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Author:Rev. Mark Chen
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Congregation:First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore
Preached At:
Title:The Holy God Who Forgives
Text:LD 44 Exodus 20:17, 1 John 1:5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

Psalter 394 - Our Glorious King
TH 238 - My Dear Redeemer and My Lord
TH 461 - Not What My Hands Have Done

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

The Holy God Who Forgives

HC LD 44, Exodus 20:17, 1 John 1:5-2:6

We’ve spent the last few months studying the Ten Commandments in the evening service. Thou shalt have no other gods but me; before no idol bow thy knee; take not the name of God in vain; nor dare the sabbath day profane; give both thy parents honor due; take heed that thou no murder do; abstain from words and deeds unclean; nor steal though thou art poor and lean; and do not lie but always say what is true, and covet not the things that don’t belong to you.  

We’re expected to keep the commands of a holy God. He’s said - “be holy as I am holy.” But we can’t. We break each commandment in thought, word, or deed. But what does God do? He forgives us through Jesus Christ and gives us a desire to obey him. Are you forgiven? Have you asked for forgiveness? Do you have a Savior? Do you desire to obey God? This is what we’ll explore today - the Holy God who forgives. And we’ll do so in 3 learning points. Firstly, we need to love God completely. Secondly, our complete failure in loving God. Thirdly, a loving God’s complete forgiveness of our sins.

Firstly, we are to love God completely. 1 John 2:5 says, “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” Those who obey his commandments truly show how completely they love God. And why we should obey him in love is because of who he is. We are told in 1 John 1:5 - “that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” What does it mean to describe God as light? It means we owe our existence to him. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He said, “let there be light” and there was light. It also means God is good. James 1:17 says that every good and perfect gift is from above and comes from the Father of lights, he doesn’t change or cast any shadow. All we have that is good is from him. God is also powerful and glorious. 1 Timothy 6:16 says that God alone has immortality, he dwells in a light that no one can approach; he has highest honor and is omnipotent. Light also describes God as truth. Psalm 43:3 speaks of how God sends forth his light and his truth. Light also describes God’s help. Psalm 27:1 says that God is my light and my salvation. God saves. 

But the fundamental meaning from our text is holiness. God is light, there is no darkness in him. God is holy, there’s no darkness or unrighteousness in him. The Bible gives us a picture of heaven in Isaiah 6 where angels surround God’s throne crying “holy, holy, holy!” God’s glorious light fills the whole heaven. Jesus was described as the light of men, but men rejected him because they loved their sins. So who’s God? He’s a holy, immortal, and powerful Creator, who’s good to his creation. He’s a holy God who gives his commandments. And he can save them when they disobey. Because he’s such a God, we’re morally obligated to love and obey him. 1 John 1:7 says we’re to walk in the light as he’s in the light. We’re to be holy, good, truthful. And as 1 John 2:5 says, when we keep his laws, we wholly demonstrate our gratitude and love for God.

But it’s not that simple. The commandments are precise and clear. But they move beyond the outward keeping of the law to the inner keeping of the law. The 10th commandment summarizes the commandments. When it says - thou shalt not covet - it means that we’re not supposed to have in our hearts even the slightest thought or desire against the commandments. That we must be satisfied with God and our estate, to hate sin and love righteousness. The 10th commandment does what no human law can do. It legislates our heart’s desires and thoughts. It’s one thing to say you can’t steal or murder. It’s another thing to say you can’t covet - you can’t be discontented - you can’t be dissatisfied. But that is what God does - his commandments include the heart attitudes.

Why do people worship money and the idols that they think can give them money? Because we’re not satisfied with a good God that provides us with necessities. Why are we unrighteously angry against others? “How dare they offend me?! Don’t they know who I am?!” We justify anger and vengeance because we’re proud. God’s not God - we’re god. Why steal, lie, commit adultery or have lustful thoughts? Because we’re dissatisfied with what God has or hasn’t given us. That dissatisfaction itself is sin. While the state may enforce laws against hate speech, it can’t climb into our heads to legislate thoughts and feelings. But God does and can. As a holy God, he commands us to be holy in all areas.

Dear friends, do you love God? I stand here and say that this good, immortal, and powerful Creator, who has created, sustained, and demonstrated goodness to you, calls you to keep his truth and commandments perfectly out of love. He has been good and patient to you who sin. He gives good things even to those who do not worship him. Therefore, not to respond in love by obedience is ingratitude. And God will judge and punish you. And that’s what makes it impossible. We can’t keep the laws perfectly - especially when it’s also the heart attitude.

We see here, secondly, our complete failure in loving God. Question 114 asks - “But can those converted to God keep these commandments perfectly? Answer - No. In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience.” We sin. That’s a fact. Even those converted to God can’t keep it perfectly. Verse 9 says if we confess our sins. In other words, the Bible assumes we sin. Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and come short of God’s glory. We can’t match that light, holiness, truth of God. Verse 8 - if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. In other words, we sin. Even our good deeds are sin. Isaiah 64:6 say we’re all unclean - all our good works are as filthy rags. We’re like dry leaves - and our sins are like a strong wind that blow us away.

