Forgiving Wickedness, Sin & Rebellion

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

Romans 3:23-26

Scripture References & Transcript

Exodus 34:6-7

Deuteronomy 24:16

Jeremiah 31:29-30

Romans 3:23

Romans 3:23-36

Exodus 12:3,6

John 1:29

Not too long ago, one of my kids came up to me. I had this just forlorn look in their face. It looked real sad. And I had a piece of paper in their hand and they said, daddy, did mom tell you? And they looked at me. I said, what do you mean? Did mom tell me? And they said, about my condition. I said, what, what do you mean about your condition? He said, well, I was at the doctor today and they diagnosed me with this. They handed me the piece of paper and I took the piece of paper and at the top it said, myopia, if you’re unfamiliar with the medical definition of myopia, it means you’re nearsighted. And I looked at her and I said, well, sweetie, you already were nearsighted a year ago. And this is really no different. And, and as a matter of fact, I also have myopia.

I’m nearsighted, and your mom’s nearsighted and your brother’s nearsighted, and both sets of grandparents on both sides. So this, this was inevitable. This was gonna happen no matter what. But, but you’re okay. Like this doesn’t mean you’re gonna die. It just means you’re gonna have to wear glasses or contacts. That’s, that’s all that means. And you could see, oh, oh, okay. Just the relief of thinking that there was this medical condition and then finding out, oh, well, a, it’s not as bad as I thought that it was. I think sometimes in life when we have a misunderstanding about something, it can make us anxious and stressed and worried, and I don’t know what it means. And then when clarity comes, whew. Okay, that makes a whole lot more sense. And if you’re just joining us, we’ve been in a sermon series on Exodus chapter 34, specifically verses six and seven, where God describes himself, he reveals his character and his nature.

It’s the most quoted verse that, that scripture quotes about itself. So scripture, time and time again is looking back to Exodus 34, 6 and seven. And the first half of Exodus 34, 6 and seven is really great. And the second half is like, I don’t, I don’t like that one as much. And so let’s look, if you’ve got a Bible and Exodus chapter 34, verses six and seven, it says, the Lord passed before him, him being Moses and proclaim, this is God describing himself the Lord, the Lord, a God, merciful and gracious, a slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. And if you stop right there, it’s just so warm and fuzzy. It’s like a warm blanket. And it says, but who will by no means clear the guilty visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.

So let’s unpack what that means. ’cause it’s, it’s one of those parts of the verse that kind of makes you uncomfortable. Like I, I don’t know what this means, but with clarity, I think it can help us relax a little bit. So that first part of verse seven, it says this, who will by no means clear the guilty. What’s it trying to say? It’s trying to say that God is just now, justice is something that we all recognize. And, and really, if we are honest with ourself, we recognize that it’s important that justice exists. Now, sometimes we don’t want justice for ourself, but we do want justice for other people. Like if you’re driving down the road and you’re speeding a little bit and you get pulled over, you don’t want justice in that moment. You are hoping for grace and mercy. But if you are driving down the road and somebody else is speeding and cuts you off and they get pulled over, you are not hoping for grace and mercy.

You want justice. And so justice is when wrongdoing is corrected, when it is made right, and the narrative of all of scripture as God creates his creation with no sin, so that God can have communion relationship with his creation, but then sin enters into the world, man rejects God. And so the rest of scripture is God reconciling his creation us back to him. And scripture points ahead to heaven when a time where there will be no sin because God is just, it will bring about a period where there is no sin, where there is no evil, where there is no hunger, where there is no pain, where there is no suffering, where there are no cats.

I was just seeing if you’re still awake, I’m just kidding about the cats. Cats will probably be there, maybe not. I don’t know. Scripture doesn’t say, but it’s not, it’s not. Don’t email me about cats. I, there’s no opinion. I was just making sure everybody was awake, but evil ceases to exist in heaven. Why? Because God is just so, God is a just God. And when there’s evil, God must do something about it. So the first part we can reconcile, we can make sense of that. It’s the second part when it talks about the sins of the fathers being visited to the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation. And if you’ve got an NIV version of scripture, uh, the way that it translates it is, is really confusing and, and kind of painful. It says, yeah, he does not leave the guilty unpunished.

