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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - The Power of Forgiveness

John Bradshaw - The Power of Forgiveness

John Bradshaw - The Power of Forgiveness
TOPICS: In The Word, Forgiveness

Well, thanks for joining me. I'd like you to pray with me now and we'll together ask for God's blessing. Let's do that.

Our Father in heaven, thank You that together we can gather around the Bible. We ask for Your wisdom; we pray for Your grace; we thank You for Your leading; we expect that You'll feed us with the bread of heaven. And we pray in Jesus' name, amen.

If you mention Smithfield Market, Smithfield Market, to anyone who knows much of anything at all about London, England, and they'll know what you're talking about. Smithfield Market is a landmark, an icon. That is, it's historic. For over a thousand years Smithfield was the site of London's livestock market. That's why there is a Cow Cross Street there today. There used to be a Goose Alley, a Pheasant Court, and a Duck Lane, and more. But redevelopment meant that they are now no more. Smithfield today is still a meat market, among other things. But what's next door to Smithfield Market is what surprises people. Right next door to the historic market is something called Citigen. It's a power plant, the largest of its kind in the United Kingdom, and there it is right in the city of London.

Since 1993 Citigen has been producing enough power for 11,500 homes. And then it captures the byproduct, heat, sends it off via a network of tunnels to buildings in the city of London. It also provides chilled water, which is used for cooling in several properties' air conditioning systems. Every day people go to the market. Every day people drive, or probably more likely walk, along Charterhouse Street without even realizing that behind those walls of that facade on Charterhouse Street there is a real life power station, as unlikely as it seems, right there in the city of London. Now, a similar thing could be said about New York City. You've seen pictures of steam coming up out of the ground in New York City? Did you ever wonder where it comes from? Why there's steam coming up out of the ground, out of the sidewalks in New York City?

That's actually Consolidated Edison moving steam around New York City as part of the largest commercial steam system in the world. It's so big that it's larger than the next nine largest steam systems combined. All that energy being moved around the city, and the vast majority of people don't even know that they are in such close proximity to great energy, real power. There is power in places that you might not expect. And I want to share with you right now that there is power in forgiveness. I want to start by looking at an important Bible story. A passage, starts as a story and then segues seamlessly into a parable that Jesus taught. And do you know that Jesus spoke in parables not because He wanted to confuse us, but because He wanted us to really grasp the meaning of something?

And so let's begin together in our Bibles in Luke chapter 7 and verse 36. So I showed you my Bible, and now I'm looking on my tablet, and there's a simple reason for that, and that's easier for me to see. So, Luke 7 and verse 36, let's look at this together. It says, "And one of the Pharisees desired Him that He would eat with him. And He went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat," or sat down at the table, sat down to eat. Well, who were the Pharisees? We know this: The Pharisees were the religious upper class, at least in their own minds. They were solid, diligent, rigorous, strident in their observance of the law, the written law and the traditions. And if there was ever a group of people who suffered from delusions of grandeur, this was them. They believed they were favored of God.

And we see that attitude play out in the ensuing verses. A Pharisee encounters Jesus. And in verse 37, it says this, remember, a Pharisee invited Jesus for dinner. Verse 37: "And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment," which, as you know or should suspect, was valuable. It was expensive. Now we have a contrast: a sinner and a sinner. Wait, aren't they two very similar things? Yes, except the contrast is one sinner evidently knew that she was a sinner, and the other sinner, this man, was not nearly as conscious of his sin as the woman was of hers. It pays to be conscious of your sin and your sinfulness. In fact, it's not easy to be close to Jesus and to be unconscious about your sin or even about sin itself.

If you've ever driven towards a mountain range, let's say, for example, the Rocky Mountains, you might have seen the Rocky Mountains in the distance and thought to yourself, "They're not so high". But then the closer you get to the Rockies, the larger they appear in your view. It's like that with sin. When you are far from God, you probably don't see your sin as being nearly as bad, nearly as terrible, nearly as large as it is. But the closer you get to God, the larger your sins and your sinfulness appear. For this lady, her sins appeared large. There was a man, though, he could barely see his sin. Evidently, his self-righteousness kept him from really getting it. And so now we look at Luke 7 in verse 38. We've just read about the woman with the alabaster box of oil. She "stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and [she] began to wash His feet with [her] tears, and [she] did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with...ointment".

