FORGIVENESS (Lesson 2)
All this month we are talking on the topic of forgiveness. Have you ever sincerely asked the Lord to forgive you of your sins? Now, before you answer that too fast, I want you to think about something. After you asked the Lord to forgive you, was there a change in your life? Did your love for the Lord grow? Did you begin to hate the sinful things that you used to enjoy? Did the knowledge that Jesus Christ died on the cross and took the punishment that should have been yours make you want to live in such a way that would be pleasing to the Lord? If the answer to those questions is, "No, nothing really changed at all," then perhaps all you said were some meaningless words -- words that really didn't mean anything to you, nor did they mean anything to God. And you could be in a very dangerous position. How? You could be someone who thinks that you are forgiven and saved, but you really are not.
Like we've said before, we cannot add anything to what Christ did when He died on the cross. Our good works and how we live our lives is not what saves us. But if you have truly asked Christ to be your Lord and Savior and have asked for and received forgiveness, that should show itself through how you now live your life! And in this lesson tonight, we are going to look at a bible account and different verses that show some of the evidence that should be in the life of someone who has been forgiven by the Lord.
Let's start by looking at a woman who had been a prostitute. She found out that Jesus was having dinner at a man named Simon's house, and she came to the Lord seeking forgiveness. Luke 7:36-38, "And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment."
This woman humbled herself before Jesus. She didn't care what the other people present thought about her. She didn't care about being embarrassed. She knew that Jesus could forgive her of her sins, so she sought Him out. And when she found Him, she cried many tears. We don't know if they were tears over her past sins against God, or tears because she knew that Jesus would accept her even with all of her faults, or simply tears of love just over who Jesus the Messiah is, but they were sincere tears. And she wiped the Lord's feet. Maybe by this act she was saying, "Lord, it's not much, but this simple act comes from my heart." Maybe she had read that verse in Chronicles that we read last week that says, "If my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways ... I will forgive them their sin." And now here she is humbling herself and seeking the Lord's face. Well, let's see what the people around her said and what Jesus had to say.
Luke 7:39, "Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner."
This guy was quick to point fingers at this woman and call her a sinner. He even had the attitude of, "Why is Jesus letting this woman touch him? Doesn't he know what she did to make money?" Simon seemed to think that he was a better person than the prostitute was. And sometimes we do that. We think, "Well, at least I'm not as bad as so-and so. I just lie and steal cars. At least I've never killed any body like that guy." But let's see what Jesus had to say to Simon.
Luke 7:40-42, "And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?"
First of all, how much is a pence? Well, "pence" is another word for penny. And if you quickly go to Matthew 20:2, you can see that one penny was a full day's pay. So here we have one person who owes the creditor 500 pence (or payment equal to 500 days of work), and the other person owes 50 pence. Who do you think would be the most grateful at being forgiven their debt? What if you were the creditor? Who would you expect to love you more because of your merciful attitude? Let's find out what Simon said.
Luke 7:43-50, "Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."
What is the point here? Simon thought he himself was righteous. He didn't think he owed Jesus much of anything. The prostitute, on the other hand, saw her sins from God's eyes, and recognized and cherished the One who had forgiven her beyond measure. Which of the two are you more like? By your actions do you show Jesus love that is equal to $5 worth of forgiveness? $50,000 worth? Or do you know that no matter how hard you try, you will never love Him equal to what it means that He has forgiven you, but you are going to do all you can to express your gratitude?
Jesus was trying to show Simon that if a person truly sees the seriousness of their sin, that person will be so grateful for God's forgiveness that that person will want to serve the Lord with all their heart. We are not saying that you have to wash Jesus' feet with your tears, but you should shed tears of sorrow that you have sinned before God, and then you should want to be obedient to the Lord. You should love the Lord for accepting you when he didn't have to. You should be grateful to the Lord for taking the punishment that you deserved, and then make it a point to not add sin on top of sin.
In that verse when Jesus told Simon, "But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little," Jesus didn't mean that some people are forgiven more than others. That verse does not mean that in God's eyes some sins are small or unimportant. It means in your eyes, your sins are perhaps little and unimportant.
God is Holy. He is a righteous Judge. He is impartial. He does not play favorites. Whether your sin is lying, stealing, hating, killing, or a sin of a sexual nature or being disrespectful to your parents or putting others before God, all of it is equally bad. If sin were a color, it would be the color of scarlet, deep red. A lie is not pink; it is deep red, just like murder. There are two verdicts: guilty or innocent. You can't say, "Well, Lord, I'm just a liar. So I'm innocent." Or "Well, Lord, I just stole little stuff. So I'm innocent." In Revelation 21:8, we see that from a murderer to a liar to anyone that falls in between, the same destination awaits you if you die in your sin, and that place is the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.
The point is unless and until you realize the seriousness of your sin, you will never fully appreciate what it means to be forgiven. You will never "love the Lord much" or change your life until that day comes. You will keep "covering your sin up" by pretending it's not that bad. Proverbs 28:13 tells us, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." True forgiveness comes when you admit your sins (all of them), and then hate them enough to turn from them and ask the Lord for forgiveness. When you do that, your sins will change from scarlet to white: Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, let us reason together, saith 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."
No matter what your past is, if you sincerely come to the Lord, He can forgive you and give you a fresh start. What do you think the forgiven prostitute did after she came to Jesus? We know that she sincerely loved the Lord, because Jesus said so Himself. After Jesus said she was forgiven, did she go back to working as a prostitute? Do you think she said to herself, "Well, I know God loves me. He will understand that money is tight and I need to make a little extra to pay the rent"? No. I bet this woman hated everything about her old life. I bet she made it a point to not go to the area where she used to get customers. I would imagine that if she ran into one of the men from her past, she tried to tell them about how they need to meet Jesus and what a difference Christ made in her life.
If you have been forgiven, honor the Lord by being obedient to His Word and His commands. I hope that none of you ever cheapen God's mercy by taking it for granted and continuing in sin. Several times after Jesus forgave someone, He told them the words, "Go and sin no more." Let's read a stern warning that He gave to one guy. In John 5:14, "Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee."
I'm not sure exactly what that "worse thing" is, but the point is take God's forgiveness seriously. Treasure it. Do all that you have to do to live your life in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. And know that there is this stern warning in God's Word to those who insist on being disobedient: Hebrews 10:26-27, "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries."