The LORD's Unlimited Mercies
O Lord God – we have sinned against You times without number and, therefore, do not come before You at this time due to any merit or worthiness on our part. Rather, we come to You now, and always, only because of Your great love and mercy to sinners like us demonstrated through the cross of Jesus Christ. For each and every sin we commit, there stands the perfect remedy. By Your Holy Spirit continually work in us repentance to truly acknowledge our sins, make Your forgiveness the true comfort and treasure of our lives, and thereby give us peace and joy to know we are reserved for a heavenly, eternal future with You. Amen.
“The LORD’s Unlimited Mercies”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for this morning is found in the Old Testament book of Lamentations 3:22-26. Here we read:
22Through the LORD's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 24 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!" 25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. 26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
If you could have an unlimited supply of any particular thing, what would that be?
Some time ago I remember seeing a commercial for a certain brand of snack-food crackers, whereby the company was sponsoring a contest, the prize being that one could win a lifetime supply of their crackers. I have to admit that, for whatever reason, this kind of made me chuckle to myself, I think because I was thinking that of all the things for which I could ever wish a lifetime supply I wouldn’t necessarily think of a box of crackers as one of them.
Although someone who really likes a particular kind of crackers might think differently about this, for me personally, I just wouldn’t get very excited about a lifetime supply of something like crackers. However, along these same lines, I once heard of a giveaway where the prize offered was actually an unlimited supply of gasoline for life. Now, when I heard of a prize like this, my ears really perked up! This I found really interesting because for almost all of us in this day and age gasoline is such a practical and valuable thing. Quite honestly, if we are thinking of things for this life – a top ten list, so to speak – of which we might most like to have an unlimited, lifetime supply, something like gasoline for our motor vehicles would have to rank right up there.
Yes, and especially with all of the volitility that we have seen in gasoline prices over the past several years, imagine how great it would be (no matter how much everyone else might seem to be fretting about such things) to be able to pull up to the pump whenever necessary to take one’s fill of free, unlimited gasoline, and then to simply leave the pump with no worries at all and being no lighter in the pocketbook. This would be a great thing, wouldn’t it? This would be better than a life supply of crackers, would it not? This isn’t something I’d be chuckling about, but, rather, this is something I’d be very interested in actually having in my possession.
Well, finally, with this perspective in mind, if we had to pick the one thing above every other of which we could ever hope to have a free, unlimited, lifetime supply, what would that be? Even as great as something like an unlimited supply of gasoline might be, we could still probably think of something better. In fact, in the end, if we are really thinking of the most valuable that something could ever be, we would have to think of something that’s finally for more than just this life.
You see, in a sense, anything that we could ever hope to have for merely this life will ultimately be limited, in that its benefits will only last for the time of this short life and then will extend no further. As great as something like an unlimited supply of gasoline might be, in the end this will do nothing to extend our lives beyond the point of death, let alone to save our souls for eternal life. No, finally at the point of death in this world, no mere earthly treasure will do any of us a speck of good. It’s as Jesus has taught us by saying: "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
Surely, in the end, the best that we can ever have – even of which to have a free, unlimited, lifetime supply – is that which can finally even bring us power over death by the very salvation of our souls. Of course, this is exactly what that portion of Holy Scripture which serves as our sermon text for this morning is talking to us about, and better yet, is promising to us.
Again, in our sermon text for this morning we read: 22Through the LORD's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
Truly, of all the things for which we could ever hope to receive a free, unlimited, lifetime supply, what could we say is better than the Lord God’s continued mercies to us – and, to say it another way, simply to say “the forgiveness of sins” that God gives to sinners like us.
It might seem like a simple thing to say, “the forgiveness of sins”, but how valuable and necessary that by the ever-continual mercies of God we are given an unlimited, lifetime supply of this very gift. It might seem like a simple thing to say, “the forgiveness of sins,” but, oh, to what great lengths God Himself has gone to bring us this very gift.
So, again, this is it. If we had to make a list of the most valuable and necessary things we could ever have need of or desire, “the forgiveness of sins” is what we sinners need more than anything else, and is what we will need again and again and again throughout our entire lives.
