Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Forgiven Much

This was the title of my first session this past weekend.

I was wondering if maybe someone else needs to hear that today. So I'm going to share with you what I believe God has made real in my life.

My text was from Luke 7...The story of the sinful woman.

Imagine with me if you will, that you are in the home of Simon. This is a beautiful home in Galilee. It’s lush and green in the mountain region. And here’s Jesus, the guest of honor reclining in the home of Simon the Pharisee. Simon had invited others to dine as well. They may have been his colleagues or they may have just been curious friends who had heard about this Rabbi. Everything was undoubtedly very clean and perfect. A proper dinner with all the trimmings.

And in walks this woman with a reputation. And not a reputation of the Proverbs 31 woman. There would be no fine words about her. Only that she was sinful. She came carrying a jar. It was customary for the prostitutes of that day to have a vile of perfume tied around their neck. While the scripture doesn’t record her as a prostitute most have traditionally believed that is what she was. She slowly enters the room while all stare in astonishment at the brashness. She bends over creeping lower to the ground until finally she reaches Jesus and falls completely forward to grab his feet.. She is so overcome with love for the master that she begins kissing his feet and undoes her hair. A cultural no- no. It wasn’t that she was crashing this party because it was common for people to peer in to a home when a great prophet or teacher was an invited guest but she had moved from bystander to participant. Now that she’s in she begins to feel shame as all the eyes in the room are boring into her back. She realizes that she is a lone woman among distinguished men.

There sits Simon at the head of the table and Jesus at the other end. She behind him on the floor. A place of respect, and honor. Sobs coming from her body as her tears fall.

Imagine with me that you are this woman. A woman who has no honor. No respect. No man looks you in the eye. You loathe yourself for what you have become. You agree with the masses that you are nothing. And here comes Jesus. The first man who has ever loved you for what you could be. The first one who gives you another chance. You have lived in such a hollow grave of shame and distrust until Jesus. The one who accepts you just as you are. He bends down and lifts your chin up. And looks directly in your eyes.

But as your eyes leave Jesus’ you see Simon. Smug. Thinking he was quite far along in God’s favor. He had no need of this Jesus. He was only wanting to see what Jesus would do with this mess of a sinner. . And if Jesus knew who you really were he would have had nothing to do with you. To Simon you are just a sinful woman.

Simon was a right. She a sinful woman. He a Religious rule follower. Image was everything to him. And her presence made him all the more aware of how good he really was.

Simon did not only think himself greater than the sinner but smarter than Jesus. He knew best. Jesus, poor Jesus was in need of Simon’s great wisdom. The self-righteousness of Simon was extended not only to the sinful woman but to the Creator.

His righteousness was a “works righteousness” and he lived that out well. Going to the synagogue each week with his pressed garments. Making mental lists of all who attended. What they wore. IF they raised their hands during worship… If they met the standard of holiness that was required of them. And not only for themselves but how well did their children behave. And..What THEY wore.

~Selfrightousness is harsh in it’s judgements. Always thinking of appearance. How one will look to others. The outward appearance is the only evidence needed for a self-righteous person.

But Jesus was looking at the heart of both the woman and Simon. Jesus saw a pure heart at his feet and a proud heart at the head of this table. From the woman, A heart that was pouring love so freely because of the grave of shame she had been pulled from. And from his host a heart that was full of self and consumed by appearance.

Jesus says, "Simon I have something to say to you". Simon, "Tell me teacher", he said.

I expect Simon had a patronizing sound to his voice as he answers," tell me what you have to say"….

As he’s thinking …You don’t even know who’s touching you. You who have no formal training. You who are just a nobody from nowhere…you go ahead and tell me what you’re thinking.

Now lets imagine for a moment we are Simon. You grew up knowing of Jesus. He was a few towns away but he had a reputation too. People didn’t really know who the real father of Jesus was. He was from a poor family. A carpenter's son. (or step son) And recently he’s become big news. He’s been doing all these neat tricks and people are claiming to be healed. And you are wanting to figure it out for yourself. To see if he’s really who people say he is. So you invite him in. Not really as an honored guest because you would ‘ve had his feet washed and given him a customary kiss as a greeting, and anointed his head with oil if you would’ve thought him anything of importance. After all reputation was your greatest virtue. And now look at him. He is exactly what you thought! A fraud.

Jesus tells Simon this story of the debtors..." 2 people owed a debt, one 500 pieces of silver and the other 50. But neither could repay it so the lender canceled both debts. Now who will love him more"? Simon responds..."Well probably the one whose debt was larger". And Jesus responds, " You have answered correctly".

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” 48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

2 people with 2 different stories. But both require the same thing. Repentance and Forgiveness.

Simon the host couldn’t recognize his own sins because he was too busy making notes of hers.

She was a woman who knows her sin. But is overcome with love as she finds her redeemer.

…Who can you identify with?

Are you the woman who needs to know that Jesus has removed the stain.

We must know that God throws our sins in the sea of forgetfulness.

Or do you see yourself as Simon. The host of the party. The one who doesn’t need much from Jesus. Who may be skeptical of Jesus. And others who claim to be forgiven as the sinful woman did.

The thing about Religious people is this…When we don’t have a fresh word from God we turn to legalistic, Pharisee type behavior .

WE start to make up stuff. Rules that people need to attain before they are acceptable to us. Maybe we are trying to punish someone for their very wrong behavior. Maybe we think our judgements will make them repent and never do it again.

Remember God says....With what measure you judge you shall be judged....

Sometimes its difficult when we have grown up in church. In private schools. Never really walking away from the Lord. Rule followers. We have always cared for our families and don't understand the sin that our friend struggles with. We are faithful to our husbands and sing in the choir. We serve in the kitchen and teach Sunday School.

Sometimes we forget that Jesus had to die for us too.

Mark 2:17…It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but the sinners.

Do we think we are good enough the way we are?

Until I take the headlights of true Holiness and shine them into the dark shadows of my own heart I will never expose the areas that he wants to purify in me

God’s Holiness cry's out for the sinner.

Self-righteousness hides from God’s holiness. Claiming I am better than that sinner…so I am justified

Recognizing we have all sinned and come short of his glory. Romans 3:23

We will never experience God’s great forgiveness until we acknowledge our Great need of him.

I. cost. Jesus. his. life.

There was another Pharisee that met Jesus on a road(Saul Who later became Paul ) Jesus asked Saul “why are you persecuting me?”

Paul had dedicated his life to chasing down followers of Jesus and killing them. He thought he knew God. But then he met Jesus on that road to Damascus and realized he didn’t know him at all.

He was so smart in the law but didn’t know the truth. He had never met Jesus!

God is a God of Grace and Truth. Throughout the entirety of scripture we see him as the perfect balance of both.

We need God’s Grace to understand his Truth. And we must have his Truth to recognize his Grace.

Psalm 103:10 – 14 (New International Version, ©2010)
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

Grace, Grace...We need to know that his truth shows us his grace.

We need to know that grace is for the religious and the sinner.

He loves his children. All of them.

When we encounter his Truth and Grace we are changed just like the woman was.

Today, you can be changed. You can run to him and confess your sin. You are not too late. He loves you my friend!

Open your heart to him. Let him reveal what he wants to clean up in you. You can be forgiven much! You can have the same kind of passion this woman did. He will shower you with deep affection. You don't have to wear the scarlet letter! And you don't have to wear your robes of self righteousness!

Run, Run into his arms. You are Forgiven Much!

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