Giving Forgiveness

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Forgiveness is tough. In a sermon, giving forgiveness sounds so easy and clean. Yet, in real life, it is difficult and messy.

I mentioned in a sermon recently that whenever we withhold forgiveness, we deny the power of the cross. Whenever we say, “I can’t forgive that person.” Or, “I can’t let go of that situation.” We deny the power of the cross.

As you walk through this door and grant forgiveness, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
  1. Forgiving someone does not mean pretending it didn’t happen. Forgiving does not mean forgetting as the old saying goes. Those scars still exist. They are still there. Forgiving means acknowledging it happened and the pain associated with it.
  2. Giving forgiveness means bearing the other persons sin. There is a cost to forgiveness (see #1). You must bear their sin. The cost of forgiveness is always on the person granting forgiveness. This is why forgiveness is so hard.
  3. Forgiveness is possible because Jesus bore your sin and the cost of your forgiveness. When we look at the cross, we see how Jesus bore our sin, knowing we would fail again and again. Yet, he forgave us. The power of this moment is what enables us to forgive the way Jesus did.

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Turning from Your Sin

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On the cross Jesus said, “It is finished.” He did all he came to do. His death accomplished what it needed to accomplish. The reason is because he came out of the grave.

Yet, we still struggle, we still fail and we still sin.
Our sin placed Jesus on the cross. Yet, he died knowing we would sin and fail. Instead of resigning ourselves to this and giving up, we can and should fight our sin through the power of the cross.
The first step is believing that this is true. When we sin, we need to quickly run to the cross, confess our sin. Don’t walk around with your sin. Don’t let your sin stay between you and Jesus. Throw yourself on the mercy of the cross.
The second step is the more practical side of fighting your sin. What is your plan to fight your struggle and live in freedom?
Here are some things to think through:
  1. When you are most likely to sin, fall into a trap. How do you avoid that place? We often fall into traps at the same time in the same place. We often sin in the same way because we are creatures of habit.
  2. What things do you need to sin? Is it food, a computer, someone else? How do you take that out of the equation? Whatever it is, take it out of the equation. You don’t need to have snack food in your house, you don’t need to get on the internet or social media at 11pm. You don’t need to be alone with that person you aren’t married to.
  3. What things lead up to you sinning? Are there feelings or circumstances that make you more likely to sin? It is when life feels out of control, when you are tired, run down? If so, be on your guard then.
  4. Who can you bring along on this journey for accountability and encouragement?

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“I Don’t Feel God’s Love”

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In talking with many people, I’m convinced one of the biggest roadblocks to faith, to living the life God created you to live (John 10:10) has to do with God’s love and accepting God as Father.

For many, this comes from their relationship with their earthly father. It is hard to see God as a good, gracious and loving Father if you experienced a father who always broke his promises, abused you, hurt you, was emotionally absent or walked out and abandoned you. Yet, in John 10, Jesus tells us a lot about God as a Father.

He tells us that he knows us (vs. 27), that his children follow him (vs. 27), that God gives his children life and that they will never perish (vs. 28), and that his children sit in the hand of God and no one or nothing will be able to snatch them out (vs. 29).

The image of sitting in the hand of God is so important. It gives us a picture of how close we as followers of Jesus are to God the Father. It shows his great care for us. It shows his protection of us. It also shows us that everything that comes our way must pass through the hand of God. 

Whether sin, temptation, suffering, pain, etc. All of this must pass through the hand of God to get to us. Not all of that comes from the hand of God, but it does not catch God by surprise.

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The Cross is Not about You

In many churches, not only is sin never mentioned – because it hurts people’s feelings or what have you – the cross is rarely mentioned. And when the cross is mentioned, because we don’t want to talk about sin, it becomes the great affirmation of our specialness rather than the great punishment for our unholiness. The cross becomes not the intersection of God’s justice and mercy but the symbol of God’s positive feelings about our undeniable lovability. -Jared Wilson, The Pastor’s Justification

Engaging Sinners

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I was struck this past Sunday when I preached from John 4 the similarities to Samaritans and our culture. In the first century, Jews hated the Samaritans and believed God did as well. In fact, one first century Jewish writing stated that “God despised Samaritans.” In John 8, to insult Jesus, the Pharisees called him a Samaritan.

It made me think about how many Christians, in the name of Jesus, hold up signs letting the world know who God hates and despises.

Now, before you miss my heart, let me explain something. Sin is real. I do believe homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26 – 27; 1 Corinthians 6:9 to name a few passages). I do not believe that being gay is the new black or that someone is born gay.

In John 4, Jesus’ disciples are blown away that Jesus is speaking to a Samaritan woman. In the first century, Jews did not speak to Samaritans. Men did not speak to women. Jewish Rabbis certainly did not speak to women. Women were not taught theology at the time. There was no need in the view of that culture.

Yet, John 4:4 says Jesus had to pass through Samaria instead of taking the normal route from Judea to Galilee. Why? Because the Holy Spirit was working on this woman’s heart, preparing her for the gospel. When we share our faith, the Holy Spirit has been at work in that person’s life, we are simply showing up to the party late. 

Jesus talks to this woman. He does not come out and point out her sin, although he does eventually. He engages with her. Too many Christians jump to, “You are a sinner” instead of engaging a person in a relationship. We think that waving signs, protesting, yelling at people will wake people up to the gospel.

Jesus, before pointing out any sin first points to something better. Instead of starting with the negative, he points out what could be for this woman, a vision for a life that could be. This creates a longing for something more. Instead of pointing out her sin, he allows her to admit it (John 4:17). This shows the work going on in this woman’s heart.

