James Merritt - Confession. Start At The Epicenter
Something happened at my house and it probably happened at your house. On a Friday night, February 14th, 2014, and something that I never thought would happen, and I hope and pray will never happen again. And many of you experienced the same thing that we did. I was asleep. I was sound asleep. But it was as if someone with two giant hands took our house and began to shake it. I didn't even feel it, but Teresa woke me up and she said, "Did you feel that"? And I said, "Did I feel what"? She said, "I believe we just experienced an earthquake".
Now, what really got my attention was when she said, "I hope it did not damage the foundation of our house," because when she said that, the most spiritual question I could think to ask at that time was, "Does our insurance cover earthquakes". I mean, I was really concerned. I thought, you know, "What if it's..." I mean, really, I thought, "What if it's done damage to my house and we can't pay for it"? Well, after that was over, obviously, I read the paper and read the news accounts, and then I went back and did a study of earthquakes and I found out something interesting. Earthquakes are caused by faults, which are actually fractures in the earth's crust where the rock on one side of the fracture moves away from the rock on the other side.
Interestingly, active faults may not move for decades, and then, without warning, they can move many or several feet in just a few seconds. And before you know it, you've got an earthquake that can lead to absolutely devastating results. As a matter of fact, I found out another interesting thing; that the worst earthquake every experienced in the history of our country happened in 1906 in San Francisco. It was caused by a shift in the most famous fault in the world, known as the San Andreas Fault, which is located in western California. It's where the North American plate and the Pacific plate meet.
Many of you have heard of the San Andreas Fault. It's kind of world famous all over the world. Well, what happened was, without warning, the San Andreas Fault separated up to 21 feet in distance. I want you to imagine that you're walking down, just walking out, you know, anywhere out in the country, and all of a sudden, the earth begins to shake. And just imagine, in front of you, a 20 foot wide gap all of a sudden opens up, just like that. That's what happened there.
As a matter of fact, this is a graphic picture of what happens when a fault takes place. The rocks actually separate. They separate horizontally and they separate vertically. And that results in an earthquake. That earthquake in San Francisco killed 3,000 people. It destroyed 80% of the city. Four hundred thousand people lived in San Francisco at the time. After that earthquake, over 50% had absolutely no home left standing whatsoever. In today's dollars, it cost roughly about ten billion dollars. And here's what I learned... faults can cause ruptures, ruptures can cause earthquakes, which can leave lasting and devastating results.
Now, here's what I want to talk about. As damaging as physical faults are, I think what's even more damaging are relational faults. And there are many of us right now, in here at our campus or at our Mill Creek Campus, and you've got faults. I've got faults. We've got fractures or cracks in our relationships. Now, for some of us, they're hidden, they're dormant. But eventually, they rupture. And when those faults finally rupture, they separate families, they separate spouses, they separate parents from children, the separate friends, they even separate churches. And they send shock waves of heartache and misery and suffering that can last for generations.
So today, we're beginning a series of messages that we're calling "Fault". I think it's a series that probably everybody in this room needs to hear. As a matter of fact, I think it's a desperate need, even in the church, 'cause I can tell you firsthand, as a pastor, as a father, as a friend, and as a believer that this is a series that affects you and it affects me, because I've had ruptured relationships in my own life. I've had to cover a lot of fractures in my own life. And there are some of you in this room right now or listening at our campus at Mill Creek, you're not strangers to the fact that you've got ruptured relationships as well. You're sitting, watching by television or you're sitting in front of a computer right now, or you're watching us here live in this building or at Mill Creek and you're saying, "Hey, that's me. I've got hidden faults". And I know that my faults, if I don't get a hold of these faults, they're going to cause ruptures that will lead to earthquakes that will destroy relationships.
Now, here's the first thing you need to remember. Whenever there's a rupture in a relationship, someone is always at fault. Friendships don't just fall apart by accident. Marriages just don't end by accident. Churches just don't split and get angry with each other over accidents. Someone is always at fault. And relational ruptures are caused by personal faults and whose fault is at fault varies. So here's what I'm going to tell you, and I know you already know this, whenever there is a relationship rupture, whenever you get on the outs with someone or someone gets on the outs with you, usually one of two scenarios is true. Sometimes it's my fault, not yours. Or to use you as an example, sometimes it's your fault, not theirs. Sometimes you're the one that created the problem. It was your fault that the relationship broke up to begin with. Then there are other times it's not my fault, it's yours. Or in your case, it's not your fault, it's theirs.
Now, there are times that both parties are at fault; but someone usually primarily is at fault. So here's what we're going to do in this series. We're going to begin with a place where every relationship has to begin if it's going to be fixed and fixed right, and that is in our relationship with God. Let me tell you why. We're going to start at the epicenter of everything that causes any rupture in any relationship. Physical earthquakes are caused by physical faults. Relational earthquakes are caused by spiritual faults. And the Bible has a term for these spiritual faults. Anybody want to tell me what that is? Sin. Sin. Okay?
