by Rev. Randy Brown
Last Sunday night the youth had a special guest come and share part of his story. It was a young man that I’ve known for a lot of years, he’s from Winchester and his name was Tyler Wright. Tyler, a few years ago you would of thought he’s your typical 17 year old boy. All that changed one day because Tyler was on his way to work one morning, was running late, took the back roads trying to get there on time. He got to a stop sign and that’s the last thing he remembers until he was waking up on a stretcher in a hospital room in Huntsville, Alabama. He had been life-flighted there. He doesn’t remember from that stop sign until waking up.
But as he was laying there in the bed some family came in, some police officers came in and they told him that he had been in a head on collision. They indicated to him that it was his fault and they shared with him that the person in the other vehicle had not survived the accident. Through a lot of things that happened through the courts and legal system, he was given 100 hours of community service mostly and altogether though, that was to be done by speaking to groups such as civic groups, church groups, school groups on the dangers of distracted driving.
I’ve heard Tyler tell his story, I can almost tell it for him. But after it was over he was asked a question, he shared about how in the court room the widow of the man who was in the other vehicle, he went to her and he apologized and said, I am so sorry. To hear her tell these words, “young man, I forgive you.” What a freeing thing that was for him to hear. Someone asked him after it was over, “have you forgiven yourself?” To which he responded, “I’m still working on that.” And it’s a daily effort to work on that. Because he’s still working on forgiving himself of the guilt that he carries with him.
You know guilt is a very dangerous and very heavy load to carry. One of the former playwrights, a man who was also a prankster as well as a playwright, decided one time that he would send a letter to 10 prominent people in the large city where he lived. Ten prominent people he sent them an anonymous letter and he said to them in this anonymous letter, we know what you did, we know your story, you better leave town. It was a total prank, but within 6 months all 10 people moved out of that town. Guilt is a heavy burden to carry.
It was for a young teenage boy, it was for 10 prominent people in a large city, it was for David as he wrote the song. I remember years ago we had a confirmation day with the bishop and it was when Bishop Morris was our bishop and we had it at Calvary Church in Nashville. I don’t know who the preacher was that put a young child up to this, but they were having a question and answer time. They would write the question down and hand it to the bishop. He read this question, and the question was, “Bishop Morris, what is the worst sin that you’ve ever committed?” Now if you remember Bishop Morris and you remember his facial expression, you could read him like a book and know when he was upset. But the bishop’s answer was this, “young friend that remains between me and God.” I thought that was a beautiful answer. Because that’s where it belongs. It’s not for us to air out. It remains between us and God because God is the only one who can forgive our sin. But the guilt is a heavy burden for us to carry.
If you’ve come this morning and you’re carrying that kind of burden with you and perhaps you’ve tried to cover it up and ignore it and bury it deep down in your soul. Let me encourage you to do something this morning, let me encourage you to deal with it the way that David dealt with it. Here’s what David said when he had dealt with it, and this is from the Good News Translation, “Happy are those who’s sins are forgiven, who’s wrongs are pardoned. Happy is the one whom the Lord does not accuse of doing wrong and who is free from all deceit. I confess my sins to You and I did not conceal my wrongdoings. I decided to confess them to You and You forgave me for all my sins.”
A person who does that, you don’t have to carry the burdens anymore. Look at the woman who was caught in adultery and the Scripture tells us that as they brought her to Jesus they were wanting a trial. They weren’t really trying to try her, they wanted to put Jesus on trial. They wanted to trap Him in this argument. Jesus was too smart for that because He said to them, “You know what the law says and you know what the law says to do. Follow the law. Go ahead and follow the law. But you that is without sin, you cast the first stone.”
Then what I believe is the most beautiful sound in all of Scripture, the sound of people dropping those rocks and shuffling off into the distance. The next thing we see is that woman who had been accused standing before Jesus. What does Jesus do? She’s not too sure what He’s about to say. But He says to her, “Where are those that accuse you?” She looked around and much to her surprise there was no one. “No one Lord.” The only one that could accuse her said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
She was freed from the guilt that she’d been carrying all her life. She confessed, she repented and Jesus said, “Don’t go down that road anymore. Go a new direction. Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” You see, that’s the thing about confession: confession means that we tell what God already knows. The Scripture is very clear, God already knows that we’ve sinned. If we say we haven’t, then we’re lying and calling God a liar, that’s in 1 John. But if we confess to tell God what He already knows then He will forgive and cleanse us. You see, confession leads to repentance.
Now repentance doesn’t just mean to say, I’m sorry. Repentance means that if you’re going down the road and you’ll repent you don’t just slow down, you turn around and go in a different direction. That’s repentance. To go in a different direction. If you’re not going to go in a different direction, then you hadn’t really repented. You can’t claim repentance, if you don’t change direction.
Years ago there was a time when Dr. Chapel walked into a hospital room to see one of his church members. They were talking and they prayed together and as he was leaving a voice from the other side of the curtain in the hospital room said, “Preacher can I see you a minute?” Dr. Chapel went over there and he met a man who was dying with cancer. The man looked at him with all the seriousness that he could muster and he said, “Dr. Chapel, years ago I shot a man in cold blood. Is there a chance your God would forgive me?” Dr. Chapel shared with him God’s forgiveness, 1 John 1:9 that I just shared with you a moment ago. Before the visit was over the man had confessed his sin, the man had asked God’s forgiveness, the man had repented. Dr. Chapel said, “When I walked out the door here’s what hit me, that man still had cancer of the body, but he no longer had cancer of the soul.”
