The central issue in the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the forgiveness of sins. However great your sins may be, in Jesus Christ, they can be forgiven. The good news of the gospel is that "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). By placing your faith in Him and His work on the cross, all of your sins, past, present, and future can be wiped away. God will never bring them up again. God will never remind you of them. He will never hold them against you. The Scripture says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us" (Ps. 103:12).
Church family, this is good news and you ought to believe it! But this news is so good, that we have difficulty in believing it. You wouldn't think this. You would think that we would find good news easy to believe. But we don't find it easy to believe, we find it difficult to believe. But this isn't unique to the gospel. We hear of (or we know of, or we experience some great news), and we want to pinch ourselves just to see if it is true! We think that we are dreaming, so we want to make sure that this is happening in reality, rather than fantasy. Perhaps you felt this on the day your spouse said, "Yes" to your marriage proposal. Perhaps you experienced this on the day you graduated from college or some great award you received. On these occasions, your joy may have been so great, that you felt the need to make sure you weren't dreaming.
The gospel is such good news that we have difficulty believing it. Perhaps you say, "Steve, I don't have difficulty believing the gospel." Really? Let me show you how we have difficulty. Have you ever committed a sin that was so terrible in your eyes that you felt great remorse and sorrow over it? Have you ever confessed it as sin to the Lord and repented of it? I'm sure you have. But, let me ask you this, "Have you ever confessed it as sin to the Lord a second time? or a third time? or a fourth time?" If you have done this, you realize how difficult it is to believe that in Christ Jesus, there is now no condemnation. In your trust in Jesus to forgive your sin, it has been forgiven completely! Yet, that sin that you have confessed before God, which is forgiven in Jesus Christ somehow continues to haunt you. Why? Because the good news of entire forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ is so wonderful that you find it difficult to believe. You find it difficult to believe that your sin, in its entirety, has been nailed to the cross of Christ! God has said that He was removed it far from you. God has said, "I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins" (Is. 43:25). And yet, we remember them and think that they need more confession and more sorrow to be forgiven. Have you ever experienced this? The reason you do is because your faith in the gospel is weak. You need to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, that all your sins are forgiven in Christ Jesus.
Let me ask you another question, "Have you ever tried to balance your sin with good deeds?" Perhaps you know the Bible well enough to know that at the end of the day, God won't take your good deeds and balance them against your bad deeds. But, perhaps, you have tried to demonstrate your sorrow for your sin before the Lord by some good act. Maybe you have said a prayer or cried a tear or performed an act of service or said something comforting to another person or kept a commandment of God. Maybe you have told the Lord, "look how faithfully I have followed you! Surely, this one sin can't be too bad if you look at the whole picture of my life!" Perhaps there other things that you have done in an effort to show your sorrow before God. If you have ever done this, you show that you find it hard to believe the gospel. God isn't in the business of weighing good verses bad. Just as you can never merit your forgiveness before God, neither can you merit your repentance and confessions before God either!
Each week, we come and gather together as a community of believers to encourage each other in the faith of this great news which we have in Jesus Christ. At the core of the gospel is this whole issue of forgiveness of sins. Our text this morning, in Matthew 9:1-8, deals with the issue of forgiveness of sins. The title of my message this morning is "The Authority of Jesus Christ over Sin." As I read this passage, I want for you to observe the centrality of the issue of forgiveness. You will see this issue arise again and again in these 8 verses.
The first verse sets the context and probably belongs with the section we studied last week. In 8:34, the Gentiles of Gadera had entreated Jesus to leave their region. Jesus was compliant with their request. So, He got into His boat and traveled Northwest across the Sea of Galilee in His trip back to His own city, which was the city of Capernaum.
(1) And getting into a boat, He crossed over, and came to His own city. (2) And behold, they were bringing to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed; and Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, "Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven." (3) And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes." (4) And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? (5) For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, and walk'? (6) But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" --then He *said to the paralytic--"Rise, take up your bed, and go home." (7) And he rose, and went home. (8) But when the multitudes saw this, they were filled with awe, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
This whole story focuses our attention on forgiveness of sins. In verse 2, a paralytic is brought to Jesus to be healed. Jesus doesn't heal him at first. Rather, Jesus says, "Your sins are forgiven." In verse 3, the scribes respond negatively to Jesus' statement of sins forgiven. They say that Jesus was blaspheming. In verses 4-7, Jesus heals this paralytic with the purpose that those who witnessed these events might be convinced that Jesus can indeed forgive sins. In verse 8, the multitudes respond with awe and praise, because the authority to forgive sins has come to men! This whole story focuses our attention of the forgiveness of sin. And so my outline will seek to reflect this issue this morning.
