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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - God's Great Gamble

Andy Stanley - God's Great Gamble

Andy Stanley - God's Great Gamble

So, I wanna begin with this question, and you don't have to raise your hand or elbow anybody, but because I think we've all experienced this. Have you ever forgiven someone without being asked? Like, you just decided, "You know what? I'm not gonna carry this. I'm just gonna forgive 'em". You just decided without them knowing, without them, without telling 'em, you just decided, "I'm gonna forgive you. I'm gonna forgive them". Then you just, you moved on and they didn't even know. And then, maybe you ran into 'em later and they kind of had this awkward moment, and then you remembered, "Oh yeah, I already forgave you and you could smile and act like nothing happened".

Or maybe they didn't even know anything had happened that they needed to be forgiven. But you realized, "Oh, I'm kind of lighter. I'm kind of fine," right? Or have you ever forgiven some, you've just decided to forgive somebody and didn't tell them. You just decide, "I'm not gonna carry this". And then later, and this isn't as usual, later, they came back and apologized and owned it. And if that's the case, do you remember what you said or do you remember what you thought? You may have said it, you may have even said, "Well, actually, I've forgave you the moment it happened," or "I've already forgiven you. I've already forgotten about that," because you've kind of, you've just kind of moved on. But now, the relationship is reconciled.

The relationship was still broken because, you know, they knew what they did, but you had forgiven them and you were kind of waiting for them to recognize it. Maybe they'd never recognize it, but you were fine. But then, they came back and apologized and the relationship was reconciled. There was a sense in which you were just waiting. So, I wanna go ahead and start today's message with some advice, okay? This is just advice. Then we're gonna kind of jump into the main part of the message. My advice is this, just go ahead and forgive. Don't wait. I mean, why not? And I know what you would say, "Well, lemme tell you why not"? Then, you would tell me your story and I would be like, "Okay, nevermind, you get a pass. Because yeah, that's like the worst thing I ever heard," right?

If I heard your story, I'd probably give you a pass. But why not just consider, just go ahead and forgive them. And you would say, "Well, because they don't deserve it". And that's true. They don't deserve it. And you did not deserve what happened to you either. So absolutely, you know, you have kind of two reasons not to forgive, but why not go ahead and forgive? Because otherwise, you're kind of leaving them in charge. You're kind of waiting for them to do something. You're kind of held hostage waiting for them to either ask forgiveness or confess to what they did. So, why give them that much power over you? Just forgive. Forgive before they ask. Forgive if they never ask.

Now, if you're a Jesus follower, you know, here comes the, you know, here comes the hard part. If you're a Jesus follower, we are required to do that. Jesus insisted that we forgive. But to be clear, Jesus doesn't insist that you stay in a dangerous or unhealthy relationship. In fact, Jesus would probably insist you get out of a dangerous or unhealthy relationship. But then, he would turn right back around and say, "Okay, now that you've got some separation, you still have to forgive". And if you're not so sure about that, you're not alone. Because one of Jesus' closest friends wasn't so sure about that, Peter, the Apostle Peter, imagine this, who sat around campfires with Jesus and traveled with Jesus, heard everything Jesus had to say.

And at one point, Jesus was talking about forgiveness and Peter is thinking like we do. He's like, "Well, okay, yeah, I kind of get that". But you know, he kind of sides up to Jesus and says, "Okay, we need, you know, we need some parameters. So, I need you to be more specific. So, Lord, exactly how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me"? The implication being what if they just keep doing the same thing over and over and over. I mean, how many times? What about the perfect number three or I'll even take it even further to the other perfect number seven. "Up to like seven times. Because Jesus, I mean, come on. I mean, I heard what you said, but there's a limit, right"? Jesus smiles and says, "No, there's not. I tell you, not seven, but 77 times".

77 times, the implication being forgiveness should be limitless, which sounds ridiculous, especially if I was to hear your story or you were to hear my story. Now, we're gonna leave this thought here for now because this is the setup for a very interesting question. I think this whole thing of Jesus teaching other people to have limitless forgiveness, I think this begs a question. This surfaces a question that we should all wrestle with. And today, as we wrestle with it, this is gonna feel a little uncomfortable for some of you. In fact, if you were raised in the kind of church that I was raised in, this is gonna feel a little uncomfortable. In fact, you may find yourself pushing back, but I want you to just go with me into these three narratives in the life of Jesus. All three of are very familiar.

