The Cross: An Instrument of Forgiveness

August 14, 1999

1. We’ve all been there – if you haven’t – just wait, your turn is coming!
- We all know what it means for someone to do something to us that hurts us or offends us in some way
- We get upset – maybe even angry
- We do things that we wouldn’t ordinarily do
• Some yell, throw things – maybe even hit someone or threaten them
• Some even to the extreme of revenge and get even by walking into a school or a local place of business and start shooting people – killing them (even children)
• Some chose the route of “clamming up” – they ignore the person who hurt/offended them
- Give them the “silent treatment”
- Never speak to them again – because of WHAT HAPPENED
- These individuals will walk into a church, workplace and not even speak to each others
- They will walk into the door of their own home with a “scowl” on their face and a grunt as if to say, “Leave me alone.  I don’t want to talk to you.”
- This, too, is a form of manipulation and somewhat of a “silent revenge” that quietly says, “I don’t like what you did to me, and you’re going to pay for it.”
- Interestingly enough, When you sit down and talk to these individuals and ask them what happened . . .
• The response if often:  “I can’t remember” – I just know they treated me badly!
2. Question is, “What do you do when someone . . .
• Cuts you off the road? (“road rage” = anger)
• Gossips/betrays your trust?
• Breaks the commitment they made to you?
- What do you do when someone wrongs you?
- Do you get even – take revenge?
- Do you punish them?
- Do you manipulate them?
- Do you intimidate them into guilt?
3. God has given us an answer to those questions and questions like them
- The answers are found in the Person of His Son – Jesus Christ and His work on the cross
- Listen to these verses in Hebrews:
 Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
4. In short, the answers for the situations I described and others like them are found in the title of the series PV has been doing on Sunday a.m.’s – “Embracing the Cross”
5. What do you do when someone sins against you?  What do you do when you sin against someone else?
Answer:  Embrace the Cross!
You “embrace the cross” because it is an instrument of FORGIVENESS!
6. Turn to Luke 23:33-43 – READ
7. I’d like for us to study 2 principles from this passage that helps us to embrace the cross as an INSTRUMENT OF FORGIVENESS
#1:  The Cross Reminds Me That I Need to Seek God’s Forgiveness.
 The fact that Jesus Christ came to this earth and was crucified, fulfills God’s plan that goes all the way back to Gen. 3:15
 You know the story – God created man in a perfect environment and without sin – NO EXCUSES
 Yet man still chose to disobey God’s command
 When Adam & Eve did that, they instantly died (spiritually)
• Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned--
• Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
• Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
• Romans 3:10 As it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE”
Point: When Adam sinned, it changed the nature of his relationship to God!
 Suddenly God, the CREATOR, became God the JUDGE!
 Their sin had a price tag
 At that point, instead of creating life – God had to kill an innocent lamb to cover the nakedness of Adam & Eve
“Judicial Forgiveness” was necessary!
 Their guilt had to be paid for – and God had a plan to provide a way to satisfy His wrath
• Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel. "
 God tells me of One who will bruise the head of the serpent (Satan)
 This is the 1st prophesy of the coming Messiah (Jesus Christ, the Son of God)
• The One who would shed his blood for man’s sin
• The One who would ultimately satisfy God’s wrath on man for rejecting His commands, & breaking His law
 In the meantime, God established the OT sacrificial system
 Every year a spotless, innocent lamb had to be offered as a sacrifice to COVER the sin of the people (by faith, the OT believers looked FORWARD to the cross – we look BACK)
 That lamb only represented the One who would come from God and TAKE AWAY the sin of the world
 That Lamb – was God’s Son – Jesus Christ
• Isaiah 53:6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
Q:  How did he do that?
-  God did that when his Son died on the cross and shed His blood for our sin
• 2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
 That’s why verses like John 3:16 are so special to us
[Quote it as a church family]
 Now, some will try to tell you – “You can earn God forgiveness by being a good person!”
 Nothing could be more untrue.
