David Jeremiah - How Can I Find Forgiveness?
10 Questions Christians Are Asking
01. How can I be sure of my salvation?
02. How can I overcome temptation?
03. How can I get victory over worry?
04. How can I find forgiveness?
05. Is there only one way to God?
06. Why do Christians have so many problems?
07. Why don't my prayers get answered?
08. Is there a sin God cannot forgive?
09. What is faith?
10. What is the greatest commandment?
How can I find forgiveness? Hello, I'm David Jeremiah, and welcome to "Turning Point". You and I may never have met personally, but I already know something about you. And you know the same thing about me. What we know is that we're both in need of forgiveness. The Bible says we have all sinned, and that means we all need forgiveness. We need forgiveness from God and perhaps from others. But forgiveness can be elusive. Sometimes, we're too ashamed to ask for it, so we live with our guilt.
He wants us to be forgiven. In today's message, we'll discover the Bible's answers to a critical question, "How Can I Find Forgiveness"? It's part of our ongoing series called "10 Questions Christians Are Asking," and it's coming up on today's edition of Turning Point.
For over one year after his sin with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband, Uriah, David had refused to acknowledge his sin. In Psalm 51, we find out how he finally confessed his sin, and the initial prayer to God for forgiveness. But here in the 32nd Psalm, David looks back on that whole experience, and he encourages all of us to seek forgiveness. As we go through the psalm, we need to keep in the back of our mind that this is written by a tormented man, who has waited 12 months to get right with God. And it begins with the priority of forgiveness in verses 3 and 4. David writes, "When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me, and my vitality was turned into the drought of summer".
Now, a gulf of silence stretched between God and David, and the man after God's own heart found himself exiled because he chose not to confess his sin. David describes his pain, if you look at the text, notice three things about his situation. He was wasting away. "My bones grew old through my groaning all the day long". The verb for "grow old" means to waste away. David's energy and strength were diminished. He became weak as he carried the burden of his unforgiven sin. The weight of his soul began to wear out the strength of his body, and he felt like an old, worn out man. He goes on to say that not only was he wasting away, he was weighed down. "Day and night your hand was heavy upon me". It's interesting to note that God was the one who was weighing David down. God's hand was not heavy on David to simply remind him of his guilt. God's hand was heavy on David to draw him back, and cause him to recognize his need of forgiveness. He was wasting away, and he was weighed down, and he was wearing out. He says, "My vitality was turned into the drought of summer".
David says that the vitality of his soul was being drained away. The priority of forgiveness. And then in verses 1 and 2, we see the power of forgiveness. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit". When we are experiencing the trauma of an unforgiven life, we can doubt whether forgiveness is even possible. We might begin to think that our particular sin is beyond the pale of God's ability to forgive it. But David begins his psalm with a word of hope. He recounts his own experience of being forgiven, and he assures us that that experience can be true for us as well. He uses four words for sin in his little soliloquy. He says, first of all, it is transgression. And transgression is a defiant disobedience against God. Then he uses the word "sin" in the same text.
And this word is a picture of an archer who shoots an arrow at a target, and he misses it, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God". And then he uses the word "iniquity". Iniquity is a more gross term, if you will. It's perversion, distortion of that which is right, means to be corrupt or twisted. And the word "deceit" is from a Hebrew word which means to be self-deceived. Disobedience against God, missing the mark, distortion or perversion, and deceiving yourself about all of it. As David tracks the downward progression of his sin, he does so to remind us that every kind of sin can be forgiven, every kind. One author has written, "The psalmist declares that forgiveness of sin of whatever kind, whether against God or human beings, whether great or small, whether conscientious or inadvertent, or whether by omission or commission, all of that can be forgiven. And forgiveness is found in God. The nature of sin is not the issue. The nature of God is the issue".
He is a forgiving God. He is the God who forgives transgression, and sin, and iniquity, and deceit. Whatever kind of sin you might have conjured up in your spirit, I am here to tell you that Almighty God is able to forgive that sin. When God forgives us, what does he do with our transgression, our sin, our iniquity, and our deceit? The definition of forgiveness is interesting because it's wrapped up in the word itself. In the Old Testament, there are a number of words for the word "forgive". But if you look at all of them, they all have the same concept. It's the idea of conveying something away, remitting something, making it go away. Isaiah 55:7 says, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon". He will make it go away.