In verse 2 we read, "And behold, they were bringing to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed; and Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, 'Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven.'"
Jesus was led to declare these words of assurance of forgiveness because He saw "their faith." At this point, Matthew excludes some major detail in this story that gives us a hint as to how Jesus discerned their faith. Of this same event, Mark wrote, (in Mark, chapter 2) ..."And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. And being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying." (Mark 2:2-4). Since Matthew didn't include this detail, we ought not to major on this point. But we can point out that these men went to great trouble to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus, whom they believed could heal him. They carried this man up the stairs of the house to the roof. They dug an opening in the roof. They lowered this man down "through the tiles with his stretcher, right in the center, in front of Jesus" (Luke 5:19).
Obviously, their houses were different than ours today. It was easier for them to do this than it would be for someone to do this today, with our shingled rooftops today. A typical house in Jesus day had a flat roof, which was easily accessible by means of an outside staircase. Also, the roof was made of slabs of burnt or dried clay which were placed upon supporting beams. It was somewhat easy to "dig an opening" (Mark 2:4) in the roof between these supporting beams. But don't minimize the effort involved in this. This paralyzed man had to be carried to where Jesus was, carried up a flight of stairs, and lowered down using ropes of some type. When you figure that this man weighed between 100 and 150 pounds and you will realize that this is no small job. But they went to great effort, because of their faith that Jesus was able to heal their friend. Jesus saw their faith in action.
When Jesus speak about "their faith," I believe that Jesus is including the paralytic, who was in full compliance with their plans. We don't see this paralyzed man kicking (perhaps he couldn't kick) and screaming and resisting their plans.
When this man is placed before Jesus, Jesus surprises everybody! We would have expected Jesus simply to heal this man and so did everyone else who was there on that day. After all, at this point in time, Jesus was teaching and healing many people. In chapter 8:16, we read, "And when evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill." When this man was brought to Jesus, the assumption was that it was a request for him to be healed. We don't know whether a word was spoken to Jesus at this time, making a verbal request to be healed. There probably were some words exchanged. But even if there weren't, the assumed reason for bringing this man to Jesus was for healing.
Jesus surveyed the situation and said to this paralyzed man, "Take courage, My son," (using gentle and comforting words to this man), "your sins are forgiven." There is always this connection between faith and forgiveness. The admonition of Scripture is always this, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved" (Acts 16:31). "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved" (Rom. 10:9). "You are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26). "For by grace you have been saved, through faith" (Eph. 2:8). "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12). This is our point, "Forgiveness comes by faith." You can't earn our forgiveness. You can't be good enough to get it. You can't bribe God to achieve it. The only way to obtain forgiveness of sins is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died as an atonement for sin.
Perhaps you are here this morning and think otherwise. Perhaps you think that your church attendance or your diligence in keeping God's commandments or the way in which you are raising your children will merit your forgiveness. I'm here to tell you that there isn't any other way to God, but by believing in the death of His Son. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no once comes to the Father, but through me" (John 14:6). If you don't have faith, you don't have forgiveness. If you have faith, you have forgiveness.
The astonishing thing about this scenario is that this paralytic probably wasn't even coming to Jesus to be forgiven. I believe that he was coming for healing! But, he received far better than he was expecting. This happened to me recently. As many of you know, we enjoyed a progressive dinner last Friday night. I was looking forward to having a good time in fellowship with all of you as we went from one home to another eating different courses of our meal. It was a great time. However, when we arrived at the home where dessert was served, Yvonne and I were showered with gifts from all of you. We weren't expecting them at all. We thank you for your expression of love toward us. We received more than we were expecting. In the same way, this paralytic received more that he expected as well.
When Jesus encountered this paralytic, He saw his faith to be made well, He declared this man to be healed. Jesus healed him spiritually, saying, "your sins are forgiven." Now, when Jesus said these words, it caused quite a disturbance among the crowd, which leads us to our next point.
