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Finding Forgiveness

April 13, 2013 — Leave a comment
967718 indecision Finding Forgiveness

Finding Forgiveness

Forgiveness.

It’s easier for me to extend it to others than it is to accept it from God.

I am so intimately familiar with the stench of my own sinfulness that I find it hard to believe that God could actually wipe the slate clean. For years I wrestled with the ability to take God at His Word, believing in His power to forgive.

On second thought, I don’t think I doubted his power. I doubted his willingness to forgive me. Growing up in the church, I knew better than to sin. But I did. Again and again. I was powerless to stop. I made a mess of my heart, mind and life with my own sin. So I naturally assumed that I, being so intentionally sinful, was somehow unforgivable.

Maybe you’ve felt the same.

Forgiveness can be yours.

If you’ve ever felt unforgivable, Luke 15 is the chapter of the Bible you need to live in starting right now.

This chapter contains three stories of the lost being sought after and found.

  1. The Parable of the Lost Sheep finds the loving shepherd leaving the 99 safe sheep to find the one that has wandered off.
  2. The Parable of the Lost Coin further expresses the value of the lost one.
  3. The Parable of the Lost Son communicates God in a gut-wrenchingly real fashion.

Jesus told these three stories back-to-back-to-back to drive home the point that forgiveness is available to those who will be found. This God of ours is the loving shepherd, the seeker of the lost, the loving father. He is searching for you and expecting your return.

Speaking of the lost son…

This punk of a kid, apparently a spoiled brat, comes to his father. He essentially says, “I’d really like my inheritance now. And since you haven’t kicked the bucket yet, why don’t you just give it to me now?” Nice.

I would have said, “Kick rocks, kid!” But this father gave him the money he had coming.

The young man leaves town, moves to a far away land and into the fast lane. Party. Party. Party. Then he’s broke.

Now, because of his wonderful choices, he’s broke and broken. Ever been there? Me too. This is what happens next:

17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

That’s where I lived for a long time. Due to my sinfulness, I thought I’d have to come back to God groveling. I was convinced that my own wickedness of heart, mind and action had so damaged me that I could never be fully restored. I was convinced that I would forever be on “Plan B” for my life. Perhaps God would somehow allow me to worship Him, but not serve Him in any great way. I certainly wouldn’t be restored as a member of His family.

20 “So he returned home to his father.

  • Have you returned yet? Or are you still wandering?
  • What are your expectations of God? What is He like?
  • How does He meet you when you return to Him, sin-stained and reeking of the stench of a sinful lifestyle?

You may be surprised at how this father greeted his wandering son.

And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

“…while he was still a long way off…”

This father was looking in the direction that his son left. This same father who experienced outright rejection and rebellion did not hesitate. He dropped what he was doing and ran to his son. The disobedient, ungrateful son didn’t deserve it. But he got it.

Forgiveness is as available to you as it was to the lost son.

In order to understand forgiveness, you need to understand three words.

  1. Justice is getting what you deserve. For my sins, I deserve death.
  2. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Forgiveness is God not counting my sin against me.
  3. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

The wandering son knew what justice would look like. He was hoping for mercy. He never expected grace.

What are you expecting from God?

  • Do you realize the consequences of your sin? You may fear justice.
  • Have you received the mercy found in Christ’s sacrifice for your sin? You are forgivable because of what He has done, bearing your sin burden on the cross.
  • Have you experienced the avalanche of God’s love known as grace? Have you been fully forgiven and restored as the lost son was?

22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

This God you serve is your loving father. No matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how filthy your sin stains, He will come running to you when you come to Him! He will forgive you. He will restore you! He will place a ring on your finger and a royal robe on your back. These symbols of authority are reserved only for the members of his household. For you!

How can you experience this forgiveness?

  • Acknowledge that you’ve walked away from your Father.
  • Walk away from your sin and where it has taken you.
  • Step in his direction.
  • Receive His mercy and grace.

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I just asked my 10 year-old, “Who was Saint Patrick?”

 Meet the Real Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick’s Cross

Her reply? “Umm…” Shuffling awkwardly, eyes darting for an answer.

“Ok,” I followed up, “why do we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day?”

“Umm… because… he was the first Irish man to come to America??”

“Sigh…”

Most people have no idea why Patrick’s life was worth celebrating. For the record, he wasn’t the Lucky Charms leprechaun. He was a passionate priest who revolutionized the spiritual landscape of a pagan land.

Did you know…?

  • Saint Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was a Briton from an aristocratic family in NE England.
  • He was was abducted and enslaved in Ireland by the Celts, a brutal tribal people.
  • After 6 years of enslavement he was able to make a daring escape aboard a boat sailing back to England.
  • At age 48, God called him back to Ireland to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the pagan tribes who had enslaved him.
  • Patrick and his band of missionaries set up Christian communities that welcomed pagans, loved them, included them.
  • They spoke the same Gospel they always had, but transformed their methods to open the eyes of a pagan culture.
  • Under his ministry, 700 churches were planted, 1,000 priests were ordained, and 30-40 of Ireland’s 150 pagan tribes became substantially Christian.
  • He also became the first public person to speak out against slavery, which effectively ended in Ireland in his lifetime.

The Roman church considered the Celts barbarians, impossible to evangelize. Patrick’s knowledge of their culture, gained by his years in slavery, told him otherwise. The pain of slavery and separation from home, family and life as he knew it was the one thing that God ended up using to turn the world upside down.

Saint Patrick’s life wasn’t about green beer, shamrocks or driving snakes out of Ireland. It was about bringing the hope of Jesus Christ to others by living out Christianity among them. This is the kind of true story that changes the world. This is the kind of story I want to live. This is worth celebrating.

You can read all about Saint Patrick, his heart and his life in George Hunter’s “The Celtic Way of Evangelism“. It’s a fantastic read.

I’ll allow this prayer of Saint Patrick summarize the focus of His life:

…Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.