Radical Forgiveness – Give It!

The Radical Forgiveness Series
  • Forgiveness can be a difficult subject for many of us. We can find it hard to forgive others for things they have done to us. When it comes to our own past mistakes and failures, we can find it hard to forgive ourselves or to grasp that God forgives us completely. It’s easy for American Christians to forget how Jesus said His followers would actually live, and what their new counter-cultural lifestyle would actually look like. We hope that this Series helps you engage and live in freedom as we take a look at what the Bible has to say about radical forgiveness.
2. Radical Forgiveness – Give It! (Luke 7:36-50)
  • Once we have been forgiven by God, our responsibility is to forgive others as well.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • Jesus reaches out to everyone – the unrighteous, the righteous and the self-righteous – with the gospel. (Luke 7:40-46, 47 & 48)
  • Those who receive God's forgiveness can give love and forgiveness back out. (Luke 7:38, 48 & 50)
  • A hard heart that rejects Jesus can neither receive nor give forgiveness. (Luke 7:44-47)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • How is Jesus' offer of the gospel of grace non-discriminatory?
  • How is it possible for one who has received God's forgiveness to give love and forgiveness back out?
  • What is the outcome for one who rejects Jesus' message of grace?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • Why did Simon invite Jesus to his house for a dinner event? (read Luke 7:28-35 for the background)
  • Who was the “woman of the city” who came to Simon's house? What was her reputation?
  • Why did Simon consider this woman to be a “sinner?”
  • What did Simon think about himself in contrast to what he thought about the woman?
  • Why did the woman come to the party?
  • Describe how the woman honored Jesus.
  • Describe how Simon dishonored Jesus.
  • What happens to the debt one has if it is forgiven?
  • Did the two debtors deserve to be forgiven their debts? Why did the moneylender forgive the debts?
  • What is the meaning of verse 47 and how does it relate to the woman? To Simon?
  • How did Jesus treat the woman? How did He treat Simon?
  • What is the answer to the question Simon's guests asked in verse 49?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • What is an appropriate response to Jesus for having been saved by Him?
  • How might your response to Jesus be like that of the woman in the story?
  • What is so noteworthy about how Jesus interacted with both the woman and Simon? What does that mean to you?
  • What does it mean to you to be forgiven by God for your sins? How does being forgiven transform you?
  • Do you realize the extent of your sin and sins? Can Jesus forgive all of your sins? And what does it mean for you in your life that He can forgive all your sins?
  • What place does faith play in obtaining forgiveness of sin from God?
  • Once forgiven, how should you act towards others?
  • Can you love and forgive much?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
We saw in the prior Notes that forgiveness is all about sin, that forgiveness removes sin, sets free, and restores relationships. And we saw that forgiveness comes from God through faith in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection; Jesus death paid the price of your and my sin and provided the way back to God. So, “getting” forgiveness requires a realization of one's sin, a turning away from that sin, and a turning toward Jesus to accept His gift of forgiveness. Once forgiven from sin, what is one to do? And how is one to live? These Notes deal with the first of these two questions, and the next Notes in the Series will deal with the second question.

In Luke 7, verses 36-50, we have a scene in Jesus' life that provides us with a picture of transformation, and of what one is to able to do once having been forgiven. The backdrop to the scene is that Jesus has been ministering in the region of Galilee, preaching and sharing the gospel message; and while doing so, He has performed many miracles including physical healings, casting out unclean spirits, and even raising a young man from the dead (Luke 7:11-15). Needless to say, the word about Jesus spread over the entire region. Even as these things were happening, the Jewish religious authorities, and particularly the group known as the Pharisees, did not accept or listen to Jesus, but in fact determined that He was a blasphemer (Luke 5:21), that He mingled and spent time with sinners who should be avoided by the righteous (Mark 2:16; Luke 5:30), that He violated the Jewish laws (Mark 2:24; 3:1-6; Luke 6:2, 7), and that He was a threat who must be dealt with (Mark 3:6; Luke 6:11; 11:53 & 54).

The Pharisees were a sect of Judaism that stood for strict observance of the Mosaic law, but also of the interpretations and applications of that law as determined by the oral traditions from the past and their own study and statements. The Pharisees were, in a word, legalists, and were so to such an extent that they would not be seen with, touch or mingle with sinners if doing so could be avoided. They were thus “separatists” in the sense that they desired to be separated from uncleanness and unrighteousness, and from anything that was not in conformity to God's laws. However, in seeking these things, the Pharisees, of which there were perhaps several thousand in Jesus' day, became self-righteous, hypocritical, judgmental and ritualistic, even while they considered themselves to be spiritually correct and close to God with a corner on His favor. Despite their self-righteousness, the Pharisees had a tremendous impact and influence on the masses who, though they often felt trapped by the rigidity of the Pharisaical approach, saw them as the protectors of Judaism.

