Your Most Desperate Need

Sad young woman

Your Most Desperate Need

 

Forgiveness of sins – it’s the most basic element to salvation.

 

If you’ve grown up in church, you’ve heard the word “forgiveness” and the phrase “forgiveness from sin” a million times. If you’re like me, I heard it so much, I began to lose sight of the depth that those words represent.

 

But friends, it’s important that you NEVER lose sight of how awful your sinful state really is, and how desperately you need the only remedy for it – Jesus Christ.

 

Think about it – Sin is like a cancer. It’s ugly. It’s sick. Sin leads to eternal death and it separates us from relationship with our God and Creator.

 

When we talk about sin, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we aren’t all that bad. I’m sure you’ve been tempted to think: “I’m a pretty good person. I don’t cuss. I’m not mean to people. I never get in trouble at school. I don’t cheat. I don’t steal.”

 

But, you see, those things are just symptoms of the sin sickness we ALL have. Actual, individual sins we commit, are just the outward symptoms of an inward heart sickness. Just because you consider yourself a “good person,” doesn’t mean you aren’t a sinner.

 

Again, it’s like cancer. Did you know people sometimes live quite awhile with cancer before they ever even realize there’s something inside them killing them? Some people don’t have any sickness symptoms before the cancer is finally discovered by doctors. A tumor can be growing inside of their body and they don’t even realize it. Eventually, a little ache here, a little pain there, causes them to go to their doctor. No, they don’t feel sick. No, they don’t feel like they’re dying. In fact, they feel pretty good. It’s just this little nagging ache that can’t be explained. Before they know it, the doctor is diagnosing them with something that, if left untreated, will kill them.

 

You can think of sin the same way. Even “good” people are dying from a nasty thing called sin. They can even live a good, American, comfortable, fun life. They can be the “good girl” at school who never gets in trouble, turns her A+ papers in on time, always wears a smile, keeps her herself looking just right and has it all together. They can be the family that sends beautiful Christmas cards featuring a glossy photo of themselves in coordinating outfits on the white sands of their fabulous, tropical beach vacation. They can be the hard-working executive who still finds time to volunteer for good causes and even donates large sums of money. They can be the grandma across the street who lets you swim in her pool and bakes you cookies. Listen – “good” people die and go to hell every day.

 

 

The Creator is Holy. He is God. He is Perfect. He has wrath toward sin. He can’t be with sin. So, if you are a sinner (and everyone is), you are forever separated from Him. You are destined to be forever without Him. That is hell. Life without God is hell. Death without Him is hell. Hell is a real, torturous place.

 

Friends, I’m just trying to remind us (myself included) about how desperately we need to be made right. I don’t care how “good” someone is, they’re dying of sin, and sin is an ugly, nasty condition. It leads to punishment. It leads to hell.

 

BUT GOD didn’t leave us in our hopeless state. He knows our sinful condition and provided a RESCUE PLAN! He loves us, and He did not want to be separated from us. He left His throne in heaven to COME TO US. The King of all creation, CAME TO US. He paid the price of sin FOR US! He sacrificed Himself FOR US! Listen, in all the world’s religions, little “g” gods just don’t do that. Other religions would call it “scandalous.” But, the one true God, the Creator of the Universe, calls it “love.”

 

Jesus is God. Jesus took on human flesh and came to earth in humble circumstances. Jesus was tempted just like us. Jesus lived a sinless life. Jesus’ life fulfilled countless prophecies foretold in ancient times. Though guiltless, Jesus was condemned to die a horrible Roman death on a cross. Although fully powerful, Jesus willingly took the punishment he did not deserve, and laid down His life on a cross. While on the cross, the sin of all humanity was dumped on Jesus. The wrath God has toward sin was then focused on Jesus and in that heart-breaking moment, God the Father had to look away from God the Son. In His death, Jesus even took on hell itself. But in His resurrection three days later, he conquered it. Yes, three days after his death on the cross, Jesus came back to life. This is where we get that spark of hope. Sin = death and hell. But Jesus took on sin, went to hell, and emerged victorious.

 

We get to share in that victory! How do we share in that victory? We believe in our heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, and we declare Jesus to be Lord of our lives. We GET IT. We GET the nastiness of our sinful condition, and our heart cries out for hope. We recognize that Jesus is our only hope. We accept the free gift of mercy Jesus offers us and we are changed. We are made new. God’s very spirit is now living in us. From this moment, we have a new reason for living. We submit our will to HIS. We submit our plans to HIS. We begin to make good choices with new motivation. We want HIS best in our lives. Little by little, we begin to take on HIS very nature. We even begin to cherish His loving discipline. Often it’s even a bit painful, but in the process, our sinful flesh and selfishness dies away.

