Forgiveness of sin must deal with sin as it affects the human personality.
It is not enough that the debt should be paid, the trespass forgiven,
and the transgression pardoned; the debtor, the trespasser, the
transgressor must be freed from that within him that is the source of
his evil actions, and his forgiveness is not complete until he has
obtained this freedom and lives in the liberty of righteousness.
(The Christian Year in the Times of London, p. 92)
So writes the anonymous author of the Sunday Sermons written for The Times of London in 1930. I believe that the thoughts expressed here are particularly helpful, I think, for those of us who find ourselves trying to be Christians on this Good Friday. Today we come to the Cross and witness the suffering death of the Saviour of the world, the Son of God, Jesus Christ and we are given the opportunity to reflect upon what it all means for each and every one of us. Or, to put it another way, the facts of Christ’s offering, sacrificial death, and atonement must belong to us and we must belong to it all if we hope to be saved. The Cross is the place where the Son of God defeats sin, death, and Satan for us. The Cross is the place where God in Man recreates us all as the New Adam offers the New Pattern of human existence to all who would follow Him home to God. But our place in this scheme of salvation and redemption involves the forgiveness of sins.
And as our writer reminds us, the forgiveness of sins is really as good as useless unless it is something that is being received always by earnest pilgrims who desire to journey out of sin and wickedness and into virtue and holiness. Now, these days, to most people sin and wickedness are outdated categories that reveal an obsession with morbid, the grim, the gruesome, and the pessimistic, or what combine to lead only to melancholy and sadness. But for the Christian the discovery of sin and wickedness within the soul reveals the true state and character of man’s life without God. Anu sane searcher or seeker who has the courage to do so, looks within himself to find those things that stand between himself and God. What the Christian finds are those persistently present selfish and narcissistic hindrances, limitations, shortcomings, and temptations that war against the good of the soul. Christ’s death has conquered these sins. Christ’s death is now the seedbed of the righteousness that can grow up in their place. The forgiveness of sins for the Christian is the bedrock of hope, the impetus for change, and the catalyst for a better life that can begin here and now and end in eternal friendship with God. That we are forgiven because Jesus Christ died for us, once and for all, reveals to us that God loves us with a love that longs to love us out of sin. When we receive that love, we shall begin to love Him with a love that carries us into His Kingdom. The Love is all God’s. It is ours for the accepting or the rejecting. So the forgiveness of sins for the Christian is the beginning of the new life, the vita nuova, as Dante terms it, where existence here and now becomes the occasion and opportunity for conversion and transformation, and for sanctification and redemption.
As we reflect upon the forgiveness of sins made flesh in Jesus Christ, let us begin to allow its truest force, power, and efficacy hold a mighty sway over our souls and bodies. Let us see that sin attempted to kill God’s truth, beauty, and goodness, His wisdom, power, and love in the flesh of Jesus Christ long ago. Let us see also that sin attempts to kill the same in us today. But the forgiveness of sins provides us with a way into the new life. For with the forgiveness of sins we are encouraged to discover freedom from the true origin and cause of evil within us. To be sure, this does not happen overnight. God knows this and is patient and longsuffering as we discover the evil and offer it up to him for death and annihilation. We must begin with the sins that are most obvious, accessible, and discernible to our senses. These are what we find externally and visibly in words and works, reactions and responses, or what are expressed instinctively and impulsively. But then, with the light of the Holy Spirit, we can trace them back to their causes and reasons. What moves us to say and do what we say and do find their instigation and inspiration within our souls. Something other than God’s Holy Spirit grips, holds, and defines what comes out of our mouths and into our lives. From these inner birds of prey that would devour our spiritual desire, from these inner unclean beasts that would trample down the plantation of God’s Grace in our hearts, we seek freedom. (B. Jenks) And with the help of God’s Grace, because He is always forgiving us through His Son, if we persevere and persist in the pursuit of God’s love, we shall find freedom in that holiness and righteousness that leads to His kingdom.
We thank God that our Lord Jesus Christ has died to sin, death, and Satan for us. Today, we thank God that our Lord Jesus Christ has died to himself in order to become the one full, complete, perfect sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. Today, we thank God that our Lord Jesus Christ has brought our old man, our old human nature, our old Adam to death, that we might begin to become very members incorporate in the life of the New Man, the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, who will conquer all manner sin and death in our lives. The forgiveness of sins has been made flesh for us on Calvary’s Tree of New Life. Let us receive this forgiveness of sins so that the hard work of redemption and perfection in us might begin, and that we may no longer overcome evil with evil, but evil with goodness, the goodness of God that longs to bring us from death into life.
Today, Jesus invites us into His death. We pray that the all sufficient merits of Christ’s death might be imparted to us as we receive the Sacrament reserved from last evening’s service. We pray that today we may participate in the meritorious effects of Christ’s death and might thereby find the seed of God’s Omnipotent Love planted in our hearts. That seed will grow, expand, and rise up with Jesus on the Morn of the Glorious Resurrection.
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons