Tag Archives: forgiveness

The Gift of the Second Chance 

Peninsula Community Church 

May 5, 2019

John 21:15-17 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

After the resurrection Jesus had a number of encounters in order to show that He was alive and that the promise of His resurrected life was a reality. We looked at one these encounters last week but we will investigate one more this week. The encounter of Jesus with Peter deserves our consideration because there is much that we can learn from this interaction. 

If you remember the night leading up to the crucifixion and for that matter during the crucifixion  itself Peter could not be found. Peter, the strong willed one, had emphatically stated that he would never deny or reject Christ. He made a promise, but that promise was quickly forgotten. Peter’s heart quickly turned and he fell into the trap of denying Christ, not once but three times. When he denied Jesus the last time, the memory of the words spoken by Jesus came flooding in. “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” 

The Scripture says that when the reality of what he had done hit him that he went out and wept bitterly. That is probably one of the saddest verses in the whole Bible. Of all the tears you can cry, bitter tears are the worst. With tears of grief, they at least carry within them the love you have for the person you have lost. But bitter tears? Bitter tears carry shame, humiliation, and deep regret that stings and it stings deep within one’s spirit. I wonder if, for the rest of his life, every time Peter heard a rooster crow it brought him back to that night and he was reminded of how he rejected Christ.

In response to this Peter reverts back to what is common and safe. He goes back to what was comfortable. He goes back to what is familiar. He went back to fishing. He went back to work, because he thought his days as a disciple of Christ were over. You see it is not an unusual thing to revert back to what was rather than what is. I have found that to be true at different times in my life. When we transitioned from the ministry in New York to Virginia, my first inclination was to seek a secular job, or a job where I did not have to be a pastor. I was tired. I was weary. The truth is I was burned out because I had given 100% plus to the ministry. That was and is the way that I operate. I give everything I have to the things that I am involved with. So I thought it would be nice to do something different, but Jesus and I had an encounter, and He would not allow me to to do that. He had a different plan.

While Peter is out doing what is familiar, as the morning dawned, they had not caught any fish. I wonder if Peter, who already felt the failure of denying Christ, is now feeling that he cannot even do a good job at what he was most equipped to do. I question if at this point he was feeling that everything around him was falling a part. When we run away, things usually do not get better they often get worse. Peter was reaching the end of his rope.

It was here that Jesus showed up in the chaos of Peter’s life. Sadly, as with the men on the road to Emmaus, Peter nor the other disciples recognized Him. Even though they did not know Him, He instructs the disciples to put their nets out on the other side. Think about how amazing this is. How could this be? Only a few feet marked the difference. It was the difference between a harvest and an empty net. What made the difference? The difference was that Jesus told them to do it. They were obedient to his command even though they still did not recognize Him as the Christ. When they listened to Him, they hauled in a bunch of fish, 153 to be exact. It was only at this moment that John looked and recognized the Christ who was alive. 

The question for us is how many times do we try to do things in our own strength? We are working hard, but little is accomplished. Maybe there is little honoring of God, but there is a lot of striving by our own hand to accomplish things that only God can do. One reason Jesus did this was so to remind the disciples that they were powerless to accomplish much without Him. Even when we do not recognize Jesus in our circumstances, He still moves on our behalf. 

And then we find that Jesus does the most amazing thing. When the disciples land on the shore Jesus prepares the disciples breakfast. He has a fire going and he has made some bread and fish. He invites them to eat. Recorded here are perhaps the most important words in all of Biblical history. “Come and have breakfast.” The significance of this cannot be overlooked or over estimated. They are a bunch of scared, broken, rejected men, and Jesus does the unimaginable. He invites them to have breakfast with Him. 

The last time they were together for a meal was the Last Supper and it was there that so much had happened. It was there that Peter had emphatically promised that he would never reject Jesus, and yet he did. It is important to notice what is not in the story. The risen Christ does not remind the disciples about their betrayal, their desertion, their denial, or their doubt. Jesus does not ask them to confess their failures. There is no recrimination, no anger, and no resentment. There is only, “Come and have breakfast.” There is only mercy, only nourishment, and an open invitation to a new life. How amazing is that? 

There are times where Jesus scolds the disciples, and challenges them in their walk of faith, but this is not one of those times. You see Jesus knew their heart, and He knew the struggle in them was very real. They did not need condemnation, they needed love. They did not need to be reminded of their past, but a reminder of their future. They knew their past, He knew their future. They needed a vision of what could be and not what was. You see Jesus is all about restoration. He knew if Peter was to play the crucial role in the early church, he would need to be restored. Peter needed to understand that although he had forsaken Christ, Christ had not forsaken him.

Notice in verses 12-13 that after the breakfast Jesus asks Peter a direct question. “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” What things was Jesus referring to? He was referring to that which Peter fell back on: fishing, his career, his friends, anything else in his life that became a substitute for following Christ.

It is noteworthy and helpful for us to see the word play that is taking place in this passage. Jesus uses the word AGAPE for love. This is the highest love of the will, love that implies total commitment. Peter who was painfully aware of his disobedience and failure, felt too guilty to claim that type of love. His brash pronouncements were now a thing of the past. He was broken and humbled and fully aware that his actions had precluded him from making such a claim to the highest love. Peter answered by using the word PHILEO, a less lofty term that signifies affection. He also appealed to Jesus’ omniscience, reminding Him, “You know that I love You.” How does Jesus respond to Peter? His response is simply a command to feed His lambs. 

It is noteworthy that three times Jesus asks Paul this poignant question. “Do you love me?” The first two times Jesus uses the word AGAPE. The last time He asks, Jesus uses the word PHILEO. Jesus understands that within Peter there is a brokenness and hesitancy to commit beyond what he can do at this time. Here is the truth for us. Jesus will meet you where you are. He would rather we be honest than make a commitment that we cannot keep. He would rather that we speak truth than have false worship or a false commitment where we will fail and fall short. 