In fact, for some of you, as soon as I begin the narrative, you're gonna be like, "Oh, I know how this ends". But I want you to resist that temptation to rush ahead. For some of you, you may have heard of one of these or two of these, but maybe not all three of these. But the question is that I want us to wrestle with, if Jesus insisted that there be unlimited forgiveness from us, that He insisted we forgive people, even if they don't ask or never ask, and if Jesus came to represent God, is God like that? I mean, is that how this works? Limitless forgiveness. Before you ask, if you never ask. What if God has already forgiven you for all of your sin and he's just waiting for you to recognize it? Or if you're a Christian, recognize the full extent of His forgiveness for you.

So one day, Jesus is teaching and he's in a very large home. And there are a lot of people there. In fact, the text Luke, who knew all these people, Luke knew Matthew, and Peter, and James, and John, and the brother of Jesus. He knew 'em all. And so, he puts together this orderly account. He says, "One day, Jesus is teaching in a very large home and describes to the Pharisees and Sadducees from Judea, Galilee, from the city of Jerusalem". They are all converging to listen to Jesus teach, because he's creating so much trouble. He's drawing such large crowds. They're trying to decide, "Is it a rumor that He's the Messiah? Has He claimed to be the Messiah? You know, what's going on with this guy"?

So, they gather in this very large home and Jesus is teaching. And they're jealous, they're suspicious, you know, they're curious. And while Jesus is teaching, this is the story probably most of us familiar with, suddenly there's a commotion on the roof. And then, there's debris falling down in everybody's hair. And if you look up, you're getting, you know, stuff in your eyes. And then, there's these little pinpoints of light, you know, kind of coming through the roof. And the owner of the home is very upset at this point. And then next thing you know, they're peeling back the roof and you see the silhouettes of some heads up there. And then, the sun is blotted out and down comes this mat with a man on it lowered slowly to the ground and Jesus steps back.

And here's a man on a mat and clearly he can't move. He's paralyzed. Remember this story? And Jesus stops the teaching. At this point, the crowd is so excited because they didn't come for a sermon. They came for the tricks. They came for the magic show. They came for the supernatural. It's like, "Oh, good, good, we get to see one. I told you, I told you. You know, the sermon's getting kind of long. I don't remember, I didn't even understand what He was saying, but wow this is the moment we all came from for, because maybe He's gonna heal this paralyzed man". And Jesus, looks at the paralyzed man and He says the most unusual thing, "Friend, your sins are forgiven".

Like, wait, all of them? Like, just like that? I mean, that's not what even, that's not even what He came for. He didn't ask because that's not what He's here for. And how can you forgive a stranger's sins? I mean, wait, rabbi, this guy didn't even sin against you. You don't even know what he's done. Besides forgiveness, I mean, you gotta ask first, right? I mean the Pharisees and the lawyers are all cutting their eyes at each other. They're all thinking the same thing, "Who is this fellow? Goodness, who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy"? Why is it blasphemy?

Because "Who can forgive sins but God alone? Who does He think He is? He's playing God. Besides everybody knew that God didn't forgive until He was asked. And there was a sacrifice. And the sacrifice had to be made at the temple in Jerusalem, not laying in a mat in debris in Galilee. I mean everything about this is wrong. Plus, this guy must have done something horrible in his life. He must have committed a lot of bad sins, because this is how it was, this is how they thought back then. If something terrible happens to you, it's because you did something terrible. So, the fact that this guy is paralyzed, clearly he is a sinner, upon sinner, upon sinner. I mean this is not a good person. And Jesus, who apparently doesn't even know this guy, just declares that all his sins are forgiven. I mean, everything about this is wrong or perhaps they had it wrong. Perhaps we have it wrong".

