Today, as we finish up our last Sunday in our series, Forgiveness 101, I want to spend some time discussing the most difficult and challenging aspect of forgiveness. In my opinion, forgiveness is most challenging, when the people or person we are asked to forgive are those who are closest to us! In my opinion, there is no hurt, like the hurt, we experience from those close to us! There is no pain, like the pain, we experience at the hands of someone we know! There is no stronger anger, when the actions of those closest to us, provoke us to be angry! There is nothing more upsetting and discouraging when we have been deceived, lied on, betrayed, and stabbed in the back by those closest to us! I think The O’Jays said it like this:
(What they do!)
(They smile in your face)
All the time they want to take your place
The back stabbers (back stabbers)
All the time they want to take your place
The back stabbers (back stabbers)
I keep gettin’ all these visits from my friends,
yeah, what they doin to me
They come to my house again and again and again and again, yeah
So are they there to see my woman
I don’t even be home but they just keep on comin’
What can I do to get on the right track
I wish they’d take some of these knives off my back
(They smile in your face)
All the time they want to take your place
The back stabbers (back stabbers)
Low down… dirty…
Get this, the O’Jays aren’t mad at their haters, or about the fact people are trying to take their woman, or even stab them in the back, but they’re mad because the haters, people trying to steal their woman, and stab them in the back are their those closest to them! I repeat, sometimes the people closest to us, will hurt us the most; and its the people closest to us, that’s the hardest to forgive! Not only is hard to forgive the people or person closest to us, but there are times when the hardest person to forgive is ourselves! Church you and I both know, that it’s hard to forgive me, myself, and I. If you know like I know, as people, we can be hard on ourselves! Do me a favor, turn to your neighbor, and ask them, do you need to forgive yourself?
It’s hard to forgive ourselves, because nobody knows our flaws, like we know our flaws! Nobody knows our deepest secrets, like we know our deepest secrets! Nobody knows how bad we messed up, like we know how bad we messed up! Nobody knows our sinful thoughts, like we know our sinful thoughts! No one knows that we lied, but we know we lied! No one knows that we stole, but we know that we stole! No one knows that we cheated on that test, but we know we cheated on the test! No one knows that we were unfaithful, but we know how unfaithful we were! No one knows we took that drink, but we know we had too many drinks! No one knows about our habit, but we know about our habit! No one knows, what we did, like we know what we did! No one knows what we should have done, but we know what we should have done! We keep struggling with the same issue, year after year because we haven’t forgave ourselves!
Church, all I’m saying is, it’s hard to forgive ourselves! We can forgive Pookie, Junebug, Lisa, Johnny, Jane, and Harry, but when it comes to forgiving ourselves, we won’t do it! For some strange reason, we tend to be harder on ourselves than anybody else! In my opinion, when we refuse to forgive ourselves, we refuse to accept God’s forgiveness in our lives! By refusing God’s forgiveness, we refuse the work of Christ on the Cross! When we refuse the work of Christ on the Cross, there is no way that God can offer us salvation, and when we don’t have salvation, we book ourselves a 1-way ticket to hell!
On the other hand, as I read this pericope of scripture, perhaps the real reason that we struggle to forgive ourselves is BECAUSE WE CAN’T forgive ourselves! Let me say that one more time, because someone missed it, the real reason that we struggle to forgive ourselves is BECAUSE WE CAN’T forgive ourselves! Ladies and gentlemen, in preparing for this sermon, it dawned on me, that you nor I have the power to forgive ourselves of anything! Only God has the power and ability to forgive our sins!
The GOOD NEWS is this, there is a God that can break every chain of guilt, shame, unbelief, perfectionism, self-condemnation, self-hate, low self-esteem, and un-forgiveness that we struggle with! There is a God, that forgives us for every wrong doing, slip up, and mess up! There is a God, that loves us, in spite of our flaws! There is a God, that loves us in spite of our shortcomings! There is a God, who loves us in spite of our sin, and there is a God who loves us, even when we don’t love ourselves! And today, in the book of Romans, we encounter Paul, the globetrotting Apostle, writing to Christians in Rome, to share his interpretation of the gospel message!
