UNIT ONE: WHAT ABOUT THAT STAIN? CLEANED AND
wonder how huge the cleaning industry is. Imagine how many millions
and even billions we must spend on soaps, detergents, and
pre-soaking solutions. A quick Google search this morning showed
that Tide sales in 2014 alone were $1,195,300,000! It’s also an
entire infomercial industry, each commercial making bigger claim,
cleaning deeper and darker stains. And the commercials work. We
have to try something against all that dirt.
We have so many choices for cleaning. To
start our discussion, consider what you use for cleaning. You can
describe either what you use for clothes or carpet and furniture.
You can talk about something we all know—you will use Tide
forever—or you can share your grandmother’s secret
So when you have to clean something
really bad, what’s your favorite method and
How did you find the product that
works for you?
Have your best choices ever let you
STUDY: READ 1 KINGS
This is the prayer of Solomon at the
dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. One of the most interesting
points is that Solomon knows that the Temple, for all its beauty
and size, could never capture all the glory of God or entrap him.
Nothing could match God. Yet there was a purpose for the Temple.
That purpose was in the final words of v. 30:
1 Kings 8:30 "And
listen to the supplication of Thy servant and of Thy people Israel,
when they pray toward this place; hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling
place; hear and forgive.”
All the work, all the expense, all the
greatness, it all comes to this: Here we pray, here you listen and
when you do listen, you forgive us.
Forgiveness is our central topic
throughout the faith. While we can speak of the many gifts of God
and the many ways in which we can grow, our relationship with God
depends on his
justification of us by grace which gives
us peace and therefore no separation from his love, Romans 5:1,
In our three part study we will see six
facets of the forgiveness God provides. Each of these images
complements the others. We’ll pair them into natural associations,
starting with the idea of cleansing and covering. If sin is a
stain, let’s consider two approaches to that stain.
1 John 1:7 but if we
walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship
with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from
Psalm 51:7 Purify me
with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter
than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which
Thou hast broken rejoice. 9 Hide Thy face from my sins, And blot
out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And
renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and
gave Himself up for her; 26 that He might sanctify her, having
cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He
might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no
spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and
This first image is one of restoration.
We have the perfect clean shirt and it’s begging to be stained. No
young mother wears perfectly white tops when the children are
anywhere near. You likely wore multi-colored, earth tone sweaters
for years when the children were little.
But one day, you were daring and wore
the white top. Now look at that stain. It can be either the stain
you saw coming or the one you just noticed at the end of the
When you have stained that new
shirt, where do you look?
When the kids spill that can of Coke
on the new carpet, what do you first look at when you enter the
Our eye is naturally drawn to the stain.
I’m not sure why that is, but we focus on these points more than
anything else. That room is 20 by 20 feet, 400 square feet of
carpet. 399 feet of that carpet are just fine, only 1 foot stained,
but we focus on that one foot.
Why are we focused on that one spot,
that one square foot?
Our children, who dropped the Coke,
would tell us to just look at the rest of the carpet that’s clean.
Why don’t we?
Besides the focus on the stain, there’s
a time factor.
How long can you wait to get to
When you’re home and the stain
happens, how fast do you want to get out the detergent or the
sponge and start scrubbing?
God knows that our hands want to
restlessly clean and always to examine how the spot is coming. It’s
this way also with the stains on our record and our standing with
him. Our memory of ourselves is often like a stained carpet or
shirt. We are drawn to the failure and remember the sins. We ask
repeatedly of ourselves, “What was I thinking?” We wonder if only
we had done this or that, it might have turned out
We need a clean record! Now re-read the
verses at the start of this portion of the study, those verses that
What is distinctive about his
cleansing: his material and his perfection?
While this question is a good overall
idea, notice three things especially in these verses. One is that
God has a unique relationship with us. In David’s plea in Psalm 51,
God returns to being the Creator, the one who can return us to a
clean heart and a new, right spirit. None of us imagines that we
will be new Adam and Eve, but we yearn for a new true start, as
though we were. This is the appeal of David and the promise of
Also it is a cleansing by relationship
of Husband and Wife in Ephesians 5. This perfection again is one of
God’s doing and it’s one of his choice and sight. We have all been
at weddings where the bride and groom look extraordinary in the
eyes of each other. That wedding gown might not ever be on Say
Yes to the Dress and the Men’s Wearhouse might not hire the
groom to be their next tuxedo model. But it doesn’t matter to the
bride and groom. They see each other with the eyes of relationship.