Here then was this Jesus who was being hailed by the masses for His message and His miracles, and being called “a great prophet” in whose person God had “visited his people.” (Luke 7:17) Needless to say, such thinking was an anathema to the Pharisees, as this so-called “great prophet” did not adhere to their views, did not submit His teaching to them (Matthew 7:28 & 29), and was thus seen as a threat to them (Mark 11:27-33. Note that the Pharisees had similarly rejected John the Baptist and his message as well. Matthew 3:7-10; Luke 7:29 & 30, 33). Somewhere in Galilee during His itinerant ministry (Luke does not tell us where), a Pharisee invited Jesus to his house for dinner (Luke 7:36). Having dinner guests was not an unusual happening in that day, and a visiting rabbi was often invited so his teachings could be discussed over a common meal. And it was also a common practice for the doors of the home to be opened to the outside during the dinner, or for the dinner to be held in the outside patio, so that the public could “listen in” on the conversations; such dinner parties were thus a kind of public entertainment and an information source for the community, especially when a guest of some renown was the focus of the dinner. This was what happened in Simon the Pharisee's home on this occasion (see Luke 7:40 where we learn his name). But did Simon invite Jesus to dinner because he was a friend of Jesus? No. In fact, Simon invited Jesus for dinner to interrogate Him and secure evidence that could be used by the Pharisees against Jesus. One commentator termed the dinner party as an “investigation under the pretense of hospitality.”

Once at Simon's home, Jesus “took his place at the table.” (Luke 7:36) In Jesus' day, people typically ate dinner essentially lying down, leaning on their left elbows with their feet outward from the table. Furthermore, at a dinner party, guests were often placed by the host at the table (which would have been a low table as the guests were reclining) in such a way as to reflect the relative social status levels of the guests, and the customs of the day. (Compare Luke 14:1-11) Thus, for example, a Pharisee would not invite any “sinners” to dinner as he would not want to be with or be seen with such a person. But those actually invited would be seated in accordance with their level of standing and importance as viewed by the host. As the supposed “honored” guest, Jesus would have been given an important place at the table, but really only so that He could be observed easily and Simon and his friends could easily engage in conversation with Jesus.

So Jesus came and was seated, and the dinner party unfolded. Apparently, the holding of the dinner party was common knowledge in the community. The text does not tell us how this happened, but we can surmise that word may have been let out through Simon so as to bring attention to himself as an important leader in his community; in other words, his was a status play as much as a political play. In any case, we know the word got around about this dinner party because “a woman of the city” learned of it and came to the event (Luke 7:37). Who was this woman? The phrase “a woman of the city” suggests that she was a prostitute. Simon knew her and knew her reputation (Luke 7:39). She was a “sinner” and not invited, but she nevertheless came to see and hear Jesus. Based on what she did when she got to the event, it is clear that she had encountered Jesus' message and believed in Him; that she had been transformed from the inside out, and forgiven. So when she heard that Jesus was going to be at Simon's house, she saw an opportunity to come and be near her Savior. Her plan included getting close enough to Jesus to anoint His head with expensive perfume (referred to as an “alabaster flask of ointment” in Luke 7:37). This perfume was expensive as it was in the alabaster container which archeologists tell us were made in and imported from Egypt, the alabaster being a kind of marble. When she got to Simon's house, the woman came into the room where the dinner party was being held and instead of standing in the background, came up to where Jesus' feet were extending from the table, waiting for an opportunity to do what she came to do. Why did she want to anoint Jesus? As already noted, it was because she had been transformed; she had been changed by His message of love and forgiveness, and she wanted to honor Him with this act of worship. But she wasn't able to carry out her objective as she couldn't reach Him. As she stood here silently, she was weeping out of love for Him, and out of the wonderful and deep emotions of having been saved by grace. She couldn't help herself, and her tears were many (the Greek word indicates a “flood” of tears), and in sufficient amount that, not being able to anoint his head, she used her tears to wash Jesus' feet which were dirty from the walk to Simon's house. (Luke 7:38) As we learn later, Jesus' feet were still dirty because they had not been cleaned by His host or his servants (Luke 7:44). This woman, then, this “sinner,” used her tears to wash His feet; and having no towel, she then used her hair to dry off Jesus' feet. Jewish ladies were expected to wear their hair up as letting their hair down in public was a sign of moral looseness. Some rabbis even said doing so was grounds for divorce. So when this woman let her hair down, things went from bad to worse in terms of the social customs and perceptions of the day.

Picture the scene, then: a local prostitute, having insinuated herself into the dinner party of a prominent local Pharisee, was using her tears to wash the feet of a “famous” guest (her Savior!), and was drying His feet with her loosened hair. What a disgrace! And then to top it off, she kissed Jesus' feet and anointed them with her expensive perfume. (Luke 7:38) All the while, Jesus did not object in any degree whatsoever! Simon was shocked; and though he said not a word, his thoughts burned in his mind: “This travesty proves Jesus is no prophet, or He would have known this woman was a sinner and He wouldn't even have let her touch Him.” (Luke 7:39 – my paraphrase) One wonders what was the look on Simon's face as these things were happening, at his own home nonetheless! What was this woman, this sinner, doing. She had no place in his home, or in God's kingdom for that matter. God certainly had no place for her and her unrighteousness, much less forgiveness for her.