Verse 3 says, "And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, 'This fellow blasphemes.'" The scribes were the religiously educated in the days of Jesus, the experts of the law. These were the ones who had memorized verses like Isaiah 43:25 (which I quoted earlier), "I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake." The scribes had memorized Jeremiah 31:34, "I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." These scribes knew that when the Law gave provision for forgiveness when people came and offered up their sacrifices, it wasn't the priest who forgave the sins, it was God. Many times in Leviticus, we read things like, "The priest shall then make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and it shall be forgiven him" (in the passive voice) (Lev. 4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:10, 13, 16, 18; 6:7; 19:22). The law was very clear that it wasn't the priest who forgave the sin. It was God who forgives. These were the scribes who heard David pray, "Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions" (Ps. 25:7), "Forgive all my sins" (Ps. 25:18), "Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight" (Ps. 51:4), and "Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities" (Ps. 51:9). When David prayed, "I acknowledge my sin to Thee, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD'' and Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin" (Ps. 32:5), it was clear that God was forgiving his sin.
It doesn't take much theological intelligence to understand that God is the only one who can forgive sins! So, when these scribes heard Jesus say, "Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven," they instantly searched their theological grid and found Jesus to be claiming to do what only God can do. And since, as they reasoned, Jesus wasn't God, Jesus was a blasphemer. He was setting Himself up to be equal with God! On another occasion, the Jews were so incensed with the claims of Jesus that they picked up stones to stone Him, saying, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God" (John 10:33).
These scribes were exactly right in their theological assertions. But they were exactly wrong in their theological conclusions.
It is right here in Matthew's gospel that the true light of these scribes is showing itself. This is the first time that Matthew has recorded any hostility against Jesus on the part of the religious establishment of the day. We will see later in Matthew's gospel that there are often occasion in which these scribes weren't coming to learn from Jesus. Rather, these scribes were coming to criticize Jesus.
On another occasion, we will see the religious leaders seeking to criticize Jesus in Matthew 12, when Jesus entered into a synagogue, where there was a man with a withered hand. "And they questioned Him, saying , 'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?' -- in order that they might accuse Him" (Matt. 12:10). They didn't deny the miracle. Rather, they caught Him on the technicality of working on the Sabbath. Later, in Matthew 22:15, we read, "Then the Pharisees went and counseled together how they might trap Him in what He said." So, they asked Jesus about paying taxes to Caesar, a hotly debated topic in Jesus' day. The Sadducees asked Jesus about the resurrection. The Pharisees sought to pin Jesus down on His response to the greatest commandment in the law. In every way they were seeking to back Jesus into a corner.
This is very much true today as well. When you come to a church service to hear someone preach the word of God, you can come with various attitudes. (1) You can come to criticize. Or (2) You can come to learn. If you come to criticize, you will seek to find even the smallest deviation from truth and make that deviation your focus of your thoughts concerning what you heard! In so doing, you will be like these Pharisees, who wanted to trap Him in what said. But if you come to learn, you will take what you hear and think it over in humility and seek to apply the truths to your life. Now, this doesn't mean that you accept it all. But your heart is focussed upon the burden of the message you hear, rather than your own theological deviation from the preacher.
These scribes were inherently opposed to Jesus and His ministry. Rather than being favorable to Jesus, they didn't believe His words and they resisted Him. If they had believed in Jesus, they would have been favorable to His words and would have come to the conclusion that Jesus, Himself, was God, and worshiped Him as such. But they didn't believe. And it was this message of the forgiveness of sins that confronted their unbelief.
Now, its no different today. When you tell others of the forgiveness of sins that are found in Jesus Christ, you get to the core issue of the gospel and immediately you begin to confront the belief or unbelief of the one with whom you speak. When you tell people that all of their sins can be forgiven, they are confronted with their beliefs. In would encourage you in your evangelism to be quick to bring this up in your evangelism. Last week, I was speaking to a man about Christ. I brought up the issue of the forgiveness of sin in attempts to focus on the foundational issue of the gospel: the forgiveness of sins. He was confronted with his need for forgiveness and given the solution of where this forgiveness can be found.