As Andreas Köstenberger (Professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) notes, Perhaps at long last Peter has learned that he cannot follow Jesus in his own strength and has realized the hollowness of affirming his own loyalty in a way that relies more on his own power of will than on Jesus’ enablement.… Likewise, we should soundly distrust self-serving pledges of loyalty today that betray self-reliance rather than a humble awareness of one’s own limitations in acting on one’s best intentions.

So what does all of this mean to us? What is the application to be made in our lives here today? First, there is no failure too big that God cannot redeem. No matter how broken or how much we believe we might have failed, God can and will redeem us. Notice that Jesus went to them and they responded to Jesus’ invitation. 

Second, we can run and hide but we cannot escape the calling of God. No matter where you run, He will find you. It is easy for us to fall back on what is easy and comfortable. Jesus never calls us to be comfortable. He calls us to be obedient and to be responsive to His will. 

Third, God loves us and will meet us where we are. He wants to have breakfast with you. He wants you to pull a chair up to His table and have a meal with Him. This is because He wants to have a relationship with you more than anything else. He does not want you floundering and trying to survive in your power. He wants you to succeed. He is the God of the second chance.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Power of Emptiness 

Peninsula Community Church 

April 21, 2019 

Matthew 28:1-8 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

When I was a child I loved when my mom would buy sugary cereals. I especially loved those cereals that would have a surprise in side. Perhaps I am showing my age, but we would often buy cereal not so much for the cereal itself but for the prize. I could not wait to get home to open the box so I could dig to the bottom of the box to find the prize. There were, however, occasions where after digging deep into the box, I would come up empty. Here I am a six or seven year old kid coming up empty from my search. I would be so disappointed and upset because of that. I had the anticipation of getting something but I came up empty.

A difficulty in this fast paced world we live is that too often we jump at the chance to fill ourselves with more without pausing to consider too deeply what more is. We busy our ourselves with activity and events. We fill ourselves with things, but we do not have time to give thanks for what we have already been given. We live in a world filled with empty calories, empty entertainment, empty hearts, empty seats at dinner time, and even empty worship.

Emptiness is a reality that most of us will experience at some time. It may have been an empty cereal box, or it could be an empty gas tank, an empty wallet, or it could be an empty heart. Whether it is a broken heart, a broken dream, or something that has not gone right, we have all experienced let downs and emptiness. Many of us have found our hearts emptied of laughter and joy. In fact, we can begin to wonder if emptiness is all there is. 

Too often, the response we have to emptiness is to try and cover up our emptiness by looking for substitutes or distractions to fill the emptiness. I would suggest however that when you reach a place of emptiness, where the disappointments run deep, you are in the perfect position for a miracle. You are in just the right place for God to do something special in life. Why? It is because God can make His good come from bad situations (Romans 8:28). God has the unique ability to take our messes, disappointments, and mistakes and mold them into something useful and good. That is who He is and that is what He does. We see that in the life of Joesph who was sold into slavery by his brothers. We see it the life of Job who lost everything, but God restored what he lost and more. 

Returning to our story, can you imagine the disappointment the women who were headed to see Jesus experienced when they found an empty tomb? They had gone there to embalm and cover Jesus’ body with perfume and oil so they could preserve His body and keep it from smelling as it decayed. They were headed to the tomb with great expectation and excitement only to find the tomb was empty. He was not there! He was gone! 

 

A joyous moment has now turned to emptiness in their heart. What was once a sense of mission and purpose was quickly changed to confusion and emptiness! How many times have you moved toward something with great anticipation only to come up empty and your needs unmet? In that moment, we often feel confused and disoriented but, God is good at turning our messes and our emptiness into something more than we can every imagine.

Tony Evans tells the story of Charlie Goodyear who started the Goodyear tire company. While working in his lab, Mr. Goodyear inadvertently spilled some rubber into a fire. When the rubber hit the fire it made a big colossal mess, but he noticed that because of the fire it became incredibly strong and durable. This mistake was transformed into the Goodyear tire. When rubber combined with the heat it got messy, but it also produced a strong, tough product we now depend on to carry us around. We might be in a mess and the fire might be turned up but that heat and the mess of our life can be used to make us stronger and tougher. 

Listen to the last words of this passage. After going to the tomb and finding it empty they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Do you hear the conflict that arose in them? They were filled simultaneously with fear and with great joy. That is exactly what the power of emptiness can do to us. We want to be filled with joy but the emptiness of our heart causes us to fear. Our emptiness causes us confusion and pain.

With that in mind let me share a couple of things with you this morning about the emptiness at the end of Jesus’ life. There are two specific instances of emptiness that changed the world. First, we find that the cross is empty. It once held the body of Jesus suspended between two thieves and suspended between mankind and God, but now on Easter Sunday the cross is empty. His body is no longer there. But, in the emptiness of the cross comes powerful hope and joy. In the emptiness of the cross, we find forgiveness and wholeness. In the emptiness of the cross, we find greater fulfillment than at any other place in our life. 

We can look at the cross as being empty or we can see beyond the cross to the power of His death upon that cross. The empty cross becomes a source of His power to assist us in securing healing, forgiveness, and His righteousness. The empty cross made a way for every sin ever committed to be forgiven once and for all. What could only be done through the mediacy of a high priest is now accomplished through direct access to God, the Father. The empty cross might be empty, but the emptiness of the cross is filled with the power of God. 

Secondly, we have an empty tomb. The empty tomb is filled with hope, love, a promise given, and a promise fulfilled. The empty tomb confirms to us that there is hope beyond the messes of our life. The empty tomb tells us that the Savior lives. The empty tomb tells us that we are not abandoned and that we are not alone. The empty tomb may not hold the body of Christ but it holds such great promise for us. In the empty tomb, we have the promise of a future. We are promised a hope for tomorrow. The song “Because He Lives” says it best. “Because He lives we can face tomorrow.” Because He lives we can face the messes of our life. Because He lives, the emptiness of our hearts is filled with hope and promise. 

