This is the last week of our series called Wounds. I have loved what has happened in this series as we have explored how the wounds of Jesus can heal our wounds. We’ve seen how Jesus can heal the wounds of our past, our wounds of disappointment, and our wounds of expectation.
Today as we wrap up the series, we’re going to dive deep into the granddaddy of them all. We’re going to see how Jesus can heal our wounds of sin.
Let me pray for us and we’ll get after it.
You don’t belong here. You really don’t. This is church. This is the gathering of God’s people. And you are simply not good enough to be part of it. You don’t belong here.
But you know what? Neither do I. I’m not good enough to be part of it, either. I don’t belong here.
The truth is, none of us are good enough to deserve to be part of the people of God. None of us are good enough to be part of the church.
Maybe you feel a little apprehensive coming to church. Maybe you’re worried because the church is a gathering good people, and you don’t see yourself as very good.
I understand those feelings, but those feelings are based on a very flawed understanding of the church. The church is not a gathering of good people. The church is a gathering of forgiven people.
Conventional wisdom tells us to divide everything into two groups: good and bad.
For example, let’s say you want to order pizza. You want to order good pizza, not bad pizza, right? So since you want to order good pizza, you order LaRosa’s. Good pizza. But you don’t want bad pizza, so you don’t order Donato’s. And you absolutely don’t order Little Caesars, unless cardboard with ketchup is your thing. You separate pizza into good and bad. You want good pizza, not bad pizza.
If you want to get some Cincinnati-style chili, you want good chili, not bad chili. So because you want good chili, you go to Skyline. And because you want to avoid bad chili, you absolutely, positively do not go to Gold Star.
We do this all the time. We divide things into two categories: good and bad. And conventional wisdom tells us to do the same thing with people. We believe that people are divided into two groups. Good people and bad people. But that’s not really true.
There are two divisions of people, just not the divisions that we think. It’s not good people and bad people. It’s bad people and Jesus. That’s it. Those are the two divisions.
The reason that’s true is because we all have a sin problem. So if you’re worried about coming to church because you’re not good enough, you can breathe easier now. You’re not good enough, but nobody else is, either.
And if you don’t believe me, just let Scripture for speak for itself.
In Ecclesiastes 7, Solomon wrote, “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20, NIV)
In Romans 3, Paul wrote, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23, NIV)
In 1 John 1, John wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8, NIV)
That pretty much seals the deal, don’t you think? We are all flawed. We are all imperfect. We are all broken. We are all sinful.
Jesus is the only one who lived a sinless life. So it’s absolutely true that there aren’t good people and bad people. There are simply bad people and Jesus.
And on the surface, that might sound like bad news. But today we’re going to see why that is incredibly good news.
This whole series is based on what the Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote about Jesus. In Isaiah 53, Isaiah wrote, “…by his wounds, we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5b, NIV)
In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter quotes Isaiah and expands it a little more.
Listen to what Peter wrote about Jesus in 1 Peter 2. “He committed no sin [Just stop right there and think about that. No sin. None. Not even one. Jesus did what we could never, ever do.], 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.” (1 Peter 2:22-24, NIV)
We have a sin problem, but we also have a sin solution. His Name is Jesus. He is the healing for our sin disease, because “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross.”
Because Jesus had never sinned Himself, it allowed Him to take our sin on Himself. He became our sin when He died on the cross. And His sacrifice became the full and final payment for our sin. And that’s why this is true: “by His wounds we are healed.”
So let’s talk about what that healing looks like.
First of all, in Christ, we are healed of sin’s penalty.
If you wonder how serious God is about our sin, look at the cross. This isn’t something to take lightly. It’s not something to joke about. Our sin cost our Savior His life. But through that sacrifice, we are healed of sin’s penalty.
I love the way Tim Keller describes it. “Why does God have to punish sin? Because he’s so good. Why does God want to forgive sin? Because he’s so good.”
The cross of Christ is the only way God could deal with our sin that would fit into His good character. He couldn’t just dismiss sin, because He is holy and good. But He couldn’t let sin destroy us, because He is compassionate and good. The perfect answer is found in the cross. Jesus takes our punishment. We receive grace.