So this lady, you can understand, who would do this? She was deeply moved. She had been broken evidently because of her sin, and here she was anointing Jesus and blessing Jesus and demonstrating her great love for Jesus. Verse 39 says, "Now when the Pharisee which had bidden Him", which had invited Jesus for dinner, "saw [this], he spoke within himself, saying, 'This man, if He [was] a prophet, [He] would have known who and what manner of woman this is that touches Him: for she is a sinner.'" Isn't this an amazing thing? Let's pause here for a moment. Isn't this an amazing thing? Jesus, the Bible says, came to the world to save sinners, to seek and save those who were lost, and here He was in the process of the salvation taking place, and there were those nearby who just looked down their nose at what was happening.

Let's never be in the place where we are so self-righteous that when Christ extends mercy to somebody, we sit in the place of judgment. We don't want to do that. What does the Bible say? There she was, kissing Jesus' feet, anointing those feet with her ointment that she had bought. And there was a man who, well, it's clear that this man didn't get it. Now, I don't fault him for that too much; that is, he was a product of his environment. He was a product of his culture. That's how he was raised to feel about people. That's how the Pharisees felt. Now, his ignorance turned out to be a blessing for us, because Jesus corrected him and, therefore, He helped us to see straight. So what happened? Two people, Jesus in the room, there were others. One lady, she is heartbroken, and she does something beautiful and tender for Jesus, and she weeps at His feet. And another man is standing around saying, "Why is this woman being such a waster"? Verse 40 of Luke chapter 7: "And Jesus answering said unto him, 'Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee.' And he said, 'Master, say on.' Teacher, tell me what You've got to say".

Now, there is a detail here that you need to get. Make sure that you don't miss this. It's found in a parallel account of this happening. In Mark 14, verse 3, you read where the Bible says, "And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she broke the box, and poured it on His head". Simon had been a leper. He had had a terminal illness. He had been given, well, handed a death sentence and then received from Jesus a new lease on life. Simon had stared certain death right in the face, and he'd been rescued from that. Now, get that. He'd been knocking on death's door, and Jesus had miraculously healed him, graciously healed him. But evidently, although his body had been healed, his heart had not been similarly touched.

So Jesus had something to say to him, and Simon said, "Say on". We will look in verse 41. Jesus now began to teach a parable. He said, "There was a certain creditor which had two debtors". One man, two different individuals owed him money. "The one [debtor] owed him five hundred pence, and the other fifty". Now, if you compare this to another place in the Bible, you may conclude, you may deduce, I think appropriately, that the one man owed the, the creditor, 500 days' wages. Now, let's just think about that today. Let's say people work five days a week. There's, call it 50 weeks in a year because you took two weeks off. Two hundred and fifty, today we might say two years' salary. What's the average salary? You're talking about tens of thousands of dollars now. And the other owned 50 pence, a tenth of that amount.

One man owned a considerable sum, one man owed, rather, a vast sum. Verse 42 says, "'And when they had nothing to pay, he,'" the creditor, "frankly forgave them both.'" Jesus said, "'Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him most?' Simon answered and said, 'I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most.' And He," Jesus, "said to him, '[You have] rightly judged.'" Simon's starting to get it. I don't know yet if he knows that he gets it, but he's starting to see it; the lights are coming on. An interesting passage. One man is owed money by two different individuals. One man, let's just say, owes him a little; the other man owes him a lot. He clears the debt of both of them. And Jesus asks the question, "Which of them will love him most"? Simon says it's probably going to be the one who's had the greater debt forgiven.

Jesus "turned to the woman," and He said to Simon, this is verse 44, Simon, "[Do you see] this woman? I entered into [your] house, [you gave] me no water for my feet: but she [has] washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. [You gave] me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in [hasn't stopped kissing] my feet. My head with oil [you did] not anoint: but this woman [has] anointed my feet with ointment". And we wonder, why the difference? Why the different reaction? Jesus helps us understand that in verse 47: "'Wherefore I say unto [you], her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.' He said to her, '[Your] sins are forgiven.' They that sat [at the table] with Him began to say within themselves, 'Who is this [man who] forgives sins also?' He said to the woman, '[Your] faith has saved you; go in peace.'"

