07 Apr 2023
Forgiveness does not come easy. It’s costly and never cheap. Just ask anyone who has been wronged or hurt. Likewise, the forgiveness of our sins did not come cheap or free. The bible reveals to us that we are sinners who deserve death. Rom 6:23 says that the “wages of sin is death”, the cost of forgiveness must be death. For our forgiveness, Jesus had to die an undeserved death at the hands of God to pay for the price we owed. Jesus' death for our life. God poured out his wrath on his son and Jesus willingly laid down his life for us. Good Friday screams out: “God loves you!”. Romans 5:8 sums this up: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ” What amazing grace, what amazing love!
Forgiveness does not come easy. It’s costly and never cheap. Just ask anyone who has been wronged or hurt. Likewise, the forgiveness of our sins did not come cheap or free. The bible reveals to us that we are sinners who deserve death. Rom 6:23 says that the “wages of sin is death”, the cost of forgiveness must be death. For our forgiveness, Jesus had to die an undeserved death at the hands of God to pay for the price we owed. Jesus' death for our life.
God poured out his wrath on his son and Jesus willingly laid down his life for us. Good Friday screams out: “God loves you!”. Romans 5:8 sums this up: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What amazing grace, what amazing love!
What comes to your mind when I mention the word “forgiveness”? It might be someone whom you are struggling to forgive right at this very moment because this person has caused you so much pain. You can't bring yourself to forgive them. And it drives you crazy because every time this person's name is mentioned, anything that brings to memory, that brings this person to memory, bitterness and anger fills your heart. You know, it eats you up, it frustrates you. Yet, it's just so difficult to forgive. Or maybe you are on the other side. You are the one hoping to be forgiven. You've messed up. You've caused so much pain to your loved ones, to your friends and to your family. Maybe as you're sitting here, you're praying. You're hoping that you’ll have the chance to make amends; you will do anything, you'll give anything, all the money in your bank, everything you own, just for the chance to be forgiven. Hey, if this is you, you will know that forgiveness is costly.
Forgiveness does not come easy, it does not come free. All of us here: We need forgiveness at some point of time in our lives, because we make mistakes, right? Today, I hope to leave you with three simple words. This doesn't mean the sermon is over. But I pray in this time, in this short 30 minutes that you would come find forgiveness this Good Friday; to find forgiveness in the death of Jesus. We find this death of Jesus in what you have just read. What you've just read was taken from the Gospel of Luke. It is an eyewitness account of the life and death of Jesus. And he recounted for us specifically the event on the cross that changed the calendar system 2000 years ago. As you read it out, I wonder if you picked up a certain peculiarity or something that was out of the norm, something that was said about Jesus from two very different perspectives.
Two Eye-Witness Accounts On Jesus’ Innocence
The first perspective came from a criminal. You see, along with Jesus, you see two other crosses beside him. There were two criminals. The first criminal said, “Jesus, are you not the Christ? Are you not the chosen one? If you are, save yourself and save us.” The other criminal looks across and he rebukes the first criminal. He says that unlike Jesus' punishment, their punishment is just. He says, “[And] we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due rewards of our deeds of our crimes. But this man has done nothing wrong.” If this were in Singapore today, this will be like Changi prison inmates queuing up to go on the death row. The criminals along with Jesus, who are queuing up, waiting for their turn, start talking among themselves, and all the criminals come to one conclusion. They say that among all of us, there is one innocently punished.
The second perspective we see is from the last verse you read out from a Roman centurion. He is a high-ranking soldier in the Roman Empire. We're not told exactly why he is there. But one might suspect or guess that he's probably there as part of the party crucifying Jesus, to supervise the entire procession. And look what this man of righteousness and honor says. He says, “Certainly the man [we have nailed on the cross] is innocent.” Once again, back to the Changi prison analogy. This will be like the Changi prison where the prisoners are lining up and you have the prison warden, the police who's watching the death row proceedings, and he says the same thing as the inmates. He says, “Among those lining up to die, this man is innocent, he should not be there.” I hope you can see what I'm starting to say.
