Saul in Jerusalem


Series: Acts

Passage: Acts 9:26-31

Speaker: Jeff Thompson

Three years after his astonishing conversion, Saul travels to Jerusalem seeking fellowship with the Apostles and the Church. His initial attempts are rejected, as the brothers wrestle with fear and the prospect of walking through some very difficult forgiveness.

Transcription (automatically-generated):

Acts, chapter nine. Today, in our previous study, we witnessed one of the most astonishing transformations the world has ever seen, as Saul, the man leading the persecution of the early Church and possessed by the singular goal of destroying it, encountered the resurrected and glorified Jesus on the road to Damascus. Three days later, Saul had moved from hating the name of Jesus to loving the name of Jesus. And the man who had sought to eradicate the Gospel began publicly proclaiming it. Saul would spend the next three years in the region around Damascus, in modern day Syria, growing in his faith and in his knowledge of the Lord Jesus, fellowshiping with him in prayer, preaching the gospel and making disciples.

At the end of those three years, the local religious and political officials conspired to murder Saul, but he learned of the plot and was aided in his escape by his disciples. He then headed for Jerusalem and his first encounter with the apostles and the Church located there. Let's pick things up. In verses 26 we read, when he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him since they did not believe he was a disciple. Can you blame them?

While they had no doubt heard the rumors of Saul's conversion, they weren't yet willing to bet their lives on those rumors being true. They were not aware of the miracle that had taken place in the life of Saul. And I think there might have been another dynamic in play as well. Not only was there this question of do we believe that Saul is actually changed, but there's the dynamic that says, even if he has, do I want a fellowship with him? Do I want to be his brother?

Do I want that? There's this issue of forgiveness that I suspect the brethren in Jerusalem would have been wrestling with. And I say that because it's so easy for us to read things in the Bible and read things in the book of Acts and forget that the names in this book are people. They were real people, just like you and me, flesh and blood, like us. And Saul's return to Jerusalem after three years must have stirred up some deep, deep pain in the brothers and sisters there.

How many of you know it's a lot easier to forgive someone when they leave and never come back?

The bliss the early Church had enjoyed had been shattered by Saul. He was the reason everyone had to flee, reducing the Jerusalem Church from tens of thousands to just the apostles and their families. They had lost friends and family members to prison and even death because of Saul. They had watched him drag people they loved away in chains. They knew the families that he had destroyed and torn apart.

They had had to navigate what to do with the children whose parents had been killed for blasphemy under Saul's persecution, which is why it's not surprising to learn that the imperfect tense of the original Greek word translated tried suggests there were repeated attempts made by Saul to meet with the apostles that were rebuffed. As the apostles wrestled with Saul's attempts to meet with them. I wonder which of Jesus teachings played in their hearts and minds much as they do ours today. Matthew 18 tells us about a time when Jesus was teaching his disciples about how believers are to work through conflicts and offenses. And I put the whole passage on your outlines for you in Matthew 1821.

We read this. Then Peter approached him and asked, lord, how many times must I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times? Seven was the number of completion and wholeness in Hebrew culture. When used in reference to doing something a certain number of times, it implied thoroughness.

For example, if I said to my wife, I can't find the sour cream in the fridge, she would say, did you really look? And I would say, I looked seven times. And then she would come and employ the dark arts to make the sour cream appear, even though I had looked seven times. So when Peter suggested forgiving someone who had sinned against him seven times, he was going way beyond the cultural norms of the day and must have been thinking, jesus is going to be impressed by me offering such a gracious number. But note Jesus's reply.

He says, I tell you not as many as seven, Jesus replied, but 70 times seven. Jesus answer amounted to, don't bother counting, Peter, because there's no limit to how many times you should forgive your brother or sister. At that point, Peter and the other disciples would have been shocked and confused. They would have been thinking, Come on, Jesus. I mean, be reasonable.

There has to be a limit perceiving their thoughts. Jesus elaborated further by way of a parable. For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared. So Jesus is telling his disciples that this kind of infinite forgiveness is how things work in his kingdom, the kingdom of heaven. And he says, Let me tell you a story to help you understand.

The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle accounts, one who owed 100 talents was brought before him. And I won't bore you with the math, but I've done it for you. And there are two different ways to reckon it. Firstly, if you calculate 100 talents using the currency of the time, it would be equal to $7.32 billion today.

