This evening is the fourth week in our current series of five on the theme of ‘A Spiritual Checkup’. We’re specifically going to be focusing on three areas this evening: Forgiveness, Soul winning and Prayer.
13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
Colossians 3:13-15 (New Living Translation)
Talk part 1 – Forgiveness
There has long been a debate within the academic Christian community as to whether people need to show penitence before forgiveness is offered. On the one hand Jesus offered unconditional forgiveness to those who crucified him, because they didn’t know what they were doing. On the other, why should I offer a hand of forgiveness to someone who has committed a crime against me if they intend to commit the same crime again tomorrow? Surely they should show some remorse and turn from their sins before I make my peace with them? There must be justice, the argument goes, or I become a doormat and everyone wipes their feet on me.
The answer is that there is a balance to be struck. Think for a moment or two about events in your past where others have caused you anger – road rage, trolley rage or dog rage to name but three. You don’t know who the perpetrators were and you will probably never see them again. An attitude that thinks the best of others, assumes they were having a bad day (as you do from time to time), forgives and forgets, should be psychologically liberating for you.
I’d now like you to listen carefully to the song ‘Forgiveness’ by Matthew West. As you listen have a think about which phrases really stand out for you and whether you agree with the lyrics.
Does anyone here find forgiving others an easy thing to do? How do we usually respond when someone hurts or upsets us?
Have you ever wondered why, when Jesus was in so much agony, struggling to breathe and so close to death, did He choose to speak out His forgiveness for those who were crucifying Him? This can’t have been an easy thing for Jesus to do.
Throughout His life Jesus taught about forgiveness. He taught how Father God is always ready and willing to forgive us and those wanting to live God’s way should forgive others. Forgiveness is not a natural response but something to be worked on. Forgiveness is an act of will and decision, but once we make that choice then we experience a sense of freedom.
Someone has said that “Vengeance is having a videotape planted in your soul that cannot be turned off. It plays the painful scene over and over again inside your mind …. And each time it plays you feel the clap of pain again …. Forgiving turns off the videotape of pained memory. Forgiving sets you free.”
A practical demonstration of the way forgiveness sets you free …. as Jesus forgave those who were killing Him, so His mind and heart were set free allowing Him to respond to the man on the cross next to Him.
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20 (New Living Translation)
Talk part 2 – Soul winning
The Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 contains Jesus’ final, earthly words to his followers. He instructed them to make more followers, baptising and teaching them.
Elsewhere in the New Testament this is cashed out with a distinction. Everyone is called to be a witness to Jesus, to be prepared to give an account of their faith but the work of an evangelist is a specific calling that only some might expect to receive.
On the coffee table in front of you there is a piece of paper with the following written on it:
“Some authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore a few of you go and make disciples of some people and suggesting to them that they might pay lip service to some of the things I have said and I might be with you some of the time.”
Using the Bible passage that I read a moment ago from Matthew which is on the screen, I’d like you to find as many variations between what you read on the piece of paper and what you see on the screen with the people sat around your coffee table.
Evangelism does not seem to be an optional extra but the bottom line. Let’s discuss how this great commission might be put into practice by discussing these questions.
- Why is it important for us to be able to be confident to speak out what we believe? (Bible commands us to)
- What are some of the barriers to us doing this? (Fear, embarrassment, lack of confidence)
- How does God help us? (With us by his Holy Spirit)
11 Search for the Lord and for his strength;
continually seek him.
1 Chronicles 16:11 (New Living Translation)
Talk part 3 – Prayer
I’d like to suggest that there is a link between ants and Christians, ant colonies and the Church.
Ants have different jobs to do for the colony – the worker ants take the rubbish out of the colony, the soldier ants protect the colony and find the food, the Queen ants have the babies! – All these different roles ensure the smooth working of the colony.
Ants cannot live on their own – they are social creatures and need to be in a colony with other ants.
There is never just one ant colony that all ants belong to. There are many – some have only a few dozen ants, others have millions of ants living and working in them.
In each ant colony the ants build different rooms and chambers that have different uses. Some are for storing food; others are resting places for the ants whilst some are nurseries for the baby ants!
Each ant colony have the ability to: divide the labour effectively to ensure smooth running of the colony, communicate between its members and have the ability to solve complex problems.
So I hear you say, ‘nothing to do with ants praying here is there?’ which is very true, however let’s think about what praying actually is and why we pray to God.
Here are some quotes about prayer and praying:
‘Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.’
‘No one is a firmer believer in the power of prayer than the devil; not that he practices it, but he suffers from it.’
Guy H. King
‘When a man is at his wits’ end it is not a cowardly thing to pray, it is the only way he can get in touch with Reality.’
‘Many people pray as if God were a big aspirin pill; they come only when they hurt.’
B. Graham Dienert
‘The trouble with our praying is, we just do it as a means of last resort.’
‘I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.’
Prayer is many things – its main focus is about talking to God but the reasons for this communication between us and Him are very varied. We can be praying for ourselves, for other people, for forgiveness, for our enemies, for troubles, for illness and healing.
We pray because we are angry, happy, sad, worried, in love, hurt, in physical or mental pain.
We Praying is all about talking to God and communicating with Him like we do in any other relationship in our lives. The trouble is that because we can’t see Him, we sometimes forget that He is there and we don’t talk to Him and include Him in our lives.
Ants are social creatures and cannot live on their own, they are able to communicate with each other and solve complex problems that occur. Just like Christians they support each other as they work together for the good of the colony and its members.
Christians pray as a means of supporting each other in Church because they believe in a God who can and will make a difference in their lives. They pray because they believe and know that God is interested in them and in every tiny little aspect of their lives.
Praying can be done any time, any place, anywhere. The important thing is that we just simply do it!
Response – Time to forgive, Story time & Prayer
As a response to what we’ve heard and thought about this evening, I’d like you to spend five minutes doing one or more of the following three activities if you feel comfortable doing so.
- On one of the tables at the back of the hall there is an activity to help you spend some time focusing on forgiving people if you feel the need to do so.
Take a pebble and then think of people you need to forgive.
“Hold the pebble tightly. Ask yourself whether it’s good for you to hold on to this or whether you need to start to let it go and decide to forgive them. If you’re not ready to forgive them, keep the stone with you and commit to pray every day that God will help you to let it go. If you are ready then lay the stone around the cross as a sign of letting it go. Then ask God to show you what action you can take to start living out this forgiveness e.g. what good action you could do towards this person.”
- On the other table there is an activity focused on your story and how to learn to tell it in 100 words.
In order to be ready to give an account of your faith you need to have thought through what you will say if someone asks you.
Read the following precisely:
I didn’t go to church as a child. My parents didn’t believe in God. When I was sixteen some friends invited me to a youth service at the local church. I went out of curiosity. It was fascinating. That week I joined a small group of young people who studied the Bible every Wednesday night. I used to think God was boring but that was before I read His book. He has left far more clues as to how to live your life than you could possibly imagine. I try to live for God now. Why don’t you try it?
What you just read was exactly 100 words. Why not try and write your own story out in exactly 100 words and then pray for an opportunity to share it with someone this week!
- The third option is simply to spend the time praying sat where you are.