We all want to be treated fairly. In rodeo and bull riding, we want a judge that doesn’t give a thumbs-up to a 7.8 second ride to the number two cowboy while the guy just breaking in gets a zero for a 7.9 on the stop watch. We want to believe that a draw never gets rigged in favor of someone or against someone a stock contractor hates.
As much as people in our society are against Christianity because all they hear us say is that our beliefs are right above others, there is no one more fair than God.
All sin is punished equally. God won’t allow any of it in His presence in Heaven and the judgment against sin is eternity separated from God in Hell. Any and all sin is punished equally.
But God wants us with Him in Heaven so He made a way that we all could be redeemed of our sin through Jesus Christ.
John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
That is one of the most well-known Bible verses but how to be made right before God only starts there.
Jesus was and is the Son of God sent here to die and take the punishment meant for our sins. What he endured for us is horrific but when you take the time to think and understand it, that’s how much he loves us that 2,000 years before any of us were born, he took on all of God’s judgment and wrath against our sin.
Romans 5:10For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
All that is required of us is to believe who Jesus was and is, to recognize that however big or small, we all sin and to confess and repent of that sin, asking to be forgiven. That’s what it means to have a saving faith in Jesus and that’s what gives us the assurance we have a permanent home in Heaven.
When we hear the saying in rodeo that he paid your fees, THAT’S the seriousness of what that nice-sounding statement meant. He didn’t just do us a favor, he suffered horribly on our behalf so the we could have eternal life with him next to our Father, God, in Heaven.
That’s a pretty even pen of bulls, everyone has the same chance and none of us can do more than another to earn our place there. Believe in Jesus, confess your sin, repent of it and ask to be forgiven. That’s it. No more, no less.
None of us can do more than another to improve that score. No matter how much good or bad we think we’ve done, it all comes down to what we believe and our willingness to ask for and receive forgiveness from God, through Jesus.
Sometimes we’re the one who needs to be forgiven. Through repentance and a saving faith in Jesus, we can be forgiven of all our sins, past, present and future and allowed in God’s presence for eternity in Heaven. But that doesn’t mean we still don’t need to seek the forgiveness of others when we’ve messed up.
You borrowed entry fees from three friends this year that knew you were struggling. You won the team roping twice but never paid anyone back.
You got a message from your traveling partner’s girlfriend on Snapchat. She was ticked with him and wanted a sympathetic ear. That sympathetic ear went a lot further and he found out she was cheating on him with you. No one has spoken in months.
Matthew 5:23-24If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
These are detailed verses with a lot that can be taught and understood, especially if we were to back up all the way toward verses 21 and 22 where Jesus talks about murder and anger against our brothers.
The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the time that pushed rules and laws as the way to be right with God, often using those rules to hold power over people. Jesus, who came to give us all a way to be reconciled with God and forgiven of our sins, was challenging their power. He was putting loving others ahead of everything else.
When it came to offerings, the Pharisees valued the rules most in making sure the offerings were made and all the rules of presenting them were followed.
Jesus made some shocking statements here suggesting the condition of a person’s heart mattered more than the offering, saying a person should leave that offering if he knew of any sin he had committed against someone that had gone unaddressed or not forgiven. Jesus cares much more about the condition of our hearts than the rules we follow and wants us to make right by those we’ve wronged.
In the entry fee and cheating examples, very real situations most of us have seen or encountered, Jesus is saying the person who owes the money or who has messed up his buddy’s relationship, needs to do what he can to be reconciled with his brother.
With the money owed, possibly the best thing he could do is pay it back, with interest if that’s what it takes to make it right. It might be as simple as apologizing and the guys he owes the money to simply letting it go.
With the cheating situation, it could be an apology, it could be an attempt to show you could be trusted again and are truly repentant of your part in what had happened.
Bottom line, Jesus is telling us if we know there is someone who we have wronged, we need to make that right before presenting ourselves to God.
