Tag Archives: forgiveness

Second Chances

Peninsula Community Church 

Second Chances

November 12, 2017

Jeremiah 18:5-8 Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been looking at the potter and the clay. In our study, thus far, we found that God has a purpose and He has a plan for each of us. The question today, however, is what happens when that plan goes awry. What if we fail? What if we fall short? What if we blow it big time? What if we become unfocused and fall into sin or into a failure that feels insurmountable. The reality is, if we are honest, I am sure that we would all have to admit we have been in need of a second chance. We have needed a do over.

I believe this passage shows us, there are two ways to approach God. I also believe how we interpret this passage will be determined by our view of God. If we view God as a mean, angry God, then we will focus on the destruction God planned. If we view God as a loving, forgiving God, then we will focus on His forgiveness and His power to give a second chance. For me, I choose the later and I choose to see God as the God of the second chance.

Through this passage, we come to a conclusion that, sometimes, God allows difficulties to come in order to move us toward His purpose and His plan. These difficulties can overwhelm us and can cause great pain. The truth is, these difficulties come most often because we failed to follow God’s plan, His will, and His way. We also see that these things are never meant to destroy us, but to direct us back to Him. That is where our view of God makes a difference in our approach to God.

When we view God as a loving and forgiving God, we will know that when we see failure and hopelessness, God sees new beginnings. We see mistakes and failures that throw us off track and derail our dreams, but God sees fresh starts. We see the mess we have made, but God sees an opportunity to renew and rebuild us. The enemy’s lie has been and continues to be that we are unforgivable and that we are too far gone to receive God’s grace and love. The enemy’s lie is that we will be forever in the place of despair, because that is just the way it is.

As I was preparing for this message, I thought about the game of golf. In golf, there is what is called a mulligan. A mulligan is a chance for a do over. For those who are golfers, you know how it works. You hit a bad shot and you have the right to hit another ball. The goal is to make your second shot much better than your first shot. It is a second chance. It is a do over. Just like golf, God offers us a mulligan in life. He overs us a do over. He offers us a chance to get it right and do a better job by His grace.

As we think about this subject, we find that Scripture is filled with those who experienced second chances. Let’s take a moment to look at a couple of these. First, we have King David who was a murderer, a liar, and an adulterer (2 Samuel 11). David the called of God. David the one who had it all, failed big time. He took Bathsheba and through an ungodly relationship, she became pregnant. To make matters worse, he tried to hide the sin by having her husband come home and give him some time with his wife, so he would think it was his child. When that did not work, he arranged to position her husband on the front lines where he was sure to be killed. Then the “kind and gracious king” could take her as his wife, thereby hiding his indiscretion.

As we read the story, we find that his sin grew deeper and began to effect more and more people. That is the problem of sin. It grows deeper and it has a larger reach than we might ever imagine. But, here is the amazing thing, although his sin seemed to be too great, he was able to experience the grace of the God and was given a second chance. How do we know this? We find that God sent Nathan to speak into David’s life to bring change (2 Samuel 12:1-15). God used Nathan. David came to his senses when he realized the magnitude of his sin.

Here, David was at a crossroads. He could receive the message of grace or he could reject God. I often wonder about David! What was his mental state? Had he reached a point where he felt he had made it into the clear and that he was successful in his ruse and cover up. Too often, we think we have done a good job of hiding our sin only to find it is exposed later, and sometimes it is exposed when we least expect it. For David, I wonder if he was dealing with the weight of what he had done. I wonder if he felt the weight of his sin. Regardless, what we do know is that David confessed, repented, and was given a second chance (Psalms 51).

The second illustration is Jonah who walked in disobedience. Remember Jonah. He was called to the people of Ninevah, but rather than obeying, he ran to Joppa (Jonah 1:1-3). Now to be honest, his reason for running was justified in one sense. Ninevah was one of the major cities in the kingdom of Assyria. The people of Assyria and the city Ninevah were horrific people. They were brutal people. They would skin people alive. They would cut their enemies up in pieces and then send them to their families and cities with notes warning that this would be their fate, if they messed with them. They would cut the heads of the opposing kings off and parade them around their victory celebrations.

In Jonah’s rebellion, he boarded a ship and headed to Joppa. He ran from God, but God sent a storm. The men on board, who were not believers, began to call to their gods, as the storm was more fierce than any storm they had faced. The decision was made to throw Jonah overboard when they recognized his disobedience had caused the problem (Jonah 1:4-16). Then God brought a whale along to swallow Jonah (Jonah 1:17). Three days he was in the whale’s belly. For three days, Jonah had an opportunity to think about his future and his destiny. On the third day, the whale had gotten tired of Jonah and he was vomited upon the shore (Jonah 2:10). Jonah then ran to Niniveh, preached the word of the Lord, and the whole city came to know God (Jonah 3:4-5). He was given a second chance.

And then we have Peter, who was filled with fear. How many times have we fallen short or failed to accomplish God’s will because we are filled with fear? Peter was overcome by the fear of the people in Jerusalem. He was worried about his future and he was worried about how the judgement against Christ would impact him. Although he failed and was motivated by fear, he was given a second chance. Jesus went to him specifically after the resurrection and called Peter to feed his sheep (John 24:15-19). We see the fulfillment of that throughout the Books of Acts.

So, how should we respond to the second chances of our lives? First, we must repent. To repent means that there is a change of action that leads to a change of heart. We must remember there is a big difference between repentance and confession. Confession is important, but it is not the end all. Confession puts things on the table, but does not bring healing. We live in a nation of confessors, but not so many repenters. Repenters not only confess their sin, but they work toward change. When God honors you with a second chance, by His grace, we need to take advantage of that and change, so that the recurring sin or issue does not continue to happen. Billy Graham noted that we cannot know the God of the second chance unless we recognize the wrong we have done or the sin we have committed. We also need to be aware that God’s grace is not a get out of jail free card. We must never cheapen God’s grace by continuing to recklessly commit acts that diminish who we are in Christ and wound ourselves or others.

Second, we change what we can change. Too often, we are trying to change things that are beyond our power to change. We expend a lot of energy trying to change that which is outside our ability and scope to change. We try to change people and we try to change their actions, but this can be a frustrating adventure. We cannot change others, but we can certainly change ourselves. In the end, it requires personal responsibility to change what is wrong in ourselves.

