The Olive Branch

Recovery  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  44:30
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Matt Switzell had just completed a 24 hour shift as firefighter and EMT. During that time, he had less than 30 minutes of sleep. 4 miles from home, he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into the vehicle of June Fitzgerald.
June was pregnant and had an 18 month old daughter in the back seat. Faith, the daughter, survived the crash. But June and the unborn baby did not.
What do you do?
If you were Erik, June’s husband, what would you do?
One young girl in her congregation asked him how the driver of the car was feeling.
He told her that they should all be praying for him.
Erik was a pastor. He preached forgiveness. And, now he had a choice. Was he going to live it, or was he going to settled into bitterness and revenge.
Erik told the news:
“You forgive as you’ve been forgiven. It wasn’t an option. If you’ve been forgiven, then you need to extend that forgiveness.”
Erik went to Matt’s sentencing and plead for a lighter sentence, so that Matt only had to pay a fine and do community service.
After the two year criminal investigation, Erik reached out to Matt and told him that he wanted to be in his life.
They began to meet every two years. Matt got married, had two children. Erik was remarried. And the families still routinely get together.
Erik said:
“This has been just as healing for me too, I’ve taught on forgiveness and I know that forgiveness is not so much for the other person but for yourself.”
What a story.
We as humans thrive on broken relationships. It’s not good for us. But, we would rather cut people off who hurt us than work towards reconciliation. We would rather seek revenge than live in peace. We would rather hold out for retribution than allow someone to go free.
It’s true. Forgiveness and the resulting reconciliation is not natural for us.
Unfortunately, broken relationships breeds sin, addiction, idolatry.
Last week, we talked about the Holy Spirit teaches us to love God and others. And how through the love of God and others, we are able to turn away from our sin and addictions.
Well, when we don’t have love for God and others, it is a lot harder to turn away from sin and addictions.
Broken relationships teach us that life is all about us, that we don’t have to care about the other person. I just care about myself and what makes me feel good. Which is exactly what leads us into sin and addiction.
Let’s see where we have been.
We are powerless
God has the power
We must trust Him in faith
We must make a fearless moral inventory
We must be people who confess
We must be people who repent
We must be people who follow
We must be people who forgive
Part of overcoming sin and addiction is restoring relationships in our lives. We forgive those who have harmed us and become willing to make amends to those we have harmed.
We’re mostly going to focus on the first half of that sentence, the forgiveness part. The amends will be next week.
We must be people who forgive

1. Our Story

Paul says something pretty provocative in Ephesians. It just happens to be our text.
Ephesians 4:32–5:1 NIV
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children
The context is Paul writing to the Ephesians about how their lives, everyday, are to change because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What is that Gospel? It is how the God of the universe crashes in the story of our lives.

A. Our Sin

Eight week ago, we discussed how we are all sinners. Every single one of us. We are all addicted to something. We all have gods in our life that are not the one true God who created the heavens and the earth.
Romans 3:23 NIV
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
So simple.
That sin brings death.
Ephesians 2:1 NIV
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
And, there is nothing which we can do to change our situation.
Isaiah 64:6 NIV
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
So, think about it. Think about everything good you have ever done. I would tell you to write that down, but who actually has something to write down. Think about everything good you have ever done. And realize that God views them as filthy rags, because even though they are so good in our eyes, they do not match the holiness and perfection of God.
And, then, we could start a whole other list with all the bad things we have done. And that just gets depressing, because then we realize that we are horrible people and that there is no hope. As we realize our evilness, we realize that our evilness is against God.
Scripture calls us God’s enemies:
Romans 5:10 NIV
For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
We are separated from God and doomed to hell for all eternity.
Jesus described this place:
Matthew 13:49–50 NIV
This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Not a pretty situation or hopeful ending.

