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I Forgive You!

October 29, 2017

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Reformation Day (Observed)                   Trinity Lutheran Church

29 October 2017                                          Murdock, NE


John 8:31-36


With three little words in the 1500s the Lord of the church sparked a Reformation of His church from the sleepy, little university town of Wittenberg, Germany. What were those words? Can you guess? They are the most powerful words that can ever be spoken on the earth. These words change lives as well as the history of the world. They are the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.


When I give you the three little words they will blow your mind. Joyfully. Ecstatically. Because you have been given the treasure of that reformational heritage to this very day here at Trinity for 125 years. What are the three little words? I’ll give you a hint. One of the words is an … “F” word!


Well, having said that I have to spill the beans. The three words are: “I FORGIVE YOU” hooked with the Triune Name. The words of holy absolution! Spoken to sinners. By the pastor. In the stead and by the command of Christ Himself. According the Lord’s own mandate and institution. In the way of Matthew 16. Matthew 18. John 20.


And John 8! Disciples of the Lord Jesus abide or remain steadfastly in His Word. In particular, the Word that bespeaks and gives the Lord’s Good Friday blood-bought all atoning forgiveness of sins to sinners.


That’s precisely what slaves-to-sin-sinners need! Slaves-to-sin-sinners need to hear a full blown emancipation proclamation that gives them freedom. Not: “I forgive you if you’re really sorry.” Not: “I forgive you if you promise never to sin again.” That’s not freedom. That’s not emancipation. That’s just another form of horrific pastoral care that enslaves sinners by pointing them to themselves: their sorrow; their promises.


So the Lord sends preachers (always has / always will) with three little words of salvational emancipation. Words that are the Lord’s promise loaded with the entirety of His salvific Good Friday benefits. The three little words: “I forgive you” (hooked with the Triune Name). I’ve been delightfully speaking those words to you for twenty years. Why? Well, here’s why. The Lord Jesus sent me here to say that! I’m His ambassador! I speak His words! His words do and give what they say! He’s the Forgiver! He died FOR YOU. He rose from the dead FOR YOU. His divine blood covers and atones for all your sin. His Good Friday sacrifice redeems you. Only His divine death propitiates and appeases God. You are free! Your sin doesn’t belong to you anymore! It all belongs to Jesus! And He’s answered for it. You don’t! There’s no merit or worthiness in you! He’s done everything to save you! You are forgiven not because you’re sorry or because of your promises. You are forgiven ONLY because Jesus DIED FOR YOU!


Preachers from Wittenberg were sent to congregations throughout Germany to proclaim this eternal gospel of freedom in the three little words: “I forgive you.” Holy Absolution! And it spread like wildfire. All over the world! Just as the Book of Revelation describes: “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. Fear God and give him glory because the hour of his judgment has come and worship him.”


Yes, indeed, God’s hour of judgment has come! In fact, the Last Day Judgment of Jesus comes ahead of time. To you. FOR YOU! And the judgment is: “I forgive you.” Those words are the salvational game changer! They mean absolutely everything when it comes to salvation! Your salvation depends on Jesus taking all your sin and answering for it! And He has! Good Friday’s “It Is Finished” has been categorically preached by Jesus Himself from the cross. And now Jesus Himself speaks and gives – gives and speaks – His Good Friday forgiveness in the gospel of holy absolution: “I forgive you.”


The Small Catechism gets it Scripturally right. We are to receive the “absolution from the pastor as if from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it (the absolution) our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.” So does the hymnal when the pastor declares to a congregation chuck full of sinners: “Upon this your confession I by virtue of my office as a called and ordained servant of the Word announce the grace of God to you. And in the stead and by the command of the Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.”


There’s the freedom! There’s the truth! Sinners forgiven by Christ Himself with His very own words. “I forgive you.”


You are no longer slaves to sin. Why not? Because Son of God Jesus has set you free. Emancipated you. With three little but most salvationally powerful words: “I forgive you.”


Now, what is there left to do? Well, why not simply cling to what Jesus says in the text? Like … remaining or abiding in His word some more? You know where I’m going don’t you? Of course you do! I’m available any time or anywhere as your pastor to give you the Lord’s forgiveness. Not just on Sunday. On your own check out page 292 in the hymnal. Some of you have used this service with me for your comfort and certainty that Jesus died for you and that all your sin is forgiven in His Good Friday death. What joy! What comfort!


Oh, but there’s more, isn’t there? Of course there is. I can’t help myself. More of the Lord’s forgiveness FOR YOU. Through these little but powerful words of Jesus: “given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of sins.” His words do and give what they say in the Lord’s Supper too. They are the truth! You are no longer slaves but sons that live in liberty in God’s house. Eating at His table. Enjoying His gracious company! What freedom!


His absolution or the three little words have their way with you. His eternal gospel or absolution enlivens you. Faith in Jesus and His promise of forgiveness lead you to the love of others. Naturally. Obviously. Innately.   When you’re justified before God only because of Jesus, you’re free to be of service to others. Simply because they need it and because it is God-pleasing.


So, you go to church to hear God’s Word and it edifies and builds up the congregation. You pray for the sake of others. You honor authority – parental and civil. You protect life at all stages. You live faithfully in holy marriage the way God instituted it from the beginning as husband and wife, man and woman. You protect reputations, not ruin them. Etc. This is the life that Revelation 14 describes in this way: “Fear God and give him glory … and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”


That’s what the life of freedom and truth looks like as the Son of God Jesus speaks to you the most powerful and most enlivening words ever to be spoken in the world: “I forgive you.”


No wonder there was a Reformation! Thanks be to God that you have inherited it!


Happy Reformation Sunday!


In the Name of Jesus.

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