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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Forgive and Reconcile- Grace’s Operating System!

Pastor Shim sent me his sermon from Sunday this morning, and since I know you were waiting for it, here it is:

The texts for August 29 were Gen. 50:15-20 and Matt. 5:43.
“Wrap your forgiveness around you like a cloak of light, an armor that protects your happiness but closes no one out. The armor you wear is your good will.” - Hugh Prather
I want to start my message by telling you the story of the Amish community and how they handled the pain they suffered when their children were murdered by Charles Carl Roberts in October of 2006. Despite the murder of several of their children, they forgave the murderer and helped his family. They called it following Jesus’ steps. Their act of forgiving is an object lesson on how to operate by grace. The Amish take Jesus’ teaching literally, “love your neighbor as yourself.” The Amish don’t try to figure it out - they “Trust and Obey,” as the song says.
The Amish can forgive because they understand their own forgiveness - that’s living by grace. The law demands justice, grace shows love, and love meets the requirement of justice by paying for it. That’s what Jesus did for us. He died for our justification; this doesn’t dismiss the law, it fulfills it by meeting its requirements.
God’s forgiveness sets us free from sin!
1) He who understands the evilness of sin ( wrong nature, not just wrong doing) and its consequences of separation from the Holy God, will pray as King David did in Psalms 51:1, 4: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassions blot out my transgressions....Against You and You only have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are proved right when You speak and justified when You judge.” God will judge everyone (Heb 9:27). The appointment with God is for all.
The result of such repentance is to restore one’s relationship with the living God, not just to buy a fire insurance policy to get to heaven. God assures us that entrance to heaven is on the basis of what Jesus has done on the cross of Calvary and our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior and Lord. That is our password to enter to heaven. Jesus is my Savior and Lord, I have no other means. He is the only One God accepts. I gladly submit to God’s will.
Our commitment to Christ puts us on a new direction and transforms our lives. St. Paul was a great example of that, as it is recorded in Acts 9. Paul said, (a) Who are You, Lord? And (b) Lord, what do you want me to do? The Lord told Paul to preach the Gospel - he was a new man. This is what Paul said about his changed life, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, Who loved me and gave His life for me.” (Gal. 2:21) This is the Church’s testimony about Paul’s behavior as a new man in Christ. “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” (Gal. 1:21) Paul’s changed life was visible to others. God expects the transformation of our lives as a testimony of His grace. Grace acts graciously, having experienced God’s grace.
God’s mercy ought to motivate us to forgive and to reconcile!
2) He who understands the transforming grace of God seeks to forgive and reconcile with others, if it is possible as far he is concerned. He has to remove any hindrances toward forgiveness and reconciliation. Our Lord’s instruction in Matthew 5:21-24 does not leave us with any loopholes regarding our behavior toward others as we seek to forgive and reconcile.
Let’s pay close attention to Jesus’ instruction, “...I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Follow two steps: (a) Go and seek reconciliation, and (b) come back and worship God with your gifts.
Oswald Chambers writes, “...have an attitude of mind and a temper of soul to the one who has something against you that makes reconciliation as natural as breathing.” He is right on; obedience to our Lord means we put our pride and the right to revenge aside and go seeking to restore the one who is offended, always keeping in mind that God forgave us for the sake of Christ when we did not deserve it. Having experienced the grace of God’s forgiveness, He has given us the ministry of reconciliation or to be His ambassadors, according to 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.” All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
When we do what we have experienced, we are operating in grace, and we are showing the light of Christ within us - that’s what Jesus said to do in Matthew 5:16 “...let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” When God tells us to do something he helps us to do it. Phil.1:6 “...He who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion until the day of Christ.”
Thomas Kelly writes, “It is said of St. Francis not merely that he prayed, but that he became a prayer. Such lives must be reborn today if the life of the eternal love is to break through the heavy encrustations of our conventional church life and apostolic life and love and power be restored to the church of God. [God] can break through any time we are really willing.” – Lord, help us to will and to do what honors You!
Joseph’s life is an example of grace’s operating system.
Joseph suffered the betrayal of brothers when they sold him into slavery. Despite all that happened to him, he exhibited grace, love, and mercy, as we can see in his actions.
Joseph’s words of welcome showed the light of God in his heart: “But Joseph replied, ‘Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” (Genesis 50: 19-21) Joseph’s life is an example of a man who chose forgiveness and mercy as a life goal - his aim was to please God. If we please God, we will find His favor and blessings beyond our imaginations. Joseph was promoted from prisoner to the prince of mighty Egypt.
Shim Habte is the pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Willows, California
544 North Shasta Street
Shim's email:
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