Thursday, November 12, 2015

Are You Forgiven? Hebrews 10:11-25

 Hebrews 10:11-25.
11 And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ[a] had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,” 13 and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.” 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
    and I will write them on their minds,”
17 he also adds,
“I will remember[b] their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
19 Therefore, my friends,[c] since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

How do you know you are forgiven?

Good question.

Years ago I was hooking up a VCR to my television.  VCR – that stands for Video Cassette Recorder for those of you too young to know what they were.  When I bought our first one I thought they would be around forever! 

Anyway, I was hooking up the wires and my then-five year old son was watching me with great anxiety.  “Be careful,” he said.  “Don’t get shocked.”

I told him not to worry, that I knew exactly what I was doing.

And looking at my son, I did something evil.

I pretended to be shocked.  ZZZZZttttttt!  I fell on the floor.  I jerked around.  I let my tongue hang out.

My son took this seriously and I very quickly told him it was a joke, that I was alright.

Man did he get mad at me.  And I guess I don’t blame him.  He started kicking me – hard!

After that I never again played a practical joke on my son.

My son, on the other hand, played all sorts of mean practical jokes on me!  And he always told me afterward, “that’s getting you back for that VCR stunt.”

One day he pulled some practical joke on me that was so over the top that I declared we were even for the VCR stunt. 

I even made him sign a document that declared, “This is to certify that I am now even with my Dad for the dreaded VCR stunt and that I fully forgive him!”

After that, he never again pulled any practical jokes on me – we were even. 

It would be nice if we had that kind of document from God.  Some paper we could put into the desk drawer and pull out on occasion:  “This is to certify that John Doe is hereby forgiven on this date.  Signed – the Almighty.”

What we have instead of a signed document are simply promises.

God makes a number of promises to us. One is that he will forgive us.

I John 1:8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  But if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just, and will forgive us of all our sins, and cleanse us from unrighteousness.”

This is a promise that shows up in our New Testament lesson from the Hebrews.

The author of the Book of the Hebrews describes how priests at the Temple would daily offer sacrifices for the people’s forgiveness.  These daily sacrifices were the same, day after day after day – but the author says they were not effective, and he said that these “can never take away sins.”

But the writer goes onto say this:  “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God … (and) by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” 

Our New Testament lesson goes onto say “God will remember their sins and misdees no more.  Where there is forgiveness, there is no longer any offering for sin.”

          We take our car in to be repaired, and it comes out and nothing has been done. What about the promise to fix our car?

You make arrangements for someone to help you in your Boy Scout Troop, but they don't show up.  What about that promise to help out?

          You vote for someone who has promised not to raise taxes, but they do.  If you can’t trust a politician to keep a promise, who can you trust?

And now you come to God and you want to know, how can I be sure I am forgiven?

And all God gives is --- a promise. 

          Now why, after all of our experiences, should we believe God?

Jesus said, "I come that they might have life, and have it abundantly."  But how do we know. How can we believe? Is this just campaign rhetoric?

          Jesus said, "In my father's house are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you."  But how can we believe this?

          In Romans, 4:21, the Scripture says, "God has the power to do what he promised." But how do we know?

          In I John 2:25 we are told, "And this is what he promised us – even eternal life." But where is the evidence?

How can we believe that God is telling us the truth, or that he is able to carry out these promises?

          It all boils down to this one thing: and that is that the only thing that backs up the promise is the trustworthiness of the promise maker.

          Back in my college, Erskine College, there was an annual event called Christian Emphasis Week. Which may strike some as a strange thing to have in a Christian College, after all, shouldn't Christianity be emphasized every week?

But once a year, we gave it a special emphasis.

During that week, the campus would invite a leading preacher from somewhere across this nation to come to the little college town and preach.  The first sermon was manditory. Every student had to go.

          The second sermon, held that evening, was usually attended by only the faithful students of the Christian fellowship group, and a few little old ladies from the Presbyterian and Baptist churches.

          Well, one year, the speaker was a well known minister from Chicago. The preacher took his place behind the pulpit. 

The students yawned.
          He opened the Bible.
The students shuffled their books,
wrote letters to friends,
and looked at their watches.
The preacher read from a passage of the Bible.
The students tuned him out.

The preacher took the Bible and slammed it shut and threw the Bible out, off stage where it went out the side door.
There was a silence in the chapel,
but every eye was focused on the preacher, and finally the preacher said,
"There goes your God."
After that particular service, the chapel filled up that night with people who normally did not attend voluntary worship services.  Everyone wanted to hear what this fellow had to say.
One of the groups of people who attended was the Wylie Home crowd. Now Wylie Home was an old dormatory, small dormorotry, that was a sort of Animal House of the little school. They were a wild bunch, and in fact the Wylie Home dorm had been closed down the year before, but its former residents still wore Wylie Home shirts and formed a sort of wild gang. Or as wild as one might have on a small Christian campus.
One of them stood up during the question answer period after the sermon. "You know, I heard you talk about forgiveness in your sermon, but I got a question about all that stuff. What I want to know is this -- 'How do you really know that you are forgiven."

          The preacher looked at him and said,

"Because I tell you, 'In the name of Jesus Christ you are forgiven."

          "Yeah right, but what I want to know is How do you really know that you are forgiven."

          The preacher looked at him and said,

"Because I tell you, 'In the name of Jesus Christ you are forgiven."

          "Right, but How do you really know that you are forgiven."

          The preacher looked at him and said,

"Because I tell you, 'In the name of Jesus Christ you are forgiven."

          Then some how, it dawned on this wild student, and he realized that he knew he was forgiven.

          In the covenant relationship, the promise is given, and sometimes the only thing that backs up the covenant, the commitment, the promise, is trustworthiness of the promise maker.

          So the question is not “Do you FEEL forgiven?”

          The question is, “Do you TRUST God?”

          And I tell you, in the name of Jesus Christ, you CAN trust God.

Copyright 2015. 
Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh
All rights reserved

Ministers may feel free to use some or all of this sermon in their own ministries as long as they do not publish in print or on the Internet without ascribing credit to the author.