The Bible has a word for that called sin. The epicenter of every fault that causes a relational rupture or a relational earthquake is sin. And listen; sin is always first against God. God's always the first one. Even when you sin against someone else, even when you've hurt someone else, even when you offend someone else, they're not the first one to feel the effects of what you do. The first one that feels the effects of that is God. God always feels the first tremor of a relational earthquake that's caused by our fault. So all that raises this question... how, when you, once you finally realize there's a spiritual crack in your life, how do you address them? Same way you address physical cracks.
First thing you've got to do, you've got to acknowledge that a crack is there. You've got to acknowledge that a fault is there. Because until you recognize the fault exists, you will not be able to protect against it, you will not be able to mend it. And in spiritual language, the Bible has a term for that; and the Bible term for that is confession. The way you begin to repair a relationship, the way you begin to fix a fault is through confession. That's always the first step that you have to take. And by the way, that's why a lot of relationships never get fixed, because nobody wants to own up to it, nobody wants to confess that they're the ones that did wrong. And the first step that must always be taken to restore a relationship or fix a friendship or mend a marriage is confession.
Now, let me say this. Most of the time, confession will have two dimensions. There's the vertical dimension with God. There's the horizontal dimension with the persons that you've hurt. So when our sin or whatever we've done has hurt someone else, here's the process. You first confess that sin to God. You go to Him first, and then you go to others. So here's what we're going to do. I'm going to show you today in one verse of scripture all I need to show you. One verse of scripture; the most important step anyone can ever take to solve the problem that is caused by your faults. There's one verse in the Bible. If this was the only verse in all the Bible, we would have all we would need to know in order to fix our faults and restore ruptured relationships.
So if you brought a copy of God's Word, this morning... iPad, table, smartphone, whatever... I want you to turn to a little book in the New Testament called 1 John. Now, if you don't know where 1 John is, it's real easy to find. Go all the way to the last book of the Bible. That's Revelation. Turn left. You go five books. You will hit 1 John. And here's what we're going to learn this morning. When I confess, God takes care of my mess. When I confess, God takes care of my mess. Now, I want you to listen to this verse of scripture; one of the first verses I ever learned after I got saved as a little boy. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness".
Now, if that was the only verse in the Bible that dealt with the problems of ruptured relationships, we've got all that we need to know to begin to solve the problem. Here is the remedy for ruptured relationships, and it all begins first with our relationship to God. So how do you begin to fix what you broke? How do you begin to reconnect what you disconnected? Alright. Here's how you do it. Number one, we confess our sin. We confess our sin. He said, "If we confess our sins, He will forgive our sins". Now, it's obvious the word He there refers to God. Confession does not always end with God, but it must always begin with God. Now, why is that? I just told you. The reason is every sin, first and foremost, is always against God.
Now, remember this principle. Whenever you sin against anyone, forgiveness only comes through confessing to the one you sinned against. If I sin against you but I go to somebody you know and say, "You know, I really hurt that person; I did that person wrong and I'm so sorry," that won't bring forgiveness. You've got to confess to the one that you sinned against if you want to be forgiven. Well, since we've already established that every sin we ever commit always begins first with God, the first person you've got to confess to is with God. So as painful as it may be, if you're ever going to solve your relationship problems, you've got to fess up to your mess up. You don't have the right to remain silent before God. You can't take the Fifth Amendment with God. When you mess up, you go to God and you fess up.
So let me put it to you this way. If you want to come clean, you must confess completely. If you want to come clean, you must confess completely. Now, let me tell you what that means. And this is why it's so hard for us to do it. The way you confess is real simple. You call sin, sin. Now, the word sin, quite frankly, probably ought to be on the endangered species in our vocabulary. When is the last time you heard a politician say, "I sinned"? Matter of fact, there's a word that we love to use instead of the word sin. You know what that word is? Yeah, mistake. We made a what? Yeah, we made a mistake. Right? Alright, listen. Listen carefully. Sin is not a mistake. If you go the wrong way on a one way street, that's a mistake. If you go the wrong way on a one way street 'cause you're drunk or inebriated, that is a sin. I came across a verse of scripture, I never even noticed this verse of scripture ever in my whole life 'til I prepared this message.
Listen to this. It's out of Ecclesiastes. "Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands"? Now, here's what Solomon said. Solomon said it really ticks God off when you call a sin a mistake. God says, basically, "Don't insult My intelligence. That angers Me". It is not a mistake. It is a sin. And you know, I don't know why it's so hard for us to do that. Why is it so hard for us to fess up to our mess ups? Why is it sometimes you almost have to pull confession out of people?
Kent Crockett is one of my favorite authors, and he tells the story in one of his books about the time he was a young father. He had a two year old boy and a four year old girl. And he said he was downstairs one day in his house and all of a sudden, he heard his little two year old boy, Scott, let out this blood-curdling yell and start crying hysterically. He said he ran up the stairs, and there was little Scott holding his head. Obviously, he hurt his head. And he noticed there was a plastic baseball bat on the floor. So he looked at his four year old daughter, Hannah, and he said, "Hannah, what happened to Scott"? She said, "He hit his head". And he said, "Well, what did he hit his head on, Hannah"? And she pointed. She said, "The baseball bat". And he said, "Well Hannah, where was the baseball bat"? She said, "In my hands".