The emptiness you feel is not the end, it is only the beginning. In fact, it represents a new beginning for you. The emptiness of the cross and the tomb in fact gives us hope that we will be filled and restored. The scars you bear and the holes in your heart cannot to be compared to what Jesus went through, and yet we cannot minimize the pain you feel, the scars you bear, or your heart that has been torn in desperation and failure. Although we feel the pain of emptiness, these things did not kill you. If the God who created us has the power to resurrect the Savior, He also has the power to resurrect you. He has the ability to lift you higher than you ever imagined. 

We have a decision to make in regard to our wounds. You can choose to hide your wounds from the world. We can pretend the pain, the loss, or death never happened. You can choose to reopen the wounds with cheap relationships and bitterness by looking back at what could have been instead what is ahead of us into the future. You can also choose a different path. It is a path of hope and of promise. It is a promise of resurrection life. That which was dead is alive again.

We find that the Jesus of the cross and the tomb does not immediately head to Heaven but He visits with the disciples and those around the city of Jerusalem. The Jesus of the empty cross. The Jesus of the empty tomb returns to fill the disciples with hope and joy. He returns to Peter to give Him a message of love, and commission Him to be the leader of this disoriented and misdirected band of disciples. I love this encounter because it shows us that emptiness may come but that emptiness is followed by rejoicing. First comes absence, then comes glory. The Easter story begins with emptiness, but ends with rejoicing and promise. 

Imagine the emptiness of the disciples who had failed their master big time. Imagine the feeling of regret and shame and pain from the days before and during the crucifixion. The savior, however, had a different plan. He met them in their pain. He met them right where they were, so that He could bring them to a sense of being filled. In the end, we must pass through the empty cross and through the empty tomb to see the resurrected Lord high and lifted up. That is what we celebrate here today. We accept the cross and all that it has to offer. We accept the empty tomb with its power to overcome the power of sin and death itself. 

I love this passage in Romans 8:11 and I close with this, If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Did you get that? The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you as a believer in Christ. No matter who you are, He is able to give life to your emptiness. He is able to fill you up. If you are not a believer, He invites you accept His empty tomb and His empty cross by inviting Him into your heart. Your emptiness will be filled and He will give you a new life filled His promise and His hope. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Breaking the Power of Offense

Peninsula Community Church

March 17, 2019

Mathew 5:21-24 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

This morning I want to deal with the issue of offense and anger in our life. Over the last few weeks I have been encountering this topic in many different ways. In our men’s study we have been dealing with the Biblical principle that we do not have the right to be angry or least stay angry. I also heard a message from Steve Furtrick from Elevation Church about letting go of our offenses. It seems that wherever I turn, this subject has been popping up. So, it seems to me that God is saying something to us, or maybe He is just communicating with me personally.

I love our passage this morning because Jesus does an incredible thing as He speaks to His disciples. He turns up the heat if you will. He infers here that our hearts are critical to everything we do. It is not just the actions we take, but it is the motivation of our heart that makes the difference. Proverbs 23:7 reminds us that “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” In this passage, Jesus raises the bar on murder when He says that it is not just a matter of the act of murder that makes it murder, but if we hold anger against another person we are guilty of murder. Why did Jesus do this? He knew that if we allow anger and offense to fester it will result in emotional, mental, and verbal murder. 

You see. Jesus understood a powerful principle that effects us as believers in Christ. Jesus communicated through this passage that the horizontal and the vertical relationships in our life must be in sync. The vertical relationship is our relationship with God. It is the specific connection we have with Him. It is how we respond to Him and how we show Him our love. The horizontal relationship is our relationship with those around us. As believers, the way we deal with people must match our love for God. We need to show love, forgiveness, and grace just as Jesus did to us. The problem however is that there is a disconnect between our relationship with God and our relationship with others. We cannot say we love God and hold anger or offense in our heart when God has forgiven us of so much. 

Steve Furtrick has suggested and this is confirmed by Scripture that we need a mirror more than we need a magnifying glass. We need to look within and deal with the condition of our heart before we look outside ourselves to control or judge others. The problem with living with a magnifying glass mentality is that we attempt to deal with everyone else’s problems and do little to fix our own problems. As we talked last week, if we are not careful, we will try to fix the speck in someone’s eye while we are walking around with a huge log in our eye. Too often, we think that everyone else is sick and we are offering others the solutions to problems which are actually within us. Jesus words speak deep into our spirit and tells us to get our act together before we judge others or hold onto an offense. 

Jesus continues this discussion by saying that when we are angry we tend to say things and react to things in unhealthy ways. Jesus speaks of insulting our brother. He stated that in the cultured His day you would be liable to the council. Even more hateful is to call someone “Racca” or fool. I do not know exactly what Racca means but it was the very worse thing you could say to someone. In fact, Jesus says that it was so egregious that the one using the word would be condemned to the fire of hell. That seems drastic but it illustrated how powerful offense and anger was. Jesus is saying that if we do not deal with our anger a living hell will erupt within us. What starts in the heart does not stay in the heart. What starts in the heart often flows from the heart and hurts others. In fact, when we are hurt, angry, or offended we probably have said or at least thought of saying some things that would cause us to be judged if anyone heard us. 

If we do not deal with an offense we will build a fence that will divide us and separate us.

Do not forget that this is the primary tactic of the devil. He is the enemy of righteousness and real relationships. Remember it is John 10:10 that reveals the mission of the devil. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. The enemy’s role has been and continues to be to divide and destroy. If he cannot destroy, he will divide. He often uses the smallest of offenses to divide us and eventually destroy us. 

You know how it works there is a small offense and you feel you handle it quite well or so you think. But not too far down the road there is another small offense that is added to the previous offense. Then there is another small offense that is added to the previous offense and suddenly the offense has grown and is now bigger than life. The garbage was not taken outside. The underwear was left on the floor, again. You did not say I love you. You did not acknowledge me. Whatever the incident, we become offended and if we do no deal with it that offense begins to grow into anger which leads to bitterness, resentment, and hatred. The result is that we shut people off and we shut them out because we are hurt and do not want to deal with them anymore.

