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Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || VIDEO
Forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness. Of. Sins. Repeat it with me at home: forgiveness of sins. That’s what Lent’s all about. That’s what the Office of the Keys is all about. Because that’s what Christianity’s all about. That’s what Jesus is all about! The forgiveness of sins.
Today you heard the entire Good Friday account from the Gospel of St. Mark. It tells you what Jesus did, what Jesus went through, what He suffered to save you, to win for you the forgiveness of sins. Calvary, cross, and death are what Jesus does for your sins. His body on the cross is the proof positive that “your sins are forgiven before God in heaven.”
“The wages of sin is death.” Jesus pays out those wages with His own life in your place. Now, the free gift of God in Jesus is, you guessed it, the forgiveness of sins, which merits for you “eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” That eternal life, that forgiveness of sins is freely won for you by Jesus on the cross, freely given by Jesus to you, and freely received by you through faith in Christ Jesus.
That’s what it’s all about—Lent, Christianity, Office of the Keys, even Jesus Himself—forgiveness of sins. Repeat it with me again: Forgiveness of sins!
((I. Whoever forsakes this becomes a minister and church of judgment.))
The Lord has always been forgiveness. It gets at the heart of who God is: “He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin.” As 1 John also tells us, “God is love.” And that love is that the Father gives up His only Son into death for your sins. That love is the Lord forgiving your sins here and now through the word of forgiveness.
For lack of a better word, the religion of the Old Testament is the same as the New Testament. There’s the promise of full and free forgiveness in sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. That promise is the same for you and me as it was for David who wrote our Psalm for this evening. David’s trust was in a Savior yet to come; ours is in a Savior who has come, will come again.
Forgiveness was delivered to David just as it is to you and me, through means of a preacher. David had the Prophet Nathan or Gad. See 2 Samuel 12 or 24 about that. There were the Priests, too. You have “a called and ordained servant of the Word.” The Lord’s goal today is the same goal He had in Old Testament times: Forgiveness of sins. He wanted to save His people from their sins, from their death, and their separation from Him. Forgiveness. Life. Salvation. The Lord’s favorite things to do, all summed up in those first three words of this sermon: forgiveness of sins.
But the opposite of forgiveness is judgment. The opposite of life is death. And that’s exactly what the Chief Priests and elders and scribes were after. They twisted their role from being preachers and priests of God’s mercy and forgiveness, and instead were preachers of judgment and death. They sought Jesus’ death out of jealousy. They condemned Him. They would’ve rounded up all Jesus’ disciples, too. They tried: remember the young man who ran away naked in Mark 14? And Judas also was condemned to death: seeing his wrong, he said to the priests: “I have betrayed innocent blood.” Their response? Judgment, death: “That’s not our problem. You figure it out.”
The ministers and church of Jesus’ day had become about judgment and death. It was the religion of do better for God. You need to do your part if you expect God to do His, or the flip side: God’s done His part, now it’s your turn. Scrutinize everything you do for God. “Strain out the gnat.” The heavier the burden, the bigger the sacrifice the better. But in doing all that they did, the religious leaders were just like the soldiers who mocked and crucified Jesus. “He saved others, but He cannot save Himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from His cross, that we would see and believe.”
((II. The Lord is clear in His Word about what He gives to His Church, His Pastors, and His People.))
But The Lord is clear in His Word about what He gives to His Church, His Pastors, and His People. We must be about the same thing our Lord was after, the same thing He gave to His Church: forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness is the Lord’s proper work. The work He wants to do. “I came not to call the righteous but sinners.” “The Son of Man came to give His life as a ransom for many.”
So, He gave His Church the authority to forgive sins. That authority is used every time a “called minister of Christ deals with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolved those who repent of their sins and want to do better.” This absolution, “forgiveness, from the pastor,” “is just as valid and certain even in heaven as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.”
Now, what of judgement? What of the unrepentant? What about those people? What about them? Not the proper work. That’s God’s foreign work, alien. The work He only does when He has to. You want your sins, to live in them? You want to live like the world, like the nations, like those who don’t have faith in Jesus? Just don’t think you’re a Christian, then. You’re hell bound at that point. Unforgiven. “If you do not forgive them they are not forgiven.” Just remember, though, that God’s Law is never, never, never: “They shall” or “Those people shall not.” But “you shall”, “you shall not.” Just “you.”
Forgiveness of sins. Christ didn’t come into the world to condemn the world, to condemn you, but that the world, that you, would be saved through Him. That’s John 3:17. He wants you to receive and to believe the forgiveness of sins. If He’s got to give you a wakeup call and say, “You’re out.” He will. And He would finally let you go, too. If that’s what you really want. You want to reject forgiveness and live in sins. He will let you.
“I forgive you.” Those three words undo all sin, all death, and all the power of the devil. Just three simple words. Words that carry to a sinner all that Jesus wants for all sinners. Forgiveness of sins. So whether I say those words to you, Office of the Keys, or you say those words to those around, as a Christian loving your neighbor, the result is the same. Forgiveness of sins.
Forgiveness of sins. Jesus is all about it. It’s what Christianity’s all about, too. Sure there’s the proclamation that things are sins. Sure there’s the proclamation of judgment over sin. Sure there may even be situations where there must be “church discipline,” where “openly unrepentant sinners are excluded from the Christian congregation.“ But that’s NOT what the Church is about, nor is Christ. Some Christian denominations think so, though…
Forgiveness of sins. Repeat it with me at home: forgiveness of sins. That’s what Lent’s all about. That’s what Jesus is all about! So that’s what Christianity’s all about. So, that’s what the Office of the Keys, that is, the Office of Pastor, is all about. So, that’s also what your office as a Christian is all about, too. The forgiveness of sins.
Forgiven. Forgiving. Forgiven again and again and again. You. More forgiveness than you have sins. That’s what I’m here to deliver. That’s what Jesus won for you on the cross. “with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful”—full, complete—“redemption.” Forgiveness of sins.