Stain, wrinkle, spot or blemish? Completely unseen. So also God by
choice sees us with this perfection, a perfect record by his choice
Finally, God has the cleanser for these
stubborn spots on our record and conscience. 1 John 1:7 makes is
clear that he uses the evil itself, the selfish, cruel crucifixion
of his Son as the cure for our sins. He takes the harshest act,
crucifixion, and uses the resulting blood of his Son as the
cleanser. This makes no reasonable sense. We cleanse with the
opposite—no one would pour motor oil on a stained carpet imagining
that it would make it better. But God’s sacrificial death of his
Son eclipses our sins and his elective focus on his Son’s willing
sacrifice takes our sins out of his sight.
Given this cleansing, how is your
look back on your past different?
Go ahead, look for those stains. Ask
that your view of them be as God sees them, cleansed and removed.
Notice how thoroughly God has washed and scoured them away. We
might imagine that they are still there, at least in memory, but
his assurance is that they are thoroughly washed. He who can see
the smallest speck sees nothing on our record. That is
forgiveness—at least one facet of it.
we are all for the complete cleansing of God’s washing, we still
can at least imagine the stain of our sins. For that, God has
another aspect of forgiveness in the covering of sin.
Some spots are just too bad to clean.
Or, your cat tore into that carpet and it’s not so much the stain
but the torn fibers of the carpet, the missing pieces, that is the
problem. Or the dog’s dish and bowl have been in the same place on
the vinyl floor for two years. And now that you really look, that
vinyl floor is never going to look right again.
Covering is the only hope.
When has the stain, the torn carpet,
the missing piece of vinyl needed covering?
When you covered the stain, how did
you do it?
How permanent was the covering? Did
it look the same as before—you used a piece of matching carpet over
the stain—or did you go with something completely
STUDY: READ THE FOLLOWING
of David. A Maskil. How blessed is he whose transgression is
forgiven, Whose sin is covered! 2 How blessed is the man to whom
the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no
Romans 4:6 just as
David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons
righteousness apart from works: 7 "Blessed are those whose lawless
deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered. 8
"Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into
1 Peter 4: 8 Above all,
keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a
multitude of sins.
All right, we seem focused on the stain.
So let’s admit it and even bring something more to it. Instead of
avoidance or even trying to clean it, what if we add more to the
stain. What if we cover it entirely?
If we were together, I would replicate
the typical infomercial ad for a cleanser. Let’s put ketchup and
mustard on a clean white shirt. Then put on the miracle cleaner,
rub, rinse, and it would be gone, we hope. But what if there was
still a shadow of the ketchup?
Then I would take the blackest wheel
bearing grease from the tub of it that is in my garage. This is the
absolute blackest stuff in the world, thick, black grease. Smear
that over the ketchup stain. What happens?
Can you see the stain anymore? No, not
one tiny bit. All you can see is the absolute blackness of the
grease. Is the stain there? Yes, under that darkness.
Will the ketchup and mustard ever come
through the wheel bearing grease? Never. The blackness of the
grease will be all you ever see.
How is this covering like the
covering of the cross, the three hours of absolute darkness during
his death, and the darkness of his death and the
Where have our sins gone? While we
know they are there, can we any longer see them?
How is this covering most effective
for those sins which we can’t seem to forget?
By covering our sins in the darkness of
Jesus’ death and the tomb, God has a clear place for those deeds
that we’ve done. If we want to stare, go ahead. But we will be
staring at the cross and the tomb, exactly the places and actions
of God which guarantee our forgiveness. Our sins are inescapably
contained, covered, and conquered by the darkness. This also is
forgiveness—at least one facet of it.
The Six Faces of Forgivess
The Same Love is Waiting for You
Accept No Substitutes
JUST ONE MORE
UNIT TWO: SINS BOTH FIXED AND
our first unit, we saw that sin can be both cleansed and covered.
That image works well with the ideas of sin as a stain. But sin can
be seen as more. In this unit, we’ll find that sin is both that
which is fixed in place and also that which has gone far out of
As I write this, we learned last week
that our beloved black lab dog has cancer. She has a tumor on the
back of her left leg. I know, she’s only a dog. We got her from the
animal shelter three years ago when she was already six years old.
But she is the most loving dog I’ve ever known and has brightened
up every day.
The vet says that the cancer might be in
only this one tumor and if we remove it, she might live for several
years. Of course, it might have spread in hidden ways. Wouldn’t it
be good news if the problem were all in just one place?
When have you had that wish—all the
trouble is fixed in just one place?