You have two very different perspectives, who observed the same proceedings. And these two perspectives could not be any more different. You have a criminal and you have a cop. Yet their conclusions were exactly the same. Jesus has done nothing wrong. This man is innocent. And as you're sitting here, I hope you are starting to ask the question. I hope everyone's asking this: “If this man is innocent, then why on earth is an innocent man sent to die?” Well, here's the message of Good Friday: He died an innocent death. So the world can find forgiveness.
This brings me to my first point. We are just having three points today. Really quick. The first point I have is that we need forgiveness because we are all sinners. The Bible offers us a damning evaluation of the entire world of humanity. It says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Let me make two observations here. Firstly, the word “all” means “all”; everybody on earth falls into this category as sinners, all means no exceptions. Everyone regardless of profession, wealth, race, religion, social status, you stay in a condo, a landed [home] or HDB, all of us are sinners. And I understand if you're feeling a little bit of discomfort right now. I think this can cause us discomfort because how we think of sin today is “the wrong we do against someone else”. We primarily think of sin as the hurt we caused [to] another person.
But it's the second observation in this verse that puts the first into perspective. While sin can be in the form of harm we do to a fellow human, sin - if you notice in the second half of the verse - is ultimately wrong, done against God. We sin when we miss God's standard. Hence, Roman says here, “It's a falling short of the standard or the glory of God.” The Bible tells us about God's standards. You see, God is not like your friend sitting on your left and your right. He sees all, He knows all, He looks beyond your actions, to your thoughts into your heart. Look at this: We view adultery as the act of cheating on our spouse. But look at what God's Word says. He says every man who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Hey, ever entertained lustful thoughts of someone other than your spouse? A friend or colleague? Someone on the computer screen? If you have, you’ve fallen short of God's glory, you've missed the standard. You're a sinner. I know I have. I know I am.
He goes on to tell us in Exodus 20:17 - he says, “You shall not covet.” Covet means “desire”. You cannot desire your neighbor's house. You shall not desire your neighbor's wife, his male servant or his female servant, or his ox or his donkey or anything that is your neighbor's. Maybe you're thinking, “Thank goodness I'm in Singapore. There're no oxen, donkeys to be worried about.” But let me try to put this in a modern day context. It means that you cannot desire your neighbor's condo or bungalow. You cannot desire your neighbor's wife, his car, the holiday he just took to Japan that he's posted all about on Instagram - with the cherry blossoms, or his lifestyle. You all laugh because you also see, right? And see, the Bible is so serious it says that you cannot even entertain the desire of it. If you have you fallen short, you're a sinner. I know I have. And I know I am a sinner too.
Why did I bring all this out? It really goes against the popular notion today that people say that sin is only what hurts other people. I hope that you see, that according to God's standard, sin is everything we say, everything we do, everything we think that does not meet God's standard. What the Bible is doing is revealing to us the condition of our hearts. That's the problem. The problem is your heart. Maybe you're sitting back saying, “Luzerne, I can't help it, what… When the guy posts of his cherry blossom on Instagram and all I see is the Uber in front of me, how can I help it?” Hey, guys, that's the problem. The problem is, we can't help it. And maybe it's still a bit of a shock to you. Because we can't see the condition we are really in - that's what sin does. It blinds you to the reality of things.
For the kids here, I know I'm showing a picture that you won't really enjoy. But back in my school days, I was one of those students, not at the top of the school. Somewhere near the bottom of the school. I went to a very average school and I remember very clearly in preparation for my ‘O’ levels. The subject I struggled in the most is Chinese. And so, before ‘O’ levels, our teachers decided to rank us and put us according to classes, according to our standard. Naturally, I was cast into the deep, deep, dark abyss of the worst Chinese class. Let's take this for example. Let's say I'm in the lousiest class. And I topped that class. I started running around to my classmates and I tell them, “Haha, I'm better than you. I meet the standard. I tell my teachers ‘Ha! Look at me. I've made it’.” All my teachers and classmates will think, “Are you mad? Only the best of the worst class? You're not even the best in the school. How about the national standard where everyone is compared to each other during ‘O’ levels? How can you think you've met the standard? You are deluded. Wake up, Luzerne, and wake up to the reality around you.”