We absolutely understand that when we have a saving faith in Jesus, that we have believed Jesus was the son of God who died to take the punishment meant for our sins, repented to God and asked to be forgiven, that God will in fact forgive us for past and any future mistakes. Our place in Heaven is not at stake because, even after we were saved, we messed up like these examples.
But Jesus is telling us how important it is that we make situations right with people who we have given a reason to be angry with us.
We can’t control their responses but Jesus wants us to be certain we have done whatever we can to be forgiven.
It then falls on that other person to offer the forgiveness that Jesus tells us we have to give to others, especially considering as followers of Christ, we have been forgiven for all of our sins—all of them, no matter what we have done or others have done to us.
You get pulled over for speeding on the way to the rodeo but the cop is a fan and planning to take his family there the next night, so he decides to let you off with a warning. You cheat your mark out because you know the judge on the right side never pays attention to it and draw a check for second. The secretary messed up the payout and you knowingly leave with an extra $60 and since you got out of one speeding ticket, you keep a heavy foot on the accelerator on the way back out of town, texting your girlfriend that you’re going to be late because a buddy got hurt, but really, you’re heading for a bar where a girl you thought was hot, invited you during intermission.
The opportunity to do wrong, or sin, is constantly present. So is the opportunity to do right. It comes down to the choices we make.
The most important choice we can ever make is Jesus.
Through Jesus, we can find forgiveness in the form of grace that changes everything for us. God will punish unrepentant, unforgiven sin but through Jesus, God offers us grace. As much as it can be hard to understand, we deserve punishment for our sin because God is just and fair. All sin must be punished but He offered us a way to receive grace instead through asking to be forgiven for our sins as we confess we know we’ve sinned and by believing that Jesus was the Son of God who died for our sins and was resurrected to live forever in Heaven with God.
By the forgiveness found through Jesus, we receive unending grace. It means no matter what we’ve done on the past or how much more we screw up going forward, God will still see us as righteous—meaning he sees us as perfect despite our sin. It’s what people mean when they say we’ve been washed in the blood of Christ. Through his shed blood, we’re made pure.
So if forgiveness means we’re seen as perfect, why do I need to stop sinning?
Romans 6:1-4 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Paul is reminding us that we’re made new. When our salvation is real, when we’ve truly been forgiven, our sinful selves died with Christ on the cross and we’ve been reborn into a life that when it ends here, takes us to an eternity with God in Heaven.
That forgiveness is not to be abused as an open invitation to keep living a sinful life. Grace may be endless but it’s there because God knows we will mess up, but it isn’t there so we can willingly choose to sin.
God knows we’re going to mess up When our salvation is real, we begin a process known as sanctification—becoming more like Jesus. We all progress at different paces as we learn what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus, from the Bible, through church and our own time reading it. That means we’re not immediately perfect and that’s why we need unending grace to cover us when, even as someone made new through Jesus, we still make sinful choices. Sometimes, we don’t even know something is a sin in our lives until it’s revealed to us by reading and understanding something in the Bible for the first time. We’re being sanctified.
Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
If we are knowingly living a sinful life, we may need to question if we’ve truly experienced a life-changing saving faith in Jesus. Have we truly been forgiven? We can rely on grace for when we get it wrong, but we’re potentially fooling ourselves if we’re telling ourselves we’ve been forgiven but never really repented.
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” It’s a verse many non-believers can quote in an argument that you have no right to judge someone else’s actions. They quote it without knowing the whole section of scripture or where it comes from in the Bible. Or what it really means.
John 8:3-113The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
The law at the time would have require the woman to be stoned to death for her sin. The Pharisees, who were powerful religious leaders misusing their power, were being undermined by Jesus’ messages of forgiveness and they were trying to put him in an impossible situation in order to bring him down. Here, they thought Jesus would have no choice but to break the law.
Instead, he exposed the need for forgiveness in all of us by turning the tables on them and allowing her to be stoned if there was anyone that hadn’t sinned that could throw the first rock. Every single one of them walked away.
