Sermon - Ask for Forgiveness

ASK FOR FORIVENESS

Matthews 5:38-48
January 15, 2016


Manuscript

I want to talk to you about jackets today. I am surprised by the number of jackets and coats I own. I have fall jackets and winter jackets and spring jackets. I have jackets for hiking, and different ones for running. I have formal coats, casual jackets, and jackets in between.

I have a lot of jackets. But when we had a coat drive at In2 Church, I didn’t bring any jackets. That’s interesting.

I used to give lots of clothes away.

But I didn’t this time. And I haven’t in some years. I wondered why, and examined my heart.

Before, I would buy a lot of my own clothes. And I bought things that were the wrong size or clothes that didn’t suit me well just because they were on sale. I had no interest in fashion, and no money to get things that were nice. Back in those days, I just bought clothes that were cheap. So back in those years, whenever there was a collection, I would look into my closet and see clothes that I didn’t like.  Because, even though I didn’t know it when I was buying it, after wearing it a few times, I could tell something was off.  It’s like when I tune a guitar. In the beginning, I can’t tell whether the string is in tune or not. But later when I’m playing, I can tell something is off. Every year, I would have clothes that I didn’t like.  And those are the clothes I would donate.

But now my wife picks out my clothes. And she’s a really good shopper. She finds things on sale, but she also finds them in my size.  And she has much better fashion sense than me. So now, I actually like all the clothes I have.

Looking back, I only gave away things I didn’t want.  But now, I value what I have, and I want to keep it for myself.
It’s mine.  I worked for it.  I earned it.  I took care of it.  I look good in it.  It’s mine.

Of course, I gave nice clothes away before, but as gifts for people I love. That’s for people that have done something to earn it. I can’t give things I want to strangers. They might not value it. They might not take care of it. And most basically, they don’t deserve it.

This I think is the key for me to understand today’s passage.

40 “If someone wants to sue you and take your shirt, then give them your coat as well.”

Back then, coats were more expensive than they are now. I don’t care how expensive your coat is. It is not as valuable to you as a coat was to an ancient Israelite. To an Israelite, his coat represented a significant part of his wealth, and was as precious to him as your car is to you.

A coat could be used to guarantee a sizable loan because it was relatively expensive. But even when you legitimately owed the money, Israelite law forbid people from holding the coat as collateral overnight.

Jesus is saying you should give away something really important and expensive. Jesus is saying you should do it even if the law protects you from having to do it. And Jesus is telling you to give it away not to someone you love, but to an adversary.

He probably deserves for me to countersue him. But don’t give him what he deserves. Instead, give him what he doesn’t deserve. If someone slaps you once, they deserve a slap.  But don’t give them what they deserve. Instead, give them what they don’t deserve, a chance to hurt you again.

Let’s see verse 46. If you don’t, then you won’t be perfect.  If you don’t do these things, you won’t deserve a reward.

But really, this is hard.  I will live without getting the reward. I don’t need to be perfect, I’ll just be an ordinary human being. When told what is required to compete, I decide it’s out of my league.  

At some point, I say, “Forget it.  I’m just going to do what I want.”

Have you ever thought that way? God, goodness is too hard. I’m just going to do what I can. I will just live a normal life.

There is no good news to such a person.  To the person trying to be Lukewarm, Jesus says, “You have to make a choice. You can’t serve both God and mammon.  If you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

There is not good news to anyone who is a good person.  To the person who has a reputation for being good, who starts to believe he is good because other people say he is good, there is no good news.  When I look at the gospel, and read what Jesus teaches, I realize that the bar is too high.  I do not live that way.  I cannot imagine myself living that way.  True goodness is out of my reach, and my goodness is an illusion.

And if Jesus words are not good news to the lukewarm person and are not good words to the “good” person, then for whom are these words “Good news?”

Only for the bad person.

Let’s say that because you were in a hurry, you were backing up without looking, and you hit a child.  You were selfish, and your selfishness has cost somebody else.  What will be the fate of your soul?  How does God want you to be treated?

Let’s say that because a man is immature and selfish, and he did too much too soon with his girlfriend, and now she is in mourning.  How does God want you to be treated?

Let’s say that because you were cowardly, you pretended not to see when your friend was being bullied.  How does God want you to be treated?

Let’s read verses 44-45, God is saying that God doesn’t want to treat you as you deserve.  God wants to treat you as if you were good all along.  If you disappointed God once, God wants to give you trust again, even if it means you’ll disappoint God again.  God is the God of second chances.  Of third chances.   Of unlimited grace.

