Allen Jackson - The Amazing, Remarkable, Unbelievable Wonder of Forgiveness - Part 2
It's an honor to be with you today. Our topic is "Forgiveness". Guilt and shame are two of the most deadly weapons that the enemy uses against us. He can rob us of our faith, our boldness, our courage, he can render us almost totally inert, if he can convince us that we're guilty and there's nothing that can be done about it. If we understand how to approach the Lord and be forgiven, cleansed, acquitted, declared not guilty, whichever words you prefer, it changes everything about our relationship with the Lord. Grab your Bible and get a notepad, but most of all, open your heart.
Maybe the greatest of Jesus parables around this was the prodigal, everybody knows the story of the prodigal son. It's a metaphor that's picked up all through literature, Hollywood uses it, we use it pretty sloppily, but, you know, the young man comes to his father and asks for his inheritance. Father gives it to him, and he goes away and he spends it in ungodliness immorality, riotous living, one translation says. Lots of friends until he runs outta money, then he loses friends, and he finds himself with the most humiliating job that a young Jewish man could have. He's feeding the pigs, and the only thing he can eat is the food that he's feeding the pigs. It's hard to imagine a more degrading place for a young Jewish man.
That's in your notes, it's Luke 15. "When he came to his senses, he said, How many of my fathers hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I'll set out and I'll go back to my father and I'll say to him, Father, I've sinned against heaven and against you". He acknowledges his sin. He doesn't excuse it. He didn't say, "Well, you know, every young man sows a few wild oats". Folks, how many times in our families are we gonna excuse ungodliness? How long are we gonna do this? Just how long? That's not the pattern that we've been handed. He didn't come back and say, "Well, you know, I was in college, kind of had to check out my wings and see if I could fly a little bit". No it says, "He came back and said, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you". And then this next line is a repentance statement. He said, "I'm not worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men".
I've changed how I think, and I'm very willing to change my behavior. I didn't come back here to live in privilege, I didn't come back here to live in abundance. I understand how wrong my thoughts were and how bad my behavior was. And it's repeated to us, that message takes place in the mind of that young man, he's still feeding pigs. He still smells like the pigs. In verse 20 it says, "He got up and he went to his father, and while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and it was filled with compassion for him, and he ran to his son, and he threw his arms around him and he kissed him". But listen to what he says, it's repeated, this isn't accidental. It's not just some linguistic tool. "The son said, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.'" I'm a sinner, I confess, and I'm no longer worthy to be called your son. I repent, I'll take a new role.
Folks, that's not cheap grace or sin without consequence, that's not a story of casual forgiveness, that's a re-orientation of life, and pattern, and behavior, and role. Now, I know the end of the story, but you don't get to the end of the story without the attitudes at the beginning. We're all happy to run to the end and say, how do I get the signet ring back on my hand and the robe, and how do I get to the party? Well, the pathway to the party begins with an acknowledging of our sin and a willingness to repent. And we've been walking past that, we've been sloppy and everybody does it, or it's a challenge, or I'm not as bad as they are, or there's more than one opinion about that, or I read a book, or I know somebody, or you don't know the family I came from, or if you'd lived in the place I lived, or whatever. Why is it that we think we can accuse other people and justify our ungodliness?
You will never get God to agree to that equation. Now you know the end of that story that young man's restored. It's a pattern of forgiveness, and I love the ending of it, it's wonderful, I don't wanna diminish that or denigrated, we live in it, but I wanna live in it in the future. I wanna understand it more intimately, I want it to be more powerful, and more profound, and more significant in my life, than it was when I didn't know anything about the Word of God, and I barely understood who Jesus was.
So I wanna give you an opportunity. This is not my final conclusion, so you can't leave. But if you're here, and as we've been working through this little segment, if there's some aspect of your life where you'd say, "You know, I need forgiveness, I've carried that, I just left it tucked in a corner. I put that in a closet, and I've lived past it, but I need to acknowledge to the Lord, I wanna tell him I was wrong. That I know it was wrong, and that I wanna go a new way".
I've got a prayer, it's in your notes, we're gonna pray it together. But if you're willing to say that's you, I'm just gonna ask you to stand where you are. I'm not gonna bring you a hot mic and ask you to tell me what it is. If you're at home, you can stand up with us there too. These are two-way cameras, I can see you. I have sinned, I lied to you, I repent. Well, let's just read this prayer together. I wanted to give it to you so that you could take it away with you for two purposes, that you have it as a tool to use for yourself in the future, but I also want you to have the tools to help somebody else. None of us are beyond the redemptive grace and mercy of God. Isn't that good? And you'll meet people who would love the gift of forgiveness, and you have a tool to help them. Let's pray this together:
Heavenly Father, I acknowledge my sin to You. I choose to repent and walk a new path. Thank you for Your provision on my behalf. I boldly declare what Your word says about me. Through the blood of Jesus, I am redeemed out of the hand of the devil, I am justified, acquitted, forgiven, declared not guilty. Through the blood of Jesus I'm sanctified, set apart to God. My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Satan has no place in me, no power over me, through the blood of Jesus, amen.