As I thought about this, I reasoned that there are five different responses to the message of forgiveness of sins.
1. Some may think that God won't judge sin. These people believe that they have no sin, for which they need to give account. These people don't think that they are sinless, they simply think that there isn't a day of reckoning coming when they will stand before God. But they fail to believe that God will hold everybody accountable for their sin.
2. Some may think that God will forgive their sin apart from Jesus. These people think that their sin isn't so bad. These people think that their sin is so small in comparison with others, that they believe that God can certainly over-look it. "After all, I haven't murdered anybody," they say. But these people fail to believe that God will judge everybody on His standard, not the standard of our choosing. This was certainly the case of these scribes, who thought themselves to be righteous and that God could forgive their sins apart from Jesus.
3. Some may think that their sin is too great to be forgiven by anybody. Perhaps they did murder somebody. Perhaps they have told a lie that has led them to live under false pretenses for MANY years. Perhaps they were divorced, and they think God can't forgive them. Perhaps they had an abortion in the past, the memory of which haunts them, and they think that God certainly couldn't forgive this sin. Perhaps some great instance of sexual mis-conduct. The sexual disease they have contracted has been a continual reminder to them of their sins, which are too big to be forgiven.
4. Some are outright rebellious. They know and believe all of these things, but want to cling to their sin so badly, that they willingly rebel against God. These types of people ought to take notes from the demons, who know about this, and tremble! (James 2:19).
5. Some will believe that in Jesus, there is forgiveness! Praise the Lord for these people! These are those who are saved and enjoy God's presence, because they have nothing to hide before Him -- all has been forgiven in the cross of Jesus Christ!
Every single one of you fall into one of these five categories (and sometimes more than one).
1. You don't believe that God will judge the world.
2. You don't believe that your sin is so great.
3. You don't believe that your sin can be forgiven.
4. You believe, but want to enjoy your sin for all its worth.
5. You believe in the Lord Jesus and enjoy the forgiveness of sins.
These scribes didn't believe Jesus. Notice how it is that we are told that they didn't believe. In verse 4, we read, "And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, 'Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?'" At this point, Jesus shows His divinity, by understanding and discerning the thoughts of the heart. There are passages in the Bible that make is clear that God is the one who searches and understands the hearts of men. "The LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts" (1 Chron. 28:9). "I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds" (Jer. 17:10). "He searches the hearts" (Rom. 8:27). "I am He who searches the minds and hearts" (Rev. 2:23). Furthermore, one of the characteristics of the Messiah, as prophesied in the Old Testament is that the Messiah would have a discerning spirit. Isaiah wrote of the Messiah, And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding [or, discernment], the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD" (Is. 11:2). Such discernment was part of the Messianic office.
Jesus discerned the intentions of their heart, that they were thinking in their minds that Jesus was blaspheming by doing what only God could do. On the one hand this was miraculous, but I'm sure that their faces gave some of this away. I know by experience, preaching in front of a group of people each week, that you can tell pretty well when someone is liking what you are saying, or whether they are resisting what you are saying. For instance, if I look out among you and see a smile on your face, I know that you are tracking with me and that you are enjoying the things that I am saying. However, if you are sitting there with your arms crossed and have a scowl on your face, I can pretty well discern that you aren't liking to hear what I am saying. Something isn't setting right in your own heart and mind. I'm sure that these scribes had a scowl on their face when Jesus pronounced to this man that his sins were forgiven him!
Jesus discerned this and knew exactly what they were thinking. So, Jesus begins to address the issue of forgiveness.
In verse 5, Jesus said, "For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, and walk'?" The argument which Jesus is putting forth is simple and straightforward for the scribes of His day as it is for us today. Even children can get it right. It is easier to say, "Your sins are forgiven," because that cannot be verified at the very moment you speak whether or not you speak the truth. But, when you say, "Rise and walk," now, that's a different story. Your words will either be immediately verified or else you will be shown to be a liar. Jesus goes on to explain this exact thing. In verse 6 Jesus said, "But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- then [He stops His statement short and turned to the paralytic and] He said to the paralytic -- "Rise, take up your bed, and go home."
