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Grace and Reconciliation

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Grace and Reconciliation

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Grace and Reconciliation

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How does sin distance us from God? How do we receive reconciliation from sin? What are we expected to do after reconciliation? What does God’s grace provide?

Transcript

A prison chaplain writes of a study in which he talked with twelve inmates in the Penitentiary and he asked each one of them, Why are you here? And the answers were instructive. One said, “I was framed.” Another said, “They ganged up on me.” The third said, “It was a case of mistaken identity.” And another, “The police had it in for me.” Not one of them said he was guilty of something, they were all innocent. Do you really think they were? An insurance adjuster said he would estimate 90% of the people involved in automobile accidents see themselves as blameless, 90% say it wasn’t their fault. Of course it has to be the fault of at least half I think doesn’t it? Is this true? Now perhaps we have not spent time in prison but have we lived blameless lives? Have we ever done anything to affect our relationship with God? Have we ever done anything that requires us to be put into a spiritual penitentiary?

Here is a letter written from a prisoner on our mailing list, I’ll read it to you. This fellow is in a penitentiary and he says, “Thank you for the Good News, I found your magazine to be interesting, informative and factual in accordance with the scriptures. Your articles reflect not only the problems of this age but remind me that God’s plan has never changed and inspires me to live in prison in accordance with His laws and commandments. I’m incarcerated because I broke God’s laws by my disobedience. Yes, I also broke mans laws but man cannot bring about restoration of the soul or a new life. Only my complete surrender to God’s will has enabled me to become a new man through Christ Jesus. Your magazine keeps me in touch with the real world as it emphasizes the imminent return of the kingdom of God and His fulfilling grace. This is indeed good news. I’m enclosing a request for several of your publications to be sent to my wife, she too is renewing her faith and I believe your articles and publications will add to her enlightenment. I thank God for your ministry.”

What’s it like to come to understand, like this prisoner has, that true freedom and restoration can only come from God no matter how long of a sentence you might serve in prison. Do we appreciate the good news of God’s soon coming kingdom and the reconciliation available for us with Him after breaking His law? Because without this, we’re in prison, we’re on a spiritual death row. Reconciliation, forgiveness and God’s grace is an important subject for us to cover as we approach the Passover season.

There’s been much public interest of late in the sacrifice of our Savior, as you know. Thankfully we have a full rich true understanding of what Jesus Christ’s sacrifice really means for us and for the salvation of all of mankind. We can truly understand what reconciliation with God means. Now this is going to be the first Passover for some of you sitting here today, your very first Passover. We’ve had a number of baptisms since last Passover. Others amongst us are contemplating baptism now, thinking about it, studying, deciding when they will make a commitment to God and then there are many of us that will be keeping maybe our 10th or 20th or our 40th or 40th Passover.

I think it’s good for us all, with this in mind, to look at God’s grace that leads us to forgiveness and reconciliation with Him. I have 8 main points that we’re going to look at today and just to whet your appetite, I’ll just mention what they are and of course as we go through them you’d better write them down at that point.

But we’re going to begin with how has sin affected our relationship with God and then secondly, what is the solution to our alienation from God, thirdly, how can we be reconciled to God? Then, does God expect us to strive to be blameless after that reconciliation with Him? Fifth, what sins are covered by Christ’s blood? Then why do we need God’s grace and is faith necessary and how should our conscience be affected by faith in God’s forgiveness? So that’s what we’re going to look at today.

Listen to this short story of reconciliation that I have here for you. “Thoughts jostled in his mind as the windshield wipers threw the raindrops to the side. It had been so long since he had seen his father. He still heard the echo of the angry words they had spoken, they had not parted on good terms. Each of them vowing never to speak to each other again, each of them stubbornly kept that promise but everything changed last night. Mother had called. Father had had a heart attack and the prognosis wasn’t good. He quickly made airplane reservations and was now driving to the hospital. Instead of anger, regret and worry filled his mind. All of those years wasted because of a grudge. When he arrived at the hospital he found out that his father had regained consciousness, but even better news was that his father wanted to see him. They both realized the wrong they had done to each other, they no longer wanted to be enemies, they wanted to be father and son again.”

This is a human picture of reconciliation. Reconciliation makes a complete change of status from enemies to friends and the bible uses that word to describe what God has done for us through His son, Jesus Christ. He has completely changed His relationship between Him and us. Because of what Jesus has done for us, God no longer calls us enemies but friends. He reconciled us to Himself through the death of His son.

