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Today’s readings from the Psalms (Ps. 32:1-2), the epistles (2 Cor. 5:16-21) and the gospels (Lk. 15:11-32) all blend together to form a beautiful tapestry.
The psalm said that the one whose sin is forgiven is blessed. The scripture lesson said the one whose sin is forgiven is a new creature. The gospel reading said we didn’t even get a chance to ask for forgiveness.
Because there is so much in each of these readings, all I can do at this time is to give you a brief overview of the expansive love and mercy of God for us.
His love and mercy shown in these passages is so grand, so expansive, so far-reaching that I could not come up with a decent title for this message.
So, it is simply DEAD AND ALIVE; but it is all about God’s love.
I have spent time on this concept in weeks past, but it is something that continues to show up in the passages suggested in the Lectionary.
Maybe that’s because that is what the Bible is all about—God’s love for His creation.
Let’s begin with the first reading from Psalm 32.
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Notice the three words used for sin in this passage—transgression, sin and iniquity.
While we usually just associate them as synonyms for sin, they each have a slightly different meaning.
SIN = missing the mark
INIQUITY = bending the line
TRANSGRESSION = stepping over the line
What we see here is that in any way you want to define sin, it is covered in this passage.
AND, it is covered by the Lord in the grace and mercy of His forgiveness.
David is saying here that the one for whom this is true is blessed and happy.
I always preached this verse as something you must do to gain this blessing; but I don’t see it that way any longer.
David later wrote
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
That is a rhetorical question which has an obvious answer—NO ONE COULD STAND.
NO ONE COULD STAND.
Let’s consider the gospel reading
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.
You know the basic story of how the boy took his inheritance before he was supposed to and then squandered it all on easy and fast living.
When he realized what he had done and what it was costing him, he began to feel sorry for himself.
He decided to try his luck back home to see if maybe he could do better.
He had a speech all planned out that he thought sure would cause his dad to feel sorry for him.
But, before he could get the first words out of his mouth, the father was already hugging and kissing him. He had seen the boy from a long way off.
That can only mean one thing—the father was continually expecting the boy’s return.
Then, when the kid tried to offer his speech, the father cut him off and said, “Let’s have a party to celebrate his coming home!”
It is not there, is it?
It is not there because this is not the parable of the prodigal son. It is the parable of the loving father. It is more about the goodness of God than it is about the wickedness of man.
The parable of the Loving Father
The father was not looking for anything other than the return of the one who had wandered off.
That was enough repentance for him.
He wasn’t looking for any apologies. He didn’t need any expression of sorrow. He wasn’t looking for any tears.
He was only looking for his son.
The only thing God is looking for from anyone is for them to awaken to whose they are and return to where they belong.
That is the only repentance that is required of anyone.
He will take care of everything else that is needed after we get home.
We can see that plainly as we consider the passage from the scripture lesson.
in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 2Co 5:19
God is not counting our trespasses against us. He is not counting anyone’s trespasses against them.
That is not what we have believed for decades, is it? We have been taught to believe that we needed to be sorry for our sins in order for God to accept us.
The word ‘reconciling’ is the word we use for balancing the books. We need to make sure that all our debits and credits are applied for our balance to be correct.
In this case, the books are balanced by the blood of Jesus. There is no sin too great or too many for His blood to cover.
If there is or was one for whom His blood was not efficient, then it was ineffective for all.
But that is not what we learn from the scriptures.
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
This is a verse which is often preached in evangelistic meetings where the goal is to get people saved, to have them accept Jesus.
The preacher hammers home the idea that because of Adam’s sin, we all sinned. And because we all sinned we will all die a spiritual death.
The only remedy for that spiritual death is to accept Jesus. And if you don’t, then you will die a spiritual death, which means you will go to hell.
Therefore, you need to make sure that you get yourself into Christ.
Sounds perfectly logical, doesn’t it?
If we do not pay attention to what Paul is saying here, we will go along with that line of thinking.
So, let’s look a little more closely.
How many die in Adam? ALL.
How many are in Adam? ALL.
How did they get there? By being born. It was not a choice made by their free will.
But, when it comes to the “all in Christ” of the verse, we change it to making a choice.
If you don’t make the right choice, then you can’t be in Christ.
Can you see the lack of logic in such a conclusion?
If we only had this verse, and the teachings about how you must accept Jesus—which, by the way, is not found anywhere in scripture—then it would seem to be a correct understanding.
However, we are not left with only this one verse which may appear somewhat ambiguous if left by itself.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
This is about as plain as it gets.
One person, Adam, committed one sin, and that one sin led to condemnation for the entire human race.
One person, Jesus, did His one act of righteousness, which led to justification and life for the entire human race.
That word ‘justification’ is the idea of justice being completed. The demands of justice have been met in Christ.
Let’s continue. It gets better.
For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
This is another verse like the one in Corinthians we just looked at, where people exercise their mental gymnastics in order to make it say something to fit their paradigm of choosing Jesus.
They focus on the ‘many being made righteous’ to prove that it is not everyone.
QUESTION—why is the second many in the verse different from the first many?
THE MANY were made sinners by one man’s disobedience.
Who are we talking about? Adam.
How many were made sinners because of his disobedience? ALL.
Therefore, is it at all logical to assume that the second “many”—which is the same word—is any different from the first?
Can we with a straight face say that the second many is not as inclusive as the first?
I’m sure we can as far as ability goes, but it defies and denies any sense of rationality.
What have we said?
We have shown that any and all who have their sins covered or forgiven are blessed.
We have seen that the Father is only concerned with our coming to our senses and realizing that we already belong to Him.
We have also seen that He does not keep a record of wrongs. He does not count anyone’s sins, trespasses, or iniquities against them.
This truth about God’s love should completely eliminate any fear someone may have about sinning in such a way as to doom them to hell.
There are far too many Christians who are continually afraid that their sins might outweigh their good deeds and they will wind up in hell.
That is not the Father’s love, because perfect love casts out fear.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Brothers and sisters, the reality is that you are loved with a perfect love which has no conditions for your acceptance.
You are loved with a love that has no boundaries.
There is nothing you can do to defeat this love.
His love will find you regardless of where you may choose to wander.
Maybe it is time we all just simply learned to bask in the reality of that love.