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The Gift of God’s Forgiveness

• Shawna Boren

In this second sermon of the Christmas series, we examine God’s forgiving character, how God forgives us, what it means to forgive others and why this is important to our own well-being, and to forgiving ourselves. This core trait of God’s is ultimately fulfilled in the life of Jesus, as he shows us what God’s forgiving nature looks like.

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This passage in Exodus is a statement about the nature of God’s character. It is set in the midst of a story where Israel had failed in their relationship with God. Even still, God sought to reconcile the broken relationship with his people. God is deeply committed to sustaining covenant relationship, even when the other party is careless and unresponsive. Jesus perfectly embodies all of the attributes of God found in Exodus 34:6-7, and thus this passage points to what occurred in the coming of Jesus.

In this second sermon on this passage, which serves as the core passage for our Christmas series, the focus lies on the phrase “…forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” This is God’s very nature, which is ultimately demonstrated in the coming of Jesus. Literally, the word forgiving means “lift” in that God’s action is meant to lift the burden of their violations.

Immediately before this declaration of his forgiving character, God states that he is “slow to anger.” The figurative language here means something like “long of nose.” If someone was angry, they would say their “nose burned hot.” If someone was patient, they would describe that as taking a long time for their nose to get hot, hence, “long of nose.” This characteristic of God can be applied to life in three specific ways.

First, let’s look at God’s forgiveness toward us. Jesus is the full and perfect revelation of God’s forgiveness for us today. As we all are in need of his forgiveness, we can learn to trust the forgiving nature of God’s character. 1 John 1:8-9 states that all have sinned and that God is faithful and just to forgive us. We can offer the darkest and ugliest parts of our life to him. There is no part of us that we must hold back from God because God does not begin with judgment. He begins with love for us as we are, not because we are already living up to God’s expectations.

Second, God’s forgiving character pertains to our relationship with others. As we accept this gift, we then need to begin to learn to forgive others (see Colossians 3:12-13). This is a complex and difficult subject because it has been used in damaging ways. Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not excusing, overlooking, forgetting, condoning, or trivializing the harm. It is not about finding excuses for the offending person’s behavior or pretending it didn’t happen. Instead, forgiveness empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, opening the door for healing. It brings peace of mind and frees you from corrosive anger.

Research over the past few decades has revealed enormous personal benefits to forgiveness. It protects our mental health, helps with depression and anxiety, offers hope and improves physical well-being. When we choose to forgive, we are handing our pain over to God and letting go of the need to carry the hurt.

Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from accountability. Reconciliation may not be possible or even safe. Forgiveness is a release of the person and situation to God.

Third, the forgiving character of God also applies to how we forgive ourselves. This is not about denying accountability, or failing to recognize our failures. It’s about self-condemnation. Research shows that people who walk in the habit of forgiving themselves, tend to have better physical and mental health. When we accept the gift of God’s forgiveness and turn that gift inward on ourselves, we honor the truth of what God says about us. It is not possible for us to really know God’s mercy/compassion for us and at the same time be hard-hearted towards ourselves.

Here’s a basic formula:
God = Merciful & gracious
+ Slow to anger
+ Abounding in steadfast (loyal) love & faithfulness
+ Forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.

Jesus shows us that this is what God’s forgiveness looks like. Most struggle with accepting this fact, yet this is the very core of who God is. Believing this reality and fully embracing that God relates to us in this way can change everything.

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Topics: Forgiveness, Relationships

Sermon Series: God IS the Gift

Downloads & Resources

Audio File
Study guide
Group Study Guide
The MuseCast: December 5
The Gift of God's Forgiveness Poem
BibleProject: How God's Anger and Love Work Together

Focus Scripture:

  • Exodus 34:6-7

    The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”

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One thought on “The Gift of God’s Forgiveness

  1. Tim says:

    Thanks Shawna! It was providential that I came upon the right message at the right time. God bless you! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

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