B. God’s Compassion

But, thankfully, the story doesn’t end there.
Ephesians 2:4–5 NIV
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
God looked on us with compassion.
That’s one of the characteristics, the attributes of God.
Moses is on Mt. Sinai, and God passes in front of him, covers him up so he doesn’t see the awesome glory and die, but God cries out his name, his character and he says:
Exodus 34:6 NIV
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,
When Jesus walked the earth, he saw the world with compassion.
Matthew 9:35–36 NIV
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
That’s why he spent time with the outcasts of society, the sinners, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, because he had compassion.
He saw his creation stuck in sin, separated from their creator and all the blessings that come from a personal relationship with that creator. And he came on a rescue mission.
Joe Stowell, former president of Moody Bible Institute, tells of visiting England. Their tow trucks are not called wreckers. They are called recovery vehicles. They don’t say “here comes a wrecker.” they say “here comes recover.”
Jesus came to earth, out of compassion for his creation, he was on a recovery mission.
Jesus told the parable of the 100 sheep. The shepherd sees that one has gone astray and he leaves the 99 to search for the one. Compassion for the stupid miserable sheep that refused to follow the shepherd.

C. God’s Forgiveness

Because of Jesus’ compassion, he died on the cross and earned forgiveness for us miserable sheep.
As our text says:
Ephesians 4:32–5:1 NIV
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children
Picture a courtroom.
God is on the judgment seat. We are the defendant. The prosecutor is pacing in front of the judge, showing all of the evidence, pointing his accusatory finger at us, screaming how guilty we are.
And we know he is right. Remember that list? Remember all the sin we have committed.
As David said:
Psalm 51:4 NIV
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
God declares his judgment: we are guilty deserving of death. He tells the police to lead us to death row.
Then, someone rushes into the courtroom and says: I’ll take his punishment. I’ll pay his debt to society. And he is led to the execution chamber instead of us.
The judge looks at us and says: You can walk free, because your punishment has been paid. The offense is not counted against you anymore. You are forgiven.
We look at him wide eyed and walk off.
Our forgiveness is just, not because the punishment was just removed out of the kindness of God’s heart. Our forgiveness is just because the punishment was paid.
Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow.
Colossians 2:13–14 NIV
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
So, let’s review:
We sinned against God. God looked with compassion us, in spite of sinning against him. And he sent Jesus to take our punishment on himself, in spite of us sinning against him, so that we might be restored back into a relationship with him.
What a savior.

2. Their Story

The kicker is that Jesus looked at his disciples and told them:
John 20:21 NIV
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
We are to be people of peace, spreading peace, because of the compassion of our hearts.
Or, as Paul was inspired by God to write:
Ephesians 4:32–5:1 NIV
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children
We are to follow God’s example and extend forgiveness.
What does this look like?

A. Their Sin

Well, it means looking at those people who have sinned against us.
For the sake of example, let’s say Joe Biden or perhaps Donald Trump. Maybe we should spread the love out a little farther and declare the whole Democratic party or the whole Republican party. Whoever you believe is making a mess of our country.
It that is hitting a little too close to home, we’ll lessen the bite. Let’s talk about your husband or your wife. Perhaps your sibling, your cousin, your mom or your dad.
We are human, surrounded by humans. Which means we bear all over our heart and soul wounds by people who have unintentionally hurt us. And we also have some really deep wounds of people who intentionally hurt us.
Joseph. His brothers first thought about killing him and then they sold him into slavery to a pagan country and lied to their father. Talk about a perfect opportunity to allow bitterness to fester.
My situation wasn’t that dire.
I was twelve. I hadn’t hit my growth spurt yet, so my body was storing energy in the mode of fat. I was a chubby sixth grader. After church, I was goofing off with some kids. A girl who was around two weeks older than me challenged me to a race. I take off running as fast as my little legs could go. She lopes past me and right as she passes me, she looks over her shoulder with the toss of her hair and said: speed up, chubby.
I hated her for the next five years. She had no idea what she did, she just knew that I hated her and she literally thought that I was going to kill her someday.
People hurt us. All the time. It’s no good lying about it. It’s no good stuffing it.
We’ve got to be honest about it.

