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PASTOR’S NOTES:

GIMME 3 STEPS STORY

    • 4th grade talent show
    • I’m gonna put the lyrics up for you…
    • Popular for 2 weeks
    • Cory Watson
    • Not EVER popular again

Funny story… but the truth is, so many of us carry around the weight of things that have happened to us and it often makes us feel stuck …

Or the weight of something we did to cause others pain…

And it keeps us from stepping forward into the freedom God has for us.

FREEWAY

We’ve been in this series called Freeway for the last several weeks

Exploring those hurts and pain points that rob us all of taking steps towards becoming who God created us to be.

Today I want to dive back into this story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 and look at it through the perspective of something that often is the main stumbling block that keeps us from experiencing FREEDOM, and that has to do with this word, FORGIVENESS

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For many of us, the word FORGIVENESS is a difficult word…

A lot of baggage…

Carrying around the pain of something someone did to us a long time ago, and we’re just not sure we’re ready to forgive or how to forgive… and the thought of having to face this head on for many of us is terrifying.

Or carrying the pain of having hurt someone else and being trapped in a cycle of guilt and shame at the pain we’ve caused, and not really knowing what to do about it.

But as we continue in our journey towards FREEDOM, it’s really important that we understand that experiencing and extending FORGIVENESS is an important step towards FREEDOM.

As a matter of fact, I want to share the BIG idea that we’re going to dive into together today:

To the degree we learn to experience forgiveness for ourselves and extend forgiveness to others is the degree we will experience freedom for ourselves and extend freedom to others.

Would you say that with me?

To the degree we learn to experience forgiveness for ourselves and extend forgiveness to others is the degree we will experience freedom for ourselves and extend freedom to others.

Another way to say it is this:

If we don’t learn to experience and extend FORGIVENESS we’ll never truly experience and extend FREEDOM.

I want to dive into this story today together with fresh eyes and explore it through the lens of someone who needed to experience forgiveness, which is the younger son, and through the lens of someone who extended forgiveness to others, which is the Father.

And I know that this is true:

Some of us need to experience forgiveness like the son experienced forgiveness

Some of us need to extend forgiveness like the father extended forgiveness.

And my hope is that as we look at their story, we’d learn something about ourself and what God might want to do to use FORGIVENESS to help us take a step towards FREEDOM in a powerful way.

RECAP OF THE STORY

Just by way of reminder or in case you haven’t been with us, we’ve been journeying through the Parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15.

  • There was a man with 2 sons, and we see the youngest son demand his share of the father’s inheritance, liquidate it, take it to a foreign country and squander it on careless living, and then end up working in the LAST place a Jewish audience would expect him to work: feeding PIGS
  • He then comes to his senses and essentially asks himself, “Why am I living here working with the pigs, starving to death? Why not try to make this right?”
  • He knows he messed up royally, and his expectation is that his father might let him get a job as a day worker (but never expected that his father would let him back into the family)…
  • And the surprise is that he not only gets welcomed back, his father throws a huge party in celebration and reinstates him into the family.

THE LENS OF THE SON

Let’s take a look at this story through the lens of the son:

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

Luke 15:17-20

His father comes out and meets him, greets him, etc – we’ll look at that in a minute…

In the middle of this, the son launches into his rehearsed speech…

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

Luke 15:21

We see the son take steps towards experiencing forgiveness – I think all of us can relate to having messed something up and needing to try to step towards forgiveness.

There are 3 observations about what the son experiences that I think we can all relate to.

It can take a long time to be ready to pursue forgiveness.

We enter this part with him “coming to himself” – literally coming to his senses

But as I was reading this I found myself asking, “Why did it take so long?”

You’d think he would have realized while he was sleeping with a prostitute that maybe he was making a misstep – or when he saw his pile of cash dwindling down… You’d think he’d come to his senses…

But for some reason he didn’t.

And what about us? How often does it take us a long time to come to our senses?

You’d think while we were in the middle of yelling at our kids, or cheating on our spouse, or judging someone else, that we’d come to our senses. But often it takes us a long time.

