Tag Archives: forgiveness

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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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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