Jesus knew what Simon was thinking and, with a heart to minister to Simon as a lost sheep, spoke directly to him (Luke 7:40), and proceeded to lay out the story of two individuals who owed large amounts of money to a moneylender. One debtor owed the equivalent of about a year and a half of wages, and the other owed close to two month's wages. Neither could pay off their debt. But the moneylender cancelled the debts of both (Luke 7:41 & 42). After telling the story, Jesus asked Simon which one of the debtors would love the moneylender more? (Luke 7:42). Simon answered in what seemed to be in a hesitating way, perhaps not wanting to give what would be perceived as a wrong answer. Or just as likely, he spoke sarcastically as to him the answer was obvious. In any case, he said it was likely the debtor who had owed more, to which Jesus said, “You have judged rightly.” (Luke 7:43) Did Simon feel relieved that he had answered rightly? If he did, that feeling did not last for long as Jesus turned to the woman and proceeded to indict Simon for his behavior and his unforgiving heart. First, Jesus pointedly said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?” (Luke 7:44) Well of course Simon had seen her, and Jesus knew what Simon thought about her. But Jesus also knew that Simon did not, and indeed because of his unrepentant heart, could not “see” the real woman, the one who had been forgiven and invited into God’s kingdom, the one who was now able to worship and extend love. Jesus then proceeded to remind Simon that he had been a rude, disrespectful, and insulting host to Jesus. In fact, Simon had violated the norms of near eastern hospitality in three ways: he had not washed Jesus’ feet or provided the means for Jesus to do so; he had not greeting Jesus with a welcome kiss; and he had not anointed his head with oil. (Luke 7:44-46) And Jesus contrasted Simon's inaction and hardness with the woman's action, as she had extended all three standard courtesies to Jesus, though she was not obligated to do so. She had washed His feet with her tears, cleaned them with her hair, kissed His feet, and anointed His feet with perfume. (Luke 7:44-46).

The lesson for Simon, and for us, in the woman's acts had to do with forgiveness, and Simon was about to learn the lesson. After his indictment of Simon, Jesus told Simon that the woman's sins were forgiven, and that her actions of great love flowed from her being forgiven. On the other hand, Jesus said, the one who is forgiven little loves little. Jesus' point to Simon was that he had extended no love to Jesus or to the woman; he could neither “get” forgiveness nor “give” forgiveness even though he thought he was a forgiven one because of his being a staunch and committed Pharisee and a student of the Law and traditions. Simon had not received forgiveness by faith in Jesus because he had rejected Him; but the woman had received forgiveness, as Jesus confirmed by saying to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48) By saying that, Jesus was not forgiving her at that moment for what she had done; she had not “earned” forgiveness. Rather, Jesus was confirming that she was already forgiven and that such forgiveness continued in the present and into the future (the Greek verb tense used in the text means such). In short, the woman was “at peace” with God, and in her forgiveness she was enabled to reach out not only to Jesus in love, but to others, and to give forgiveness back out. Simon was not in that state; he was lost, self-righteous, judgmental, and unforgiving; and he refused to “see” that God in the Person of Jesus Christ was right in front of him, eating at his table. Simon had not invited Jesus into his heart, and was not forgiven as he refused to put his trust and faith in Jesus as the woman did. Moreover, Simon didn't even join in the question asked by the others at the table: “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” (Luke 7:49) The answer should have been obvious to Simon, the expert in the Scriptures, as well as to the others at the table. And the answer was that only God forgives sins, and therefore, that Jesus was God Himself, the long awaited Messiah who came to save! Still focusing on the woman, Jesus again confirmed her state by telling her that her faith has saved her, and to go in peace. (Luke 7:50) The implied message to Simon and the others was that they, too, could be saved if they would put their faith in Jesus and be freed to love and to forgive and to give to others out of the abundance of their hearts … just like the woman whom Simon viewed as an outcast, unredeemable sinner. She was anything but that! Instead, she was now a welcomed child of the King, redeemed and forgiven. Forgiveness … she got it and now she could give it!
So forgiveness does more than free us from our sin. Forgiveness frees us to be able to give out love and forgiveness to others, and to love God with all our hearts. As my friend, John Fischer, author and writer of “The Catch” wrote in the August 15 installment of The Catch,

We've been forgiven, so we forgive.
We've been loved, so we love.
We've been freely accepted, so we accept others freely.
We've been given mercy, so we are merciful.
We have escaped judgment, so we do not judge.
We've been welcomed in, so we welcome all.
The door was opened to us, so we left it open for others.
We are different people from what we were;
We are the embodiment of Grace Turned Outward.

Those words surely seem a description of the woman who came to Simon's house that day. If you accept Jesus' offer of forgiveness by repenting and believing in His death in place of yours, you will be transformed just like that woman. And that transformation will enable you, it will empower you, and it will compel you to give love and forgiveness back out in response to what Jesus has done for you, just as John Fischer's words above portray. That is true freedom, and that is what that woman had gained in her life. On the other hand, Simon remained in bondage to his sin, unwilling to see and hear Jesus or confess his own unrighteous heart. Because he could not accept Jesus, Simon could not accept the woman much less forgive her. Do you want to be like the woman in this story? Do you want to be enabled, empowered and compelled to love and forgive? You can be if you will give your heart to Jesus and allow His forgiveness to pour in and transform you. If you haven't taken that step of faith, do it today; don't wait another minute. Then turn grace outward!
Radical Forgiveness – Get It!