And more often than not – we aren’t even aware yet that we have wounded someone else and desperately need forgiveness.

Ex. Diana Green STORY

Traveling, tired, ignored, wounded, distance…

Here’s the truth: Often we have to experience a great deal of pain in order to wake up and see the need for forgiveness…

And in this story, the SON had to experience the pain of losing everything to wake him up and prepare him to take the next right step…

And even when we do sort of come to our senses, it often takes a long time to take a step towards experiencing forgiveness…

Sometimes we are trapped in a cycle of guilt and shame and literally are stuck and don’t know what to do…

Sometimes we need time to process it and come to the place of being kind to ourselves and remembering that we still matter before we can take a step towards other people and experience forgiveness.

My hope is that for some of us, we’d survey the landscape of our lives to see if we’ve unintentionally hurt someone.

And for others of us, we’d stop the cycle of guilt and shame…

… So we can take steps towards experiencing forgiveness and ultimately so we can be free…

So we see that it can take awhile before we’re ready to step into forgiveness.

Another thing we can see from this story is that…

We often have many faulty assumptions that keep us from pursuing forgiveness in a healthy way.

Let’s look at the passage again:

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

Luke 15:17-20

He has all of these assumptions that drove how he thought about taking a next step, didn’t he?

    • lost place in family
    • Dead to his father
    • Not worthy to be his father’s son
    • His sin defines him and excludes him from favor.
    • A real lack of understanding at just how lavish the grace of the father could be…

I mean, we can’t we really can’t blame him. After all, we do the same thing…

We tell ourselves all kinds of stories that keep us from moving forward in a healthy way…

Things like:

  • I have to get it all together before I pursue forgiveness with others
  • What I’ve done is so bad it can’t be forgiven
  • I don’t deserve forgiveness…
  • I’m not lovable anymore
  • That person could NEVER forgive me for what I did…
  • God is angry and ready to stick it to me

And on and on it goes…

Some of us have had a bad experience – maybe you’ve gotten the courage to go to someone to ask forgiveness, and it backfired somehow…

But I think the main reason we struggle with how we see ourselves

I mean, we see all throughout the Scriptures the cycle of people messing up and then hanging their heads in shame…

Shame is real and it often renders us unable to move forward.

Shame is seeing ourselves as bad, instead of the thing we did as not good…

I remember in elementary school when someone in class would get in trouble – I’d feel shame in my body as if I was the one who did something wrong…

We often start with the assumption that there is nothing good in us at all and that we have to get it all together before we can go to God…

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met in over 20 years of ministry that are convinced that they are worthless because of the things they do, and that God (and everyone else) is mad at them.

We’re so good at looking at the things we’ve done and letting guilt and shame fill our heads and convince us that God or others want nothing to do with us…

Honestly, I think we HAVE to start with our assumptions about how God sees us, because it impacts every area of our lives…

Many of us have real trouble accepting forgiveness and even forgiving ourselves because of the bogus theology some well-meaning person shared with us at some point.

It’s a theology of an ANGRY GOD…

  • God created everything
  • We sinned, and therefore sin came and made us all bad, and there was nothing good in us at all…
  • God was so holy and pure that He couldn’t even be near us because we were nothing but filthy rags…
  • So He sent Jesus to die on the cross, and if we’d say the right combination of words in a prayer, we’d receive a get-out-of-hell-free ticket and get to go to heaven
  • God wouldn’t be mad at us anymore

I’m being a little overly simplistic, but that’s not too far from what a lot of us grew up and were told… and it left us seeing God as a vengeful monster apart from Jesus.

And I believe that type of theology has harmed a lot of people and made them live a life of fear and self-doubt, and I don’t think that’s what God intends for us at all.

Ex. was once a part of a church

kids’ baptisms

Little kids testimony: so Jesus can take all of my badness away

My heart broke… do we not tell these kids that God created us in God’s image? and that while we are broken and fractured in so many ways, God’s image is still there, and God fiercely loves us…

So when we tell ourselves we have to get it together before we can go to God, or go to someone we’ve hurt, we’re telling ourselves an untruth.

