Part 2: …with yourself
(With backpack and luggage) Have you ever seen someone like this—lugging around a lot of baggage? I’ve seen this a lot at airports—some poor sap loaded down like a pack mule! But I’m not the only one lugging around a lot of baggage today. So are a lot of you—we just can’t see yours. Lots of us are dragging around regrets and guilt from old sins that God forgave a long time ago. God forgave us, but we haven’t been able to forgive ourselves, and we’re packing the guilt and regret like a lot of baggage. So today, in part 2 of Making Peace, we’re going to talk about making peace with yourself. First, you make peace with God—He forgives you. Then you’ve got to forgive yourself.
We talked last week about making peace with God, and the next two weeks, we’re going to talk about making peace with each other. But before we can make peace with others, we have to make peace with ourselves. It’s hard to forgive others if you can’t forgive yourself. Forgiving yourself starts with the truth:
1. The truth: God has forgiven all your sins.
This is where we start: with the truth that God has forgiven all your sins. Do you believe that God has forgiven all your sins? To try to convince you, God uses many vivid analogies in the Bible. We’ll start with this one from the apostle Paul:
Colossians 2:13–14 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.
First, “He forgave all our sins.” How many? All. “All” pretty much covers all: past, present and future. That sin that haunts you, that you can’t let go of, that fills you with regret and shame: God forgave that sin too. All our sins.
Second, He canceled the record of the charges against us, nailing it to the cross. Paul uses several vivid images here.
In the Greek, the word for “the record of the charges” means a hand-written note of debt, an IOU. Imagine giving God a hand-written list of all your sins, of every one of God’s laws that you have broken. It’s a list of all the things you promised God to do, and didn’t; and all the things you promised not to do, and did. It’s your debt to God, your debt of sin that you can never repay. So you’ve got this written record of your sins, your IOU.
But God canceled your IOU—that word means he wiped it out. In those days, a document was either papyrus, a kind of paper made from a plant, or vellum, which was animal skin. Ancient ink had no acid in it, so it lay on the surface of the papyrus or vellum. Because both were expensive, writers would reuse them by taking a sponge and wiping off the old ink. That’s what the word canceled means: God wiped out the list—erased it. This is an image God uses elsewhere of wiping out, blotting out, or erasing our sins.
ILL: I get a zillion emails. I delete as many as I can: delete, delete, delete. But you know that just because you hit the delete key, doesn’t mean they’re gone. It just moves them to trash, and if I want, I can go there and retrieve it again. If I really want those emails to be gone, I have to empty my trash, which erases all those deleted items.
When God forgives us, He doesn’t just delete our sins and keep them in the trash, so He can pull them up and remind us of them; He erases them completely. He empties the trash. Our sins are wiped out. But as we’ll see, lots of us are not as generous with ourselves as God is with us. We save those sins in our trash and regularly open them up.
God canceled or wiped out your IOU. Erased it.
Next image: God canceled your IOU by nailing it to the cross. When Jesus was nailed to the cross, all your sin, all your guilt, all your shame was nailed there too.
ILL: Think of it this way. When you pay your IOU or a bill, the person receiving your payment will mark the bill paid. They may stamp it “Paid in full” across the bill, usually in big red letters like this.
When Jesus died on the cross, He paid for all your sins, He paid your IOU, and when He died, He cried “It is finished.” The Greek word is tetelesthai. It is the word that was stamped across a bill—it means “paid in full”. On the cross, Jesus stamped “paid in full” across your IOU, your debt of sin to God. Your sins—all of them—are paid in full.
All of your sins are forgiven. The whole IOU! And to make double sure, first He erased all the sins written there, then He nailed it to the cross and stamped it “Paid in full”.
ILL: Martin Luther, the great 16th century reformer, was visited in a dream one night by Satan, who brought to him a record of his own life, written in Martin’s own hand. The devil said to him, “Is that true, did you write it?” The poor terrified Luther had to confess it was all true. Scroll after scroll was unrolled, and the same confession was wrung from him again and again—all true. As the devil prepared to leave, suddenly Luther turned to him and said: “It is true, every word of it, but write across it all: ‘The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.’”