The progression is one that moves from small offensives until we are walled in by offense. When this happens the enemy has been successful in dividing and destroying us. It happens in families, on the job, with neighbors, friends, and it happens in our marriage. When you think about marriage it is the prime example of the kingdom of God. That is why the enemy is so ready to divide and destroy marriages. Someone has said that many divorces are not a sudden act but a series of offenses or wrongs that are never dealt with. It is a death by a 1000 cuts. This happens in all of our relationships when we do not positively respond to the offenses we encounter. 

As we look at this subject we must understand that we will encounter offensive situations but to be offended is a choice. Here is the point. We can be offended or we can choose to let go of the offense. Unconfessed offense and anger leads to a life that is less than we should have, but a life that surrenders offense is ready to let go of every sin. For that reason Jesus tells us that we are to leave our gift at the altar and go be reconciled with our brother. The solution to offense is forgiveness. Notice this occurs while we are at the alter. Why do we communicate with God? It is because in our communication with God, our hearts are exposed. That is why it is critical that we spend time with God.

This week I had a number of opportunities to be offended. Some were bigger than others but some were small. For example, I was in line at the checkout and the lady in front of me cut me off to get into the line. I felt my blood pressure start to rise when she began to pull stuff out of her cart and she had 31 items in the 12 item lane. And then, she needed a pack of cigarettes and began to discuss the kind of cigarettes she wanted after the cashier brought the wrong ones to her three times. After all of this, she fumbled with her pocketbook and could not find her money. Then the credit card she finally used was not any good. Meanwhile, there I stand with my two little items that I wanted to buy, get out of the store, and get back home. 

My initial response was to feel the hair on the back of my neck begin to bristle but then I remembered our study on Tuesday night, and listening to Steve Furtrick’s sermon. I realized that I had to let it go. Was it an opportunity to be offended? Yes! I had every reason to be angry and offended that this was going on right there in front of me, but I had to make a choice. Rather than being offended I chose to let it go. I admit that it was not easy, in fact I wanted to be angry but knew I could not based on what God had been teaching me. 

The question sometimes is what if I cannot resolve the offense or hurt. This could be because of a death, a divorce, or other major separation that may have occurred. The principle for us is that what we cannot resolve, we can release. This is not always an easy thing to do. But it is necessary. We cannot always resolve every problem, but we can release the hurt and pain. That is the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness allows us to let go of the offense and the anger we confront. That is why Paul made the following statements. Listen to Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:31-32. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. And then in Colossians 3:8. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

The final point I wold like to make today is that once you are free do not go back. Paul in Galatians 5:1 paints us a picture. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Since this is a decision, we must decide that we will not go back to the offense. The temptation for us is to return to that offense because in the offense we can justify our anger, bitterness, and hurt. That has a binding effect on us. God wants us to be free and released from the burden of offense so that we can live free and whole.

As we consider this we must remember the One that is our greatest example. He was offended. His friends denied Him. His closest ally betrayed Him. He was falsely accused. He was beaten for a crime He did not commit. But when it mattered and He was about to take His last breath, He communicated this line that challenges us and convicts us, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.” Forgive them! That sometimes is the hardest thing we can do or request of God. Forgive them. But it is Jesus that empowers us to speak those words. They are words of power and grace and they are freeing. He died so that we could be free from our offense and from the power that offense holds over us. Let it go and be free. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The New Me!

Peninsula Community Church 

The New Me!

November 11, 2018 

Ephesians 4:25-32 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

I love some of the advertisements that promote certain weight loss products. They usually show the amount of weight loss by way of two contrasting photos. The first is a picture before weight loss and the second is one after weight loss. It is interesting to me that when you look at some of these photos it seems that the before weight loss picture is often taken from the worst possible position. It is a side profile view, with poor lighting, little makeup, and so on. The after weight loss picture is taken with bright lights, makeup, and the best side showing on the photo. Paul in this passage is in essence taking a before and after picture for us to see where we have come from, and how much we have achieved as believers in Christ. The difference is that he does not use any special lighting or photographic tricks, he simple gives us an honest contrast of the difference.

 

In this passage Paul takes a snapshot of what a mature, committed, passionate follower of Christ looks like. He contrasts the old man with the new man who is in Christ. He identifies  certain attributes and characteristics that formulate our actions and reactions to the world around us before our relationship with Christ. But he also gives us the contrasting view of what a passionate follower of Christ looks like. You see the passionate follower of Christ has put off falsehood, and they now live in truth. They used to get angry without dealing with the anger quickly, but now they are quick to settle the anger before it gets the best of them. They used to steal and take advantage of others, but now they are honest. They do a good days work with the reward of helping others. They no longer talk down to others. Their language encourages and builds up rather than corrupts and tears apart. Finally, instead of being harsh they are now gentle. Wow what a change! Wow what a difference between the old man and the new man.  

The question for us is why is it necessary to examine all of this? The reason is evident in the first verse of Ephesians 4. It is here that Paul lays out an argument for how we are to live. I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3). Notice the contrast between way the world lives and how passionate followers of Christ should live their life. Paul urges us to walk in a manner, certainly a different manner, that is worthy of the calling to which we have been called. We have been called to a new way of living. We have been called to put off the old man which is controlled by lies and deception, but the new man is led by true righteousness and holiness. 

In Ephesians 4:17 Paul reemphasizes the fact that we do not live like the world when he stated. Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. What’s the point being made here? It is that we cannot behave like the culture around us. We cannot act like those who deny Christ, or those who acknowledge Christ but who reject His power and His relevance in their life. 

Last week we saw this exchange as a three step process. First, we put off the old self which is corrupted by deceitful desires. Second, we renew our minds. Third, we put on the new self which is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. In Ephesians 4:25-32 Paul defines in real terms what it means to “put off the old self” and to “put on the new self.” In these verses, Paul shows us a set of contrasts to compare the old with the new. As we read these contrasts, we must remember this is not simply a behavior change. We do not just stop this and then do this. These actions are a response to the renewing of one’s mind. It is a process. As our minds are being taken out of the world and into the word, we will supernaturally stop certain behaviors and will participate in other behaviors. It is also noteworthy that true salvation requires change. If there is no change after salvation, then one may want to consider one’s salvation. 