Here we see the power of forgiveness. Mary had been forgiven much, and she knew it. And this called forth from her a response, a reaction, a reaction based on and immersed in love. Jesus had forgiven her, and she knew it, and she was transformed by that forgiveness. "Your sins are forgiven," a remarkable thing for Jesus to say. And we've looked at verse 49 and verse 50 already, and people questioned what in the world was going on, and Jesus spoke to her those beautiful words: "Your faith has saved you". And He tells her to "go in peace". That's verse 50. "Your faith has saved you". Now, let's think about this, the power of forgiveness. Simon, unlike Mary, hadn't considered himself a sinner in need of God's great grace and forgiveness. And therefore his life hadn't been touched, as was hers. Isn't that something?

Let's think that through for a moment. Let's speak to that. If you're cognizant of God's forgiveness being at work in your life, that's going to have a tremendous and a transformative power on your life, or in your life. Maybe one of the things we need to do is actually start familiarizing ourselves with the great sinfulness of sin. We live in a challenging age for that today, because this is an anything-goes age. Something that was scandalous a generation today, not so scandalous now. What that means is we look at the same sin as our mothers and fathers looked at, but we see it through a different lens. It's not that we're more enlightened; it means that we're more jaded. You know, I don't want to sound too old hat, but there were some things that you couldn't say or see or portray on television just a generation ago. Some of that probably a little bit unnecessary, but some of it probably not. And today we just let it go and don't give it another thought. You understand what I'm saying.

And so we become jaded, a little bit hardened towards sin. And so that, should that sin be in our life, we don't see it in the same way as we really should. We don't see it as being the great danger that it really is because we've become inoculated against sin just a little bit, and we learned to dwell happily in its presence, and we learned to take less offense by it, and we start to feel a little less like we need to be careful and a little more like it just doesn't matter so much. If we aren't cognizant of the sinfulness of sin, it's going to be difficult for us to appreciate the power of forgiveness. You know the Bible says that "the wages of sin is", you can finish it for me, is what? That's right. "The wages of sin is death".

Sin leads to death. It was sin that nailed Jesus to that old rugged cross. It was your sin, my sin that held Him there, that broke His heart, causing it to rupture in His chest cavity. It was sin that did that, you understand. It's deadly. Do you know, one thing that the coronavirus pandemic taught us is that when we feel like we might get sick and there's not much we can do to keep it away, we get fearful. I'm not saying all that was wrong, you know. You wanted to take precautions, and you want to be careful, and that's appropriate, but people went to great lengths. Societies went to great lengths. Businesses went to great lengths. Communities went to great lengths. Nations went to great lengths to avoid a virus. Oh, don't think I'm talking it down; it was a devastating virus. And you know there were whole countries that locked down for weeks and weeks and weeks. Economies were so badly affected, and people couldn't go to funerals, and folks couldn't have weddings, and you weren't able to travel anywhere at all.

There were some parts of the world you'd be arrested if you stepped out of your house. Because we were trying to avoid a virus. I get it. Help me to understand what lengths people are going to to avoid sin. Imagine if we locked ourselves down in order to avoid sin. If we really felt like it was deadly, we might do a little more locking than we are customed, accustomed to doing. If we really believed that "the wages of sin is death" and that sin could take your life, there might be places that you wouldn't go. You wouldn't go to a crowded bar; you wouldn't go to a crowded restaurant; you wouldn't go to a, a crowded, reception hall, because who knows who might be positive for COVID-19, and you might come home with an illness that'll kill ya. Well, let's think about that from a spiritual point of view. Go to a crowded bar or a crowded nightclub or some entertainment place, or could be any old place, and you mix with the wrong people, and you view the wrong things, and you take in the wrong stuff. You might end up with an infection that you'll never shake off, and it may cost you a whole lot more than your physical life; it may cost you your eternal life.

Sin is deadly. Jesus came to save us from our sins, and when you understand that and when you appreciate that and when you, when you really get that, then you're gonna be able to say, "Oh, Lord, I'm just sooo grateful". And the power of God's forgiveness in your life is going to engender a reaction that'll be transformative in your experience. I want to challenge you just a little bit. You know what's easy? Now, I've been around churches, you know, I've been around all different kind of churches, all different, all different stripes and kinds and sizes, I mean years ago. I remember going to some churches where the, the big emphasis is on how you feel. It's on the, on the moment. It's on the emotions, you know. And there'll be people who are praising God, and they're in rapture, and they're having just the most wonderful time, and they're getting lost in the emotion of it all. That's okay. I mean, I'm simply saying I'm not being critical of them. And then they'll leave there and go right on back to a life of sin. And go back to, like a, like a pig going back to its own, well, that would be a dog going back to its own vomit, uh, to use that biblical, metaphor.