Likewise, that's what the Bible is doing for us today. The Bible is saying: Here's your reality. If you're here, you fall under the category of “All have sinned”. Hey, you're my classmate. In the bottom class. We might think we are okay because when we compare ourselves to the people around us, we're pretty all right.
But what the Bible does is that it offers us a reality check to open up our eyes to see the true reality of things. I hope you're following me. Sin is so serious it corrupts our heart. It corrupts the way we view ourselves. It makes you think that you are better than you actually are. It makes us blind to the reality of things. The Bible offers this diagnosis: We are not as good as we think. See, as much as sin affects the relationship of the people around you, sin ultimately affects the relationship between you and God. If you're here, if you're watching online, we've all missed the standard.
And this brings me to my second point, because we all miss the standard. We all need forgiveness. If you think about forgiveness, forgiveness is never free. That's reparation involved. The more damage that is caused, the more reparation and compensation is required. For example, you steal a phone from someone, you get caught, you need to make fair reparations for the phone you stole. Let’s kick it up a notch. You assault someone. Who pays for the medical fees? You, because you cost the pain. You see these things are monetary value. But forgiveness gets a little bit more complicated when it cannot be resolved through money. For example, how do you compensate a spouse when you've committed adultery? How do you make up for how crushed your spouse would feel? And the subsequent years of insecurity that follow? How do you make up for that? Likewise, sin cannot be repaid by monetary value.
And there are serious reparations and consequences to be faced.
The Bible tells us in Revelation [21:8], look at this, it says:
“The cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, the murderous, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.”
Let’s look at Romans [6:23a], it says: “That the consequence [wages] of sin is death.” Sin is so serious, that the only suitable and just compensation that can be made for sin is death.
But here lies the problem, right? If the only reparation for my sin is death, then I can never fully pay the debt of my sin. God can never forgive me unless I die. Unless I go to the lake of fire. How can there be forgiveness? You see, we need forgiveness. But there is a problem here. The payment of sin can be likened to an insurmountable, large monetary debt that you owe someone. Let's say you owed someone a lot of money. Even after emptying your bank, you sell your house, you sell all your assets, you sell everything you own - and you don't even come close to repay that amount. Your bank, your creditors start breathing down your neck and pressing you for the payment. And here's where it gets worse. When you look around to your friends and family, even if you called everyone you know, and they sold everything they have, there will not be enough [to pay the debt]. What now? What can you do?
That's the picture of sickness. We're sinners. We deserve death. We can't help ourselves. We can't even get the person on your left and your right to help you. For any possible reparation to be made, for any possible compensation or forgiveness to happen, we need help. Hey, guys, here's the reality. We're all classmates in that bottom class. We're all debtors, unable to repay the amount we owe. And here's the problem on Good Friday, right? Insurmountable debt. A high standard that we can’t meet, and we can't get anyone else around us to help.
Remember the innocent man that I talked about at the start? Jesus, the one whom the cop and the criminal said is innocent? Well, here's where he comes in. The only man that lived a sinless life, Jesus never once sinned, in his actions, his thoughts or in his heart. He is the only man to ever meet God's standard. And the only man that did not deserve to die. The only man who did not owe a debt, the only man that did not need forgiveness. That's where he comes into the picture. This is my third and last point: Jesus died for our sins. Maybe you're asking, “Hey Luzerne, how is Jesus the solution to the seemingly irreparable relationship with God? We saw the first half of this verse [Romans 6:23] just now, didn't we? “The wages of sin is death.” But here comes the good news of Good Friday. “The wages of sin is death. But the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” The cause of our sin is death. But through that innocent man on the cross, the only man never to incur a debt, there is a free gift of eternal life. Death for life. Debt fully repaid. Relationship [with God] can be restored. Forgiveness made possible.