Third, sometimes we need encouragement and help along the way to recognize that God is at work and He is giving us a second chance. We can miss what God is doing in us and through us. Paul reminds us to help restore those who have been caught in a sin (Galatians 6:1). Perhaps you need a Nathan. Perhaps you need a boat load of unbelievers to set the record straight. Perhaps you need a personal encounter with Christ to motivate you to change. However it comes, we must change. Know this as well, while we cannot change others, we can be a resource for encouragement and hope as others navigate the results and the stigma of sin they face.

In all of this, I am reminded of Lamentations 3:21-23 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. His second chances come by way of His mercy which is a response of His faithfulness. Listen to Jeremiah, he calls this to remembrance and it brings him hope. There is hope in God no matter what I do or fail to do. His mercy is always there. It reminds us that no matter what I might have done yesterday, I have a fresh start today, because His mercies are new and His faithfulness is great. He is a God of the second chance. So today, where do you need a second chance? Is it a sin you have committed? Is it a broken relationship? Is it a failure that you have experienced? Is it a mistake? God knows and is already sending you His mercy, if you receive it.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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He Rose – Conquering Unforgiving and Doubtful Hearts

Peninsula Community Church 

He Rose – Conquering Unforgiving and Doubtful Hearts

April 16, 2017

Luke 24:36-43 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you! “But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat? “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

Today is the day we celebrate the risen Lord who died for our sins but rose again so we could experience the fullness of all that God has given us. Too often, the problem for us is that life gets in the way of what Jesus has done. Our busyness, our fears, and our sin all seem to keep us from being the kind of person we ought to be. But we can realize that Christ’s gift to us covers a multitude of sin and wrong.

If you know the story, Jesus hung on the cross and he died there without much support from those who had promised to be with Him. They ran. They hid. After His death, they began to feel the realization of what they had done. They were filled with regret. Their hearts ached. They could not wrap their minds around the events that led to this moment in time. After His resurrection, it was in this environment that Jesus entered their pain and their emotional turmoil. It was here that Jesus showed up.

In our passage today we find that Christ provided a practical illustration of forgiveness by going to those who failed to stand with Him when it counted. During His ministry, He had preached the power of reconciliation and He had ministered the power of redemption and forgiveness. Now when the disciples where at their lowest point, He showed up. Jesus chose to go to the very ones who had denied and forsaken Him. I read a statement this week that said the cross reveals sin at its worse and the love of Jesus at its best. That was true then and it is just as true today.

In our study, we will look at three of the disciples who were a part of Jesus’ life. These three walked with Jesus, heard his teachings, saw the miracles, and witnessed His heart up close. Even with this history and experience with Jesus; Judas, Thomas, and Peter all failed in big ways. It is interesting that they were all called by Christ, they heard the same message, witnessed the same miracles, and yet they responded in different ways for different reasons.

The first of these men was Judas who was deceived. In this story, we find that Judas is a sad commentary of one who is misguided and deceived by the power money. It appeared that he loved money more than he loved people. He manifested a greedy heart and it was his greedy heart that eventually destroyed him. From reading the Biblical account you might remember that Judas was the treasurer for Jesus’ ministry. He handled the money and he often had a lot to say about the finances of the ministry. He was also very critical of how others handled their finances especially when he thought they were wasting their money according to his standards. He was critical even when they were providing a gift or an offering to honor Jesus.

It is noteworthy that Jesus knew his heart and He trusted Judas to handle the finances of his ministry. This was the same Judas who heard the teachings of Jesus on the rich man and how hard it was to get into heaven when one tries to serve two masters. Jesus had warned His disciples that they will serve one but not both because it is impossible to serve both God and money. Even though he heard this and other teachings, he lost focus and was deceived by the power of greed and money.

In the end, we find that Judas made an agreement with the religious leaders to give up Jesus for a mere thirty pieces of silver. We might think this was a great price but thirty pieces of silver was not much money in his day. In fact, thirty pieces of silver was the price of a common slave. Judas accepted the deal and put the plan in motion. Judas led the religious leaders to the Garden of Gethsemane where he betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

Immediately, he realized what he had done. He tried to go to the leaders to undo what he had done but they would know hear it. The deal was done and the price had been paid. It is amazing how often we realize the depth of our sin after we have committed sin. The depth of that sin haunted him until he found himself on a hillside where he threw himself into the cavern below and took his life. It is noteworthy that he died in the very field that had been bought with the thirty pieces of silver he returned. The leaders could not use the money as it was blood money so they bought a field for those who were destitute and poor to be buried in. It was here that the consequences of sin came full circle. It was here that Judas died alone, rejected, and tormented by his guilt.

The greatest issue here is that if Judas had waited, Jesus would have come to forgive and set him free. That is what Jesus does for us. The unforgivable sin is to not receiving the forgiveness of Jesus. Judas missed that because of the heaviness of his guilt. From a personal standpoint, Judas is not much different than we are. We sell Jesus out for much less than thirty pieces of silver. Let me ask you! What would you sell Jesus out for? Would it be for pleasure? Would it be for financial gain? Would it be for popularity? Would it be for some success? Would it be to cover up who you really are? But if we turn to Christ no matter how desperate or how much we have veered away from Him, He will receive us, forgive us, and restore us. Don’t wait to do that. Like Judas we might find that it is too late.

We now turn our attention to Thomas. He was known as the doubter. He doubted Jesus. He doubted his faith. He doubted the promises of Jesus. He lacked faith and therefore he missed much of what Jesus had done and He was doing in the moment. He struggled with his faith and often doubted his acceptance by Jesus.

For us personally, we can doubt. Many struggle to receive Christ and they struggle to receive His grace as a result of their doubt. The truth about doubt is that it is often based in fear. We doubt what we fear and we doubt what we don’t understand. The problem is that if we are not careful we can reject Christ because of our doubt. In contrast, our doubt can lead us to explore truth and in exploring truth we actually find Christ. Thomas doubted but his doubt led him to explore the truth. He wanted to touch and feel Jesus’ wounds. He was looking for the truth and he found it as he looked for the truth in Jesus’ wounds. Because he could touch the wounds of Jesus he trusted and believed that Christ was indeed the risen Lord.