Like Washington DC is to America and Raleigh is to NC, Rome was the capital city of the Roman Empire. Because it was the capital, Rome was known to be very powerful, having a strong military presence, having an organized government, comprised of people who were upper- class, middle- class, and the poor class. In Rome, there were the educated and uneducated, blue collar and white collar workers, religious and unreligious, and the Jews and Gentiles! Like Africans dispersed throughout South America, the Caribbean, and North America, the Jewish believers in the New Testament had been dispersed throughout the Roman Empire!
In this epistle, Paul is in Corinth writing a letter of introduction to the Christians in Rome, because he plans to visit with them while on his journey to do ministry in Spain. Furthermore, some scholars believe that Paul writes this letter to ask the church in Rome for money, to support his missionary assignment. This letter differs from his previous writings because, unlike his other epistles, Romans was written to a church that Paul did not start or had yet to visit. We don’t even find Paul addressing a particular issue or problem in this local church, but instead he writes in very broad terms about his understanding of salvation and justification. Paul’s main goal was to clear up any misperceptions about his theological views in the gospel message!!
Beginning in chapter 1, all the way through chapter 16, Paul takes his time to share all his views on the hot topics in his day and time!! Paul addressed the Mosaic Law, Adam and Eve, Abraham, the holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, circumcision, justification, righteousness, salvation, love, sin, guilt, judgement, Christian behavior, civil authority, and even paying taxes! I would imagine if Paul was living in 2014, he would also address the hot topics of our day! He’d address child immigration issues at the Texas border, the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, the tension between Russia and Ukraine, Malaysian Airlines and missing planes, he’d tweet #bringbackourgirls in Nigeria, he’d talk about Eric Garner a man unjustly murdered by New York City police, he’d address gay marriage, gun violence in Chicago, teacher pay in North Carolina, and the state of our young people here in America! Paul wouldn’t be afraid to preach and teach about any relevant issues!
Now, as we shine the spotlight back on chapter 3, we find Paul addressing a trending topic in this text! The controversial issue that Paul is dealing with is the subject of justification and how the Jews and Gentiles receive its benefits! If you can, please keep justification at the forefront of your mind. Justification means to be upright, just, and made innocent of sin in God’s sight! One more time, Justification means to be upright, just, and made innocent of sin in God’s sight! Now turn to your neighbor and say, Justification means to be upright, just, and made innocent of sin in God’s sight!
The major problem that the Jews and Gentiles faced, is that they thought justification came through the Mosaic Laws and Old Testament traditions! The Jews thought that obeying the Decalogue or the 10 Commandments was enough to make them innocent in God’s sight! They thought that serving no false gods or idols, not taking the Lord’s name in vain, keeping the sabbath holy, honoring their parents, not killing or stealing, not committing adultery, not bearing false witness, nor coveting their neighbor’s property was enough to keep them clean and holy in God’s sight! Not only were the Jews misled, but the Gentiles were misled because they thought that circumcision and the Law made them Jewish, and upright in God’s sight.
Church, for the Jews and Gentiles to believe that the Law or circumcision made them right with God, was them trusting in their own human efforts! When they put their trust in their human efforts, they deceived themselves into believing that their works, wit, and intelligence was enough to unlock the door to their forgiveness!
Sadly, too many of us are guilty of trying to fix our lives by ourselves! We buy self-help book after self-help book, then we try to think positive thoughts, then we try watching Dr. Phil, then we read the daily horoscope, then we call Madame Cleo, then we search the internet to see whats wrong with us, or we grab our Bibles and try to be perfect and pious Christians! Part of the reason people think church folk are hypocrites, is because we act like we ain’t never been through nothing! I’m just blessed and highly favored! God is good, all the time, all the time, God is good! We’re so heavenly bound, we’re no earthly good! Just like the Jews and Gentiles, when we attempt to somehow forgive ourselves, we fool ourselves into believing that we have the power, ability, or creativity to actually achieve self-forgiveness! Paul says in verse 20, that the Law does nothing but make us aware of our sin, not save us from our sin! And for us to get to the place where we can truly forgive ourselves, we first need to realize that there is no way we can forgive ourselves, and then and only then can we embrace God’s plan of forgiveness through justification, as outlined by Paul!