The Radical Forgiveness Series
  • Forgiveness can be a difficult subject for many of us. We can find it hard to forgive others for things they have done to us. When it comes to our own past mistakes and failures, we can find it hard to forgive ourselves or to grasp that God forgives us completely. It’s easy for American Christians to forget how Jesus said His followers would actually live, and what their new counter-cultural lifestyle would actually look like. We hope that this Series helps you engage and live in freedom as we take a look at what the Bible has to say about radical forgiveness.
1. Radical Forgiveness – Get It! (Acts 3:11-26)
  • We are separated from God by sin which can only be cured by forgiveness from God.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • Humans are stained by sin and separated from God from whom they have rebelled and who they have rejected.(Acts 3:14 & 15)
  • God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as the Savior and Author of life, raised from the dead, through whom forgiveness from sin is offered. (Acts 3:13, 15 & 16, 19)
  • One can receive forgiveness by repenting of one's sin and accepting Jesus' death in his or her place by faith. (Acts 3:16, 19, 26)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • Are you aware of your sin, what it really is, and why it separates you from God?
  • Why did God have to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to deal with the human sin problem?
  • Do you confess your sins, repent of them, and ask Jesus to come into your life by faith?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • What was the effect on the crowd in the Temple of the healing of the man lame from birth?
  • Why were the people amazed at the healing?
  • How was the lame man healed, and what is the connection between his healing and what Peter had to say to the people?
  • How were the people in the crowd guilty of Jesus' death?
  • What is the meaning and purpose of Jesus' death and resurrection?
  • What was the solution to the people's sin problem that Peter proposed?
  • List the names and descriptions of Jesus that Peter used in his “message.” What do these names and descriptions mean?
  • How did Jesus fulfill prophecy about Himself?
  • What does it mean to repent from sin?
  • What does it mean to have faith in Jesus?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • What does it mean to you that a person lame from birth was healed in the name of Jesus?
  • Who is Jesus?
  • What is the result of Jesus' death and resurrection? How does Jesus' death and resurrection impact you?
  • What does it mean that God “glorified his servant Jesus?” (Acts 3:13)
  • Do you consider yourself a sinner, and are you under God's indictment for your sin?
  • How did God solve your sin problem?
  • Do you want to be forgiven from your sin? How can you “get” forgiveness from God?
  • Are you ready to confess your sin, repent of it, and turn to Jesus in faith to receive forgiveness and eternal life? If you have not done that, you can do it right now as you read these words. Just go ahead and confess your sins to Jesus, turn away from them and by faith ask Jesus to save and forgive you.
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
These Notes are the first in a three-part Series entitled “Radical Forgiveness.” As a start to the Series, we need to have an understanding of the meaning of forgiveness. From a “dictionary definition” standpoint, the word means to stop feeling anger toward someone who has done something wrong; to stop blaming someone; or to stop feeling anger about something. Suggested synonyms include absolution, exoneration, remission, dispensation, clemency and mercy. Such a definition takes us part way to understanding, but falls short of a Biblical understanding as it excludes anything having to do with sin. Scripture teaches us that forgiveness is indeed all about sin, and so the question is what is sin. Sin is our inner defilement that derives from the rebellion against God that started with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and consequently infected the entire human race (Romans 5:12). Sin is thus an inborn condition in which none of us is righteous or does good, but instead we all turn away from God (Romans 3:10-18, 23) and are thus separated from Him and His holiness, with no way to be reconciled with Him on our own. Moreover, sin carries with it a penalty, namely death (Romans 6:23a). In short, sin is a problem for all human beings; it separates us from God, from others and from self; all those relationships are broken. We can't live with God, with others or with ourselves because we all want to be lord of our own lives.

So the big issue is how can we be rid of sin? How can we be set free from the bondage of sin and have those relationships – with God, with others and with self – restored. Again, Scripture teaches that there is no way that a human can pay off this debt of sin on his or her own, whether by works or by striving in any way. No matter what we might do, we are still stained by sin. And that’s where forgiveness comes in. Forgiveness correctly views sin as something that needs to be removed, and in the removal of sin, forgiveness is that which restores relationships. Thus, forgiveness removes sin (Psalm 103:12), sets sin aside (Colossians 2:14) and puts it away (Hebrews 9:26). Forgiveness hides God’s judgment from us (Psalm 51:9), sets us free from the bondage of sin (Acts 13:38 & 39), and cancels our sin-debt otherwise owed to God (Matthew 18:23-35). And forgiveness restores our relationship with God, with others and with self.

Viewed thus in the Biblical sense, forgiveness must come from outside us; it is not something we can conjure up of our own doing. And where does forgiveness come from? It comes from God, from the holy One Himself out of His mercy, grace and love (Exodus 34:6 & 7). But God’s forgiveness does not come without a cost as the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and those wages must be paid. The payment for sin is death, and that death must be of an offering that is spotless and without blemish so that the blood of that offering will cover sin and bring about the aforementioned effects. My sin requires my death; but my death will not wipe out my sin or provide forgiveness because I am not a perfect sacrifice. The beauty of God’s forgiveness is that He Himself provided the perfect sacrifice in God the Son, namely Jesus Christ, who offered Himself for sin as that perfect sacrifice such that the price of sin is paid in Him (Romans 5:8; Colossians 2:14; I Peter 2:24). God thus supplied the means by which forgiveness is available through the act of Jesus Christ whose blood covers sin (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7). Forgiveness is therefore wrapped up entirely in Jesus (Acts 5:31; Ephesians 4:32), and His death allows God to mark the sin debt as paid, and to put away sin and remember it no more (Hebrews 8:12; 9:15). And this forgiveness from God is accessed by one’s confessing his or her own sin, and turning away from it (repentance), and believing by faith that Jesus’ death and shed blood covers over his or her own sin; in other words, Jesus paid the price I owed for my sin and thus atoned for my sin (II Corinthians 5:21) to make me whole, reconciled to Him (Colossians 1:4), make alive again (Colossians 2:13), hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). In Christ, then, forgiveness brings freedom from the power and shackles of sin (Acts 10:43; Romans 6:18, 22), peace with God (Colossians 1:20), and reconciliation (Colossians 1:21 & 22). In Christ, then, forgiveness brings life both on earth and for eternity (Romans 6:22 & 23).

