For(GIVE)ness - The Example!
H.B. Reese in vented these![i] I think it’s one of the best inventions mankind has ever received. So how many people here like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? I do! Especially when they are in blizzard form from Dairy Queen! Anyone want this pack I’m holding in my hand? For this to be fair let’s play Little Riddles to see who gets this as their prize! A little riddle is a simple rhyming word riddle. To answer each riddle find a pair of like-syllable words that rhyme. Example: The little riddle is - a food bag. Answer: Snack Pack! A beautiful feline - Pretty Kitty! Which means a Wet Canine is a? Soggy Doggie! A diamond gun - Crystal Pistol / A boring choo-choo – Plain Train / An Artic Tooth - Polar Molar!
Have you seen the latest Reese’s PB Cup Commercial? Here it is! Jimmy has two Reese’s PB Cups. Jimmy’s friend Sam eats both! How long will it take before Jimmy speaks to Sam? Since the subject is chocolate & peanut butter goodness, I’m assuming – never! Sam really crossed the line here. Is Jimmy supposed to just forgive Sam for eating his precious Peanut Butter Cups? YES! If Jimmy calls Jesus Christ his Savior & Lord!
Last week we began a month long series called For(GIVE)ness. The central word in forgiveness is GIVE! The central teaching of forgiveness is to give to someone what they don’t deserve. Well, despite what the Bible says about forgiveness here’s what most of humanity has concluded… I hear ya Pastor, but honestly, you have no idea what I’ve been through! What someone did to me is just too awful to forgive! I’m the example! What someone did to me can’t BE forgiven!
We are all examples in this world. I can be an example of unforgiveness or I can be an example of forgiveness. Jesus on the cross is the ultimate example of forgiveness. Turn in your Bibles today to Luke 23! Do you need a Bible today? Do you need a message outline? I encourage you to read what’s in your handout. Please give to the Serenity Street Foundation. Ken Prunty emailed me and said, “We appreciate your congregation’s participation. God is certainly providing which I take as confirmation of His blessing in our entrepreneurial approach to provide funds for the daily operation of SSF plus job readiness of our guys.” City Campus Church made a tremendous ministry splash last weekend when 250+ volunteers packed 20K meals for hungry kids & families in and around Columbus. They will have their first worship gathering at 11:00AM today! Let’s pray for them and us! “Father God, groups of people are meeting all over this world. May they, may WE encounter you! May we be transformed because we choose to do what you say! God, may CCC and WCC be your hands & feet. May we not just say we love you, but prove our love for you by loving people! May we point people to the cross where they might find forgiveness!”
Find Luke 23:32. Jesus is being crucified, but he’s not the only one who’s going to die. Read 32-34! (Skull image)
Jesus made seven statements while he hung on the cross. We just read the first! Let’s read those words again together. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
Can I summarize what has happened to Jesus in the last few hours? Judas betrayed him. Peter denied him. All his apostles abandoned him. Verbally flogged by the Jews and physically flogged by the Romans. Jesus has been physically beaten and emotionally mocked as a so called king where a crown of thorns is hammered into his skull. He has been publicly humiliated. He was spit upon, sneered at, insulted and ridiculed. He is physically exhausted but still forced to carry the “patibulum” better known as the horizontal cross beam![ii] Once he arrives at the place of the Skull, he is laid out onto the cross where his hands and feet will be nailed to the cross with “square iron spikes”.[iii]
With that picture summary in your head think of Jesus’ words again, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
I want to use the cross as the backdrop for forgiveness. Many of us have concluded, “What someone did to me is just too awful to forgive! I’m drawing the line here! OK. Let’s draw the line on that reasoning using the cross. I’ll draw a line. This one I’ll label this line TO or Trivial Offenses. Someone eats your peanut butter cups, takes your stapler at work or dings your car door with their car door in the Meijer parking lot. Some guy in the blue PU cut you off on 270 and now you hate blue pick ups! I’ll draw another line. Let’s label this line AAA! Abandonment, Addiction & Adultery! Years ago I told you about a mother who told her little boy to stay put. He did. For two days. She never came back for him. Authorities came to his rescue and he was adopted by a mission agency in New York City! How could that boy ever forgive his Mom? How many crimes are committed by people who are completely addicted? Ken Prunty from SSF is coming in two weeks. He was hopelessly addicted to heroin. How can I forgive someone for stealing from me just to feed their addiction? “Greg, do you have any idea how awful my EX is? We’re divorced because he was fooling around. My ex-husband is a jerk! My ex-wife has slept around with who knows how many men! Am I supposed to forgive her?