If you have only one place to look,
one problem to solve, how would that be better than the unknown,
the hidden and the innumerable?
STUDY: READ COLOSSIANS
Colossians 2:13-14: “And you, who were
dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God
made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our
trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us
with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the
Here God has a new image of forgiveness
that is partner to our previous image of the covered stain. In our
previous discussion, we imagined a stain that is covered rather
than cleaned. It was covered by a much darker stain, a perfectly
black cover. We are invited to look at the stain, but we’ll never
see it as the dark grease has covered it completely.
Here also we’re invited to look at the
stain of our sin, the record of our wrongs but they aren’t hidden.
They are in full view, listing every detail. However, that is the
key to our peace. They are gathered together and they are fixed in
one place by one powerful hand.
First, they are gathered together. Our
early discussion spoke of when we want a gathering of trouble. We
want to hear all the bad news and get it over with. Don’t tell me
something and leave more festering and waiting to come out
So God gives us the entire listing of
all our sins in this image of Colossian 2:13-14. God himself has
listed the full account of our wrongs for who else knows all our
sin and who else is the ultimate judge to bring us to account? A
companion image of this accounting is in Revelation 20:12 with the
opening of the books listing all the deeds of all people. God has
missed nothing in this listing of our sins.
When have you wanted to hear the
whole news, the entire prognosis, even if it is the opposite of
Then God takes this list and nails it to
the cross. It is not merely that he dismisses it as we might have
wished. We might hope that the Judge will say, “It’s not important.
Case dismissed.” But then we might wonder if it won’t merely come
back. Surely there is no statute of limitations on sin when the
penalty is eternal death. So merely dismissing our sins, or putting
them in a pile of lesser offenses isn’t enough.
Instead he takes it out of the way, off
the court’s docket and away from the judge’s bench. He does this by
nailing it to the cross. Notice that this is the one time when we
see Jesus’ action on the cross as being active, not passive.
Generally we think of Jesus’ death as his passive acceptance of the
Father’s will and a passive acceptance of the cruelty of his
enemies. But here the Carpenter takes up the hammer and does the
nailing himself. The Carpenter nails down the edict that spoke
against us. Whatever life and voice this list once had is now
crucified. The voice of these records is stilled by the hammer
Now we have something to see. Our sins’
records are right there in full view. But we have the iron judgment
of God over them. They are all gathered—no boasting that more will
come out. They have tried to shout their worst but none of that can
be heard. They flutter futilely held down by the nails of the
cross. The Carpenter has driven the nails holding them deeply
beneath the surface and those nails will never be
This is forgiveness which invites us to
see the full view of possible judgment. But the Judge and His Son
have agreed: the bill against us goes only one place. The Son takes
it in his calloused carpenter hand and nails it to his own cross.
Go ahead and stare at its useless, silent accusation. This is
forgiveness—at least one more facet of it.
FORGIVENESS IS SENDING SIN
AWAY WITH ANOTHER
far we’ve dared to look at our sin, the stain that we can’t forget
and the charges against us. But what if want to put some real
distance between ourselves and our failure? What if we want to move
totally away, start anew, and never return to that place and
This is the geographical cure. It’s the
timeless hope that if we move to a new state, the old problems
won’t follow us. It’s the hope of parents that a new school will be
the fix. It’s the hope of marriage that a new house in a new town
will make the difference.
When have you tried the geographical
cure for yourself or for someone else?
How did it work?
What is the attraction of this idea
that a new school, house, town, or work will make all the
STUDY THE FOLLOWING
Leviticus 16:21 Then
Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and
confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel, and all
their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay
them on the head of the goat and send it away into the
wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness.
22 "And the goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a
solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the
Romans 5:18 So then as
through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men,
even so through one act of righteousness there resulted
justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man's
disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the
obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
Psalm 103:11 For as
high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His
lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. 12 As far as the east is
from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from
With these images, especially the
scapegoat, we have a new solution for our sins. The sin has moved!
We can’t always move to a new place and even if we did, our sins
would come with us, both the old and those yet to be done. But what
if we could move the sins and we safely can stay here?
This movement with the scapegoat image
is like the first image of cleansing. There the sins were taken
away. But we have this question: where did they go? Maybe they are
still lurking and waiting to resurface, like a bad, temporary
The work of the scapegoat is more than
cleansing because we know where the sin has gone. And yet the sin
and stain are completely, permanently gone. It’s a perfect
combination of safe distance and known location.