So you've got some people over here with this kind of touchy-feely Christian, emotional Christian. Over here, you've got another group of Christians, they took Christianity and wrang all the emotion right out of it. So there's no emotion now; it's just a, a very cerebral approach. "Yes, that's the doctrine, and I agree with it". "Yes, that's the teaching, and I agree with it". "Yes, that's the practice, and I do it". There's a little bit of Pharisaism in there sometimes where people are resting on what they do and what they believe for their salvation. Is it important to do right? Oh, sure. Is it important to believe right? Amen. Amen. That's why It Is Written exists, to help guide people in a right path in the Word of God. That's why I'm here. But you can be right, and wrong, all at the same time. So, let's look at another passage. We'll go to John chapter 3. And, of course, you're thinking of John 3 and verse 16. So let's start with John 3:16. It says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life".

Let's pause right there. That's John 3 and verse 16. So what was that? God loved the world, because we were going to perish, so that now, if we believe in Jesus, the Son that God sent into the world, we won't perish, but we'll have everlasting life. Verse 17, it's like the, the great unsung hero verse of the Bible. It's a beautiful verse. John 3, verse 17: "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved". All right, saved from what? "You shall call His name Jesus," Jesus' parents were told, "for He shall save His people from their sins". So let's talk about this belief. Let's discuss this. In fact, I need to make sure I got this right here in my Bible. John chapter 3, and let's look at it. We saw verse 16. We saw verse 17, and now verse 18: "He [who] believes on Him is not condemned: ...he that believes not is condemned already, because he [hasn't] believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God".

Let me ask you a question about belief. What is it you believe? Now, careful. If you believe that Jesus came into the world, if you believe that the Ten Commandments are valid, if you believe in the judgment, if you believe that the dead are where the dead ought to be, and go right on down the list, then that doesn't demonstrate that you're any further ahead in this thing than the devil himself, because the Bible says that the devil believes, or, "the devils believe, and tremble". So, understanding with your head, a cerebral approach to Christian faith, acknowledging certain doctrinal facts, that does not make you a genuine Christian. Entering into the experience where Jesus touches your heart and takes away your sin and remakes you in the image of God, now, that's starting to get down to the brass tacks here. What do ya believe? Do you believe that Jesus came? Yes. Do you believe that He came to save you from your sins? Do you believe that He is able to save you from your sins? Do you believe that Jesus takes away your guilt and gives you something in its place?

For when we talk about forgiveness, we must not merely talk about a transaction that says, "I'm sorry". "I forgive you". Because with sin and forgiveness it goes further than that. We say, "Lord, oh, Lord God, we are sorry. Take away my sin". And Jesus forgives us, but He gives us something. He gives us His righteousness in place of our sin. Now, do ya believe? You can believe on the surface, but you need to have a Christian faith that goes more than 1/4 of an inch deep. We gotta go deep, deep, deep down into the Word of God and into an experience with God. Jesus came into this world and died for our sins, and He died for you, and now we believe. What do we believe? God saved me! I've told this story an awful lot. On the wall of our home growing up was a, uh, was a, a framed plaque my father had received when he was a teenager. It was from the Royal New Zealand Humane Society. He'd done something heroic.

During a swimming race, my father was way out in front. It was 'cross, it was across the harbor that he grew up on, the banks of, on, on the edge of. And every year they would have this race, and my father competed in the race, and he was a terrific swimmer, and he was miles in front, and he turned around, and he noticed that back there, there was somebody in the water with their hand up. In fact, it was just their hand up. They were...basically under the water. My father realized that that person was drowning. Forgetting the race, of course, he turned around, and he swam back, and he grabbed ahold of the fellow and lifted him up above the water and waved and got someone's attention, and he was recognized for his good deed and awarded this certificate, and we had it on the wall of our home for decades. Saved somebody's life, the man would have drowned. The man would have just been a memory after that, but my dad stepped in and saved him.