Jesus looks at the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, the lawyers, in the eye, and He says, "Why are you thinking these things in your heart"? So, you gotta be careful what you think about around Jesus, right? "Why are you thinking these things in your heart"? Now, this is where I want you to, let's all get in the room, okay? We're kind of looking over the shoulders, the people in front of me. We're trying to see what's going on. We can hear Jesus talking to the people that we're revere. In fact, we don't get too close because they don't want us to touch them. Because they're always ceremonially clean so they can be close to God, and hear from God, and represent God to us.

And the rabbi from Nazareth says, "Why are you thinking these things"? "Okay," he says, "let me ask you a question. You're the smartest guys in the room. Which is easier to say to this man, 'Your sins are forgiven,' which I've already said, or say, 'Get up and walk.' Which is easier"? Now, you ready for this? Okay, you ready for this? Everybody watch Him from home ready for this. Listen to what He says, Jesus says, "But I want you to know". I think He wants us to know. The reason I think He wants us to know is that's why Luke included this narrative. And he talked to the people who were there and saw this. Luke knew this wasn't just for them, that this was for us. This is why he included it.

Jesus says, "I want you to know. I want you to know. Here, I want you to know something". This is why he's included it. "I want you to know that the Son of Man," check this out, "I want you to know, there's something I want you to know that you don't know". There's something that perhaps you don't know that I don't know. That we missed, because of how we were raised and how we've had all this interpreted for us. I don't know what your religious background is or what you think about Christianity. Jesus says, "There's something you don't know that I want you to know. I want you to know that the Son of Man," talking about himself, taking a title from the Book of Daniel.

The title of the ultimate judge and arbitrator among men, arbitrator among men... "I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins". At will, without being asked, without anyone's permission. "I want you to know I have that authority". And they're like, "Yeah, well that's what you're saying". And then, Jesus is gonna basically say this, "And to demonstrate that I have the authority to forgive sin, I have also been given authority over sin and over the consequence of sin. I have authority over illness and sickness and I have authority over paralysis. And the reason I have been given that authority," look up here, "is that you would know with certainty that I have the authority to forgive your sin".

Do you know why Jesus healed? It was to demonstrate He had the authority to forgive the sin behind all illness. So, He said to the paralyzed, man, I love this, "I tell you, get up, take your mat, get outta here, go home". And he did and the people were filled with awe. And they said, "We have seen a remarkable things today". Actually, they had seen a remarkable person that day. They had been shoulder to shoulder with the most remarkable person they would ever see on this day. Someone with the power to just wave away and cancel and forgive sin. No temple, no priest, no net with just a word. He forgave a sinner who was literally powerless to do anything to redeem himself. Just like that.

A few days later, Jesus is invited to Simon's house. Simon is also a Pharisee and Simon throws a banquet in the middle of the day, big home, leaves the windows and doors opens. This was common. It was common for people to stand in the doorways and to stand in the windows and listen to conversations if they were invited. And this was the nature of this banquet. Because Simon thought with he and his friends talking, conversing with Jesus, perhaps Jesus would trap himself. Perhaps, He would trip himself up. Perhaps the people would walk away and go, "Ah, not a prophet, not from God". So, the doors are open. They're all reclining around a table and people begin to move in and sit along the wall to listen to the conversation. And a woman from the town who lived a sinful life slipped in and sat against the wall because she heard that Jesus was visiting Simon's home.

And suddenly, Jesus feels something at His feet and suddenly there's an aroma of perfume that fills that large banquet room. And He realizes that she is cleaning His feet, but she's cleaning His feet with her hair and her tears and this expensive perfume that is now filled the room. The host, Simon, realizes this is so awkward, but the silver lining was it confirmed his suspicion, "Clearly, we haven't even got to the main course yet. And my question's already answered. This is not a man who has come from God clearly. I mean now I already know the answer to the question. I wish I'd figured this out before I spent all this money and invited all these people into my home. Clearly, if this man was a prophet, if this was somebody that God sent, He would know who is touching Him and making Him ceremonially unclean. He would know who's touching Him. and what kind of woman she is, that she's a sinner".