With the foregoing in mind as a context and understanding of both forgiveness and sin, Acts 3:11-26 is a passage that provides us with a picture of the need for forgiveness together with a focus on where forgiveness comes from. The setting for the passage is that the Apostles Peter and John had just healed a man who was lame from birth as they entered into the Temple in Jerusalem through the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:1-10). Peter and John then continued into the Temple, and the man who was healed came with them, “leaping and praising God.” (Acts 3:9). All who were in the Temple recognized him as he had sought alms at the Temple Gate on a daily basis. Out text begins as these three came into the area of the Temple called Solomon's Portico, an area which ran the entire length of the eastern portion of the outer courts of the Temple. (Acts 3:11) The people in the Temple flocked to them in amazement. In terms of the time-frame, Pentecost was over and all the pilgrims had gone, so the people who were in the Temple that day surrounding Peter, John and the healed man, were all Jewish folk at the Temple for afternoon prayers. With all those people present, Peter took the opportunity to speak to them about what had happened. There are several levels to what Peter said, one of which is that he was in effect speaking to the nation of Israel via these Jewish folk. But for our purposes, Peter was speaking to the individuals he faced. And his message was rather simple: they knew who God was and had rejected Jesus the Messiah, and as such were trapped in their sin; Jesus was indeed the Messiah who came as the “Author of life” (Acts 3:15), died and rose again for the forgiveness of their sin (Acts 3:19, 26); the way to receive forgiveness is to repent (Acts 3:19); and in repenting and accepting Jesus death for them by faith, they could be made whole in the spiritual sense just as the lame man was made whole in the physical sense.

So the people Peter addressed that day in Jerusalem were in need of forgiveness, even if some or most of them did not even realize it (Acts 3:17). They were dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-3), though they were physically alive. They were infected with the disease of sin, as it were, for which there was no cure on earth. They needed their sin removed, and their relationship with God restored. Note that as Jews, they thought that they had a relationship with God just because they were Jews, and heirs of their Jewish “fathers,” Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In other words, they thought their birth status gave them life, when all the while they were actually dead in their sin and separated from the God of Israel as a result. (Romans 2:17-27) They didn't “get it” that they needed to “get it” meaning get forgiveness. And that is what Peter was telling them. God provided the way of forgiveness by His Son, the “holy and Righteous One,” who was rejected and killed by the very people who should have welcomed their Messiah (John 1:11). But it was Jesus whom God raised from the dead (Acts 3:15), as foretold by the very prophets of Israel (Acts 3:18, 21-24), to blot out sin because the keeping of the law would not produce that result in that they could not keep the law. This same Jesus, Peter tells them, is alive and it was Jesus who healed the lame man on the basis of his faith; and his new freedom from his lifelong lameness is a picture of the freedom and healing that comes from forgiveness of sin on the basis of faith in Jesus. Likewise, Peter called his audience to repent and turn away from their sin (Acts 3:19, 26) to receive freedom and forgiveness; and the only way they could get it was through faith in Jesus.

So forgiveness is something we humans need to be freed from the bondage of our sin and rebellion from God. And in order to “get it,” we must confess and turn away from our sin, believe in Jesus by faith for the removal of our sin, the healing of our soul, the cleansing from our iniquity, all based on His substitutionary death in place of ours, and then receive His forgiveness. Jesus, called by Peter the servant of God (Acts 3:13), the Holy and Righteous One (Acts 3:14), the Author of Life (Acts 3:15), the Messiah (Acts 3:20), and the One raised from the dead (Acts 3:15), is the only One by whom one can “get” forgiveness and be freed to live. This same Jesus who healed the man lame from birth through the words of Peter, is ready and able to perform the miracle of spiritual healing and the forgiveness of sin along with the restoration of relationship with God the Father as a result. Like He was calling to those Jewish people that day through Peter's words, Jesus calls today, “Come to me in faith and find forgiveness! Come today and I will in no wise cast you out.” Will you come if you haven't already? Jesus is calling. 

Forgiveness can be a difficult subject for many of us. We can find it hard to forgive others for things they have done to us. When it comes to our own past mistakes and failures we can find it hard to forgive ourselves or to grasp that God forgives us completely. It’s easy for American Christians to forget how Jesus said his followers would actually live, and what their new counter-cultural lifestyle would actually look like. We hope that this helps you engage and live in freedom as we take a look at what the Bible has to say about radical forgiveness.

1. Radical Forgiveness - Get It! [Acts 3:11-26]
We are separated from God by sin which can only be cured by forgiveness from God.

2. Radical Forgiveness - Give It! [Luke 7:36-50]
Once we have been forgiven by God, our responsibility is to forgive others as well.

