11 August 2013

AN ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT MOMENT


Matthew 20:1-16

I want to ask you a question! Is God fair? Is He fair in His judgements? Is He fair in His dealings with creation? Is He fair when dealing with your sin? Is He fair in who He saves? Is He fair in your life struggles? Is He fair at all? These are legitimate questions that we need to answer! Is God fair? Deep down inside, we all have moments like this…..thinking that God isn’t fair when it comes to your life, as it compares to the person beside you! This usually doesn’t start until we take our eyes off the prize and begin to look sideways at those around us. My neighbor, friend, co-worker, peer has a bigger house, nicer TV, Xbox, PS3, an IPhone, more toys, nicer clothes, better job, better education, more friends, more popular with the community, a better husband or wife, better children, happier life, they are more spiritual, serves more….and the list is endless. Let’s be serious! We all have moment s of dissatisfaction as it compares to others! That’s our sinful nature. We see example after example of this behaviour throughout scripture. People dissatisfied with how God is dealing with themselves and others.

Here are some examples.....Cain over his brother Abel, Joseph’s brothers, Jonah with people of Nineveh, The Pharisee’s over Jesus, The world over Christians, Christians over Christians. An interesting story I came across that spoke about how we sometimes look at each other! “A company chartered a ship for its top sales people. When they arrived at the dock, they swarmed aboard and headed for their cabins. A minute later one salesman was on deck demanding to see the Captain. One of the officers asked if he could help. "My friend has a much better cabin!" the salesman said. "I did as good a job as he did and I want a cabin just like his." "Sir," the officer replied, "The cabins are identical." "Yeah," said the man, "but his cabin looks out on the ocean and my cabin looks out on this old dock." The man had become so absorbed with playing the comparison game that he became blind to the obvious-the ship would soon be on the ocean and all the views would be the same.”

Think about it! Have you done this? We have all been guilty of this at some point time in life. Have you ever noticed that we’re perfectly content with what we have, until we compare what we have with what someone else has? Again the question comes back to us! Is God fair?Think about that question when it comes to salvation. We all know a person whether it’s locally or globally…..We always cast judgement with these words “How could a holy and sovereign God save a person like that!” Especially a person who does what you do and sometimes better at it then you. The world see’s God as unfair but the Bible proves that He is just, kind and love suffering for His creation. Ezekiel penned these words “"Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?” Eze 18:25. Man’s ways are subjective; God’s ways are governed by a self-imposed law, which makes all consistent and harmonious. We are the ones who’re unfair…because we see others through the glasses of a self-righteous sinner. John MacArthur said “when men doubt the justice and fairness of God, it is always because of their own perverted views of justice and of Him.”

We come to a passage where Jesus addresses this issue in a parable He told His disciples after telling them of their reward because they followed after Him. This is a powerful example of what we do sometimes towards one another and to others! I find this parable very convicting and refreshing at the same time and I’ll explain what I mean later. But first we need to understand who Jesus is addressing here in the story! We see a Landowner which represents [God himself]. We see an array of workers at different times of the day getting work [you and me]. We see a flicker in to the spiritual realm where God is sovereign in righteousness and grace. We see a story that warns us that comparison distracts us from the grace that we have received. We see a story that illustrates a Heavenly truth. When it comes to God’s grace, it has nothing to do with our own merit as we see as the overall summary of this parable. He makes that point crystal clear, “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”(v16). The men that thought they worked the 11 hours would receive more than they agreed too, because they saw the master give the same amount they agreed to for only working one hour. (v8-v10). But they were wrong? (v13-v14). John MacArthur spoke about these men in his commentary on Matthew “Jealousy and envy are not based on reason but on selfishness. The charge of unfairness was not grounded in love for justice but in the selfish assumption that extra pay they wanted was pay they deserved.” The same rule or principle can be applies to God’s children! Many people considered first in the Lord's work will be revealed at the judgment as last and lost. I truly believe at the Day of Judgment, there will be many surprises for those who claim to know the Son of God. This parable is Jesus' way of responding to Peter's question back in Matthew 19:27. “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us? Jesus told the disciples that their sacrifices will be wonderfully rewarded [ Matthew 19:28-29]. But be very careful (Matthew 19:30)....here’s the warning to us! Do not pride yourselves in your sacrifices. We were talking about this with our girls yesterday! Ps 51:16-17 “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” If you look down on people who seem to have made less sacrifice than you, it can lead you to awful judgment of others. We as believers should know both the promises and the dangers of Christian work