 

In fact, this process of sanctification even makes us see others differently. We begin to see others the way Jesus sees them. We see others, even the nastiest people, as loved by the King. We see others as individuals whom our sweet, precious Lord died to save. We no longer care so much about the wrongs others commit against us, but WHY they wronged us. We understand that sin, brokenness, pain and hopelessness makes people act ugly. We remember that was once US. We recall our hopelessness without Jesus. We recall the price Jesus paid to make us clean. Our heart begins once again to overflow with gratitude for His forgiveness. This deep understanding of the unsurmountable debt Christ paid for us, supernaturally enables us to forgive others.
I want to stop here and share a little example that happened recently in my own life.

 

Not too long ago, a few people really, really hurt my feelings. Without sharing the details of the situation, I was left feeling misunderstood, unfairly judged, and the subject of gossip. In my opinion I wasn’t even treated with appropriate and common courtesy. Honestly, I don’t get my feelings hurt very easily, but because of the nature of the situation, I was wounded in an area where I am most vulnerable.

 

As soon as I became aware of the wrong that had been committed against me, I immediately felt my fleshly, sinful nature rise up. Have you ever seen a wounded, scared animal get backed into a corner? They look ugly and scary don’t they? They’re foaming at the mouth. They’re snarling and growling. They have their claws out. They immediately lash out against anyone who happens to approach them, even if that person is trying to help. Well, I began to feel that ugly, scary animal rearing it’s nasty head in me. That’s the old, sinful, fleshly nature. In that very moment, a battle had begun. It was the battle of the my old fleshly nature, against the Holy Spirit of God in me. I knew it. I knew I was in battle. I could feel it. I knew I had a choice to make. I had to choose who would win.

 

I’d like to say I immediately chose God’s way, but I’ll admit, I let the battle wage for awhile. I was cleaning my house that day, and my husband was out cutting the grass. When he came in for a glass of water, I shared with him what had happened, and he agreed. I had been wronged. That’s one point for the flesh! Ding. Ding. I continued with my chores, but as I did, my mind swirled with all the reasons those individuals had behaved wrongly in the situation. More points for the flesh. Ding. Ding. I even called my mother to hear her agree with all the wrongs that had been committed against me. My flesh loved hearing her anger toward the individuals and her maternal defense for me! Bonus points for the flesh. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding!

 

Finally, as my family was beginning to settle down to dinner and a movie, I told my husband that I NEEDED to stop what I was doing and pray. I felt the flesh waging in me, and I knew the only remedy was to get face down before God.

 

So, that’s what I did. I locked myself in a quiet room. I turned off the lights, and I got face down before my God. (By the way…I think there’s something supernaturally powerful about praying in this posture. Think about all the times in the Bible when humans came into the presence of the Lord! They were always left incredibly humbled and face down.) I began to pray. I was honest with Him. I told Him how the incident made me feel. I confessed my anger, my hurt and my pride. I told Him the ugly thoughts I had against those who had wounded me. I asked him to forgive me. I admitted to Him that I was feeling very vulnerable, misunderstood and unappreciated. Like a child, sitting in the lap of her daddy, I told Him how they hurt me. I asked Him for the strength to truly forgive them. I asked Him to allow me to see them the way He saw them. I asked Him to fill me with love and mercy for them.

 

Then, it dawned on me to ask Him for something else. I knew I needed encouragement. I can’t explain just how deflated, lonely, and even friendless I was feeling at the time. God is the source of everything I need, and in that moment I needed encouragement. I needed friends. Scripture says we often don’t get what we need from Him, simply because we don’t ask. So, I asked. I asked Him to encourage me. A very specific aspect of my life had been attacked, and I asked the Lord to encourage me in that specific area of my life. I praised Him for who He is. I told Him I trust Him to be everything I need.

 

The next morning was church day. I’ll admit I still kinda felt beat up. I still just did not feel like myself. I resisted the temptation to mope.

 

Once at church, I was dealing with the hustle and bustle that comes along with being a mom of four, and as I was racing down the hall to get one of my kids checked in to class, a woman stopped me. This lady is someone I would call an “acquaintance.” I can’t say that we are very close, or that I know her all that well. But she stopped me and began encouraging me! She shared a story of a conversation she had had with someone else about me. She told me of all the glowing things that were said about me and my character. She even proceeded to encourage me in the very area I had been wounded in the day before. Tears immediately welled up in my eyes as I told her how much I needed to hear her encouragement. I assured her the Lord had used her on my behalf. I went to worship service loving my sweet Heavenly Father even more that morning!