From this verses, I suggest five key areas that highlight a transformed life in Christ. Let us look at these. First, our integrity is affected by this transformation. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Notice by putting on the new man and the renewal of our mind, we put away falsehood. The corresponding response is that we live from a perspective of truth. We do not just reject lies, we live by God’s absolute truth. The old man was defined by deception and lies, but the new man is defined by a life of truth and reality. Walking in truth is a response to the transformed life. 

There is power in living in truth. Mark Twain is credited with saying that “if you never tell a lie you never have to remember the truth.” What a freedom! What a way to live! Living in truth also means that we do not have to be something we are not. We do not have to misrepresent ourselves with our neighbors and friends. We can be real and that is certainly freeing. There is an amazing freedom when as a new man we walk in truth and not in the power of past lies. As passionate followers of Christ our lives should be marked by an attitude of honesty and truthfulness.

Second, our emotions are affected by this transformation. Paul exhorts us to Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. While we use to respond in an unrelenting anger, we now address our anger quicker. When one does not deal with anger from a Biblical perspective, there is a tendency to respond without a filter. In so doing, we say things and do things that have lasting negative effects. We can also clam up and make life miserable for everyone around us. 

It is noteworthy that Paul does not condemn anger, but rather he suggests there is a better way to deal with anger. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we responded to anger differently? What if we actually talked about issues? What if we actually listened to one another? The problem is that when we walk in unhealthy anger, we begin to focus on the lies that have been propagated. We feel we have to fight for our rights and our way of thinking. The issue here is not whether we are angry, but how we handle anger. Anger left to its own demise leads to bitterness. When bitterness takes root, bitterness begin to control our actions and our responses.

Third, our responsibility changes. When living as the old man, we were often tempted to take the easy way out. It was easier to steal and cheat than it was to work an honest job. When we exchange the old for the new, we no longer seek to take the easy way out but we work and we work hard. Paul stated Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Notice what Paul is saying here. You use to steal but not any more. You should now do an honest days work so that you can bless others as God leads and directs you. 

The motivation given for work was not to accumulate wealth, but to have something to share with others. We were takers but now we are givers. Why? It is because we have learned to work and achieve good things which leads to provision, so that you can help others and not just mass great wealth. In so doing, we become less self centered and more others focused. 

There is another view to this as well. Sometimes we can deplete others by our actions. This is true especially when we walk in anger, we have corrupted talk, and we deal in falsehoods. We steal life from others by our actions and our words, but when we learn to give more than we receive, life will change for us and it will be a positive change. We will bless rather than take away. 

Fourth, our communication changes. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Rather than corrupt language that destroys, we speak life. The word corrupt means to decay, rot, or become bad. In the language of the day, the word was used of rotting vegetables. Paul is saying do not let any corrupt or decayed language come from your mouth. Rather than destructive language we now speak in a way that manifests grace and life. This does not mean that we never deal with problems, but we always work from the position of grace. We look to build up and not tear down and not cause rottenness.

Finally, our demeanor changes. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Rather than harshness, we are gentle with those we encounter. I think we can agree there is a lot of harsh rhetoric in our world today. We would rather yell, scream, accuse, judge, and diminish others rather than speak the truth in a way that is gentle and kind. The old man was bitter, but the new man is tenderhearted. The old man was filled with wrath and slander, but the new man is forgiven and offers forgiveness to all they encounter. After all our model for this is Christ. He is the template and our new life comes from Him. We forgive and live differently because He has forgiven us. As a result our very demeanor begins to change and we begin to live differently in every area of our life.  

So if you had a picture of your old man and one of your new man, what would they look like. Are you making progress? Are you living differently today? Are you a different person because of Christ? I trust that is the case! 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Giving Grace

Peninsula Community Church 

Giving Grace

September 23, 2018

Colossians 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

As we wrap up our Amazing Grace series this morning, I want to close with one last concept relating to grace. It is about giving grace to those we encounter. The fact is we will all encounter EGR people at some time. EGR people are those people who need extra grace from us. They are the people who irritate us and cause us great consternation. They are the pebble in our shoe and the bur in our saddle. So often, we are negatively impacted by their actions. It seems we cannot escape what they do or how they act. These people rub us the wrong way. They offend us. They say things that cause us to blush. We can feel intimidated by their very presence. We know this because when we are in their presence, our demeanor changes. These are the people that we see in Food Lion and we turn and will go the other way to avoid them.

It is noteworthy that Jesus had EGR people in His life. His own disciples at times were EGR people. He was repeating Himself over and over. They could not catch the message of His heart. They failed over and over again to grasp the magnitude of His mission. Then of course there were the religious leaders of His day. They were constantly trying to catch Him in a misstep so they could accuse Him of falsehood to diminish His mission and power among the people.

The question we need to answer is this, how do we deal with EGR people? To find solutions we turn to Scripture as it is replete with steps to deal with people who irritate us and create problems in our life. Paul himself was embattled by those who required extra grace. He penned the words of this passage to remind us that we have a way to deal with those who need extra grace. What does he suggest?

To begin with Paul defines those who are to take these actions and show grace. It is God’s chosen ones who must show grace. Who is God’s chosen? It is you and I who have accepted Christ as our personal Savior and our Lord. It is those who have a made a personal commitment to follow Christ with their whole heart, mind, and soul. This message is to those who love God and desire to be a passionate follower of Christ. However, regardless of one’s spiritual foundation or maturity, these actions will assist you with the EGR people in your life even if you are not a believer.

The actions Paul suggest are contrary to the way many people respond to those who irritate them or meddle in their affairs. But as we must remember there is much that God calls us to do that runs against the societal norms and acceptable behaviors of those around us. Look at how Paul describes what our response should be. He says, Put on then, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Do you get this list? Do you grasp what Paul is saying here? 