Here’s the truth:

God doesn’t forgive us so that He can love us

he forgives us because He loves us.

See, we tell ourselves these lies that God doesn’t want to forgive us for that mistake we made, and that He waits until we get our act together and come to Him before he makes a move…

But that’s not the pattern of Grace we see reflected in the scriptures…

Ex. Looking way back at the very first book of the Bible…

6 The woman approached the tree, eyed its fruit, and coveted its mouth-watering, wisdom-granting beauty. She plucked a fruit from the tree and ate. She then offered the fruit to her husband who was close by, and he ate as well. 7 Suddenly their eyes were opened to a reality previously unknown. For the first time, they sensed their vulnerability and rushed to hide their naked bodies, stitching fig leaves into crude loincloths.

8 Then they heard the sound of the Eternal God walking in the cool misting shadows of the garden. The man and his wife took cover among the trees and hid from the Eternal God…

21 The Eternal God pieced together the skins of animals and made clothes for Adam and Eve to wear.

Genesis 3:6:8, 21

Remember, this comes after the Fall, and Adam & Eve are trapped in that shame and guilt cycle, and they are sewing fig leaves together to clothe themselves…

And when they hear God coming, they do what?

They Hide…

And the Bible teaches that God’s anger burned towards them and He couldn’t be in their presence because of their sin, and He sent a messenger to tell them as much, right?

NO!

The Scriptures say that God came to them and clothed them and cared for them.

Some scholars believe it literally means he rushed in to the garden to meet them…

“Adam, where are you?”

It’s almost like we can hear the pain in His voice…

See, we often lie to ourselves and believe God doesn’t want anything to do with us because of all we’ve done…

But the truth is, God pursues us. And that’s the TRUE message of the Gospel…

Truth: Loving God gospel.

  • God created everything and called it good
  • We sinned, and sin infected us like a horrible disease, and left us and our world broken
  • It was terminal and the result was brokenness and death
  • We by default try to go our own way
  • God continued to chase us
  • God wasn’t content to allow us to continue to languish in our brokenness, and He willingly sent Jesus to die on the cross and put an end to death once and for all
  • And the work of Jesus on the cross began the good work of the renewal of all things – of God reconciling us to Himself – because He loves us…
  • And we now get to work with him as partners in the renewal of all things…

That’s a far more compelling narrative, and I think the story of the Prodigal reveals that in such a beautiful and compelling way, and reminds us that we CAN get the courage to step into forgiveness because GRACE abounds much!

So for those of us that afraid to go to God and just come clean with what we’ve done because we’re afraid He’s out to get us… let’s spend some time reframing our theology and seeing the pattern we see in Jesus – which is telling us to stop wallowing it, take up our mat, and go and sin no more…

And because I think we’ve listened to the lies that say we don’t deserve forgiveness, the last thing we want to do is go to another HUMAN and ask forgiveness…

…because it’s scary… I mean, the idea of going to someone and saying, “I was wrong and I’m sorry” is terrifying because it’s vulnerable and we’re not sure what the other person will do… or the cycle of shame kicks in and this narrative starts up in our heads, and forces us to retreat…

I get it… sometimes we take steps to try to make things right with those who we hurt, and they aren’t willing or ready to hear it… and I know that can be incredibly frustrating…

But part of moving towards wholeness is taking the next right step… even when it’s hard, and even when it’s not met enthusiastically.

Sometimes people need time. Or sometimes their brokenness keeps us from getting a verbal “I forgive you…”

But I believe God honors us for taking that step, and God is in the middle of the situation, and will help us take steps towards wholeness, even if the other person isn’t willing to help.

And we can’t let our fear of how the other person might respond keep us from doing our part to bring restoration to our relationship, and sometimes we have to trust God is up to good in the middle of it, even when we don’t see it.

You might be thinking, “Yeah, that’s great when it comes to God, but have you met my family? (Or fill in the blank with whoever you need to go to for forgiveness?”

I get it. It’s important to remember that those we hurt are broken too, and they might not always respond exactly how we wish. But God might just use them to model the rhythm of grace towards you through forgiveness, if you’ll just step into it.

