How do you find forgiveness when you just keep messing up over and over again? Today, Kent helps us to learn how to get unstuck and allow ourselves to be forgiven. When you give at Harmony, you are investing in life change and are Advancing the Kingdom! GIVE TODAY, text any amount to (859) 459-0316 to get started (or give online @ my.harmonychurch.cc/give .
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OPENING ILLUSTRATION: I have two vivid experiences that stick out in my mind about 6 years apart. The first was being a young youth pastor at a camp. I heard this preacher preaching and he was talking about how hard it can be to forgive yourself when you’ve messed up and sinned. I couldn’t understand it. I was still new enough in my faith that I just couldn’t believe God would take me as I was. I thought – “who are these people that thought they were so good who had messed up so bad that they couldn’t see how God could forgive them?“
Then, I kept aging. Fast forward a few years and it seems like all I could see was my failings.
Early on as a Christian – God’s Holiness and grace were like a warm fire calling me to Him.
Now I just felt set on fire by my inability to live up to what I felt like I knew it meant to follow Jesus.
I know I’m alone in feeling this…-No one else ever feels like a spiritual failure-
No one else ever struggles with sin-No one else knows what it’s like to want to do good but end up doing evil…
What do you do with that?
If you have ever felt this – let me encourage you – You are not alone.
listen to PaulRomans 7:17-24 (the Message)17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
Do you feel the pain in Paul’s situation? do you feel the pain in your own situation?
What do you do when you want to please God, but you keep doing the opposite? How do you get spiritual traction towards God?
3 things you can do right now to get unstuck in your relationship with God.
1. Check and then change your theology
ILLUSTRATION: Years ago I read a book by an old Catholic Priest who was an alcoholic – Brennan Manning. It was one of the most influential books of my late 20’s. Manning talked about this conundrum that most of us find ourselves in. Knowing better but still doing what we don’t want to do.
He said something that was so profound that it has stuck with me all these years. He said, Jesus didn’t die because you can be perfect, He died because you are not.
Paul says it this way: Romans 5:8 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
There is this strange theology in Christianity that you have to fix yourself. You have to be better. It’s where this whole conundrum comes from. Most of us are left with bedtime promises – we lay in bed at night and think,
I’ll do better next time…
ILLUSTRATION: I remember when I first came to Jesus really struggling with cursing like a sailor. It had been part of my muscle memory for years and I just couldn’t stop or get control over it. I had been laying in bed, praying, God, I just want to stop, but I can’t stop. that’s when God spoke something to my soul that changed my life.
He said, “Kent, stop focusing on not sinning and instead focus on me, the one who can take away your sin.”
So many of us have believed that Christianity is about Sin management
I have to manage my sinful behavior. The old way of saying it was “don’t cuss, don’t chew, or go with girls who do”
When we focus on sin management we lose sight of the Savior. Your job is not to perfect yourself – if you could do that, you wouldn’t need Jesus. Your job is to come to the one who can make you perfect.
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Get your theology and thinking right – stop trying to not sin and instead, start trying to know God.
When I made that change, I found that I eventually just stopped cussing – because my nature had changed.
2. Be honest about your desires and die to them – change your desire point.
Can I just tell you something you may not have come to grips with yet but need to?
You sin because you like it…It does something for you, makes you feel good, powerful, comforted, gets you your way, etc. There is something about your sin that has “worked” for you.
ILLUSTRATION: I used to have a professor who would say, “I don’t look at nudity because I don’t like it, I don’t look at it because I like it too much”
ILLUSTRATION: I’m not much of a fisherman. I actually really enjoy it, but I don’t know ANYTHING about it. More often than not, I spend all my time not catching anything. But occasionally, the sky will open and God will shine down on me and I’ll start getting some fish on the line.
You know how fishing works right? We promise them dinner and give them death.
They see a worm when what you are really giving them is the hook
This is what sin is like. It promises us a treat and gives us tragedy. Once you bite, you feel it bite back. But we keep biting because whatever it gives you is what you truly desire.
This is what you have to deal with1 Peter 2:11Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.
Your sinful desires that “worked” for you (satisfied some internal need) are waging war against your soul.-they wage war because they set themselves up in a position to take the place of God as Savior in your life.
The only answer to this is not to “be better” but to “die to yourself”
Galatians 2:20-21 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
3. Forgive yourself – stop living in shame and start letting Grace fuel you.
2 Cor 5:17-18 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation
1 Jn 1:9 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
You have been forgiven! Live in it!
Grace is not just something you needed for salvation – it’s the fuel you should live your life by.
Live your life in the shadow of the cross and you won’t have to live a life marked by shame.
CLOSING: We used to have this basset hound for a while when we lived in Kansas. We didn’t have a fence and we had gotten the dog from the pound. I bought one of those in-ground fence systems and had trenched all around our yard and set it all up. I spent an entire month taking the dog outside to use the bathroom every day several times a day. I finally got to the point where it was time to take the dog off-leash. I was SO pumped. I took her off. She went over and pooped and then looked at me. She didn’t even try and run. Then she went over and peed. She looked at me again, then did that scratch the ground move dogs do. And before I could even do anything, she took off running straight for the field behind our house. There was a barbed-wire fence and she jumped straight through it was out in the field running as fast as she can.
She thought she had run to freedom. But if I hadn’t gone after her, it would have ended in death for her. There were coyotes out that field. There was no food source for miles and no water source for miles. She would have died if I hadn’t gone after her…
One of the things I love about Jesus is that even when we jump the fence and run. He is coming after us. He has come after you. He came to earth to die for you, even after you jumped the fence and went your own way. What if today, you did something uncharacteristic and you came back to Him when He called. Today, God is calling some of you to true freedom in Him. Where He will feed you, care for you, give you love and life. Out there isn’t life and freedom, it’s really death – it is in Jesus that true life exists..