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April 7, 2023
Fully Forgiven
Pastor Philip De Courcy

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In the Easter series Not Without Hope, Pastor Philip reminds believers that they have hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This hope breathes purpose and meaning into the Christian’s life, allowing them to face life and death with confidence. Those who trust in Christ are no longer without hope because they have encountered the risen Savior, who has given them a living hope that transcends all circumstances. Hope equips believers with the strength to face each day, and believe in the gift of eternal life granted in Christ.

More From This Series


Look, before we celebrate the Lord’s table together, I want to just stir our hearts and thinking around the word of God. I don’t have a particular text. It’s a number of selected scriptures, so just keep your Bible handy. We’ll be opening to a text or two soon enough. But as we prepare our hearts to remember the Lord in his own appointed way, I want to speak on the subject, fully forgiven. Fully forgiven. For many years, Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse occupied the prominent pulpit of 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. On a particular Sunday morning, a 12-year-old boy was in the gallery and was all ears as the great preacher spoke about God’s treatment of our sin in the person and work of the Lord Jesus. The service was coming to an end. The sermon was drawing to a close and as was the custom with Dr. Barnhouse, he kind of collected many of God’s promises from his word in the one impressive sentence as he nailed the message home.

And in that particular Sunday morning, here’s how he finished. “Our sins are forgiven, forgotten, cleansed, pardoned, atoned for, remitted covered. They’ve been cast into the depths of the sea, blotted out as a thick cloud, removed as forest as the east from the west and cast behind God’s back.” As he went to the door to greet his congregation as they exited, a 12-year-old boy who had been up in the balcony, as we mentioned, tugged on the great preacher’s sleeve, and he said these words. “Good sermon, Doc.” Gee, we sure are sitting pretty, aren’t we? We are. Our sins are forgiven, forgotten, cleansed, pardoned, atoned for, remitted covered. They’re being cast into the depths of the sea, removed as far as the east is from the west and cast behind God’s back. That’s what we’re going to celebrate this Good Friday. Christianity is a religion of the forgiven.

Forgiveness makes the Christian and it forms the church. At the heart of the gospel is the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s son who has come to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. I hope that’s your understanding of Jesus. I hope that’s your definition of Christianity because that’s true of him and it’s true of the gospel. Hebrews 9:26 says, “He appeared, God in human flesh. He appeared to put away sin.” That’s what he came to do and he did it by means of the sacrifice of himself, the just for the unjust, the innocent for the guilty, God for man. Jesus did not fundamentally come to give us wisdom through his teaching. Jesus did not fundamentally come to set a standard of behavior by his exemplary life.

No, Jesus came to procure and provide reconciliation with an offended God because of our sin. To offer us forgiveness of sin through his death and by means of his shed blood. That is the heartbeat of the Christian faith. We’re in the book of Ephesians. Ephesians 1:7 says what? “In him we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins.” We all need our sins forgiven because we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. You have, I have, we have. We’ve all sinned against God in thought and indeed, in sins of commission and sins of omission. We have sinned against our neighbor. We have sinned against ourselves in not living up to our created purpose. We are sinners in need of forgiveness. We are broken people in need of redemption.

And the good news of Good Friday is that Jesus Christ came to accomplish that for us. And we’re going to celebrate that fact by looking at some of the ways God has dealt with our sin, in the person and the work of Jesus Christ. The Bible is replete and complete with striking images of what God has done in the Lord Jesus. One of the things that biblical writers often try to do is to turn ears into eyes through pictures, through images, metaphors, similes, taking everyday images and applying them to the gospel and filling them out with spiritual meaning.

I want to make known that I was helped in the pursuit of these pictures by a wonderful book called A Dozen Things God Did With Your Sin by Sam Storms. You need to get that book. Now, if you’re a truth ambassador, you’re going to get it next month. If you’re not a truth ambassador, it’s every reason to become one. It’s a wonderful, wonderful book and he’s just augmented my own thinking. So, as time allows me, we’re going to go through some of these striking images of what God has done with our sin, and I hope your heart will thrill in the love of God as we come to break bread together that we would indeed do it with a renewed understanding of the glory of the gospel.

The first thing is this, God cleanses our sin. This is the picture of washing. This is the image of laundry, and for this, we go to Psalm 51 verses 1 and 2. This is the prayer of repentance by King David. He’s pleading to God to wash him thoroughly, to cleanse him wholly from his sin. And certainly the backdrop to Psalm 51 is his horrendous sin of adultery with another man’s wife. His adultery with Bathsheba, and then the subsequent murdering of her husband, Uriah, to cover up the first sin. David comes before God broken, exposed, and he desires for God to wash him. Look at this verse, “Have mercy upon me, oh God. According to your loving kindness, according to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.” Verse 2, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” David feels dirty, his soul feels grimy and he longs to feel clean once again.