So this is what we all need to hear today. And some of you are going to have a hard time taking this in. You’re going to have a hard time believing it. You might even try to convince yourself that it’s not true. It might be true for others, but it’s not true for you.
If you are in Christ, you are forgiven.
In fact, let’s all try to make this as real as we can. On the count of 3, let’s all say, “I am forgiven” out loud. 1, 2, 3. “I am forgiven.” Let’s do it again and say it like we mean it. 1, 2, 3. “I am forgiven.”
Do you believe that? I know you just said it, but do you believe it?
If you say you actually believe that, then why in the world are you still living in guilt? If God has forgiven you, then why haven’t you forgiven yourself?
That’s a lot tougher, isn’t it?
One of the most famous Scriptures about forgiveness is an exchange between Jesus and Peter.
Here’s the way Matthew describes it in his gospel. “Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:21-22, NLT)
Peter was looking for some legalistic number of times that he should offer forgiveness when someone wronged him. He threw out the number seven, thinking that Jesus would be impressed. He was willing to forgive someone not once, twice, or even three times…but seven times!
But Jesus said, “No, not seven times. More like seventy times seven.”
In other words, Jesus said that forgiveness isn’t something to be counted or kept track of.
That’s because forgiven people forgive people. We have been forgiven so much, how can we possibly withhold forgiveness from others?
But now, let’s change it up a little bit. Take that same truth and apply it to yourself. Peter could have just as easily said, “How many times should I forgive myself when I sin?”
And Jesus’ answer would have been exactly the same. But that can be a lot harder. Forgiving other people is incredibly difficult, but forgiving ourselves can often feel downright impossible.
I fight this all the time. I still have stuff from my past that pops into my head. Usually without warning. I’ll remember something I did, something I said, somebody I hurt. It might even be from years and years ago, but as soon as I remember it, I am flooded with feelings of guilt and shame and regret.
For example, there’s a certain girl that I know from high school. I still run into her occasionally. And every single time I run into her, I feel guilt and regret, because I did this girl wrong. I’m not going to go into it because this message will be online and I won’t want to even run the slightest risk of identifying her or embarrassing her. I’ll just say that I was a royal jerk. I did this girl very, very wrong.
And when I see her, my mind goes right back there. Now, I’m sure she’s forgiven me. And I’m quite sure that she doesn’t sit around thinking about me, pining for me, wishing she had ended up with me. I’m not that awesome. Not by a long shot.
But even though I know she has forgiven me, every time I see her, I’ve got to work through the process of forgiving myself again. And it’s not easy, but it’s something I have to do, because living in guilt and regret isn’t spiritual. It’s stupid.
And here’s why it’s stupid. Listen to what God said through the prophet Jeremiah. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34b, NIV)
God didn’t just promise to forgive our sins. He promised to forget them. If that’s true, then I want to ask a question. Why are you dwelling on something that God Himself has forgotten? Why are you living in guilt over something that God Himself can’t even remember?
I’ll say it again. That’s not spiritual. That’s stupid.
Jesus didn’t die so you could live in guilt. He died so you could live in grace. His death is our healing. We are healed of sin’s penalty. We are truly, wholly, completely forgiven. And it’s time we start living like it. It’s time we start living in the freedom only a forgiven person can understand. And for a lot of us, the first step is really accepting that forgiveness by forgiving ourselves.
Here’s another way that Jesus heals our wounds of sin. We are healed of sin’s consequences.
But this one needs to be explored a lot more in-depth. Because that statement as it appears on the screen right now is not exactly true.
A more accurate way to say it would be we are healed of sin’s consequences, sort of.
I realize that “sort of” doesn’t sound very reassuring. We want things to be certain. We want things to be sure. But this one is a lot more paradoxical. And we don’t like that, but here’s the thing…if you really want to follow Jesus, get comfortable with paradox. Just get comfortable with things being paradoxical. There’s a lot more paradox in following Jesus than most Christians want to admit.