1.How has sin affected our relationship with God?

I like reading the comics from time to time, I think the Sunday comics are sometimes the headlines of the day but Calvin and Hobbes were walking along and Calvin says, “You know the problem with this universe?” And waiting for the shoe to drop, Hobbes says “What?” Calvin answers, “There’s no toll-free customer service hotline for complaints. That’s why things don’t get fixed. If the universe had decent management, we’d get a full refund if we weren’t completely satisfied.” Hobbes objects, “But hey, the universe is free.” To which Calvin retorts, “See that’s another thing, they should have a cover charge and keep out all the riff-raff.”

Sometimes we see ourselves as the riff-raff of the universe don’t we? We don’t always act properly; we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the mark of God’s law. Sin has affected our relationship with God and we are the riff-raff of the universe until things are changed. Let’s look at Isaiah 59:1-2 Isaiah 59:1-2 [1] Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: [2] But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
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, turn over there with me if you would.

Isaiah 59:1-2 Isaiah 59:1-2 [1] Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: [2] But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
American King James Version×
–Behold the Lords hand is not shortened that it cannot save nor His ear heavy that He cannot hear. So God can save us, He can hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear.

Our sins are what separate us from God, that affect that relationship with Him. The story is told by Ernest Hemingway of a father and his teen-aged son who had a relationship that had become strained to the point of breaking and Hemingway said, “Finally the son ran away from home. His father however, began a journey in search of his rebellious son. Finally in Madrid, Spain, in a last desperate effort to find him, the Father put an ad in the newspaper and it read, ‘Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father.’ The next day at noon in front of the newspaper office, 900 Paco’s showed up!” But you see our sins have separated us from our true Father in heaven. Our relationship with God has been damaged immeasurably and great repairs are needed and so that’s point one – which leads us to point two.

2.What is the solution to our alienation from God?

What is the solution to our alienation from God? To us, separating ourselves from God because of things we’ve done, not because of anything He’s done. Isaiah 55, go back a few pages, read verses 6 & 7.

Isaiah 55:6-7 Isaiah 55:6-7 [6] Seek you the LORD while he may be found, call you on him while he is near: [7] Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
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– Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. So this takes some action on our part. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, let him return to the Lord and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.

So God expects us to turn to Him, to repent, to change and then He will have mercy upon us. A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son and the Emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death. “But I don’t ask for justice” the mother explained, “I plead for mercy.” And Napoleon replied, “But your son does not deserve mercy.” And the woman cried, “It would not be mercy if he deserved it and mercy is all I ask for.” “Well then, Napoleon said, I will have mercy,” and he spared the woman’s son.

See mercy is not something deserved. Mercy is mercy. There is a beauty and simplicity to God’s way of life. Yes, we have been alienated from Him because of our sins but there is a solution and we can become reconciled. God will have undeserved mercy upon us, for those who forsake their own ways and return to Him. Jesus told a story of a young man who made a wrong decision and what happened to him as a result and we call it the parable of the prodigal son. It can be found in Luke 15, but I’m not going to turn there right now. Perhaps you see yourself sometimes in the story of the prodigal son or maybe you’re the prodigal daughter and come to appreciate the fact that when we return to God, He will have mercy upon us and pardon us. This is our second point, this is part of the solution.

We have to turn from our ways and repent and change and live according to His ways. Here’s the story of the prodigal son in the key of F, listen along with me, the English language is a fascinating language and here’s the prodigal son in the key of F, not that I’m going to sing it mind you! “Feeling footloose and frisky, a featherbrained fellow forced his father to fork over his farthings. Fast he flew to foreign fields and frittered his family’s fortune. Fleeced by his fellows in folly, facing famine and feeling faintly fuzzy, he found himself a feed flinger in a filthy foreign farmyard. Feeling frail and fairly famished he filled his frame with foraged food from the fodder fragments. ‘Phooey’ he figured, my father’s flunky’s fare far fancier the frazzled fugitive fumed feverishly, facing the facts. Finally frustrated from failure and filled with foreboding, he fled. Far away the father focused on the fretful familiar form in the field and flew to him and fondly flung his forearms around the fatigued fugitive. Falling at his father’s feet, the fugitive floundered forlornly. ‘Father, I have flunked and fruitlessly forfeited a family favor.” Finally the faithful father, forbidding and forestalling further flinching, frantically flagged the flunkies to fetch forth the finest fatling and fix a feast. Faithfully the father’s firstborn was in a fertile field fixing fences while father and fugitive were feeling festive. Frowning and finding fault he found father and fumed. ‘He frittered family funds and you fix a feast for the fugitive?’ Frankly, the father felt the frigid firstborns frugality of forgiveness was formidable and frightful. But the father’s former faithful fortitutude and fearless forbearance to forgive both fugitive and firstborn flourished. Unfurl the flags and finery, let fun and frolic freely flow, former failure is forgotten, folly is forsaken.”