He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and the fourth generation. Now, I hate the way that they translate this, uh, because it really misses the heart of what I think the verse is trying to say. The way they translate it is that children are getting punished for the sins of their parents. And and that’s really not nuanced to what scripture is trying to tell us. How do we know that? Uh, well, the rest of scripture tells us that. Look what it says in Deuteronomy chapter 24, verse 16. It says this, fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin. It’s saying children are not accountable and held responsible for the sins of mom and dad.

And likewise, mom and dad are not held responsible for the sins of their kids, that each one is responsible for their own sin. Uh, Jeremiah picks up on this same thing. Jeremiah chapter 31 sermon verse 29. It says, in those days, they shall no longer say the fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge. Now pause for a second. ’cause there’s this expression that we don’t quite use. And so it doesn’t make sense. It’s saying the fathers are eating sour grapes. And in this expression, the teeth are set on edge, is it’s recognizing they’re recoiling, the fact that they’re sour grapes. So they’re eating sour grapes and teeth set on edge is, is basically saying, oh, that’s gross. So it’s saying the fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth, the children are suffering the consequence because their fathers ate grapes.

But Jeremiah is clarifying that. He says, but everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge. Jeremiah is saying, well, no, hold on a second. Pause. Separate these two things. He’s coming against an idea at the time that sin of mom and dad, that the kids were responsible in paying that punishment. And he’s saying, no, no, that’s not true. Each person is responsible for their own junk. Uh, so unpacking it altogether then, then what is Exodus 34 7 trying to tell us? I’d say it’s trying to tell us these three things. Number one, it does not mean that God is punishing the children for the parent’s sin. So that’s not what it’s trying to tell us, because that’s incongruent with what we see in the rest of scripture. But it does mean that sin has real consequences, and it also means that our sin affects the people around us as well.

And so it’s saying that the, the kids aren’t responsible. They’re not paying the punishment for their parents’ sin, but the consequences, the effect of sin ripples out beyond just one person. And and you logically know that’s true, that when you see somebody making decisions, those decisions don’t just affect their own person, but it also affects the people around them. If you are a parent, you see this all the time with your kids, that sometimes you’re intentionally instilling values into your kids. Sometimes you’re accidentally instilling values into your kids and sometimes they’re picking up on stuff and you have no clue they’re picking up on stuff, but you are rubbing off on them nonstop all the time. My wife and I have this idea that we want to raise our kids to be really well cultured. So we want them to know like all the right types of music, we want them to have seen all the classic movies.

And so when we do family movie nights, we will try and oftentimes take a classic movie and introduce it to the kids, a movie that they would never pick by themselves. So a few months ago we watched the Princess Bride. It’s a classic <laugh>, every kid should be cultured with the Princess Bride. And halfway through, they thought it was boring. I said, you just gotta hang on, hang on with me. And then at the end of the movie, after it was over, there’s a really famous, the most famous line, in my opinion of the Princess Bride, was a phrase that I started saying to my kids over and over again. And then all of a sudden, every one of us was saying in the phrase, if you know, the movie was this, hello my name. He is the Ne Montoya. You kill my father, prepare to die.

And I said it over and over and over. And then we were all yelling, hello my name. And we’re yelling, that’s why that’s what you do when you watch that movie. I didn’t think anything of it till later that week. I’m picking up my 5-year-old from school. And the teacher said, Evie, uh, she had some interesting words that she was sharing with everybody at recess. She was, she was teaching all the other kids. And now all the kids at recess were saying, hello, my name is Nigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die. And I said, well, when the parents ask, you can tell ’em you’re welcome. Their child is now more cultured than they used to be. <laugh>. But but that wasn’t even an intentional thing that I was trying to teach my kid, and yet my kid is picking it up. Why?

Because that’s what happens. We’re absorbing things off of people all the time. And what, what scripture is trying to point out, is it saying that when you have sin in your life, sin has consequences, that you deserve the punishment for that sin, but the effects of that sin will be felt by other people. It’s interesting, uh, there’s a new field of study called epigenetics. And epigenetics is really wrestling with this idea of nature versus nurture, which has been this long term debate, but they’re specifically looking at the DNA and recognizing how much that nurture element, the environment in which we are raised in and placed in, affects our genetics. Uh, listen to how, uh, this psychologist describes it. He says, what studies have shown is that not just your abuse and your stress change your own DNA, but your parents’ past abuse, trauma loss, death war poverty affects their own DNA.