Do you think that fellow was grateful from that time on? Do you think he was? I think he was. How could you go through life knowing that someone had saved you and not been grateful? You might be grateful to a doctor who discovered something in your, experience and then set you on the right course and saved you from death. You might be grateful to a, a, a somebody who donated an organ. That organ donation may have saved your life. Let's think this through. Jesus has saved our life. And now what do we do? We lay hold on that forgiveness by faith. We believe that Jesus died on the cross for us. We believe that, and we say, "Lord, I'm going to believe that, and that'll change my life". What happened? Two different people were forgiven. One man was saved from certain death, leprosy, cleansed. Oh, he invited Jesus over for dinner. That was nice. But his heart had not been touched and transformed. And there was a woman that we believe had a checkered past, and Jesus had forgiven her, and it changed her life.

God extends forgiveness to you, not so you can go on being a Pharisee. Not so you can go on being the most wrong "right" person in the church. Not so that you can go around town talking about what a believer you are, but you rip people off in your business transactions, so everybody thinks that the whole church is full of people like you. Not so that you can be forgiven by God, and then you go home and treat your spouse disdainfully and your children disrespectfully. No, that's not, that's not the power of forgiveness. You haven't experienced forgiveness unless it has changed your life. Christ died on the cross. This is why we talk about the cross. It was there at Calvary that Jesus died.

What's He doing at Calvary? He's dying for your sins. This is the gospel story: Jesus dies so we might live. He takes our sin so we can take His righteousness and we enter into that, and it's got to powerfully transform us. "He," or she, "that believes on Him is not condemned". What are you doing with that belief? Do you believe? Or have you gone no further than a set of doctrines? "Okay. I agree that that's right". That's not salvation. That's important. We ought to agree with what's right so that those doctrines can lead us deeper into the heart of God and help us understand Him more, set our feet on the right path, transform us. But do we believe what all happened at the cross? Jesus died for you. Has it had that transformative effect on you that it had on Mary in our story? Who wept, and she went to great lengths to give Jesus this great gift. What are you bringing Jesus? Are you bringing Him your heart? Are you bringing Him your finances? Are you bringing Him your talents?

"Oh, He saved me, but I'm not living in His light". Hold on a minute, I'm wondering then if He saved you or not. We've got to go past pharisaical living and enter into a living relationship with Jesus. Forgiveness, the power of forgiveness. First John 1 and verse 9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us", of what? "to cleanse us [of] all unrighteousness". Let's go back and think about our...story. Shall we do that? In Luke 7. "Simon, I've got something to say to you". "Say on". "Two men were forgiven. Who will love the most"? "The one who was forgiven most". "All right, Simon, but here's this woman kissing my feet, shedding her tears, drying my feet with her own hair, and she spent this... king's ransom...on a gift to express her love for me. She's been forgiven".

If you've been forgiven, friend, believe it, enter into it. Let that forgiveness alter your entire existence, change your heart, change your mind. It'll do so if you allow it. There is power in the gospel. There's power in some places that you might not always expect. Like that power station right there on a busy city street, and nobody would expect it's even there. And there's power in the forgiveness that God extends to you. I want to encourage you today to let your Christian experience be real. Would you do that? I want to encourage you today to enter into a transaction with Jesus that goes way beyond something cerebral, theoretical, doctrinal. I'm not against doctrine. But you can be right and still be wrong. Have you entered into this experience where you believe that Jesus died for you? Will you believe now that therefore you are a child of God?

If you've been forgiven, you have received the righteousness of Christ, which comes into your life as the Spirit of God breathes it into your life, when Jesus, via the Holy Spirit, the personal presence of Christ is brought into your experience. Are we experiencing that? Do you believe? Do you believe that Jesus died for you and His forgiveness will transform you and remake you? You know, when Jesus comes back, He's looking for a group of people on this earth reflecting His character to the world. There's not a single reason that you could not be in that group. And so I want to pray for you now and ask that God would give both you and me the ability to experience the power of forgiveness. Come on, let's pray together.

Our Father in heaven, we ask You, together, to allow us to experience the power of forgiveness. We thank You that on that cross Jesus bore our sins. We thank You for that remarkable verse that says if we confess, You'll not only forgive, but cleanse. You'll make us children of the heavenly King.

Friend, can you believe that today, and would you experience the power of forgiveness?

We thank You, Lord, and we ask Your blessing now and ever, in Jesus' name, amen, and amen.

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