Forgiveness. God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness is the most freeing thing that you and I can ever experience. If it’s going to free us, then we have to allow it to be a vessel where by other people are freed. That comes to this point – who are we to hold a grudge? Ouch. You ever held a grudge? I won’t ask for a show of hands, but you ever held a grudge? I want to ask you a question. Who did it hurt? Did it cause that other person to lay awake at night and not be able to sleep? Did it cause that other person high blood pressure and ulcers and anger management classes? Did it cause that other person to have headaches, emotional turmoil? Probably not. But did it cause you those issues? Have you ever dealt with un-forgiveness toward another person?
Tyler said over and over again, Mrs. Hightower, that was the widow of the man who was killed in the accident, she just said young man, I forgive you. Wow. What a freeing thing that must have been. God forgives us as well. He frees us and He holds us blameless. He expects us as forgiven people to be the channels and vessels of forgiving others. Is it hard? You better believe it’s hard. Because we want to hold on. You know, the Scripture says, “Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord.” I heard somebody the other day say, “Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord but I’m His instrument.” No, no. Vengeance belongs to God. Is it hard? You better believe it. Is it freeing? The most freeing thing you’ll ever experience.
Why in the world would God set you free only to have another sin bind you and hold you? Don’t hold a grudge. It’s easy to hold it. But by God’s grace let go of it. God will never ask you to forgive more than you’ve been forgiven. Forgive. How hard it must have been for Jesus who’s on the cross and Jesus as He was on the cross uttered some statements and one of them was this, “Father forgive them for they know not what they’re doing.” You know what forgiveness means if you translate it out of that language? Forgiveness doesn’t mean getting let off the hook. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you look the other way. Forgiveness means restoring to a right relationship. Forgiveness means, Lord let them have the best You’ve got.
Well here’s Jesus and they’ve crucified Him, and they’ve whipped Him, and they spat on Him, and they false testimony against Him, they beat Him with a whip, and they’re crucifying Him. And, Jesus prays for them! They did that to me, I’d pray for them too but it wouldn’t be the prayer Jesus prayed. But His prayer was Father forgive them. Father, the very best You’ve got give it to them. You know what the very best thing in life you can ever have? It’s a right relationship with God. That’s the very best thing you can ever have in your life – to be right related to God. For those people who were killing Him, that’s what Jesus prayed for, for them.
Lord, give them the best, the best You’ve got. That’s what He prayed. Forgiving others. It’s not easy. But it’s the most freeing thing that will ever happen in your life. You’re forgiven. Forgiveness is available to you; forgiveness should be available through you. And, the question to Tyler was this, how have you forgiven yourself? That’s the third point. Sometimes it’s hard. You may have done something in your past and you’re still beating yourself up over it. I understand that. The years go by and you’re still beating yourself up. You say, God can’t forgive me and I can’t forgive me. If that you this morning then let me ask you a question. Who are you to be harder on you than God was? You can forgive yourself and may He give you the grace to do that.
Years ago in a revival meeting Bishop Hunt was preaching. Bishop Hunt was my bishop when I started in ministry a long time ago. Bishop Hunt was about 6 foot 8, giant of a man but he had a tender heart. The story was told that this night when a young boy came to know Christ as Lord and Savior, he was having a very difficult time just letting go. Bishop Hunt would pray with him and Dr. Chapel would pray with him. Finally Bishop Hunt got down on his knees and looked eye to eye with the young boy, pulled him close and said, “Son when are you going to stop trying and start trusting?” Sometimes that’s where it begins for us. If God be for us, who will be against us? Not even ourselves. Are we willing to stop trying and start trusting?
Sometimes we can’t let go of what we’ve done, but the Scripture tells us that we’re not out of bounds. The Scripture tells us, “There’s therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Now I’m not a counselor and I’m not a therapist, but a lady was having a particular hard time letting go of the sin, this one particular sin that she was beating herself up with. She went to her pastor and her pastor in a moment that I think was probably prompted by the Holy Sprit’s guidance, he thought of this particular passage, “There’s therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” She confessed to be a Christian, that verse applied to her. He said, “Do you believe that?” She said, “Yes, I do.”
He said, “I’ll tell you what I want you to do, everyday when you start beating yourself up I want you to remind yourself, ‘there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.’ ” She said, “Preacher that’s all I’ll ever do all day long.” He said, “I don’t care, do it.” The next day she started beating herself up, she started reciting that verse. That’s all she did all day long was recite that verse. Within a few weeks it was down to 3 or 4 times a day. In a few more weeks, it was down to once a day. In a few more weeks, it finally sank in, and she didn’t beat herself up anymore because she realized God’s mercy.
“There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” God has forgiven us, we can forgive each other, and we can forgive ourselves. Let me close with this, y’all get this extra. The early service didn’t get this. Don’t tell them. Years ago, out in the desert southwest a man was driving his Rolls Royce across the desert. It broke down. He called on the phone, told the people at the Rolls Royce company, “I’m broke down in the middle of the desert I need help, I can’t even get the car started.” As the story goes, about 45 minutes to an hour later they had a helicopter on the way. The mechanics got out of the helicopter fixed his car, got back in the helicopter, flew off and he went on his way. Couple of weeks later he hadn’t gotten the bill from the Rolls Royce company. He called them and he said, “I broke down and you all need to send me a bill. I need to pay the bill, settle up with you.” They said, “Well we’ll research it and get back to you.” About a month later went by, he made the same phone call. This time here’s what he heard, “Sir, we don’t have a record that a Rolls Royce has ever broken down anywhere.”
He takes our sins and He drops them into the sea of forgetfulness and He remembers them no more. You’re forgiven. You can forgive others. You can forgive yourself. That’s what the Book says and the Book don’t lie. Amen.