For some, this may seem like an act of unbelief but in reality what Thomas was asking for is that Jesus would remove his doubt. By touching Jesus’ scars, he was assured that Jesus was real. Many today want to know that Jesus is real. In their doubt they are seeking truth. If that is you then I would suggest that you ask Christ to reveal Himself to you. If we ask, He will answer. He will show His grace and His power. So ask and you will receive. Touch His hands and His feet. Reach for grace and see that it is real and dynamic.

Now we turn our attention to Peter, the denier. Peter was one of those kind of people you would love to hate. He was tempestuous. He was arrogant. He was quick on the draw. He was quick to respond but was also quick to fall short. Whether it was walking on water, drawing his sword to cut off the soldier’s ear, or promising an undying commitment to Jesus, he made promises he could not keep. He had great intentions but his intentions fell short almost every time.

It is amazing to me that Jesus sought out Peter, yes Peter the one who denied Him. Jesus confronted Peter with the question, “Do you love me?” It is interesting that in the Greek language there are two words that are used for love. Two of those words are used here. The first word is “Agape” love which is the highest form of love possible. The second word for love is “Phileo” love which is friendship love. When Jesus asked Peter if he had the highest form of love possible for Jesus, Peter responded that I love you with a friendship love. I love you as a friend.

We might be quick to judge Peter for this but I wonder if Peter had learned his lesson about making statements and promises that he could not keep. Rather than responding in arrogance, he was now responding in humility. Notice that Jesus asked this same question three times, one for each denial Peter made. Jesus also on each occasion called Peter to feed His sheep. Jesus had forgiven Peter and was now calling him to a new ministry. It is noteworthy, as well, that Jesus not only called him to feed the lambs but also to strengthen his fellow brethren. Here the one who had denied Jesus three times was now being called to a greater ministry.

So instead of rejecting Peter, he was received by Jesus who gave him forgiveness and a new calling. How powerful is that? Rather than turning Peter away, he received him which healed Peter’s sense of betrayal and rejection. After the resurrection, we find that Peter became the new leader for this new fledging church. Peter the one who failed big time was now the leader of a new movement called Christianity.

So which of these characters best describe you. Are you a Judas who is selling Jesus for a few dollars or pleasures that will fade away and in the end be destroyed? Let me let you in on a secret, you may feel like a Judas this morning and you feel there is no hope but because you are here and the fact that you are alive this morning says that there is still hope. He is here now and is willing to forgive you of every sin and every wrong you have committed.

Are you a Thomas who is filled with great doubt and concern about what is truth? Instead of rejecting Jesus, use your doubt as a means to seek for Jesus this morning. Ask Jesus to come and prove Himself. If we ask He will come, He will prove Himself as the real Son of God.

Are you a Peter who has made promises that you have not been able to keep? You may feel that you have denied Him and that there is no hope for change. Because of your failure and broken promises you may feel that Jesus will not accept you, but I can assure you that Jesus is asking you the question of whether you love Him. He has a mission for you and He desires to give you a new calling and restore your destiny.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Last Words of Jesus on the Cross

Peninsula Community Church 

The Last Words of Jesus on the Cross

April 9, 2017

Luke 23:34, 42-43, 46 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments… And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise…” Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Throughout history one’s last words have meant something and are powerful epitaphs to the one speaking the words. For the guys who were at the men’s conference this year you might remember that Pastor Eric shared a few last words spoken by men of history. Benjamin Franklin lay dying at the age of 84. As his daughter tried to help him change his position in bed so he could breathe more easily, Franklin uttered his last words. “A dying man can do nothing easy.”  Samuel Clements stated that “Some die at 27 and then they are buried at 72.” General Sedgewick during the battle of Spotsylvania in 1864 made this somewhat arrogant statement. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist…” Unfortunately he was looking over the parapet at the enemy lines when he was shot and he was not able to finish his sentence. The redneck’s last words were “You hold it and I will light it.” I also love a couple of tombstone inscriptions. The first says “Here lies Charlie McCraw, He was quick on the trigger, but slow on the draw.” Then there is the one that says “Here lies an atheist, all dressed up, and nowhere to go.”

While these are funny last words, the words of Jesus were nothing to laugh at. The words Jesus spoke upon on the cross were powerful words that still affect us today. They continue to challenge us some 2000 years later.  For the next few moments, let us look at His words, the meaning behind the words, and how these words can apply to our life today. Altogether, there are seven sayings that we will review this morning. This is by no means an exhaustive study of these sayings but will serve as a launching pad for our discussion and for your ongoing consideration.

The first of Jesus’ last words was a word of forgiveness. “Forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). In any circumstance, these words are powerful but in the context of the moment they were even more powerful. These words were spoken when the very son of God was being tortured and was about to give His life for mankind’s sin, and that means every sin committed or to ever be committed. In the best of circumstances, these words are hard to utter but here is Jesus in one of the most difficult times of His life and yet He was able to muster the strength to proclaim forgiveness.

It is noteworthy that this forgiveness was extended to those who probably deserved forgiveness  less than anyone else. The reality is that in this special moment in time Jesus was modeling the very thing that He requires from us. On multiple occasions Jesus calls us to forgive others. In Luke 6:28, Jesus calls us to pray for those that abuse us and that is exactly what He does. He not only preaches forgiveness, He models it in one of His last acts before His death.

With this in mind there are two lessons learned from this. First, through Jesus we are empowered to pray for those who mistreat us and abuse us. They may not deserve it, but forgiveness can be and should be extended to them. Those who were beating, mocking, and spitting on Jesus did not deserve forgiveness but Jesus forgave them because it was the right thing to do. It also speaks to us that we may not deserve Christ’s forgiveness but His forgiveness is bestowed upon us not because we deserve it but just the opposite. His forgiveness is bestowed on us because of grace which is the undeserved gift of God. For that reason, we can receive God’s forgiveness and we can forgive those that do not deserve forgiveness.

The second statement of Jesus is focused on salvation. “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). What a powerful word to the thief who could not do anything to merit the gift of God. After all he was hanging on a cross just like Jesus. He did not have time to attend a church. He did not have time to accomplish any works of service to purchase his way into heaven. The only thing he could do was to call out to Jesus who received him. Too often we believe that we have to work for our salvation by being good enough or achieving certain things but the thief on the cross could not do any of these things. By an act of faith, Christ forgave him and gave him a promise of being in heaven with Him. The work was accomplished by faith. He asked, Christ gave, and the thief received.