The bible says “ALL BELIEVERS” will receive ……..The Crown of Life…….Rev 2:10  “….Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” The Crown of Righteousness…….2 Tim 4:8 “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” The Crown of Glory……..1 Peter 5:4 “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” These are future blessing, not present blessing! These promises can easily become clouded in our life, if we look at others sideways, by comparing ourselves with others. [Whether its 11 hours, 8 hours, or 1 hour]. This is what this parable is addressing! The promise of abundant reward for faithful service and the danger of severe judgment for proud self-righteous behaviour. This parable shows the amazing grace of God who lifts those who are considered last, the less fruitful people and the spiritual latecomers, into places of honor. Remember the thief on the cross? He didn’t have much time to get to find a church, attend prayer meetings, tithe, evangelize or study himself approved. But Jesus spoke these beautiful words to sinner after he asked "…..Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And He said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23:42-43. The Lord looked upon this sinner as His child, as He does me and you who have a home church, who go to prayer meetings, tithe, evangelize and study His precious word. God is always fair and generous! If you think otherwise! Jesus said you will be “last” The Lord invites them into his field at various hours, even at the latest possible hour, and pays them as though they had done a full day's work. That’s the grace of the gospel! “Nothing in my hands I bring, simple to the cross I cling”Jesus was telling the disciples not to feel too superior when they compare themselves to people like the rich young ruler who decided not to follow Jesus. As one pastor said “Today, this warning can apply to mainline churches which despise newer kinds of churches, to growing churches that look down on seemingly slower churches, to long-time church members who ignore newcomers, to strong Christians who question the dedication of weaker Christians, to believers who are too conscious of their being in God's work and who think demeaningly of those who are not involved in any ministry.” Salvation is equal to all born again Christians! Christians, who have spent a life of ease and spiritual idleness, have the same eternal salvation as those who suffer a martyr’s death. The immature, weak, disobedient at times Christian has the same position in the Kingdom of God, as those who are mature, self-giving and super spiritual.

So what do we learn from this parable? The Lord is sovereign and He will pay and do as He pleases. The Lord is always fair in His dealings whether you think He is or not. The Lord is gracious and kind to all His children [meaning the children of God]

So how do I apply this parable or how should I respond to this? We should be thankful for what he gives us…….not what others get! We are not to be proud of our service, expecting we deserve something more than those around us. We are to serve Him faithfully whether its 11 hours, 8 hours, or 1 hour. Remember! God choosing us to work at all in His vineyard is enough to make a person stop and say “thank you Lord for calling me”

The question is! Is God fair? Answer Yes …..God is always good! The workers in this story are way more important than the work. Each and every one of us is way too important to God. That’s the beauty of the gospel. You’re more important to a holy God and your worth is found in Christ. You’re more important to a holy God, so stop looking at others and comparing yourself to them. Our only freedom is this!.................is to stop playing the game of looking sideways. This parable is our attitude adjustment! We don’t need to compare ourselves what others have, to what we don’t have. God loves us for who we are not for what we have accomplished. Once we stop putting our accomplishments and possessions alongside others, we are then free to be grateful for how God has been generous to us. The Apostle Paul said it best “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” Phil 4:11

We are free to rejoice and give thanks for what we have, not grumble, and complain for what we do not have. We can also be free to give and to serve. We no long have a reason to horde or withhold or spend time on making more money. We can spend time serving others out of our great abundance of the heart through Christ. Then and only then at the end of our lives as we lay our heads on our pillow for the final time we can rejoice and give thanks for what God has given. As Jesus said to Peter……"…..If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!....." John 21:22-23.................So! Stop looking sideways and follow Jesus!

04 August 2013

EASY TO ASK FOR BUT HARD TO GIVE


Matt 18: 21-35

There are some things in life that are easy to ask for but hard to give……A teenager asking for the keys to your car, Maybe it involves money? How about your daughters hand in marriage, honesty, love! There is also another word that for many people don’t like to give or ask for! It’s a simple word called“Forgiveness”. This word “forgiveness” is used 143 times in the New Testament. In it’s legal term means “to release” a person from an obligation. In finance it gives the idea of “cancelling a debt”. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus said these words……“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matt 6:14-15. This passage is pretty clear! There are some passages that are sometimes hard to understand. But this isn’t one of them. What Jesus is saying is what Jesus means. Notice the conditions of forgiveness in this passage? You forgive, you get forgiveness, you don’t forgive, you don’t get forgiveness. See, forgiveness is an act of the will….it’s a chose you must make. You can chose to do what is right tor you can chose to do what is wrong. But be prepared for the consequences that follow when you chose not to. Unforgiveness usually leads to bitterness and resentment. You want them to feel your pain; it’s unfair, it seems there getting away with murder. People tend to hold on to all the hurts and pains they received over the years and store it in the attic. What’s sad about this, it doesn't matter where you go; it will always be with you and will continue to eat at you, until you deal with it.