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Sometimes we don’t take a step towards forgiveness and healing because of some faulty assumptions about God, ourselves, and others…

Maybe for you, it would be good for you to take an honest assessment of your view of yourself, of God, and others, and ask God to replace faulty assumptions with true assumptions, so you can step towards forgiveness, and ultimately freedom.

//

The third thing I think we see from this story that is true about us also is this:

Often we don’t step towards experiencing forgiveness in a healthy way because we don’t really know how

Because of the son’s faulty assumptions, he told himself a lot of things about how he should move forward, but he didn’t bother to consult with the ONE he had offended.

See – he assumed he had lost all of his status with his father… so he made this plan on how to tell his father he acknowledged the consequences of his sin…

But as we’ll see in a few minutes, when he went to follow through with his “plan”, his father didn’t want to hear it, and had other ideas on what it would take to make things right.

I think we often don’t take a step forward towards experiencing forgiveness from those we’ve hurt because we simply don’t know how or we haven’t seen it modeled for us in a healthy way.

We’ve all seen a lame attempt at an apology:

  • I’m sorry you were offended by what I did (instead of saying, I”m sorry I offended you)
  • I’m sorry you weren’t able to handle your emotions…

So for those of us who don’t know a healthy way to apologize, I’m going to give you 3 simple steps towards saying I’m SORRY and stepping into forgiveness…

I’d encourage all of us to write this down.

3 Steps to a Healthy Apology:

  1. Name It

It’s really important that we come to a place where we can name specifically what we did to hurt someone else. Saying “I’m sorry” alone isn’t enough.

Think about how little kids apologize… they walk up to the other person, not making eye contact, kicking the ground, and mumble out an “I’m sorry”…

Our kids probably hate us for this, but since they were little, when we made them apologize to the other, they’d say, “I’m sorry…” and we’d say, “For…?”

See, it’s a cop out to simply say, “I’m sorry…”…

A better way is to say, “I’m sorry for ________________.” (Fill in the blank)

  • Yelling at you yesterday
  • Telling you I think you’re an idiot
  • Hurting you by ______________
  • Rooting for the Raiders instead of the Broncos…

Ok, I’m joking about that last one (kinda)… my point is that when we say sorry, it’s important to NAME what we did so the other person knows we know exactly how we’ve hurt them.

So, we start with, “I’m sorry for ______________.” The next thing we need to do is to…

  1. Own It

Owning it is all about acknowledging how this action (or actions) has hurt this person.

It might be something like:

“I’m sorry for yelling at you in front of the kids last night. I know I embarrassed you and it was a bad example for the kids, and I just want you to know I’m sorry.”

Owning it lets the other person know that you know the thing you did and the consequences of that thing, and goes a long way towards them understanding that you get it and care that it hurt them.

So we say we are sorry by naming what we did and owning how it has hurt them. The 3rd step is to do our best to…

  1. Fix It

This element is so incredibly important because it involves partnering together for healing.

This is really all about asking the question, “What can I do to make things right again?”

So maybe it’s:

“I’m sorry for yelling at you in front of the kids last night. I know I embarrassed you and it was a bad example for the kids, and I just want you to know I’m sorry. What can I do to make it right with you and the kids?”

Do you see that? It’s simple but super powerful. Instead of a cheap, “I’m sorry”, you have the power to say what you’re sorry for, acknowledging the pain it has caused, and asking what can be done to make it right.

My hope is that all of us, as we process this, would take those three steps of Name It, Own It, and Fix It and practice it, and take a real step towards experiencing forgiveness.

The bottom line is this:

Some of us need to experience forgiveness like the son experienced forgiveness.

Why?

Because to the degree we learn to experience and extend forgiveness is the degree we experience and extend freedom.

And I don’t think we can extend forgiveness without taking steps to learn to experience it well…

//

Now let’s take a look at this story through the lens of someone who extended forgiveness… to see what we can learn… and that’s through:

THE LENS OF THE FATHER

20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.