Yet for life to be offered we saw that a price still needed to be paid. As we've seen, forgiveness comes with a price. Forgiveness is not free. And the Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 how this happened. This is one of the most amazing verses in the Bible. It says, “For our sake, He made him - him being Jesus - for our sake, He made Jesus to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.” Or we might attain God's standard where the debt is fully paid. The innocent, sinless Jesus had to die 2000 years ago in our place, to pay the price, to pay the reparation of our sins against God, so that forgiveness can be possible.
The thing about Good Friday is that many people talk about how Jesus was nailed to the cross, how the nails went into his hands and the gruesome death that he suffered under the Roman soldiers. Yet if you're following along with me, you will understand that for forgiveness to happen, the debt that Jesus has to pay was not to the Roman soldiers. Whom did we owe the debt to? The Roman soldiers? No, we ought that debt to God. He had to bear the punishment for the sins of the entire world so that forgiveness could be possible. That debt had to be repaid to God, not the Roman soldiers. That's why when you read just now, Luke recorded three hours of darkness for us.
Darkness so dark that the sun's own light failed to shine through. It was night, in the middle of the day. What's this darkness you're talking about? Darkness in the Bible, if you look at the Old Testament, is associated with God's judgment and punishment. So, in those three hours, when darkness engulfed the entire world, God poured out the entire judgment, the entire punishment for the sins of the world on the only man who never deserved to die. Jesus is God's Son. And what we see here is not an angry God crushing a random man. But a Father, who loved his Son deeply but He loved the world that He would crush his only Son.
A story is told of a man who lives with his family by the train tracks near the ocean. This man's job is to ensure that the tracks on the bridge would come down whenever the train passes by. His job is an important one, right? If he forgets to pull the lever to close the bridge, before the train comes, the entire train load of people will be sent to their death in the ocean. One day as he is going about his job as usual, he hears the alarm bells ring to indicate that the train is coming. And as usual, he starts his routine, goes to the lever, gets ready to pull the lever. And he's not just working for the train company. He's a father as well. As a loving father, he does his routine checks on his family. And as the alarm bells were ringing, he noticed at the corner of his eye, his son had kicked his football and tried to retrieve it from under the bridge. The father shouts for the son to come back because the train is coming. He says, “Son! Come! Get out of there! The train is coming!” However, to the father's horror, he realizes that his son is stuck at the bottom of the bridge; he can't get out. With the train fast approaching, and the alarm bells ringing, there is no way for this father to rush over to help his son and come back in time to pull the lever. He is faced with a choice: Save the life of his son and send hundreds to death, or he can pull the lever, crush his son, and save everyone on the train. The father pulls the lever, the bridge comes down. The train passes by. Hundreds of lives saved at the expense of his son.
The Father Crushes His Son to Save Us
That's the price God paid for your forgiveness. You know, as much as this analogy works, this analogy fails in certain ways. This analogy doesn't highlight the love the Father has for the people on that train. As God sent Jesus to be crushed, the people whom He saved are not strangers, but you and I, whom He loves dearly. And the second place this analogy fails is that the son who was crushed was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But Jesus was in the right place at the right time. And He willingly gave His life for us. This is the love that God and Jesus have for us. God willingly gives up His Son. And Jesus willingly subjects Himself to His father crushing Him for the weight of our sin. Romans [5:8] sums it up. It says that “God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, He would send his Son and Jesus would die for us.”
Told you that I just have three words for you today: Come find forgiveness. Jesus died so that you and I can find forgiveness. As I come to a close, I would like to address three groups of people today.