3. Radical Forgiveness - Live It! [Colossians 3:1-17]
Forgiveness isn't just once in awhile ... it's all the while!
For the Young and the Old: The Conclusion

The Meaning of Life Series
  • What happens when we seek ultimate meaning outside of relationship with the Creator God? What happens when we're desperate for the answers to life but can't seem to find any? What happens when our souls get wearied from the constant pursuit of pleasure and possessions? These are enormous questions of life and meaning that Ecclesiastes grapples with in the timeless complexity and messiness of reality. In the end, the ancient philosopher recalibrates our hearts, minds, and lives to pursue meaning in the Ultimate God because God alone holds the key to the meaning of life.
10. For the Young and the Old (Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:14)
  • Can we find meaning in being alive and vibrant in our old age?
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • Life goes from young to old, and God needs to be in the midst of one’s life from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 11:8 & 9)
  • Old age is inevitable, is part of life, and ends in one’s death; so turn to God early on, in your youth. (Ecclesiastes 12:1 & 2)
  • The truth of life, and the source of wisdom is from God, so in life one should fear God and follow His ways. (Ecclesiastes 12:, 13 & 14)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • Wherever you are on your life’s journey in terms of your age, have you put God into the midst of your life?
  • How are you approaching your life and the fact of your aging? Are you living life fully no matter your age?
  • Do you fear God and keep His commandments?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • What does it mean to say “Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 11:7)
  • Why should one rejoice in his or her youth? What does it mean to rejoice in one’s youth?
  • Describe the reality of on-coming age and aging? What should that inevitability mean for the living of your life now?
  • What does it mean that “God will bring you into judgment?” (Ecclesiastes 11:9b)?
  • What does it mean to “remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body?” (Ecclesiastes 11:10)
  • Why does the Preacher tell us to “remember” our Creator in the days of our youth?
  • Describe the effects of on-coming age. (Ecclesiastes 12:3-5). What is the eventual outcome of old age and what does it mean?
  • What was the Preacher’s objective in writing this book? How did he approach his task, and what is the intended impact of his book on us?
  • What is the Preacher’s conclusion from all he has studied and thought about?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • What is your approach to life, no matter what your age is?
  • How can you enjoy life in a way that honors God’s gift of life to you?
  • Why should you focus on God at the center of your life? Have you done so?
  • What is the source of meaning in your life?
  • How do you remove vexation from your heart and put away pain from your body and why is doing so important?
  • How are you experiencing the process of aging? How can you maintain a life of enjoyment in the midst of growing old? What things might you do to achieve that purpose?
  • What have you learned from this overall study of the book of Ecclesiastes? What words of truth have presented themselves to you in the study?
  • Have the words of truth in Ecclesiastes “goaded” you into action? Into making any changes in your life, in your mindset, and in your attitudes? What are those changes? If you haven’t made any changes, should you, and what should they be?
  • How can you live to fear God and keep His commandments?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
At the end of the last Notes, we saw that the Preacher closed with the admonition, “In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand ...” (Ecclesiastes 11:6) In other words, live life every day from start to finish and allow God to work His way. In these Notes, the final ones in this Series, the Preacher, in a way, is going to continue that thought, but from a different angle. Specifically, he’s going to speak of youth and the inevitably of aging and the ultimate outcome of death. How should we live in that life process, with the end in sight? And in his observations on the matter, the Preacher will bring his work to a close with his final conclusion.

In chapter 11, verses 7 and 8a, the Preacher tells us that vitality of life and living should be the norm for all of life, especially when one is young. Life is pleasant and is to be enjoyed, and one’s enjoyment is perfectly acceptable as after all, life is from God and meant to be enjoyed, as the Preacher has already pointed out (Ecclesiastes 3:22). Yet the young need to keep in mind that old age will come, and with it the darkness; just as the sunset and the night follow after the sunrise and the daytime, so death follows at the end of one’s life … so, vanity! But in the context of what the Preacher has already written, the implication of verse 8 is don’t miss out on life while you are young and growing older; just know that the rhythm of life includes the end. So the young especially should live life to the full, remembering to do so with responsibility as God is the judge (Ecclesiastes 11:9) in the sense that He will want an account of how one availed oneself of living with joy the life that God gave. At the same time, the young need to know that life will include its problems and difficulties, its pains and sorrows, its temptations and vexations. So much as possible, these things are to be avoided when they can be avoided by one’s good choices. In other words, enjoying life does not mean irresponsibility and bad choices which lead to difficulties and pain. While such will come as a part of life, “remove vexation” from your heart and “put away pain. (Ecclesiastes 11:10)

The Preacher continues to speak of one’s approach to life while young, saying that a person should find God and even faith in God while young. (Ecclesiastes 12:1) In other words, don’t wait until you are old when it might be too late for you because of your own frustrations with age. The aging process is inevitable and it saps a person and limits us in varying ways, and can rob us of a mind that will find rest in the Creator. So, find God “before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain.” (Ecclesiastes 12:2) The Preacher then proceeds in verses 3 through 8 to catalogue what happens with age. The list is startling in its accuracy even as it is poetic in its presentation. The Preacher says that arms and legs tremble and grow weak (the “keepers of the house tremble” and “the strong men are bent” Ecclesiastes 12:3); the “grinders” (one’s teeth, it seems) don’t work because there are few left (Ecclesiastes 12:3); the eyes grow dim (Ecclesiastes 12:3); the ears don’t hear as well (Ecclesiastes 12:4); it’s harder to speak (“the sound of grinding is low” Ecclesiastes 12:4); though one still wakes up at the sound of the birds singing, one can hardly hear it (Ecclesiastes 12:4b); one becomes afraid of heights and of crowds (“terrors are in the way,” Ecclesiastes 12:5); hair grows white (“the almond tree blossoms” with white blooms in mid-winter in the near east. Ecclesiastes 12:5); movement becomes slow (the “grasshopper drags itself along,” Ecclesiastes 12:5); and sexual desires and potency fade (Ecclesiastes 12:5b). All of the foregoing happen “because man is going to his eternal home and the mourners go about the streets.” (Ecclesiastes 12:5b). So the Preacher calls out again, “Seek God now” before the “silver cord is snapped,” the “golden bowl is broken,” the “pitcher is shattered,” or the “wheel broken at the cistern.” (Ecclesiastes 12:6. Some commentators suggest the foregoing represent parts of the body – cord = spine; bowl = head; pitcher = heart; wheel = inner parts and digestion tract. Such an interpretation might be pushing things, but the point is clear, the pictures point to endings). Life will come to an end, and dust return to dust; the gifts of life are fleeting and we will end at God’s throne, before the One who gave us the life to live in the first place. The end comes, and so … “vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 12:8)

