Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
This past Thursday we celebrated the 243rd birthday of our country. I hope your celebration included remembering to thank the Lord for the blessings you enjoy living in this country. Perhaps it was also a day that you enjoyed some time with your family. I know some of you enjoyed time with your church family at the 4th of July BBQ at Divine Peace Rockwall. It was a wonderful day to enjoy our freedoms living in this country.
But, what if instead of celebrating “Freedom Day” we had a special day called “Forgiveness Day!”? What might you do on that special day of “Forgiveness”? I know we enjoy that day here on Sunday when I say, “In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord!” and we sing a joyful response. We learned this response from Scriptures for instance King David—after repenting and receiving forgiveness he wrote, “Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise” (Ps 51:15). And today’s Gospel lesson shows the heart of a woman forgiven much by Jesus and her acts of honor and sacrifice at the feet of Jesus. These are example of God’s people expressing their joy and thanksgiving to God in the spirit of forgiveness. We can do the same!
In the spirit of forgiveness, you have your shady past, your sins of your youth and the sins of your adulthood for which you deserve nothing but God’s punishment. In the spirit of forgiveness you may so appreciate the sacrifice Jesus has given for you on the cross that tears of joy streak down your face and you want to wet Jesus’ feet, but he’s not visible before you to do that. So, today let’s have the Holy Spirit use the inspired Word of God written by St Paul to the Corinthians to consider how
Forgiveness Compels a Response that Celebrates Jesus
When you read certain books of the Bible it helps to know who the original people were who read that Word of God first. What about the church in Corinth? It was a town with a population over ½ million people. It was filled with Greek culture—placing wisdom on a high plain, but not so concerned about immorality. For instance, history records that at the Temple of Aphrodite there were about 1,000 prostitutes working in the name of religion. The immorality in Corinth was so wide known that the Greek verb “To Corinthianize” came to mean “to practice sexual immorality.” Therefore, to no surprise to us, the church in Corinth also suffered from many of these sinful problems. Paul had shared God’s law and gospel with them, they believed and were baptized. They were so thankful to learn of Jesus’ forgiveness and this gave them a new life. But, old habits are hard to break and St. Paul heard about these problems that infiltrated the church he started and was inspired to write to them. I emphasize “inspired” because what Paul wrote is God’s holy will, then and today.
“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” The church in Corinth had many problems. The congregation was divided over who’s their favorite pastor, because they got caught up in praising the gardeners of their faith instead of God who makes it grow. And, the community in which they lived still had a bad influence on them and tempted them to return to an immoral lifestyle—and were proud of it. One man was committing incest. Other members were ignoring God’s gift of sex to be used in marriage between one man and one woman. Others were cheating each other. Others were so upset with fellow church members that they were taking each other to court! Why? Because they forgot God. They forgot that Jesus came to show them God’s will and way for a godly life. When they compared their life to God’s holy will and that they would end up in hell if they continued in the life of rebellion, they decided that they didn’t like God’s way, God’s rescue plan, God’s eternal blessings in heaven, and chose what their sinful natures said. Their sinful natures told them that they needed to live for today, for themselves, to be their own god and do whatever they wanted. And even though they learned of repentance and forgiveness through Jesus, they rejected it for their sinful lifestyle.
It breaks our hearts when we hear of people who have forgotten that Forgiveness Compels a Response with Acts of love that celebrates Jesus, not abuse it. If we boil down what happens to people who forget Jesus, it shows us hate, sin and disgrace. Paul had to tell them, and us, while we haven’t lost the war (because through faith in Jesus they had forgiveness of all their sins), but they were losing lots of battles (in their sinful, daily life). There is no dancing around Paul’s stern warning. Yes, take to heart what the Holy Spirit lovingly says through St Paul in order to put a fence around the rebellious sinful nature of those in danger of losing their eternal life, “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?” The question had to be asked, “Does being a Christian mean that suddenly sin is OK?” Of course not! There are consequences for being unloving to God and blatantly disregarding his holy will? It puts one’s salvation in jeopardy! So, what changed? The promise of forgiveness didn’t change. God’s will for their lives didn’t change. God’s desire to have them live forever in heaven with him didn’t change. No, they changed. They forgot, “Forgiveness day” and what that meant for them. Their understanding of repentance and forgiveness changed. Their attitude toward God changed.
