Sent To Forgive Us

Jeremiah 31:27-34

Rev. Bryn MacPhail

The question was posed last Sunday, 'Why did the Son of God come to earth? '. It is clear from Scripture that, the first coming of Jesus was not a public relations strategy on the part of God. The first coming of Christ was not some experiment to see, firsthand, why humans behave the way we do. The purpose behind the coming of the Messiah, the birth of Jesus, was to rescue fallen humanity .

The Son of God came to bear our sins. And in bearing our sins, the Son of God gained forgiveness for everyone who trusts in His sacrifice.

Forgiveness is a subject that receives a lot of attention in Christian circles, yet very few people properly understand the nature of God's forgiveness. Some people, knowing that God is holy and insists on justice, find it impossible to envision Almighty God as anything other than stern and unforgiving. Others, knowing that the Bible teaches us that God is merciful, imagine that God is so completely indulgent that no sinner really has anything to fear(MacArthur, The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness , 11). Both of these approaches to understanding God's forgiveness are severely flawed and are contrary to the collective teaching of Scripture.

In our present day and age, I suspect that most people commonly err by taking for granted that God will forgive us, while ignoring God's standard of holiness. We think that our well-intentioned efforts, our good deeds, will contribute to God looking upon us with favour and forgiveness. Some see forgiveness as something owed to us--all we have to do is make sure that our good deeds outnumber our bad deeds on the moral ledger. This is not how God's forgiveness works. If it did work this way, than there is no need for Christ to come to earth. If it did work this way, than there is no need for Christ to die for our sins. We do not need a sacrifice if coming out on the right side of the ledger is all that is required.

The truth is, we do need Christ. We do need His sacrifice. We do need His forgiveness. The apostle Paul reminds us of this when he writes, "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one "(Rom. 3:10-12).

A Sunday School teacher asked her students one Sunday, 'What must you do before you can obtain forgiveness of sin?'. There was a short interval of silence and then, from the back of the room, a small boy gave his answer, 'Sin'. The boy was right--forgiveness is not necessary if one is free of sin. Forgiveness is not necessary if we are innocent of any wrongdoing. Unfortunately, Paul insists that "there is none who does good, there is not even one "(Rom. 3:12). The result is that we all are in need of God's forgiveness.

We may think we are capable of good in our natural state, but Scripture argues to the contrary. Just because another human being considers your deed 'good' does not mean that God sees it that way. Isaiah states in the starkest of terms that, "our righteous deeds [ not our sins, but 'our righteous deeds' ] are like filthy garments "(Isa. 64:6) in the eyes of God.

Where does this leave us? If none of us are inherently righteous, how does God look at us in our natural state? Here comes the bad news: David writes in Psalm 5, verse 5, that God "hates all who do iniquity ". David also writes in Psalm 7, verse 11, that "God is angry with the wicked every day ". The prophet Nahum promises that "the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished "(1:3). And in the gospel message itself, Paul writes "God's wrath is revealed . . . against all ungodliness and unrighteousness "(Rom. 1:18).

In our natural state, who is exempt from God's righteous anger? No one. Paul insists that "There is none righteous, not even one "(Rom. 3:10).

This is the bad news, but the bad news does not have to get the final word in our lives. We need not be the object of God's anger everyday. David, who warned us that "God is angry with the wicked every day "(Ps. 7:11), also promises that "(God) will not . . . keep His anger forever "(Ps. 103:9). God had a plan for us--a plan that included forgiveness.

Jeremiah introduces for us the promise of a new covenant, "The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah "(Jer. 31:31).

Up to this point, Jeremiah's message had been a message of judgment. The Lord confesses His role in "plucking up ", "breaking down ", "overthrowing ", "destroying " and "bringing disaster " to the house of Judah(31:28). But as David promised, "(God) will not . . . keep His anger forever "(Ps. 103:9). The Lord had a plan to once again build up the house of Israel and the house of Judah--the plan was a "new covenant "(31:27-31).

The Lord promises in this new covenant that, "It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors . . . a covenant they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord "(31:32).

The history of Israel since the days of Moses was one of persistent failure to live according to the terms of the covenant. The problem was not simply that they were unwilling to obey the law, but that they were incapable of such obedience. Jeremiah demonstrates that he understood this dilemma in chapter 13, verse 23, when he compares Israel's ability to obey the law with the "Ethiopians " ability to "change their skin " and the "leopards " ability to "(change) their spots ".

There was no hope for Israel and no hope for the entire human race as long as the covenant remained externalized. As long as the human heart remained diseased, we would not be able to please God. The Lord, thankfully, was making provisions to change our inner nature which would make us capable of obedience. The Lord, through Jeremiah, promises in verse 33 to "put (His) law within them " and to "write it on their hearts ".

How could this be? How is it possible for God to write His holy law on our sinful hearts? It is possible through forgiveness. The Lord promises in verse 34, "I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more ".

The reason a just God can forgive sin is because justice has been rendered once and for all by the "guilt offering " of the Messiah, Jesus Christ(Isa. 53:10). God forgives our iniquity because Jesus bore the penalty for our sins.

You can see, therefore, that forgiveness is not something that is earned, but rather, it is something freely bestowed to those who ask for it. Cartoon character, Denis the Menace had it right when he kneeled at his bedside, folded his hands, looked toward heaven and prayed, 'Lord, I'm here to turn myself in!'. Forgiveness is not for those who think of themselves as 'good people'. Forgiveness begins when we recognize and confess the wrong we have done. Forgiveness begins when we turn ourselves in.

Another misunderstanding about forgiveness is that it is merely something we hope for when we die. To the contrary, the Bible teaches that forgiveness is not something we hope for when we die, but it is a blessing to be received now. The wonderful reality is the moment you believe in Jesus Christ, and trust in Him for your salvation, your sin is eternally discarded.

All your sin--those angry outbursts, those harsh words, those lustful thoughts, those self-centred motives, your impatience, the bitterness against others you harbour, your flippant approach to worship, every sin you have committed against God's perfect law--all your sin is gone if you have trusted in Jesus Christ. If Christ has cleansed you, then you are delivered from every trace of guilt.

This is the wonderful news of the new covenant. This is why the Son of God came to earth 2000 years ago. This is why Jesus bore your sins on the cross.

Perhaps some of you consider your sins too serious to be forgiven by a holy God. Perhaps some of you consider your sins too numerous to be overlooked by a just God. Be comforted my friends, the Scriptures declare that "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more "(Rom. 5:20).

Do you want forgiveness? I hope so. For this is what the Son of God came to earth to give us. Believe in Him, commit your life to following Him, and accept His eternal pardon. This is the only way to abundant life. It is the only way to eternal life. Amen.