Our attitude toward the EGR people needs to be different when we represent Jesus, the one who modeled this lifestyle to us. We need compassionate hearts filled with kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and love toward the EGR people around us. It seems to me that in the society we now live, people are too busy getting even, having their own way, and manipulating outcomes rather than obeying Paul’s advice. 

When it comes to EGR people we are often quick to follow the letter of the law but slow to give grace, which is the spirit of the law. We want to get even or shut them up but that is not God’s described plan for us. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). It is the all sufficiency of God that gives us grace to give grace to others. 

The concept that is presented here is that when we obey the law without recognizing the grace of God, the law kills. The problem is that we become more concerned about the law than about discipleship. That is why Paul states that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. What a contrast? In keeping the law by grace we honor God and we acknowledge His Lordship in our lives. You see to simply keep the letter of the law causes one to become prideful, arrogant, and unfeeling toward others. 

When Jesus came to earth, He turned the ideas about the law upside down. He did not deny the law nor did He replace the law. He did bring about a different process for carrying out the specifics of the law. Jesus turned the attention of His hearers to the necessity of having the law within one’s heart and out of that motivation one should seek to obey the law. When we carry out the letter of the law, we too often do so because of a legalistic approach which becomes overbearing and harsh.

We see these principles played out in a couple of passages but one stands out to me. In John 8:3-11 we have the following story. In this story we have the comparison of Jesus who gives grace and those who kept the letter of the law. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

In this story, we find that the Scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus that had been caught in adultery. Notice they brought the woman and placed her in the middle of where Jesus was meeting. They were keeping the law but did so harshly and unlovingly. They stated to Jesus, as if they needed to, that the law required such a woman to be stoned. Notice their motivation was to entrap Jesus. They did not have any mercy on this woman and they did not give her grace.

But notice what Jesus does. He responds with grace and love. While the Scribes and Pharisees were more concerned about the letter of the law, Jesus was more concerned about the person and her healing and growth. It is noteworthy there is never a denial of what the woman had done or why she was there in the first place. She was there because of her sin. Her sin was not denied by the Pharisees, in fact it is magnified. Jesus did not deny her sin but He moved toward her with grace and truth. The Pharisees were selective in the way they enacted the law, which is the antithesis of what grace is all about. The law actually required that both the male and the female to be stoned. They in essence were picking and choosing which law they would enact and how they would enact it. That is a sign of a person who does not follow grace’s mandates. Through grave we obey the whole law but with a different heart, a different purpose, with a different outcome in mind.

It should be noted that the kind of grace-giving that Jesus models does not delight in calling out sin and is it not prideful about being a truth-teller. The person who practices Colossians and God-inspired grace giving is a person deeply committed to the spiritual vitality of others and deeply attuned to their own spiritual poverty without Christ. He or she has a spirit led humility and a willingness to go the extra mile for others. This is all a part of a deep devotion to the family of God, to one another, and for the glory of God. And perhaps, most importantly, a grace-giver has positioned his/herself to receive from friends the very same truth and grace that he or she is committed to giving.

When we face those who need grace, we can listen to one of two voices. We can listen to the critical life killing letter of the law, or we can listen the amazing grace that Christ models. I would suggest that there a few reasons why and how to give grace. Notice the last two things that Paul mentions in Colossians. We must learn to give forgiveness and put on love. Forgiveness received and forgiveness given is a sign of the grace of God in our life. A grace filled life is a life that flows in giving and receiving forgiveness. A letter of the law person is one who has grown bitter and does not easily forget what others have done to them. 

We must also put on love. Our attitude, our motivation, and our reaction to others must be because we love God and we love people. We must show love to everyone because the expression of your love may be the very thing that may win your friend, family member, coworker, or business partner to the Lord. In fact, Jesus made an incredible statement that bears noting here. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).

So how are you doing? Are you a letter of the law Christian or a Spirit driven grace giver. How you deal will others will forever change your life for good or bad.

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Grace and Mercy 

Peninsula Community Church 

Grace and Mercy 

September 9, 2018

Hebrews 4:14-16 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

This is the second installment of our Amazing Grace study. Last week, we looked at the duality of grace and truth to realize that grace does not allow us to do what we want, but rather grace empowers us to overcome sin in our life. This week we will take some time to focus on the idea of grace and mercy. As we do that, we find this passage focuses on the great high priest that came to give Himself to provide the opportunity for us to receive grace and mercy. 

As we examine this passage, we determine that we have a great high priest who passed through the heavens. Here is what I see this means for us. Christ came to earth as a baby born of Mary. He came to us, so we could get to Him. He reached down to us, so we could reach up to Him. He came to fill the void between us and God. 

What is this void? We find in scripture that man could not look upon God because God was completely holy and totally sinless. In fact, God’s glory was so powerful that there was no way for man to look upon God without death. When Moses, one the holiest men ever to live, wanted to see God, God stated that “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). So it was that God in His glorified state could not come to man directly nor could man get to God in his sinful state. There was a great chasm between man and God. That was a big problem. A bridge needed to built and Christ came to be that bridge for us. 

As we noted last week, Jesus came to earth to become man. He dwelled among us and it is here that He sympathized with our weaknesses and our struggles. Notice in this passage that He was tempted in every way we are, but there was a caveat. He was tempted, but He never sinned. He never succumbed to the temptations He faced. He successfully navigated the pitfalls of temptation and was able to maintain His sinless state. Some have rejected this concept as they cannot believe that Jesus was tempted and if He was He could not give into temptation because He was God and God cannot sin. They argue that He could not really understand us if He never sinned, because He was perfect in His ways. 

However, I love what C.S. Lewis had to say about this subject when imagining someone objecting to Jesus being tempted without sin. Here is what Lewis wrote in response to that objection. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.