Unfortunately (in a sense), we need this wonderful gift to such a great extent because our sins are also so great. Each and every day we fail to live up to the holy commandments and standards of our holy God, so that if we were left for even one single, solitary day without a full measure of God’s sin-covering forgiveness, that would be all it would take to lock the doors of heaven forever to us. As an example of this, think of how many sins it took for Adam and Eve to be banned from the perfection of the Garden of Eden in the beginning. Without God’s help, all it takes is one sin left uncovered for a person to pass from life into death.
Indeed, it was there in the beginning in the Garden of Eden that everything in this world changed, that sin and its terrible consequences were introduced to everyone and everything coming afterward. However, it was also right there starting in the Garden that God began to reveal His plan for a Savior who would come to undo the terrible curse of sin brought about by the temptation of Satan. It would be against the backdrop of the first, terrible soul-destroying sins that God would also first begin to tell mankind of a Savior who He would send to crush the head of the Devil. It would be against the backdrop of the first sins of mankind that would stoke God’s wrath against such sin, however, that we also see God’s overriding gracious, tender heart and overriding desire to save the life of the sinner through the forgiveness of sins.
Of course, we as New Testament Christians know that this Savior is Jesus, the God-Man, sent as Substitute on our behalf. Yes, Jesus is the one who accomplished the work of redemption on behalf of all of mankind so that through His perfect life and innocent death the sins of sinners are completely covered by His cleansing blood, forgiven in the sight of our holy, loving Father in Heaven. Whoever believes in Jesus, through His Word, is always and forever known and beheld in the eyes of God in Heaven as perfectly righteous and without sin.
Yes, in Jesus God has given to every sinful person who has ever lived a free, unlimited, lifetime supply of the forgiveness of sins. This is a faithful promise that our faithful God has made to each one of us that He will never, ever take away. Sadly, the only way that the benefits of this promise cannot be had is when sinners themselves reject them, pushing them away in unbelief. This is why sinners like us need the continual power and comfort of God’s Word in our lives (like we are having right now), so that by its power we have faith created and strengthened in us for the course of this life, and by its comfort our guilt-laden hearts find assurance and rest in its saving truths of forgiveness.
And so, as we come into the presence of God through faith – formally, here at church, or at any other point in our lives – we do so first and foremost as great sinners who need even greater forgiveness. That’s always step 1 in our saving relationship with our saving God - the forgiveness of sins. Our sins first have to be covered and removed from us in Christ, which, in turn, opens the door to us for every other good and perfect gift of God to us.
For this very reason, maybe you’ve heard the expression before, which says that the primary purpose of a church like this is not to be a “museum of saints”, so to speak, but rather is to be a “hospital for sinners”.
And this is why we’re here today, isn’t it? The common, primary reason that we all gather here today in this house of worship for God is not because we have been “doing pretty good” or “holding up our end of the bargain”, but rather because we need the help that is offered to us by God through His Word as we find it here. In fact, we come here today because, on our own, we have souls that are decaying and dying in sin. But, again, we come to a “soul-hospital” like this, so to speak, because of the One who has the cure and who can heal us and cause us to live. And we can come to our merciful God again and again with repentant hearts because there is literally no limit or limitation to the help He can give us with regard to our sins. Even when, shamefully and embarassingly, we fall into the same sins over and over and over again, our merciful God through the cross of Christ is still there every time, always ready to help and heal us – every morning, every day, and every night.
Really, it was like this when the prophet Jeremiah originally wrote these words of our text under inspiration of the Holy Spirit in this book of the Bible that we know as Lamentations. The name of the book really says it all, doesn’t it? In a sense the occasion for the writing of this book was a pretty lamentable thing. The continual, rebellious sins of the people of Israel and Judah had led to their nations’ ultimate downfalls as finally even Jerusalem itself would be utterly conquered, destroyed and left in ruins; its people carried off into captivity under King Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon.
