March 3, 2021
I stand before you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Please God fill this sermon with your grace. Give us all the impossible faith we need to forgive impossibly. Amen.
A man was hiking on a narrow path up a very steep mountain. He slipped and fell. His fall took him right over the edge of a cliff. In desperation, he grabs hold of a nearby gnarly tree branch and he’s just hanging there. He looks down and it’s a several hundred foot drop. He doesn’t know what to do. He screams out, “Help! Anybody! Is anybody up there?”
A deep, powerful voice answers, “I am.”
He doesn’t see anyone, “Is that you God?”
“Oh, thank you Lord. Please help me.”
“OK, just let go.”
“Just let go.”
“Yes. Just let go my child and I will catch you.”
He looks around and looks down again.
“Is anybody else up there?”
Is that us? Are we afraid to let go and let God? Tonight I want to talk to you about faith and forgiveness. This week in the Red Letter Challenge is about forgiving. Sadly, on a personal note, quite a number of people have hurt me to the point where I used to believe it would be impossible to forgive them. BUT we have to let go of past pain and forgive in order for real healing to take place.
In Luke 17, Jesus says, “Even if they sin against you seven times in a day… you must forgive them.”
Seven times! C’mon, that’s impossible!
The apostles thought the same thing so what did they say?
“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’”
Wow! What a great answer! It’s impossible for me to forgive on my own BUT if God increases my faith then the impossible becomes possible. It’s perfect!
Speaking of perfect, in the Lords Prayer we pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Wait a minute? Forgive us as we forgive? Uh-oh.
We love it when God is unfair to us. I’m not talking about life I’m talking about God. We love receiving grace and forgiveness that we don’t deserve. I know. I have sinned. I’ve earned nothing on my own. If I’ve hurt anyone out there, I’m truly sorry. I pray that you can forgive me.
BUT how about you? Have you done anything you regret? Lied? Stolen? Betrayed? Said some words you can’t take back? Thought something you cannot unthink? We’re all in the same boat. We want that grace and forgiveness all to ourselves but we’re called to share it with others. We’re even called to love our enemy!
Ever treated a wound on yourself? Clean out the dirt, rinse off the wound. Putting antiseptic on it and bandaging it up. Well, forgiveness is the same way. When we don’t forgive we neglect to heal from the inside. Our eternal soul is one of our greatest possessions from God. Our soul is wounded and we don’t want it to get infected. Infections spread and thinks get much worse fast. God give us faith to stop the spreading.
Again, we may feel it is impossible to forgive what was done. We feel it is impossible to let go of our deep-seated impossible pain. BUT our impossible God and our impossible religion teaches us otherwise.
Let’s look a some of our religion, a talking snake, a talking bush, a talking donkey, a virgin gives birth to a baby who has God inside of Him? C’mon, it’s all impossible! A crucified son of a carpenter came back from the dead and hung out with friends for 40 days before flying up into the sky AND He died for the sin of the world? This is all impossible.
If any of the above is truly impossible then why are we here? Wouldn’t it be easier to be the way the world wants us to be. The way Satan tells us it is. That talking snake who’s still talking. It would be a lot easier for me to be an atheist in this world.
However, my impossible God and my impossible religion have revealed themselves to me. They’ve revealed themselves to me by destroying my hate. Yes, I had actual hate for those who had hurt me. My impossible God has filled my heart, mind and soul with peace and love.
On one occasion, God even delivered one of my worst enemies to me. As King Saul was given over to David. My enemy was no King and I didn’t cut off the corner of his robe but I did forgive what he did to me, my mother and (the hardest part to forgive) what he did to my little sister. God absolutely makes the impossible possible over and over again.
In the book of John, the disciple Peter told Jesus, “I will not deny You.” and we know Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And Peter did just that. With his third denial, he heard the rooster crow and then Jesus turned and looked straight at Peter. They were able to see each other amid the chaos. And Peter wept. Jesus was soon crucified after this. I know it’s Lent, BUT He is risen. He is risen indeed, Hallelujah!
Jesus was with the disciples after His resurrection when Jesus asks Peter three questions. Tonight’s Gospel (John 21), Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him. Peter answers yes every time and we watch the process. Peter repents, Jesus forgives, Peter is restored as the rock, the foundation of the Christian church. The spokesman of Pentecost. God was there before the betrayal and knew about it. God was there for the act of betrayal and God is there after. He is always there.
Forgiveness is not an act but a way of life. It’s a before, during and after. An ongoing process.
I can easily say that you don’t understand the impossible depth of pain, guilt and shame that I have experienced. You can say to me that I couldn’t possibly understand the impossible depth of the pain, guilt and shame that you’ve personally experienced.
BUT none of us can say that God doesn’t understand it. God knows! He saw it coming. He was there with us. He shares all our experiences. He can see our mind, body and soul. Every place where the hurt reached us. Even the places where our defense mechanisms may have hidden it from us. He shared our suffering and better yet, He is willing to take ALL of it onto Himself. To free you of your burden. The price for that forgiveness and freedom is that you need to share it. Release it. Let it go. Pay His grace forward. Again, pray for God to grant you the faith to forgive yourself! Then forgive all others! No matter the pain. Forgive and heal yourself! Experience the ultimate freedom and perfect everlasting joy!
I’m thankful that I have been betrayed, beaten, humiliated and hurt. Without these experiences I could never understand the absolute perfect peace and joy of forgiveness.
Do you want to know how to be a better person? Forgive yourself. Want to better understand scripture? Forgive another. Want to know how to be a better Christian? Pray for Faith to Forgive as He forgave you. Want a glimpse into the heart of our impossible God? Pray for Faith to Forgive, love and pray for your enemies. Pray for impossible faith and forgive impossibly, forgive the impossible.
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” This is God’s battle cry to the enemy. And it’s the entire battle! God enters the battlefield, speaks and the war is over! The enemy are stilled and can not move. There is no more fight in them. They can no longer harm anyone. No more hate! No more pain! They cannot leave or turn away. All they can do is face God. Your enemies will face God! They have no choice. We need to trust in God. He will deal with all our enemies in His time. Life is not fair but God is just! God bless You all. In His eternally impossibly forgiving Name.