This is our last week and we talked about when “I Owe God”. If you are like me you have had a time when you sinned, you asked for forgiveness but you didn’t feel forgiven. As a student minister I can’t count the times I encounter people who feel like they owe God and that somehow He will not forgive them or they still feel burden with guilt and never feel forgiven. This usually results in us withdrawing from God. We avoid God, we quit talking to him, and we feel even guiltier. So how do I repay God when I hurt him? How do I feel forgiven and remove all this guilt?
King David was a man after God’s own heart. He wrote some of the most amazing praise hymns that we are still singing. But David had sin in his life namely the sin of committing adultery with Bathsheba and having one of his friends (Uriah was one of David 30 mighty warriors) and her husband killed. David is confronted about this by Nathan the prophet and realizes the gravity of his sin. David owes God big time. How do you get forgiveness of adultery and murder? But God does forgive and we gain a little insight through David’s prayer for forgiveness in Psalms 51.
Psalms 51:1-3 David asks God to remove his sin and guilt. Can you imagine the guilt he must have? You have a meeting with your 30 mighty warriors or 29 of them now. You walk up on Bathsheba crying because she missing her husband. David knows he sinned against God and owes him.
Psalms 51:4-6 David begins to spill the beans and tell God everything. He takes full blame for his actions. He doesn’t try to justify his sins. Have you ever done this? Lord I am sorry but you see.. David could have said Lord I committed adultery but you see I couldn’t help it. You created a beautiful woman and made me to where I get turned on by beautiful women. If you had made her ugly I wouldn’t have sinned. This may sound weird but Adam did this in the garden. God this woman that you gave me lead me to sin. David says that God desires honesty so he admits it was all him. We have to be honest with God. No excuses just tell God the truth. It is hard doing this, but if we want true forgiveness we need to be brutally honest with God and ourselves.
Psalms 51:7-12 David asks once again that God would remove his guilt and return his joy. David is heartbroken over his sin and knows he has hurt people and God. He also asks for God not to take his Holy Spirit from him. David saw this happen to Saul and doesn’t want this to happen to him.
Psalms 51:13-15 When I first read this section I couldn’t help but to think that David is bargaining with God. Do this and I will do that. Honestly, I have done this with God. But, I don’t think this is what David is doing. I think he is telling God what he plans to do to repay God. Let’s pause here. I can’t repay God; I can’t earn my salvation, thank God for grace. But if I am going to be forgiven I have to repent. How do you repent of murder? Can’t undo it. But you can tell people of what you have done and why they don’t need to be like you. David could tell his family, friends, rebels, and others of his sin and God’s love and grace. David basically tells God I will not try to hide my sin any longer but will come clean and use this moment to teach people about You.
Psalms 51:16-19 David finishes by stating the most critical things to help us feel forgiven. God doesn’t need more prayers, sacrifices, or you name what you have tried. He needs a broken heart that understands what I did and why this hurt God and others involved. Let’s be honest. Have you ever asked for forgiveness but you weren’t really sorry. Sometimes we don’t feel forgiven because deep down we know we are not sorry. I have apologized to people and what I really meant was that I was sorry I got caught, I am sorry I am uncomfortable now, I am sorry you are hurt, but not sorry that I did it. Paul calls this godly sorrow that will lead you away from sin and to salvation (2 Cor 7:10). We can’t lie to ourselves and sometimes we treat prayer like guilt remover. Pray a little prayer and the guilt is gone. But deep down we know that we were not sorry we just wanted to feel better.
When I owe God the payment is simple, He desires a humble, contrite, and broken heart. When we give this to God he erases our debt and removes our guilt.
This week we talked about when I feel that God owes me. This usually shows up when we feel that God has taken something away from us: someone we love dies, we get injured and have permanent damage, we lose a job, etc. Something we had but now we don’t and we feel that God took this from us and needs to give it back. It also comes in the form of being jealous of what someone has and feeling that you deserve it. I define jealousy as feeling as if you deserve what someone has and see someone as the villain. We can be jealous of someone’s wealth, possessions, talent, skills, etc. Andy Stanley points out in his book Enemies of the Heart that our problem in not with others but with God.
In Genesis Jacob falls in love with Rachel. She is beautiful. The Bible says “there was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes, but Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face. (Gen 29:17 NLT)”. My translation is that Leah was ugly but Rachel was a model. You can imagine what that must have been like as sisters. Jacob works 7 years to marry Rachel but his father-in-law switches out the bride and he marries Leah instead. He works another 7 to get Rachel. Two wives are never portrayed positive in the Bible and when your wives are sisters look out. Not only sisters but an ugly and beautiful sister. I wonder who Jacob wanted to be with more? Jacob loved Rachel more but Leah was the sister that could have children. This was huge in those days and Leah finally had something to hold over Rachel. Leah was probably praised by the family, she probably rubbed it in, and Rachel was jealous.
When Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children for Jacob, she became jealous of her sister. She pleaded with Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” Then Jacob became furious with Rachel. “Am I God?” he asked. “He’s the one who has kept you from having children!” (Gen 30:1-2 NLT) Jacob nailed it. Rachel’s jealousy was rooted in the fact that she believed that God owed her children. She blamed Jacob but the person she was mad at was God.
I don’t know if you have ever been mad at God. I have met several people who were. It is a heavy bag to carry around. They can’t talk to God, worship him, or have anything to do with him. They can’t believe and understand that God is so cruel to take or deprive them of something they value. I can see this. I have seen teens die, youth mothers left widowed, etc. I have seen people in poverty while others inherit millions. Life often seems so unfair.
So how do we deal with feeling like God owed us? This probably depends on what we feel we are owed. I never like over simplifying things and the deeper the hurt and pain the harder to let go of our anger or resentment. But I would start by saying we need to trust God. We need to trust that he has our best interest at heart and that no matter what happens in life he still cares and loves us. Psalms 139 is a beautiful. “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me! (Psa 139:17-18 NLT)” God loves you, cares for you, and thinks about you all the time. God never promised you a life that would be fair or free of troubles. Why didn’t God prevent something tragic from happening? I don’t know. But I believe that God loves me and just because he allowed something to happen doesn’t change that.
God gives us all gifts. Some are more valued in our world. But sometimes we need to quit focusing on what we do have and not on what we wish we had. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about this when it comes to spiritual gifts but we could apply it to every area of life. Some of us spend our life wishing we had what others have while simply neglecting what God gave us.
In our third lesson on baggage we deal with “I owe You”. This is when you know you have done something to someone and they are now carrying around some baggage because of you. When this happens we usually begin to feel guilty, shameful, and at fault. The longer we carry the burden of hurting someone around the more we have to avoid this person, justify our actions to ourselves and others, and try to forget what we done.
People try to deal with this baggage in different ways. In Genesis Joseph’s brothers lie to their dad by leading him to believe Joseph is dead. They also sold their brother into slavery. Just imagine the holidays, birthdays, and all the times that dad brought up Joseph. No doubt they carried around a lot of baggage. When they go to buy food from Joseph the first time he throws them in prison for 3 days. Then he tells them that 9 of the 10 brothers can go home but one must stay. What is the first thing to happen? “ Speaking among themselves, they said, “Clearly we are being punished because of what we did to Joseph long ago. We saw his anguish when he pleaded for his life, but we wouldn’t listen. That’s why we’re in this trouble. Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy?” Reuben asked. “But you wouldn’t listen. And now we have to answer for his blood!” (Gen 42:21-22 NLT) Wow 10 or more years later they are still feeling guilty about Joseph. That is how baggage works. You carry it around and it is ever present on your mind.
When the family ran out of food they had to return with Benjamin. But as they left Joseph sends his police force to stop them and accuses them of stealing his silver cup. They search the bags and the cup is found in Benjamin’s bag. How do they explain this event? Judah answered, “Oh, my lord, what can we say to you? How can we explain this? How can we prove our innocence? God is punishing us for our sins. My lord, we have all returned to be your slaves– all of us, not just our brother who had your cup in his sack.” (Gen 44:16 NLT) What sins? Selling Joseph. How many times in life do you think they were reminded of their sin.
Joseph knows that they owe him but he forgives them in chapter 45. But they still feel the guilt and shame. When Jacob (dad) dies they are afraid that Joseph will no longer be so forvging. So they finally decide that they need to let go of their baggage and come clean and pay their debt. Well maybe not because in Genesis 50:15-21 they try to manipulate Joseph into forgiving them by saying it was their dad’s dying wish. Then they come and offer to be his slaves. Lucky for them Joseph hadn’t been carrying around his baggage and reaffirms his forgiveness.
The brothers did one thing well and one thing terrible as they try to get rid of the “I owe You” baggage. We don’t need to do what the brothers tried to do by committing another sin to solve the other. They lied and tried to manipulate forgiveness. This wouldn’t have gotten rid of their baggage it would have just added another pair of pants to an over stuffed bag. But so many times this is our response. To get rid of our debt we need to come clean and confess our fault and do whatever we can to make amends. They offered to become slaves in order to pay off their debt. That was good. They basically tell Joseph we sold you into slavery you can now make us slaves. This is basically I owe you $10 so I am willing to give you $10. When we hurt someone we need to repent and make amends. If it can be paid back then do it. If it isn’t tangible then ask them how you can make it up. If they refuse to forgive then do what you can to redeem your sin and let it go and know that you did all you could and that God no longer hold you accountable for your debt.
The key concepts in this series come from Andy Stanley’s “Enemies of the Heart”. In week two as we continued to talk about Baggage we began by talking about when someone owes you something. We pick up baggage when someone owes us something and we are holding their debt waiting for re-payment.
The way we realize we are carry this baggage around with us is when we have re-occurring anger towards someone. It is when someone’s name is mentioned and we get upset. We see someone and our mood suddenly sours. We bump into someone and we feel hurt and pain from their actions towards us.