Now, when He says she's a sinner, He doesn't mean she's a sinner like we say we're sinner. No, He means that she is steeped in sin. She is characterized by sin. She didn't just do sin. She is a sinner. She is unacceptable to God. She is outside the covenant. She doesn't get to visit the temple and everybody knows that. And Simon's like, "Wow, at least I got my question answered, but I'm gonna have to have the whole house cleansed now that I know that this woman has been here". Jesus just keeps eating, never acknowledges this is happening. This is now I want you to be in the room and I want you to experience this with us. They're just eating and chatting and Jesus says, "Hey Simon," and to all the guest, "Simon, I wanna tell you a story". And Jesus launches into a parable, no setup, no context, just outta nowhere.

"Hey Simon, I wanna tell you a story. There were these two merchants and they both were borrowing money from the same money lender. And both of them got in a situation where they could not pay the money lender back and the interest had mounted and mounted and mounted. And one of them owed the money lender on 50 denariis, which is about 50 days of labor for a common laborer or a soldier. It was a soldier's daily wage. So about a month and a half, he's behind about a month and a half. The other guy owes the money lender 500 denariis. This is about a year and a half's worth of daily wage. So they're both in debt, both of 'em. Neither of 'em can pay. And they come to the money lender and they both explain, 'We're forever behind. We don't know what to do.'"

And Jesus says, "This money lender decides, 'You know what? I'm just gonna cancel your debt. I'm gonna cancel your month and a half's worth of debt. I'm gonna cancel your year and a half's worth of debt.'" Just cancel the debt, which would be so unusual. In fact, the people around the table would kind of murmur like, "Oh, that would never happen, right"? They all probably owed somebody money. And of course, Simon, the host is thinking, "Where is this going"? And then Jesus asks a simple question. Now He says, "Which one of them, which one of them will"? And this is the surprise, because this is Jesus, and this is why nobody would make this stuff up. Luke's like, "I'm telling you, I talked to the folks who were there. This is how it went down". Jesus says, "I have a question for you. Which one of them not will be more grateful"?

That's what we would expect. But this is Jesus, the master communicator. "Which of which one of them will love him more"? It's like, "oh, merchants and you know, money lenders. Love? There's no love. Love him more"? And Simon replied, you know, dismissively, but carefully, he senses a trap. "Well, I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven would be the one who loved the money lender more, if anyone could love a money lender". To which Jesus says, "You're exactly right, you have judged correctly". "You have judged correctly," Jesus said. And then something remarkable happens, we miss it but she didn't. For the first time, for the first time, Jesus turns toward the woman. He's on His elbow. He turns toward the woman who's kind of behind Him and she speaks to Simon.

So picture it, He's talking to Simon, He's looking at the woman. If you think you have sinned so much that God may love you, but does could never like you, if you are like my grandfather, my mom's, my mom's dad was my favorite grandparent because when I was a kid, he bought me an alligator. so he won. Bought me an alligator, a little Caiman, we call him Alligators. And so when your grandparent dad buys you alligator, he's just your favorite forever, you know. My grandfather became a Christian very late in life and is like his mid 60s or maybe even older, but his late mid to late 60s became a Christian. Got him a giant print Bible. I'll never forget 'cause I looked at it. It was like, "In the beginning God created the he". I mean, it was like, wow, you know.

My grandfather went to church just about every day after that. But when I would ask him, "Granddaddy, do you think you'll go to heaven when you die"? He's like, "I'm not, I don't know. I'm not so sure. I've done a lot of stuff. I believe in Jesus, believe Jesus paid for a sin, but I've done a lot of stuff". He'd done a lot of stuff. Maybe you've done a lot of stuff and you've heard the story and you know God forgives and you've heard, you know, Jesus and the cross and God, all that, but done a lot of stuff. This story's for you. "Simon," Jesus says, this so brilliant. "Simon," He says, "Do you see this woman"? He's looking at her talking to Simon. "Do you see this woman"? Simon, "I do".

"You don't. You despise her. She's outside the covenant. She's ceremonially unclean because of the life she's lived. But Simon, just so you know, she's been a better host of me than you have. Because when I came in, you did not offer any water for my feet, to wash my feet. And she's washed my feet with her tears and dried my feet with her hair. And you didn't give me a kiss of greeting and she has kissed my feet as she's cleansed my feet. And you, you did not give me any oil for my hair. And she has opened this expensive bottle of perfume and poured perfume on my feet, much less my head. She's been a better, she's been a better host. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins," now remember, He's looking at her. He's talking about her to Simon, but He's looking at her. In other words, Jesus is saying, "I know what you've done. I'm not cutting you any slack. I'm not pretending. Let's not pretend. Simon, her many sins".