Consider the following aspects of the
scapegoat as the one carrying our sins, marked by blood and then
driven out of the Israelites’ camp.
How is this a distinctive image of
forgiveness through the following two ideas:
The sin is gone
And, it’s not coming back
The joy of this image is that the goat
has taken the whole burden. What a load! Isn’t it remarkable that
this was fulfilled not by an ignorant goat but by the all-knowing
Son of God who accepted this lowly place, and had the power to
actually carry the sins of the world outside the camp of all? He
was driven out of Jerusalem, driven out of the prison and into the
It’s the tomb that is the key. Imagine
being in the camp the next morning after this ceremony of driving
out the scapegoat. What is the last thing you want to see? The
goat! Wouldn’t the goat bringing back our sins be our worst
nightmare, a bad dream that we might know very well?
But drive the goat out of the camp into
the wilderness. What’s going to happen to the goat? He won’t make
it through the day and he certainly isn’t going to come back from
the dead and back to camp. He’s dead and gone.
What a powerful image of the Scapegoat
on Calvary who takes our sins. His death is the death of our sins.
This is how God has separated us from our sins forever and we never
need to fear a vengeful return from Him. The sins have gone on,
over the horizon, to the ultimate geographical cure. But this cure
isn’t an endless running from our troubles. Instead it’s the one,
single separation of us and our sins. The Scapegoat has taken them
to his lasting location and now wherever we are, it’s the place
where he has cured us. Go ahead and look over the horizon to the
east. Gaze all you want. The goat will never come back. His death
is the cure, the answer to our restlessness. This is forgiveness—at
least one more facet of it.
UNIT THREE: ONE MORE THAN ANOTHER: HEARING AND
FORGIVENESS IS HEARING ONE OVER THE
now, YouTube is playing in the background on my computer. But you’d
be hard pressed to hear George Strait. The computer speakers are
tiny and I’m outside on the deck, a half block from County Highway
D and a block from the end of town. In other words, George is being
overwhelmed by semi’s hitting their brakes coming into town and
Harley’s growling their way out of town. George Strait might as
well be lip synching for all I can hear him. Good thing I know all
his songs by heart.
One sound overwhelming another is our
theme in this unit. We have all strained to hear one voice while
another intrudes. It’s the concert you couldn’t hear because of the
two talking behind you. It’s the announcement at the airport you
couldn’t quite catch. It’s the directions at the meeting you never
got since you were seated at the last table in the room.
When have you struggled to hear
someone that was really important but someone or something else
covered it up?
What do you do when you can’t
hear—(The classic hand over the ear, the tilt of the head, the
asking someone to repeat)
How often can you ask someone to
repeat themselves before it’s just too much or plainly
STUDY BY READING THE
Romans 8:34-38 Who is
the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who
was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes
for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall
tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness,
or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, "For Thy sake we are
being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be
slaughtered." 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer
through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death,
nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor
things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other
created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God,
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 John 2:1 My little
children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin.
And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus
Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our
sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the
How much would it take to drown out the
trucks and Harleys that are going past me? A lot more volume than
my little computer has got! But imagine being at a great concert,
front row, full volume, the band playing your five favorite songs.
Somewhere in the background there’s a full interstate of traffic,
semis and Harleys nose to tail. Can you hear them? Not a
It’s time for us to turn up the music of
forgiveness. Notice in Romans 8:34 that God has brought up his Son
as the key witness in our trial. Though he could condemn, the
Father instead hears the justifying intercession of Jesus for us.
These are the words that continue endlessly for us at the throne of
God. They are exactly the words that the Father has sent the Son to
say. These interceding words are the foundation of our relationship
and the reason that Romans 8:1 says that there is now no
condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
But what if the other side is adding
voices and volume? In the following verses, Romans 8:35 and on,
notice all the potential accusers, the fault finders. These are
tragedies and troubles that all say that our sins are not forgiven
and that God is reserving his worst condemnation for us. We can all
hear these voices. Sometimes, our guilty consciences join in as the
backup singers for them.
But this is really no problem. Turn up
the volume on the words of the Son. Go back to the concert image.
