Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Merritt » James Merritt - Clean Slate

James Merritt - Clean Slate

  • Watch
  • Audio
  • Donate
  • Shop
    James Merritt - Clean Slate

Today, we're beginning a series that we're calling the Bucket List because the truth of the matter is sooner or later, we're all going to kick the bucket and there is a difference between the things that you want to do before you die. We've all got things we want to do. We've all got things we'd like to do. But there's a difference between doing things that you want to do before you die and doing things that you must do before you die to make sure that you're ready to die. What we're going to do in this series is we're going to give you a list. It's a very short list. It's a very simple list, but I absolutely am convinced these are the things that ought to be on everybody's bucket list. Whatever else you want to do before you die, I'm going to give you in this series, seven things you should do before you die if you're going to die right.

Now, let me just tell you. This is not my list, it's not something I got off the internet. It's not something I got off a website. I didn't get it from a survey. I didn't come up with these ideas willy-nilly. I got these ideas straight from Jesus. Because whether you realize it or not, Jesus had a bucket list. On the last day of His life, when He knew He was going to die, He gave some last words. He said some last things and they revealed His bucket list. Now, I've never really been, maybe you have, I've never been with anyone just before they passed away. I've been there right after they passed away. I've never been with anyone that just before they passed away. But I have been told that the last words of anyone are often of great importance.

As a matter of fact, if the family is gathered around and you know someone is about to die you will hear a pin drop because they don't want to miss any final parting words and so we've got the last words ever recorded not of just an ordinary human being, we've got the last words recorded of the greatest human being who has ever lived on planet earth and in the final six hours of His life from 9:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon, in the final 6 hours of His life, Jesus made 7 statements that have been recorded for history and posterity and I believe they represent 7 things that He either did or He caused to happen that we ought to do before we die.

Now, the timing of what He said is really very significant. As we study these, you're going to find that the first three things that He said, He said during daylight and the last four things He said was in total darkness. The first three things He said had to do with His relationship to others and the last four things He said had to do with His relationship with His Heavenly Father and I just want to submit this to you. There ought to be seven things that you have on your bucket list and before you die, you better make sure that you've done the right things horizontally with other people and then you better make sure that you've got everything squared away vertically with God. So, we're going to look at the very first thing that you ought to put on your bucket list and the very first thing that you ought to put on your bucket list is this: you ought to make sure before you die that you're dying with a clean slate. You want to die with an absolutely clean slate.

Now, to find out what that means, if you brought a copy of God's word or you want to look in your iPad or smartphone, whatever you have. I want you to turn to a gospel called Luke. There are four gospels. They are at the beginning of the New Testament. There's Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I want you to turn to Luke 23 and we're going to look at the very first thing that Jesus is saying as He's being crucified as He's hanging on the cross. He knows the clock is ticking. He knows His time is short. He's not going to get off that cross alive. He knows He's going to leave planet earth and this is the very first thing that comes out of His mouth. Luke 23:34, "Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' And they divided up His clothes by casting lots". Now, think about this. While the word was doing its worst to Jesus, Jesus is doing His best for the world. While they are crucifying Him, He is not condemning them. He's actually asking God to forgive them.

Now, I talked to a lot of people here right now and I know where you're sitting. You're sitting in a seat of anger. You're sitting in a seat of bitterness. Because you've already kind of got this figured out. You've already said to yourself, "I know where this is going, and I know what you're about to ask me to do". Because you're not right with somebody who wronged you. You're still bitter over the spouse that walked out on you. You're still angry with the person that cost you your job. You're bitter towards someone who's blasted you. You've never forgiven someone who has failed you and in one simple statement, Jesus says, "You better make sure your slate is clean. You better make sure that your slate is clean before you die. You better make sure that horizontally you're right with everybody on this planet," and there are three things we must do in our relationship with others to make sure that we not only live right, but we die right. Because you're going to see this in a moment.