Therefore, if the Law couldn’t make the Jews right with God, circumcision and false idols couldn’t make the Gentiles right with God, and we can’t forgive ourselves, then how do we begin the process of being made right with God (justification)? After all we’ve done, how will we and God ever view ourselves worthy of forgiveness? The first lesson the text teaches us is probably the hardest lesson for all of us to learn! Ladies and gentlemen, we begin the process of forgiveness and being made right with God, by recognizing We All Have Flaws! Let’s look at what it says in verse 23 from the King James version, “3For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God!” Is that what your Bible says?? In the Good News translation it reads, “everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence.” In the New Living Translation it reads, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” In every translation and version, it says all, everyone, and errybody has sinned!! Not some! Not 2 or 3, Not the Baptist or the Methodist! Not the black or the white people! Not the rich or poor! Not the democrats or republicans! Not the Jews or Gentiles! Not the saved or the unsaved, but errryboody has flaws! We ALL have FLAWS that lead us into sin!
So, if we all have flaws and we’re all gonna sin, what makes us think that we have a shot at being perfect?! If we all have flaws, why you so hard on yourself? If we all have flaws, why set a standard of living for ourselves, that we can’t reach? If we all have flaws, why such unfair expectations? If we all have flaws, why you keep condemning yourself? If we all have flaws, why won’t you accept God’s forgiveness? The text clearly says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
Not only do we have flaws, but guess what, even folk in the Bible had flaws that caused them to sin! In the Old Testament, Father Abraham lied multiple times about Sara being his wife, and he doubted that God could give him children because of his old age. Noah, the man who built the Ark, was known for being a drunk. Moses, the man who led the people out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, killed a man at an early age. Jacob, a man who wrestled with an angel, had his name changed to Israel, was known for being a liar after he stole his brother’s blessing! Rahab, assisted the Children of Israel by hiding spies in her house, but she was also a prostitute! David defeated Goliath, was anointed King at an early age, wrote many Psalms, a man after God’s own heart, but had a man murdered and slept with his wife! King Solomon was a great and wise king, but was known to have had over 700 wives and 300 women on the side! Jonah had a God given purpose, but begin his ministry by running from God! Peter was a disciple of Jesus and the rock of the church, but he cut a man’s ear off and denied Jesus 3 times! Paul was known for killing Christians, but right now we’re reading his book! We find countless examples of flawed, messed up, imperfect, and sinful people in the Bible, but they still allowed God to turn their lives around and use them, despite how flawed they were! They said, “I might not be what I want to be, but thank God, I’m not what I used to be! Church, we can begin the justification process in our lives and become innocent in God’s sight, as soon as we recognize We All Have Flaws!
Not only do we need to know, the how of forgiveness and justification, but we also need to know the WHO! The text says in verse 24, “24But by the free gift of God’s grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free.” It’s clear throughout the whole book of Romans, that men and women need to be put back right with God, due to the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden! Adam and Even broke and separated our connection and standing with God. In the book of Genesis, as soon as Satan was allowed to come between God and mankind, our relationship with God was severed! Because of this broken relationship, the Bible reveals the story of man and God trying to FIX their relationship!
So with that said, this is my 2nd point, in order for us to be justified in God’s sight, We All Need a Fixer to get the job done! You do know what a fixer is, right?? A Fixer is, someone who intervenes with authorities for a person in trouble (usually using underhand or illegal methods for a payment)” I believe we’ve all seen a fixer at work, come on don’t play holy on me! I’m sure some of y’all watch a fixer every Thursday night in the fall and spring?? Anyone ever heard of Scandal?? Anyone ever heard of Mrs. Olivia Pope, the professional fixer, played by the talented Kerry Washington?? Whenever something goes down with President Fitz, Olivia Pope fixes it! Whenever something goes down with Harrison, Olivia Pope fixes it! Whenever something goes down with Huck, Olivia Pope fixes it! Whenever something goes down with Abby, Olivia Pope fixes it! Whenever something goes down with Cyrus, Olivia Pope fixes it! Whenever something goes down, they call Olivia Pope, because she’s the fixer! Sadly, just like you and me, whenever something goes down with Olivia, she can’t seem to fix her own mess! Which is why We All Need a Fixer who’s never lost a case, We All Need a Fixer who’s never lost a patient, We All Need a Fixer who’s never fell asleep on the job! And We All Need a Fixer who’s always there for us!