If you calculate 10,000 talents using the weight of gold, it some did at the time, it would be equal to 23 $78 billion based on the price of gold this past Thursday. In either scenario, it's an absurd amount of money. And that's the point. Jesus is choosing a debt. So great.

It's impossible to pay off. That's how we're supposed to view this debt of 100 talents. Since he did not have the money to pay it back, his master commanded that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt. You see, at this time in history, there's no such thing as bankruptcy. You couldn't just be like, well, what are you going to do?

I've only got $500 in my bank account, so you can take that and we'll just call it even. I realize this may damage my credit report for the foreseeable future. Now, back then, no matter what the discrepancy was, all your assets would be liquidated and the proceeds deducted from your outstanding debt. Even you and your family were considered assets that could be sold into slavery to try and bring that number down. Even after that, your debt would not be cancelled.

When you had sold everything you had, including yourself, your wife and your children, that wasn't like, well, that's as far as it's going to go. The rest of your life, till you died, until your children died, you would be working to pay off that debt.

At this, the inerrant fell face down before him and said, well, be patient with me and I will pay you everything. He's understandably desperate, but he's got no chance of paying off this debt. There is no hope. It's impossible. He couldn't do it in a million lifetimes.

And the King knows this.

Then that pastor of that servant had compassion, released him and forgave him alone. In an unbelievable turn of events in the story Jesus is telling, the King has compassion on his servant and clears his debt. He says, I forgive you your debt. You owe me nothing. You're free.

And that's act one of the Parable Jesus continues now into act two. That servant went out and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him 100 daenerys. Soon after being released from his unsurmountable debt, the servant tracks down one of his coworkers, who owes him the equivalent of about $12,200. Suffice it to say, that's a whole lot less than seven or $23 billion. I hope you're tracking with me.

He grabbed him, started choking him, and said, pay what you owe. At this, his fellow servant fell down and began begging him, be patient with me and I will pay you back. We're supposed to go, oh. The same situation is playing itself out again, but there are two big differences. The first servant's debt was impossibly large.

The second servant's debt is not. It's a reasonable amount that he could pay off in less than a year. The other difference is that the first servant has been forgiven his impossibly large debt. Everyone hearing Jesus teach this would have been thinking the same thing that we're thinking when we hear the story. We all know what's supposed to happen next, because the word choice of the second servant is almost identical to the word choice of the first servant, and it should trigger in the mind of the first servant, oh, my goodness, he's me.

Everyone understands this, which is why it's so shocking when Jesus continues. But he wasn't willing. Instead, he went and threw him into prison until he could pay what was owed. Everyone hearing the story would have been appalled, appalled by the actions of the first servant, because he did not extend his coworker even the smallest measure of the scandalous mercy the King had shown him. When the other servants saw what had taken place, they were deeply distressed and went and reported to their Master everything that had happened.

Those who were aware of the size of both debts and the generous forgiveness of the King were appalled by the first servant's lack of grace. And so they told the King about it, and he demanded to speak with the first servant again. Then, after he had summoned him, his Master said to him, you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Shouldn't you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? And because he was angry, his Master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he could pay everything that was owed, which he never could.

So also, my Heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart. Jesus was telling his disciples that those who belong to his kingdom must forgive others. And he explains why. Through this parable, you see, God has forgiven our impossibly large debt. He's a perfect God, and his standard is perfection.

And here's the thing about perfection. When the standard is a perfect life, you can't fix things after you sin even once. Because the standard is perfection. You've fallen short of God's standard in a way you could never repay or repair, because you can't go back to the start of your life and try again. And even if you could, in every possible lifetime, you sin again.

Here's the thing about perfection, is we want to look at one another and validate ourselves by saying, well, I'm better than him. I'm better than her. I've shared it before. Most people think, if there is a heaven, when I get there, all I have to be able to do is point out ten people who are worse than me, and I'll get in, oh, I know ten jerks I can easily name that get my way into heaven. But the standard is not jerks.

The standard is Jesus. And that's the problem. I love the analogy. It's like the standard is swimming to Hawaii. How foolish is the man or woman who swims a mile offshore, treads water for a minute, turns around, looks at all the other people giving up and drowning, and goes, oh man, I am doing so good.

Look at all the people that I've passed that I've swim farther than why are they a fool? Because it doesn't matter how many people you can swim further than. There's no way in the world you're swimming to Hawaii. It's just not going to happen. Congratulations.

You're going to die a little bit further out to see than them. Way to go. It's still an impossible standard. And not only do we all fall short of God's standard, but we fall short by sinning against Him in egregious blasphemous. Ways.

