Sermon: Forgiveness Guaranteed
Scripture: Matthew 6:12
In this week’s lessons, we see the connection between the Christian’s continuing need of forgiveness from God, and our need to forgive others who wrong us.
Theme: Forgiveness in Advance
Is it not true that God has assured us in advance of this full forgiveness precisely to keep us from sinning? Certainly it is. For no sooner has John written, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” than he goes on to say, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” In other words, God says that the truth that will most keep us from sinning is the promise that we will be forgiven by God even if we do.
Many years ago, an incident occurred in the life of Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse that is the perfect illustration of this truth and which I would therefore like to share with you. Dr. Barnhouse had been holding a series of meetings on a college campus in this country, and had been approached by one of the young professors at the close of a meeting. He had a sad story to tell. During the war, before he had become a Christian, he had fallen in with bad companions and while in Paris had lived a life of great sin. Now he had returned home, become a Christian, and had fallen in love with a fine Christian girl who also loved him. However, he hesitated to tell her of his love because he feared that his proclivities toward sin might cause him to sin again and thus wound the heart of the girl he now loved. What should he do? He stated his problem, and he waited for an answer. Dr. Barnhouse prayed for a moment and then after he had assured himself that the young man was a believer, he advised him to share the story of his past life with the girl, arguing that if they were to live their lives together there should be no barriers between them, and saying that her knowledge of his weakness would help him at every turn of the road.
At this point, however, he began to tell a story of two other people who had come into his life some time before and who had shared a similar set of circumstances. The man had lived a life of great sin but had been converted, and eventually had come to marry a fine Christian woman. He had confided to her the nature of his past life in a few words. As he had told her these things, the wife had taken his head in her hands and had drawn him to her shoulder and had kissed him, saying, “John, I want you to understand something very plainly. I know my Bible well, and therefore I know the subtlety of sin and the devices of sin working in the human heart. I know you are a thoroughly converted man, John, but I know that you still have an old nature, and that you are not yet as fully instructed in the ways of God as you soon will be. The devil will do all he can to wreck your Christian life, and he will see to it that temptations of every kind will be put in your way. The day might come—please God that it never shall—but the day might come when you will succumb to temptation and fall into sin. Immediately the devil will tell you that it is no use trying, that you might as well continue on in the way of sin, and that above all you are not to tell me because it will hurt me. But John, I want you to know that here in my arms is your home. When I married you, I married your old nature as well as your new nature. And I want you to know there is full pardon and forgiveness in advance for any evil that may ever come into your life.”
As Dr. Barnhouse told this story to the college professor, he had bowed his head and covered his face with his hands. However, when this point of the story came, the young man lifted his eyes to Dr. Barnhouse and said reverently, “My God! If anything could ever keep a man straight, that would be it.”1
Yes, that would be it. That is it for every believing child of God. God has given us full provision in advance for every sin that may ever come into your life. He has done this precisely that you might be kept from sinning. Do not forget that there is nothing in you that can ever astonish God or take Him by surprise. He knows what you are. In fact, He has commended His love to you on the basis of the fact that it was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).
1Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Methods for Holy Living (Kingsport, TN: Kingsport, 1951), 72-74.
What truth is meant to keep the Christian from sinning?
What text of Scripture demonstrates this idea of God’s promised forgiveness to keep a Christian from sinning? Memorize this passage, and remember it the next time you are tempted to do or say something you know you should not.
Key Point: Do not forget that there is nothing in you that can ever astonish God or take Him by surprise. He knows what you are. In fact, He has commended His love to you on the basis of the fact that it was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to David Garner’s message, “The Power and Practice of Forgiveness.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)