We tend to hold or make excuses to why we can’t or won’t forgive……Like for example "The hurt is too big!"  "Time will heal it"……but does it really? I’ll forgive when they say sorry………but that wasn't the case for one gentleman when He had a chance to speak in a courtroom after losing his child to Gary Ridgeway a serial killer who took 48 lives. Another excuse is "I can’t forgive, if I can’t forget" or how about "If I forgive, they are only going to do it again"

See we need to understand God doesn't forget, He does something better! He treats me like it never happened. Forgiveness is about treating the other person as though the offence never happened. I know this is hard but we must press on because Jesus said so! So the questions before us are this…….
  • How far should I forgive?
  • Is there anything that is unforgivable?
  • Is there a limit to my forgiveness?

The answer to those questions is found in the conversation that Peter had with Jesus.....Matt 18:21-22 “Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” What was Jesus saying? That no matter how many times he or she sins and repents, Christ meant that forgiveness should be granted unendingly. Paul reiterates this in Eph 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” So what does that look like today? In March of this year a gunman walked into worship at the First Baptist Church of Maryville, Illinois and murdered pastor Fred Winters.  CBS News interviewed his wife, and she offers forgiveness to the man who killed her husband.  She also offers comfort to the murderer’s family. How is that possible? How can someone say to a person who killed her husband in cold blood “I forgive you”? Here is another example of forgiveness at work in the heart of the believer! I came across a story of a seminary student in Chicago faced a forgiveness test. Although he preferred to work in some kind of ministry, the only job he could find was driving a bus on Chicago's south side. One day a gang of tough teens got on board and refused to pay the fare. After a few days of this, the seminarian spotted a policeman on the corner, stopped the bus, and reported them. The officer made them pay, but then he got off. When the bus rounded a corner, the gang robbed the seminarian and beat him severely. He pressed charges and the gang was rounded up. They were found guilty. But as soon as the jail sentence was given, the young Christian saw their spiritual need and felt pity for them. So he asked the judge if he could serve their sentences for them. The gang members and the judge were dumbfounded. "It's because I forgive you," he explained. His request was denied, but he visited the young men in jail and led several of them to faith in Christ.

Human forgiveness reflects our experience and understanding of divine forgiveness. [The GOSPEL] James MacDonald said this in his book “10 Choices” “People who are forgiven by God become increasingly forgiving people. Not perfect, not entirely, but more and more so…….when you release others through forgiveness, God can free you from the weight and captivity of Unforgiveness. As the love of Christ penetrates your heart more deeply and genuinely you become more forgiving.” We [meaning me and you] ought to be the most forgiving people in the work place, the home, school, on the planet. When your name is being mentioned in a conversation, your co-workers or friends should be able to say “he or she is person that never hold grudges or finds fault”……..”they never make people pay and they never keep score….they are very forgiving people”. People may not understand why you forgive, but it should provoke them in asking you why you are so forgiving?

Forgiveness is hard to do! But God can free us from the weight of Unforgiveness through the Cross of Christ. 

Forgiveness over small noticeable things are much easier….FOR EXAMPLE! 
  • You took my parking spot at the mall or the grocery store.
  • You borrowed my chain saw and never returned it, 2 years later when you did return it, I already bought a new one. 
  • You scratched my car with your bike. 
  • You broke my dishes or you hit a baseball through our front window. 
  • You spilt milk all over the table or pop on the carpet.

Those are much easier to forgive…but what happens when the stakes are higher and hit deeper?
  • You killed my child with your drunk driving.
  • You beat me on a regular basis.
  • You verbally abused me throughout our marriage or childhood.
  • You took my safety.
  • You took my purity from me.
  • You violated my body.
  • You said you didn’t love me anymore.