Lest we think that the Preacher has concluded that there is no meaning in life, it seems that instead he has just pointed to the truth that life is fleeting and ends in death, yet it is worth living for God. And the following verses support this interpretation. In verses 9 and 10 of chapter 12, the Preacher (in the third person; or possibly through the comments of a disciple), reminds the reader that he, the wise one, has undertaken his study with great care, to write of the truth, and to do so for the benefit of his reader. Such words are not to puff himself any more than the words of a Prophet of God point to the Prophet. Rather, the Preacher simply states the reality of who he is and what he has done, and then notes that they are from “one Shepherd.” (Ecclesiastes 12:11) By saying thus, the Preacher underscores that his book is the word of God, that wisdom and his own wisdom is from God, and the purpose of the words of God are to goad one to action. And what action? The Preacher will give the answer in verse 13, but before doing so warns the reader that one could do more study but it will get him or her nowhere. The ultimate wisdom is to be found in God and the keeping of His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13) which, as he has written, is to live life with God at the center, knowing that He will judge everything in the end (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

So the Preacher’s search for meaning has taken him to God. The search has shown that man can’t find the answers to life on his own, but that the search will peel back the truth that God knows all, that He has given us life to live and enjoy, and that wisdom is found in Him. The Preacher has already indicated that while we don’t know everything, indeed we know enough to be responsible for what we do in light of what we know, and that God will be the judge of our life and the way we live it. And further, the Preacher has already indicated that everything is in God’s sight and in His control. So his conclusion is, “fear God and keep His commandments.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). And to the Christian who knows now, as the Preacher did not, that Jesus is the Wisdom of God, the lesson of Ecclesiastes is that one should come to Jesus in whom is life and meaning. And we know from God's word that if we come, we can be sure that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38 & 39) Praise the Lord, in Christ we have meaning and purpose! Everything is not vanity after all!

A Fool and His Folly

The Meaning of Life Series
  • What happens when we seek ultimate meaning outside of relationship with the Creator God? What happens when we're desperate for the answers to life but can't seem to find any? What happens when our souls get wearied from the constant pursuit of pleasure and possessions? These are enormous questions of life and meaning that Ecclesiastes grapples with in the timeless complexity and messiness of reality. In the end, the ancient philosopher recalibrates our hearts, minds, and lives to pursue meaning in the Ultimate God because God alone holds the key to the meaning of life.
9. A Fool and His Folly (Ecclesiastes 9:11-11:6)
  • Can we find meaning in life through collecting power, cheerful activity, and common destiny?
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • We do not know what life will bring or when it will end. (Ecclesiastes 9:11 & 12)
  • The way of foolishness, which is life without God, leads to nowhere but folly. (Ecclesiastes 9:18b; 10:3, 12 & 13)
  • Live each day, morning to evening, trusting that God will accomplish His purposes. (Ecclesiastes 11:6)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • Is life simply about time and chance without meaning and direction?
  • Why should one life the way of wisdom instead of the way of the fool?
  • How can one live each day not knowing how everything will turn out?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • What good is it in the end to be swift, strong, wise, rich, intelligent or full of knowledge? (Ecclesiastes 9:11)
  • Why is wisdom better than folly?
  • Does it matter if your wisdom applied in life goes unacknowledged or unappreciated? Why or why not?
  • Make a list of the advantages of wise living and the disadvantages of foolish living. Which way do you pick?
  • How does the wise person live in the face of possible negative outcomes?
  • What are the words of the wise person like as compared to the fool?
  • What are the advantages of a wise leader in terms of outcome of his or her leading?
  • Why does it make sense to live in light of God's being in control of everything?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • What part do time and chance play in life, or do they play no part?
  • How can you life a life of wisdom in the face of a world full of folly?
  • How should you react if and when your life of wisdom is not appreciated?
  • What are the advantages to you personally in living the life of wisdom?
  • What should your daily life look like in a practical sense if you follow the way of wisdom?
  • How can you tell if a person is living the life of folly (i.e., the life of a fool)?
  • What should be your approach to and attitude towards those in authority, toward your leaders?
  • How should you, in wisdom, approach your relationships, your handling of money, your work, and your words?
  • What do you see as the application(s) to you in your daily life of the verses covered in these Notes? What changes do you have to make to lead a life of wisdom more faithfully? Ask God to help you make those changes.
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
In chapter 9, verse 10, we were left with the Preacher saying that despite not knowing or understanding the meaning of life, one should not only live life while one has the opportunity, as it is God’s gift, but live it with zest as if at a celebratory party, enjoying work, food and drink, family and even clothing, and live it with God’s full approval, as the opportunity will be gone when one dies. (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10) But once again in verse 11, the up and down nature of the Preacher’s presentation shows up and he provides the counterpoint to what he had just said. Specifically, the Preacher says that life is unpredictable and even unfair, and success is not guaranteed even in living life with wisdom, as “time and chance happen” and things change suddenly at “an evil time.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 & 12) In other words, one simply does not know what will come. As an example, the preachers cites the circumstance of a city under attack that was delivered by a poor, but wise man, and yet no one remembered the poor man or his wisdom. (Ecclesiastes 9:13-15) Yet, the Preacher’s underlying theme is that one should nevertheless live in one’s daily circumstances with wisdom, as wisdom is still better than the alternative (foolishness), even if the outcome is not assured, and even when the loud-mouth ends up undoing the good results. (Ecclesiastes 9:13, 16-18) In short, in life, wisdom trumps folly.