 

I considered her words of encouragement to be an overwhelming answer to my bold prayer, but that’s not all God had for me. He wanted to do “exceedingly, abundantly above all I could think to ask of Him!”

 

The next day I was shopping at Target, when a text came in on my phone. I reluctantly stopped my shopping to check it. It was one of those texts that you open, and you see that someone has written you a novel! Lol. Well, I started reading it, and it blew me away. It was a friend, whom I don’t speak to that often. She said many amazing things, but I’ll just share an excerpt from her text:

 

“…and on top of that, I have never heard ONE word to the negative about you. Never has anyone mentioned loose lips or stuck up or witchy or flighty. If ever there was a Proverbs 31 woman to encourage the rest of us, or to shape our next generation, I think you fit the bill.”

 

I was floored. Not only did I feel completely unworthy of her words, I couldn’t believe the timing! People don’t just stop what they’re doing to send texts like that! It was ABSOLUTELY God speaking to me through her! I started bawling right there in the middle of the boys’ bathing suit section of the Trussville Target! I had to pull myself together before I could ever text her back! How sweet is my God?!?!?

 

Listen, God is GOOD. As sinners without Him, you are an object of His wrath. But even while you’re a sinner God loved you enough to send His Son Jesus to take the punishment you deserve. He extends you a free gift of mercy and grace and forgiveness.

 

Put your faith in Him and He saves you.

 

Submit to Him and He changes you.

 

Walk with Him and He fulfills you.

 

 

 

 

Forgiveness

Matthew Quote. Blessed Are Merciful

Why are you here? Why am I here? What is our ultimate purpose in life? Well, I’ve talked about this before. We were created to worship.

 

What is worship? The dictionary defines worship as: “The feeling or expression of reverence and adoration.” John Piper says that worship was designed to put the supreme worth of God on display. Jesus told us in John 4 that true worshipers will worship in “spirit and in truth.” I like to say that worship is your heart’s adoring response to God that flows from your head’s correct understanding about God.

 

Worship is not just singing in church. Worship is not just closing your eyes, uttering sweet words, raising your hands, crying, etc. Yes, those things are a part of worship. Emotional responses to a true understanding and adoration of God are absolutely a part of worship. But worship is wayyyyy more.

 

You worship with your life. You worship with your actions. You worship by constantly turning your heart toward the Lord.

 

This is my favorite way of thinking about worship. Don’t miss this. If you are a believer, then you are a part of the universal body of Christ. As a member of the body of Christ, your ultimate act of worship, is showing the world what Jesus is like. In fact, it’s your job. It’s your purpose. Let that sink in.

 

You worship your creator by being a reflection of His Son. It’s up to you to show the world what Jesus is like.

 

I’m sure you’re thinking: “I thought this was a lesson on forgiveness. Why are we talking about worship?” Well, I think it’s important to always come back to WHY. Why should you care about Biblical forgiveness? As a believer, you should absolutely care about forgiveness because you worship a forgiving God. You show the world what Jesus is like, so you must forgive as Jesus forgives. Gulp.

 

I’ll even take it a step further and say this: If you’re withholding forgiveness to others, you must ask yourself if you’re really a Christian at all. Gulp. Gulp. Gulp. I know. I know. It sounds harsh, but hear me out.

 

Take a moment and read Matthew 18:21-35.

 

In this parable a king canceled his servant’s outstanding debt. In today’s dollars, the debt would equal something like $6 Billion. That’s “billion,” with a “B!” Basically, it was a debt impossible for the servant to ever repay. In my study of this parable, I learned that the only way for a master to collect on a debt such as this, was for the slave’s family and multiple generations of his family to follow, to be bound to sold and bound to a lifetime of slavery. What a devastating fate. This is what the servant was facing. His debt could never be repaid. It was impossible. Can you imagine the hopelessness?

 

Conversely, can you imagine the servant’s joy after the master canceled his debt?! What mercy! Can you imagine the gratitude? The feeling of freedom? The lightness? The joy? I bet he walked through the streets of his town dancing, singing for joy, loving his neighbors and living forever changed with a new lease on life! Wouldn’t that be a normal reaction to such an act of mercy?

 

But what was the servant’s response? He turned right back around and mercilessly begrudged a companion who owed him money. He had the debtor punished to the fullest extent. No mercy.

 

Now. Let’s think about this. What does this parable have to do with us?