He wants to be washed of his moral defilement and so he pleads that God would indeed do that. It’s a beautiful image. Sam Storm says this, “The word translated wash is often used of a woman first saturating a garment with soap and then treading it under foot on a rock, beating it, pummeling it and then over it pouring rushing water.” I wonder whether that might indeed be the thought in David’s mind as he tearfully cries to God, “Gracious Lord, do that to my spirit. My sin is like deep died stains that has soiled the fabric of my soul and no ordinary soap or detergent, far less any good work on my part can remove it. My transgressions are like ground in dirt. Lord, scrub me clean by your mercy and your grace.”

God cleanses our sin. David takes an everyday image. I mean, you can identify with that, can’t you? Every home generally here in America has a laundry room. I mean, in our house the washing machine is never off. With regards to my wife, it’s one and you’re done. You get one day to wear your shirt and then it disappears. You don’t get to wear the same clothes twice. In fact, talking about that, forget about washing machines. I’m old enough to remember my mother and especially my grandmother doing the hard work of scrubbing on the washing board. Have you ever seen that? Those old washing boards of corrugated iron where they’re rubbed the dirty clothes up and down them and dipping them into the bucket of water and rubbing them again. We all love the look and the smell of fresh, clean clothes, and what’s true physically is true morally.

David says in this psalm, “My sin is ever before me, and when I think about it, I feel dirty and grimy and I long to feel clean.” Now interestingly, he ties this washing, cleansing and purging to the use of hyssop. Verse 7, “Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” Hyssop alludes to a leafy plant that was used during religious ceremonies in Israel, especially for the sprinkling of sacrificial blood on the altar. Hebrews 9:22 tells us, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission.” God has set it up that indeed for you and I to have forgiveness, an innocent lamb must be slaughtered and its blood must be shed, and it was all pointing forward to that moment when Jesus Christ would come and die in our place upon a cross.

We know from the New Testament this all points to Jesus and his atoning death and his shed blood. How are Christians described in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians, 6:11? He says this, “Having described all manner of sin and lawlessness and rebellion against God and such were some of you, but you were washed, justified and sanctified.” Revelation 1:5, “We have a doxology unto him who washed us from our sins in his own blood to him be glory forever.” What does verse John 1:7 say? “If we confess our sin, he’s faithful and just to forgive us our sin and what? And cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

That’s what Jesus procured. That’s what the gospel provides, cleansing, feeling clean. In fact, it’s interesting in the Jewish society of that day, to wash and change clothes marked a new beginning. In fact, you see that in David even tied into the sin, the Psalm 51 is referring to because he commits adultery. Bathsheba gets pregnant, they marry. The child becomes sick and eventually dies, but while the child is sick, David pleads for the child’s life and during that time he doesn’t eat and he doesn’t change his clothes. When the child is taken, it says that David washed himself and changed his clothes. It was a mark of a new beginning.

There’s no better feeling and no greater joy than to know that your sins have been cleansed through the blood of Christ. Billy Graham makes reference to a story his wife told him of growing up in the mountains of North Carolina. In the early days mountain, people in that area used to have a wooden cradle with slats along the sides and they would put their laundry in this kind of cradle, wooden cradle and they would take that and they would place it horizontally in the middle of a stream or a small river. And as the water rushed through the slats, it eventually cleans the clothes. Ruth Bell Graham said it may have been the first automatic washing machine.

One day a bootlegger in their area was converted and he was taken down to the stream to be baptized. He asked that they would please put them crossways to the current, so that he’d get washed cleaner. But it’s all just an image of what God can do for us and in us through the Lord Jesus Christ. God cleanses sin and the first image is that of washing laundry. Secondly, God carries our sin. Let’s go to Psalm 103. For this image, we’re still with David. David writes in Psalm 103:10, “God has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For us, the heavens are high above the earth so great as his mercy toward us to those that fear him. And as far as the east is from the west, so far as he removed our transgressions from us.”

There’s the second image, God carrying our sins away, removing them. Now this is a point of comparison that helps us understand the magnitude of God’s mercy and we don’t want to miss the significance of it. There’s more here than first meet your eye. See David’s thinking beyond the circumference of the world, would would be a pretty big measure in and off itself, 24,900 miles. The breadth of the world, however is not the seam measurement as the distance between east and west.

