Mark Twain wrote, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the flower leaves on the heel of the one who crushed it.” It is unfortunate that most of us see ourselves as a composite of all our failures. When we look in the mirror we may only see a divorced person, or someone who lost his job, or an overweight loner. We are a people bent on perfection. We never do enough on the job. We never do enough for our children. We always do too little. Even though many of us can’t see beyond the failures, it is comforting to know this is not the way God views us. As a loving Father He looks past our failures. Can you imagine a loving father introducing his children by saying, “This is my daughter who stained the carpet with grape juice when she was two.” Or, “This is my son who broke a valuable vase last week.” If loving fathers don’t have a need to memorize their children’s failures, you can rest assured our loving Heavenly Father has no use for such memories either. When we accept God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ He forgets our failures.
God said, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jer. 31:34) Jerome was a Church Father who translated the Greek manuscripts into Latin and put the Bible in the language of the people.
He purposefully lived in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. One night while living in Bethlehem, Jerome had a dream that Jesus visited him. The dream was so real to him that he collected all his money and offered it to Jesus as a gift. The Lord said, “I don’t want your money.” So Jerome rounded up all of his possessions and tried to give them to Jesus. Again the Lord said, “I don’t want your possessions. Jerome then recalled the moment in his dream when he turned to Christ and asked, “What can I give you? What do you want?”
Jesus simply replied, “Give Me your sin, that’s what I came for, I came to take away your sin. Give Me your sin.” Jesus wants to give you the gift of eternal life in exchange for you giving Him your sin. The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
My home church in New Castle, Kentucky, has some of the prettiest windows.
They are something like 150 years old. When they put the stained glass in, they used pure lead to line the glass. Pure lead doesn’t hold up well. When lead has the “impurities” it endures a long time.
Yom Kippur fell on Tuesday, September 18th, this year. The Hebrews called it Yom Hakkippurim or the Day of Atonement. The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22) The day was a high Sabbath, on which no work was done. All the people were to afflict their souls, i.e., to fast, under penalty of being cut off from Israel (Lev 23:27-32). It would appear that the sacrifices for the day were as follows: The ordinary morning sacrifice. The expiatory sacrifices for the priesthood, namely, a young bull. The sin offering for the people, a kid from the goats for Jehovah and another for Azazel. The festive burnt offerings of the priests and people and, with them, another sin offering. The ordinary evening sacrifice. After everything was ready, the high priest slew the bull, then filled a censer with burning coals from the altar of burnt offering, and, putting two handfuls of incense into a vase, bore them into the Holy of Holies. He poured the incense upon the coals, “that the cloud of incense may cover the Mercy Seat.” As the burning incense was a symbol of prayer, this covering of the Mercy Seat with the cloud of incense was a symbolic covering of the glory of the Holy One with prayer to God. After this, he slew the goat selected for a sin offering and did the same as with the blood of the bull, namely, sprinkled it upon and before the Mercy Seat. The two goats were similar in appearance (size and value); (the lots with which they were chosen were originally of boxwood, later of gold.)
Miracles can occur without special effects. It takes more doing for a holy God to forgive an errant person than it does to part the waters of a sea. A little boy was sitting on a park bench in obvious pain. A man walking by asked him what was wrong. The young boy said, “I’m sitting on a bumble bee.” The man urgently asked, “Then why don’t you get up?” The boy’s replied, “Because I figure I’m hurting him more than he is hurting me!” How many of us handle forgiveness like this little boy? We endure pain for the sadistic satisfaction of believing we are hurting them more than us.
A couple from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Frank and Elizabeth Morris, son was killed by a drunk driver. They dedicated their lives to punishing the drunken driver who had killed their only child for more than two years. Driven by hatred, they monitored his every court appearance, followed him to the county jail to make sure he was serving his weekend sentence and watched his apartment to try to catch him violating his probation. “We wanted him in prison,” Mrs. Morris said. “We wanted him dead.” Tommy Pigage, the young man who caused the fatal crash still gets a lot of attention from the Morrises. They drive him to church twice a week and often set a place for him at their dinner table. Unable to find satisfaction through revenge, the couple recently decided to forgive Pigage and try to rebuild his life along with their own. “The hate and bitterness I was feeling was destroying me,” Mrs. Morris said, “I needed to forgive Tommy to save myself.” Since the Morrises made their decision to befriend him, Pigage, 26, has joined their church, quit drinking and become an active lecturer for Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
People, it is time to be set free! A sinner has to repent first; otherwise forgiveness makes no sense. That’s why the lost must first realize they cannot rescue themselves; otherwise salvation makes no sense. That’s why love can only be complete if it is both given and received; otherwise it is either a bondage or a dependency.
It was Maundy Thursday. We were having the traditional communion service. The pastor suggested as we passed the bread and cup we whisper, “The body of Christ, broken for you.” “The blood of Christ, shed for you.” As the service progressed, I concentrated on remembering the pastor’s words, and thought it would be nice to do this more often. Between me and the aisle was an old woman, not nearly so concerned with the pastor’s exact words, but thoroughly understanding their meaning. As she served me she said softly, “Take it. It’s for sinners.”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”