Don't think this was an easy thing for Jesus to say, because I'm sure that it was not, and I know some of you sitting there, and I know what you're already going to say. You're going to say, "You're about to ask me to do something and you don't know how hard it's going to be for me to do what you're going to ask me to do". Hey, it's worse than that. You won't do what I'm going to ask you to do unless you do these three things, but if you want to die right, you better do these three things. Listen to what we say. Number one, stay focused on God. Stay focused on God. Now, think about what's going on here at the cross. You think you've been done wrong, you think you got the short end of the stick, the greatest injustice that has ever been done in history, so unjust, it's so unjust that no other injustice can compare to this one. Here's what's going on. The perfect holy Son of God is being crucified for the crimes and sins of others.

Now, you would expect at that moment, that His eyes would be fixed like lasers on the crowd down there, the ones that spat on Him, the one that beat Him, the one that mocked Him, the one that made fun of Him, the one that nailed Him to the cross and He's dying in agony. As a matter of fact, even now, they're gambling for His clothes. But His focus is not on them. It's on the Father. Listen again to the very first words out of His mouth. He said, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they're doing".

See, let me give you a little clue. Every time somebody hurts you, every time somebody pulls the rug out from under you, every time somebody takes a shot at you, every time somebody crushes your heart, you know what the devil wants you to do, he wants you to focus on them, he wants you to put your eyes on them. He wants you just to be obsessed with that they've done to you and how they have hurt you. Jesus doesn't take the bait. He keeps His focus on His Father. I mean, here's a crowd, they had no sympathy for Him, but He had sympathy for them. Matter of fact, do you know this is the only time, I bet you didn't know this. Did you know this is the only time that Jesus ever asked His Father to forgive other people? You go back, and you look at the ministry of Jesus. Everybody somebody needed to be forgiven, what did Jesus do? He forgave them. Every time somebody did wrong, and they needed to be restored, and they needed to be forgiven, Jesus forgave them. But on this occasion, He asked the Father to forgive them.

Now, why did He do that? Well, here's why. We know that only God can finally forgive sins. As a matter of fact, there was one time when Jesus told a man his sins were forgiven, and the Pharisees got upset and they said, "Ha! Only God can forgive sins". Well, they were right. That's true. In the end, only God can forgive sins. Well you say, "Well, Jesus Christ was God". Yes, He was. But on the cross, He was not dying as God because God can't die. He was dying as one of us. He was dying as a human being just like you and me and so He still wanted the only one who could forgive, to forgive those who were hurting him. As a matter of fact, when Jesus said this, it was so amazing that Jesus said it. Word got out about what Jesus said and when the disciple Peter looked back on this event, this is what he said as he remembered what happened. Listen to this. He said, "When they hurled their insults at Him, He didn't retaliate. When He suffered, He made no threats. Instead," now watch what He did. He said, "He entrusted Himself to Him, who judges justly".

The reason why Jesus could say, "Father, forgiven them". Because He entrusted Himself to God. Now, let me just stop because I know there's some of you right now, you're even ticked that I'm talking about this. Okay, and I'm going to get to this in a minute. Trust me, I know where you are. You're sitting there and you're saying, "You're not sitting in my chair. Your feet are not in my shoes. You don't know how I've been hurt". I don't. You're right, I don't know that. But here's what I do know. You're not going to like this statement, but you can't deny it. If you can trust God with your heart, you can trust God with your hurt. Can I get an amen to that? If you can trust God with your heart, you can trust God with your hurt. If you can trust the God who loves you, you can trust God with anybody who hates you. If you can trust a God who cares for you, you can trust God with others who have hurt you.

Listen carefully, listen. Hurts and heartaches should never become walls that separate you from God. They should become bridges that bring you closer to God. And so, the next time somebody hurts you, just remember this, what the devil wants you to do is he wants you to stew in your self-pity. He wants you to feel sorry for yourself. He wants you to get bitter. He wants you to focus like a laser beam. I can't believe what you did to me. I can't believe how you've hurt me. I can't believe how you pulled the rug out from under me. I can't believe what you've done to me. That's what the devil wants you to do. God says, "Listen, when others turn their back on you, you turn your eyes toward me. You stay focused on God".

Number two, you stay full of forgiveness. You stay full of forgiveness. Now, Jesus is focused on the Father. Notice what He says, okay? Father, forgive them. Let's say that out loud. Father, forgive them. Now, let's just be honest. Okay, we're all just being honest. Now, I'm going to be honest with you today, okay? I want you to imagine someone just pressed a crown of sharp thorns on your head, stripped you naked, brutally punched and whipped you and beat you senseless, drove nails into your hands and feet, lifted you up on a cross, spit on you, mocked you, made fun of you, and then gambled on your clothes, not for what you've done but because of what they've done.

