May 17, 2010

The Forgiveness Equation

So my computer has a virus. Booooo. Public Service Announcement time: If you haven't updated/added a virus protection program to your computer recently, please do so now. I'll wait. Seriously, this just cost me $260. I'll wait.


Ok, now that that's done, I've got to be honest and say that I will soooo not be able to post anything new until I get the computer back, which will probably be next weekend (I'm writing this on Sunday night at the office). So for those of you who read this (and I can't tell you how thrilling it is to know there are actually people who read this) I offer my humble apologies for the absence. But I do want to leave you with one last post for the week, especially since you've all been a part of my writing it... the sermon!

I went through about 3 iterations of this thing, but below is the sermon in its entirety. I tend to write verbatim, and then follow it mostly. :) You'll notice bits and pieces (and whole sections) from earlier blog posts, so there isn't much new here. But I do want you to see how it turned out...

The Forgiveness Equation

My verse today is 1st John chapter one, verse 9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Ok, so if you’ve ever had to hear me talk about myself, which I believe you all have had to do once or twice… you’ll know that I have a degree in art. But what you might not know about me is that when I was in school, I was actually quite good at math as well. So today the title of my sermon is The Forgiveness Equation. What I plan to do in the next few minutes is lead you through a look at this verse on forgiveness, and give you an equation to remember as you go about your day. Not that we can create an equation to define God or life in their entirety, but the basic equation for forgiveness is one that we can always use, one that will help us live a more balanced life in Christ.

Now, we have been studying the writings of John in this quarter of VLI, so one thing that we’ve all been told is that to truly understand what John is saying, we should look at the context. Who is John’s audience? If you study the writing style of 1st John, it doesn’t read like a typical letter and in fact scholars believe that this is what is called a “circular letter,” a sort of “Best of John” publication that was passed around among the Christian community. So these words are speaking to Christians.

This works well for me, since I am… a Christian. Now, since I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I could think that I’m done, right? That there’s nothing else I need to do in my life. But the thing is, God wants us to lead wholesome, holy lives. Unfortunately, we miss the mark on that all the time, don't we? We sin all the time. So what can we do? Well, here is where the equation factors in. But first let me give you one more verse, this time from 2nd Chronicles 7:14

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land.

This verse adds a second dimension. If we pray to ask forgiveness AND we repent, or turn from our sins, THEN God will forgive us. Do you see the equation here? In literary terms we’re talking about an if-then statement. IF we pray AND turn from our sins, THEN God will forgive us. To put it in mathematical terms, think about it this way. A + B = C. So, A:Praying plus B:Repentance, Equals C) Forgiveness.

Prayer plus Repentance equals Forgiveness. When you have an equals sign in an equation, the total of whatever is on each side has the same magnitude. Thus 1 plus 2 equals 3. If you remove one of the numbers from either side of the equation, it no longer works. If you only have 2, then you do not have 3.

If we only ask God to forgive us for something that we have done, but we do not have any intention to stop doing it, do you think that God will jump to forgive us?

So what is that balanced equation again? Prayer plus Repentance equals Forgiveness.

Now. What if we get crazy with our math skills here? If you remember your basic algebra, you will know that what you do to one side of an equation you must also do to the other, in order to keep the balance. So take the simple equation A + B = C. Let’s add the number 3 to it. I know, it’s crazy, right? Well, if I were to say (A + B) + 3 = C, would that be right? Nope, because we already established that A + B = C. So what would I need to do to make it even? I’d have to add something of the same value to the other side to make it balance out, something equal to the value of the number 3. What’s equal in value? How about one plus two? That’s three, right? So, and I know this is high-brow thinking here, but if I were to write (A+B) + 3 = C + (1+2), is that equal? Why yes, in fact it is. Because we’ve already established that A plus B equals C, and so now each side of the equation simply has the value of 3 added to it.

So, what value can we add to our Forgiveness Formula?

Well, let’s look at a real-life situation. I might be the only person in the room today who is really really bad at repentance. I will ask God left and right to forgive me, but I’m not the best at saying “and I will never do this again.” I will admit it’s a failing of mine. But let’s say that I do accomplish to ask God’s forgiveness for something that I have done, and I commit to Him to stop doing it. As an example, let’s say I’ve been gossiping about my boss behind her back, and I finally realize that it’s wrong. So I pray and say “God I have no right to speak ill of another person. I am so very sorry, please forgive me.” And I even add “Ok God, I’m going to stop doing this now, I promise.” So, super-cool, I have forgiveness, right? Right.