There’s a great and exceeding promise here not to be missed. East and west are directions, not points in a compass, therefore infinite and measurable in terms of a distance between each other. Listen to these words by Paul Powell. “Don’t miss the greatness of this promise. God does not promise to remove our sins as far as the north is from the south, but as far as the east is from the west,” is that significant? You betcha God has reason for expressing the promise like that. There’s a limit to the northerly and southerly directions. There’s a north pole and a south pole. If you travel north far enough, you’ll eventually reach the North Pole. You’ll pass it and start traveling south and as you travel south, you’ll reach the South pole and as you pass it, you’ll start traveling north.

There’s a certain limit to that, but there’s no limit to the east or the west. You begin to travel in an easterly direction and you will never cease traveling east. You will never begin at any point to travel west unless you turn back. You can travel west ad infinitum. What a beautiful metaphor, and it’s to remind us of what God has done for us and the forgiveness of our sins he has so remove them that you and I cannot begin to imagine the distance God has put now between our sin and his judgment. God has removed our sin in a wonderful way. God did it for David.

Don’t forget that when Nathan exposed him, Nathan nevertheless said to him in 2 Samuel 12:13, “God has put away your sin.” Isn’t that the language of John 1:29 to describe the Lord Jesus and what he did through Calvary’s Cross? “Behold the lamb of God, which carries away, bears away, takes away the sin of the world. How far does he take the sin away? As far as the east is from the west ad infinitum.” Hebrews 9:26, we quoted at the beginning of the sermon, “Christ appeared to put away sin.” God has placed our sin out of reach, out of sight. There’s no point looking for it. I like the story that Baptist preacher Paul Chapel tells of an elderly lady who was asked by a friend, “Has the devil ever trouble you and trouble you about your past sins?” And she says, “Oh, he does.”

And the friend said, “Well, how do you combat that? What do you do about that?” “Well, I just tell him to go east, as he reminds me about my past sins. Go east.” And he says, “Well, what do you do when he comes back?” “Well, I tell him to go west. And when he comes back from west, I just keep him going from east to west.” She got it. Our sins cannot be found. Don’t let the devil bully you out of the truth, that God has washed your sin thoroughly and God has removed your sin marvelously.

Let’s get two more metaphors in. In the book by Sam Storms, there’s 12 of them. We’re only touching on the beautiful metaphors and striking images. Here’s another one. “God cancels our sin. God cancels our sin.” Let’s go to Colossians for this one. Colossians 2:14. Paul, in this letter is describing who Jesus is. “God in human flesh, the one who made all things was himself, made flesh to be made sin for us who knew no sin.” And he says this in Colossians 2 about what the Lord Jesus Christ came to accomplish.

He came to wipe out the handwriting of the requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And he has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. God not only washes and removes our sin, he cancels it, wipes it out, blots it out. What we have here is the image of a criminal indictment. If you go back to the biblical times in the New Testament era, when someone was crucified, their charge sheet, their criminal indictment was nailed above their heads. And in fact, the form of this takes place in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. We read in Matthew 27:37, “And they put over his head the accusation written against him.”

This is Jesus, the king of the Jews. That reflected more of what bothered the Jews than what bothered the Romans. But you get that image. But above the head of the crucified person was their indictment, their rap sheet, the reason for which they were being crucified, the debt that they owed society. And Paul takes that image and he imagines the IOU of your sin and my sin. Every sin we have committed in thought and indeed the things we did wrong and the things we didn’t do right. All of that is on that IOU you of sin, that record of our moral debt. And you know what Paul says? “It’s nailed to the cross, it’s wiped out, it’s blotted out. The dead of our sin has been paid for in the life of the Lord Jesus given in death and in the blood of Jesus, the innocent dying for the guilty.”

Our sins were paid for in the forfeiture of his life. I mean, one of the things he says on the cross is what? It is finished, the Greek there is paid for. That’s what Jesus was doing on the cross. He was paying the IOU you of your sin, the writing that was against you. What does the Psalm say of God was to mark our iniquity? If God was to write it down and hold it up against us, who would stand? Who would get into heaven? Nobody. Who would go to hell? Everybody. But in an act of love and an act of self-giving, God spared not his own son and Jesus surrendered to the cross and he died that just for the unjust and he gave his life for ours. And the IOU of our sin was nailed above his head and God accepted what he did as payment for our sin.