And she is looking at Jesus in the eye and He's acknowledging her sin. All of it, her many sins, no secrets. "Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been," still looking at her, imagine this moment, "forgiven". She's stunned. Simon and all of his guests are confused for, wait, forgiven. And in the Greek, it's the perfect tense, which means she is in a forgiven state. She is in a state of forgiveness. I'm not forgiving a particular sin. I'm forgiving all of the sin, all of her sin. She is now a forgiven person. And everybody in the room's like, "Wait a minute, but how? There's no temple. There's no altar. There's no priest. She didn't even ask. She hasn't repented. And of all the people in this town, she is now a forgiven person? She has some kind of right standing with Yahweh".

And the woman, of course, Jesus is still looking at her, talking to Simon about her sin. And she's wondering, "Did I hear this correctly"? And Jesus smiles and He looks at her, looks at you, looks at me. He says, "Yeah, you heard me correctly". Now He's talking directly to her, not her sins. "Your sins are forgiven," all of them. Because Jesus had been given the power to forgive sin on earth at will, without permission, without being asked. What if He's done that for you? The people in the room, they all respond correctly. "Who is this"? I mean, that's the right question too, right? And when it comes to Christianity and Jesus, this is the question. "Who is this who even forgives sin"?

I mean, once again, He's playing the role of God. And one of the most fascinating things about this encounter, according to Luke who brings it to us, the woman never utters a word and she leaves forgiven. But that's a problem. Because if Jesus kept going on like this, it was gonna undermine the entire religious establishment. There would be no need for priests. There would be no need for a temple. There wouldn't be no need for blood animal sacrifice. The leaders would lose their leverage with the people. The people would no longer have to fear God, and fear the wrath of God, and fear whether or not they would wake up on the day of judgment and what would happen to them on the day of judgment. If Jesus can just wave His hands and eradicate and erase sin and just take sin away from people, if this is how it works and if God decides to do this for everybody, what happens to the entire religious system?

The religious leaders lose all of their leverage. If folks believe that God just forgives everybody, they're just gonna run wild. What's gonna keep them from running wild? If God is announcing forgiveness ahead of time, if this is Jesus message, what's gonna happen? What will people do with that? Will they be responsible with that? Of course, they won't be responsible. They're going to abuse that privilege. This has to end. But if it's true, if what Jesus did for the woman, He did for you and for me, for you, for you, for you, and for us, you know what that would be? Good news. That's why it's called the gospel or the good news of Matthew, and the good news of Mark, and the good news of Luke, and the good news of John.

It's why the angel said when Jesus was born, "I have good news of great joy for all the good people, for all the select and elect people. I have good news of great joy for all people. Because today in the city of Bethlehem, a savior is born. He's God's final king. He's the Lord. And He is born with the authority to forgive sin at will without being asked". That wouldn't just be good news. That would be the best possible news. Fear of God, don't miss this, fear of God would be replaced with gratitude for God and love for God, which was the point of the parable and is the point of Jesus. But the problem is this, those who benefit most from the status quo, are least inclined to let it go.

So, they have Jesus arrested. They accuse Him of all kinds of things, claiming to be a king, accused Him of subverting the nation, trying to bring down the Roman empire, refuse telling people not to pay their taxes. They lie. They pay people to lie. Pilate questions Him and Pilate decides, "Okay, He's, you know, He's a little unorthodox, but goodness, He doesn't deserve the death penalty. I'll just have Him beaten and released". They're like, "No, He has to die because He claims to be a king. He is competing with Caesar," even though Jesus never competed with Caesar.

He continued to say, "'My kingdom's not of this world. My kingdom is only a kingdom of the people who choose to follow me. And the people who follow me are gonna be the best Roman citizens on the planet, because they're gonna be honest. They're gonna be faithful. They're gonna be compassionate. They're gonna be like me.' But they convince Pilate. Pilate washes his hands and condemns Jesus to death, condemns Him to be crucified. And when they came to the place called the Skull," where crucifixion took place, "they crucified Jesus there".