If you know you are wicked, this is great news. God will give you another chance. God is willing to give you favor. God is willing to cause his sun to rise on you and his rain to fall on you whether you’re righteous or not.

I’ve prayed the prayer requesting undeserved favor. I pray it every time I preach. God, I know that I don’t deserve to be used by you. I’ve been messing around this week, sinning this week, been lazy and cowardly, proud and lustful, angry and depressed this week. But please help me. Please use this sermon to bring light to our darkness and bring rain on our dry hearts.

And you do it too. God, I now I don’t deserve to be intimate with you.  But please help me. Please let this worship time bring light to our darkness and bring rain on our dry hearts. And to the undeserving, God gives great grace. God gives us the favor of light and rain.

But wicked person that I am, do you know what I do? Because I have received great grace, and because God used me, instead of being grateful I become entitled.

Later on that night, I return home, and because God used me at church, I say to Abigail, “Abigail, leave me alone! Daddy deserves to have is chill time. Go to sleep on your own!” The more grace I receive, and the more I am used, the less gracious I am to others.

And this can happen for you too. The more God blesses you in worship, you might begin to look down on those who are living a sinful life, even if that’s the life you yourself were living just 2 years ago. The more God blesses you in your work or studies, you feel like you deserve to give bigger presents to yourself.

And so this verse, verse 45, which is such comfort to me as a sinner - it is also the scariest verse I know.

I assume that because I experience God’s light and God’s rain, I assume that I am all good with God. I assume that I am righteous. But what if I’m not?  What if I am experiencing favor, not because I am righteous, but because God is willing to give favor to the unrighteous? That I see the sun and feel its warmth is not proof that I am good. That I have received the rain on my dry and barren heart is not proof that I am good.  I could be someone that talks about the rain, that talks about the light, and I might still not be a child of God. The rain falls on the righteous as well as the unrighteous.  

Many will say to Jesus on that day, “Did I not preach in your name?  Did I not pray powerful prayers in your name?  Did I not sing in your name?  Did I not go on missions in your name?  And Jesus will say the truth. Away from me.  I never knew you.

This reminds me that I must not settle for Favor from God. I must ask for Forgiveness.

When I ask God for favor, it’s easy. It’s easy for God to give me favor.  It’s easy for God to make me excellent. It doesn’t cost God anything. It’s easy for God to give me health. It’s no problem. But asking for Forgiveness is another matter. Asking for Forgiveness means I have to ask God to have Jesus pay the price of my sins.

Remember in yesterday’s passage, Pastor Jeong told us about the man who had to cut off his own right arm in order to survive a hiking accident. It’s traumatizing to cut off your own arm. But it’s equally traumatizing to ask God to sacrifice his own Son for our sake.

You are asking God not for a small thing, but for something that is the most valuable thing in the world, the blood of Jesus, shed for you.

God, I don’t just want temporary favor from you. I want forgiveness. I want peace with you.  I want to be intimate with you and have your grace fill every broken place in my heart so that I can have all the darkness of my soul filled with your light.  I want the greatest gift of all.  Then you are kneeling on your knees by the cross, and you are saying, “May the blood of Jesus be shed for me.”

If this happens for you, if the blood of Jesus is shed on you, if you are marked by the price Jesus paid for you, then you cannot be the same.  The apostle Paul puts it this way.  Because one died for all, we all have died.  We can no longer live the way we used to.  We die to our selfish and vain lifestyle.  Now that I have received in faith Forgiveness from the son of God, I no longer live but Christ lives in me.

We assume that if we have the favor, that we also have the forgiveness. But my friends, there is no guarantee.

If you have asked Jesus for the shirt, which is the favor of God, ask also for the more valuable gift, the coat, which is the forgiveness of God.

You cannot pay for it. You do not deserve it. It is truly expensive. But ask for it. When you ask for it, you will see that Jesus was willing to strip himself to clothe you.

When you ask for it, you will see that Jesus is willing to die on the cross to allow you to live. You will see that you are the wicked person, asking for the shirt, and Jesus is the good person, offering you the coat.

When you wear the coat and the shirt, when you stand in God’s forgiveness and favor, then you will always remember what Jesus did for you.  You are a wicked person that Jesus clothed with righteousness.

And if you remember the gospel, when someone asks to borrow from you, when someone hurts you, you will know what pleases God, and God will show you what you must do.  

You will forgive. You will pray for your enemy. Not because you are good. But because Jesus is good. Thanks be to God.

-

Pastor Samuel An