This weekend I felt like a little kid at a candy store. You don’t need to be rude and remind me that I am not a kid. I am old. I wasn’t at a candy store either. Everybody likes to go to a candy store! I was at a place that many people would probably consider as far from a candy store as the East is from the West. A more accurate comparison would be … “as a New York City person is to a Tennessee Hillbilly. (I can say “Hillbilly” because I am one!)
So, where was I that is not always seen as a super sweet place for some? I was at church. To be exact, I was at two churches…two churches that may even be thought of as some of the sourest of all! I was at my small Lutheran church (which I believe is very unusual for a Lutheran church -we have a VERY contemporary service with a praise band and very little “froo-froo” extra bells and whistles)…And I was at a big local Baptist church (which seemed to me to be an unusual Baptist church… they had a contemporary praise band too!)
The fact that I go to a Lutheran Church and that I was in a Baptist church is in and of itself unusual. But I want God to broaden my horizons and my mind! Does it make you laugh to think that my going to a Lutheran and a Baptist church would “broaden my mind and horizons”? Does it make you laugh a little? Maybe a snicker? A grin? Honestly…it has been very humbling. It has shown me that I really cannot have pre-conceived (and judgmental) notions based on what I have heard or even what I have experienced in the past. One Lutheran Church does not represent all. One Baptist Church does not represent all. One Southerner with a big truck doesn’t represent all. One mean teacher; hypocritical preacher; crooked politician; radical religious extremist; abusive spouse; neglectful parent; or tattooed teen does not represent all teachers, preachers, politicians, worshippers… We must learn to look at things individually and not lazily lump all things with similar titles or appearances together.
I want to get to a place where I can go into any unknown situations or meet anyone with an open-mind and heart. That is my goal.
Let me start first with the “Ahh-Haa! Eureka! By Goodie!” moment that occurred during the Sunday morning sermon preached by Pastor Scott Hawkins. His message was A Life-Changing Bit of Information and I immediately thought, “THIS is WAY TOO GOOD and Important! I MUST share this with everyone!”
Are you ready? Hold on to your hats! This should change our world if we will hear it and understand it and practice it.
First we need to hear the words from 1 John 1:9.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)
Now let’s hear James 5:16.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (NIV)
Let’s try to understand this. God PROMISES to forgive our sins. He will wipe away all of the things that we have done that make us unworthy to come near to Him. He wants for us to be near Him…always. When we truly and humbly repent for the things that we have done wrong and for the things that we have failed to do that we should have done…He will forgive us.
When we confess our sins, he will FORGIVE. That is His promise to us.
But He does not promise that he will heal the feeling of shame or hurt or guilt or anger or sadness or jealousy or hatred or bitterness or broken-ness that has grown inside of us because of our sin or the wrongs done to us.
GOD forgives and makes us acceptable in HIS sight. He does not promise to make us acceptable in our own sight. But He gives us a way. He gives us a way to heal our feelings of shame and hurt and anger and sadness and jealousy and hatred and bitterness and broken-ness. He gives us a way to be encouraged to make it through tough times and be strong in temptation and reject addictions or relationships or thoughts that could harm us.
He gave us each other.
He tells us that is we confess our sins to people who we can trust and who love us and who will hold us accountable and who will pray for us …then we will be HEALED.
Are there 3 or 4 people in your life who DEEPLY know your heart? Who you can confide any thoughts or actions to and you know that they will love you and help you and talk you through it with sound and loving advice? Do you have 3 or 4 people in your life who will stand up or take up for you…or who will pull you up when you fall down…or just hold you close until you are ready to rise again?
God made a way for us to be forgiven in His sight. There is nothing that we need to do other than accept the free gift and live a life that indicates that we understand what He did. Our life should be full of thankfulness and gratitude and appreciation…but if we are not feeling thankful or grateful or appreciative YET we probably need to HEAL. We won’t know how good the forgiveness of God feels until we have forgiven our self. And God tells us that we must seek healing through the love and care and concern of a community…of people.
That was what Jesus tried to model to us.
Jesus lived in close community with his friends. Jesus was rarely alone…only when he went to pray. And even on the night that Jesus was about to be betrayed and he went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray…Jesus took his disciples.
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time…
Jesus was not nearly as concerned about the physical torture that he was about to receive. He was not nearly as concerned with the pain of crucifixion that he knew was imminent as he was with the knowledge that he was about to be left completely and utterly alone for the first time… in forever. Jesus has since the Beginning been completely connected to and aware of the presence of His Father and The Holy Spirit…and he was about to be alone. He was about to be ripped from connection with God. He was about to enter Hell alone. The pain of a whip ripping his back apart or nails being driven into his hands and feet or a crown of thorns being shoved roughly on his head or a spear piercing his side was nothing compared to being alone.
How many of us feel completely abandoned? Completely unconnected or uncared for or alone? How many of us do not feel like there is anyone in our life that knows us deeply and loves us unconditionally or who would stand up for us…or pray over us…or help us get through this painful thing called living in this world?
Jesus prayed for God to take the cup that was this knowledge of utter alone-ness away from him…if there was another way. But there was no other way. And Jesus was obedient to what had to be done for you and for me…to go against his deepest need to be joined together with others.
He knows how it feels. And it is not good. It is terrible. We will not heal…we will not be able to be whole without each other.
We are Forgiven. But don’t we also want to be healed?
Jesus needed intimate community…with his Father and Spirit….with his friends.
So do we.
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Acts 4 (NIV)
I am not asking your to live in a commune…but live in community. It is not just a nice idea…it is vital for us…for you and for me and for the person that needs us.