And so likewise, if we return to God He will have mercy upon us and pardon us of our sin. Once we realize that, then that’s our second point. There’s another element to this which is point three.

3.How can we be reconciled to God?

How is all this possible? We’ve noted that our sins separate us from our Father in heaven and yet He is willing to have mercy upon us if we’re willing to repent and change and return to Him, like the prodigal son. But how is this really possible? How can we be reconciled in this manner? After all, the wages of sin is death isn’t it? Romans 6:23 Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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Our sins require our death; we’re on death row. Well yes, but remember the last part?

Romans 6:23 Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
American King James Version×
- …but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Through Christ, God has a gift for us if we do our part. Romans 5:9-11 Romans 5:9-11 [9] Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. [10] For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. [11] And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
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, lets turn over there for a moment.

Romans 5:9 Romans 5:9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
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– Much more then, having now been justified by His blood (it’s a capital H…by Christ’s blood) we shall be saved from wrath, from the wages of sin through Him.

Through Christ that death penalty can be removed.

V. 10 – For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more having been reconciled we shall be saved by His life.

V. 11 - And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

This is something to rejoice about, to glorify God for. Yes, our sins have separated Him from us, yes, He will have mercy upon us but the death penalty is in place except for the blood of Jesus Christ and we can rejoice in that. II Corinthians 5, let’s turn over there for a moment. Verses 18-20.

II Cor. 5:18-19 – Now all things are of God who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ…so this reconciliation is made possible through Jesus Christ…and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

V. 20 – Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

So God is explaining to us here, through Paul, that we can be reconciled. We’re being implored to be reconciled to God through Christ’s blood. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to have this reconciliation with the Father. Without it we will die forever. The wages of sin is death unless we accept Christ’s sacrifice and are brought from the watery grave, reborn into a new kind of life. It’s as if we need a full system restore in our life. This is how we get off death row as that prisoner realized, that true salvation came from God not from serving out a sentence in a physical prison.

Microsoft has a very helpful tool in its Windows ME system (Windows Millennium Edition) and this feature of Windows ME is its system restore feature. How does it work? Well suppose you crash your system today, you’re not a computer expert and you don’t know how to recover the last two weeks of financial information you entered on Friday, your daughter history report she was working on since Monday or your favorite game – of course! All you have to do is select “System Restore” and specify the date to which you want the system restored and your machine resets – problem solved! All the things that you somehow messed up today are put back in their configuration as of that earlier day. Wouldn’t it be nice to try and market that feature for human beings? Do you think you could keep up with the demand? Bob would “System Restore” to the day before he had the affair, Sue would go back to the day before she tampered with the payroll data, Ivan would choose the day before the big fight that caused his son to run away from home. If we would have a “System Restore” we’d go back to before we messed up!

Throughout our lives, systems have crashed for us and sometimes we’d give anything to restore things back to the way they were beforehand. God won’t erase all the physical consequences of some of our actions, but He promises something far better. To completely forgive us and forget our sin forever. What Windows ME calls “System Restore,” God calls forgiveness and reconciliation.

Here’s another letter received at our office just this last month. This person says, “I would like to take this God given opportunity to thank you in your generous hearts for sending me free copies of your booklets. For the past years of my early adult life (I’m 22 years old), I have felt that I lost my direction. I’ve realized that during those times when the road which I was taking was dark and I was really in desperation and in unfathomable loneliness, God was curving my path back to His arms and He never left my side. I’m really inspired and am continually seeking God and your magazine and booklets and are one of the ways I am certain that will lead me back to our Father. Again, thank you very much, I wish to collect all of your booklets and magazines if you permit it, thank you in advance and may you prosper more in order to help millions of believers and unbelievers to nourish their whole being through God’s grace. God bless you always.”