Now, can I just, let's be honest, would you honestly be praying that kind of a prayer? I mean, would you honestly do that? And before you kind of get holy with me and say, "Well, yeah, I think I would". Let me just ask you a question, when somebody pulls in front of you in the freeway, do you say, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do"? No, you know what you say? You say, "Buddy, I know exactly what you did," and set out on your horn. Because remember, Jesus could have called 12 legions of battle-ready angels, remember that? They were at DEFCON 1. They were ready to rescue Him. Every angel in heaven was looking at God and saying, "Just give us the word. We'll go down there. We'll take care of that crowd. We'll take care of that mob. We'll get Him off of the cross". And I'll be honest, if I'd been Jesus, you know what I would have been saying? "Angels, charge". But Jesus said, "Father, forgive them".

By the way, let me tell you something I didn't know before. Never saw this. In the Greek language, verbs are very important. This verb is in the present tense. In the Greek language, present tense denotes continuous action. In other words, here's what I want you to understand. He didn't just say this one time. When those soldiers spit in His face, He said, "Father, forgive them". When they beat Him and mocked Him, He said, "Father, forgive them". When they nailed His hands and His feet to the cross, He said, "Father, forgive them". As people walked by that bleeding naked body, making fun of Him, jeering Him, and cursing Him, He said, "Father, forgive them".

Now, folks, let's be honest. If anybody in history ever had a right not to forgive, it was Jesus. If anybody had a right to say, "I'm not forgiving you". It was Jesus. He is the ultimate innocent victim. He never wronged anybody. He never said a wrong word, never thought a wrong thought, never did a wrong deed. He had a 100% record of keeping the law of God. Here's the only person who ever died who needed no forgiveness and He's forgiving people who have no right to be forgiven because understand what I'm saying, did they ask for forgiveness? No. Had they repented of what they'd done? No. Did they deserve to be forgiven? No. But both in this event and in this statement, I want to teach you one of the greatest truths about God and about sin and about His love and about our sin you will ever learn. You ready for this? God meets guilt with grace. God always meets guilt with grace.

By the way, when Jesus said, "Father, forgive them," do you know who He was talking to when He said that? You say, "Well, yea, he was talking to the Pharisees because they condemned Him, and He was talking to the Roman soldiers who crucified Him, and He was talking to the mob that was making fun of Him". Well, that's not who the them was. That's not all the them was. It was them, but you remember, it was our sins that nailed Jesus to the cross. It wasn't the Roman soldiers that nailed Jesus to the cross. It wasn't the Pharisees that nailed Jesus to the cross. It was your sin. It was my sin that nailed Jesus to the cross and it wasn't just the disciples that turned their back on Him because every time we disobey Jesus, we turn our back on Him and listen, so when He said, "Father, forgive them," there's a little word we ought to put in that place of that word them and we ought to say, "Father, forgive us".

So, let me ask you a question, who is it you know, you'd rather die than forgive them. You'd just rather just go on and leave planet earth than to forgive them. Or, here's one. Who do you know and they're not worthy of your forgiveness. They don't deserve your forgiveness. But here's what these words teach us. We could forgive those who don't deserve it. Now, whether you're willing to or not, that's a different issue. We can forgive those who don't deserve it because remember this. You say, "Now, wait a minute, now how do you know I can forgive people who don't deserve it. How do you know I'm capable of doing that and tell me why I ought to do that"? I'll make it real easy. The reason we ought to forgive others who don't deserve it is because Jesus forgave us when we didn't deserve it.

So, get that straight. I'm not asking you to do something you can't do, you may not be willing. You can do it. Those three words, Father, forgive them, are some of the most powerful words anybody can ever say in their life and let me tell you why. If you want to die with a clean slate and I want to tell you something right now, I want to die with a clean slate. I'm just gonna tell you, it may not be a big deal to you, it's a big deal to me. I want to die with my slate totally clean. I want to die without knowing I've got to stand before God and really have to answer for anything. You say, "Man, that's the way I want to die".