In a sense, things really couldn’t have been much worse at this point because of the sins of the people. And yet, what do we see found within the pages of this book, that seems on the surface to be a book of so much sadness? It’s good news, isn’t it; it’s the Gospel message of God’s Word concering the forgiveness of sins. That no matter how bad things had gotten, that no matter how much the people had made a mess of things in this life because of their sins, really, God’s mercy to them and His forgiveness of their sins hadn’t gone anywhere through all of this – it had even been there the whole time, as through the prophet God calls the people to believing repentance for this very healing forgiveness that He always stands ready to give. Indeed, sin always causes hurt, but to know God and His forgiveness by faith always brings healing, and even finally many wonderful blessings, to otherwise spiritually wounded and dying sinners.
That was the message that God gave through the prophet at the time of Jeremiah, and this is the message that God still gives us today in the book of Jeremiah and in all of Scripture. To each one of us sinners who continually sins, we have a free, unlimited, lifetime supply of the forgiveness of sins, so that whoever believes – sinner that one might be – this one will still also be saved for eternal life. This is finally the promise that God makes to each one of us in the cross of Jesus Christ. Yes, as we look to the cross of Jesus, there is found God’s mercy and forgiveness whenever we need it, and as much as we need – when we wake up every morning and we lay our heads down every night.
In fact, in Jesus and His cross, God has provided to each one of us more than a lifetime of forgiveness of sins. As crazy as it sounds, in a very real sense, we could never sin enough to use up all the forgiveness that is given to us in the cross of Christ.
Now, it’s been said before that it takes “risk” to preach a Gospel like this – that is, a free, unlimited, unconditional Gospel like this – because to preach a Gospel of free, unlimited forgiveness in Christ seems as though it could embolden a person to sin all the more and to become all the more comfortable in sinning, to know that the forgiveness will always be there. Well, obviously, this sort of attitude – a flippant, casual attitude toward sin – is not what God teaches through the prophet Jeremiah or in any other part of Scripture. (As when the Apostle Paul spoke about this idea, that free forgiveness in Christ meant freedom all the more to sin, he responded by emphatically saying “Certainly not!” – this is certainly not the idea behind forgiveness of sins in Christ). This kind of casual attitude toward sin actually runs counter to Holy Spirit-created faith and repentance in us as we believe. Rather, a good way to think about it is like this, that the cross of Christ means to us freedom from sin, not freedom to sin.
And yet, again, we cannot diminish that what God teaches us through Jeremiah and in the whole of Scripture is that His forgiveness to us in Christ is free and unlimited. Again, for every sin we ever have committed and ever will commit, there has always been and will always be full and complete forgivenesss. Simply put, we can never run out God’s forgiveness . And this is something we sinners desperately need to know, because if there was ever a condition or limit put on how much of God’s forgiveness we could have we would have to spend our entire lives in fear because of our many sins. Even as in Christ we are called away from sin, and don’t want to sin, we still do sin often everyday because of the sinful flesh which still clings to us for the time of this life. How easily can we all relate to what even the Apostle Paul himself admitted and recorded in the book of Romans, where he said, 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. (Romans 7:18-19) But, then, again, wonderfully, shortly thereafter he gives the perfect solution to his problem of sin and ours – God’s unlimited mercies to us in Christ – by saying, 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)
For us, like Paul, it is finally because of God’s merciful, freely given, unlimited forgiveness in Christ that sinners like us are totally freed from the fear of condemnation regarding our sins. This actually causes us to be able to more confidently love and serve our great God because we have been freed from sin in this way, even to triumphantly say with the Apostle Paul as he also writes in his epistle to the Romans: There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus … (Romans 8:1)
Especially as Christians, we don’t want to sin, we’re never better off when we sin, that’s for sure – but because of the sinful flesh we do sin … often … everyday. But God’s mercies are new to us every morning, and all the time, to take away those sins. This forgiveness is totally free of cost to us, but, again, it hasn’t come free of cost on the part of God Himself. He’s paid dearly to give us this gift; He’s paid with the entire life and death of the Son, Jesus, to give us forgiveness and eternal life, culminating in the glorious perfection of the Heaven to come.
We don’t want to take this for granted. This is the true treasure of our lives. This is the number one thing we could ever hope to have, and it has been given to us in limitless supply. Therefore, we can praise God together with Jeremiah the prophet and proclaim these words from our text: 22Through the LORD's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 24 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I hope in Him!" Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.