In the remaining verses covered in these Notes, chapter 10:1 through 11:6, the Preacher underscores the conclusion that “wisdom trumps folly” by using a series of proverbs that show the outcomes of folly as opposed to those of wisdom. In chapter 10 verse 1, the Preacher says that even a little folly can spoil wisdom, the implication being that one should be careful even in exercising wisdom. Verses 2 and 3 say that the wise one follows the good (“to the right”) whereas the fool heads towards the bad (“to the left”) and demonstrates his foolishness even as he walks along an apparent middle path. The wise one uses care with authorities (Ecclesiastes 10:4), even if wisdom does not lead to success (Ecclesiastes 10:5 & 6); he makes preparations in life even, and especially, in the things that can cause damage (Ecclesiastes 10:8-11). The wise one is also careful in speech (Ecclesiastes 10:12-14). In the matter of speech, the words of a fool go nowhere and accomplish nothing, and they are particularly meaningless in light of the reality that those words are spoken with no knowledge of the future. One thinks of the “talking heads” of today’s radio, television and other broadcast media, in which are individuals who speak about things as if they know what will happen and what outcomes will prevail, when in reality they no nothing of the future. Inevitably, such “talking heads” are proven wrong, as that concerning which they speak with such confidence simply does not come to pass. The work of a fool thus wearies even the fool and gets him nowhere. (Ecclesiastes 10:15)

When it comes to leaders and authorities, those who are fools lead accordingly. Such foolish leadership allows underlings to play when they should work (Ecclesiastes 10:16), opens the door to bad consequences as a result of sloth and inattentiveness (Ecclesiastes 10:18), prefers merriment over responsibility (Ecclesiastes 10:19), and thinks that money solves everything (Ecclesiastes 10:19). The wise leader, on the other hand, leads by example and works when appropriate, and uses food not for merriment but for strength (Ecclesiastes 10:17). The wise one who is not a leader respects authority, whether good or bad, and recognizes that because all one’s words will somehow be found out, criticism and curses concerning such authority is to be avoided (Ecclesiastes 10:20). Wisdom thus recognizes that “a bird of the air” will carry one’s voice, and the wise one will thus be circumspect in speaking.

Life is unpredictable, says the preacher; complete understanding cannot be gained nor can all knowledge be discerned. Yet the wise person will live each day as best as possible in all situations, taking into account what can be understood and known. And in fact, the ways of the wise, as opposed to the ways of folly, apply to every day, practical things, as the Preacher points out in chapter 11, verses 1 through 6. Indeed, the Preacher speaks of wisdom as applied to investing, to agriculture and trade, and to having children, all of which certainly deal with real life. Verses 1 and 2 essentially say that the wise person will go ahead and invest (“cast your bread upon the waters”) and there will be return (“you will find it after many days”), and in so doing, will spread the investments around (“give a portion to seven, or even to eight”). These two proverbs seem to be the foundation for two more current sayings: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained;” and “Don't put all your eggs in one basket.” Good, practical advice indeed! In agriculture, conditions will seldom be perfect, so one shouldn't wait to proceed, whether planting or harvesting. (Ecclesiastes 11:3a, 4) In trade, one doesn't know where the competition will arrive, and what the outcome will be no matter the planning, and thus what comes will come. The wise person, however, will proceed notwithstanding. (Ecclesiastes 11:3) How babies grow in the womb is not understood (of course, that process is better understood now than it was when Ecclesiastes was written, though there is yet mystery in it), but people still have babies. (Ecclesiastes 11:5) One simply cannot know God's plan and how He works, nor fathom His ways. Yet the wise person will continue to live, sowing seed in the morning and evening, essentially leaving things in God's hands, and such living will be in the moment, in the now, in full reliance on God since He is the One “who makes everything.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5b, 6)

In all the foregoing, we have further confirmation of the Preacher's conclusion, namely that while a person may not be able to understand life, with all its inequities, paradoxes, uncertainties and mysteries, one can and should still live a life in light of God's existence and His will, a life that in following the way of wisdom, as opposed to folly, will accomplish God's purposes in some way. Thus, the Preacher ends this section with the admonition, “In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand ...” (Ecclesiastes 11:6) In other words, live life every day from start to finish and allow God to work His way. The wise person will do well to heed this admonition. One wonders if these words at least partially formed the backdrop for Jesus' words to His audience as he taught on the mountainside one day,

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? … But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:25, 33)

Fortunately, today we have these words from Jesus and many more that inform how we should live life in relationship with God, seeking to accomplish His purposes, knowing now that those purposes are wholly wrapped up in Jesus. The Apostle Paul puts it thusly:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1 & 2)

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)

Life is not meaningless after all. Even while we do not understand everything or how God works, we know that He has provided life for us in Christ, delivered from “the domain of darkness” and transferred into “the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin.” (Colossians 1:13 & 14) Praise God that He has given us meaning and purpose!