Last week, we spoke about the power of Jesus’ last words and forgiveness. His last words reveal his heart, his passion, and his commitment to the world around him.
What will your last words say about you? Will your Christianity shine through by the way your living your last days?
Pastor shared about a special friend that had an aura about him that was never fully grasped, until one day he was holding on to his life.
When he entered his room to pray for him, he felt the presence of God. The man couldn’t say words, but his eyes said it all. He wanted to pray. Not surprisingly, he didn’t want to want to pray for himself, He wanted prayer for the sake of his family and friends that were in that room.
Grabbing his frail hand, he began to pray for God to bring peace into the room, thanking God for his life and for the love that he had for people, and for the graces that he had displayed in his life. And right when he said amen, his grip loosened and he went to be with the Lord.
He left the same way he lived, because, usually, we leave the same way we lived.
Some people think that they will have an opportunity to make things right before they leave this world. But a heart that is unforgiving and bitter does not transform in moments of pain. In fact, in moments of pain, our hearts display the truth of what is inside of us. Jesus was in pain on the cross, and he was able to give what he had in life even while experiencing a cruel death on the cross.
The number one reason why Jesus came to this earth was to display a reckless love for humanity.
Look at all Jesus went through. He was beaten to a pulp, unrecognizable, naked, malign and mistreated. People were hurling insults to add insult to injury. They crucified him next to two criminals! They deserved to be there, not Jesus.
The Bible says:
“...Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with (Jesus) to be executed.”
This is significant because the criminals were paying physically for what Jesus went to do spiritually - pay for our sins. They deserved it, Jesus didn’t and that is what qualified Jesus to die for theirs and ours.
In verse 33, “When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.” Luke 23:32-33
At a moment he could have asked His father to send angles to destroy them he instead said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
These words fulfilled prophecy, “For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:12 [740 Year earlier]
Let’s look at forgiveness in the perspective of Jesus. We have spoken on this subject a lot, however, it is so important to learn all we can on this subject.
**Lack of forgiveness is a bondage that destroys our faith and communion with God and others.
Jesus is on a cross, and next to him there are two condemned, and guilty criminals. They deserved to hang on a cross, Jesus didn’t. And it seems, by the accounts that were given, that the only criminal on the cross was Jesus, because all the insults and mistreatment from the crowd only directed towards Jesus!
In the midst of that, Jesus said…
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing…” Lk.23:34
Jesus was bearing sin and interceding for those that were his transgressors. That doesn’t seem fair.
Before Jesus, this is what the law taught:
“You have heard that it was said. ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” Matt. 5:38
The law gave you what you deserved. If you did wrong, you got the same thing right back!
Here’s a newsflash: Grace is not fair!
Before Jesus, everyone was like, “grace, what’s grace?”
Jesus on the cross was teaching a different lesson. Jesus came so he could get what we deserve, so we may get what He deserves.
That’s called grace. Grace is an unmerited favor… Unmerited is undeserving. By definition, we don’t deserve grace and that is why it’s called grace.
However, we are all in the same boat as far as wanting retribution for anything that anyone has ever done wrong. We may not try to get back at those that did wrong, but we sure like to sit around with popcorn waiting for wrong to come back at someone.
Why is forgiveness so important to a Christian?
One reason: Self-righteousness
An unforgiving person becomes a self-righteous person.
The results of a self-righteous person is just that: the fact that self always thinks it is right.
When self always thinks is right, then others don’t seem to matter and we can become self absorbed and selfish. And in order to love God right, self has to take a backseat to Jesus. Self has to take a back seat to God’s will. For when we do, then the Love of God and the love of people become a powerful tool that God uses for the salvation of those who struggle with their sin and understanding grace.
What does Self-Righteousness & Forgiveness do for us?
1. Self-righteousness repels people, forgiving people draw people in.
Have you seen self-righteous people? They put people down in such a way that people just don’t want to be around them. That’s the reason why self-righteousness is also a sign of religiosity.