Jesus wanted to put a test before everybody, for all to see! In effect, Jesus was saying this, "You doubt that I can forgive sins? I will say the harder thing. And I will prove before your very eyes that I can do the harder thing. Then, the conclusion that you must come to is that I can do the easier thing. You will then know, that when I say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' that I can do this. This is because I have the authority on earth to forgive sins."
Once the test has been established, He turned to the paralytic and said, "Rise, take up your bed, and go home" (verse 6). At that moment, the eyes of all were upon this man, who was a paralytic. It was a defining moment in the life of Jesus' ministry. Would this man, who was unable to walk by himself, whose legs had certainly begun to atrophy from years of disuse, who had to be carried to where Jesus was, who was let down through the roof and placed before Jesus, who everybody could easily discern that he couldn't walk. Would this man rise and walk? If He didn't, the ministry of Jesus would be over. He would be finished! He would be shown to be a false prophet. Perhaps they would have taken Jesus to a cliff and thrown Him down and stoned Him to death, according to Jewish custom. But this man felt strength coming back into his legs. His coordination was restored. Muscle was being formed. He could once again move his legs! In fact, his legs felt so good that he was able to get up and walk for the first time in long while. Verse 7, "And he rose, and went home."
As that men went home, his every step verified that Jesus has the authority to forgive sin! This is the point of the title to my message this morning, "The Authority of Jesus Christ over Sin." Jesus proved that He has authority to forgive sin.
On the one hand, we can read the Bible where it says that Jesus is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). We can look to the Scripture and know that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15). We can read that "the Lord Jesus ... gave Himself for our sins" (Gal. 1:3,4). By believing these Scripture passages, we can believe that Jesus can forgive sins. But, we can also look to the Jesus of history and realize that His actions demonstrated that He has the authority to forgive sins. When that paralytic rose to his feet, picked up the mat on which he was lowered through the roof, and made his way through the crowd, out the door, and to his home, Jesus demonstrated that He was able to say, "Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven" (verse 2).
And the words of Jesus were not vain words. The man went home a changed man, because his sins were wiped away. As a paralytic, his physical condition was hopeless. I have read on several occasions of the deep despair and depression of those who have been paralyzed. They reached such depths of despair that they have wanted to kill themselves. But alas! They can't, because of their paralysis. Though the physical condition of this man was hopeless, in actuality, his paralysis was the greatest thing that ever happened to him! It was His paralysis that brought Him to Jesus. It was His paralysis that was the means by which he was forgiven!
This is so like God -- to take the difficulties of life and turn them into great blessings! Your trials turn you to God. Whatever difficulty you are facing today (financial, physical, or some consequence of your sin), if it forces you to trust God, it is a blessing to you! I believe that this man will be forever praising God because of his paralysis. Because it was through his disease that he was brought into a living encounter with the one who had authority to forgive his sin.
Jesus Christ has the ability and the power to take your sin and my sin and to remove it from us. In Jesus Christ, we no longer need to fear the judgment of God upon our sinful lives! As I said at the beginning of my sermon, this is the central issue in the gospel! Your sins (however great they may be) sins can be forgiven, through Jesus Christ.
There is no doubt that Jesus healed this man physically on that day. In Matthew 12, when the religious leaders brought a man to Jesus with a withered hand, there was no doubt that Jesus could heal this hand. (They were attempting to pin on Jesus the fact the He healed on the Sabbath). Even in the mind of the enemy, there was no doubt of Jesus' power to do this miraculous thing. The proof of the authority of Jesus Christ over disease in irrefutable. The facts scream at us. Because of this passage, the facts scream at us that Jesus is the one who can forgive sin.
A Muslim can never know that his sins are forgiven. He can only hope that God will be merciful. A Jew can never know that his sins are forgiven. He can only hope. A Hindu can never know that his sins are forgiven, neither can a Buddhist or a New Ager. But a Christian can know that his sins are forgiven, because of what Jesus has done to demonstrate His authority to forgive sin.
Look at how the multitudes responded ... (in verse 8), "But when the multitudes saw this, they were filled with awe, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men." This leads us to our final point.
We certainly can rejoice that Jesus has authority over disease (Matt. 8:1-17). Yet, the healing of someone is only for a few years of their lifetime. We can rejoice that Jesus has authority over nature (Matt. 8:23-27). Yet, this only guarantees us that God can protect us in this life. We can rejoice that Jesus has authority over the demons (Matt. 8:28-34). Yet, this will simply allow to trust in the resources of Christ. But we can rejoice with a hundred times more the enthusiasm that Jesus has authority over sins! (Matt. 9:1-8). Because this is for eternity! We will forever rejoice at this good news!