God has forgiven all your sins. Your IOU has been paid in full! Because this is such an important truth, God uses many other images all through the Bible to illustrate it. Here are a few. (By the way, the verses listed are either metaphors of forgiveness or say that God has forgiven all our sins, that Christ died once for all—once for all people, for all sins, for all time.)
Psalm 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
He has removed our transgressions from us—how far has he removed them? As far as the east is from the west. How far is that? Forever! He didn’t say “as far as the north is from the south.” You can go north, and eventually, you’ll start going south; or you can go south, and eventually you start going north; north and south meet at the poles. But you can go east forever and you’ll never start going west; or you can go west forever and never start going east; east and west never meet. You may think that sin is clinging to you; but God has removed it from you as far as the east is from the west. He’s emptied the trash!
Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
Moms, what is the hardest Kool-aid stain to get out? Red Kool-aid. I don’t think we serve red Kool-aid in Adventureland for just that reason. My granddaughter Jenna loves to eat breakfast with me. She sits on my lap and we eat a bowl of groats mixed with almonds and berries: blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. She sticks her cute little hand in my bowl and stirs it around looking for blueberries. When she’s done her mouth is purple, her hands are purple and if I’m not careful, her dress is purple. These are hard stains to get out! That’s the picture here. God takes the hardest stain—scarlet and crimson—and says He will make them white as snow or wool. God takes our sins—our worst sins, the most staining sins—and makes them white as snow. You may think you are permanently stained; God has made you white as snow.
Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.
Here’s that blotting out or erasing metaphor, which we’ve already talked about. And then he adds that he remembers your sins no more. When God forgives, He forgets. He remembers them no more.
ILL: A Forgiving God in an Unforgiving World retells the true story of a priest in the Philippines, a much-loved man of God who carried the burden of a secret sin he had committed many years before. He had repented but still had no peace, no sense of God’s forgiveness.
In his parish was a woman who deeply loved God and who claimed to have visions in which she spoke with Christ and he with her. The priest, however, was skeptical. To test her he said, “The next time you speak with Christ, I want you to ask him what sin your priest committed while he was in seminary.” The woman agreed.
A few days later the priest asked, “Well, did Christ visit you in your dreams?”
“Yes, he did,” she replied.
“And did you ask him what sin I committed in seminary?”
“Well, what did he say?”
“He said, ‘I don’t remember.'”
What God forgives, he forgets
Jeremiah 31:34 “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Isaiah 44:22 I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.
Here’s one we can relate to this time of year. Some mornings we wake up with that heavy ground fog. You know the sun is shining above it, but you can’t see anything but gray. You’re socked in! But in a little while, the sun burns that morning fog away, and you’re basking in sunshine. That’s the picture here. Sometimes our sins feel like a heavy cloud or fog enveloping us—we feel socked in! But God promises to burn away our sins like a morning fog!
Micah 7:19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
Two pictures here: God treads our sins underfoot; He tramples them, showing that they are utterly powerless before Him. Those things that you can’t seem to shake are just dirt under His almighty feet! And He hurls our iniquities into the depths of the sea. The depths of sea—anyone know how deep the ocean is? The deepest spot measured so far is 35,837 feet deep—that’s over 6 ¾ miles deep! When God buries your sins there, you’re not getting them back! Corrie Ten Boom used to say that God buries our sins in the depths of the sea and then posts a sign that says, “No Fishing!”
God has forgiven all your sin! There is more grace in God’s heart than there is sin in your past.
Jesus died once for all to forgive our sins. Once for all: one sacrifice for all people, for all sins, for all time. But this doesn’t mean that everyone is automatically forgiven. He offers full forgiveness as a gift; we still have to accept it.
ILL: Let’s imagine that I offer to give anyone who asks $1000 cash—we’re pretending. I’ll be down front after the service, and all you have to do is come ask—$1000 is yours for the asking. How many of you will come? All who believe and want it. If you don’t believe that I’ll do it, you won’t come. If you don’t believe that I have the money (you’re right), you won’t come. If you don’t want the money, you won’t come. But all who believe and want it, come and receive.
