Let us pray: Dear Savior, under Satan’s lying deceits, this world seeks to pervert everything You are about and everything You taught and died for. This especially becomes evident when we consider Your command to either forgive or retain sin. Today teach us anew the distinction between true Godly forgiveness and mere worldly forgiveness. Moreover teach us to apply that distinction to lost souls so that they may never left to languish in their sins and die eternally. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LORD OF TRUE FORGIVENESS
TEXT: Matthew 16: 18-19
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
After Christ arose from the grave and then descended into hell to proclaim His eternal victory over Satan and his allies, what do you think Satan did? We know the devil hates God and hates Christ more than anything else in the universe. We know he is the “father of lies.” Since Christ’s work was all about forgiving sinners of their violations of His holy will, I can well imagine the devil gathering his allies and having a conversation like this:
LET’S HI-JACK FORGIVENESS AND TURN IT INTO SENTIMENTAL DRIVEL!
And that, my friends, is exactly what has occurred over the centuries since. Satan has so perverted and emptied of meaning the whole truth of forgiveness to such an extent that today it has nothing to do with God, Christ, or His sacrifice of death for us on the cross.
How many times have you and I heard people in the news who suffered awful violence against them by another utter these pious sounding words when asked about it: “Well, I forgive them.”? All that sounds very Christian. It sounds magnanimous and noble. It sounds as if they have risen above unspeakable hatred and put that violence aside. Is this what Christ was telling His Church to do when He gave Peter and His disciples (the Church) this command?–“I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The short answer is: No!
Let’s go back to the basics. What is Godly forgiveness? After all, it is the one singular concept that differentiates Christianity from all other world religions. Jesus came as the eternal Son of God to die for all human sin and pay for its guilt with His life. He did this because He’s full of grace, or God’s undeserved love. Because of Christ’s death, everyone’s sins have been paid for in full. We call that “objective justification” or it’s a fact whether or not you believe it. However, for this tremendous gift to benefit you and insure your passage to heaven, it must be believed. You need to grasp it and make it your own through saving faith. I like to use the example of me, the poor pastor, opening a checking account at the local bank in your name for a million dollars. When I see you I flip the checkbook at you and say: “Here, I’ve given you a million dollars. Go and have a good time.” If you actually believe me, you’ll go the mall or the car dealer and do just that. Then it will benefit you. But if you don’t believe me, laugh at the practical joke, and toss the checkbook into your desk, never spending it, it is basically worthless to you. This is the distinction between objective justification and subjective justification. You, the subject of it all, need to take it to heart and believe to enjoy its benefits.
So, what does true belief entail? Well, faith is the all-important ingredient. So, what is faith? Is it some vague hope in Godly goodness? No. Faith stems from a repentant heart and a repentant life. Repentance means you’re sorry for your sins and want to turn over a new leaf. Repentance means you’re sorry you did it, not just sorry you got caught. Repentance also means that you recognize you hurt not just others by what you did, but you hurt God Almighty. Many times the Bible speaks of “bringing forth fruits of repentance.” That is, you show by your actions and words that you’re guilty before God and want and need His help to change.
So, how often when the average person thinks about forgiveness or is told by others to “be forgiving” does any of this come into play? Not much. Today forgiveness has been hi-jacked by Satan and turned into sentimental drivel. God, faith, repentance on the part of the guilty, and certainly the sacrifice of Christ—all these things have been stripped away from forgiveness by the world. Instead of including all that Godly weightiness, forgiveness today is nothing more than “letting go” of a hurt because to do otherwise seems so mean-spirited. Take the gang-banger in jail who gunned down the innocent child isn’t sorry for what they’ve done. They haven’t exhibited remorse. They haven’t turned over a new leaf. Does God want or expect the grieving parents to “forgive them?” Such human forgiveness is nothing more than trying to get rid of emotional pain. It’s a way to compartmentalize grief so that it doesn’t consume you. Satan knew all this and that’s why he has twisted the whole idea of forgiveness and caused humans to write God totally out of the equation.
Forgiveness is not a commodity to be treated lightly. After all, it was earned solely by the blood of God’s Son. So, it is not to be handed out apart from His guidance and command. Here and elsewhere, Christ links Godly forgiveness with Godly binding of one in their sins, or telling them: “You are not forgiven!” If someone is living in obvious sin against God’s commandments, the easiest thing to do to get rid of their problem from your conscience is to say: “I forgive you.” It’s almost like Pontius Pilate washing his hands of Christ’s blood, isn’t it? “O well, now it’s not my problem anymore!” But telling them that merely solidifies them in their sin. It makes it seem like they weren’t really responsible. Over time such hardening of sinfulness, which results from cheapening God’s grace, makes their hearts impervious to salvation. That’s why Christ tells us as Christians that we sometimes need to retain the sins of others, or not let them off the hook. This means you say: “I don’t forgive you. God doesn’t forgive you. And if you continue on this pathway you’re literally going to hell. You cannot escape from God’s judgment unless and until you say you’re sorry and mean it!”
When was the last time you heard someone speak that way? Almost never is my guess. That’s because it seems so harsh and mean-spirited. Such words are immediately branded as unloving.—And no one wants to be accused of lovelessness. So, I submit all this as evidence of my original proposition by Satan to his allies: Let us hi-jack forgiveness by turning it into sentimental drivel! He’s succeeded, hasn’t he?
This passage from Matthew outlines Christ bestowing upon His Church the Office of the Keys. That is, one key, forgiveness, opens heaven’s door, and the other key, non-forgiveness locks heaven’s door and opens hell. While we desperately want to employ the unlocking key, forgiveness, and thus bring lost souls into God’s grace; being afraid to employ the other key to obviously recalcitrant sinners will never give them a chance to truly repent so that we can help save them. Every one of us needs to keep this distinction in mind as we struggle through life. Do so by keeping in mind that God’s forgiveness is never cheap, so we dare never cheapen it by turning it into worldly sentimental drivel. Never forget that only God’s pathway toward forgiveness is truly loving because it alone contains the totality of what Christ’s love truly means. Amen