Now if God has forgiven me, what does that mean? What's the implications? How does that get lived out in the reality of my life? Well, it means I can have freedom from guilt and shame but that's not always automatic, because I also have an adversary, an enemy, and I still have the vestiges of my carnal self to deal with. It means I can be free from guilt and shame. If I've been forgiven by God, it means I can be free from the manipulation of others regarding my past. We still live in a fallen world, and people will do their best to manipulate you with who you used to be. God forgives, but not all the people do. We're struggling with that as a nation. We're gonna have to find a way to forgive and move forward, or we will destroy ourselves. Then we need freedom from the accuser.
Look at Psalm 118. It says, "The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is with me; he's my helper. I will look and triumph on my enemies". See, one of the challenges with sin as it makes us vulnerable because we're aware of it, we're conscious of it. We've hidden it, we've denied it, we've excused it, we've justified it, we've done something with it. But when we understand that the Lord is with me, that the Lord is my redeemer, he's my justifier, he's the one who acquitted me. He paid the price so that I could be clean, then what do I have to fear from what people will do to me?
Paul said, "I was an angry, violent man. Of those that persecuted those who loved Jesus, I was at the head of the parade, and I'm the least who deserves to be in the position I am but by the grace of God, I'm the representative he sent to the non-Jewish world". He went and found the most angry, murderous, violent Pharisee he could find and said, "I think you'll do just fine, come here". And that's how he got to us, that's what it says in, in 1 Corinthians 1. He chose the weak, and those that were not so noble, and the foolish, and the ones that were discounted so that through our lives he would get the glory. People say, "You know, I can't believe you're a Christian". "I know, it's amazing to me too, let me tell you about the boss". "Never thought you'd be a preacher". "I know, trust me. I know, I know, I know, I know".
Yeah. Hebrews 12 and verse 2. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and the perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning and shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God". In the plainest of language, Jesus bore my shame and yours that I might share his glory. Jesus took my shame. You see, guilt is connected to activities and thoughts, shame is something entirely different. You can be forgiven and your guilt can be assuaged, can be washed away. Shame says, "You always make the wrong choice. It's not that you make mistakes, it's that you are a mistake". And Jesus took my shame, he exhausted it, that you and I might have his glory. Not parades, not accolades, the glory of the Lord is the revelation of the majesty and the magnificence of the kingdom of God.
Our lives are the display, are intended to be the display, the majesty of an Almighty God. We don't deserve that, it's given to us. You're not a failure. Oh, you fail, you fall short, you're incomplete. But if you are willing in humility to walk this pathway, you can know freedom from shame. I gave you a little prayer, I'm gonna send this one with you. "God, if there's shame in my heart or my life that hinders, I wanna be free that I can be unashamed. I believe that Jesus bore my shame that I might share His glory". 1 Peter 1: "Concerning this salvation, the prophets who spoke of the grace that was to come, was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the suffering of Christ and the glories that would follow".
See, his suffering was the prelude to the display of the splendor of his kingdom, and we're the beneficiaries of that. I think I gave you that little set of statements in your notes. Did I give that to you, God is my Father? Did I put that in your notes? Too bad, you can just say this with me. The deluxe version costs more, I'm sorry. Just repeat this after me, God is my Father, I'm a child of God. I have been forgiven, cleansed, and delivered from all sin. My citizenship is in heaven. I am righteous in God's eyes. God is pleased with me. Woohoo! That'll change your life. No, you don't have to do the "Woohoo". And yes, we will post that someplace I'm sure. Guilt is one of the primary weapons of Satan against Christians. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, makes you uncomfortable with it, ill at ease with it.
Now you can ignore that, you can turn down the volume on that, you can excuse it, you can justify it, you can find people to agree with you in it, until the point that that becomes so callous that you don't recognize that anymore, that's a dangerous place. When the Lord makes you uncomfortable with something, a behavior, a thought, an attitude, stop trying to justify it, stop trying to excuse it, stop trying to recruit people to tell you, you're right in it, you know the pathway now, acknowledge your sin, repent. You know the path. When the Holy Spirit convicts us, he needs us to repent and to change, and when that's done, it's over, it's been addressed, it's gone, you're free, you've chosen a new way. Destructive guilt never ends. You can't ever do enough, maybe I should have set at something else, it just goes on and on and on. It's manipulative.
One of the biblical terms for it is witchcraft. There are unhealthy spirits that will try to dominate you, manipulate you, control you with toxic guilt and shame. It's not the Spirit of God. Look at Revelation 12 in verse 10, it's in your notes. It says, "I heard a loud voice in heaven say, 'Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers who accuses them before our God day and night has been hurled down.'"