To let go of this baggage we have to determine what it is that we feel they owe us. What debt do they need to repay us? Often times this looks like this:
You said hurtful things to me and I feel like you owe me my dignity, self respect, self esteem, pride, etc. You spread a rumor about me and now I feel like you owe me my reputation. You stole my girlfriend and you owe me a relationship. You cheated me out of having a dad at my ball games and you owe me experiences other kids had but not me.
The first step into letting go of this baggage is to identify what it is that we think they owe us. This is not always easy and sometimes we may feel they owe us one thing or 20 things. I have had times when it took weeks of contemplation before I figured out what it was that they owed me.
Once I identify what they owe me I have to determine what it is that I feel they need to do to settle the debt. How does a dad repay missing all my ball games? How do you repay telling a secrete I shared with you? How do you pay me back the hurt and pain you caused me? Can you really pay me back? What do I really want? An apology, a token that shows you are sorry, to feel understood, et… If there is a debt that can be paid back then ask for it to be repaid. This may feel awkward but it is better than carry around baggage the rest of your life. But there are some debts that can never be fully paid back or someone who will not repay you.
This is where forgiveness comes in. At some point I need to forgive the debt. This is never easy because depending on the amount owed it is hard to forgive. If you owe me $5 I can let that go tomorrow. If you owe me $50,000 I will have a hard time forgiving that debt. But if I don’t I will have to carry around all my anger, hurt, and pain.
When I look through the Bible I see many people who forgave people of their debt. I focused on Joseph. Although Joseph is the vice president of Egypt (at least 8 years at this point) his ability to forgive is amazing. Think about what his brother took from him: trust, security, freedom, family, hope, etc. Joseph had spent up to 13 years of his life as a slave or prisoner because of what his brothers did to him. Think about the bitterness, anger, heartache he must have experienced. Then he comes to power and his brothers need his help. He is now in a position to crush them and make them pay for all the pain he brought on him. He does throw them into prison for 3 days but in the end he forgives them.
The big question is how do you do this, especially when the debt is big and maybe the person who owes you could care less. The first thing I would say is that this will be a process and it may take a long time to forgive their debt. Jesus says we should forgive someone 7 X 70. I think sometimes we may have to forgive a debt 490 times before we can let it go. I have had experiences when the debt was high and the pain was deep that I had to constantly forgive them for one action.
Two tips for helping you forgive. 1) You may want to have a ceremony where you forgive the debt. Maybe you write out everything they owe you and you burn the debt. You may burry it under a cross. Put it in a bottle and throw into the ocean or river. I like tangible ways to symbolize I am letting go and forgiving you. 2) When the anger and pain returns, and it will, use that as a prayer prompt to ask God to help you forgive them and let go. It is amazing how if you do this enough the pain will begin to fade.
We used this video in the first lesson.
We take baggage with us on trips. We feel it full of things that we need like our clothes, toiletries, etc. In our life we collect baggage as we experience pain and hurt. We collect baggage after: someone hurts us with words or actions, we have to suffer the consequences of our sins, we are impacted by others bad choices, we are treated unfairly, etc.
Some items are small and others are large depending on the degree of pain it caused us. Just like when we go on a trip we only need our baggage for a temporary time but we if we don’t un-pack it quickly the contents will ruin. If we don’t unpack our emotional baggage quickly it will lodge in our heart and damage it. The longer we carry it around the more damage it will do to us.
In Jesus’ day the religious leaders piled on heavy burdens for the people who were trying to follow God. They made more and more laws for the people to follow. They made 39 prohibitions to explain what working on the Sabbath looked like. Jesus tells the people in Matthew 11 that he has come to lighten their load and not weigh them down with his teachings. His message would lighten their load not weigh them down.
God doesn’t want us to carry around baggage. The great news is that the Bible tells us how to unpack our bags so we are free and our hearts stay pure and healthy. Over the next 4 weeks we will look to discover four ways that we collect baggage and how to unpack our bags.
“but the angel reassured them.”Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior– yes, the Messiah, the Lord– has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! (Luke 2:10-11)”
As we thing about telling our friends about Jesus the second thing that we can learn from the angels proclamation is that the good news of Jesus is for all people. This is something that we all know but we don’t always believe deep in our heart. If you are like me you have written some people off and thought they will never give their life to Jesus. Maybe they do things that would make Satan blush or they don’t believe in God. One of our teens said that he has written people off so he didn’t feel obligated to talk to them about Jesus. Several of our junior high students said they have written people off because they cuss, lie, are mean, etc.
The good news of Jesus is that everyone can be saved no matter where they have been, what they have done, or what we think of them. I have seen people who have come from incredibly rough situations who have given their life to Christ and the transformation is amazing. We need to constantly remind ourselves that Jesus came for everyone and everyone can be saved. I love 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 because as Paul list all the sins that keep people away from God he says that people in the church did those very sins in their past. How amazing is grace that God desires to save pedophiles, prostitutes, and other perverse acts?
When we tell our friends about Jesus we need to assure them that no sin is strong enough to overcome God’s love, grace, and mercy.