Here’s a perfect example of that. If we are in Christ, we are absolutely set free from sin’s consequences in eternity. Like we’ve been talking about, we are forgiven. Completely. Wholly. Entirely. There will be no consequences for our sin in eternity. If you are in Christ, you have absolutely nothing to fear when you stand before the judgment seat of God. Because of what Jesus did for you through His death and resurrection, you will be declared, “Not guilty!” There are no consequences for our sin in eternity.
But that doesn’t automatically erase all earthly consequences. The paradox is that we can be forgiven of our sin, but still have to deal with the consequences of our sin in this life.
It all comes back to this principle that Paul wrote in the book of Galatians. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7, NIV)
The principle of sowing and reaping is so basic. It’s so obvious. You reap what you sow. What you put into life is what you get out of life. Every action creates an equal and opposite reaction. It’s so basic. So simple. But Paul wants to drive it home, by saying, “Do not be deceived.”
The danger is self-deception. Even though we know the law of sowing and reaping so well, it’s easy for us to deceive ourselves. It’s easy to convince yourself that, “I am the exception.” Paul says very bluntly, “No, you’re not.”
But a lot of us aren’t listening. We still hope that we’re the exception. Don’t be deceived. God and His laws can’t be mocked. You ALWAYS reap what you sow. Always.
If you are living in willful sin and disobedience to God and you think you’re getting away with it, I can tell you for certain that you are deceived.
If you are participating in a lifestyle that you know doesn’t honor God and you’re pushing the limits of what you know God’s Word teaches, don’t be deceived…you will always reap what you sow because God will not be mocked by you, or by me, or by anyone.
Don’t be deceived. You can trick a lot of people. You can even trick yourself. But God will not be tricked, mocked, or deceived by anyone. You’re not the exception to it. I’m not the exception to it.
You always reap what you sow.
This is the paradox that we live. Jesus erases the eternal consequences of our sin, but He doesn’t erase the earthly consequences of our sin. This causes a lot of people to get mad at Jesus. “I believed in Jesus, and asked Him to forgive me, but He didn’t automatically make my life better.”
He never promised He would. He promised to make your eternity unbelievably better. But He never promised a “get out of jail free” card to automatically release you from the consequences of your sins in this life. It’s a paradox, but it’s true.
For example, if you’ve ignored Biblical principles about money and you’ve lived like an absolute fool for years and years, you’re now buried under a mountain of debt and it’s crushing you. God can forgive your foolishness and your living to excess, but that doesn’t mean He is going to pay off your Visa.
If you’ve ignored the Biblical truth about self-control and you’ve lived a life of gluttony, you’re now way overweight and suffering from serious health problems. God can forgive your gluttonous lifestyle, but He isn’t automatically going to make you thin and restore you to perfect health.
See what we’re saying? When you are in Christ, the act of sin is forgiven, but the consequence isn’t removed. And getting mad at God for it really makes no sense.
Listen to this truth from Proverbs 19. “A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord.” (Proverbs 19:3, NIV)
Man, how true is that? When our lives self-destruct because of our sin, we get mad at God. Never mind that we’re the ones that made these decisions. Never mind that we pulled the pin on that grenade ourselves. When it blows up, we blame God. Why didn’t He step in? Why didn’t He stop it? Why didn’t He do something?
The answer is, He did. He did do something. He warned us ahead of time in His Word. We’re the ones that chose to ignore it. And anytime that God is ignored, there are consequences.
And here’s the ugliest part of it…the consequences don’t just affect us.
One of Satan’s biggest lies about sin is it doesn’t affect anyone but you. It’s nobody’s business but your own. If you’re hurting anybody at all, you’re only hurting yourself.
Wrong. It affects you, your spouse, your kids, your grandkids, your friends, and your church. It is incredibly selfish and incredibly stupid to believe that it only affects you.
I’ll give you an example. It’s one I’ve heard more than once before. “Yeah, I might be addicted to porn, but it only affects me. It’s not hurting anybody else.” Ok, sure. It doesn’t affect your wife at all to have a husband who would rather stare at a computer screen and have sex with his hand than actually make love to his wife. Sure, dude. It only affects you.