Another amazing aspect of this story is that the thief did not receive Christ in Christ’s glorified state. In fact, it was the oddest of all times that he made a stand for Christ. Jesus was in fact at His lowest point in life. He was at His weakest and most frail moment and yet it was in this moment that the thief responded to Christ’s invitation. It was here that Jesus received the thief not as a thief but a born again transformed believer in Christ. If He can do that in His weakest state of being, imagine what Jesus can do in His glorified state as He sits at the right hand of the Father to make intercession for us.

The third saying from the cross focuses on relationships. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home“ (John 19:26-27). In this we hear the heart of Jesus for relationships and connectedness. Jesus wanted to be sure that his mother was taken care of. He also wanted John to know that he too would be in relationship with his mother.

John Piper suggested that this was a powerful saying for a number of reasons. First of all, if Jesus was so eager to care for his mother in her hour of need, how much more is he eager to care for his disciples who hear the Word of God today and do it. Secondly, if Jesus could provide for His mother in a moment of his deepest weakness and humiliation how much more can He care for us in His present power and exaltation. Think about it, He is at the right hand of the Father and is praying for us every moment of every day.

The fourth saying of Jesus was one that expressed abandonment. “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34). The lesson here is that the holiness of God could not look upon the sinfulness of man. The word “forsaken” used in this passage is one of the most appalling words that could be used. It is one of the most tragic words in all of human speech. God could not look upon the sin of mankind because at that moment Jesus took all of our sin upon Himself and the father had to look away. He could not bear to look upon His son as HE took all of our sin and all of the sin of mankind upon Himself.

It is here that you might question the lesson for us in this. It is my belief that Jesus experienced what we experience in our lives. He felt the coldness and divisiveness of abandonment. We experience it as marriages break up. People leave us. Businesses shut down. Kids rebel. Friends reject us. You name it and we can experience the feeling of abandonment on a number of levels. While we experience abandonment nothing compares to the moment that Jesus found Himself abandoned by God. This was necessary for us so that He would be tested and tried by every experience known to mankind. He passed the test so we could pass the test as well by depending on the one who suffered it all for us. He know us and He knows what effects us.

The fifth saying of Jesus on the cross is “I Thirst” (John 19:28). Most commentators suggest that this was a saying of distress. Jesus after a long day and night of insult and pain was now thirsty. Jesus the King of Kings had to deal with the emotion of need. It is noteworthy that the one who was the everlasting water cried out in thirst. This was Jesus’ great moment of distress. For us this means that we can be honest with Him when we are distressed and in need. Jesus knows the pain of need and the power of distress upon our lives. And better yet He knows what we need! He knows how to quench our thirst.

The sixth saying of the cross was “It is Finished” (John 19:30). Here we have the greatest words of triumph ever spoken. The Greeks could boast in being able to say much in little. If one word would do the trick that is all they would use. That is what Jesus did here. Wrapped up in these three words is all of salvation’s plan. Through these three little words the work of salvation was now complete. Through these three words we can be assured that there is nothing that can be added to the work of the cross. It was complete in its self. He paid the ultimate price for our sin. The curse of Adam and the power of sin was being dealt with by the one new Adam, Jesus.

Through this three little words all of the prophecy regarding Jesus’ death had been fulfilled. Through these three little words His suffering was complete and the goal of His incarnation had been reached. The atonement for man’s sin was now a reality. As a result, man no longer had to depend on a high priest who was tarnished by sin but he could go right to the Father who would hear and answer every prayer. It was here that we find the end of our sins and the fulfillment of the Law’s requirements and best of all we find here the destruction of satan’s power. It is finished. It is complete.

The seventh saying of the cross was “Into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). This relates reunion and restoration. Jesus was now reunited with God and His place in heaven. The one who was once separated because of sin was now restored. This speaks to us in powerful ways as the overarching need we have is to be in right relationship with God. Through Christ’s death we have the power and the ability to be restored to right relationship with Christ. Remember the passage we read last week. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2). And then here is more we can read about this. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11).

The work was finished. We now have power over sin and we have the power to have a right relationship with God. So how are you doing today? Which of these sayings speak most to your heart? Which of these sayings minister hope and life to your need?

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Strongholds – The Baggage We Carry

Peninsula Community Church

Strongholds – Baggage

April 17, 2016

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

I ask your forgiveness in the beginning of this message. I know that it will appear that the message will be focused on my life and my testimony. But I ask that you bear with me because as I was preparing I thought there was no better way to express the power of the baggage we hold onto than through my personal testimony. As I share this I do not in any way want to take away from the Gospel but it is the Gospel and the power of Christ that I am where I am today.

With that said in 1979, when I moved to New York City after Bible College, one of the jobs I had was to help refugees resettle to the United States. In particular, we were helping Christians who came from Communist countries and had lost everything as a result of their stand for Christ. In that job one of my roles was to travel to churches to present the program and seek to have churches sponsor refugees. I enjoyed this because I was able to fly around the country and visit some exciting churches and meet some awesome people. On one such trip, upon my arrival back to New York I found out that the person who was suppose to pick me up was not able to do so and I would have to find an alternative way home.

So I began to consider how I was going to get home from LaGuardia Airport which was not as easy as it might seem. The problem was that I had a huge trunk, a large suit case, and a brief case because I had to carry all of the church presentation material with me. Upon investigating how I was to get home I found out that I needed to take a bus from the airport to the Grand Central Station. From there I had to take a subway to Penn Station where I would catch the Long Island Rail Road to West Islip. On the Long Island Railroad I was required to make one transfer. Can you imagine me pulling a 75 pound plus trunk (with no wheels), a large suit case, and my brief case onto the bus, down the stairs of the subway, up the stairs of the train station, and then down the other side to catch the Long Island Rail Road and then to do it all over at the transfer point.

Once in West Islip I called only to find that no one could pick me up. So I had to get a taxi to take me home. So now I had to wrestle with this stuff again. When I arrived home, I drug the trunk, the suit case, and the brief case into the house only to find the person who was to pick me up was watching boxing matches with his sons. Needless to say I was not a happy camper. By the way it took me almost four hours or more to get home from the airport. I laugh at that story now but the fact is the excess baggage I had with me weighed me down and kept me from being very mobile. I had to drag this baggage around with me in order to make any progress at getting home.