24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Luke 15:20-24,31

I love the picture we see here…

Think about the perspective of the Father:

  • His son essentially said, “You’re dead to me”
  • His son wasted a large share of all that he had worked to accumulate

A lot of reason to be mad and carry that, huh?

We might be (rightfully) asking ourselves,

“How could the Father possibly forgive this?”

What’s remarkable is that though the Father heard, “You are dead to me…”, he was more concerned about his son being dead to him… and his joy at his son’s return proves this.

I think the response here is absolutely beautiful, and we can learn a lot about HOW to extend forgiveness through the actions of the Father here…

Let’s walk through the Father’s response and we’ll see FIVE parts to this process that are a fantastic model for those of us who need to extend forgiveness to others…

He saw him…

Think about the last time someone did something to you that required you to forgive them…

Was it easy?

I’m gonna guess you’ll say NO!

Why?

Well, because they might have caused us a lot of pain…

Because the thought of being around them triggers something deep in us…

And because we’re human, it’s so hard for us to see past what this person did to the person they truly are…

And because in order to move towards forgiving someone, we have to do the hard work of grieving well…

Listen to the words of Brene Brown:

Forgiveness is so difficult because it involves death and grief.  I had been looking for patterns in people extending generosity and love, but not in people feeling grief.  At that moment it struck me:  Given the dark fears we feel when we experience loss, nothing is more generous and loving than the willingness to embrace grief in order to forgive.  To be forgiven is to be loved.

The death or ending that forgiveness necessitates comes in many shapes and forms.  We may need to bury our expectations or dreams.  We may need to relinquish the power that comes with “being right” or put to rest the idea that we can do what’s in our hearts and still retain the support or approval of others.  Joe explained, “Whatever it is, it all has to go.  It isn’t good enough to box it up and set it aside.  It has to die.  It has to be grieved.  That is a high price indeed.  Sometimes it’s just too much.”

This is so hard for us because in order to be able to move towards forgiving this person that hurt us, something has to die –

our expectations, our need to be right, our need for restitution – but it’s what living in the way of Jesus is all about…

Sometimes the grief of what happened causes us to build a wall and not even be able to see the person on the other side…

The father in this story had every right to be angry and to build up a wall and not at all look out with eyes of grace to see the person on the other side…

But we see that he was looking for his son…

What sticks out to me is that he was looking with an eye towards LIFE and RESTORATION, and that’s unusual when someone has been hurt, isn’t it?

I know for me, when someone hurts me, my first thought isn’t, “well God bless that person and give them a really nice day…”

Is it you?

Liars!

No! Our first thought often is, “someone has to pay…”

And left unchecked, we can sink into a really tough place with eyes that are looking for vengeance and death instead of life.

But the father here modeled for us what eyes towards life looked like:

The son was worried about getting all the little details right – really, he was thinking transactionally – get this formula down and I have a place to sleep tonight and a hot meal…

The dad wasn’t thinking that at all – he was thinking relationally – about restoring his relationship with his son…

Why? Because instead of thinking, “My son wished me dead”, he was thinking, “My son is still alive!”

He had an eye for life, not death…

And it’s easy to do when we’re hurting…

Death calls for more death, but life calls for life

Death says shame & guilt, life says FREEDOM

Death says TRANSACTION, Life says CELEBRATION

Death says you have to earn my forgiveness, Life says you’ve already been forgiven

Death says RESTITUTION, Life says RESTORATION

I’ve experienced my fair share of pain in my life – believe me – and sometimes when someone has hurt me, the last thing I want to do is put on an eye towards life –

But I’m convinced that this is what we’re called to do as followers of Jesus…

16 Because of all that God has done, we now have a new perspective. We used to show regard for people based on worldly standards and interests. No longer. We used to think of the Anointed the same way. No longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is united with the Anointed One, that person is a new creation. The old life is gone—and see—a new life has begun! 18 All of this is a gift from our Creator God, who has pursued us and brought us into a restored and healthy relationship with Him through the Anointed. And He has given us the same mission, the ministry of reconciliation, to bring others back to Him.