Through God’s grace – it’s not because of anything we can do to earn it, this is how we’re reconciled to God, through the death of Jesus Christ, His Son and God sent His Son into the world to pay the penalty for our sins so we could be saved. Saved from the death penalty. We get a full system restore; we start over with a fresh clean start. The apostle John adds, I’ll read it to you in I John 1:7 John 1:7The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
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:

I John 1:7 John 1:7The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
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– …the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

Christ’s blood cleanses us from all sin. Unger’s Bible Dictionary says that “redemption is defined as a loosing, particularly by paying a price with reference to the special intervention of God for the salvation of mankind.” In other words, redemption is an act of God that frees us from the guilt we incurred through our sins by substituting the death of Christ for the penalty we deserve and that’s why each one of us killed Jesus Christ, not any one person, not any one man, not any one group of people, but all have sinned and fallen short.

God however, will only grant redemption to those who sincerely repent and that is why repentance and returning to God as we read in Isaiah is our starting point for receiving redemption and establishing a lasting relationship with God. Reconciling with our Creator. Those who genuinely repent of their sin will be forgiven, become the redeemed, become the servants of God and all by a reconciliation made possible by Jesus Christ’s blood. The breaking of His body, the shedding of His blood, as we’re concentrating on now as we come forward to the Passover season. This leads us on to point four.

4.Does God expect us to strive to be blameless after our reconciliation with Him?

Many of us in this room were baptized, have been baptized and had our past sins forgiven, but once that has happened, then what? Do we have to strive to be blameless from that point forward or not? Well those reconciled to God through faith in Christ’s sacrifice must continue living in the faith. That is, in harmony with the fundamental beliefs of God’s word. Remember, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Yes, God expects us to be blameless after accepting Jesus Christ’s sacrifice – to live by every word that He speaks. There is a school of thought in the world that once you accept Jesus Christ, it doesn’t matter how you live your life from that point forward and once saved, you can’t lose your salvation. “Once saved, always saved.” You may have heard that before. In fact some people believe that the only way to truly appreciate God’s grace and forgiveness is to sin more and this thought goes back to ancient pagan beliefs. Remember the notorious woman of the Old Testament, Jezebel? She was the Canaanite wife of Israel’s King Ahab. She had not only led Ahab to worship Baal, but through her husband had promulgated her teachings of idolatry and witchcraft throughout all of Israel.

In addressing the church at Thyatira in the book of Revelation, Jesus used the same name, Jezebel, to refer to a contemporary woman apparently following this Old Testament’s queen’s example. It’s found in Revelation 2:20 Revelation 2:20Notwithstanding I have a few things against you, because you suffer that woman Jezebel, which calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
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, I’m not going to turn there right now, but how did this woman beguile or seduce some Christians at Thyatira to commit sexual immorality and other sins? The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says about Jezebel: “How could she lure Christians by using such a term? The reasoning of some in the early church, particularly the Nicolaitans might have gone something like this: ‘The only effective way to confront Satan was to enter into his strongholds. The real nature of sin can only be learned by experience and therefore, only those who had really experienced sin could truly appreciate grace.’ This was a teaching among people in the early centuries. So by experiencing the depths of paganism the deep secrets of Satan, as Revelation puts it, one would be better equipped to serve Christ or be an example of freedom to his brothers. Thus the sin of Jezebel was deadly serious because of the depths of its deception.”

 And you’ll find that thought today, that it doesn’t matter if you sin anymore once you’ve accepted Jesus Christ. In fact maybe it will help you appreciate God’s grace even more. God expects us to strive to live a blameless life even after baptism and receiving the grace of God. We cannot continue a life of commandment breaking despite what some may teach and expect God’s grace to continue for us. Let’s turn over to Colossians 1, Paul’s epistle to the Colossians. Verses 21-23.

Colossians 1:21 Colossians 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has he reconciled
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– And you who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He is reconciled in the body of his flesh through death to present you holy and blameless and above reproach in His sight.

So right there we’re talking about accepting Christ and having our past sins forgiven, being reconciled through Christ’s death. But now notice v. 23 – we’re reconciled:

V. 23 - …if indeed we continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven of which I, Paul, became a minister.

You see you have to continue in that faith after accepting the body and Christ’s flesh through Christ’s death. You have to continue, not move away from what you learned. And it’s vital that all who trust in God remember that we have to live a life of godliness after baptism as the apostle Paul reminds us. Look at Titus 2:11-14 Titus 2:11-14 [11] For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, [12] Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; [13] Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; [14] Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
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Titus 2:11-12 Titus 2:11-12 [11] For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, [12] Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
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– For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men teaching us that…and here we go…denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age.