It’s that not wonderful this Good Friday? In fact, we’ve got kind of similar language, don’t we? Over in Psalm 51. We’ll go back there, “Have mercy upon me, oh God, according to your loving kindness, according to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.” There’s a beautiful image that stands behind that. We’re told that when people in that day wrote on parchment, which was their paper, they wrote with ink that didn’t have acid in it. And so whatever they wrote set on the top of the page. It was dry, but without acid, it didn’t eat its way into the parchment, the [inaudible 00:23:08] the paper, so to speak. And you know what? Whenever that was written needed to be removed, they just took a wet sponge and wiped it out, blotted it out.

That’s the word that David’s using. My adultery, my wickedness, my lawlessness, my rebellion, my hand in the murder of a good man, blot it out, wipe it clean. It’s powerful. And that’s what God promises us. God not only cleanses our sin, God not only carries our sin, God cancels our sin. You know, Jim and I, when we were going through the master family marveled that God’s provision for us the kindness of God’s people at Grace Community and Placerita Baptist and part of that kindness showed up in a good brother called Jay, who ran a car repair business in Santa Clarita and we had a little Honda Accord at the time and we’re trying to keep it on the road as inexpensively as we could as we were going through seminary.

And on several occasions I had the joy of going to collect it and as I asked for the bill, the bill was handed to me. But when I looked at the bottom of it, was stamped, paid in full. Jay had assumed the debt himself, paid for it, fixed the car for free. It’s a beautiful thing to read a bill and see the words “paid for”. And that’s where we’re at, the debt of our sin, the IOU of our misbehavior, paid for.

Here’s the final thought, final picture. God costs our sin. Where does he cast our sin? To the depths of the sea. This will take us the Micah 7:19, but I want to break in at verse 18. “Who is the God like you? Pardoning iniquity. There’s no one as merciful as our heavenly Father and passing over, there’s an image, the transgression of the remnant of his heritage. He does not retain his anger, but he delights in mercy. He will again have compassion us and will subdue our inequities.” There’s another image, trampling our sins under his feet. But here’s the image I want to get to. “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob and mercy to Abraham, which you have sworn to our fathers from days of old.”

Micah’s writing to a disobedient people who are not keeping in covenant with God. And Micah pleads for God that he would keep covenant with them. Verse 20, Micah hangs his hope on the unchanging nature of God’s character in his mercy and his grace and in his love. And he asked God to show mercy, to pass over their transgression, to trample their iniquities under his feet and to cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. What a beautiful image, the casting of our sins into the depths of the sea.

That reminds me of a similar image in Isaiah 38:17 where it says that God casts our sins behind his back. And as far as I know, going on memory here, the Hebrew there carries the idea of the point of your back between your shoulder blades, the part you can’t scratch, the inaccessible part, you got to get your spouse to scratch. And that’s a beautiful image, isn’t it? That God casts our sin behind his back into that inaccessible hard to reach spot. But here the idea of casting is the casting of sins into the depths of the sea.

And most commentators say that Mike is drawing from the image of Exodus 15 and 14 when God told the Israelites in their escape from in Egypt, “You shall see them no more.” And we know what happened as Pharaoh and the armies of Egypt chased them into the Red Sea. Once the last Israelite had crossed and the Egyptians were halfway across, the walls of water closed in and as the mobsters would say, they began to swim with the fishes or sleep with the fishes. And that’s the image Micah saying, “Lord, what you did to the Egyptians, do to our sin, drown them, swallow them up.” It’s a wonderful image.

The deepest point in the ocean is, to our knowledge, the Mariana Trench. It’s located in the Pacific Ocean where at that point it’s 36,198 feet deep. That’s almost seven miles deep. It’s equivalent to 27 Empire State buildings stacked on top of one another. The highest point on the Earth is Mount Everest in Nepal, that’s 29,000 feet. So, that means that the deepest point of the ocean goes further than the highest point of the Earth. Now what we know, David didn’t know. There were no submarines in David’s day. There was no ability to sound out or map out the ocean bed. As David looked at the ocean, for him it was just a metaphor of something that was deep and once you threw something into it was gone.

And he loved that thought. Just as you throw a stone into the sea and it sinks to the bottom. As he thought about God’s mercy and forgiveness through the sacrifice of the innocent lamb on his behalf, he said, “You know what? God casts our sins into the depths of the sea, the sea of his forgetfulness.” And we know that to be even more true in the Lord Jesus Christ. In her book, Tramp for the Lord, Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom tells of revisiting Germany. Can you imagine that in 1947? To share the gospel of God’s forgiveness through faith in Christ.

