Yesterday we considered John's summary of what he heard from Jesus and touched a bit on our current attitude toward sin. This morning I would like to continue looking at this attitude toward sin. It is an important subject if we are ever going to discover the unity that Jesus desires us to have. If we cannot understand our attitude toward sin then we cannot understand forgiveness and without forgiveness the Church cannot serve in the manner to which we were called.
Obviously our goal and desire is to live a sinless life so that we may enjoy rich fellowship with our Lord Jesus. Yesterday we read that God is light and came into the darkness to rescue as many people as would listen from the darkness. Sin belongs to that darkness and so in order for us to be in the light, to have fellowship with Jesus and each other, we must let go of sin. This is only possible through the blood of Jesus. So, it is possible for us to be without sin, in theory. John writes:
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. (1 John 2:1)
Unfortunately we have not yet reached perfection and so we should be prepared to deal with our failures and the failures of others. We are involved in a growing process and as we mature in our relationship with Jesus we discover that his love becomes greater than anything in our life. We avoid sin because of that love. It is possible to avoid it because we know our weaknesses and we know what tempts us so we avoid those things. Yet, we are not perfect and can (and often do) sin without thinking. Maturity also brings with it a greater understanding and ability to forgive, because of one reason:
But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)
It really is as simple as that. People sin, seek forgiveness and are forgiven. Of course it needs to be a real repentance and not a sense of guilt from being caught. We are warned not to be "grace abusers". However, when repentance is sincere then forgiveness must also be sincere. The Father forgives readily so why should we have difficulty with it. We need to get over ourselves and understand the issue is bigger than us. Jesus shocked the religious leaders of his day by forgiving people who sinned but it went beyond this. Jesus did more than give us the authority to heal and caste out demons, he also gave us the authority to forgive. Now which would you say is the greater of these things? Jesus siad:
If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. (John 20:23)
Whatever we forgive people for here will not be brought up against them on the day of judgment which is an awesome thing when you think about it. The Church should be an awesome place of forgiveness and reconciliation as we operate in the Father's desire for everyone to be saved. However, there is also another aspect of forgiveness that we should always keep in mind:
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)
The Holy Spirit is transforming our character to that of Jesus' because Jesus is the first born of many. We must all have this same character and one of the biggest parts of this character is forgiveness. Jesus made it plain and told parables to get the point across: you have been forgiven of your sins but if you do not forgive others as you have been forgiven then you will not be forgiven. Wow! How many of us are in trouble? How many legalistic churches who spend all their days condemning instead of forgiving are in trouble? Love and forgiveness are two key elements of the Church and our lives. It does not matter if it relates to new people in the church, old members, leaders or back-benchers, we have the responsibility to forgive in love.
So my question to you this morning is, are you plagued with unforgiveness that is eating away at you? What about things that you did to others and that you never sought forgiveness for? It is time to do something about it especially if you have any desire to progress in your spiritually maturity. Love, forgive and accept one another and then we will see the Church become the incubator it was designed to be. Remain judgmental, unforgiving, unaccepting and the result will be your life remaining stagnant and stinky as will be the church you are a member of. If you have the hope of being forgiven by the Father you had better get busy forgiving people in your life. Stop being shocked by sin; realize you do it and so do others and we all need the same forgiveness. Do not expect people to be any more perfect than you are and if you think you are so perfect that you can judge, then you do not know as you aught to know.