Jesus was left alone with the woman who wasn’t denying her sin. Instead of condemning her to death, she was forgiven by Jesus and sent away. That’s the key point that those who misuse or misunderstand the verses all miss—Jesus sent her away but told her to leave her life of sin. He wasn’t punishing her for her sin, but he was still identifying it as sin and telling her to stop it. He judged her actions as wrong and commanded her to stop living that way. He didn’t tell her everything was okay the way it was.
Forgiveness is meant to change us. When we fully grasp Jesus did for us on the cross and how is death was in the place of the punishment for our sins, we want to change and we can’t help but be changed by our salvation. That comes through a faith in who Jesus was, and is, and by understanding our sin separates us from God, our sin must be punished, Jesus took the punishment meant for that sin and that be confessing our sin, repenting and asking to be forgiven, God will no longer condemn us for our sin.
By believing, confessing, repenting and asking for it, we’re forgiven and changed.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Once saved, we’re dead to our sin, no longer condemned to be punished for it, but instead, God sees us as a new and perfect creature, no longer separated from Him by our sin.
Forgiveness changes us. Forgiveness puts out sin behind us. Forgiveness gives us a perfect life in Heaven.
If you’ve been a bull rider for very long at all, you’ll have at least one story about how a bull fighter saved your butt.
Most of us North Carolina riders know that Nathaniel Southern has one arm that’s inches longer than the other because many of us dogpiled a bull for him on a few different occasions so we could untie him. I was bad for hang-ups, but not quite that bad. One night I was on a Clint Haas bull he called 8-Ball. Around six seconds, he was spinning away from my hand; he got a little empty and I got a little stiff and wound up sliding off in the well before the eight seconds. I was able to wrap my free arm around his neck and dance with him until my riding hand was free, but he knocked me down as I tried to step out of the spin. Once I was on the ground, he put his head down on me and went to his knees to increase the amount of weight he could push me with. He pushed against the side of my head so hard my vision went dark. Justin Branch was a bull fighter that night. He leaned on 8-Ball’s head but ended up having to wrap himself around the bull’s neck to get him off me. I was thankful for Justin that night. He saved me from a bull who truly intended to harm me!
In the “Christian-ese” language, we use words that outsiders might not understand. What does it mean for a Christian to be saved? For most, it means we’ve got fire insurance – we are saved from eternity in hell and from God’s just wrath against our sin. To be “saved” we must be forgiven of our sin. But what does that require? How do we receive it? What is the value of forgiveness? To understand that, we must first understand the value of a soul.
In the Gospel of Jesus according to Mark (the book of Mark in your Bible), immediately after Peter has confessed that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus tells his disciples of his impending rejection by Jewish leaders, death at their hands, and his victorious resurrection. Peter responds by calling out Jesus for what he perceived as foolishness. Peter couldn’t imagine that the mission of the Messiah of Israel was to die. Then comes this passage:
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38, ESV)
In verses 36-37, Jesus makes it clear that our immaterial souls are valuable. The reason our souls are valuable is because that is the part that God himself breathed into us which gives us life (Genesis 2:7). It is that immaterial part of us that is God’s image – the imprint of his Spirit on us. We are valuable to God because we are made in his image (Genesis 1:27; Genesis 9:6).
Not only are our souls valuable to God, but we are supremely more valuable than anything else we could ever possess. From an accounting perspective, Jesus goes straight for the bottom line in these verses. Take your assets, subtract your liabilities, and that’s the net value. Jesus says if the entire world and all it can offer are your assets and your soul is a liability (or the payment), your value is negative. He tells us there is nothing we offer in exchange for our eternal, supremely valuable souls.
Imagine if everyone in the U.S. decided collectively to sell our country. What would the price tag be? Well, in the first quarter of 2014, the net value of the U.S. was $128 trillion. No one person could ever possibly pay that price, and even if someone could do that, they couldn’t keep it. Someone with bigger guns or more nukes would rise up to take it away. In fact, we don’t really own anything the way we do our eternal souls. That beautiful home you recently built…someone else will be living there sooner or later. That brand new dually you bought…eventually you’ll trade it for a newer model, and someone else will drive it. Not to mention the fact that we all die eventually, and I’ve never seen a hearse with a U-Haul in tow.