This is what I mean when I say that he created us and we disowned Him. He made us to know and love Him and be loved by Him, and we rejected Him. He is the God of the universe. And we looked at Him and said, I would be a better God of my life than you, so I will be God over my life rather than you. What possible words could I find to express the gravity of such cosmic treason?

In most countries where the death penalty still exists, treason carries the death penalty. You get that for betraying your country. What should you get for betraying God?

There's no crime that a human being can commit against another human being. That is worse than what each of us has done to God. Because quite simply, we cannot compare sinning against another person to sinning against the God who created us. Those sins cannot be compared on any scale. They cannot compare.

But it gets worse, because not only did God forgive us our sins, our impossible debt, but he did so at the cost of the life of Jesus. Jesus received the punishment that we should have received in our place. And what Jesus tells his disciples in this parable is, how do you think my Father in heaven who watched me, his only begotten son, suffer and die so that you could be forgiven? How do you think he feels when you want to accept that forgiveness that I paid for with my body and my blood, but you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters? How do you think my Father feels about that?

And Jesus'point is you don't want to find out. You don't want to find out. You see, the reality is this when we refuse to forgive, it begs the question, do we really understand the gospel? Do we really understand what Jesus has done for us? Do we really understand that we rejected Him after he had done all that for us?

That he would say, hey, I died for you so that you could be forgiven and brought into my family? And we still said in many different ways, yeah, I'd still rather be my own God. I love myself more.

Amen. Because if we do understand the gospel, we will understand why we must forgive it's. Because whatever they've done to me cannot compare to what I have done to God. And whatever I need to forgive them for cannot compare to the debt that I owed God, that he forgave me through the body and blood of Jesus. We don't get to accept the forgiveness of God and withhold forgiveness from others.

Would you write this down? We are commanded to forgive without limits because God has forgiven us without limits. We are commanded to forgive without limits because God has forgiven us without limits. This radical concept flowed from the heart of Stephen, who, as he was being stoned to death, cried out in prayer, lord, do not hold the sin against them. Stephen had already forgiven them for murdering him, even as they were murdering him.

That's the effect the gospel can have on our hearts if we'll embrace the implications of the forgiveness we've received through Jesus. I always feel obligated to say this when we talk about forgiveness. Please know that forgiveness and restoration are two very different things. Forgiveness is how you view them in your mind and in your soul. When you forgive them, you no longer view them as owing you a debt.

You no longer wish ill on them. You pray for their good. You understand that justice was done to Jesus. Restoration is how the relationship is repaired. If it can be, it should be.

But sometimes where there are issues like abuse, restoration is not possible, nor should it be pursued. I always want to acknowledge that, lest anyone hear this message and misinterpret it. If you ever need help discerning whether you should be pursuing restoration or to what degree you should pursue restoration BJ myself. Our wives are always available to talk and pray with you and pursue Godly wisdom and discernment in that together. Forgiveness is hard.

I won't ask if you know this, because I know you do. Forgiveness is hard. It's not a natural act, is it? If we are led by the Spirit, we will forgive. But where things get tricky is that our spirits all reside in fallen fleshly, human bodies.

And it's often the case that when our spirit says, yes, we forgive in Jesus name, our flesh says, yeah, it's going to be a no for me. Not feeling it, don't want to do it, not going to do it.

And it can happen in the moment as we're wrestling with it, or it can happen later. Don't raise your hands, especially if you're sitting next to your spouse. But I wonder how many of us have had the experience of genuinely, sincerely forgiving somebody in our spirit. And then days, weeks, months, sometimes even years later, we find ourselves overwhelmed by thoughts and or emotions of bitterness, resentment, anger toward that person, because our flesh is just reminding us, I was never on board with this. Still not a fan of it, still don't want to do it.

And that's because forgiveness is not a natural reaction. Your flesh doesn't want to do it, ever. Anyone who's walked with Jesus through difficult forgiveness issues knows two things are true. Number one would you write this down? Forgiveness is a choice that must be made many times over.

It's a choice that must be made many times over. Forgiveness is a path that we must walk. It would be so wonderful if it was just a one time decision every time. But many times it's not. When those thoughts and emotions rise within us again, we must choose to remind ourselves that we have forgiven them.

