But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. - Galatians 4:4-7

 

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 4:30-5:2

There is no need for numerous sermon points today, there is one phrase, one statement, and one simple yet undeniably difficult truth to live out at the every day. We are forgiven to forgive.

If our culture and this prolific Christmas season is going to be entrenched in the concept of giving, we as followers of Christ must be similarly engrossed in the greatest gift of God and the costliest gift we can give, forgiveness. We are thus forgiven to forgive.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. – 1 Timothy 1:15

Jesus was born to suffer and die for the forgiveness of all who would except this gift for eternal life. The gifts we give on Christmas morning are incomparable to His. What we celebrate and imitate during the time of Jesus birth should be no simple gift exchange. Instead, our gifts that we give should be that of sacrificial and humiliating forgiveness.

Jesus humbled Himself by being born as a man. He came to save the you, me and those who have hurt you the most, those described as enemies of God, He came to pay the price for forgiveness. He healed many, He fed many, He cast out demons to thousands, but Jesus’ triumphant work of His life was the infinite unconditional forgiveness for all who would come to Him. His life was given for the forgiveness of many and the hope of eternal life through His resurrection. Christmas is not about what we give, but what we would give of ourselves to forgive!

You can feed the hungry, care for the sick, make rich every poor person you ever meet, but if you are unwilling to be broken to forgive others you fail to imitate Christ in His greatest act of love.

It is easy to have a beautiful view of Christmas and how Jesus was born. Who, For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2b).  We have simple yet prolifically life changing concept to focus on right now. You have been forgiven to forgive. Ecclesiastes 3:2a says that there is a time to be born, and a time to die; And, Jesus was born not just to eventually die like all other people, rather than that, Jesus was born to fulfill a promise set forth far before even time began. Before time and existence there Jesus is, as His, our God’s, name states, I AM.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:10-11

       See Jesus came with the title of Christ already given to Him. He was the anointed one from birth set before time to be the savior. The moment He came was planned and known. Tasks He would fulfil were prepared and known. The greatest toll of His brutal death was unimaginably known by this little child, but also His resurrection. But, for the joy of loving reunification and glorification for those who hated Him, the Lord, abandoned who He was, is, always will be He humiliated Himself.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. - Galatians 4:4-7

The birth of Jesus was so much more than a band-aid to fix man’s sin because the failure of man to honor God with all they are. Jesus came into the world to die for man and save mankind from its own tragic impending death. Jesus coming into the world was timely placed to be able to transform the world for His namesake and spread the salvation of who Christ is to the farthest stretches of the planet. But His birth was not the end of the plan rather it was only the beginning of the promise of salvation. His birth happened in order that He would suffer and die for the sake of His Image bearers forgiveness.

but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. – Philippians 2:7-8

Forgiveness is thus both costly and advantageously one sided. We the forgiven are granted far more than the one forgiving. God needs nothing from no one, yet broke Himself for our glory. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. – Colossians 3:4 and But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. – 1 John 3:2b

And, I can go on for the rest of time speaking of the grandiose acts of God in order to forgive you and me. It is something that should break you and me to tears and to action when we remember it. We should be moved to love like He did and does. We should be drenched in abounding love for those who harm us as He loves us, even when we fail, even when we fail to forgive.

If you have never truly accepted this grace, this costly sacrifice for your gain it is our church family’s hope, and the hope of all believers in the Body of Christ that you would be forgiven by the Lord. It is not a complicated process to be forgiven. There are no long drawn out classes or trials you must go through, you do not even need to volunteer as tribute. Jesus Christ already paid that price.

Jesus tells us that we must make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and to teach all that He has done. And, we learn from God’s Word that all you must do to be saved is believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent from sin so that your sins are wiped away. There is no need to work to be perfect or a measure of good you must reach to be saved, to have hope eternal.

It is in recognizing God’s greatness and your need for Him that you can have the hope of eternal life. If you do not have that hope, there will be leaders from our church at the front of the church at the end of the service or if you would like to stay in your seat at the end they will come to you. You are invited into the Body of Christ the family of God.

Yet, there is a reason I ask you to wait till the end of the service. Jesus told the disciples to count the cost of following Him. He told parables of people who in the exciting moment heard the truth and reacted, but fell away when things became difficult or other enticing opportunities appeared. I would not want you to taste of the heavenly things and fall away. So know, while your eternity is freely paid for by Christ, your sins can be washed clean, and grace abounds all the more even when you struggle Jesus asks for everything.

Jesus commands that those who follow Him would daily pick up their own cross for the sake of others having the kingdom of God. He commands those who would follow Him to abandon all things contrary to His will, He commands those in the light to love sacrificially, and forgive every offense as He has forgiven them. And, for those who know Him, they can do nothing but worship Him with their life.

And, today, in this moment we will focus in on the most ostentatious part of following Jesus, we are ForGIVEN to ForGIVE. You can feed the hungry, care for the sick, make rich every poor person you ever meet, but if you are unwilling to be broken to forgive others you fail to imitate Christ in His greatest purpose of love.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 4:30-5:2

Think back to the costliest act of forgiveness in your life. Think about what it would look like if you truly forgave someone like Christ did and invited them into your life and family like Christ did for you.