I want you to notice that first verse (Mark 8:34) tells us that this is directed at both the crowd and the disciples; this is not teaching for only the most dedicated followers of Jesus – it’s for all of uswho desire to follow Him. In fact, that might be a better translation of Jesus’ first words, “If anyone desires to come after Me…” Coming after Jesus represents following Him in a physical sense; as far as location goes, you’re following Jesus. But then He says, “…let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Follow me here indicates following in a behavioral sense, or obedience. Paraphrasing, “If you want to walk with Me, the life you live will be one where I am the leader and you obey Me.”
Jesus is demanding a great deal from us here. He isn’t saying we should die for Him; that might be easier – at least it would be over and done! He’s saying we should live as though we were dead to our own desires and be as obedient to Him as He was to the Roman soldier who likely told Him after his scourging, “Take up your cross and follow me!”
Yes! The cost of forgiveness – of being saved – is high. But what else would you expect for something as valuable as your soul is to God? It cost God the life and blood of His eternal Son! Now, at this point I want to make something abundantly clear: though salvation and forgiveness is not cheap, it also cannot be earned! “What will anyone give in exchange for their soul?” The answer is nothing! Jesus is the one who paid the price for your forgiveness! “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many,” (Mark 10:45).
The forgiveness of our sin is not cheap, as acknowledged by the price Jesus paid to accomplish it. The price was high because of the value of our souls to God. The result of God’s forgiveness is also supremely valuable – our complete submission and obedience to Jesus; a life lived for ourself to gain worldly treasure while giving lip service to Jesus is not what the Son of God died for, and it is not valuable enough to eclipse the value of our soul.
Here’s a great application for you concerning the value of the souls of men: When you see others as Jesus sees them, you will love others as Jesus loves them and serve others as Jesus serves them.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13). Jesus’ mission was to die to save souls; ours is to die to self and live for Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit for the same purpose.
Ephesians 4:32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
The word forgiveness or illustrations of the act appear in the Old and New Testament repeatedly. It’s at the heart of the gospel.
God loves us completely but in His perfectness, He will not allow sin in his presence and instead, will punish it. Our sin separates us from God but He wants us with Him. That’s why He sent Jesus to die and take the punishment meant for our sin so that, through faith in Christ and repentance of our sin, there is a way to be forgiven and allowed in the Father’s presence. When we truly understand what Jesus did for us, the instructions from that verse in Ephesians becomes very powerful.
We’re to forgive others the way Jesus forgave us. That’s not saying we have to give our lives for someone; it’s saying those who have become Christians have to be willing to forgive others whether we think they deserve it or not. We’ve been forgiven for sins and there’s nothing we’re expected to do to make up for it other than put our trust in Jesus. It’s freely given to us no matter what it is we did wrong. So we are asked to forgive others.
The rodeo judge who always marks you at least a point lower because he didn’t like when we argued with him once two years ago about his judging. Yes, he’s in the wrong, but that’s sin he needs to deal with through repentance and Jesus. Our job is to forgive.
You leave money in your wallet on a bucket in your trailer that goes missing. You find out it was another team roper that stole it while you were warming up your horse. It isn’t wrong to get the money back and it isn’t wrong to call the law if that’s what you think needs to be done, but our job is to forgive.
You’re suspicious about some marks on your horse’s flank that the trainer explains away. You don’t buy it, get there early the next time and catch him beating your problem horse with a board. Of course you’re going to be angry, but as you haul your horse away, you forgive.
When we’re forgiven of our sins through Jesus, we’re reconciled with God. There can be consequences for our sins here on the Earth but God no longer holds it against us or punishes us.
Reconciliation isn’t being required in Ephesians, just forgiveness. While reconciliation is important and taught in scripture, it isn’t a necessary part of forgiveness to maintain a connection with the person who sinned against us.
When you catch the trainer abusing your horse, you must forgive him but why on earth would you ever let him touch your horse again? You don’t forget what he did, but you forgive, let it go, and move on as best you can.