Jesus offers full forgiveness as a gift. You simply have to believe and receive. Just like you have to believe in me to receive $1000, you have to believe in Jesus to receive forgiveness.
1 John 1:7–9 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Notice that Jesus purifies us from all sin, from all unrighteousness. There it is again: God forgives all our sin—even the worst you’ve ever done. All our sin!
But notice that a response is required from us. If we walk in the light, then Jesus purifies us. What does that mean? To walk in the light is to live in relationship with God. We believe in God, we love God, we try to follow. We walk with Jesus. To walk in the light doesn’t mean that we have no sin—that’s obvious because he says if we walk in the light, Jesus purifies us from all sin. He purifies us even while walking in the light! And he goes on to say that if we say we have no sin, we’re fooling ourselves.
He gives another condition: if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. The word “confess” literally means “to agree, to same the same thing”. When God says, “that is sin”, we agree with Him. Of course, God also says, “I forgive you,” so we must agree with that too. So when I confess my sin, I agree with God that what I did is wrong and that He forgives me. “Lord, I did the wrong thing—sorry. Thanks for forgiving me.” Confession is a way not only of acknowledging our guilt, but also of receiving the gift of forgiveness, and forgiving ourselves. I confess, “I sinned, and I am forgiven. Thank you Lord.” (say together)
Someone asked me, “What about the sins we don’t even know or recognize? We can’t confess them; so are we not forgiven?” God forgives all our sins, even the ones we don’t know about. If I am not aware of a sin, I can’t confess it; God forgives both intentional and unintentional sins. But if I am aware, if God has somehow brought it to my attention, then I need to confess it, not to earn God’s forgiveness, but to gratefully receive it. We confess: “I sinned, and I am forgiven. Thank you Lord.” (say together)
To be aware of my sin and refuse to confess reveals a startling lack of gratitude.
ILL: If you did something nice for me, and I’m unaware of it, I won’t say thanks, and you won’t think worse of me for it. But if I am aware of your kindness and refuse to say thanks, then you’ll think me ungrateful.
Confession is not an obsession with our sin; it’s an obsession with our Savior. It’s not something we do to merit forgiveness—that’s a gift; it’s something we do to receive the gift and express our thanks. But if you are aware of your sin and refuse to acknowledge it, then you spurn the forgiveness Jesus paid for.
ILL: If you don’t think you need the $1000, you won’t come and ask for it; and you won’t receive it, even though I’ve offered it for free.
I took some time with this because I want you to know that God has forgiven all your sins. It’s His gift to you, paid for by Jesus. But not everyone receives it. You have to believe and receive.
2. The application: You must forgive yourself.
If God has forgiven all your sin, you must forgive yourself. This is harder than it looks.
- We’ve seen that God forgives all our sins; we regularly hang on to a few big ones.
- We’ve seen that God forgives and forgets; many of us have better memories than God when it comes to our sin.
- We’ve seen that God erases our sins; we keep them tucked away in the trash and open them back up.
- We’ve seen that God said “Paid in full” when He nailed our sins to the cross; we keep beating ourselves up, thinking that we need to keep paying on that old IOU.
- We’ve seen that God buries our sins in the deepest sea; we often go fishing.
We’re hard on ourselves. We’ve got to forgive ourselves because God has forgiven us. When we don’t forgive ourselves, we make things worse.
ILL: Last week, I told you about flinging my golf club. Let me tell you a secret about golf. You have to forgive yourself. You are going to make some bad shots. Everybody does—even the pros. When you make a bad shot, you can forgive yourself and start over, or you can let it eat at you, and you’ll make more bad shots. You can carry it around like this baggage—it’s really hard to swing well like this!