The fragrant offering to the Lord, was not the good works the God prepared ahead of time. It was not when Jesus gave sight to the blind, healed the lepers, made the lame run, and fed the thousands. The fragrant offering was when He was broken so that others could have grace. Should this not be what people describe the church as, to be characterized by our own brokenness to be restored with those who have wronged us?

Peter reminds the church of this in first letter when he writes,

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

“He committed no sin,

and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. – 1 Peter 2:21-25

We who are found washed thoroughly in the costly blood of Christ, purified, transformed, and made new in Him are given a great example in the way we should live. We who are entrusted with the truth of God are also so weightily entrusted with the grace of God. What business is it of a believer to speak about the right way to live without wholly recognizing the great grace that brought us to that truth.

There are several statements that Jesus made that continually cause me to pause. When He says, “Depart from me I never knew you.” I can not help but pause and strive that, that would never be said of me. When Jesus told parable of the seeds, I always take breath and pray that I would not be like the ones on the path or planted among stones. To start well and in a fantastic way, but wither away when trials and other burdens come along.

But, the parable when Jesus spoke of a man who had a great debt forgiven, and joyously accepted that grace, but was unwilling to show the same level of restraint and generosity toward those who owed him little. (Matthew 18:21-35). The man who had been forgiven by his master was then thrown in prison and did not receive the grace because He did not imitate his master.

The parable ends with, This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother and sister from your heart. – Matthew 18:35

This is not meant to be easy, but it is meant to be real. This is not something you can or should fake. God will know. Forgiveness is more than letting go. Forgiveness is more than smiling and putting up a good front. Forgiveness is your brokenness for their healing and their gain. Have you went so far as dying to forgive someone, then you have not gone as far as Christ.

So, rather than the normal gift idea that Jesus gave us the greatest gift in His birth and that’s why it’s the season of giving, instead it’s the season of forgiving. The gift of Jesus’s humiliation was given for you and me to be forgiven and granted eternal life, through the necessary payment. Imagine an infant knowing from the point of conception through, the birth, and through those first few cries of life and the first diaper explosion change that He was born to die. And, not just die because we all die, but He was born to suffer and die torturously betrayed and alone.

       Jesus was born to suffer and die for the forgiveness of all who would except this gift for eternal life. The gifts we give on Christmas morning are incomparable to His, but how often do we desire to be generous to our friends, family, and those in need but we neglect those whom Jesus came for.

       He came to save the lost, of whom Paul was wrong, I am the foremost, those described as enemies of God, He came to pay the price for forgiveness. He healed many, He fed many, He cast out demons to thousands, but Jesus’ triumphant work of His life was the infinite unconditional forgiveness for all who would come to Him. His life was given for the forgiveness of many and the hope of eternal life through His resurrection. Christmas is not about what we give, but what we would give of ourselves to forgive!

You can feed the hungry, care for the sick, make rich every poor person you ever meet, but if you are unwilling to be broken to forgive others you fail to imitate Christ in His greatest purpose of love.

So, who can you reach out to this week, before Christmas, in order to start the process of forgiving them? This is important to recognize. You are reaching out to them. You are making the effort in spite of potential rejection. Who can you imitate Jesus with?

 

Jesus came to us. Jesus knew He would be attacked and rejected by His people as well as abandoned to die alone by His followers. Why, for the joy found in forgiveness and reconciling with those who hurt Him, attacked Him, and rejected the one who spoke them into existence and provides every one of their needs.

Who can you sacrifice your pride or your comfort level in order to pursue reconciliation knowing that they might reject you and hurt you more than they had previously?

This is a rudimentary part of being a follower of Christ, forgiving others and reconciling with them because you know the weight and cost of your own forgiveness. Yet this is not something we speak about enough as a spiritual discipline.

Reading our Bibles should inspire us to give grace to those who do not deserve it more. Time in prayer should only lead us to care for others more as we have been cared for. And, as we actively worship God for all that He has done and is doing we should only be more inspired to love without records of wrong those who have hurt us the most or in the slightest.

I dare you to read the story of Jonah as well as the first letter of John every day for this next week and to ask yourself how am I doing at loving and imitating God?

           Questions to Consider

-       How can you sacrifice who you are so that others can be forgiven and know the Lord? (1 Peter 4; Acts 5:41; 2 Corinthians 11:16-29 & 12:9-10; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

-       What is the purpose of knowing God’s forgiveness if you do not share it with others? (Matthew 5:22; James 5:7-11; Galatians 6:1-6, 14)

-       What is the purpose of knowing of God if you do not aim to imitate Him in every way? (1 Peter 1:22; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; Micah 7:18-19; James 1:19-25)

-       What will you say to the Lord at the throne of grace as an adopted, forgiven, and paid for with a humiliating sacrifice to be loved about the person who you would not even invite back to your home? (Luke 12:42-48; Luke 9:21-27; Psalm 51; Hosea 2:23-3:1)