In his book "Unpacking Forgiveness," Chris Brauns lists five things about the forgiveness of God that helped to define the term. First of all, he tells us that God's forgiveness is costly. While it is free to us, and there's nothing we can do to get it except to ask for it, in order for God to forgive us, he had to give his Son up as a sacrifice. Colossians 2:13 and 14 says, "Having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against you, having nailed it to the cross". We can be forgiven because everything we have done wrong that deserves to be punished with death, Almighty God nailed it to the cross of his Son, and offers us the result: forgiveness for our sin. Brauns goes on to say that God's forgiveness is committed. When God forgives us, he makes a commitment that we are pardoned from our sin, and that it is no longer counted against us.
Isaiah 43:25 is a good verse to write down if you struggle with your forgiveness. "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins". God's forgiveness is committed. And it is also conditional. Now, hear me carefully. The only condition for forgiveness is that you confess your sin. That's it, that's the only one. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is"... Well, if God knows my sins already, why doesn't he just forgive me? Because he wants to be sure you know about your sin too. And he wants you to bring your sin, and bring it to him, and confess it, and acknowledge. And the word "confess" means to say the same thing about sin that God says. So don't go up there and posture. Don't stand before God and try to downplay your sin. Don't tell God, "I think I made a mistake". No, you sinned. Tell God what you did, unvarnished, and confess it. And the Bible says, "If you confess your sin, he is faithful and just to forgive you all your sin". That's it, just confess it.
"You mean I don't have to do penance"? No. You have to confess your sin, and God will forgive it. And then the Bible tells us that when you confess your sin, things begin to change. When you're walking as David did for 12 months with unconfessed sin, everything's messed up. But when David confessed his sin, God brought back to him the joy of his salvation. David prayed, "Lord God, give me back the joy of my salvation". Let me ask you all to be honest with your pastor today, how many of you, even for a short time, have ever lost the joy of your salvation? Can I get a witness here? We all have. And you know, the quickest way to lose the joy of your salvation is to fall into sin, and then not confess it. David said, "O God, you have restored to me the joy of my salvation". And then finally, God's forgiveness is connective.
When you get right with God, you start to find out you're getting right with everybody else. We have fellowship with God, and then we have fellowship one with another. Two violins that are tuned to the same piano will be in tune with each other. And when we're out of tune with God, we are going to be out of tune with God's people. If you're a husband and you're out of tune with God, and your wife is walking with the Lord in a spiritual way, you're out of tune with her. You confess your sin and get right with God, it not only tunes you up to God, it connects you with the people who know God as well.
Now, in the Bible, this is really kind of the core of what I want you to take away today, God wants us to get this point so much that he gave us five metaphors for forgiveness, five pictures of what it means to be forgiven by God. And I'm just going to take you through this, and I want you to write these verses down because one of these days, the enemy's going to come, and he's going to tempt you to not think you're forgiven. And you need to take him to the Word of God, just like Jesus did in the desert, and say, "Devil, here's what my Bible says about forgiveness". Are you ready for these? Here's the first one. God's forgiveness is like putting your sin as far away as the east is from the west. the east is Psalm 103, verses 11 and 12, "For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us". Here's the second one. God's forgiveness is like burying something in the deepest sea.
Micah 7:19 says, "You will cast all of our sins into the depths of the sea". Go to the deepest sea on planet earth, and realize that Almighty God took all your sin, and he buried it at the lowest part of the deepest part of the deepest sea, never to be retrieved. Number three, God's forgiveness is like casting something behind your back. Isaiah 38:17 says, "You have cast all my sins behind your back". What is that meant to convey? That you can't see them. They're back here. God doesn't see your sin. He's cast all your sin away from his ability to see it. That's a humanism from the New Testament, but it's meant to convey that God takes your sin away, and he takes it all away.
And then God's forgiveness, number four, is like erasing something from existence. Isaiah 44:22 says, "I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgression, and like a cloud, I have blotted out your sins". God has taken a cloud, and he's just taken it and covered all your sins and blotted them out. And then this is the best one of all. God's forgiveness is like God forgetting that it ever happened. Can you imagine that? "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more". I am here to tell you today that when you confess your sin to Almighty God, whether as an unbeliever for the first time becoming a Christian, or as a Christian having sinned since you believed, when you confess your sin before God, listen to me carefully, he forgets it.
So, let's look at this process of forgiveness in verse 5 and see how it works. Verse 5 answers the question, how can I receive the blessing of verse 1? Verse 5 says, "I acknowledged my sin to you, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,' and you forgave the iniquity of my sin". Watch verse 5 as David gives us his three responses. "I acknowledged my sin to you. I have not hidden. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions.' And then you forgave me". David's three responses to his sin are all wrapped up in the idea of authenticity. He has moved away from being silent and hiding his sin, to acknowledging, unmasking, and confessing it. When we are honest with the Lord, he promises to hear us, "For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon your name," Psalm 86:5.