About a month ago, I was playing golf with some buddies, and I was one over par on the first five holes—which is really good for me. On the sixth hole, a par 4, I got a 12! I got in a sand trap and couldn’t get out. My first thought was, “I ruined this round—my score is going to be horrible.” My mood soured. Then I had a different thought. “That’s one hole—a really bad hole—it doesn’t have to ruin the 12 that are left. Forget it. Play the rest of the round like it never happened.” What did I do? I forgave myself. And I played really well the rest of the day—I went 5 over par on the last 12 holes for an 86. An 86 with a 12 on one hole! But it was a victory for me because I forgave myself and played well.
You’ve got to forgive yourself in golf because you will hit some bad shots.
And you’ve got to forgive yourself in life because you’ll hit some bad shots there too. Some of you are thinking, “Joe, you have no idea. What I did wasn’t just a bad shot. I burned down the golf course! I murdered my partners. I cheated and lied to my partner.” How many of our sins did God forgive? All of them…even the big ones. Listen to this:
Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
This is how we are supposed to treat others—don’t you suppose we ought to treat ourselves as well? Bear with others—show some forbearance, some understanding. Do that with yourself as well. Forgive whatever grievance you have against others—forgive whatever—all of them. Do that with yourself as well. Forgive others as the Lord forgives you. How has God forgiven you? Fully, freely, all your sins. Do that with yourself as well.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
This is how we are supposed to treat others—don’t you suppose we ought to treat ourselves as well? Be kind and compassionate to others; be kind and compassionate to yourself as well. Forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven you. And forgive yourself as God has forgiven you—fully and freely of all your sins.
Forgive yourself! The word, “forgive” means “to let go, to send away.” The opposite would be “to hang on to, to keep.” To forgive a sin means that you let go of it and send it away. You let go of the memory, the sting; you let go of the desire for revenge or punishment. You’ve got to forgive yourself, and let go of that sin. (Luggage.)
- Maybe you were unfaithful to your spouse 20 years ago; no one knows but you and God, and you’ve carried that guilt for 20 years. Confess it: I sinned, I am forgiven, thank you Father. Then let it go. (Luggage.)
- Maybe you cheated someone financially years ago and it still weighs on you. It could be the IRS, or your work, or a friend. Confess it: I sinned, I am forgiven, thank you Father. Then let it go. (Luggage.)
- Maybe you lied, or were abusive, or abused alcohol or drugs, or were hard on your spouse or kids, or divorced and it was your fault. Whatever it was… Confess it: I sinned, I am forgiven, thank you Father. Then let it go. (Luggage.)
Let it go. Forgive yourself. God has! Say this with me:
Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
If you are in Christ, you are forgiven…all your sins. Say this with me: God forgives me, so I forgive myself.
Just in case you think you are too bad to be forgiven…
3. The example: Paul was a trophy of grace.
You might think you are bad, but Paul the apostle thought he was “the worst of sinners.”
1 Timothy 1:12–17
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.
Paul thought of himself as the worst of sinners; if God could forgive him, God could forgive anybody. Paul was a blasphemer, he persecuted the church, and was responsible for killing Christians. He was a murderer, a religious terrorist—the worst of sinners.
Yet Jesus chose him and redeemed him and used him. When Paul considered this, he praised God for His mercy, grace and patience. Paul referred often to his violent past—all those verses on your outline—but he saw himself as a trophy of grace. He remembered his sin, but in a redemptive way. His sin was forgiven, so when he remembered it, he broke out in praise to God!
You are forgiven. The next time you remember that sin that has haunted you, rather than wallowing in guilt and shame, thank God that He has forgiven you and you are a trophy of grace! Forgiveness transforms your memories into praise for God’s grace!
If God could do it for Paul, the worst of sinners, He can do it for you!
Here’s how we’re going to finish. The band is coming back and we’re going to sing a song about God’s amazing love and grace. When you came in you were given an index card. If you have been lugging some sin around, it’s time to forgive yourself, to let go and leave it here. I want you to write it down on the card—no details, just a couple words. Or you can even just write “that sin”; God knows and you know. Then over it, in big letters, write “Paid in Full”! And then while we’re singing, or after we dismiss, I want you to bring that card up here and drop it in the bin. Leave it here. Don’t take it home with you. You’re done with that sin. God has forgiven you; forgive yourself and leave it here.