Christians. How amazing was that? Praise God for the redemption that He set forth for us. Let that continue to spur us on more to love Him; to continue to live your life in light of what God has done for you. Come draw near to the God on Good Friday who first drew near to you. Today, Christians we remember the ultimate act of love from God - to bridge the unbridgeable gap, to love the unlovable, to make His enemies His sons and daughters. Come, draw nearer to the God who forgave.
Second group of people I’d like to address is that if you are a Christian and your heart has grown cold to God, Good Friday is an invitation for you to come back and have your heart warmed by God's grace.
Do you just hear the amazing love of God? Good Friday screams to you: You are loved by God, that He sent His Son to die for you while you were a sinner. And that same love extended to you upon salvation is the same love given to you today. Listen to this. Jesus freely laid down His life for you. He was never dragged kicking and screaming onto the cross. God would send His Son for you. You are loved. Come taste the Father's love for you.
So, for the third group of people here. If you're not a believer of Jesus, you have a choice. At the cross, there were two thieves. One chose to mock Jesus, the other chose to believe Jesus. The Bible has condemned all of us as debtors, classmates in the worst class needing help, yet God, through Jesus' innocent death, offers us a great gift to come find forgiveness.
If that's you today. Right now, where you are, I'd like you to do two things. The first is to believe that Jesus died for your sin, that all of your sin has been paid for on those three hours of darkness. And it's only through Jesus' sacrifice that you are forgiven. Maybe you're asking, “What's ‘believe’?”. Think of a simple way to illustrate is what you're doing right now. Sitting on your chair. That's belief. You've committed your entire weight onto your chair, you believe that this TaoBao chair wouldn't break and it would hold up your weight. Right? You've committed to it, right? That's what believing in Jesus kind of looks like: That you would throw your entire life on to the innocent, sinless man who has paid for all your sins, and you can find forgiveness.
The second step is to repent. We've seen the severity and the corruption of sin. It decays and it corrupts and it blinds. Repentance means I stopped following in my own ways of sin, and I turn around. The trajectory of my life has changed. Repentance means you see the monster that sin is. It disgusts you. It doesn't make sense to go back to it. Repent, turn from it. May you find forgiveness today.
As I was preparing this sermon, God brought to my mind something that He's been doing. He's been showing me this year. For a moment in my Christian life, I used to think that love was void of emotion that, you know, I don't have to love you. I just need to “show love” to you. Right? And I think that has invaded some of our Christian thought in that we think I can just love God in my action, and have no emotion towards God. I think that cannot be further from the truth. If you look at what God and Jesus had just done on Good Friday itself, how can it just be an act? God deeply loves the world. And because I had this wrong thinking - I used to think that God just tolerated me, you know, that God just loved me, but He didn't really feel deep emotions towards me. But I realized that I've got it all wrong. That as Jesus went to the cross, that itself was love beyond measure. God doesn't tolerate us. He deeply loves us. And I pray that is the truth you would know this Good Friday.
Let's bow for word of prayer
(If the third group that I mentioned was you, [and] that you know that you're not a believer of God, and you've seen how sin corrupts you and you desire this forgiveness… Can I urge you to believe and repent and after the sermon ends, please come up. Go up to your friend who's invited you. Or if you're here alone, I'll be right at the front of the stage. Come, I would love to have a chat with you. Come to the cross. Come find forgiveness.)
God, we thank You for the amazing love displayed to us on the cross, that while we were yet sinners, Christ, willingly and freely gave up His life for us. There's no amount of words that can express this gratitude, this amazing love that You have given to us. And all we can say is thank You, God. God, I pray for our friends who are here for the first time contemplating, making decisions today. God, will You work in their heart that they will come to know the greatest love, the best forgiveness, the costliest forgiveness they’ve ever received in their life. And I pray for my brothers and sisters, [that] they would come to have our hearts warmed, reignited by the love displayed on the cross for us. We thank You for all You've done. We thank You for Your love. We pray and ask all these things, in Jesus name we pray. Amen.
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