When David sinned, he confessed in Psalm 51:1-3 - “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” And we see how he acknowledged 3 facets of sin. He confessed his sin - his ever present sins. The Hebrew word for “sin” means missing the mark. What God commands you to do, you don’t do; what God forbids you to do, you do. These are the actual offenses in thought, word, and deed. Where we have missed the mark of God’s standards. On the other hand, the word “transgression” points to our rebellion against God. We reject his rule, live our lives for ourselves, resist his authority and break his laws. Rebellious acts show the rebellious heart. It’s not just breaking of the law; it’s the rebellion of heart. Those of us with young children understand that stubborn attitude. The Hebrew word for “iniquity” literally means crookedness. It means we have become perverted or ‘bent’ and not able to be straightened. While sin speaks of the actual breaking of the law, and transgression the rebellious nature, iniquity speaks of the inability to change. 

But people don’t always acknowledge their sins. In fact, they deny them. We see this in our text. 1 John 1:8 - “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Verse 10 - “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” These texts tell us that people deny their sins. Yes, many people will admit their outward or obvious sins - we’ve lied, had unclean thoughts, we covet or have unrighteous anger. But to proclaim we’re corrupt, that there’s no good thing in us - people don’t readily do that. Proverbs 20:6 says, “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?” If we say we have no sin, we make God a liar. You see dear friends, that’s the difference between a converted sinner and an unconverted sinner - the difference between a Christian who sins and a non-Christian who sins. 

The Christian is no better. It’s often said that Christians are hypocrites. And that’s true. We are. God’s people in the Bible, people of faith, converted people - have exhibited gross sinfulness. Abraham was a liar. Jacob was a deceiver. David was an adulterer and murderer. Peter showed favoritism. Were they perfect? No. But they were converted. You see friends, the Christian is a converted person not because he’s perfect; but because of what God has done. He’s been forgiven by God. He makes no excuses for his sins. As a believer, David confessed and acknowledged his sins. A believer isn’t perfect. But the difference is this - God has forgiven us because we confess. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

That’s the last point - A loving God’s complete forgiveness of our sins. Before a God of light, no man can stand. We’re sinners. On the basis of our sins, transgressions, and inquiries, a holy God will judge us. But God’s merciful. He offers salvation. He gives a savior. And this savior is described in 3 ways. He’s described as a sacrifice. 1 John 1:7 says that the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. He’s also described as a mediator. 1 John 2:2 says he is the propitiation for our sins. This means that he has appeased God’s anger toward sinners. And he is called an advocate. 1 John 2:1 says, “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” He speaks up for us and defends us.

What did this savior do? Because sinners could not and would not obey the laws of God perfectly, he came to live a righteous life as their substitute. So those who call on him and ask him for help, he paid for their sins by dying as a sacrifice for them so God would no longer be angry at them. He appeases God’s anger. When they sin and do not perfectly, he speaks up for them. God provided this savior to save us from God’s judgment.

But dear friends who have come, who are not Christian. If you have not called on Jesus to take your sins; God is angry at you. He will judge you for your sins. Your good works are not enough. Do you have an advocate with God? Someone who will speak on your behalf? To tell God that your sins have been paid for? He has offered a savior. Christians are not perfect. We sin. But while we aren’t perfect, he has removed our guilt. Whoever believes in him, will have that forgiveness. And that’s the assurance - that even though we sin, transgress, and have a crooked nature; Christ forgives us when we confess our sins. 

So the question now is this. If the 10 commandments cannot be perfectly kept, why does God have it preached so strictly? Perhaps you’ve thought in yourself - if we can’t keep God’s commandments but are already forgiven, why are we still required to keep them? The reason is because God fosters an obedience in us by our communion with Christ. 

Dearly beloved, we know we aren’t perfect. We will struggle with our own sins and repentance. But when God saved us, he gave us a new heart, he gave us a new allegiance. 1 John 2:6 says, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” It says we abide or have a new life in God. And therefore we should walk as Christ walked. This new life enables us to love God and keep his commandments. That’s why the catechism says that “with earnest purpose, we begin to live not only according to some but to all the commandments of God.” We’re given a new heart to desire after it. And as we live, we continue the work of repentance. We become more aware of our sinful nature, we seek more eagerly his forgiveness and his righteousness. We never stop striving for the grace of God.

So what are some things we can draw from this message. Dear friends, if you have not believed, you will face the anger, the hatred, and the judgment of God. Do not think that God is simply merciful and has no requirements. You can’t keep his commandments. You are liars, thieves, adulterers - with your filthy thoughts and words and actions. But so was I. I trusted in him. I knew I needed a Savior. Would you repent? Dear Christians, keep on remembering how Christ forgives. You may be discouraged that you have been a Christian for so many years, and you’re still so disobedient and you see how much you’re dissatisfied with him - think again what Christ has done for sinners! That he died for you - that he took your sins and your guilt away. That you are perfect in his sight. That he loves you not because of what you have done. But because of what Christ has done for you. You never need fear that you’re repulsive to him - no, he receives you. Let that love and gratitude fill your hearts, that out of a grateful heart, you would walk in his ways. Wanting to please him, your heavenly father.

Sermon Outline:

  1. Completely Loving God
    1. Who is God?
    2. Keeping his laws is loving God
  2. Our Complete Failure in Loving God
    1. We sin
    2. When we deny our sins
  3. A Loving God’s Complete Forgiveness of Our Sins
    1. He gives a savior
    2. He fosters obedience by communion

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Mark Chen

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