We must choose not to dwell on those emotions and choose, if applicable, to continue treating them as though they have been forgiven. The other thing we know is that the Holy Spirit can change our hearts. I hope you know this. If you don't, this is true. He can empower us to forgive where we don't have the power to forgive.

He can empower us to forgive the debts that our flesh does not want to forgive. Let me tell you, the Holy Spirit can touch us and in a moment in a moment bring healing and freedom to enable us to forgive. If there's someone you know the Lord wants you to forgive but you just don't know how to do it, go to him in prayer and in honesty and say, lord, I want to be able to forgive them. I just don't know how. Please change my heart.

Please touch my mind. I believe you will. So in faith, I'm going to say I forgive them, and I trust you to provide the power that I need to walk in that forgiveness from this moment forward. He'll do it. He will do it.

The Holy Spirit can change our heart in an instant.

Peter and the other apostles were faced with a soul who was a repentant brother. There needed to be forgiveness and restoration, and I'm sure they were having a hard time with fear, but very likely also a hard time with the prospect of forgiveness and the 70 times seven approach that Jesus had called them to. As we keep reading in Acts nine, verse 27, we read barnabas, however, took him, took Saul and brought him to the apostles and explained to them how Saul had seen the Lord on the road and that the Lord had talked to him and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. Barnabas was introduced to us back in Acts chapter four when we saw him sell a field that he owned and give the money to the church. His name was Joseph, but the disciples called him Barnabas, which means Son of Encouragement, because that's who he was.

He was an encourager. And in this moment he goes to meet and speak with Saul and encourages him in the Lord and vouches for him to Peter and James, the two apostles. Saul tells us in Galatians that he met with in Jerusalem. Apparently, Barnabas had heard from people he knew and trusted that Saul had been preaching the Gospel in Syria and was for real. Saul was coming and going with them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.

The brethren in Jerusalem met with Saul and fellowship with him. And what I wouldn't have given to listen in on some of those theological conversations. Inevitably, Saul began preaching publicly and debating in synagogues around the city of Jerusalem. We read, he conversed and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. The same thing happened again.

Saul preached the Gospel. The stubborn Hellenistic Jews couldn't refute him, so they go to their standard Plan B of trying to murder him. This was the original cancel culture, it seems. In this we see another beautiful connection between Saul and the ministry of Stephen, the man who spearheaded the persecution of the Church. Saul was now preaching the Gospel to the same men who had brought Stephen before the sanhedrin on charges of blasphemy.

It's an astonishing turn of events. The ministry of Stephen to the Hellenistic Jews is taken up, at least temporarily, by the man who contributed to his martyrdom. I think it's more than possible that Saul felt a burden to continue that specific evangelistic work precisely because Stephen had been engaged in it up till the day of his death. If the Hellenistic Jews hated Stephen for preaching the Gospel to them, how much more must they have hated Saul, who preached the same Gospel but was also guilty of betraying them by switching sides? He had once worked with them against believers like Stephen, but now here he was preaching the same Jesus that Stephen had preached now, because they had seen this movie before, we read when the brothers found out, they took him down to Caesaria and sent him off to Tarsus.

According to Galatians 118, paul stay in Jerusalem lasted just 15 days. And I suspect it was a bit of a mixed bag, because on the one hand, the Church would have been thrilled by what the Lord had done in Saul's life. On the other hand, he begins stirring up trouble for them almost the second that he rolls into town. He had made trouble for the Church in Jerusalem by persecuting them, and now, three years later, he was back to make trouble for the Church by preaching the Gospel. You're going to find this is a pattern with Paul.

He's generally either starting revivals or starting riots. Most of the time, it's one of the two or both. In Acts 22, Paul tells us that the Lord Jesus came to him in a vision and warned him about the plot to assassinate him. Paul wanted to stay and try and lead the Hellenistic Jews to salvation, but the Lord told him specifically they would reject his message. Instead, he was to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.

When Saul shared his vision with the brothers, they told him, you need to obey the Lord and get out of Jerusalem. So the brothers took Saul to the Mediterranean Seaport of Caesarea and sent them off to Tarsus, his hometown in the province of Kilikha, which is located on the southern coast of present day Turkey. It took persecution by Saul to get the church to take the Gospel beyond Jerusalem, and it took the persecution of Saul to get him out of Jerusalem and back on track with his calling to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. Saul will disappear from the narrative for a few years and the next few chapters of the Book of Acts. During those years, he will travel around the province of Cilicia and the neighboring country of Syria, where he spent three years following his conversion.