And it shapes up to two if not three generations after. And so your grandparents, and to some degree, your great-grandparents, the history of your family and the life of the individuals in your family, the research is indicating, plays a profound role in not just social construct, but actually the very nature of our DNA. It’s in the studies are finding that your genetics are shaped by the experiences of your parents and your parents’, parents and your parents’, parents’, parents that shapes the genetics. So what are studies finding The exact same thing? The Exodus 34 7 was telling us thousands of years ago that when we experienced trauma and abuse and difficult circumstances in our life, it is affecting our DNA. Now, if you look at a more practical example of how we see one thing rub off to the next, uh, there’s a great book by, uh, called Brain Rules for Baby by a neurologist who specifically studies the brains of infants.

And this is what he says in that book. He says, infants younger than six months can usually detect when something is wrong. They can experience physiological changes such as increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones, just like adults. He says that if you take a six month old and you take a urine sample and a blood test, that he could tell you how much fighting is happening in that household. Why? Because even though the six month old doesn’t understand what’s going on, if there’s yelling and fighting happening at home, the part of their brain that lights up for fight or flight, that stress hormone that starts getting released, it doesn’t know what to do with it. The neurologist said that people ask him all the time, Hey, what’s something that I can do to make my kids smarter? And his answer is always have a healthy home that your child is raised in.

He’s not a Christian, he’s an atheist, but he recognizes how profound the influence of the home is on the child. And so we, we see this all the time in in counseling. It, it’s your family of origin that it starts, Hey, before we deal with a lot of the things that are going on in your life, let’s go back in time and figure out the circumstances that you were raised in. Because so often the challenges, the struggles, the issues that you are facing right now really can be picked up on some of the things that happened when you were a child. And, and here’s what’s really fascinating When you look at family of origin stories, oftentimes the same issues and junk that they’re dealing with is because their parents dealt with it before them and their parents dealt with it before them. It gets handed on from one generation to the next generation, to the next generation, probably if you’re married, probably the way that you deal with conflict looks a lot like the way that you saw conflict dealt with when you were grown up.

And so if you were raised in a home where they threw things and yelled at each other, then probably that’s the normative way of conflict resolution that you just brought into your next relationship. We see it all the time with addictions that you see people that they were raised in a family of alcoholics, and then eventually they end up becoming an alcoholic, and then their kids end up becoming raised in a family of alcoholics. So addiction can get passed on, sin can get passed on, trauma can get passed on. And so with all of that, here’s what God is trying to tell us in Exodus 34, 6 and seven, that God is forgiving. But there’s this warning still, sin still has very real consequences. Now, if you’re in here and you, you say, well, I came from a broken home.

I came from a lot of junk, came from a lot of trauma and abuse. Great. My genetics are messed up. Woe is me. Here’s what I would say is the hope. And this is what we see as the the hope of scripture, which is totally true. And that’s your parent’s story. Does not have to be your story. Do you know how a cycle of sin stops takes one person to step outside the cycle and say, enough is enough, and they’re setting a new trajectory for their children and their children’s children and their children’s children. And so maybe you resonate with that. You say, I came from brokenness. I, I came from trauma. I came from all kinds of messed up circumstances. And what the story of the gospel would be is that if you would be the one that could step away from that, that doesn’t mean it’s gonna be easy, it’s gonna be challenging, it’s gonna be difficult.

But if you can be the one that step away from that, you can set a new normative pattern, a new cycle for future generations. But what God wants us to see about his character and his nature is that we all have broken stuff because of sin. We’re all in need of forgiveness. That’s what God describes in Exodus 34 7. It says that God is forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. It’s interesting what God says about himself. He doesn’t just say, I forgive sin. He uses three different words for the same thing, iniquity, transgression, and sin. So he’s still talking about sin, but he’s saying, okay, I forgive small sins and big skin sins. Uh, I forgive private sins and public sins, that there is no sin that exists in your life or my life that cannot be covered by the grace and forgiveness of God. But there’s this beautiful picture that we see in Exodus 34, 6 and seven that is pointing ahead to the New Testament.

Now that word forgive in Hebrew, it’s the Hebrew word neau. And the literal translation of the word is to lift up or to bear, or to carry or to take away. And when you read those words, who does it start to remind you of Jesus? That this is what we see. Jesus does, that Jesus lifts us up, that he bears the cross, he carries our sins, and he takes away the punishment that we deserve. We live in a world where modern philosophy has this idea that, well, hey, everybody is inherently good. And it’s only because you’ve been put in bad circumstances, but really you’re inherently good. And if given the chance, everybody would choose to do right. And that sounds great, but it, it flies in the face of what scripture tells us over and over and over and over again. What does scripture tell us?

