6Luke 23:43 – Jesus said to him, “I can guarantee this truth: Today you will be with me in paradise.”
7Matthew 27:54 – An army officer and those watching Jesus with him saw the earthquake and the other things happening. They were terrified and said, “Certainly, this was the Son of God!”
8Acts 6:7 – God’s word continued to spread, and the number of disciples in Jerusalem grew very large. A large number of priests came to faith.
9Matthew 7:23 – Then I will tell them publicly, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you evil people.’
10Matthew 25:21 – “His master replied, ‘Good job! You’re a good and faithful servant! You proved that you could be trusted with a small amount. I will put you in charge of a large amount. Come and share your master’s happiness.’
111 Timothy 2:3-4 – This is good and pleases God our Savior. He wants all people to be saved and to learn the truth.
12Matthew 5:17-20 – “Don’t ever think that I came to set aside Moses’ Teachings or the Prophets. I didn’t come to set them aside but to make them come true. I can guarantee this truth: Until the earth and the heavens disappear, neither a period nor a comma will disappear from the Scriptures before everything has come true. So whoever sets aside any command that seems unimportant and teaches others to do the same will be unimportant in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches what the commands say will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. I can guarantee that unless you live a life that has God’s approval and do it more faithfully than the experts in Moses’ Teachings and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
13Acts 2:37 – “All the people of Israel should know beyond a doubt that God made Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were deeply upset. They asked Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
14Acts 10:42-43 – He ordered us to warn the people, ‘God has appointed Jesus to judge the living and the dead.’ In addition, all the prophets testify that people who believe in the one named Jesus receive forgiveness for their sins through him.”
15Ephesians 2:8-9 – God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. It’s not the result of anything you’ve done, so no one can brag about it.
16John 1:12 – He gave the right to become God’s children to everyone who believed in him.