But what happens in two days when my boss does something absolutely insane again? And when I’m tempted to run to a friend and tell him all about that crazy thing she said or did and how much I can’t believe that I have to work for this crazy, crazy insane person. How do I avoid this?

Let’s look at Hosea 12 verse 6 for the answer: Return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.

I love this verse because it tells me what to do in this situation. Return to my God. When I feel the desire to stray into temptation, I must return to what God has called me to do in life, and He has NOT called me to be a gossip, I can tell you that. Then, I must maintain love and justice—I must act in a manner appropriately to who I am as a child of God. And last, I must wait for God. If I reach out to God to help me in my temptations, and wait on Him, he will give me the strength to maintain a Godly lifestyle.

So I’m thinking that maybe here is a value I can add to my Forgiveness Equation, to give it some lasting value. I’m going to focus on the word Maintain. So, if I pray for forgiveness, and I repent of my sins, and then I maintain the life God has designed for me, what will I get? What is equal to the value that is maintaining a Godly life?

To answer that let me tell you about how much I hate doing the dishes. I HATE doing the dishes. If it weren’t for the environment I’d have switched over to paper plates and plastic silverware years ago. And it’s just me in my house! I mean really, it shouldn’t be that hard to wash my own dishes, right? In a busy week I may only be home long enough to eat a bowl of cereal every day. That’s one bowl, and one spoon. If I were to wash that one bowl and one spoon every day, then I would never have dirty dishes, right?

But alas, I own more than one bowl and one spoon. Which means that if I really want to, I can take that one dirty bowl and spoon and put them in the sink, and the next day pull out another bowl and spoon, and another and another, until at the end of the week I have zero clean bowls or spoons, and several dishes in the sink in varying stages of crusty. Eew. I hate washing crusty dishes. It takes forever to get crusty dishes clean. First you have to soak them, then you have to scrub at them. I hate doing that.

But whose fault is that? Right. It’s mine. Because I didn’t take the time to wash my dishes as I used them. Had I maintained a habit of spending the 35 seconds it takes to wash one dish and one spoon, I would have reached the end of the week with a clean sink, and all clean dishes, and no headache. I would have been able to look into the kitchen and have… peace of mind.

Aha! There it is. Peace. If I can maintain a lifestyle in accordance with God’s rules for us, I can have peace.

So if we add peace to the equation we now have this:

If I Pray for forgiveness and repent of my sins, AND maintain a life in accordance with God’s rules, THEN I will receive forgiveness AND peace.

So. Let me reread all three of these verses together:

If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.

So what is the equation again?

(Prayer & Repentance) + Maintenance = Forgiveness & Peace.

Our lives are certainly not as simple as a mathematical equation, but sometimes it helps to have some simple guidelines to remember, things that we can repeat to ourselves when we’re in situations where we need God’s guidance.

So when you are in a place where you feel that your equation is unbalanced, when you are missing either forgiveness or peace in your life, perhaps you will need to look to the other side of the equals sign, and figure out what it is that you’re missing. No forgiveness? Perhaps you haven’t truly repented of some recent sin. No Peace? Perhaps you aren’t maintaining the lifestyle to which God has called you. But the great news in this is that all you have to do to balance your equation is do what you weren’t doing. If you aren’t praying, pray; if you’re not repenting, repent; if you’re not maintaining… then maintain. If you can do this, then you will receive both forgiveness and peace. And that is an equation to live by.

Let us pray: Lord God thank you for providing us with simple rules that we can take to heart, ways to remember all that you have called us to do. Thank you for providing us with your forgiveness and peace. Give us the ability to see when we are leaving out a critical part of our equation, so that we may return to a balanced life. In your name we pray, Amen.


  1. Wow, amazing post, Janet. It's long, but it's good. I barely noticed the length because I was so enthralled with the writing and the structure - your structure is amazing. You should have this published in a magazine or journal or something. You could do really well with this piece. Thank you so much for sharing. Your prayer really helped.

  2. Hey Janet. Whenever you get back online - I know you said you were off the computer for a while due to some problems with it - you have an award on my blog! :)


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