As we've said so many times, there's no description given, because no description is necessary. Everybody that read this or heard this had seen one. They'd seen the aftermath of one and there they just crucified Him. The crucifixion was as much a deterrent as it was a punishment. It was a deterrent for anyone who was thinking that somehow we're gonna overthrow Rome, create some sort of seditious movement against the empire. The empire would say, "And this will be your faith".

The goal of crucifixion was oblivion as if you never even happened. Days later after you died, they would literally, because of your body fluids, peel your body off the wood cross. Throw your body into a wagon, take you to Gehenna, the valley of Gehenna, outside the city where fires burned constantly to make sure that disease didn't break out in the city. And there they dumped the trash and there they dumped the dead bodies of those who had either died and had no one to bury them or the victims of crucifixion. That would be Jesus' fate. And as He hung there, here's the part we rushed through that maybe you've been a Christian a long time like me and maybe it's time for this to resettle in on you. Maybe you walked away from faith and it's time for this to resettle on you as well. Maybe you've never embraced any kind of faith and this is for you.

As He hangs there pushing up on the one nail through His foot that allows Him to push himself up painfully to breathe and exhale, He says, "Father, forgive them. Because I have the authority to forgive anybody on earth. I want you Father to forgive them". And who is them? Luke would tell you them as anyone Jesus chooses to forgive, because He had the authority to do it at will, without being asked. "Father, forgive them". Even though they didn't ask, even though they didn't believe, even though they didn't think they earned or deserved, or even if they don't think there's anything to be forgiven for. And Luke would assure us that them is you, and them is me, and them is us. What if that's true? What if you are in a state of perpetual forgiveness and God gambled and announced it ahead of time? What do you do with that? Years later, a Pharisee, Saul of Tarsis who becomes Paul, the Apostle Paul, who writes half the New Testament. A few years later, he looks back.

Now, he was alive during all of this, but he wasn't a part of it that we know of. He looks back and he contextualizes it and he puts words around it. And here's what he said happened. And Saul was a man with many sins. Saul was a man who was guilty of the deaths of innocent people. Saul had so much guilt and so much shame that he would carry around. And here's how he put it together in a document that he sent to Christian's living in Rome. He says, "Look, you see," in other words, think with me, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless," or you could fill in this blank, or replace powerless with clueless while we were powerless and clueless, because this happened during his lifetime. That's why it's present tense.

In other words, "While I'm doing my own thing, you know, hurting people and being so judgmental, while I'm doing my own thing, when I wasn't even aware of what was going on and I was powerless to find forgiveness with God, when I was powerless and clueless, while I was doing that, Christ died for me. Christ died for all the ungodly". And Saul, who is a Pharisee, would say, "And I'm in that group and He died for the ungodly without our permission. He died for the ungodly without us asking Him to. He died for the ungodly when we didn't think anybody needed to, before we were aware, before we even cared". And he says, "Now, every once in a while, somebody will die for a righteous person".

He says, "Now, you know, I'll be honest, very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person. Although, you know, every once in a while for a good person, someone might possibly dare to die". But he would say, "But I'm not a good person". And then he says this, "That at calvary, God put on a demonstration that should change everything about everything. But God demonstrates, God demonstrated His own love for all of us. The man on the mat, the woman in the room, the people gathered around Jesus asHe died". Paul says, "I realize now this was an all skate. This was for the whole world. This was for all of us. He demonstrated His own love, His brand of love, His whether you like it or not, whether you want it or not, whether you're even aware of it or not brand of love for you and me".

Listen to this. "While we were still sinning," this was present tense. It was in real time. "While we were still sinners, Christ did something none of us would do". He died for unrighteous, uncaring, unknowing, unaware, ungrateful people. Because He had the authority to forgive sin. Like the young man who could do nothing for himself. Like the woman who knew better, but wouldn't or couldn't do better. He died for you, paid for all your sin, forgave you without asking, which was risky. Philip Yancey, I've quote this all the time, it's just so powerful to me. He got exactly right when he said this, "That God took a great risk by announcing forgiveness in advance". That God took a great risk by announcing forgiveness in advance, knowing that we might ignore it, knowing that we might take advantage of it, knowing that we may discard it, knowing that we would dip into it when we needed it. But God announced forgiveness in advance so that we would love Him, be grateful to Him, and be reconciled to Him.