So accept the grace of God in verse 11, then verse 12 says we have to though, live a righteous life from that point forward.

V. 13 – Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

So God looks at how we live, He looks at the works of our life; He looks at how we treat people, as He redeems us from our lawless deeds. Members of God’s church can’t settle into a comfort zone like a turtle retracting into it’s shell, but rather we should be growing and learning, developing and Jesus set the bar for us quite high, quite high in fact as to be a bar that is set at our Father’s divine nature and character. We are told to become like Him. Not like the people around us, to become like Him. Remember Matthew 5:48 Matthew 5:48Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
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Matthew 5:48 Matthew 5:48Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
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– Therefore you shall become perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

That’s quite an achievement and it’s only possible through God Himself living in us through His holy spirit. We are expected to become perfect, to put away the sins in our life and grow and learn in grace and knowledge. So therefore we have to strive to live a righteous life upon reconciliation with our God.

5.What sins are covered by Christ’s blood?

This was something I thought about when I was contemplating baptism. I know that others did as well and are doing as well. What sins are covered by Christ’s blood? At our baptism, God forgives our past sins, sins previously committed, sins that we repented of and stopped practicing upon being baptized. But His grace and mercy never give us permission to continue sinning after that. Which is the opposite of what the Nicolaitans of the first century taught. Notice how Paul began his explanation of baptism in Romans 6.

Romans 6:1 Romans 6:1What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
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– What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Shall we keep sinning so that God even has to pour out more grace upon us? That’s what some people thought, that’s what he’s discussing.

V. 2 – Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

Go back to Romans 3 with me for a moment.

Romans 3:23 Romans 3:23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
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– For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

And that’s a blanket statement for everybody. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All of us have sinned and separated ourselves from our Father in heaven and it’s not until we return to Him, become reconciled and accept Jesus’ sacrifice that things can change for us.

V. 24 – Being justified freely by His grace…it’s a free gift…through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Once again we see that this is all possible by the blood of Jesus Christ.

V. 25 – Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood…as an atoning sacrifice for us…through faith to demonstrate His righteousness because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed. See that in v. 25 – God passed over the sins that were previously committed.

V. 26 – To demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

So you have to believe that Christ’s sacrifice will do this for you, you have to have faith in Christ in this regard. Christ died to pay for our sins and lead us to repentance. He never intended that we misconstrue grace and forgiveness as permission to ignore the core teachings that God revealed throughout the scriptures. Instead He taught, as we’ve already noted, “man shall not live by bread alone, but live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Much of which we see right here before us in our bibles. We have to live by the word of God from that point forward, that’s how we live our life, by the word of God. Even after baptism when our previously committed sins are forgiven.

Some would ask, but what happens if I sin after baptism? Can those future sins also be covered by Christ’s blood? Let’s turn to I John 2. You see when we are baptized, we’re not perfect, we haven’t overcome everything. Some people think that “I just can’t be baptized until I’ve overcome everything and I’m being good and then I’ll be baptized and I’ll be set.” Actually when we’re baptized we come to realize that we’re sinners and we need God’s help to overcome the world and ourselves and Satan and to live according to His word.

I John 2:1 John 2:1And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
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– My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin…we’re not suppose to sin, He doesn’t expect us to sin…but if anyone sins…I guess we’d say when we sin…we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Christ will intercede for us, the Father will apply Jesus Christ’s blood to our sins.

V. 2 – And He Himself…Christ…is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

V. 3-4 – Now by this we know Him if we keep His commandments…see there is sort of a condition here – you want to have your sins forgiven, expected to strive to obey Him and keep His commandments…he who says “I know Him” and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him.

V. 5 – But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him and by this we know we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought also himself to…walk just Christ walked…walk just as He walked.

So you can see, we’re expected to walk like our Savior walked and He walked a sinless life, that’s how we’re expected to behave, in righteousness and obedience to God’s commandments. Even after baptism and having our previous sins expunged. Any new sins then must be repented of so that we live in a life of godly righteousness.

A woman once wrote that at a garage sale she had spotted a handsome antique copper kettle for only $2.50. It was badly tarnished so she asked the woman running the sale if the discoloration would come out. The woman cheerfully offered to try some copper cleaner on it, disappeared into the house and reappeared with a gleaming kettle. She handed it to the buyer for inspection and it was indeed a more attractive item now plus it also had a new tag attached, it read, “like new, $10.00.” But that’s interesting isn’t it – when the copper kettle first went on sale, it’s owner practically gave it away but something changed its worth. What made the kettle more valuable? A cleansing. When the owner took the trouble to clean away the grime and remove the discoloration and stains, it was worth four times as much.

