Thursday, June 9, 2016

Luke 7:36-50 Forgiven Much, Love More

KEY TEXT: Luke 7:44-47 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."

KEY THOT: The sinful woman performed the common courtesies for Jesus that were usually given to an honoured guest. Simon the Pharisee did not bother with these courtesies, showing his disrespect for Jesus. The woman used her tears for water,  her hair for cloth to wipe Jesus’ feet and her most expensive perfume for anointing Jesus' feet. Such devotion to Jesus was beyond Simon’s comprehension. So Jesus told Simon the parable about two debtors who were forgiven by a moneylender for their debts--one 500 denarii and the other 50 denarii. And then asked: Who would love the moneylender more? Jesus concluded: “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little" (Luke 7:47). 

Some preachers are saying that once we have accepted Christ, we don’t need to keep on repenting and asking for forgiveness of our sins because all our sin-debts have been paid by Christ at the Cross. While it’s true that Christ’s death on the cross has settled our sin-debts once and for all, yet none of us can claim we are perfected the moment we accept Christ. At conversion, God imputes Christ’s righteousness upon us (in exchange for our sins) so that He can justify us and make us His children. But this is only half the gospel. The other half is that God has given us His Holy Spirit so that Christ’s righteousness is not only imputed upon us but is also imparted to us as we are being sanctified (made holy) through a process of continual repentance and forgiveness. The more we draw closer to God through His word (our spiritual mirror), the more we are made aware of attitudes and motives in our lives that are contrary to the holy character of God--and the more we need to repent and be forgiven. 

Before we come to know Christ, we were in darkness and so could not see our own sins. But once we come to faith in Christ, His light is switched on and we begin to see our sins that cause us to repent and ask God for forgiveness. However, this process is a continuing one, for as we draw closer and closer to God, the greater the light of Christ's glory shines into the inner recesses of our soul to expose carnal hidden motives and attitudes. Initially, as a new believer, we are made aware of our gross sins (e.g. idolatry, adultery, addictions, gambling, etc): “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV). 

What initially did not bother us as young believers, we are made through the study of God's word more sin-conscious as the light of God’s word exposes more subtle self-centred motives and attitudes like envy, greed, self-indulgence, lust, pride. Like Isaiah, we begin to cry out to God for mercy as we draw closer to the holy God: "’Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty" (Isaiah 6:5). Isaiah’s vision of God’s holiness exposes his own sinfulness and he starts to confess his sinfulness and is forgiven: “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for’” (Isaiah 6:6-7). It would be a mistake to say that Isaiah was converted at this point in his faith-journey. God has called Isaiah into the prophetic ministry during the reign of King Uzziah. This vision of God was received when King Uzziah died (Isaiah 6:1).

It is mark of spiritual progress when we become more (not less) sin-conscious for this is a fruit of dwelling in God’s holy presence. The more we repent and are forgiven of our sins, the greater our love for God as we appreciate His grace and mercy towards us. The more the carnal recesses of our soul are exposed, and the more we experience God's cleansing through repentance and forgivennness, the more we are made holy (sanctified): “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). 

And because we are forgiven much, we love God even more. This reflects Paul's own spiritual journey too. For at the start of his faith journey, he confesses that he was the "least of the apostles" (1 Cor. 15:9). Later on in life, he confesses that he was the "least of the saints" (Eph. 3:8). And at the end of his life, he confesses that he is the "worst of sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15). This is the paradox of faith: not less sin-conscious as we grow in spiritual maturity but more sin-conscious--and therefore better grasp of God's grace.

On the other hand, when we stop repenting and therefore stop experiencing God’s forgiveness, we become like Simon the Pharisee—hard, judgmental and self-righteous. We are no longer able to identify with the sins of others: “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is — that she is a sinner" (Luke 7:39). The Pharisee thought they are already righteous and do not need any repenting and forgiveness. So they love very little—both God and others.

Father, help us to continue to repent of our sins as the light of Your Word exposes our hidden sins in increasing measures. May your Word be to us a double-edged sword that divides our soul from our spirit, joints and marrows and thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Amen.

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