Why do we need forgiveness? We need forgiveness because of Romans 3 23 all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And we see that all the time. If you really wanna recognize how sinful everybody is, look no for no further than this right here, the self-checkout line, <laugh> self-checkout line about five years ago, all of a sudden they popped up everywhere. Everybody started putting in self checkout lines. No more people. We’re not gonna pay salaries of people. We’re just gonna make you checkout yourself. And does anybody see maybe the problem that happens with self-checkout? Like, could you look ahead in the future? It doesn’t take you to be captain obvious to say, you know, I think there’s one big plot hole in this whole story. Here’s the number of retailers in the last few months that have announced that they will be reducing self-checkout, Walmart, target five below Dollar General.

Some of ’em are getting rid of it altogether. Others are just saying we’re gonna reduce it. Why? Why do you think? I mean, if that was such a great idea and everybody jumped on the bandwagon, well, why would they now say we’re gonna remove it? Well, here’s why. According to to website payments, last year, retailers faced approximately 142 billion in inventory. Shrink inventory shrink is a nice way of saying theft. So $142 billion of theft marking a 25% increase from the previous year. Every year since we introduced self-checkout, theft has gone up and up and up. And this last year it was up 25%. It hit this boiling point. Why is theft up so much because of self-checkout? Look at what this article from Gizmoto said. Shoppers are reportedly 21 times more likely to sneak items past machines than human cashiers. You know, like we like to think, man, people are honest inherently, and people don’t steal and people are really great.

And yet, here’s what the data will tell us over and over and over again. We’re really not like people are not that great. People are great when there’s a public perception and people are watching them and looking at them. But when we are private in our own head with nobody around, and we don’t think anyone’s going to notice, turns out we’re not so great. And that’s why we need forgiveness, and that’s why we need to savior. And if Romans 3 23 stopped after that, it’s pretty depressing, but it keeps going, Hey, here’s what it says. For all have sin and fallen short of the glory of God and are justified. We talked about God being just, he’s a just God. He’s going to correct evil. He’s not gonna turn a blind eye towards evil. And he’s saying, we are justified, made right by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation.

Propitiation means, uh, to pay the punishment for or appease the wrath of. So there’s a wrath that needs to come, a punishment that needs to go towards someone. It’s saying that God put forth Jesus as the propitiation by his blood to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness because in his defined forbearance, he had passed over former sins. This is the best part of the verse. I said. It was to show his righteousness at the present time so that he might be just, and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Now, now, now catch what it’s trying to say. It’s saying that God is just, and the justifier, it’s saying that God cannot turn a blind eye towards sin. God is a righteous God. And so when he sees sins, there’s a punishment that must go forth. But because God is loving and compassionate and merciful, he is also the justifier.

What does that mean? That means that he is the one that takes the punishment that we deserve On Palm Sunday, we often miss out on the backdrop of what is happening in Jerusalem at the same time that Jesus is riding into town, especially on days like today. It’s fun ’cause you got kids and you got palm branches. Everybody waves ’em around. But the backdrop of what’s happening on Palm Sunday is that in Jerusalem, you had the feast of the Passover. That would happen that that week. And so Jews from all over Israel were coming together to Jerusalem specifically for the Feast of Passover. But what happens at the Feast of Passover? Well, Exodus chapter 12, verse three tells us, tell all the congregation of Israel that on the 10th day of this month, every man shall take a lamb according to their father’s houses, a lamb for a household.

Now, pause for a second. The 10th day of the month, guess what day that would be? That’s Palm Sunday. So on the same day that Jesus is riding on a donkey into Jerusalem, it’s the same day that all of Israel, every household was having to go and take a lamb. What do they do with the lamb? Verse six tells us, and you shall keep it until the 14th day of this month when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. So here’s the picture of what happens, that on the same day that Jesus is riding in on palm Sundays the same day that every Jew in Israel is taking a lamb, most of ’em weren’t farmers, so they’d have to go buy a lamb, and the scripture would say they would take it into their house for four days.