Confession is about naked honesty before God. David knows painfully well how Bathsheba has been manipulated and used, how she's been made a widow, and subsequently the bride of her husband's killer. David knows that Uriah has been deprived of his very life. And we must also mention the little boy born to David and Bathsheba, who was yet another victim of David's ruthlessness. All of these have borne the brunt of David's sin. But David understand what we must understand, confession is first directed above. David recognized that at the root of all of his sin, from the pettiest offense to murder and adultery, all of it was an insult to the God who created him, and had sustained him every moment of his life. Before the sin claims any victims, it's already been an injury to the person of God. If you sin against me, for instance, I can forgive you personally, but I can't give you that deeper level of forgiveness with God. I can't remove the offense against the Lord, only he can do that.
The world would pressure us to dismiss the category of sin altogether, but there's no way to be made well unless we first acknowledge the reality of what we've done. And apart from this, our situation is hopeless. If you keep posturing, if you keep manipulating what you did to make it look better than it really is before God, you will never sense the reality of his forgiveness. But you can get on your knees before God in the privacy of your room, and pour out your heart to him, and tell him what you've done, and ask him to forgive you, and he will do it. But he doesn't play games. We play games; God doesn't play games. Notice the promise of his forgiveness finally in verses 1 and 2. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity".
Blessed is that man. Do you hear an expression of joy in these words? The word "blessed" is another word for happy. Happy are those whose sin is forgiven. The truth here is so incredible, so revolutionary that your life is bound to be changed forever if you just grasp it. When God forgives us, he welcomes us into his presence, where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. David's words about forgiveness appear in the Old Testament hymnbook. It's as if you were to open the hymnbook in the church, and there in the middle of it would be a psalm on the forgiveness of God. It is a reminder, an encouragement to us to sing together with great joy.
When we come to church, we are the company of the forgiven, hallelujah. We have something now the world doesn't know anything about. We're sinners, oh yes, but we're sinners saved by grace. We're sinners who accepted the unbelievable, forgetting forgiveness of God. And if that isn't something to make you happy, I don't know what will. "Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven". For David and for us, God's forgiveness turns the burden of unforgiven sin into a joyful song of praise, what a blessing. Well, if you are a Christian and you have been forgiven of your sin because you've accepted Christ as your Savior, or if you're not a Christian and you've never done that, and you're trying to figure out, "Why can't I get rid of this sense of guilt that I'm carrying around"? the forgiveness of God speaks to us in a couple of ways.
And so, let me just end all of this with two things in sort of a conclusion, if you will. Since God has forgiven us, we must accept his forgiveness. That's all we can do. Periodically, I hear people say this, "Well, Dr. Jeremiah, I know God has forgiven me, and my wife has forgiven me, or my husband has forgiven me, but I cannot forgive myself". Now, I've been a little bit hard on people who've said that to me because I usually say, "Oh, so your standard of forgiveness is higher than God's"? It's one thing to believe that he forgives you, it's another thing to receive his forgiveness. "Lord God, I receive your forgiveness for my sin". Since God has forgiven us, we have to accept his forgiveness. And for all of us who are believers, here's the hard one. Since God has forgiven us, we have to forgive others.
"Oh pastor, did you have to throw that in"? Well, let me just tell you it's on good biblical ground. I'm going to read some verses to you, listen to this. Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another," how? "Even as God in Christ forgave you". Colossians 3:12, "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do". The Bible says that all of us who are forgiven, we're the company of the forgiven, God has given us his forgiveness.
And I want you to think about this. He's given us this vast amount of forgiveness for our sin, and deposited that forgiveness in our heart. And now he says to us, "Out of the forgiveness which I have given you, I want you to reach in and take some of that forgiveness, and use it to forgive others". There's not anything you can ever do to make things right with something that's wrong unless you go and forgive. You say, "Well, I'm not the one who initiated the problem". That don't make any difference. Do it anyway. The Bible says if you're the one who's wrong, you go and get it right. And if you're one who's wronged, you go and get it right. It's always your turn.
Forgiveness is always the only way. When God forgives us and we accept it, we become free of our sin. When we forgive those who have offended us, we become free of our bitterness, and we are made whole. The Christian church is the community of the forgiven. All of us have been forgiven, all of us have been forgiven by others. And if we're honest, all of us either have forgiven or need to forgive someone. That's the uniqueness of who we are as the body of Christ. We know how blessed we are because we have been forgiven by God, and it sets us free to forgive others, even when they do things that hurt us deeply. Christ wants to offer you the free gift of his forgiveness, and he asks you only to reach out and accept it. And if you will do that, you can become a part of the community of the forgiven, and you will never face your sin again.