See what we’re saying here? You reap what you sow. Sin has consequences, and those consequences don’t just affect you. When you pull the pin on that grenade and it explodes, you’re not the only one that’s going to feel it. There will be a whole lot of collateral damage. Other people are going to get hurt, and a lot of times they’ll get hurt badly.
And God warned us about it all ahead of time.
But that also doesn’t mean that there’s not hope. There is actually incredible hope because God did more than just warn us. He jumped into the mess with us.
Jesus left the perfection of heaven to come into this world that we totally messed up. He came to give His life as the payment for our sin. And then three days later, He rose to life again, which means that we can have a new life.
There are consequences for your sin, but that doesn’t mean that God still can’t bless you. It doesn’t mean He still can’t heal you. It doesn’t mean He still can’t use you. And it doesn’t mean that He doesn’t love you.
And through His love, we can be changed. We can grow. We can have a new life that starts right now.
In his book called The Best Question Ever, Andy Stanley gives us a question that really can change the trajectory of our entire life.
What is the wise thing to do?
There is incredible power in that question. And if that question would become our default setting before every decision we make, it really would change everything.
Here’s the thing, though. It always starts small. We talked about the principle of sowing and reaping. The thing about sowing seeds is, seeds are small. Real small. And so, when you’re sowing seeds, it’s easy to believe that it’s not really a big deal.
It’s just words. No big deal. Or it’s just some harmless flirting. Or it’s just a little fudging on my taxes. Or it’s just pictures on a computer screen. Or it’s just…
The seeds we sow are small. They just don’t seem like that big of a deal at the time.
But the harvest is always much bigger than the seed. Nobody thinks, “I’m going to go plant a devastation crop today. I’ll plant that and water it. And one day, I’m going to harvest absolute destruction in my life.”
Nobody thinks about that when they’re sowing a destructive seed, but what they forget is that the harvest is always bigger than the seed.
I’ve talked with guys who started flirting with someone who isn’t their wife. Causal, sporadic, “harmless” flirtation. It was a small seed.
A few years later, his kids hated him because it ended in an affair. He never intended for that to happen. The seed was so small. It seemed innocent and fun. But the harvest is always bigger than the seed.
That’s why God warns us, “Don’t even entertain that thought. It’s going to destroy you.”
Don’t even sow the very first opportunity to ruin your life, because you’re going to reap so much more than you sow.
Instead, before we make a decision, even one that seems small, even one that seems insignificant, we need to default back to this question. What is the wise thing to do?
Think it through. Push the fast-forward button in your mind. Think about the future. If I do this, what will this eventually grow into? Who will this affect? How will they be affected? Will I reap joy or regret form this decision? Is this a wise decision?
If we would pause before a decision and ask that question, we would be spared so much misery. So much pain. So much heartache. So much guilt and regret. We’d be spared so much if we’d just pause long enough to ask this question.
But here’s the beautiful thing…in Christ, you have a second chance to start asking this question. Maybe you’ve never asked this question. Maybe things in your life have spun out of control because you haven’t asked this question. Maybe the people in your life are suffering because you haven’t asked this question.
Here’s the great news…Jesus specializes in second chances. Yes, you’re dealing with consequences of your past decisions, but Jesus is giving you a second chance for a much better future. A future of healing and of hope.
Listen to what Jeremiah wrote in the book of Lamentations. “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. [Sin has consequences, and this is the effect. But Jeremiah isn’t finished yet. Keep reading.]
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:19-23, NIV)
God’s compassion is renewed every morning. Every day the sun comes up is a second chance. It’s a second chance to ask, “What is the wise thing to do?” It is a second chance to live in obedience to God. It is a second chance to follow the principles and the paths that God has laid out for us. It’s a second chance to rest in His compassion, knowing that this is true:
God’s compassion trumps sin’s consequences.
Everybody repeat after me. “God’s compassion, trumps sin’s consequences.” One more time. “God’s compassion, trumps sin’s consequences.”
That’s what Jesus does. He gives second chances. He heals our wounds. His compassion floods our lives, and gives us hope that the consequences of our past don’t have to dictate our future.
In Jesus, the best really is yet to come. Because in Jesus, God’s compassion trumps sin’s consequences.
“…by his wounds, we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5b, NIV)