Here’s another line! I’ll label this one with a BIG “S!” The “S” stands for Sex. Were you molested as a child? The S also stands for Suicide. Suicide seems to make the national spotlight often. This time is was Matthew Warren, the son of Rick & Kay Warren! I hurt for their family and I pray you do too! Al Hsu of Christianity Today said, “Every 15 minutes, someone in the United States takes his or her life!”[iv] I would never condone taking your own life. I would never look at you and say, “Yea, it would be best if you weren’t here anymore.” But so many people struggle with depression and they end up making a decision that leaves everyone confused and angry! Please know this suicide is cowardly, but God does not see it as unforgiveable! If he did his grace wouldn’t be amazing! One more line to draw! This one I’ll label “M” for which could be MONEY, MARRIAGE, ME OR MURDER! It’s the Holocaust, 9/11, or the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting nightmares of the world. What happens if someone takes the life of someone you love – especially if that someone happens to be your daughter or son? I’m drawing the line when it comes to murder! So what are we to do? Terrible things happen in this life and God does not want us to be the victims! He tells us to be free and the only way to be free is to forgive! It’s to look to J-E-S-U-S as the greatest example of forgiveness EVER!
Have you been abandoned? If you have, what do you do? Look to Jesus as your example! Maybe it was your Dad. Maybe you knew him but not really. He just wasn’t there. Or maybe you’ve never even met the man, but the pain keeps tripping you up. His absence has messed with your self-esteem and leaves you wondering what it even means to BE a man let alone a DAD! One of the best movies I’ve ever seen was Courageous. Maybe you should do what Nathan Hayes did? (Forgiving a Father clip)
Are you angry today at someone who is not even alive? If you want to be set free then look to Jesus. Are you angry at someone who is alive! No one can overcome the murder of their own son, right? Mary Johnson did. Watch what the power of forgiveness can do! (Power of Forgiveness clip here)
That’s a great story, Greg, but it’s not my story! I can’t do it! I can’t forgive. Truth is – it’s not “I can’t” – it’s “I won’t”! Both Nathan Hayes and Mary Johnson looked to Jesus. I think about those parents at Sandy Hook and I wonder how much they still hate Adam Lanza for taking their kid’s lives, but no matter how hideous the crime there’s only one way to be free. Look to Jesus’ example on the cross. The cross proves that anyone can be forgiven for anything! Sing with me – Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.
Go back to Luke 23:33. None of the Gospel writers point out the gruesomeness of crucifixion. They just say it happened. Darrell Bock said, “The cross is a ransom. A payment for the debt of sin. The cross is a substitution – Jesus offered himself in our place. The cross is justice.”[v] Jesus is God’s justice. Someone had to do the time for the crime! Jesus did that for US! His horrible death paid our debt! We remember his death every week. Communion will be a little different today. The bread and the cup are on the tables in the front. The bread represents his torn body. The juice represents his blood, but the blood of Christ was not spilled. A spill is an accident. His blood was poured out deliberately so we can experience forgiveness. Look what happens to our sin because of the blood of Christ. The two crosses are filled with our sins, the sins of the world. Come take communion and then take one of these sponges and let’s wipe away our sins! (Edited Communion slides here)
My wife Tricia was in Kroger’s one time. She was in the feminine products aisle. A man who worked at Kroger asked her if he could help? Tricia just smiled at him. The he said, “not that I could be of much help.” Tricia replied, It was brave of you to ask though.” Obviously, that man couldn’t help! Only Jesus can help you with unforgiveness. Mary Johnson said that “Unforgiveness is a cancer that will eat you from the inside out!” Don’t let that happen to you. You won’t if you look to Jesus’ example of forgiveness on the cross. He didn’t just say to forgive. He proved it on the cross. Come thank him. Come put your faith in him and receive his forgiveness.
Misuse of Power
[ii] Mark E. Moore, The Chronological Life of Christ, 636
[iii] Mark E. Moore, The Chronological Life of Christ, 640
[iv] Al Hsu, When Suicide Strikes the Body of Christ, Christianity Today, April 11, 2013
[v] Darrell Bock, The NIV Application Commentary, 600