Almost everything has more value once it has been washed and cleaned up and so it is with us. We are expected to walk as Jesus walked, as we just read. Clean off the spots and blemishes of sin in repentance. Our true value is that of God living in us through His holy spirit, that’s where our value comes from, from God. As His spirit lives in us, as His righteous forgiven saints.

6. Why do we need God’s grace?

Nothing we can do can earn us forgiveness and salvation. Forgiveness and salvation are gifts from God. We are saved by His grace. Let’s look at Ephesians 2 for a moment, v. 8-10, read with me here in Ephesians 2:8 Ephesians 2:8For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
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, and this really is encouraging to read this.

Ephesians 2:8-10 Ephesians 2:8-10 [8] For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: [9] Not of works, lest any man should boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.
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– For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves…thankfully…it is the gift of God. It’s a gift. Not of works, lest anyone should boast. There’s nothing you can do in how you live your life to earn the grace of God, it is a gift. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…see we’re suppose to live a proper life according to His commandments…which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Grace is the word most frequently used in modern bible translations for the original Greek word charis; there’s no simple English language equivalent really. But according to the Complete Word Study Dictionary, charis means “that which causes joy, pleasure, gratification, favor and acceptance for a kindness granted or desired and a favor done without expectation of return, the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men and the bounty and benevolence of the giver.” Something God does for us that we don’t deserve, a free gift from our benevolent Creator God. Charis is also translated as “favor, thanks and pleasure.” Perhaps the simple way to describe the grace of God would be to think of it as God’s unearned, undeserved favor toward us, motivated by His love and concern for us, especially for those of us who accept His invitation to enter into a relationship with Him. It encompasses all of the wonderful gifts God so graciously gives to us.

Remember how Paul typically starts, he’s led us to the churches with the phrase, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” In doing so Paul wants to impress upon us, upon his audience, God’s favor toward those who accept His calling. There are many many ways that God expresses His grace towards us. I have a list here; I’ll just read them to you as we go along. Each of these have scriptures that accompany them but I’m not going to try and cover them with you right now but many of them will be familiar to you because grace covers many aspects of our Christian life with God and some of these you better tag a scripture to as we go along, you will have heard it before. If you want I can give you the scriptures afterwards.

Through grace God reveals Himself and helps us to come to know Him and Jesus Christ His Son. God calls us through His grace. Through grace God pronounces us justified, righteous and free of sin as a result of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. That’s more or less what we’re talking about in the sermon today, being made righteous and free of sin. God offers us salvation, His gift of eternal life through grace. There are about four scriptures that talk about that. Through grace God allows us to enjoy a relationship with Him. God saves us through His grace. Because of God’s grace, God offered Jesus Christ and Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. Through grace God gives us mercy and help in time of need. Through grace God gives us not only what we need but enough for us to share with others. God forgives us through His grace. Through grace, Jesus Christ came in the flesh in the role of a servant so we could have a Savior and receive eternal life. God gives us consolation and hope through grace. Through grace God grants spiritual gifts to His people for the benefit of those in His church. God’s grace is part of the true gospel. The gospel, the good news, is the message of God’s plan to offer eternal life in the kingdom of God to all who have ever lived and all who will yet live. This is made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in taking on Himself the penalty for our sins, God’s grace.

Let’s look at John 3 for a moment, turn back with me. John 3:16-18 John 3:16-18 [16] For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. [17] For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. [18] He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
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.

John 3:16-18 John 3:16-18 [16] For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. [17] For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. [18] He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
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– “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him, might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned…”

See - no longer on death row in a spiritual penitentiary. Paul taught that salvation is a gift from God, by grace through faith. Remember Ephesians 2:8 Ephesians 2:8For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
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we read just a moment ago? “By grace you’ve been saved through faith…is a gift of God.” Paul makes it clear throughout his writings that God’s grace leading to salvation is not of works lest anyone should boast. Those who ignore the reasons for our being God’s workmanship, something He’s creating in us, who ignore why we are created in Christ Jesus for good works and why we are to walk in those works, this is a major part of Paul’s message. Jesus Christ expects action from us, works from us. Remember Matthew 7:21 Matthew 7:21Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
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Matthew 7:21 Matthew 7:21Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
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– “Not everyone that says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”