So here's the question, what do you do with that? What have you done with that? What have you done with that lately? For some of you who've been Christians a long time and you just take it for granted. Oh dear God, forgive me my sins. Oh dear God, just forgive me my sins. Wait, wait, wait, wait. He already did and you continue to sin anyway? He already did. And you continue to sort of throw that back up at Him. Maybe you've never understood it this way before. Maybe you just had some vague notion that God is good and God forgives. But did you know that Jesus had the authority to forgive sin and He has forgiven you ahead of time? and He's just waiting for you to recognize that in order to reconcile with Him. He left us with the freedom to accept it or reject it. And even if you don't want, wouldn't be willing to admit that you need forgiveness. Actually, you know that you do. And the reason that you know that you do is because you know what you do and you know what you've done.

So, how do you respond? How do I respond? How do we respond to that kind of love? The gift of forgiveness? So today, as we wrap up and as we prepare for this special holy week, I wanna give all of us an opportunity to respond right now. And for some of you, this is a repeat because you were raised this way and this is how you think and that's okay. You can't say this too much. For others of you, it's been a long, long time. Once upon a time as a child, you prayed some kind of prayer. And once upon a time as a child, you would ask God to forgive you of your sin, but it's been a long time. If you've drifted and you've run away, and you've done your own thing, and you've got a bucket full, a love bucket, a barrel full. You've got a season of life full. And you wonder, "Would God love me? Can God forgive me"? And Jesus would say, "Yeah, I already have".

Now, be reconciled to the Savior who loves you, who is sent by the God who loves you. So what I did in preparation for today, I wrote a little prayer. It goes like this, I'm just gonna read it to you. This is something I just made up. "Heavenly Father, I'm like the man on the mat. I'm like the woman at the banquet. I need to be forgiven of my sin. I don't deserve it. I can't earn it. But I believe Jesus earned it for me when He died for me. So, I placed my faith in Him as Forgiver and Savior". These are just words that recognize what God, as Paul said, has already done for you and is waiting for you to recognize. What God has already done for you, but you've not embraced it in a long time and allowed to invade your life and to move you away from the sin that's destroying your life.

Do you know why God's anti sin? Because God is for you. Because God knows and you know, 'cause we've all lived long enough to learn that sin breaks people. So of course, He has forgiven you, but He wants to be reconciled with you. And maybe for somebody today, or somebody watching or listening, this is your day. This is your moment of reconciliation with the God who has already loved you. And when you say, "God, forgive me," you can imagine Him whispering, "I already have. I've just been waiting for you to recognize".

So I would love for all of us that, all of our churches, if you're sitting with somebody watching at home or maybe you're driving and listening, I want all of us to pray this prayer out loud. If you don't want to, of course you don't have to. But the reason I want us to all pray it out loud is because somebody here today, this may be the first time and the first time in a long time. And I want you to hear yourself say these words as you recognize, recognize the invitation to be reconciled with the God who loves you and has forgiven you and wants a relationship with you to move you away from the sin that destroys you. So let's, if you would, let's just pray or say this together. Ready? All together. Ready?

Heavenly Father, I'm like the man on the mat and the woman at the banquet. I need to be forgiven of my sin. I don't deserve it. I can't earn it. I believe Jesus earned it for me when He died for me. So, I place my faith in Him as Forgiver and Savior. Amen.

Heavenly Father, wherever this lands with us, I know where it lands with me. I just pray it would invade our thinking, and invade our attitudes, and invade our responses to other people. Invade our temptation, invade our habits, invade our destructive behavior, invade that part of us that separates us from people we love, 'cause we can't keep our mouth shut, or we just can't stop, or we won't get help. I just pray that you're overwhelming love for us, forgiveness ahead of time, would drive us appropriately to our knees. And that we just lift our hands and say, "I'm yours".

Who could resist that kind of grace and that kind of love? So, wherever this lands with us, in these next few minutes:

Father, just speak to us, speak to us through the lyrics of this song and give us, just give us direction and the courage to step in that direction. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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