While this is a humorous story the fact is that many of us have baggage that tends to weigh us down as we take this journey called life. The writer of Hebrews expresses this as weights and sin. Both the weights of life and the sin (ongoing sin) that possesses us holds us back and causes us to be immobile and ineffective in this journey called life. It is of note that a weight in itself is not necessarily a sin but it is something that is cumbersome, annoying, and it holds us back from being all that we could be, otherwise.

I am sure that you know what I mean. Our collection of baggage begins early in life as we experience the ups and downs of life. For me, it began as a child because when I was just a year old or so I was rushed off to my grandmother’s house to live so that my mom could find herself in Texas. During this time my grandfather who was my best bud died. It was in that moment that I began to pick up the bag of rejection and abandonment. The problem of course was that as I grew older I began to stuff that bag with more and more rejection and abandonment. When I was six years old I moved back with my mom. While living with my mom we moved every year to two years until I was eleven because of my step dad’s drinking problem. At eleven years old I was moved to my aunt’s house because of the issues at home. And after one year with my aunt I suddenly found myself at the doorsteps of my dad’s home in Alabama. Each of these actions added to the baggage I carried. The bag of rejection and abandonment became much heavier. To make matters worse I began to filter everything through the prism of rejection and assumed that rejection and abandonment was going to be a way of life for me.

In addition to the baggage of rejection and abandonment, I also picked up a bag of abuse and wounds as my step dad was abusive physically, emotionally, and mentally. He would punish me with military type punishments. One such punishment was to have me stand six inches from the living room wall with one foot in the air for 45 minutes. If my foot dropped, he would slap me and the time would start over. This was just one case of the physical abuse. In many ways the physical abuse was nothing compared to the emotional abuse I encountered with my dad. By the time I turned eleven or twelve my self esteem was blown and I had experienced the power of insecurity in big ways.

This lead me to take on other baggage such as fear and guilt. I feared for my life as I did not know how my step dad was going to be when he arrived home. I also felt guilty because I felt I was the problem. After all my step dad would regularly remind me that the issues at home were my fault. He would say such things as I was never wanted and that I should have stayed with my grandmother. He would blame me for all of the problems he was facing and would blame me when he and my mom would fight which was often. At 7 years old I began to accept the idea that my parents issues were my fault.

Throughout my life I picked up more and more baggage until I was weighed down and had became immobilized by the baggage I carried. The fact is I knew no better. The fact is that people who were around me did not even know that I was dealing with this burden as I did a great job of hiding my real self. I assumed that this was just the way of life so I had to a accept it and move on. On March 4, 1974, as a teenager, I received Christ and through that action I thought that life would be grand. While I had been forgiven of my sin, I still carried the baggage I had collected throughout my life. In fact, instead of getting rid of my baggage I actual picked up another piece of baggage called religion. Even though I had accepted Christ and I was going to church regularly, I still carried the baggage of my past. Instead of living in freedom, I tried to obey the rules that had been given me. But as I continued my journey with Christ, particularly after my Bible college years, I began to realize that I did not have to walk with the baggage that was weighing me down. I learned that there was a better way of living.

Let me share with you a few of the Biblical truths I learned that helped me let go of the baggage in my life. First of all I learned that true forgiveness meant that none of my past issues had to dictate my present circumstances or my future life. You see I had accepted Christ but I had not accepted His forgiveness. I confessed Christ but I not taken what He had accomplished for me to heart. I failed to grasp what Peter had stated in 2 Peter 1:3-5. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. You see one of my problems was that I was relying on my own strength and I was good at keeping all of the rules to be a “good Christian.” I did not fully realize that God had already given me everything I needed to overcome the baggage in my life and that I could be a partaker of the divine nature of Christ which brings freedom.

Secondly, I learned that I did not have to walk in the fear of rejection or abandonment again. The words of Timothy reminded me that God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. You see I had so much fear that I could never be free or so I thought. I was afraid of everything. I was afraid of rejection. I was afraid of being abandoned. I was afraid of the future. But once I grasped the power of the words of Timothy, I now know that I do not have to walk in fear but I now have a power to overcome the baggage in my life.  

Thirdly, as I grew in Christ, for the first time in my life, I began to realize that I was accepted and received by Christ. Even though I had accepted Christ I still struggled with the fact that Christ really accepted me. What I did in life was in fact done to get Christ to love me and accept me. I did not want Him to reject me. After all I felt everyone else did so. As I began to grow in Christ I began to realize and grasp that I was accepted by Christ not because of who I was but because of who He is. Listen to the words of John 1:12-13. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. Look at this, Christ gave us the right. He gave us permission. He opened the door for us to be children of God. You see Paul is saying you are not just forgiven, you are accepted by God as His child.

Fourthly, I learned that I was not responsible for the actions or decisions of others. I also learned that I needed to take responsibility for my life, for who I was, and what I had done. While I had many things done against me I defaulted into the blame game mode. I had become  good at pointing out other’s sin and their shortcomings. I was good at blaming my parents, my step dad, my mom, my real dad, my step mom, my brothers and sisters for my sin and the wrongs I had done. But I had to take ownership of what I had done. I had to own up to my sin. I had to come to terms with the fact that I had allowed baggage to begin to dictate how I was to live.

Fourthly, as the baggage began to fall off, I realized that I had to fill my life with something. According to physics, a vacuum is never empty, it always filled with something. It is for this reason that Jesus Himself explains the need to be filled with all that God is and not to remain empty. “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came. ’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation (Matthew 12:43-45)

You see I can get rid of my baggage but I need to be filled with something good or else I will begin to fill my life with more baggage and I will find that seven more evil spirits will come. You see I need to be filled with Christ’s love and the power of all He has given me. I need to be filled with His word, His spirit, and His power. In so doing, I can let go of all of the baggage in my life and not worry about being entrapped by those things again.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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How Easter Gives Hope to Overcome

Peninsula Community Church

How Easter Gives Hope to Overcome

March 20, 2016

Colossians 2:8-15 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

The week we continue our look at the strongholds that impact our life. If you remember last week we defined a stronghold as a mindset or a thought process that controls our lives. Last week we looked at the fact that we walk in the flesh but we do not use the armaments of the flesh to fight our battles. This week we want to look at the victory that has been won on our behalf. Because of Christ’s death on the cross we have been positioned for complete and total victory. Now before we get into the details of strongholds and mindsets I want to set the stage by talking about the power of God and work of God on our behalf. That is our focus today.