 

First let’s talk about your debt. You’re a sinner. God’s Holiness, Righteousness, Justice and Wrath call for a punishment for your sin, and the truly hopeless part is that you carry a debt you could never repay. Your ultimate fate is a life separated from God and an eternity separated from Him. The weight of your sinful state makes you completely unworthy to stand before a Holy God, much less be in relationship with Him. You were created to walk with God, but your sinful state keeps you separated from Him. On earth you can’t live as you were made to live and in eternity you’ll live in perpetual torture. Sounds hopeless, doesn’t it? Well it is.

 

But here’s the amazing part. This Righteous, Holy, Just and Wrathful God is also LOVE. You are unworthy, but your Creator loves you anyway. He sent His Son Jesus to live a holy and perfect life on earth. He was tempted just like you are tempted, but Jesus lived blamelessly. Then Jesus’ own creation turned against Him and sent Him to die a sinner’s death. He willingly laid down His life and went to the cross. When He did this, God put His wrath and punishment for sin on Jesus. This act of sacrifice gives YOU the opportunity for forgiveness. Jesus bridges the gap between your unholy self and your Holy God. Jesus paid your debt.

 

Do you believe that? No. I mean. Do you really? Do you get it? Has your heart grasped the fact that your debt destined you to utter hopelessness, but Jesus wiped your debt clean? Ok. You believe it. So, what’s your reaction?

 

If you holding grudges against others, you have to question whether you really believe what you say you believe. You have to question whether your heart GETS IT. You have to question whether you will live as Jesus lived, or whether you’re no better than the slave from our story.

 

You see, a true believer has been radically changed from the inside out. A true believer lays down their life and their rights just as Jesus did. A true believer knows that they have a greater purpose in life. A true believer wants nothing more than to worship their Lord and Savior, not just with words, but with actions. A true believer knows they’ve been forgiven of more than they can ever imagine or ever repay. A true believer knows that they must extend forgiveness to others.

 

My sweet friends, living a life as a believer will NOT be easy. Jesus calls us to do hard things. As believers, who truly GET what Christ has done for us, we should obey His commands simply out of reverence, worship and love for Him. The parable we studied today commands us to forgive. Forgiveness is sometimes very, very hard. And, yes, we should forgive simply as an act of obedience.

 

But here’s the really sweet part. Here’s the part that makes me love my God even more and more and more. I’ve discovered that usually, when God asks you to do something that goes against your human, fleshly nature, it’s for your own good. Isn’t that sweet? I just love Him.

 

 

My friends, forgiveness is not always easy. But let me ask you, do you know what the opposite of forgiveness is? It’s bitterness. I really want you to get this. Bitterness will eat you up. Bitterness will destroy you. Bitterness will cause you a slow, ugly death. Bitterness is a poison that you drink little by little until you are deathly sick but you don’t even realize it. Bitterness is a tool from the very hand of Satan himself. The crazy thing is, when you hold on to bitterness and unforgiveness against another person, it’s YOU who ends up getting destroyed! The other person isn’t impacted by your bitterness at all! Bitterness destroys the unforgiving person, not the person who is the object of the unforgiveness!

 

Your creator knows His creation. He knows you. He loves you. He wants what is best for you. He knows a life of bitterness will destroy you. Yes, forgiveness is hard, but the alternative is much much worse. Bitterness makes you ugly. Bitterness makes you miserable. Bitterness makes you down right mean. Does that sound like Jesus? Does that sound like someone who loves Jesus? NO!

 

I also need to explain that forgiveness is not always a transaction between you and another person. Forgiveness happens in prayer and in your heart. Many times the person who hurt you, won’t ever even ask for your forgiveness. Forgiveness is an act of obedience between you and God. If you’re finding it difficult to forgive someone, ask the Lord to help you. Tell Him that you want to show mercy the way you’ve been shown mercy. Ask Him to change your heart and even begin to change your feelings. He’s faithful.

 

In closing, I want to make absolutely certain that you understand I am not advocating that you allow others to take advantage of you or hurt you. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to be in relationship with someone who continues to harm you. Forgiveness is about about having the right heart with the Lord, and committing the situation to Him. Forgiveness is releasing a grudge you hold against another individual. Do not misunderstand me. Never submit yourself to unhealthy relationships. You can forgive someone and separate yourself from them at the same time. Yes, people are human and they’re bound to make mistakes and deserve grace. But some people just don’t have the right heart or intentions toward you, and you need to distance yourself from those individuals! Ask the Lord for wisdom. If a peer is continually hurting you or being ugly to you, talk to an adult. If an adult ever crosses the line of acceptable behavior with you, TALK TO AN ADULT YOU CAN TRUST!