She recounts this. I’ll let her tell her story. “I have come from Holland to defeat a Germany with the message that God forgives. It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter bombed out land. And so I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind. I like to think that that’s where forgiven sins are thrown. When we confess our sins, I said, God cast them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. Then God places a sign over them that says, ‘No fishing allowed.'” Love that. My friend Jesus sank into the depths of abandonment at Calvary as the waves of God’s wrath and the bellows of God’s anger washed over his head, he descended into that darkness so that our sins could be thrown into the depths of the sea and we rejoice in that.

The little fella’s right, isn’t he? “Gee, doc, we sure are sitting pretty.” Our sins are covered, remitted, atoned for, cast into the depths of the sea, removed as far as the east is from the west, thrown behind God’s back. Marghanita Laski was a well-known secularist and humanist in the United Kingdom. And in a moment of candor on British television in 1988, she said this, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness. I have nobody to forgive me.” As we close and move towards the Lord’s table, as we think about these striking images and their implications, may this silence an accusing conscience and help us rebuke the accuser as he brings our sins up. Sins that we have confessed, sins that God has cast into the depths of the sea and says, “I will remember them no more.”

Don’t let the devil rob you of your joy. Put an accusing conscience to bed and silence in the blood of Jesus. May this help us drain our doubts away about why they were forgiven. Given these metaphors, how can you doubt the sufficiency of the forgiveness that God has produced in the person of his son? May this help us forgive those who are in debt to us or people in our lives we need to forgive. They say that forgiveness is a beautiful word until you have someone to forgive.

Do you know what? The forgiveness of God towards us helps us extend that hand of forgiveness to others. And may this help us bless the Lord and extol the Lord with all our soul. “Blessed, says Psalm 32, “happy, thrilled is the man, woman, child, whose sins are forgiven and whose transgression is covered.” So, as we come to the Lord’s table and closing up our second Good Friday service, just meditate on these wonderful realities, that sin can be washed thoroughly clean. That the sin that is ever before you and before God until it’s confessed, that sin can be removed from God’s sight as far as the east is from the west. That the debt of your sin is being nailed to the cross.

You’re free and God has cast your sins into the depths of his sea and he would tell you, “No fishing allowed.” Father, we come to take of this bread, mindful that it reminds us of the broken and bruised body of the Lord Jesus Christ that was indeed given in sacrifice for us upon the cross. We’re very much aware of the cruelty of crucifixion, of the beatings our savior endured, the whip, the mockery, the pierced hands, the pierced feet, the hanging in shame. But we also realized that in his body, he bore our sin and his body and his life absorbed the wrath of God for us.

And so as we take this bread on this Good Friday, we celebrate what he procured and provided for us, forgiveness of sin. The sin that has ever before us, the sin that has caused us to fall short of your glory, the sin that invites your holy response and recompence, we thank you that those sins have been washed. The record of them expunged, cast under the depth of the sea, removed to a place this ad infinitum. And we thank you in Jesus’ name. Amen. Let’s take and eat and give thanks.

Lord, we thank you for the image we find in the prophecy of Zachariah that you have opened up a fountain of healing for the wounds of Israel. Oh, Lord, as we would update that from a new covenant understanding, we thank you for that fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins and sinners plunge beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains. We thank you for the fountain of healing that was opened up in the wounds of the Lord Jesus on Calvary’s Cross for a broken humanity. We thank you. There’s healing in him. We thank you there’s wholeness in him. We thank you that things are made right with an offended God because of him, all because of his shed blood. “Wash me with hyssop, cleanse me, oh, Lord,” said David, and we thank you that what was true in his day is even more true in our day.

I thank you for the cross and the altar that it was and the shed blood of the Lord Jesus applied. The wrath of God has indeed been assuaged. So, as we take this cup, may we do it with great gratefulness. May we rejoice in the fact tonight that we can put our head on the pillow, unafraid. There’s therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ. We have peace with God through faith in our Lord Jesus, and we pray these things in his name. Amen.

Let’s take and drink with gratefulness. Lord, we thank you that Christianity is for the forgiven. We thank you that forgiveness makes Christians and forms the church. And may we indeed own that, rejoice in that. And may it indeed make us those who are quick to forgive, those who would love their enemies. Those indeed who would be ambassadors, calling men to reconciliation. As we leave, may we indeed go in the spirit of that. Help us to prepare ourselves for Sunday and a celebration of an empty tomb and an occupied throne and a returning king. Thank you for that living hope. May it breathe life into all that we are and all that we do and we pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.