The passage we have before us today issues us a warning but it also gives us a solution for winning the battle for our minds. Paul begins where we left off last week. He states See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. He offers us a warning to watch out for philosophies and empty words that control our way of thinking. In essence, Paul is saying that the ideas presented by a worldview which is not secured in Christ will be found empty and useless.

Paul continues by stating that the full authority of God is found in Christ. Paul states that in Christ the whole fullness of Deity dwells bodily. In other words, Christ is the manifestation of God here on earth because He is God. While that is pretty awesome, Paul goes on to say that we have been filled in Him. What is Paul saying? While it is true that all of the power of God is in Jesus, it is also true that we have Jesus in us. Therefore, we have the fullness of who God is in us. Remember last week we stated that greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world (1 John 4:4). Paul explains why here. Jesus who is full of everything God, and who lives in us, has all authority and rulership over the kingdoms of our lives. That makes Him greater than any force that can come against us. So why would we not choose to follow Him and obey His commands.

At the end of this passage, Paul makes an incredible powerful life changing statement. He says look not only was Christ raised from the dead but you were too. Listen to Paul’s words. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

There are a couple of things in this that bears comment. We have been made alive in Him. We who were dead in our trespasses and in the works of our flesh have been made alive in Christ. In so doing, we have been forgiven and the sin debt we had was cancelled. So the shame, regret, and desire to control has been dealt with on the cross and we are free today as a result.

But there is a problem in that the enemy of our souls loves to bring accusation, lies, and half-truths against us (Revelation 12:10). His very nature is to be deceitful and to distort the truth we need (John 8:44). When this occurs we have a choice to make. Will we allow false accusation to rule us and therefore walk in the lie of misinformation; or will we reject the lies and live in the truth that is ours through Christ. What truth is that? It is the truth of forgiveness and the fact that our debts have been paid. The debt we owed has been cancelled and it is been discarded as if it never existed.

A few months ago I received a bill from a doctor who was looking for a payment on some medical work that Michelle had done back in 2006. They had attached a note that read if I did not pay the bill I could be taken to court and I would be reported to the credit bureau. Their note was an attempt to intimidate and pressure us to pay a debt that had already been resolved. But heres the deal. Yes! There was a time that I owed that bill but the debt had been paid and it had been paid in full. Fortunately, for us I had all of my receipts and I was able to go back and locate the bill and the check that that had been written to pay off the debt. I contacted the company and sent them a copy of the check and the paid invoice as well as the monthly statement that showed we were paid in full. There was nothing they could do.

You see in our life the enemy of our souls loves to bring up past due bills that have in reality already been paid. He loves to remind us where we have been and what we have done. He loves to remind us how many times we have been rejected and how many times we have done things that have brought us guilt and shame. He is so good at reminding us of our past but when He does that we can go to the file cabinet of our heart and pull out the paid in full receipt that we were given when we came to know Christ and have confessed our sin. Christ paid the debt. What receipt do we have? Spiritually, we have the cross because it was there that our debt was nailed to the cross. Therefore the cross serves as a reminder that the debt has been paid and it has been paid in full. The debt no longer exists.

Let me give you another illustration. A number of years ago I received a call from a collection agency demanding the payment of a debt we did not owe. Even though I provided evidence that I was not the person they were looking for, they continued to call. Each time they demanded payment of a debt that we did not owe. In fact it was a debt that was never ours. Each time they called they agreed they had the wrong person and said they would not call again. Then one night they called and got Michelle on the phone and started pressuring her with scare tactics and manipulation. It upset her. About the time I got home they called again and I had enough. I asked for a supervisor and after some hesitation they finally had a supervisor come to the phone. Because I had journaled all of the dates and the times they called when the “supervisor” finally came to the phone, I let them have. I told them that I was tired of the accusation and the phone calls. I began to list the dates of the calls and who I had spoken to each time they called. I demanded in that moment that the calls stop or else the next person they would be speaking to would be my lawyer. I must have gotten to them because we never got another call again. Here is the point. The pressure to pay the debt was not removed until I threatened to bring in an advocate to handle my case. You see Jesus is that advocate and he is ready to stand in the gap on our behalf. But we must be willing to stand our ground and make the call for Him to do His work. That is why we pray Your kingdom come, Your will be done. We invite God into our world and into the issues we face.

The scripture here today says that Jesus has disarmed the rulers and authorities. This word disarm literally means to strip or to deny power to. In others Jesus by way of the cross has stripped the enemy of his power to effectively accuse us or use any false accusation against us. Listen to me this morning the debt of your sin and past mistakes have been paid for on the cross. Yes in some cases we suffer the consequences of what we did but the guilt, the shame, and the power of the enemy to hold that over you has been dealt with at the cross and you are free today as a result. The power of that sin has been disarmed and the accuser of the brethren has been shamed and defeated. You have been forgiven so forgive yourself. You must walk in the righteousness you have been given. When the debt of guilt comes knocking, let God open the door. When the debt of past failures comes knocking, let God open the door. When the debt of past sin comes knocking, let God open the door. He has come and we are free because of Him.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Lost and Found – Lessons Learned From Luke 15

Peninsula Community Church

Lost and Found – Lessons Learned From Luke 15

August 23, 2015

Last week we began a series entitled “Lost and Found.” As we continue this series we will look today at how each of these parables teach us something about the ways we stray from God and how God is always ready to draw us back. In each parable, we are taught something about ourselves and how we can be so easily led astray.

The lost sheep in the first parable speaks to us about the distractions of life that cause us to wander from the presence of God. The fact is, we wander from God because we are distracted and oblivious to what is going on around us. To understand why this occurs we must understand a bit about sheep. To begin with, sheep are basically dumb animals. They tend to get lost because they simply wander away from the flock while they are grazing. This was so common that it was not an uncommon event for sheep to fall headlong over cliffs and die, or they would fall into ditches along the roadway. The shepherd was constantly rescuing the lost sheep and helping them to get back to the fold where they would be secure and be safely returned to the shepherd’s care.