John Piper suggests that perhaps Jesus can sympathize with us in our allurements to sin, because He was tempted in many areas. Perhaps, he was tempted to covet all the nice things that Zacchaeus owned, when He himself had no place to lay His head. Perhaps, He was tempted to take revenge, when He was wrongly accused. Perhaps, He was tempted to lust, when a young girl Mary wiped His feet with her hair. Perhaps, He was tempted to pout with self-pity, when His disciples fell asleep in his last hour of trial. Perhaps, He was tempted to murmur at God, when John the Baptist died at the whim of a dancing girl. Perhaps, He was tempted to gloat over His accusers, when they couldn’t answer His questions. We do not know if that is true, but we do know that He was tempted in every way we are, but He resisted that temptation and remained pure and sinless. He knows temptation and He knows how to resist temptation. Therefore, He can sympathize with whatever you are facing. He has been there.  

We then come to the crux of the issue here. Because He was tempted without sinning, a door was opened for us to come before the throne of grace with confidence. At that throne He will hear us, and most importantly that He will understand us. It is there we are accepted. That is a miracle in itself. He understands us. He knows us and He is still willing to accept us even with all of our flaws. 

Notice this, the Son of God, who understood grace and mercy more than anyone else, has opened a door so that we can confidently approach the throne of grace. Notice two things here. It is a throne. That tells us that there is majesty and royalty on the throne. Thus the throne needs to be approached with honor and respect. Secondly, it is a throne of grace. While we approach with honor and respect, we do not have to fear the one on the throne in the sense that we believe He will reject us. It is a throne of grace. The problem for so many, and the lie that has been propagated by the enemy of our souls, is that when we have been tempted and we succumb to that temptation, there is no hope. We feel lost and helpless. But notice that when we approach the throne of grace with confidence, He gives us grace and mercy in our time of need. 

You see we approach the throne of grace with confidence, not fear and doubt. We can approach the throne of grace without the fear of rejection and the worry that we are good enough to be accepted by Him. Sometimes, it feels like we are being called into the principle’s office, or before the judge for a crime we have committed. But, when we are in God’s presence, it is a place of grace and mercy. It is a place of acceptance, where we boldly come to ask for repentance and healing. 

Because He has done what He has done, we can approach God with confidence. One of the saddest results of temptation is to be drawn away from God, but the lesson here is that He is for us. Rather than hide from our sin, our wrongs, and the issues we face, we can enter with confidence that He is going to accept us. Rather than trying to hide because of our sin, the author of Hebrews shows us that we should draw near to Jesus, our sympathetic high priest, who gives us access to God’s throne. For those who are in Christ, the throne is not a place of fear, but rather it is a throne of grace! It is not a place of doubt and questioning if He will accept us, it is a throne of grace. It is not a place of rejection because we have sinned some great sin that we believe is past God’s touch. It is a place of grace! It is a place of mercy! 

The story is told of a little boy who wanted to buy a puppy. He had saved his money and the day came to go down to the pet store to buy this new pet. The shop owner paraded several dogs before the young boy and finally he showed the boy four brand new puppies. The boy loved those puppies and wanted to buy them, but when he heard the price he hung his head. He responded that he could not afford to buy them, not even one of them. Suddenly, from around the corner came one last puppy. That puppy was also a part of the litter and had been born with only three legs and several birth defects. The shop owner stated that the dog would never grow up to be a normal dog. The little boy proclaimed emphatically that was the dog He wanted. The shop owner asked him why and the little boy rolled up his pant leg to show that he was missing a leg because he too had a birth defect. He told the shop owner that his family did not reject him and loved him in spite of his defects. The shop owner with a tear in his eye gave the dog to the young boy for free. Because Jesus knows our pain and our shortcomings, He accepts us just the way we are.  Regardless of our defects and issues, God receives us and accepts us, because His throne is one of grace and mercy. 

As we close this morning, let us look at the words grace and mercy for a brief moment. We discussed last week that grace is the unmerited favor of God. By grace we get what we do not deserve. Mercy on the other hand means that we do not get what we do deserve. We deserve death, but Christ came to pay that debt for us. You see the wages of sin is death, but Christ paid that debt upon the cross, and if we come before Him and humble ourselves before Him, He will receive us and give us grace and mercy.

Here is the point being made. We can enter with confidence into the throne room of grace because God understands us. That is amazing and that is amazing grace at its best. Jesus understands this and He knows the difficulties firsthand that we face in every day life. It is for that reason that He can extend us grace and mercy, so that we are free to live full lives, as a result. 

Finally, we can rejoice that there is a throne of grace. What a world would this be if God sat on a throne of “justice” only, and if no mercy were ever to be shown to people! Who is there who would not be overwhelmed with despair? But it is not so. He is on the throne of grace. By day and by night; from year to year; from generation to generation; He is on the throne of grace. In every land He may be approached, and in as many different languages as people speak, they can plead for mercy. In all our trials and temptations we may be assured that He is seated on that throne, and wherever we are, we may approach Him with confidence that He will receive us.

So, where has the enemy lied to you. How often has he communicated to you that you are not worthy to approach God? Where has He lied to you that you have sinned too much or that what you have done could never be forgiven? These are all lies because the throne of grace is alway available to us. We are never prevented from coming to that throne. It is a gift freely given through a God who freely gave His all for us. So, enter now with confidence and boldness. 

Let us pray!

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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What is Hidden Will be Revealed!

Peninsula Community Church 

What is Hidden Will be Revealed!

March 4, 2018

Genesis 3:8-13 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

How many played hide and seek as kids? We probably all did this at some point in time. It was fun to run and hide. The one who was it had to hide their eyes and then count to fifty or whatever the predetermined number would be. Once the counting was over, the person who was it would try to find those who hid. The goal for those who hid was to make it back to base before they were found or tagged. I remember a time when we were playing hide and seek with our kids. Michelle had hidden so well we could not find her. So, the kids and I went downstairs to watch TV and one of them would run upstairs from time to time, as if they were looking for her. She was not happy with us because we did not look for her. While this is a game, hide and seek in real life has a different consequence. This is especially true when we play hide and seek with our sin and our shortcomings.

