Monday, September 22, 2014

Ministry Monday: Teaching Forgiveness

Here is part of what I shared with my youth group last night. The ability to teach forgiveness means understanding forgiveness. It means living forgiveness.

The woman caught in the act of adultery surely understood forgiveness. I want you to imagine this story (but not the act of adultery). You have a guy. You have a girl. And they are doing what they shouldn’t be doing. And they get caught. Yeah, it’s a set-up. Yeah, the guy caught with her should have been out with this woman.

But the corrupt religious leaders drag this woman out in front of Jesus. They make this woman, possibly half-naked, stand in front of Jesus and the crowd. As you may know, the religious leaders remind Jesus that the Law of God says she should be stoned to death for committing this sin. As if Jesus needed to be reminded what God’s Law said.

Jesus proceeds to draw stick figures (or something like that) on the ground. He tells them whoever is without sin can throw the first rock. People are shocked, they drop their rocks and they leave.

But picture this. She’s still standing there in front of Jesus. Sure, she’s not dead, but she’s still guilty. She’s still likely half-naked. Jesus forgives her and tells her to leave her life of sin.

Her life of sin ended just less than half an hour ago. Now she’s free.

Forgiveness begins the moment we aren’t condemned. 

Forgiveness covers all! But what does it look like? In other words, how do we grow in knowledge of Jesus and not become big, fat Pharisees?

This is how it looks. Say your whole family has been working in the yard all day. It’s been super-humid. You’re all sweaty and stinky. You know that stink…when even you can’t stand to smell yourself. Somehow you get first dibs on the shower.

You clean the stink off. You put the clean on. But chances are you have an idiot brother that wants to hug you after you get out of the shower. Do you let him? No! He stinks. He’s sweaty. He’s a dirty boy that you don’t want to be around, until he gets clean.

This may be okay when it comes to yard work, but unfortunately, this is how many Christians act toward non-Christians.

We were all stained with sin. We were dirty. We had the yuck of sin all over us and we all came from the same pile of dirt. But somehow we came to be showered by the grace and mercy and forgiveness of Jesus. Now we’re clean. We’re like new. We’re white as snow, while some of the people around us are still black with sin.

How do we keep in mind that we were just like these others, and some of us not that long ago?

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world.He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
Did you catch that? God wants to point to us as examples! But examples of what? We’re not examples of great followers. We’re not examples of people who just needed a little cleansing. We’re not examples of good people that God made a little better. It says we’re examples of God’s “incredible wealth of grace and kindness toward us.”

Do you understand what this means? It’s a perspective shift! Most people will point to themselves and say ‘I am a good person.’ Or at least, ‘I’m not as bad as others.’ But God is pointing to us, even us as saved followers, and He’s pointing at us saying, “Look what I was able to do with that. Look how merciful I am!”

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. ~Ephesians 2:1-13
We need to remember that we were once like the woman caught in the act of sin. We were naked before Jesus. It was His to condemn, but He forgave. 

Forgiveness begins the moment we don’t condemn.

No comments: