White Christmas, Part 2 – Sermon Notes

[These notes are from a sermon given at Church of the Four Corners in Independence, MO, as a part of the series “A White Christmas”. If you’d like to see the full message, you can watch it here.]

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. – Isaiah 1:18 (NLT)

We sin and others sin against us. We can be white as snow, with one clarification: we obey. If God points this out, it’s probably because it’s not something we would do on our own. If we do this, we will be at free.

When was the last time someone did something against you? These things are unavoidable. Matthew 24:10, many will offend, be try, hate you. The word offended in this passage means we’ve been baited in and trapped.

Proverbs 18:19 – We begin to build barriers to protect ourselves. We live by the mantra of hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice, shame on me. We build up walls and we miss out on all these good opportunities in order to protect ourselves.

There are many types of hurts, including being taken advantage of, used, ignored, lied about, confidence destroyed, or even hurt by churches. There are many types of rejection, opportunities lost, abused whether it be emotionally, verbally, or sexually. Sometimes we feel offended when we’re humiliated, becoming the butt of someone’s joke. There are so many ways that we can be hurt, far more than what’s mentioned here.

Jesus Was Hurt

Jesus knew these. He was betrayed by his own disciple for about half a year’s wages. The authorities falsely accused and misunderstood what he said. His friends scattered into the night. One of the closest disciples,Peter, denied him three times. Jesus was rejected and abandoned. Then, he was abused and beaten, whipped, stabbed and then nailed alive to wooden beams due to losing a popularity vote.

Experts say Jesus would have been unrecognizable due to the beatings and hanging naked in front of everyone. Jesus took on all these things for us and because of what we needed. Hebrews 2:17-18 says Jesus became a mediator (think modern day lawyer) that truly knows what we’re going through because he experienced it first-hand. Jesus is the authority on what it looks like to respond to offenses in our lives. Because of this, we can come boldly because He knows what it is to be abused, broken, hurting.

Responding to Unavoidable Offenses

1 Peter 4:1 says Jesus understood what you’re going through, learn to emulate him. While he was dying on the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what their doing.” Jesus made a choice that we should mirror. Maybe the person who has offended you really is a bad person, but it does your heart no good to choose to believe that. We need to try to remember that others who are causing us problems or issues may be suffering in a way that we cannot imagine.

“Remind us each day that the greatest gift you give us is love. Let us open our hearts to all humanity, not just our family. Let us be patient and loving.”

Jesus didn’t enjoy what he suffered, but he made a choice to keep his heart clean in the face of evil. And that’s a choice we can access today. We can chose to pray the same prayer that others will be forgiven, just like Jesus did. We have to start doing this: learning to see people through the eyes of Jesus.

3 Steps to bring Healing Godly Forgiveness

  1. Remember that we need forgivness, too. We’re not angels; we have sin on our hands just the same as everyone else. Romans 3:23, all have sinned and fallen short. You have received, so freely give. You’re never going to have to give out more forgiveness that Jesus had to give on the cross.
  2. Acknowledge and focus on the real enemy. Jesus saw the people that were killing him as victims of the real enemy. Hurting people hurt people. It doesn’t make what they did right, but knowing that helps people begin to have compassion on them. Ephesians 6;12 says we’re fighting against powers that are not of this world.
  3. Receive God’s love. Some of us haven’t truly accepted the unconditional nature of God’s love. We love Him because He first loved us. 1 John says we can’t love God and hate our brother or we are a liar. Don’t leave today burdened by unforgiveness.

Don’t be afraid to find someone to pray for you, either for past offenses that you are struggling to forgive or for strength to keep from being offended.

A White Christmas- Part 1, Sermon Notes

[These notes are from a sermon given at Church of the Four Corners in Independence, MO, as a part of the series “A White Christmas” . If you’d like to see the full message, you can watch it here.]

As a culture, we believe things about forgiveness that aren’t true.

Myth 1: Forgiveness is minimizing the seriousness of the offense.

Myth 2: Forgiveness requires reconciliation. 

  • Forgiveness is between me and God more so than me and the person who wronged me.
  • For people who wait for the other person to start the process, that is handing over control of your life to the person who hurt you.

Myth 3:Forgiveness is forgetting what happened. Unfortunately, we will never forget what happened, especially true the more hurt-filled the situation was.

One reason that often keeps us from forgiving is that we think it’s not fair. Life isn’t fair and we should be grateful that God’s not fair. In the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35), we see a man who was forgiven a large sum of money, valued today at approximately $5 billion. Instead of offering that same extravagant forgiveness to others, he demanded repayment from one of his debtors of a sum of money equal to about $10,000-$12,000. The one who had forgiven him the $5 billion heard about it and threw him in prison until the money was repaid. We are the person who has been forgiven an amount that is impossible to repay, which is completely unfair. We need to be just as unfair in our response to others.

In order to forgive this way, we need to acknowledge two important things.

  1. This will not come easily or naturally.
  2. Waiting till you feel like forgiving means that you will never do it.

People who walk in freedom don’t rely on their emotions to determine their actions. Instead, they use the scriptures to guide and train their choices.

The scriptures tell us how we are to respond to those who have wronged us.

  1. Pray for them (Matthew 5:43-44). This doesn’t mean praying they will get “in trouble” with the Lord. It means honestly putting them before the Lord. You can’t pray for someone and hate them at the same time. Eventually, one of them will give. We must be guarding our hearts against hate taking hold in our hearts. Prayer is how we do that.
  2. Bless them (Romans 12:14). This is specifically referring to words. If you say that you’ve forgiven, and then speak badly about them every time they come up, you’re undoing any benefit of forgiveness (assuming you’ve actually forgiven them).
  3. Do good to them (Luke 6:27-28). Doing good things for those who have wronged us sounds crazy. No one operating out of the natural would do this. We’re spiritually transformed, meaning we will be lead by the Spirit of God and the truth of God’s scriptures. The only way these kinds of actions are possible is by the knowledge that God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).

Sins Shall Be White As Snow - Isaiah 1:18

Cleaning up the Bodies

The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the LORD. It shall not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever.” – Jeremiah 31:40 ESV

In the Jewish culture there were many things that were unclean, dead bodies being on the list. In Jeremiah 31, we see the promise of the Lord to renew the nation, even the most unclean parts of it. This promise is a part of the new covenant promise that the Lord is promising Israel. We can lean on this promise to remind us that there is no part of us that cannot be renewed and restored by the Lord.

In Jeremiah 31, Jeremiah is prophesying about what the Lord will do for His people. In verse 31, the Lord begins telling about the new covenant (the one New Testament believers accept through the blood of Jesus). He says, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV). The Lord also promises later in the chapter that the land of Israel will be restored including “The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes” (v.40).

What part of your heart feels like it’s been unclean, full of dead bodies? Is there a part of your heart that feels like a battlefield and the rotting remnants of the war is left behind? Did the enemy try to burn you out, leaving ashes covering the ground? Or did you try to burn out the enemy leaving nothing but empty land in your heart?

The good news? No matter how messy, how damaged or how unholy those pieces of your heart feel, God can rebuild them into fertile ground that produces a rich spiritual harvest for Him. He delights in blessing His children (Psalm 149:4) and wants to be near you. No battle, no matter who started, you or the other guy, can keep Him out. He want to bring peace to you and return you to Him (Colossians 1:20).

Don’t let an unclean place in your heart keep you from coming to the Lord. No matter how long it’s been there or how many times you’ve tried to clean it up, don’t let fear or shame keep you in the dirt. He will make you white as snow, though you are dyed in the deepest of dyes.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. – Isaiah 1:18 ESV

He Is Faithful to Forgive - 1 John 1:9

Forgiven First

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! – Matthew 23:37 ESV

Jesus uttered these words while looking over the city of Jerusalem while He was here on earth. In this one sentence, we can see how God’s forgiveness applies, not just to the city of Jerusalem, but to all of us.

The first things that Jesus brings up here is their rebellion and sin. He points out their sin and acknowledges their issues. Then what? He yells at them? Asks them, “How could you have done this after all the things I’ve done for you?” No! The very next thing is his heartbroken words about how much He wants to be with them. He would have gathered them close, and sheltered them under his loving, protecting wing. The people were not willing, but God was ready to run after them, love them and forgive them.

So often when we are thinking of our own sins and issues, we think that God needs to correct us or change us or demand more from us before he forgives us, but it’s just not true. God sees all our issues, more clearly even than we do. He isn’t a clueless parent who doesn’t know what we’re doing on the weekends with our friends. He can see the visible sins and the invisible ones. He knows everything about us. And it’s in this moment, the one where He’s looking into the darkest, nastiest corner of our hearts that He is longing with His whole self to forgive us. All He wants in that moment is for us to turn to Him and raise our arms to Him like a little child wanting to be gathered up.

We are the ones who need to choose to be willing to be forgiven. God is always willing; we are the ones whose pride and insecurities and selfishness get in the way of the work He wants to do in our heart. God loves us. Not just in a theoretical sense or in a disconnected sense or out of a sense of obligation. He’s in love with you. He finds joy in being in your presence, just like we find joy in being in the presence of those we love. He wants to be with you and be close to you. In addition to all this, He also knows how much more content and full of joy we’ll be when we accept His forgiveness and walk closely with Him.

God will work on our issues once we’re safe in His arms. He will talk to us about the changes that we need to make to become more helpful to others around us. All those things will be taken care of when we submit to walking with Him. But first, before all that, we must be willing to be forgiven and jump in to the loving arms of our father.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9 ESV