THERE’S ONLY ONE WHO WILL FREELY FORGIVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson
Most of our life oscillates between forgiving others and being forgiven by others. We cannot appreciate being forgiven or granting forgiveness to others unless we have experienced God’s forgiveness in our own lives. The model for forgiveness is God Himself. Even though the people of Israel sinned repeatedly against God, He forgave them—repeatedly, completely, graciously, and unreservedly.
Nehemiah 9:3-8 3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for one–fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God….lets pick it up in verse 13 “You came down also on Mount Sinai, And spoke with them from heaven, And gave them just ordinances and true laws, Good statutes and commandments….17 They refused to obey, And they were not mindful of Your wonders That You did among them. But they hardened their necks, And in their rebellion They appointed a leader To return to their bondage. But You are God, Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And did not forsake them.
Overall Background: Nehemiah 9 describes the Revival Service that took place among the Jewish people in the time of Nehemiah. These people were saved—as we would say today—but under deep conviction they were repenting for all the junk they had wrongly believed about God and done against God. This was a real revival—people confessing their sins, repenting of their sins, acknowledging God once again, and glorifying God.
Application: I was planning on skipping over Nehemiah 9 but the Holy Spirit would not let me. I could not move on to chapter 10. It was as if God was saying – “Clearview needs a revival and Nehemiah 9 is what it will take for this church to be revived. Every confession in Nehemiah 9 affirms a truth about God that we desperately need to affirm in our own generation if we want to see God work:
– Truth #1 – There is Only One God;
– Truth #2 – There is Only One Creator who Made Everything;
– Truth #3 – There is Only One Plan of Salvation through Jesus Christ;
– Truth #4 – There’s Only One Who Hears Our Cry.
This morning we come to Truth #5 – “There is Only One Who Will Freely Forgive.”
Application: Today’s message is vital for us to understand. This is a message of grace. This is a message that goes to the heart of what Christianity is all about. Other religions can counterfeit Christianity in many aspects save one – “Amazing Grace.” It is the grace of God that forgives us through Jesus Christ. It is the grace of God that enables us to forgive others.
3 Questions once again:
I. WHY DID THEY MAKE THIS CONFESSION? THEY SAW HIS LAWS IN A NEW LIGHT
Listen to their confession in verse 13 “You came down also on Mount Sinai, And spoke with them from heaven, And gave them just ordinances and true laws, Good statutes and commandments.
Background: Many times in the history of Israel, the people looked to the commandments of God as a burden. “Why do we have to keep all these rules!!?” “Other nations don’t have all these rules.” “Why can’t we be free like them!!?
For e.g. Just like kids – “why do we have to do this and that?” “Other kids don’t have all these rules.” “Their mom and dad don’t make them do all that.”
Repeatedly, the people of Israel/the Jewish people broke the laws of God.
Psalm 78:10 They did not keep the covenant of God; They refused to walk in His law,
Isaiah 5:24b “they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.”
II Chronicles 36:16a But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets,
Now that these Jewish people were right with God they were seeing His commandments in a whole different light. God was not the “Big Party Pooper in the Sky.” He was not the “Cosmic Kill Joy who rains on everybody’s parade.” He was not the “Self Appointed Divine Chaperone who cannot stand people having fun.” God had actually done them a favor by giving them His laws. In fact, notice the way they describe the laws – “You came down also on Mount Sinai, And spoke with them from heaven, Meaning: You didn’t bark orders from heaven. And (You – God) gave them just ordinances and true laws, Good statutes and commandments. 14 You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, Meaning: All the laws and commandments were for their benefit, especially the Sabbath – a day to rest their bodies, restore their priorities, and refocus their spirit. It was all for their benefit.
Listen to the benefits of obeying His commandments in verse 15 You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger, And brought them water out of the rock for their thirst, And told them to go in to possess the land Which You had sworn to give them.
Application: How do you view God and His commandments? Do you look at them as a burden? Do you despise them? In America, some have the attitude that we need to do away with all these Judeo-Christian values. We need to get as far away from the Ten Commandments as possible. Having come from a culture where the Judeo-Christian values (Biblical values) are not the foundation, let me tell you as clearly as possible – “The secret of America’s success are the very values that some are trying to destroy.” People are trying to reinterpret the constitution and revise the values. Values like freedom, democracy, and rights exist because of these commandments of God. Show me a country where you would like to live that doesn’t have the Bible in its past.