Well, if you want to die that way, you've gotta die, you've gotta stay focused on God. You've gotta stay full of forgiveness and then you've gotta stay free of bitterness. You've got to stay free of bitterness. You know what I've found that's amazing? This absolutely blew my mind when I read this. You ready for this? And I know I can be this way too, I'm not trying to be holy or anything like that. So many people not only carry grudges, but most people who carry a grudge feel like they have a right to carry a grudge. I mean, there's some of you here right now, I know what you're saying. You're saying, "I have a right to feel the way I feel. I've got a right to be angry. I've got a right to be bitter. I've got a right to be unforgiving. I've got a right to have the feelings that I have in my heart".

There was a study that was done in the Journal of Adult Development. Listen to this. They found that 75% of people believe they've been forgiven by God for what they've done in the past, okay, 75% of people believe that God has forgiven them for all the things they've ever done wrong but only 52% say they've forgiven others. And only 43% say they've ever sought forgiveness for what they've done to somebody else. Isn't that amazing? Oh, I know God's forgiven me, but I'm not forgiving of others who've hurt me, and you know, I've hurt others and I've not even bothered to go ask them to forgive me either.

Now, I don't want to make light of what some of you are going through. I really don't. Because I'm hearing some things being said right now in this room and I'm not a mind reader, I just know people. I know it. But you don't know how much he hurt me. You don't know what that person has done to me. You don't know how that person totally destroyed my life. You don't know the agony and the hell I live in every day because of what that person did to me. I know I don't. And I know they don't because guess what? Jesus said the same thing. He said, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing". Now, let me tell you this, ignorance is not innocence. I get that ignorance is no excuse with a policeman, it's not excuse with God. But what did Jesus mean when He said that, "They don't know what they're doing"?

You say, "Well, wait a minute, sure they knew what they were doing. They knew they were crucifying a Jew". Yeah, they did. But they didn't know whom it was they were crucifying. I mean, go back and look at it. The Romans, they thought they were just doing their job. Pilot, he thought he was just keeping the peace. The Jews, they thought they were doing God a favor and either they didn't know, or they didn't believe that they were really were crucifying the Son of God. They didn't know that. Well, let me tell you something. You say, "But you don't know how much they hurt me". No, I don't. They don't know how much they hurt you. They don't get it. I don't get it. But God knows it and God gets it. God knows how much they hurt you. God knows how much you've been hurt. And when people hurt you, the only two beings in the universe that know just how badly you've been hurt are you and God. Nobody else knows. No, I don't know how bad you've been hurt.

Let me tell you something, the best friend you've got doesn't know badly you've been hurt. Your spouse doesn't know how badly you've been hurt. The only two people that know how badly you've been hurt are you and God. But here's the point. What Jesus did for people who hurt Him, what Jesus did for people who hurt Him, He wants us to do for people who hurt us. What He did for them, He wants us to do for people who hurt us. And see, we can die forgiven of our sins against God and we should die forgiving others for their sins against us.

See, Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive," not only that they might be forgiven but that we might be forgiven, and we might be forgiving. Listen. God forgives us because Jesus died for us. We know that. God forgives us because Jesus died for us. Now God expects us to forgive others because Jesus lives in us. So, put it this way, if you're going to live like Jesus, you have to forgive like Jesus. Did you hear me? If you're going to live like Jesus, you have to forgive like Jesus. Those three words, "Father, forgive them". They mean two things for you and me. Number one, it means we can die with a clean slate toward God and it means we should die with a clean slate toward others. In other words, if you are a truly forgiven follower of Jesus, you will be a totally forgiving follower of Jesus.

If the perfect Son of God could look at us when we were nailing Him to the cross and say, "Father, forgive them," how much more should we, who are imperfect and forgiven even if we didn't deserve it, forgive others who do not deserve it either. There's only way to live and there's only one way to die and that is with a clean slate toward God by being forgiven and a clean slate toward others by being forgiving. Jesus died on a cross and He came back from the dead and He's alive right now and He did it, so we could die forgiven and we could die forgiving because that's the only way to live and it's the only way to die.
Are you Human?:*