See, forgiveness in this area is much, much harder and complex. But as Jesus said we must forgive! Jesus  goes about this by explaining to His disciples how hard it is and the devastating consequences if we don’t as His children………..as He continues to answer Peter’s question. [Matt 18:23-35]. First we see the master dealing with the first servant! Who owed him an inexcusable amount of money (v24). A sum so great that in reality he could never pay back! A sum so severe that his punishment would involve his whole family. (v25). But what does the servant do?  He pleads for his life and his family (v26). But what do we see here? The master shows him compassion and forgiveness for his debt and releases him from what he owes. (v27). Now this is a great display of forgiveness and this servant is so eternally grateful he must of left praising God, a heart full of gladness and thankfulness….RIGHT? But what happens next? He finds one of his servants and says “hello my fine friend, I remember what you owed me, forget all about it….all is forgiven” NO, he grabs him by the throat and says pay up or else. (v28). Did he not just received one of the greatest acts of forgiveness for himself? He by comparison owed his master tens of thousands of dollars, and now his servant owes him about a 3 months wage and he has the audacity to demand this now from his servant! So his servant did what he did with his master (v29). But he didn't display the same compassion or forgiveness as his master did for him (v30)

What does this way of choosing to deal with issues or hurts do for both parties?
  • Unforgiveness is “you still owe me”…………..Where forgiveness is “you don’t owe me”
  • Unforgiveness is “going to make you pay for what you did by hating you, slandering you, and returning in kind what you did to me.”………Where Forgiveness is “I’m not looking for payment”

  • Unforgiveness is “I’m going to recruit other people to my bitterness”Where forgiveness is “I’m not trying to even the score”

  • Unforgiveness is ‘in the end I will get my revenge”……Where forgiveness is “I’m writing it off, and letting it go”

  • Unforgiveness is “I will make you regret your actions”………Where forgiveness is “God didn’t make me so I had to carry all of this”

As one pastor said “The choice of Unforgiveness and forgiveness is a fork in the road of life.” What will do at the fork in the road? The wrong chose always leads to consequences (v31). This is where the consequences come in when we chose to not forgive someone! (v32-v35). This made the master angry! See the master represents God (vv32-v33). See God is holy and just and God is always angry at sin, including the sins of His children. Heb 12:5-11 “And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit”. God will deal with us in our sin! That’s why Unforgiveness is like a cancer! It eats away at us from the inside out. So the master disciplines his servant (v34) “the torturers” not executioners! This is a picture of serve discipline but not final condemnation. 

See we need to understand! The master didn’t restore the original debt back to this first servant because it was cancelled! But the new debt was in the amount of chastening him until he was willing to forgive others. [meaning his own servant] Meaning, those who have done wrong to me and you! Forgiveness is much easier to ask for then it is to give. The proof is in this story that Jesus tells.

So the Sunday question for you is this…………..Is God chastening you in the area of forgiveness? If so, according to Hebrews and this passage in Matthew, God is not going to stop until you recognize your sin and the error of your ways over God’s. Forgiveness is an act of the will, an act of obedience and submission! Not in a sense because you have to, but because God in Christ has forgiven you of so much. This is our plumb line, the standard in which we are to live with one another. As tough as it is this is what we are called to do! And we are only capable of doing that through the finished work of the cross and the continuing work of the Spirit in our lives. J C Ryle said “Forgiven souls are FORGIVING. They do as they have been done by. They look over the offenses of their brethren. They endeavor to “walk in love, as Christ loved them, and gave Himself for them.” (Eph. 5:2.) They remember how God for Christ’s sake forgave them, and endeavor to do the same towards their fellow-creatures. Has He forgiven them pounds, and shall they not forgive a few pence? Doubtless in this, as in everything else, they come short—but this is their desire and their aim. A spiteful, quarrelsome Christian is a scandal to his profession. Forgiveness is the way by which every saved soul enters heaven. Forgiveness is the eternal subject of song with all the redeemed who inhabit heaven. Surely an unforgiving soul in heaven would find his heart completely out of tune. Surely we know nothing of Christ’s love to us but the name of it, if we do not love our brethren. BE WARNED and remember the words of General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, "I never forgive and I never forget." To which Wesley replied, "Then, Sir, I hope you never sin."

Why should I forgive? It's simple.......Jesus says so……and so does the gospelIsn’t His death for me and you enough to convince us that no matter what has or will happen in our lives…..nothing compares to the forgiveness that was displayed on the cross? Let me close with following story of Corrie Ten Boon after the war in Germany.

“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken……….It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.

“It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’

“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

[Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.]

“Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

“And I, who had spoken so fluently of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

“But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.

“‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’

“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality.
Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ “For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”

This physical life is way too short and there is way too much Unforgiveness among the family of God. Maybe, even here in this sanctuary? We need to swallow our pride and bitterness and plead to a holy God as Corrie did to give her the ability to turn this cold heart into a heart that is able to forgive. Will you do that this morning?