************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 21c ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on November 12, 2017

Lord's Day 21 (3)
Micah 7:18-20
"The Forgiveness of My Sins"
Lord's Supper Sunday

We are looking again at sound doctrine. So what does sound doctrine teach us on this Lord's Supper Sunday? Sound doctrine professes belief in the forgiveness of sins.

The forgiveness of sins makes Christianity different from all other religions. In other religions either sin is denied or we are taught we must deal with our own sin. Only Christianity declares that God forgives sin.

Before we begin, I want to call your attention to how the Catechism addresses this article of the Apostles' Creed. There is a world of difference between saying "I believe there is forgiveness" and saying "I believe God forgives me." The approach of the Catechism is to make sound doctrine a personal confession of faith:
I believe that God ...
will never hold against me
any of my sins
nor my sinful nature ...
"I believe God forgives me." That's the message of the Catechism and Scripture on this Lord's Supper Sunday.

I The Meaning of Forgiveness
A We start by asking what is it that is forgiven? The Catechism mentions my sin and my sinful nature. Our Bible reading uses three different words for sin: sin, transgression, iniquity. All three words express the same idea: disobedience, evil, lawlessness. However, each word also carries a slightly different meaning.

The word "sin" means "to miss the mark" -- an old English term in archery. You understand the image: you aim at the target with your bow and arrow and you miss, you miss by a mile. The mark we miss is the Law of God.

"Transgression" refers to "intentional sin." When we knowingly run a stop sign, purposely cheat on our income taxes, or choose to look at pornography we are transgressing. Peter was guilty of a transgression when he denied the Lord.

"Iniquity" is more deeply rooted. Iniquity means "premeditated choice, continuing without repentance." The sons of Eli were guilty of iniquity because they continued in their sin without repenting (1 Sam 3:13–14).

All three words understand sin to be a heavy burden which makes us guilty before God and weighs down our conscience. Sin is so heavy that it will crush us -- unless it is carried away.

B What is forgiveness? "Forgiveness" in Scripture is a rich and beautiful word. The main Hebrew word means "to carry away." The main Greek word means "to send away, to let go." Forgiveness carries away and sends away the weight and burden of sin and the anger of God against that sin.

Our Bible reading starts with the rhetorical question, "Who is a God like you?" Micah does not expect an answer because the answer is obvious: namely, no one is like the Lord. Micah explains this by telling us five things about God:
-First, God pardons sin and forgives the transgression of His people.
-Second, God does not stay angry forever.
-Third, God delights to show mercy.
-Fourth, God will again have compassion on Israel.
-Fifth, God deals with the sin of His people by, figuratively speaking, treading them under foot; that is, subduing them as if they were enemies. And God deals with the sin of His people by hurling them into the depths of the sea; that is, going to the deepest part of the ocean and dropping them overboard so they sink into the depths and are forever gone.

No one is like God because God forgives. That is what Micah is saying. When God forgives sin, it is gone, forever banished. This is not the same as ignoring sin or pretending it never happened. God never does that! God deals with sin. He punishes sin both now and in eternity. However, in the case of His people, His elect, God "does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities" (Ps 103:10). Rather, He forgives. He carries away. He sends away. He lets go. "Who is a God like you?" No one! On this Lord's Supper Sunday we celebrate our God is a forgiving God.

II The Basis of Forgiveness
A Why does God forgive? What is the basis, the reason, for His forgiveness? Go back to the list of five things that Micah tells us about God. When we look at the list as a whole we see that God is a God of mercy and compassion. Micah is revealing to us the active heart of God. I say "active" heart because the mercy of God is not just an attitude. God doesn't just feel sorry for a miserable person; when He is merciful He delivers that person from misery.

God delights in mercy. Which means God takes pleasure in mercy. Which further means mercy is not something God gives grudgingly; rather, it is something in which He is rich and generous. We never need to fear that God will reach the end of His mercy because His mercy is everlasting.

This is the first reason God forgives: He is merciful and compassionate.

B In verse 20 Micah tells us a second reason why God forgives sin:
(Micah 7:20) You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago.
God forgives sin because of His covenant promises to Abraham and to Jacob. Certainly, God's people do not deserve it; they are not entitled to it; they don't earn it; they don't have a claim to it. But God keeps His promises to a faithless people.

C Take note of the second line of the Catechism's answer: "because of Christ's atonement." Micah only knew copies and shadows of what was to come. But the Catechism knows more than Micah. God forgives "because of Christ's atonement."

Atonement. The word atonement goes back to the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament. Remember how Scripture describes the death of a bull and goat and the sprinkling of their blood by the high priest on the ark of the covenant to make atonement for sin? Remember how the high priest confessed the sins of Israel over another goat and it was sent into the wilderness to die?

The Day of Atonement says God is angry with sin. The Day of Atonement says sin must be punished. The Day of Atonement says God's wrath must be propitiated or appeased. Ever since Adam fell into sin and corrupted the entire human race, we have had to deal with the wrath of God.

Now, modern man is offended at the idea that God is angry with sin, but the God of the Bible is holy and hates sin. He is a consuming fire, as Hebrews 12 puts it. For us to be saved, His wrath must be appeased.

The Day of Atonement also says something about man. The Day of Atonement says that God's people are sinners who deserved to die. But, they trusted that the death of the animal God provided was a substitute for their own death.

Looking especially to the book of Hebrews, the Catechism applies this entire ritual to Jesus. Jesus is the great High Priest. Unlike the high priests of Israel, though, He did not have to first make sacrifice for His own sins -- because He was without sin (Heb 4:15). And, the sacrifice He offered was not a bull or a goat but rather Himself. And, He took His own blood before God in order to satisfy God's wrath against sin. As the Lord's Supper reminds us, God's wrath and judgment is removed from a sinful people and they are saved.

D God forgives "because of Christ's atonement." This is the first part of forgiveness. But there is also a second part: "God grants me the righteousness of Christ." You see, it is not enough for Christ to die for our sins. The Law of God also demands positive obedience. The Law of God demands that we love God above all and our neighbor as ourself.

In Jesus we find the perfect obedience that God demands. For 33 years Jesus was perfectly obedient. For 33 years Jesus loved the Lord with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength. For 33 years Jesus loved His neighbor as Himself.

God grants and credits to me the perfect righteousness and holiness of Christ. So it is as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner. So it is as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. In God's sight, because of Christ, I a sinner am considered righteous and holy. Therefore, I can approach God. Therefore, I can eat and drink with Him.

Sound doctrine makes a personal confession about forgiveness. On this Lord's Supper Sunday is this your confession? Do you believe that God because of Christ's atonement will never hold against you any of your sins nor your sinful nature? Do you believe that God grants you the righteousness of Christ? If this is your confession, I invite you to eat and drink and celebrate with us at the Lord's Table this morning.
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