19 It is central to our good news that God was in the Anointed making things right between Himself and the world. This means He does not hold their sins against them. But it also means He charges us to proclaim the message that heals and restores our broken relationships with God and each other.

2 Cor 5:11-21

I think an important part of growing as a follower of Jesus is realizing that God uses us, even in the midst of our pain, to bring others to Him, and our efforts to live out the ministry of reconciliation means seeing others with a new perspective – not just as the person who hurt us, but as the person God loves and desires to do something unique in their lives…

So sometimes we have to grieve before we can truly “see” the person, and sometimes we have to adjust our perspective to one of looking for life and not death… and as being partners with God in reconciling all things to Himself…

When we can do that, we can move on to the next step the father modeled for us…

He had compassion upon him…

The Father saw him and did work to understand the perspective of his son…

He probably realized what a burden the son was carrying…

I’ve been chewing a lot on this verse:

Jesus: Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.

Luke 23:34

I once heard someone tell me about this concept in Buddhist psychology that essentially says, “If they could have done it differently, they would have done it differently…”

It’s this idea that given their unique worldview at the time, their upbringing, their pain, the weight that entangled them, etc, they couldn’t possibly have chosen a different path than they did at the time.

I don’t know anyone who seriously caused pain in another that, when they came to their senses, didn’t look back and say, “What was I thinking?” Their thinking was off. The way they saw things was off, and it led them to doing things they shouldn’t have done.

It’s kind of like when someone says, “I didn’t mean to say that.” Really, given their level of anger and their emotions, they did mean to say that at that moment… but that was a mistake, and it didn’t come from the best part of them, and they wish they hadn’t said it.

I think the real work for us is to look towards those who sinned against us and try to understand their pain and the reasons they did what they did… and to see them as a beloved child of God who is broken just like we are.

It’s not that we excuse it… but we seek to understand, so that we can develop compassion towards them.

A healthy process of extending forgiveness towards others HAS to include having compassion towards them.

This father looked out and SAW his son – and he was able to look beyond the thing that his son did to the person that his son was, and saw him as loved by God and worthy of compassion…

The next thing he did that we can learn from is that:

He ran towards him…

This is one of the most striking details in this story.

In our eyes, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal…

But in Middle Eastern culture, it was considered shameful for a patriarch to run. Almost like it was undignified, lower than him, etc.

What typically happened was the older brother would play the role of reconciler, and the father would wait for the one who offended him to come to him, so he could retain his dignity.

But because the father had an eye towards life and reconciliation, he didn’t really care what the naysayers said…

Because he SAW his son and HAD COMPASSION toward him, he wasn’t content to let his son wallow in his guilt and his shame.

How often do we allow others who have hurt us to languish in the pain?

Honestly, sometimes it feels good and justified to let them “feel and sit in what they’ve done…”

But what I think Jesus is showing us through this parable is that we are ACTIVE PARTICIPANTS in the cycle of grace, and it’s not ok to let those who’ve sinned against us languish in the pain over it.

If it were me, I’d probably stay seated and let him come with a heavy heart the whole way, sweating about what my response would be…

But – this father ran out to meet the son…

He INTERRUPTED THE PATTERN in order to display an extraordinary measure of grace.

I wonder how many of us know we need to forgive someone who hurt us, but we have a posture that says, “I’ll work towards healing only when they come to me.

As followers of Jesus, it’s important that we do the work to SEE those who have hurt us, to have COMPASSION upon them, and to RUN TO THEM and interrupt their pain and shame in order to move towards reconciliation, and to live out the healthy model of Forgiveness Jesus asks us to live out.

The next thing the father did…

He embraced him…

This is about accepting the son, flaws and all..

Remember, the son had this speech all prepared, and he launched into it… but the father INTERRUPTED him.

This was him reminding his son that HE WAS ACCEPTED and that WHAT HE DID didn’t define WHO HE WAS…

All of us need to hear that.

I once read that accepting someone and forgiving them is the first real act of love we can show someone.

You see, when we chase after someone even though their sin hurt us dearly, and remind them that yes, it hurt us dearly, but their sin is NOT who they are, it is one of the most compelling expressions of the true character and grace of God we can make.