Through this approach, this woman is changed. To the point that she immediately tells the entire town about the change in her life (John 4:28 – 29).

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The Goal of Jesus

Here is a quote I shared at the end of my sermon today at Revolution:

Jesus, the king, created all things in love. He has the power and the beauty to see His vision for the world through to its glorious end, to undo everything we have been able to do to harm it. To accomplish that, He had to come and die for it. Three days later, He rose again; and one day will come back again to usher in a renewed creation. The gospel is the ultimate story that shows victory coming out of defeat, strength coming out of weakness, life coming out death, rescue from abandonment. And because it is a true story, it gives us hope because we know that life is really like that. It can be your story as well. God made you to love him supremely, but He lost you. He returned to get you back, but it took the cross to do it. He absorbed your darkness so that one day you can finally and dazzlingly become your true self and take your seat at His eternal feast. -Tim Keller, Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God

What is a Christian?

The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father…If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. -David Platt, Follow Me

Question: Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Some Quotes from “Follow Me” that will Push You

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I just finished reading David Platt’s new book Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live (kindle version). Usually I write a book review, so here is my review.

You need to read this book. 

Here are some quotes to push your thinking and hopefully push you to pick up the book:

  • When people say they don’t “feel close to Jesus” I ask them if they are making disciples. After all, the promises for Jesus to be with us is directly tied to his command to make disciples. Experiencing God happens when we are being his witnesses and making disciples.
  • Repentance is a rich biblical term that signifies an elemental transformation in someone’s mind, heart and life. When people repent they turn from their walking in one direction to running in the opposite direction. From that point forward, they think differently, believe differently, feel differently, love differently and live differently. When Jesus said, “Repent” he was speaking to people who were rebelling against God in their sin and relying on themselves for their salvation.
  • We can’t fathom a Christian on the other side of the world believing that a wooden god can save them, but we have no problem believing that religion, money, possessions, food, fame, sex, sports, status and success can satisfy us.
  • The penalty for sin is not determined by our measure of it. Instead, the penalty for sin is determined by the magnitude of the one who is sinned against.
  • Jesus is not calling these disciples because of who they are, but in spite of who they are.
  • No one has ever been saved from their sins because they have pursued Jesus. Everyone who has ever been saved from their sins knows that they have been pursued by Jesus – and their lives haven’t been the same since.
  • Jesus has not invited us to journey to him; instead, he has made the journey to us.
  • The only reason we can seek Christ in our sinfulness is because Christ has sought us as our Savior.
  • Being a disciple of Jesus means we are not called to simply believe certain points or observe certain practices, but ultimately to cling to the person of Christ as life itself.
  • Becoming and being a disciple of Jesus involves far more than mere intellectual belief in Jesus, but it certainly doesn’t involve anything less.
  • It is impossible to separate faith in Jesus from feelings for Jesus.
  • The Bible portrays the church as a community of Christians who care for one another, love one another, host one another, receive one another, honor one another, serve one another, instruct one another, forgive one another, motivate one another, build up one another, forgive one another, motivate one another, build up one another, encourage one another, comfort one another, pray for one another, confess sin to one another, esteem one another, edify one another, teach one another, show kindness to one another, give to one another, rejoice with one another, weep with one another, hurt with one another, and restore one another.
  • This is how God grows the church and reaches people: through holiness in Christians. God grows his church by creating disciples who are serious about reflecting the righteousness of God and honoring the holiness of God.
  • More important than asking people to pray a prayer, we are calling people to lose their lives – and find new life Christ.
  • Disciple making involves far more than just leading people to trust in Christ, disciple making involves teaching people to follow Christ. This necessitates that we show people (particularly new Christians) what the life of Christ looks like in action.

How to Know if you are a Follower of Jesus

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To be a Christian is to be loved by God, pursued by God, and found by God. To be a Christian is to realize that in your sin, you were separated from God’s presence, and you deserved nothing but God’s wrath. Yet despite your darkness and in your deadness, his light shone on you and his voice spoke to you, inviting you to follow him. His majesty captivated your soul and his mercy covered your sin, and by his death he brought you life. Do you know for sure that you are his child, not ultimately because of any good you have done – any prayers you have prayed, steps you have taken, or boxes you have checked – but solely because of the grace he has given you. -David Platt, Follow Me

Question: Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

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Songs to Help You Prepare for Good Friday

I had to share these 2 songs from the We are Soma blog as a way to prepare your heart before attending a Good Friday service today.

 ARMY OF ANGELS

They took you out • Stripped off your clothes • Spit on your face • While the raven crows • They beat you down • Like a criminal • And raised you up like a king • So, so cynical • They dressed you up • Mocked you like a fool • “Hail to the King of the Jews”

Why not call • An army of angels to fall • Why not curse • The ends of the earth • Why not save yourself • Let blame fall on someone else • Why did you have to die?

They led you outside • The city walls • Like a lamb to the slaughter • No resistance at all • They nailed you up • To a dead man’s tree • They bled you out • For all the world to see • The sun burnt out • The sky turned black • One last breathe • The father turned his back

Why not call • An army of angels to fall • Why not curse • The ends of the earth • Was there any other way? • To make it all go away • Why did you have to die?

BY HIS WOUNDS

He suffered in silence • Said not a word • Father forgive them • Each mockingbird
He took all the punches • Till it was done • There I was standing • Holding with the gun

By his wounds we are healed • By his wounds we are healed

All my perversions • All my regrets • Every last sorrow • And my best attempts
Every last murder • And adulterous heart • Every last nickel • Spent after dark

For more music, visit the Soma Music Bandcamp site.