There’s something you’ve got to do here. Yes, grace is a gift from God but we’re still expected to live a life of righteousness after accepting that gift. The bible is consistent and plain in its teaching that salvation is a gift from God, no doubt about it, but even though it is a gift, something we cannot earn by anything we do, we are expected to obey God if we are to receive that gift. Certainly forgiveness and salvation are gifts from God. They cannot be earned. As humans we possess nothing of sufficient value to pay for the forgiveness of our sins and our salvation, yet Jesus bluntly tells us that unless you repent, you’ll perish. You have to accept that gift and then act accordingly. Through repentance we do not earn salvation, but repentance is a prerequisite for that salvation. We have to seek to have our sins forgiven and so yes, we do need God’s grace, there’s nothing we can do of ourselves to bring this all about, we do need God’s grace and then He expects us to act accordingly to receive that gift.

7. Is faith in God’s grace necessary for forgiveness?

Is faith in God’s grace, through Christ’s sacrifice necessary for forgiveness? Remember what we read back in Ephesians a few minutes ago? “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” We’re not saved without some action on our part including repentance and believing, having faith in the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord. Colossians 2 is a good passage to turn to here.

Colossians 2:11-12 Colossians 2:11-12 [11] In whom also you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: [12] Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised him from the dead.
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– In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism…those sins have to be buried in baptism…in which you also were raised…when you come up out of that watery grave to a new life…raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

So just as we have faith that Christ rose on the third day so that we could be saved, so that we could be raised, we too have to have faith that this plan is going to work. Faith that Christ really lived and died for us.

V. 13 – Then you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.

And so we believe through faith in this working of God in our lives. And though obedience is necessary for continued spiritual understanding, this does not mean that obedience entitles us to this salvation. God alone through His grace and mercy, as we turn to Him, forgives sin, grants us help to overcome and offers salvation as a gift. But don’t forget, God expects us to do our part while He fulfills the rest. James emphasized this principle, you’ll recall in James 2:21 James 2:21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son on the altar?
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, I’ll read it to you:

James 2:21-22 James 2:21-22 [21] Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son on the altar? [22] See you how faith worked with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
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– Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he, in order to obey, offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works and by works faith was made perfect?

You see how faith is involved here in accepting the grace of God. Anyone who carefully studies James 2 can plainly see that James teaches that Christian faith is more than just good thoughts, it demands that a Christian believer prove his faith by his actions. It’s all by how we live when we accept Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. We prove our faith by our actions. II Thess. 1, let’s go over there for a moment. Verses 11-12.

II Thess. 1:11-12 – Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power….the work of faith…that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you and you in Him according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This all works together in the same equation, faith, works, God’s grace, His forgiveness, Christ’s blood. Our faith and subsequent obedience is a necessary part of receiving God’s grace. And then our last point here:

8.Should our faith in God’s forgiveness affect our conscience?

Is there any sin so terrible that God cannot forgive? If we sin grievously and repent, is there any sin so bad that God will not or cannot forgive? Can you think of any crime or deviant behavior that God says is too horrible to forgive? I heard on the news this morning in Fresno, California, they just arrested a man in his house with nine bodies, just found them. They believe it was his wife and teenaged child and seven more kids under 8 years old. Can God forgive that kind of sin? What can we do that is so bad God won’t forgive it, if and when we repent? Well, short of totally rejecting God and His way of life and saying “I don’t care” if we desire to change and repent, all sins can be forgiven. Whatever we might have done in our life can be forgiven and this is one of the most wonderful truths of the grace of God. He’s willing to forgive anything we might have done.

We can know that upon repentance, our sin is washed away to be forgiven and forgotten forever. God will not remember after we have been forgiven. Of course each of us remembers all kinds of things people did to us, maybe we remember the things we’ve done to ourselves. But God forgives and forgets and this truly is a wonderful thing to remember. We need feel guilt no more. Hebrews 10:19 Hebrews 10:19Having therefore, brothers, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
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After truly repenting and asking God to forgive us, how should we feel?