People are constantly putting people down who are sinful and have no concept of relationship. Self-righteous people don’t care or want a relationship because they are always right and all they want to do is point at what’s bad about others.
Forgiveness in the other hand is the opposite. It draws people in. The cross is the most disgusting way to die. It’s gory, it’s excessive, it’s repugnant. However, it draws people in, not because of the sin, but because in the midst of the sin, Jesus said: “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!”
2. Self-righteous people list their good works, forgiving people serve sacrificially.
When a self-righteous person does something good, there’s this little notepad in the brain where they list all of their good deeds. Afterward, they are added all up to show themselves and others how righteous they are!
“We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags…” Isaiah
Forgiving people in the other hand, understand that every measure of righteousness we may conjure, will never be good enough. So we work tirelessly, and sacrificially, to serve God and others, understanding that the only one that needs to notice, and that will validate our effort is God. The opinions of others just don’t matter here.
“For God is not unjust (unrighteous). He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.” Hebrews
Jesus, worked tirelessly for the very same people that would crucify him, and instead listing all his work to save himself, he just sacrificed his life for others… “father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
3. Self-righteous people have a high view of themselves, forgiving people have a high view of God.
Sometimes, in our zeal and passion in doing God’s work, we fall into the trap of thinking that it’s all about US.
We look at the results of our work and say, “Wow! Look how many people came into the church through me!” “Did you just see that? I just inspired the whole congregation with MY SERMON!” “Look at how much I am doing for the work of the church. I’m sure the church won’t grow without me.” “I pay a lot of tithes. The pastor will surely miss ME if I leave this church.”
This type of thinking is focused on the SELF.
**Are we seeking to be Self-Right, or Christ-Right?
Forgiving people take the attention off of them to give it to God. They don’t care who gets the credit as long as God gets the glory. Jesus is interceding for people who have a high view of themselves and a low view of God and standing in the gap for them.
They don’t see their time, treasures, and talents as things they lost, but as things they invested for the kingdom of God.
4. Self Righteous people reject correction, forgiving people have a teachable spirit.
The pitfall of being so self-righteous that we reject correction is that we become callous. No matter what anyone says, even if it hits hard, and it penetrates the mind, it won’t the soul because we have become so hard and collaous to the truth. So the next thing that happens is that pride sets in and we become unteachable.
“People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray.” Proverbs
Pride comes before destruction. (Proverbs 16:18)
Jesus’ humility is the cross is that he took the correction that we deserved. He wasn’t even wrong and he asked for forgiveness to those that were doing wrong. Grace is not fair!
“...correct the wise, and they will love you.” Proverbs
5. Self-righteous people hate and condemn sinners, forgiving people hate their sin and love other sinners.
The whole purpose of the cross is because Jesus loved everyone. He died for all because all sinned. Jesus loves sinners. He was called a friend of sinners because he hung out with all kinds of reputable people. He spent more time with the perceived sinful people in His day than the Pharisees who are thought to be “righteous.”
Self-righteous people condemn people and pass permanent judgment. Their grace has a cap or a limit and they’d rather condemn people than feeling thankful for salvation.
Some of us hate someone else’s sin WAY more than we hate our own. Some of us can’t wait for retribution on someone else’s sin…
The cross is a full-on assault on self-righteousness because everyone who sins deserves what Jesus got, and it was Jesus who said, FATHER FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING.
However, the cross is also an assault on all those that believe that grace is an excuse to live your life as you see fit. People who are self-righteous are also those who presume on the grace of God to keep living a life that is contrary to anything that looks Christ-like.
**Forgiving people hate the sin that put an innocent savior on the cross.
**Self-righteousness is a dark prison and the only key to open its gates is understanding that we must forgive as we are forgiven.
Grace is unfair. We leave this world the same way we lived. Jesus lived to forgive, and left this earth forgiving.
Who do you need to forgive? Let’s take this important step and extend the same grace to others, Jesus did for us.
Join us tomorrow at 10:15 AM and bring a friend!
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