Have you ever thought that God might want to use your pain to show others just how much God loves them despite their sin and shame? That God might want to use you to model a healthy cycle of forgiveness?

And finally:

He celebrated him…

The dad interrupted the cycle of guilt and shame and welcomed the son back into the family and threw a giant party.

Imagine how it would feel for someone you’ve hurt to welcome you back with open arms and celebrate the restoration of your relationship!

Now imagine how it would feel to someone who has hurt you if you embraced them and celebrated the restoration of your relationship.

//

So we’ve learned a lot about how we can take some steps towards extending forgiveness by looking at the example of the Father…

If we really want to take steps towards FREEDOM, we have to learn to experience FORGIVENESS, and like the Father in this story, we have to learn to EXTEND forgiveness.

Why?

Because to the degree in which we learn to experience forgiveness for ourselves and extend forgiveness to others is the degree in which we experience FREEDOM for ourselves and extend FREEDOM to others…

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SO WHAT ABOUT YOU?

The question is, how much freedom do you want?

Not much? Then don’t do the work to come to terms with your need to experience forgiveness.

Don’t examine your heart and life to see if you’ve wounded anyone else or if there is anything within you holding you hostage and keeping you from experiencing forgiveness.

Don’t want much freedom? Then let those who’ve hurt you languish in their guilt and shame, and don’t take steps towards extending forgiveness to them and setting you both free.

It’s up to you – you get to decide…

But let us all remember the words of Scripture:

13 Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, because you should act in kind.

– Colossians 3:13 (The Voice)

Forgiveness is ESSENTIAL to living in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus…

It’s thinking of the other and loving them well…

And it’s a reminder that despite God’s extravagant love towards us, sometimes we focus on US and completely forget Him – yet he still sees us, has compassion towards us, runs towards us, embraces us, and celebrates us and reminds us that NOTHING will ever separate us from the love of God.

And just like the son in this story, we all make mistakes that hurt other people … but the FATHER always is waiting with an eye towards life and reconciliation…

And like the FATHER in this story – we all have been hurt by others…

But my guess is, we’re tired of holding onto the shame and the guilt and the pain and the “holding it over someone else”… and we just want to be free…

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I think there is something for ALL of us in this parable when it comes to forgiveness…

Some of us need to experience forgiveness like the son experienced forgiveness.

Some of us need to pause this morning and ask ourselves if we’ve unintentionally hurt someone else, and make a plan to go to them and make it right.

Some of us need to do some work around having healthy assumptions about ourselves, God, and others…

Some of us need to interrupt the cycle of guilt and shame that’s hung over us for years, and remind ourselves that God loves us as we are, not as we should be.

Some of us need to extend forgiveness like the father extended forgiveness.

Maybe we need to shift how we see others… and see them as God’s children too… and that God desires to bring them towards wholeness…

Maybe we need to have compassion towards them, and remind ourselves that “they know not what they do…”

Maybe we need to run towards those who have wounded us, and show them the UNEXPECTED grace of God…

Maybe we need to embrace them and welcome them back into the family…

And maybe we need to celebrate God’s healing and restoration…

Whatever it is for you, I want us to take a few moments asking God to show us the next right step, and to give us the courage to DO IT.

TAKE A MOMENT…

LORD’S PRAYER SETUP

I want us to close together by praying a prayer Jesus modeled for us 2,000 years ago.

There’s this line: Forgive us our trespasses (sins), as we forgive those who trespass (sin) against us.

It’s all too easy to pray something like this and let it just be a rote exercise.

My hope is that, as we approach this prayer together, this line would JUMP out at us as one of the clearest expressions of God’s love we get to be a part of…

and that we’d be provoked to ACTION, to do our part towards healing and restoration and living out the Gospel in a practical way.

And let us NOT go to God asking for our daily bread without remembering our part in the cycle of forgiveness…

Let’s Pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven,

Hallowed be your name

Your kingdom come, Your will be done,

On Earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread,

And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen.

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Amen…

Have a great Sunday!