Andrew McFarland Campbell  


These exhortations were given by me between 1999 and 2005. That was a long time ago, and I have grown a lot since then. They may not reflect my current beliefs.

One of the difficult things I encountered in preparing my first exhortation was coming up with something to say that other, more experienced, speakers hadn’t said before. I couldn’t think of anything particularly new, so I settled for a subject I found interesting. As this is my first exhortation it will be quite short, so even if I am boring, don’t worry. It’ll all be over soon.

I think we are all aware that we are not perfect. I don’t think any of us would be meeting here this morning if we thought we were. We all sin and we all know we sin. We are, of course, tremendously fortunate because God is forgiving. Basically no matter what we do God will forgive us. John made this point in chapter 1 verses eight and nine of his first letter. Today I am reading from the NIV:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

John talks about forgiveness in the present tense – it is a continual thing that can happen all of the time. If we do one thing we know we shouldn’t and we are forgiven and we then do that same thing again we are still forgiven when we ask.

In Ephesians 4:32 Paul wrote:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

It is well known that we have to forgive one another just as God forgives us. One of the key points in the Lords Prayer is “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors,” and this is what the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18 teaches as well. Starting at verse 23:

Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.But when that servant went out he found one of his fellow-servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.His fellow-servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me and I will pay you back.’But he refused. Instead he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.The master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow-servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back what he owed. This is how my heavenly father will treat each of you unless you forgive one another from your heart.

If you had to summarise that parable in one line it would be forgive others as God forgives you. It follows that we can find out more about how God forgives us by looking at how we are told to forgive others. Just before the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18 verse 21 Peter asks Christ ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive someone who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Christ, of course, replies ‘Not seven times, but seventy times seven.’ That is how we know that if we keep sinning the same way over and over again God will forgive us, as long as we acknowledge what we did was wrong and ask for forgiveness. The dog returns to his vomit, the fool to his folly and we return to our sins – but God will, and God does, forgive us.

Of course just because sin can easily be forgiven doesnt mean that it isnt wrong. On this very point Paul wrote in Romans 6 verses 11 to 13:

Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.

Gods freely flowing forgiveness is really an indication of how great His love is. Remember Ephesians 4:32:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

The forgiveness comes through Christ, and in many ways that is exactly why we are here this morning. Ephesians chapter one has more to say about this:

Verse 4: For God chose us in Christ from before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Verse 7: In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of Gods grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

And this brings us to the bread and wine, the symbols and reminders of Christs sacrifice. Please turn to 1st Corinthians chapter 11 verse 23:

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and said, This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this whenever you drink it in remembrance of me. For when you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lords death until he comes.

I hope that as we share the bread and the wine today we will remember that through the events we are commemorating we have forgiveness for all the foolish things we have done, even the things we know we shouldnt have done and things we have done many many times.

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