Hebrews 10:19-22 Hebrews 10:19-22 [19] Having therefore, brothers, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, [20] By a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; [21] And having an high priest over the house of God; [22] Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
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– Therefore brethren, having boldness, to enter the holiness by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…notice faith…having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

See the flesh and blood, the broken body of Jesus Christ lets us have full assurance and faith that our bodies can be washed cleaned from our sin, to be white in righteousness now and that evil conscience removed, to have a pure conscience, a clean conscience, a clear conscience. Once our old man is buried through baptism, God wants us to put behind us feelings of guilt over past sins. He wants us to approach our future with confidence that our sins have been forgiven by Him. We are to begin a new life without fretting over the past. Next time you’re in an airport notice the difference between the passengers who have confirmed tickets and those on standby. Those with confirmed tickets are relaxing, drinking coffee, reading magazines, they’re confident, expecting to get on their flight. Those on standby hang around the ticket counter, shuffle their feet, pace back and forth, go sit down, stand up again, go back to the ticket counter, check the flight schedule monitor, see if they’re on it and all because of an uncertainty about the flight they’re about to take, they hope to take, they think they’re going to be on it, they hope they’re going to be on it!

God offers us freedom from the burden of uncertainty so we can know for sure where we stand with God. Upon repentance we can be assured of forgiveness and not wonder if we’re going through life in standby mode, not wondering if we’ll miss the flight. God says you’re on the flight once you’ve accepted Jesus Christ, been forgiven of your sins and repent of any further sins, you’re on the flight, your conscience can be clean and clear, washed clean. Prolonged and obsessive guilt is often a major but preventable cause of emotional agony. Some guilt is natural and good if it leads to repentance, if we feel bad for something we did; Godly sorrow that leads to repentance is a good kind of sorrow. The solution is to go to God in a repentant attitude for the grace and forgiveness He promises and then not worry about it anymore, you’re on the flight!

We read that even a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again. Proverbs 24:16 Proverbs 24:16For a just man falls seven times, and rises up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.
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. Even righteous people fall, but they rise up and move on after having their sins forgiven and so we need to seek God’s mercy regularly and frequently. As God promised us in the very first chapter of Isaiah.

Isaiah 1:18 Isaiah 1:18Come now, and let us reason together, said the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
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– “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…of course, that white garment picturing righteousness…though they are red like crimson, they shall be white as wool.

Notice how Paul describes the attitude of a clear conscience that God wants for us. Philippians 3:13 Philippians 3:13Brothers, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before,
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. For you see, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.

Philippians 3:13 Philippians 3:13Brothers, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before,
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–Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended…you know, I’m not perfect…but one thing I do…he says…forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward to those things that are ahead.

Don’t keep dwelling on the past, press forward, forget those things that are behind.

V. 14-15 – Press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind.

You see you press forward toward the goal; you don’t keep looking behind you. Once you’re forgiven you have faith in God’s grace and that you will be a part of His family. So we press forward for that goal, for the prize that God has offered to us a free gift.

As we approach the Passover, let’s think on these things. When God calls and chooses a person, He has initiated the process of sanctification; a process ultimately intended to transform that person into a glorified son of His. As we read, we shall be like Him; we’ll be like Christ. You want to know what we’ll be like? We’ll be like Him! Be a member of the family of God, a glorified son. When a person who is being called by God comes to an understanding, faith and repentance and then commits his or her life to Jesus Christ and is baptized, he receives the forgiveness of every sin ever committed and immediately afterwards, when he experiences the laying on of hands, God gives him or her the precious gift of His holy spirit. When one receives forgiveness and God’s holy spirit, that person is set apart and consecrated by God for a holy life and purpose. According to the bible and God’s point of view, His word, this person is moved immediately – immediately – from the category of sinner to the category of saint. We become the saints of God. It doesn’t take some big meeting of the board of priests somewhere to decide whether or not you’re a saint two or three hundred years after you’ve died. No, you move from sinner to saint upon God’s forgiveness. We’re saints of God. We move from the category of the unjust to the just, from unrighteous to righteous, from spiritual Gentile to spiritual Israelite, from being of the world to being of God, regardless of how spiritually strong or weak this person still is. No matter what they still have to put behind them and overcome, regardless of how many habits this person still has, he now is in Christ. Off of stand-by mode, off of death row. This is sanctification; it moves the person from the legal status of being under the law to being under grace. That’s in Romans 6:14 Romans 6:14For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.
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. After baptism, a person is no longer doomed to the death penalty; he’s been saved from death by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. This meaning is largely summed up in the meaning and observance of the Passover itself. The subject of God’s grace and forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings is an amazing and an encouraging one, that we are so blessed to understand. We can go through life with a clear conscience. It helps us understand how each of us can be reconciled to Him through faith and that truly is freedom.

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