Week Six

Lord, Am I Forgiven?

Psalm 51
Jeremiah 31: 33,34
Luke 24:44-49
Romans 7:18-25


Goldie Hawn and the Movie Overboard, we live by grace.
In confession we do the following:
Come to terms with our responsibility.
Name the sin to God and to another.
Listen to another’s confession.

Lord, Am I Forgiven?

Last week we looked at Success. We saw how the Counsel of Christ helps us gain wisdom about that we are doing. Fundamental to success as a person is giving up false images. We have false images about God, about ourselves and others. Often, behind that false image is some hurt. Sometimes those hurts are from family and friends. Sometimes we hurt from external circumstances, genetics or something as universal as aging. It makes no difference. Buried pain has the same result. It steals the joy of living and blinds us to what the possibility really are.

As God heals us, we gain freedom to change. We become able to fulfill the role God has for us, to love others with the love we meet in Jesus Christ. This is the New Command that Jesus gave us (John 13: 34b), the central foundation of our daily walk with God. This week we look at confession, forgiveness and healing.

In confession to God we receive forgiveness. In confession to another we receive healing. I think most of us grasp the first point. What some of you may not have thought about is the importance of confessing to at least one other person.

In confession to others we discover we live by grace. You see, people usually already know the things we fear others might come to realize about us. We have been forgiven already. We live by grace. In the classic comedy “Overboard,” Goldie Hawn pays a spoiled fabulously rich woman who falls overboard. She hits her head and has amnesia. The carpenter who had been building her a rotating shoe rack for her fishes her out of the water. As he takes her to the hospital, her husband steams off into the sunset with her yacht. The adventure begins. The carpenter’s had wife left him leaving three out of control boys behind. He takes her home and tells her they are married and the impossible children she sees are theirs.

After spending several months as a contractor’s wife with the nearly impossible boys, she remembers her old life. She returns to it, but fundamentally changed.

As a middleclass wife of a decent, hard working guy her focus had been on her household. She just could not return to her old ways where her focus had been entirely on herself. In a marvelous scene she confesses to the chief of staff of her yacht that she is an impossible brat and has treated him poorly. She is visibly surprised when he says in effect, “Yep, you can be dreadful. I know that. I have always wished you well.”

And that is the point. Almost always, others know, understand and have forgiven most of what we are afraid that they will discover about us. Confession is a process of discovering that we have been living by grace for a long time. The healing we experience infuses our relationships with joyful easy companionship. Healing and release. Now that is good news!

The ministry of confession comes slowly to most people. Many of us belong to what has been called the Silent Generation. We just don’t talk about it. We don’t air dirty laundry. Just because our faith teaches us that we are to confess to one another in order to experience healing doesn’t mean we do it. Evidently Paul forgot to listen to our mothers. Mine, anyhow, use to say, “What will the neighbor’s think!” That always confused me because my mother had little to do with either of our neighbors. She did not like them much. So why was she so adamant about that? I always found adults to be confusing as a child, and now that I am one I am still confused. We just cannot love other’s with the love of Christ without the ministry of confession/forgiveness.

We talk about being New Testament or New Covenant people. Hear again what God has to say about this new relationship. We used this as our Call to Worship today.

   "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
     after that time," declares the LORD.
     "I will put my law in their minds
     and write it on their hearts.
     I will be their God,
     and they will be my people.
     No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
     or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,'
     because they will all know me,
     from the least of them to the greatest,"
     declares the LORD.
     "For I will forgive their wickedness
     and will remember their sins no more."
Jeremiah 31: 33,34 NIV

Did you get that? The love of God is written on our hearts. What is written?

     "For I will forgive their wickedness
     and will remember their sins no more."

God forgives your wickedness. Therefore, it is natural for you to be relieved and joyful. To love others with Christ’s love we must know, understand and practice Confession. Confession is where shame meets grace.

Confession is about seeing our part in today’s relationship issues rather than hiding from them until there is an explosion. In the story of the Fall, God finds Adam and Eve hiding in the bushes. They cannot hide any longer, so they move to tactic number two, blame someone else. “Why are you taking to me, Lord, she made me do it.” Wow, that made matters better, right? The nature of blaming is to complicate our relationships. We take a relatively small issue and create other larger ones. When that did not work, Eve resorted to the third common strategy, rationalization. Well, Lord it was the snake and you made the snake and so the problem is the way reality works. So we begin with shame, then hurt others through blame then try to hang it on God’s design of the universe. So there you have it. In Confession we give up hiding, blaming and rationalizing. We can’t fix others, but we can start to extricate ourselves from the part we play.

The path of healing always involves two things. First, we come to accept our part. We confess to God and are forgiven. Second, we name the sin not only to God but to at least one other person. As it says in James 5: 16,

    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.

O.K. How do we identify our own sin, confess it and share that confession with another? Actually we are pretty poor at that, all of us. But we can. First of all, think about apologizing. That is the non-Christian word for confession. I say non-Christian word because apologizing assumes that the damage done is entirely between the people involved. Confession refers to the same process of human reconciliation, but reminds us that when we harm another, we have also harmed God’s heart since God loves those we hurt. All parents and friends understand.

So you already know a great deal about confession because you know when and how to apologize. Just add an apology to God and you are 95% there. But we also know that we harm others in ways we do not recognize. God will show us a great deal about that if we simply pray for guidance daily, then write down the acts of ministry that come to mind. Just ask God, “How do I know who needs to know that they live by grace?” and write it down on an index card. Date it. Once a week review what you have done and what you have avoided.

In time patterns begin to emerge. As you ponder the patterns and share them with a prayer partner, things begin to click. Last week I said it came to Charlie in prayer that he was still angry that his father chose work over family. That unhealed pain interfered with is life today. He needed to forgive his father for being who he was instead of who Charlie wished he were. That is the sort of thing we come to realize, something was never resolved and today’s situations that remind us of that are problems. Confession and forgiveness releases us from the tyranny of yesterday’s unfinished business or today’s refusal to accepted changed realities. This is one way to identify our very own, personal barriers to living out Christ’s love in our relationships.

As we experience the power of forgiveness and healing it is natural to do the same for others. So how do we learn to hear another’s confession? We actually learn to hear another’s confession by confessing ourselves. Then we know from the inside what needs to be done. As difficult as it is to start, it is the doorway through which we must pass in order to love with Christ’s love. Once we have begun, we will never want to return. The joy of knowing our salvation is that powerful.

This week memorize the following passage:

     Praise the LORD, O my soul,
     and forget not all his benefits-
     who forgives all your sins
      and heals all your diseases,
     who redeems your life from the pit
     and crowns you with love and compassion,
Ps 103:2-4

The prayer for the week is,

     “Lord, whom do I envy?”

Long before Jesus was born the Rabbis taught that fulfilling all Ten Commandments began by learning to celebrate God’s kindness in making you who you are in the situation you live in.
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