 Believe me, Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross – He had to go because the only way God’s wrath as a JUDGE could be satisfied was with a perfect, blood sacrifice
“If it be possible, let this cup pass from me . . . Not my will, but thine be done” (Jesus in the Garden) = i.e. the cross/becoming sin for us
 There is no other way to heaven or to get God’s forgiveness than by GRACE alone, through FAITH alone, in CHRIST alone
• Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
• Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
ILL: Lana Goris/Jeremy Crum – result of pre-marriage counseling – she got saved!
Point:  In seeking God’s forgiveness -- I have to go to the cross -- the cross is an instrument of FORGIVENESS!
 That’s where forgiveness is found
 Q:  Have you put your faith in Christ alone -- i.e. His death, burial, and resurrection -- not in ___(fill in the blank)_____?
 Now when you do that -- your relationship with God changes from Him being a JUDGE to being our FATHER!
 Once you become a Christian, your sins are forgiven!
 However, let me ask you a question:  Do you stop sinning?
 Answer:  NO!
 While you are a new creation in Christ [“old things are past away” (2 Cor. 5:17)], you still have sinful habits of thinking and action!
 Q:  What do you do with those?
(Mention some wrong ways -- opposite of progressive sanctification -- drugs, “mental illness” excuses, etc.)
- God gives us some ways in His Word:
1) Identify them as sinful
2) Confess them as sin
3) Forsake those habits by . . .
• putting them off (stopping them -- a choice)
• replacing them with obedience to the Word
Note: That’s what discipleship is all about -- that’s where the church, with pastors and other believers, comes into the picture -- they all help in the progressive sanctification process (i.e. becoming Christlike)
 Let me say that we have to work at changing, not only OUTWARD behavior, but INNER man thoughts and motives as well
 That’s what 1 John 1:9 is all about -- that shouldn’t be used in presenting the salvation to someone (it’s not written to unbelievers -- context is believers who say they have not sinned)
 What I’m talking about is . . .
“Parental Forgiveness”
 You still are a son/daughter of God, but FELLOWSHIP is broken and needs to be restored
 Let’s apply this even more to BELIEVERS:
• When is the last time you’ve asked God’s forgiveness for anything?
• Do you ask forgiveness regularly?
• Are you working at changing and growing?
• If I asked your spouse, co-workers, neighbors -- what would they say about your life?
• Remember the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10)
 Just like for the one thief, for us, the cross is an instrument of FORGIVENESS!
 But some would say:
“I’m too far gone -- I’ve sinned too much.”
 The thief on the cross teaches us that as long as we are alive, it is NEVER too late to seek God’s forgiveness
 Let me ask you a question:  Which category are you in this morning?
• Those who need to seek God’s forgiveness as a JUDGE?
• Those who need to seek God’s forgiveness as a FATHER?
* Don’t push it though, there is only 1 example of this “death bed” conversion
>  Our culture has taught us to think differently:  “I’ll do it tomorrow!”
• Proverbs 27:1 Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.
• 2 Corinthians 6:2 Behold, now is "THE ACCEPTABLE TIME," behold, now is" THE DAY OF SALVATION "--
- I wish we could stop here, but we can’t
- Not only is God willing to forgive us if we repent (we are certain of that -- it’s the next principle that we have trouble with)
2.  The Cross Reminds Me that Because I’ve Been Forgiven, I Need to Be Forgiving Others and Seek Their Forgiveness
- I started with principle #1 on purpose because people who aren’t very forgiving usually forget something . . .
- What’s that?  -- That God has forgiven them
- Somewhere in their thinking, they believe the other person is a bigger sinner than they are and does not DESERVE to be forgiven
- There are some words to describe that thinking:  Lying, pride, rebellion, etc.!
- The cross is an instrument of forgiveness in more than one direction!
• Ephesians 4:32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
- The whole basis of my ability AND responsibility to forgive another has to do with the fact that God has forgiven me and He knows all there is about me!
- Our knowledge of the extent of another person’s sin is at best LIMITED -- to the outward!
(1 Cor. 2:11 – quote it)
- Think about what God knows, and yet He is willing to forgive if we repent
Note: You do understand that forgiveness is CONDITIONAL?
• 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
• Luke 17:3 "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.
- Great! -- they haven’t repented, I don’t have to forgive them!
- Waaaaaait just a minute!!