Another thing about sheep is that they become restless very easily. They have a short attention span and they are constantly looking for food to satisfy them. For this reason, sheep can simply nibble their way to lostness. Their lostness is a series of small steps. In their restless, they are always looking for things to satisfy their hunger. The same applies to followers of Christ as we too get restless and we look to others things to satisfy our spiritual hunger (Isaiah 53:6). You see the role of the shepherd is to find good gazing ground (Psalms 78:52), but the restlessness of the sheep forces the sheep to ignore the shepherd’s leading as they look elsewhere for food.

In our restlessness, we feed on things that do not provide spiritual nourishment but rather draw us away from the Great Shepherd and the food he has planned for us. These things may include working harder, experimenting with drugs and alcohol as a means to deal with life’s issues. It might be sexual adventures. It might the world’s philosophies that draw us away from God. We wander and nibble on a little bit of this and a little bit of that but we are never satisfied. We keep nibbling and we keep moving further from the place God desires for us to be.

The fact of the matter is we are all prone to wander from the presence of God. One of my favorite hymns speaks to this issue. In the hymn “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” which was written in 1757 by 22-year-old Robert Robinson, there is a line that always captures my attention and forces me to self-evaluation. The line says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” I feel that way sometimes. Don’t you! Rather than having my heart and mind focused on the Savior who loves me and gave Himself for me, I find myself distracted and drifting away from God’s purpose. We don’t intend to drift, but we do. We are enticed by things that look so good but leave us hungry and empty.

But the grand miracle is that our tendency to wander is matched only by God’s willingness to pursue us at all cost. How grateful we can be for a patient, compassionate heavenly Father whose grace is always sufficient; even when we are prone to wander! How grateful we can be for a Heavenly Father who desires to pursue us when we are lost.

How does He pursue us? He does so by way of the Holy Spirit who speaks deep into our hearts and draws us back to Him. The Holy Spirit illuminates the hunger and dissatisfaction of our heart. In fact, I would say that if you are dissatisfied in your personal spiritual experience, it could be the Holy Spirt drawing you into a deeper relationship with Him.

Secondly, in the parable of the coin, the coin was lost by an act of carelessness. The issue here is that the woman did not protect what was given her. Some believe that she most likely had been entrusted with the coins by her husband as it was not normal in those days for women to have their own money. Regardless of the reason for her to have this money, she had lost the coin and was not even aware that it was lost until sometime later.

The thing about carelessness is that we never intend to lose that which is valuable to us. It often happens through neglect. For us spiritually, we forget to pray. We rush through our devotional time. We fail to join with others in worship and fellowship. We fail to keep the boundaries that keep us pure and holy. And then, we wake up only to find that we have become distant from God and that our fellowship with Him is strained. The result is that it feels that God is far away from us! We lose our intimacy with Him inadvertently through carelessness and neglect.

The problem with the lost coin is that as long as the coin was lost or out of circulation, it was useless. The coin could not be used for what it was intended. But with that said, we must be aware that no matter how lost the coin was, it was still marked with image of the emperor of the day. Now think about that for a moment, no matter how lost we might be we are still emblazoned with the image of God upon our lives (Genesis 1:26-27). Though damaged and lost we are still God’s possession and He so desires to seek after us and find us so as to restore us to right standing and usability!

Thirdly, the prodigal son was lost as a result of choices he made. In the first two parables, there does not appear to be a conscious decision to be lost but in the case of the prodigal son he made a conscious deliberate decision to wander from his father’s home. No one persuaded him, he made a choice. He began to dream and imagine what life would be on his own. He began to believe that the grass was greener on the other side. In some ways, he acted like the sheep by dreaming of something else in his life. He allowed complacency to draw his attention away from what he already possessed as his father’s son. We too can become complacent and forget what we already possess. We can begin to think that sinners have more fun than we do. We begin to think that God is holding out on us so we want what we want so as to feel we have value which we already have in Christ.

Here is a truth we must understand. Our free will which is a blessing, and at the same time a curse, gives us the opportunity to make choices. It is unfortunate that these decisions are not always the best of decisions. The problem with free will and free choice is that there are consequences to our decisions and we have to settle ourselves to those consequences, personally, whether the decisions are good or bad.

So what do we learn from this today? Let me give you a couple of things. First of all, God cares about us when we go off track. He seeks after us and desires to draw us back to the place we need to be. No matter the reason, the Father is always searching for us when we have wandered from the faith. The father heart of God is always searching for us. Remember what I said earlier: the miracle of this is that our tendency to wander is matched by God’s willingness to pursue.

Second, He will willingly allow us to go our way so that we understand and comprehend what we miss when we fail to follow God wholeheartedly. Throughout the Bible we find stories of people and even strong men of God who made poor choices and yet God allowed them to do so because by their actions they learned more about themselves and who they were. Remember the story of David who sinned greatly against God and his kingdom. What about Abraham who lied about Sarah being his wife and yet he was a friend of God and became the father of many nations. How awesome is that?

Thirdly, even when we are lost and separated, we are still marked by the Father. For the sheep, it was the ear tag or a brand that identified who they belonged to. It didn’t matter what happened to them, they were still marked by their owner. We need to know that no matter what we may have done as a believer in Christ, He has marked us and He searches after us.

Fourth, He welcomes us with a heart of forgiveness and reconciliation when we return to him. We see this in the parable of the prodigal son. The father is pacing the floor awaiting the arrival of his son. The father’s arms were outstretched and open for the son. He embraced him, loved him, and restored him to full sonship. So matter how far we run or how far we stray, he is waiting for us.

I ask that you listen to the great hymn of the faith I mentioned before. Use this song a means to ficus your attention on who you are and if you are prone to wander from God. Here is a link to the video.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRVNZPyMOcM

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Ephesians – But God

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – “But God”

September 21, 2014

Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them

As we begin this study this morning, I am faced once again with an awesome problem. There is so much contained in this portion of Scripture that it not possible in one single message to relate to all that it has to offer us as believers. This one passage is filled with such great hope and promise.