Now, why is it we've got to do that? Why? Listen. When the fault is yours, you're the one the messed up, you've committed the sin, immediately go to God, confess that sin, and begin a positive chain reaction that will lead us to redemption and reconciliation and restoration, because let me show you how this gets better. Our part, when we're the one that messed up, our part is to fess up to the mess up. We go to God and say, "Okay, God. I confess my sin". God says, "Okay. Now, watch what I do. This is my part". When we confess our sin, God cancels the debt. When we confess our sin, God cancels the debt. Now, watch this. The first half of this verse deals with our part in repairing the fault. Right? But the second part deals with God's part. And here's what God says. God said, "This is so easy. This is not hard. This is not rocket science. When you admit your fault, I will fix the fracture. When you admit your fault, I will fix the fracture. I'll repair it. I'll fix it". Look at this. Verse nine. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.
Now, every time I read this verse, and I've read it I don't know how many times, and I memorized it a long time ago, I've come to realize that we don't really get what a big deal this verse is. We don't really understand what a mind-boggling truth is in that verse. Let me tell you why we don't really get it. 'Cause when you really understand what this one verse in the Bible says, I want to tell you, it ought to put a joy in your heart that nobody can ever take away from you. And the reason why we don't get it is because we don't understand two things. We don't really understand what sin is, and we don't really understand what forgiveness is. Let me tell you what I mean. You remember when the disciples came to Jesus and they said, "Lord, teach us to pray"?
Well, there are two different versions of that prayer. You go to Luke, for example, and Luke says in his prayer, "And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us," right? And that's kind of the phrase, that's the one we use most of the time. But then you go to Matthew and Matthew records it like this, "And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors". Now, raises a question. So why did Luke use the word sins and why did Matthew use the word debt? Well, this'll be worth coming to church for. Many of you know that the New Testament was originally written in the Greek language. But what you probably don't know is Jesus didn't speak Greek. Jesus spoke Aramaic. That was the language of His culture and the language of His day.
Now, the Aramaic word for sin literally means a debt that is owed. And the Aramaic word for forgive literally means to cancel or pay off or forget a debt. Now, here's what John is saying to us. John says, and he's right, "you and I owe God something every day of our life; every minute of every hour of every second of every day of every week of every year, you and I owe God one thing... perfect, complete obedience, total. You can't obey part of the time or obey part of the command. We owe God absolute, complete, total obedience. Well, guess what. We don't always obey God. We don't always obey God perfectly. We don't always obey God totally. And every time we disobey God, we run up this debt called sin". And this is what John says. John says, "Every time you run up this sin debt, every time you go to God, and every time you ask God to cancel that debt, to wipe the debt off that book, He does it".
Every time you ask God to forget the debt, forgive the debt, and totally wipe that debt off the books, God does it. Now, here's the point. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He paid for our sin debt. Every sin you've ever committed, every sin you will ever commit, all that debt you've incurred or will incur has already been paid in full, in advance by Jesus Christ. And it would be unjust even for God to make me pay for what has already been paid for. So God said...Yeah, that's right. That's right. So God says, "I guarantee you every time you come to Me and confess, I will forgive it. I'll wipe it off. You know why? 'Cause I'm faithful. I'll do what I told you I'll do. And I'm just. I don't double charge anybody. And your sin has already been paid off".
Now, let me just say this. I'm going to deal with this later on in the series. Let me just touch on it. Some of you are sitting there right now and you're going, "I've got a problem". What's your problem? "Well, I've confessed my sin to God over and over and over and over; but you know what? I still feel guilty. I still feel dirty. I still feel like I owe the bill. I just don't feel like I'm forgiven". Alright, remember this. Your forgiveness depends on God's faithfulness, not your feelings. And every time you confess, truly confess, you will be forgiven because God is faithful and God is just.
Now, this is going to be real brief. It gets a little bit better than even this, 'cause watch this. When we confess our sin, God cancels the debt; but He not only cancels the debt, look at this... God cleanses us completely. He cleanses us completely. Listen to the last part of this verse, "and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". Listen. God doesn't just wipe the debt off. God wipes the record clean. In other words, He doesn't just forgive our debt; He forgets our debt. As a matter of fact, Isaiah said something else I want to point out to you in Isaiah 43. God says, "I am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake and I will not remember your sins".
Now, look. That obviously doesn't mean that God literally forgets that we've done something wrong. God can't do that. Right? God's omniscient. God knows everything and God has a perfect memory. So what does God mean when God says, "I forget your sins"? What God means is this, "I'll never hold that sin against you again. I'm not a grudge holding God. I will never dig up your past again. The only way I will ever remember your sin is as forgiven sin," because, in effect, here's what God does. When you come to God and you confess, I mean, you don't hold back, you empty the clip, you tell the truth. "I'm the one that messed up. It's my fault; nobody but mine. This is exactly what I did and You know it". God buries that sin in the grave of His grace and we don't ever need to dig up again what God has buried.