B. Our Compassion

But, we also are called to imitate God. God looked with compassion on us who were acting against him.
We are called to look with compassion on those who have hurt us.
Where does that compassion come from?
Well, we remember who we are. That we are sinners desperately in a need of a savior. So, we are not better than the person who has hurt us. We have hurt our share of people. We are just like them.
And yes, what they did was wrong. What they did deserves an eternity in Hell. Just like me.
And, I don’t want that for them. Just like I don’t want it for myself.
But, pastor, what they did really hurt me. Shouldn’t they come and ask me for forgiveness? I don’t have to show compassion until they show repentance.
Well, actually….
Jesus said:
Matthew 18:15 NIV
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
Pointing out sin is an act of compassion, you are giving someone an opportunity to change, just like God has given us.
But, even if they do not change, because of our compassion,

C. Our Forgiveness

We extend forgiveness.
Now, there are so many different false teachings about forgiveness, that I have to address it.

a. What Forgiveness Is Not

Forgiveness is not forgetting. The old saying is: forgive and forget!
Well, that is not the truth.
Let’s consider David. David committed adultery and then murder. He slept with another man’s wife and then killed the man. That’s pretty bad. We all would probably not allow our families around that guy.
David repents. He asks God’s forgiveness and God extends it.
Did God forget that David committed adultery and murder?
No. It’s recorded for us by the inspiration of God.
One day we will all stand before the judgment seat of God and books will be opened which contain everything that we have ever done.
Forgiveness does not mean forget.
Forgiveness also doesn’t mean remove punishment.
Let’s go back to David, since we are there.
David and Bathsheba conceived a child through that night of adultery. After the child was born, David still hadn’t repented. So, Nathan the prophet confronts him.
2 Samuel 12:13–14 NIV
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”
Seven days later, the child died. It’s a tough passage.
At the beginning of my message, I told about Matt. Erik forgave him, but Matt still had a punishment. You see, harm still happened. We cannot sweep that under the rug. And we cannot allow the person to keep performing that sin. We can have compassion, but we do not have to have trust.
Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is not removing punishment.

b. What Forgiveness Is

Forgiveness is a release.
The forgiver says that the offender does not have to repay any debt to the offended.
God forgave us our sin. We did not have to repay our debt to him. Why? Because Jesus paid it.
When we turn to someone who has hurt us and we say “I forgive you” We are declaring that the person does not have to repay any debt to us. We will not hold that offense against them.
How could we say that?
Well, if they are a Christian, if they have confessed their trust in Jesus for their salvation, we know that Jesus died on the cross for that sin, for that hurt that they committed against us. The debt has been paid.
If we do not forgive, we are saying that Christ’s sacrifice was not enough. When in fact it was. He died for our sins, so he definitely died for that sin.
If they are not a Christian, we release any debt they have to us, because God will demand payment one day.
Romans 12:19 NIV
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
He will collect on that hurt. If we step in the way, we declare that we are God and we know better than him what is just. Bad idea. We forgive and release all claims into the hands of the Holy, Just judge.
How do we forgive?
We walk up to the offender and speak the truth: “This happened and it hurt because of these reasons. However, I forgive you and I will not allow your actions to affect the way I treat you.”
If we allow their actions to change the way we treat them, we haven’t forgiven them because we are still trying to get them to repay their debt to us.
Now, earlier I said that forgiveness does not mean that we trust someone. Trust comes from reconciliation, which is different from forgiveness. That is a different sermon.
So much of our sinful patterns comes from bitterness and unforgiveness. We have closed ourselves off to so many people and we have convinced ourselves that we are the righteous one so it is okay that we do this that or the other thing.
When we are just as sinful as they are and we need to give it up and pursue relationship again, through the love for God and each other.
To extend our hand, as Erik did, and say: You killed my wife and child. Let’s be friends.
We must be people who forgive.
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