Imagine you have control of the sound board and you control the
volume. Still hearing that traffic noise from the Interstate? No
worries. Turn up those speakers and you’ll never know those semis
That is the challenge of this image of
forgiveness for us. How often we listen to the whispering threats
of illness, sorrow, and trouble, all telling us that we are not
forgiven and that even worse trouble is coming because of our
But that’s not the voice we need to
hear. Instead turn up the volume, so to speak, of the words of the
Son interceding for us with the Father. Know that he endlessly
speaks on our behalf. He tells the Father that we are the lost
children now found. He tells the Judge that we are the ones for
whom he was willing to die. He doesn’t ask merely for a second or a
thirty-second chance for us to do better. He asks for full pardon,
complete forgiveness. And the Father agrees with every
Consider how this image of
forgiveness gives us something unique:
How is this more than the covering
How is this a cooperative act of
both the Son who speaks and the Judge who listens?
What are we to do while the Son
speaks for us? Are our words and explanations needed? Will our
promises to try harder tip the scales for us?
Here is a unique aspect of forgiveness.
It’s daring to bring our enemies front and center and have them say
what they want. Instead of silencing them, we simply reduce them to
frustrated mutes because what they do say is completely overwhelmed
by the Son speaking to His Father. Whether our accusers continue to
shout, or they stalk off in frustration, the end is the same. This
is like the covering of sin, but here it is the ongoing, active
covering of the endless words of the Son for us. We listen to the
Son intercede for us and we hear the Father say, “No condemnation.”
This is forgiveness—at least one more facet of it.
FORGIVENESS IS IN THE
Imagine you walk out to your car and just as you get there, a
teenage driver backs into your passenger door. The young man feels
the hit, looks back, realizes what he has done and moves a bit
forward. He gets out and so does his father. The boy is worried—his
car is fine but your door is completely crumpled in. The father
asks if the boy feels ok—he does. The father checks his own car’s
bumper—it’s fine. Then the father says, “Well, as long as no one
was hurt, it’s just a good learning experience. Be more careful
now. O.k., let’s go, son.”
Wait a minute! You’re going to just
drive away? The father says, “Well, yeah, no one was hurt.” But,
you ask, “What about my car? Who’s going to pay for this? Someone
has to pay!”
In the story of the accident, why
might the father have thought he could simply drive
How would you have felt and what
would have done if it was your car that was damaged and the father
and son were about to leave?
When have you needed someone to pay
for what’s happened?
Did you get the satisfaction of that
STUDY BY READING THE
1 Corinthians 6:19 Or
do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who
is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in
Mark 10:45 "For even
the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give
His life a ransom for many."
Psalm 49:15 But God
will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol; For He will receive
Romans 3:21-26 But now
apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been
manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for
all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have
sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a
gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood
through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness,
because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins
previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of
His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and
the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Someone has to pay. That’s the theme of
our final facet of forgiveness. God assures us of forgiveness not
by being an overly-indulgent parent. He assures us that forgiveness
has a terrible high price but that he has paid that price
Jesus as the ransom shows this facet of
forgiveness. He has purchased us with the blood of his Son and that
outweighs all the debts we have gathered.
The image of a Father protecting and
valuing his son is the key. God wishes, as Romans 3:21-26 shows, to
be both the forgiving Father and also the righteous Judge. He
accomplishes this by making his innocent Son pay for the collisions
and debts of us, his wayward children. If someone injured by sin
cries out, “Hey, who’s going to pay for this?” God can answer, “My
Son has paid already. I put him to death for this. Is that enough?”
Of course, it is more than enough for what debt is not covered by
The loss of the Son is what makes this
payment possible. Any parent can understand how God’s economy and
justice works. The death of a child is the end of the world. What
is the world’s treasure to a parent whose child has passed away? So
the loss of the Father’s Son is the payment of the world, the price
that all sin cannot match.
As our sins add up, how does the
ransom price of God match this enormous amount?
Is the payment of God a multiplied
wealth or is it a single payment?
This wonderful final facet shows that
the Father stops at nothing to forgive. He withholds nothing, not
even his Son. Forgiveness is not the accumulated patience of God or
his gullibility to believe our repeated promises to become better.
Forgiveness is the one astonishing payment, the loss that gains the
world. This is forgiveness—our final facet of it.
FOR WHOM IS EACH PICTURE
If you have time for a few summary
ideas, consider the six facets we’ve covered.
Who especially needs one of these
Consider some of the
The adult troubled over an ongoing
struggle with sin, a Romans 7 frustration of the good not being
done and the evil still continuing
The older adult who has lived under
the threatening shadow of an episode from twenty years ago—the
stealing at work that lasted six months
The casual sinner who confidently
views his sin as nothing terribly serious. After all, he says, you
can see something worse every day on Fox News
The parent who laments over the lost
opportunities with her child. Now those years are gone and look at
the trouble the child is in