Beloved, the only way for us to forgive ourselves and be put right in God’s eyes to allow Jesus to fix us! The truth is, we can’t change others, we can’t change ourselves, we can’t forgive ourselves, and neither can we fix ourselves! God, our father in heaven, loved us so much, that he sent us his only begotten son to fix us! Jesus is our fixer! Jesus is the one and only fixer! Jesus is our mediator! Jesus is our intercessor! Jesus is our bridge to God! Jesus is our middle man! Jesus is our connector! Jesus is our missing link! It’s Jesus and only Jesus that fixes all our flaws!
Why do we need Olivia Pope, when we have Jesus?
Why do we need Buddah, Krishna, or Muhammad when we have Jesus!
Why do we need Seagrams, Johhny Walker, and Budweiser when we have the living water in Jesus?
Why do we need the dope man, when we have the hope man in Jesus?
Why do we need the good time girl, when we have the Good Shepherd in Jesus?
Why do we depend on people, places, and things to fix and help us, when we have the bright and morning star in Jesus?
Can’t nobody do us like Jesus!
Can’t nobody fix us up like Jesus!
Can’t nobody love us like Jesus!
Can’t nobody change us like Jesus!
Have I got a witness this morning?
Can anybody testify this morning, that all we need is Jesus?
Do you believe that Jesus is enough?
Do you believe that Jesus can pick you up, turn you around, and place your feet on solid ground?
****Jesus Object Lesson****
Old Testament brief History of atonement
Sticky notes with sins on them
Jesus lie on the altar as the perfect sacrifice
Lastly, not only do we need remember that We All Have Flaws, know that We ALL Have a Fixer in Jesus, but we need know WHAT completes the justification process! The only way that we can allow forgiveness to be complete in our lives is to HAVE FAITH IN THE FIXER! If we go back and read verse 25 and 26, they both inform us that it requires faith and belief for Jesus to be our Fixer! If we want our lives fixed, it’s going to take faith! Paul is suggesting in this text that God only requires us to have FAITH in Jesus! Paul is saying, yes all of our flaws cause us to sin! Yes, we’re all guilty of sin! Yes, we’re all imperfect! Yes, God can and should judge us according to our sins! However, if we just believe and have faith in his son, God will give us a clean slate! If we just believe and have faith in his son, God will look the other way! If we just believe and have faith in his son, God will throw out the case! If we just believe and have faith in his son, God will dismiss the charges! If we just believe and have faith in his son, God will pronounce us not guilty!
All it takes is belief and faith in his son! He’s not asking much from us, just belief and faith! God is saying, have faith, in what my son did on that old rugged cross 2014 years ago and believe that it still has power today! God is saying, have faith, that the blood of Jesus can cover you! God is saying, have faith, that even though he died on a Friday night, 3days later he got up on a Sunday morning! If I were Baptist, I’d say, “Earrrrrly Sunday Morning!” God is saying, have faith, that Jesus got up with all power in his hand! Some of us may be asking, what is FAITH again? FAITH is placing our complete and 100% trust, hopes, beliefs, concerns, cares, and love in a God we have not see physically seen, yet acknowledging all of the evidence that point to him!
We can have FAITH because the BIBLE says in Hebrews ch,13, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forevermore. We can have FAITH because the BIBLE says in John ch. 1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. We can have FAITH because the BIBLE says in Colossians ch. 1, For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. We can have FAITH because the BIBLE says in Matthew 18, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” We can have FAITH because the BIBLE says in John 14, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
And when we have, we understand that we can do all things through Christ that strengthens us! In the Old Testament the question is asked, is there anything to hard for the Lord?? St. Mark, is there anything to hard for the Lord?? St. Mark, if God be for us, who can be against us??? St. Mark, what can separate us from the Love of Christ?
We can walk in victory
We can walk in power
We can receive his healing
We can live on purpose
We can be a witness for Jesus
We can finish what we start