It is Wednesday. And, it is HOPE Wednesday when we will have another Summer Mini Lesson. This evening's topic is "Being A Christian In A Non-Christian World". I am so thankful for all of you who have faithfully come. For those who cannot make it, I pray that God will clear your schedules so that you can one day consistently come and gather with the church family. For those who can but will not make it, I pray that you will yield to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and I also forgive you for not doing what you can do. God knows and I trust and believe that God can change things in, through, and for your life...as well as for the lives of others.
Did you catch that one phrase, "I also forgive you."?
Beloved, we all need forgiveness. If you have sinned, you need to be forgiven. If you are not forgiven, then you are still being held captive and guilty for what you have done. Through Christ, we all have received forgiveness as part of the blessedness of salvation.
Now, when I tell you, "I also forgive you.", you may think that what I do is my business and it is between you and God.
I can understand your perspective; but, as your Pastor, it is also between you and me because God has given me accountability for this church family of which you are a part.
So, what you do impacts you, God, those around you, and, yes, me.
Now, when we think about forgiving someone or needing to be forgiven, usually it is when someone has done someone else wrong.
You could be the one who has done wrong. Or, you could be the one who has been wronged.
In either case, until the wrong is forgiven, there is a divide, a gap, a chasm that exists between you and that other person.
God has called us to be ministers of reconciliation. That means we are supposed to be ministers, servants, who bridge divides, close gaps, and fill chasms. If not, then we are not doing what God has called us to do.
It is a choice.
Now, I want you to think about someone who has wronged you. I do not mean someone who has just said a negative passing word. I do not mean someone who left you off the invitation list to their party or gathering. I mean someone who has really hurt you and left a wound or scar that has yet to heal even though the passage of time suggests it should have.
Are you still carrying the burden of that pain or have you let it go?
Letting it go is not the same as burying it deep within yourself so that you try to dull the impact of the lasting pain.
Letting it go means that you forgive that person so that when you see them again, that issue, that situation, that occurrence is not the first thing you see and feel such that the pain starts all over again.
That type of letting go is not just forgiveness. It is true forgiveness.
True forgiveness forgives and lets go before the other person may even acknowledge, apologize for or even begin to show evidence of change.
God forgave us that way and God expects the same from us towards others.
The first martyr of the Holy Bible in the New Testament was one of the first seven deacons chosen, Stephen.
Stephen was identified as a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit. How we need more men and women like that today in the world, in our homes, and in our church families.
After his call to being a deacon, Stephen began to preach to his people. They were so angry at his convicting words that they decided to kill him by stoning him.
In Acts 7:60, it is revealed that the last words that he spoke were, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them."
Stephen offered those who were his true murderers true forgiveness and then he died.
It was not lip service. It was soul service.
His conscience was clear and, with his dying breath, he wanted those who had killed him to also receive salvation and true forgiveness.
Do you have true forgiveness in your heart towards those who wrong you?
Does it matter?
Beloved, among those who stoned Stephen was a man named Saul, who approved of the murder of Stephen. He was among those who Stephen truly forgave and asked God to truly forgive. He was Saul who would become Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles and the greatest, by volume, writer in our Holy Bible. He would start, disciple, and encourage churches outside of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. His impact has been life-changing for the church.
True forgiveness changes things. It will change you. That is good. It will change others. That is great.
I do not know who you need to truly forgive; but, if you know, pray to God and faithfully honor God by doing what He would have you to do.
It may save someone's soul and give someone eternal life.
Beloved, I hope to see you tonight at 6:30 in the sanctuary. I encourage you to come and I encourage you to bring someone with you. But, if you have a reason to not come that is really just an excuse, know that I will still truly forgive you.
And, remember, God loves you and I love you too!