Last week, we saw that Paul painted a dismal picture for the one who was without Christ. They were dead in their sin and their were in bondage to cultural demands and lusts that controlled the outcomes of their lives. As John Stott; pastor, teacher, and theologian has said; “Paul plumbs the depth of pessimism associated with man’s sin but then he arises to the heights of optimism about God.” As I read this passage, I can’t help but believe that God could have put a period at the end of verse three and then closed the book on mankind. In fact, God could have chosen to close the book after Adam, the representative of all mankind, fell in the Garden of Eden. He could have washed his hands of man but he did not close the books. He did not give up on man. How do we know this? We know this because the very next phrase is “But God.”

But God… This is perhaps the greatest single phrase in all of Scripture. Contained in this two word phrase is a new identity for man. Contained in this little phrase is the most powerful change that could ever come. What a turning point. We were objects of wrath but God out of love showed us mercy. We were dead but God made us alive. We were slaves, in a position of dishonor and powerlessness but God raised us up and set us at His own right hand, a place of honor and of authority. We were desperate and lost on the road toward destruction but God took aggressive action to reverse the condition and the conditioning of sin in our lives.

In verse 1-3, the sinner could only anticipate the wrath of God but God showed mercy and everything changed. Paul immediately turns to describing God’s motivation for the work He does in us. He begins by reminding us that the work of God is resourced through the endless riches in Christ. One of His greatest assets is His mercy, and mercy is defined as the act of not receiving what we deserve. This is a poignant point, especially, since the preceding verses detail the demise and the faulty condition of mankind.

We have talked about this word mercy before. It is a common word in Paul’s writings. Paul uses it often because Paul understood the level of mercy that had been given to him, personally. Think about it for a moment. Do you remember the story of Paul before his conversion experience? Paul was not only a nonbeliever but he sought to destroy those who professed Christ. Remember the story of Stephen? Paul stood at his side while he was being stoned and worse yet, Paul was not a passive player in this event. In fact, it was Paul who ordered that he be stoned. He rejected God and he rejected the people of God. In some people’s mind, this would be the worse kind of sinner. But God met Paul and changed his life, changed his focus, his destiny, and his purpose (Acts 8:1).

You see God could have given him a death sentence which he deserved but because of His mercy, God did not give him what he deserved. Neither does he give those who come to Christ what they deserve. We deserved the wrath of God, but God gave us mercy. We deserved death, but God does not measure out His gifts by what one deserves but what He desires to give. And it is amazing that God is rich in mercy. His bank account of mercy never runs dry. This word mercy is an interesting word. In most cases, mercy means to show concern or compassion toward those who have suffered some undeserved calamity. But here in this passage, Paul lets us know how much greater God’s mercy is for us. While mercy most often points to some undeserved calamity, in this case, mankind deserved the calamity they were in. Even though they deserved it, God showed them mercy. Why, does He do this? It is because He is compelled by love.

The love described here is the kind of love that seeks the highest good for the one being loved. Once again, notice that the measure and depth of the love being given is not based on the one being loved but on the one giving the love. Notice how this is evidenced, God extended His love and mercy to us while we were dead in our trespasses and sin. He did not wait for us to be alive and then love us. His love is unconditional and far reaching. The intensity of God’s love is defined by the adjective “great.” He is rich in mercy but He is great in love.

Paul then defines how God’s mercy and love have been showed to us. He uses three verbs to do so. Paul says that we have been made alive, we have been raised, and we have been seated. The first of these three verbs points to the fact that we have been made alive. This provides a stark contrast between those individuals discussed in verse 1-3 and those in verse 4-10. In verses 1-3 they are categorized as being dead while we now see those who are in Christ as being alive. You were dead. This is true. But now you are alive.

But how are we alive. The Bible tells us that we are all appointed to die. This body, this flesh will die but our spirit will live on. That part of us that has been touched by the power of God will live forever. You see, Christ died physically so we could be made alive spiritually. While the resurrection of our bodies is yet to come, we are made alive in our spirit now. God has once again breathed His breath into. We are alive.

The second thing that God does is that He raises us up. Not only are we alive, but we are living through the power that God has bestowed upon us. Christ rose and ascended to heaven in order to conquer death and the grave. He ascended to show His power over every force, authority, or power ever raised up against God or man. You see our position in Christ has changed. We are no longer enemies of God (Romans 5:1-11). We are no longer powerless against the claims of sin but we can now resist the temptation that is at our door (James 4:7). We can take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). Why? We are alive and we have been raised with Christ.

And then finally, we are seated together with Christ. Now once again that is not a physical positioning but a spiritual one. In the spirit we are seated with Christ and in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 says that From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Notice that in essence that all that God did for Christ, He did for us as well. He raised Christ. He raised us. He made us alive together by grace and he seated us with Christ. We are in Christ.

The essence of these three actions on the part of God relate to the fact that we have a new identity spiritually. Notice in the first three verses of Ephesians 2. Unbelievers are identified as being dead, controlled by forces more powerful than they, and they are guilty of sin and should receive the penalty of God’s wrath. But God changed that by sending His Son to die for all mankind. And if they would confess their sin and surrender their life to Christ, they would have a new identity, in Christ. They would no longer be dead but alive. They would not just be an empty shell but would have a purpose and a reason for living. And lastly, they would spiritually be seated next to the Son where they would be given honor and power to overcome every force that would come against them.

How is all of this accomplished? It is by grace, a gift we did not deserve. You did not deserve the gift of God because you were dead in your sins and not capable of making a decision for life, but God came and gave Himself so you could have life. Though undeserved and unmerited, God extended His mercy and His love to mankind. It was by grace we are saved and not by works. This means that we do nothing to achieve our own salvation.

If these things are true, and they are. Then we are called as believers to exhibit these things in our lives. How do we live this out. John Piper made the following observation concerning mercy and how we ought to live. So we say, “Because of God’s mercy revealed in Christ, therefore, I do this and not that. Because of God’s mercy revealed in Christ, therefore I speak this way and not that way. Because of God’s mercy revealed in Christ, therefore I cultivate this kind of emotion and put that kind to death. Because I exist to glorify the mercy of God in Christ, I live this way and not that way.” Christian living is built on something! It is built on the mercy and grace of God!

Copyright © Robert W. Odom All rights Reserved

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