Let me say 2 things about that thinking:
1)  That never justifies holding a grudge or being vengeful
• Rom. 12:17-21 -- we can’t play God!
• Inherent to forgiveness (seeking/granting it) is the desire to be RESTORED -- to RECONCILE the relationship
• Gal 6:1 (quote & explain) – “restore” = to mend the net, set the bone
2)  Even if a person won’t repent, we need to “STAND READY” to grant forgiveness the moment they do repent
- we even need to be praying as Jesus did on the cross, that God would bring about their forgiveness
“Father, forgive them . . .” was a prayer, not a BLANKET ACT of forgiveness – that would contradict the rest of the NT teaching about forgiveness (principle of Bible study:  unity principle – one verse cannot fight against the rest of Scripture as a whole)
Note:  By the way, there are several ways that Jesus’ prayer was answered (cf. Acts 2 is one example -- 3,000 saved)
- Some would say:  I’ll forgive them, but I’ll never FORGET it!
- That’s OK, in a sense -- i.e. theologically
- God cannot forget -- He is omniscient (knows all -- He doesn’t have the ability to forget)
- Then what does forgiveness mean?
* God chose to NO LONGER remember our sins AGAINST us!
* He doesn’t keep bringing them up . . . beating us over the head with them, reminding us about how we blew it!
- Why?  Because it’s under the BLOOD!
- When we grant forgiveness, we are making a four fold promise not to bring the issue up . . .
1) To God
2) To the person
3) To anybody else (that would be gossip -- unless that person was part of the problem or part of the solution -- e.g. A pastor or a spiritually mature person from whom you are getting godly counsel)
4) To yourself -- in that you stew over it and dwell on it
Goal:  Restore the relationship -- to grow through the trial -- to help each other to give a good account at the J.S.C (2 Cor 5:10)
[Recommend Jay Adams, From Forgiven to Forgiving]
Point:  Are you a person embracing the cross as an instrument of FORGIVENESS?
*  2 Ways:
1) Granting it when you others ask you and then seek to restore the relationship?
- Wait a minute:  Look at the cross and what they did to Jesus (details of the cruxifiction)
- At least don’t complain until someone puts you naked on a cross and does to you what they did to Jesus!
2) Seeking forgiveness from God and others when you’ve sinned?
Matthew 5:23-24 [read]-- reconcile THEN worship!
• Are you quick to grant forgiveness?
• Are you quick to ask forgiveness?
- If not, why not?
- It may be you don’t see yourself in light of the cross -- it may be you need to embrace the cross
- It may be you don’t see the magnitude of your own sin!
- It may be you haven’t yet seen or you’ve seen and forgotten that you stood before God CONDEMNED -- yet forgave you
- I’d like to close with a WARNING:
- If you don’t allow the cross of Jesus Christ to be an instrument of forgiveness with you . . .
- Then your shall bear your own cross by spending an eternity in hell (separated from God) forever!
- But you say, “God would never do that -- He’s too loving!”
• Revelation 20:15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
- Jesus is a King, not a beggar -- he allows you to receive Him or REJECT Him (John 1:12)
- If you don’t forgive others -- God will not forgive you
- If you are absolutely unwilling to forgive another -- you will not be reconciled to them, even though they are wanting to rebuild the relationship -- you may not even be a Christian yourself
• 1 John 5:18 We know that no one who is born of God sins (i.e. continually, habitually practices sin – i.e without repenting, etc.); but He who was born of God keeps him and the evil one does not touch him.
- If you are not granting forgiveness and seeking forgiveness, your fellowship with God the Father is STRAINED and UNPRODUCTIVE
- Who do you need to seek out and ASK FORGIVENESS?
- Not “I’m sorry” (that’s expressing emotion)
- But “I was wrong,” or “That was sinful, would you please forgive me?”
- Who do you need to forgive and get busy “mending the net” or “setting the bone”
- You might be asking, “What will happen if I obey?  What are the consequences if I don’t?
• Galatians 6:8 For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.
• James 1:25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.
• Joshua 1:8 "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
Proverbs 28:13 “He that covers his sin will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes it shall have mercy.