This morning we continue to look into the subject of spiritual transformation by focusing on the sin that is in our hearts. This discussion is important to transformation as sin causes us to do strange things. It causes fear and shame, it causes us to hide from the realities of our life, and it causes us to blame others for our circumstances. But, “how did we get this way?“ To understand this we must turn our attention to the Garden of Eden. It is here God in His wisdom created mankind with the ability to choose right from wrong. He created us with the ability to decide what we will choose to do. Because of the ability to choose, we must not under estimate the power of free will. Because of free will, we have the ability and freedom to make bad choices and do things that are opposed to God’s way of thinking.

The natural outcome of our wrong choices or sin is seen in this story. The natural inclination is to hide our sin and shortcomings as a result of fear and shame. The problem revealed  is that we are afraid we will be exposed for who we are rather than for what we want people to think we are. When it comes to the transformation of the heart, we cannot be truly transformed until the hidden things of the heart are revealed. We cannot stop at just knowing the truth without setting into action the inward changes that redeem our mindsets and give us a new hope.

As we review the passage before us today, we find that Adam and Eve were frightened, they covered up their shame, and they try to hide from God. What a statement! No one taught them this, but they were motivated to do so because of their sin. This was amazing because as a creation of God they had ever thing they needed. As a creation of God, they had no concerns or cares. As a creation of God, they lived in the Utopia most people only dream of today. They were  a creation of God and were created as a perfect being, but now they were filled with fear.

This action exposed a process that is so common to the work of sin. We see something we want. We covet that thing, person, or attitude. We take hold of the item and then once we have indulged in that pleasure, we try to hide the results of our actions and the sin we have committed. It is amazing how skilled we can be at hiding sin. We are so good there are times we hide our sin so deeply, we believe we have taken care of it, only to find it has festered which effects us later. Unfortunately, when sin is hidden it can be exposed at the most inopportune time. Scripture reminds us that we can be assured that our sin will find us out (Numbers 32:23).

Notice four reactions of Adam and Eve to the sin they committed. First of all, they hid. The first response to sin tends to be to hide the sin rather than expose it. The greatest way to hide is to deny. Dallas Willard suggests that denial is a form of rationalization. We rationalize our sin and try to justify its existence. We try to suggest that it is not hurting any one but ourselves. We try to suggest that everyone else is doing it, so, it is okey for us to indulge. We even try to say that no one will ever find out about it so it is okey. We regionalize our sin, but I want you to know that if you are renationalizing your sin, you probably need to expose it and deal with it.

The second response to their sin was that they were afraid. Hidden sin leads to a distorted view of God. When we refuse to confess our sin and wrong doing, we often have a view of God that is less than what God intended. We believe that God is a God that punishes us and is just waiting to wipe us off the face of the earth. Rather than accepting the forgiveness of God, Adam and Eve were guilty of walking in fear and trying to hide their sin.

The third response is they were ashamed of what was up to that point a natural way of life. Because they recognized their nakedness for the first time, they were now ashamed. The remedy they chose was to cover themselves in an effort to remove the shame. As then, shame has always had a powerful effect upon us. It demoralizes us and causes us to be ineffective in many ways. It can also cause us to overcompensate for the hidden areas of our life.

John Piper in dealing with the subject of shame had this to say. “Because sin is alive in our bodies and because we are beset with weakness, the kind of shame we often experience is a potent combination of failure and pride. We fail morally (sin), we fail due to our limitations (weakness), and we fail because the creation is subject to futility and doesn’t work right. We also fail to live up to other people’s expectations. And because we are full of sinful pride, we are ashamed of our failures and weaknesses, and will go to almost any length to hide our sin from others.This means pride-fueled shame can wield great power over us. It controls significant parts of our lives and consumes precious energy and time in avoiding exposure.”

The fourth response is they blamed others. Notice a critical factor here. Rather than take responsibility for their sin, Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. They refused to take ownership of their sin and their part of the issue. Please note you might be hiding your sin, if you are blaming others. In blaming others, we try deflect our problems from ourselves. If we can make someone else be the cause of our sin, then we can put that on them and therefore we fail to take responsibility.

So what is the answer? Let me give you two things for your consideration this morning. First, we must allow the light of the Gospel to shine into the darkness. Rather than hide from God and hide the sin in our hearts, we must expose the sin and bring it into the light. Dallas Willard stated that “The only path of spiritual transformation today lies through illumination. The prophetic illumination of the human soul in its lostness is emphatic, starkly clear, and is repeated over and over again, from Moses and Samuel to Jesus, Paul, and John. This illumination must be gratefully and humbly accepted and applied to oneself above all.”

To do this, we must take ownership of our sin and not deflect or hide it. We must allow the light of the Gospel to penetrate the darkest areas of our hearts. It is not by accident that Scripture is replete with verses that speak to the power and necessity of letting the light shine into our hearts. The only path to transformation lies in the power of illumination to expose the hidden areas of our hearts.

In Psalm 119:11 we find the Psalmist proclaim I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. And then in Psalm 119:105 he states Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. John in his writings also addressed Jesus as being the light in John 1:4-5. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. In 1 John 1, John says This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 

Secondly, we must understand that sin does not make one worthless, it only causes us to be lost. The problem with hidden, unconfessed sin is that it can create a mindset that we are failures and there is no hope but that is not God’s plan. Listen to the promise of Scripture. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1). And finally, James stated, Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16). There is healing and there is power in bringing our sin into the light.

Ruth Graham, Billy’s daughter, during Billy Graham’s funeral, stated that she had failed big time in her life. Her first marriage ended in divorce. She fell in love with a second man. She married this man after being warned by her family to not marry him. She married him and within 24 hours she knew something was wrong. In less than five weeks she left him. She knew she had to go home and face her dad. She took the long two day ride home and as she wound her way up the road to the house, she found her dad standing there. Rather than condemning her, he took her in his arms and welcomed her home. There was no guilt and no shame exhibited. By Billy’s reaction she experienced a better understanding of who God was. That was her father and that was her God.

Today Jesus is standing with open arms to receive you. There is no guilt, shame, or condemnation only acceptance and forgiveness. He invites you home to receive His love and grace.

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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