It says that one of the titles attributed to Satan in the book of Revelation, but it's also in the book of Job. I heard some argue the oldest book in our Bible when we first meet Job and maybe the oldest book of the Bible. He's accusing someone that God is very pleased with, he's still doing that. He's the accuser of the brethren's. What's he accused us of? He wants you to feel guilty, he wants to diminish your confidence, he wants to rob you of your boldness, he wants to silence your voice. You've got to learn to recognize the difference between the invitation of the Holy Spirit to repent, and the condemnation of the accuser. As long as you're guilty, your strength for serving the Lord is greatly diminished. The remedy for guilt, Revelation 12:11, "They," the believers on earth, "Overcame him," Satan, "By the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they didn't love their lives so much as to shrink from death".
We're gonna have to grapple with something that's inconvenient, it's not popular, it's not fashionable, it's not really welcomed often in polite sophisticated conversation, but we're in direct conflict with Satan, that's the message of that verse. "They," the believers on earth, "Overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb". We're either gonna overcome evil with good, or we will be overcome. We've tried overlooking evil it didn't work. We've tried negotiating with evil, extending a hand fellowship to evil, it doesn't work. The only thing evil will yield to, is a power greater than itself. I don't want you to be angry or belligerent and certainly not violent, but you need to be, we've got to have the courage to say, "Evil exists". "The believers overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony; they didn't love their lives," it says, "So much as to shrink from death".
It's more important to do the will of God than to protect our lives. We haven't lived there, we haven't lived there. It's more important to do the will of God than to protect our lives. You see, we want a supernatural outcome, but we wanna do it in a kind of a partially engaged way. We're soldiers for the kingdom, there's no guarantee that our life won't be required. I met somebody tonight visiting church, another state. He said, "I'm a marine". I've been told on more than one occasion, there's no such thing as an ex-marine. You're always gonna be one. I point another one out, I watch 'em. It's like there's an immediate bond. They're like, "Yeah. Mm-hmm. I'm backing up, I'm a hillbilly". That's a different category.
You imagine signing up for the marine, you say, "Well you know, I would be happy to volunteer, but can you guarantee me I won't be hurt"? You laugh, who told you serving the Lord was easy? For real, it costs Jesus everything. He was humiliated, and rejected, and beaten. I'm not asking you to be a messiah, but don't imagine that that price was necessary for you and for me to be forgiven, and then that we're gonna Lord, the Lord, you know when it's convenient. Church, we've had the wrong idea. And then we wonder how we find, you know, we say, "Well, I don't talk about my faith in public". Really, who told you that? Whether I live or die is really secondary to my willingness to do the will of God. Committed believers have the potential to overcome Satan.
The two main themes in the book of Revelation are the lamb and the wild beast. They're the characters. The wild beast is mentioned 35 times the lamb, 28 times. And the churches are the one that says, "We overcome Satan, when we testify personally to what the Word of God says the blood of Jesus does for us". It requires us to know what the Word of God says. We think we've made a huge lift. "Well, you know, I'm thinking about reading my Bible". God has made an amazing provision for our lives. An amazing, remarkable, unbelievable wonder of forgiveness. But we don't have to spend our lives bent over with the weight of our failures, and our shortcomings, and our ungodliness, and our rebellion, we can be forgiven. Now that's free, but that's not simple. Because your old earth suit, that carnal thing that you've got, is hardwired towards ungodliness.
You know it's true, I know it's true, but God will help you, he loves you, you matter to him. And I don't know why he chose this point in history, but I'm convinced that he's begun an awakening in his people. And I'm also coming to the realization that it's not gonna look like what I thought it would, that it's gonna be more challenged, it's gonna face greater resistance and greater expressions of hatred than I ever imagined was a part of that. But on the other side of the ledger, he's stirring a group of people to give him their heart and their lives more fully and more completely than anything I've ever seen before. I wanna be a part, and I know you do too.
So let's determine that we're not gonna pay attention to those signs, those signs about cheap grace, or sin without consequence, or casual forgiveness. You can't just live in immoral life until you're ready to be moral and then act like you didn't. You can't live a greedy self-indulgent life until you decide not to, and then act like you didn't. I mean, we've got to be a bit more serious and begin to say, "Lord, I've got some business to do with you". We took a step tonight, you've got a new tool. We're gonna need it in the season ahead. I believe we will see God's church overcome evil in ways that we've never experienced before, amen. Why don't you stand with me? I brought you one last prayer. We're gonna pray it together. I think I did, yes. Let's read it together:
Heavenly Father, thank you for Your great provision for my life. Open my heart and soul to what Jesus has done for me. Holy Spirit, grant me a revelation of my Lord and redeemer. I believe that through Jesus's sacrifice I have been redeemed out of an empty way of life, delivered from satanic bondage, and welcomed into the eternal kingdom of God. I rejoice today in my Lord and the great liberty he has brought to my life. In Jesus's name, amen.