We also need to heed this warning. We also change. We are not static in our Christians life. Our hearts are deceived and tempted to change from following God’s will to the will of our sinful flesh and the wicked world. Once having the forgiveness of God does not always mean remembering that forgiveness. Once seeing our sins clearly, is not always seeing our sins clearly. Once seeing God’s grace clearly, is not always seeing God’s grace clearly. Once serving as God’s hand-picked king, is not always acting as God’s representative to his people. Once kissing Jesus’ feet so happy to know sins are forgiven is not always remembering to bring Jesus my best. It is terrifying to know this. And what does Jesus say about these last days? “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matt 24:12).
Take God’s warning to heart: “Do not be deceived.” Don’t fall in love with the things God forbids and view it through your sinful eyes as something good. Eve tried that. It didn’t turn out well. When tempted, how beneficial if we would remember that Jesus was tempted in every way we were, but he never fell for the deception. He loved perfectly. Sometimes that perfect love meant had to call sin a sin. He didn’t say a person wasn’t forgiven, but they had forgotten God’s call to repentance and forgiveness. They had forgotten that this call to forgiveness compels us to respond with acts of love that celebrates Jesus through lives of thankful obedience. Such people who remember who they were and what God has done for them are compelled then, to have hearts that
Forgiveness Compels a Response that Burns in Love for God
We love our nation of freedom. But, all too often people forget that along with freedom comes responsibility. We will use our freedom to build up, to serve, and to love, or that same freedom is used by ungodly people to tear down, to steal and to hate. Paul reminded the Corinthians of their life BC (before Christ). “Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were.” Simply put, they were dead spiritually in their sin and in their sinful lifestyle of rebellion against God’s holy will. They were condemned as lawbreakers before God’s court of judgment. They were enemies of God. Blind to a good life. Slaves to a life of missing the mark of perfection, crossing the line from God’s kingdom to their own kingdom, and failing to live as God designed them to live. Such a life is evidence of people who forgot God’s warning and serious, horrible sentence of hell. When people, including you and me, when we realize the condition we were in and where we were heading, it is no wonder that our hearts burned in thankful love for God who sent Jesus to save us!
Paul wrote, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Please notice all the passive tenses in this verse. This was all God’s doing! The Holy Spirit created faith in Jesus who paid the penalty of all your sins. The Holy Spirit washed your sins away in your baptism—the means through which Jesus’ forgiveness became your own. The blood of Jesus did it all. He made you a new creation, forgiven, alive spiritually, a new birth, a new life, hope, peace, joy and thanksgiving. Yes, Forgiveness Compels a Response from a heart that Burns in Love for God!
Having been forgiven by Jesus also means that we carry his name. The same Holy Spirit that pointed us to Jesus and caused us to see the cross as no longer something foolish, but Jesus’ very act of paying the penalty of all our sins, is the same Holy Spirit that keeps us in our faith through the Word and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The same Spirit that brought us to Jesus is the same Spirit that renews us in Jesus. Therefore, we are compelled to expose our faith, our souls, our life to God’s powerful Word and sacraments.
King David repented of his sin as a child of God, and was renewed in the peace he had from the forgiveness he received from God through Nathan. Despite who you once were, the sins you struggle with and even continue to fall into today, are sins for which we come often to our loving God and once again thank him for his forgiveness. Then, we are compelled to burn in thankful love for God as we battle against our sins and win by the strength of Jesus because, “you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
We do live in a country of freedom. Let’s use this freedom to proclaim the freedom from the curse of sin, the power of death and Satan. Yes, we know our walk of faith will have victories and failures. But, we live by faith in Jesus. Praise God when your life reflects God’s holy will. And when you fail, that is the time to celebrate “Forgiveness Day!” Then Forgiveness will compel a response that celebrates Jesus and burns in love for God. Amen!