So for four days, they’re living with the lamb. Then what happens on the fourth night? The fourth night, they would take the lamb and they would go to the priest and the priest would sacrifice the lamb on their behalf. Uh, the the theological term is penal substitutionary atonement. Woo. Big word. Uh, here’s, here’s the idea. The concept is that the person bringing the lamb or the whole household, they would place their hand on the head of the lamb, and then the priest would take a knife and they would slit the throat of the lamb. Now, now I know you’re like, that sounds gross and sounds awful, sounds terrible. So why is it so graphic? Because the picture of the Old Testament was that their sins were being transferred to the lamb, and the lamb was paying the price dying for their sins. And so that’s why they had to place their hand on their head because they were going to literally feel the sacrifice that was being made on their behalf.

And so on Palm Sunday, when everybody is picking out lamb to be in their house for four days, Jesus is also being set aside as the Lamb of God. Look how John the Baptist describes Jesus. In John chapter one, verse 29, John says, behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world recognize that phrase takes away that Hebrew word Nassau. Forgive, take away the sin of the world. On Palm Sunday, the crowds, they were crying out, Hosanna, hosanna, which means save us, save us. They needed to be saved, but they thought that they needed to be saved from Rome. They thought that they needed to be saved from the government, from oppression. And Jesus triumphantly comes into Jerusalem to save the people. But he knew that the greatest challenge they faced in their life was not the government. It was not oppression, it was their own sin.

And so Jesus did come to save them, but he came very different than they expected. He came as the Lamb of God. And the picture in the Old Testament that that, that transferring of my sins, that substitution that you’re taking, the punishment that I deserve, that same picture is what we see on the cross. That Jesus is dying in my place for my sins. Uh, this whole sermon series has been really based off of a book by John Mark Comer called The Name of God. And here’s what he, towards the end of the book, describes his passages saying, it’s saying He’s just God. He’s just, and he’s the justifier. In this moment, we see more clearly than ever before what Yahweh is like. The reconciliation of God’s mercy and justice and the death of Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s character. The tension is finally resolved. It’s in God’s nature to show mercy and forgive, but it’s also in his nature to deal with sin. And these two parts of God’s person seemingly at odds for so many years, finally come together on the cross in beautiful harmony.

We studied Exodus 34 because it’s a clear revelation of who God is, the character and the nature of God. The ultimate revelation of who God is, is seen on the cross, but ultimately comes down to inwardly personally what you think about it. So here’s the question I ask myself, who do you believe that God is? We can read about it, we can study about it, but do you believe it? Ha. Have you ever truly entered in and experienced the grace, the mercy, the love, the forgiveness that God offers? Maybe you walk in and you say, well, I’m just so broken. You don’t know the things that I’ve done. But what God reveals about himself is there is no sin, there is no transgression, there is no trespass. There’s nothing in your life that disqualifies you from experiencing the grace and the mercy and the compassion and the love that Jesus pours out for you on the cross. But simultaneously, what scripture tells us is that God hates sin and that the sin in your life, the sin in my life, it affects not just me, but it affects the people around me. And so I, I shouldn’t be ambivalent. I shouldn’t be neutral about the sin in my life. I shouldn’t have Apostle that says, well, it’s no big deal. God’s gonna forgive me anyway. No, I should hate the sin and my life. I should pursue getting rid of the sin and my life.

Why? Because just like when they would have to physically watch the lamb die in their place, the week of Easter, Palm Sunday, leading into Good Friday should help us to focus on Jesus and recognize the sacrifice that he paid and look to the cross and say, that punishment that I deserved is going to him in my place. And it should cause us to do a heart check, to be empathetic. Say, oh, how terrible, terrible the sin of my life is. How will God can I turn and run away? Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, we thank you for this Easter week, this holy week, God on Palm Sunday as we celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Help us to not miss the backdrop that Jesus was being set apart as the Holy Lamb of God,

God. And just as the people cried out, save us, save us. So often we try and save us by our own good works. We try and save ourselves with what we think we need, or we try and place our expectations on you. We want you to save us in our own timing, in our own specific way. And yet you come and you save us. And the way that you know is the right way. What we really need, we need saving from our sins. I pray for anyone in this room that does not know you, that today can be a day that they experience that forgiveness that you can offer. I pray for the Christians in the room, Lord God, that we can be heartbroken by the sin in our life. We can fight against it. God, I pray for anyone in this room that comes from a broken family, or I pray that they can be the one that ends the cycle, that steps forward in new life. God, they can create a new trend for every generation beyond their own. Pray all these things. The name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.