The multitudes were filled with awe (literally, they were afraid). The context dictates that this is best translated "filled with awe" (NAS, NIV) or "marveled" (KJV, MJV, NKJV) as most of the versions do. Because their fear drew them to worship, rather than to flee. The multitudes also glorified God, who had given such authority to men. Jesus was the culmination of all the prophetical anticipation. All of history was anticipating His arrival. When He came, He brought with Him, the authority to forgive. And the Christian church has been rejoicing ever since.
I want you to think with me about what Jesus has done. Before the world was ever created, He was with the Father in perfect fellowship and glory. The interrelationships among the persons of the Godhead within the Trinity was grand and glorious. In the pure pleasure of the Triune God, He decided to create a world, which fell to sin. In the fulness of time, it was Jesus Christ, who left the perfect fellowship and glory of heaven to dwell among us as a man. To do this required great humility on His part. He came, working wonders and doing miracles. Then, He died a sacrificial death upon the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. He raised from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God, the Father, almighty. You merely need to look to Jesus and your sins will be wiped away. Because Jesus has the authority to forgive your sin! And He proved it here by healing this paralytic.
Is that good news?
I can't forgive your sin. You can't forgive your own sin. Nobody else can forgive your sin, except Jesus Christ.
One of our greatest difficulties in life is that the good news of yesterday becomes the regular news of today. The joke we heard yesterday doesn't make us laugh today. The incredible good fortune that we received last month, is what we expect today. This has led many in their religious experience to seek something greater and greater and greater. Particularly, those in the more charismatic circles, who are so experiential in their Christianity are looking for a greater and greater and greater experience all of the time.
But the story of the Bible is that we ought to reflect upon the same old story of Jesus and His love for me. We aren't called to seek some greater story. The story of Jesus coming to die in the place of sinners is all the story you will ever get. (Sure, it is told in many different ways and in many different forms).
So, pretend that you have never heard this before. Jesus has the authority to forgive your sins. You simply need to believe in His work on the cross as sufficient to cover all of your sins. And your sins will be removed from you. It's as easy as that.
If you have never believed in Jesus before, I ask you, "Why?" Do you think that God won't judge you? Do you think your sin so small that you don't need Jesus? Do you think your sin so large that Jesus can't forgive? Do you want to enjoy your sin for your brief time on earth? When you think about it, none of these reasons make sense. I call upon you to "believe in the Lord Jesus and enjoy the forgiveness of sins."
If you have believed, what sort of response do you have to this good news? Is it not praise for God? A very appropriate response to hearing this message of good news is to praise Him for the marvelous salvation that He has provided for you.
We are approaching Christmas time and I have been reflecting upon the Christmas story. I recently read about the shepherd, who first heard the good news of Jesus coming. They were told by the angels who appeared to them at night, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.' ... And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. ... And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as had been told them" (Luke 2:10-14, 16-17, 20). The shepherds left the presence of Jesus and glorified God because of the good news of the arrival of the deliverer!
One of my favorite stories in the history of the early church was when Paul visited Pisidian Antioch. On one Sabbath he came and preached to the Jews in the synagogue about Jesus. They were quite excited to hear these things and begged that Paul would return on the next Sabbath. When they came the next Sabbath, the Jews were jealous of the crowds and were contradicting Paul and demonstrating their unbelief. Paul and Barnabas responded, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For thus the Lord has commanded us, 'I have placed you as a light for the Gentiles, that you should bring salvation to the end of the earth'" (Acts 13:46-47). Paul had literally, physically, turned himself from speaking the message of salvation from the Jews to the Gentiles. He proclaimed that they also, were able to have the salvation that was provided through the Messiah! Their response? "And when the Gentiles hear this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). Their response was one of utter joy at the news of this message!
I will be very appropriate for us to respond together in worship of God for His plan of salvation. I have saved much of our singing for the end, because I wanted us to mimic the multitudes, who first discovered that forgiveness comes by faith in Jesus (verse 8).
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
December 8, 2002 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.