What is the consequence of disobeying God’s laws? Listen to verse 17a They refused to obey, And they were not mindful of Your wonders That You did among them. But they hardened their necks (like an ox that refuses to go in the intended direction), And in their rebellion They appointed a leader To return to their bondage. That’s the word to America and all of us – “Reject God’s Laws and return to bondage.”
II HOW DID GOD RESPOND TO THEIR DISOBEDIENCE? WITH GRACE AND MERCY
But You are God, Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And did not forsake them.
Background: This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. The Jewish people acknowledge a God who is unlike any god of this world. They describe Him in 5 ways:
First – God who is not hesitant but “ready to pardon.” Meaning: When you come to Him, He does not hem and haw but is eager to forgive. For many of us it is very hard to picture such a God. Maybe its because we grew up with a father or a mother who were hesitant in forgiving us or held out forgiveness to us.
For e.g. Please don’t think I am sacrilegious when I share this illustration. Sometime back I was visiting a family where the son was being rebellious. He had promised to straighten up but he would go right back to the same lifestyle. There was the mother who was looking at her boy with suspicion and disappointment. But the family dog just leaped up and wagged his tail and was eager to greet the boy. That is a picture of God. While the world and even the family says, “We’re not quite sure.” God says, “I am waiting to forgive you.
Second – God who does not keep a checklist but “Gracious and merciful.” Meaning: When you come to Him, He does not say, “Now that’s the fifth time this week that you have blown it.” This is very hard for us to understand. We love to say, “This is it.”
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
Third – God who does not rush to punish but is “slow to anger.” Meaning: He takes His time to come and deal with us. I think about when Adam and Eve sinned against God. If you remember – God came in the cool of the day and not the very instant the crime was committed.
For e.g. One time I stole some money from my dad’s wallet. He knew it but he did not say anything. All he asked me was “Is everything okay?” He didn’t do it to be sarcastic or to intimidate me. That made more of an impact on my life than anything else. Last time I was talking to my parents, they were complementing me over all the good that the Lord was doing in my life. I told them – “I would not be here if it wasn’t for you. At the time, I did not understand all the rules you had but now looking back and having my own kids I understand. Thank You for not only making the rules but bearing with me when I broke them.
Fourth – God who is not limited in kindness but “Abundant in kindness.” When you come to God, He just showers His kindness on us.
For e.g. We were at the Chick-fil-A in town and one of our boys wanted an ice cream cone. I gave him two dollars and he came back with an ice cream cone about this tall (6 inches). How did you get all that? He answered, “The manager said that she just got carried away.
Fifth – God who is not unaware of sin but He still “did not forsake them.” Some people might take all this forgiveness to mean that sin does not bother God. To the contrary, sin is horrible and it deserves God’s punishment. Nonetheless, He does not forsake His own.
Listen to verse 18 “Even when they made a molded calf for themselves, And said, ‘This is your god That brought you up out of Egypt,’ And worked great provocations, 19 Yet in Your manifold mercies You did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of the cloud did not depart from them by day, To lead them on the road; Nor the pillar of fire by night, To show them light, And the way they should go. 20 You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, And did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, And gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness; They lacked nothing; Their clothes did not wear out And their feet did not swell.
Application: You might have a God who is Holy and Righteous and Just. You might have met a God who will punish the ungodly and pour His wrath on them. But have you met this God who is “Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And who does not forsake His own.”
III. HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO ME? FORGIVE AND BE FORGIVEN
In 1959 a Pennsylvania jurist named Curtis Bok wrote a book on prison reform titled “Star Wormwood.” In this book, he relates the story told to him by Kenyon J. Scudder, first superintendent of Chino penitentiary. Two men were on a train. One was a convict coming home after a five-year prison sentence. Things had not gone well between this young man and his family. So before he left for home he wrote to his family that if they wanted him to come home, they were to place a white ribbon in the big apple tree next to the railroad track, and he would get off the train. If he didn’t see a white ribbon in the designated apple tree, he would stay on the train and seek a new life elsewhere. As the train approached the apple tree, the ex-convict told his traveling companion he couldn’t bear to look. His companion said that he would look and took his place by the window to watch for the apple tree. He saw an apple tree covered with white ribbons!
That is how God forgives us – repeatedly, completely, graciously, and unreservedly.
But somebody had to pay that price – Jesus Christ, who gave His life on Calvary’s tree. When you have His forgiveness, then you can forgive others.
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