And he will do what the Lord had told him to do take the Gospel to the Gentiles and plant churches with Saul. The lightning rod for controversy out of the picture, we read in verses 31 so the church throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria had peace and was strengthened. The church was strengthened by hearing what the Lord had done in Saul and seeing it firsthand. And while the persecution hadn't stopped, the intensity of it had stopped without Paul Zeal to spearhead it. The church also benefited from some political reshuffling.

With Pilot being ousted as governor and Herod Agrippa's authority expanding, he restricted and dramatically lessened the power of the Sanhedrin, meaning they didn't have the authority to persecute the church to the same degree as before. This is the first time in the Bible that the church is referred to in the singular, despite it being geographically dispersed across multiple congregations. The teaching of Scripture is there is that there's one church and it's made up of all those who belong to Jesus and follow him as Lord. And we'll often refer to this as the "Big C" or "Uppercase C" Church because within the "Big C" Church there are many Little Sea or Lowercase Sea churches. Like Gospel City.

We are a little Sea church that is part of the "Big C" church. And that concludes today's episode of Sesame Street. Then we read Living in the fear of the Lord. Would you underline this in your Bibles? Living in the fear of the Lord and - also underline - encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

The original Greek tells us that the believers in the church were choosing to live in fear of the Lord, and because of that, the Holy Spirit was encouraging and comforting them. The idea is that when believers submit themselves to the lordship of Jesus and live their lives honoring him, rightly. The Holy Spirit provides comfort, encouragement, boldness, whatever is needed. God's Word tells us that a fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom because the fear of the Lord puts everything in life in its rightful place. It causes you to see things as they truly are and prioritize things as they should be.

A fear of the Lord gives us an understanding that he is God and we are not a fear of the Lord. Frees one from the fear of man because you are more concerned about offending God than you are about offending man or the culture or the people around you. You're more concerned with God's approval than the approval of the culture. You're more concerned with honoring Jesus than you are with honoring the government. A fear of the Lord causes you to honor Jesus in His Word as the truth, allowing you to see through the lies and deceptions of the day and think clearly.

The fear of the Lord allows you to view your life from the perspective of eternity, emboldening you to serve the Lord, suffer for the Lord, and even, if necessary, die for the Lord. A fear of the Lord helps you to prioritize your life with wisdom, making decisions that will be eternally profitable, rather than just doing whatever brings satisfaction in the moment. And when you have individual believers who are living in the fear of the Lord that form churches, that live in the fear of the Lord, that are led by elders who walk in the fear of the Lord given, god can begin to do some amazing things. But we must ask ourselves the question am I living in the fear of the Lord? Please hear me on this.

I'm not asking you if you love the Lord and think he's great. I'm asking you if you're living in the fear of the Lord. Is what he wants you to do, is how he wants you to spend your life tomorrow and the day after. The single biggest factor in how you are making decisions in your life are you more concerned with his approval than anything else's, including your own flesh? Are you more concerned with pleasing Him than yourself?

Are you living in the fear of the Lord? In one of my favorite passages in the Bible, jesus tells his disciples in Matthew six, and I put it on your outlines. I tell you, don't worry about your life, what you will eat, or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn't life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky.

They don't sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you worth more than they? Can any of you add one moment to his lifespan by worrying? Why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow.

They don't labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. If that's how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won't he do much more for you? You of little faith, so don't worry saying, what will we eat? Or what will we drink?

Or what will we wear? For the Gentiles, the nonbelievers eagerly seek all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be provided for you. Jesus was giving his disciples the promise that the Church was experiencing in Acts, chapter nine.

It's the promise that if we make our lives all about living for Jesus, our Heavenly Father will provide everything we need. In Matthew six, Jesus talks about practical, material needs. But the rest of the New Testament will make it clear that God's promise and provision includes all of our emotional needs as well. If we live our lives in the fear of the Lord, God will provide the encouragement, the comfort, the strength, the joy, the peace, the boldness that we need. The early Church found it to be true, and I promise it's true for you and me today as well.

So, if you are living for Jesus as your highest priority and you have any emotional need, ask your Heavenly Father to meet it. Ask him, and by the Holy Spirit, the comforter. He will, he will. Make a note of this. Those who live in the fear of the Lord will be encouraged by the Holy Spirit.

Those who live in the fear of the Lord will be encouraged by the Holy Spirit. Lynn asked the worship team to come up and get ready to lead us in just a minute. But I want to wrap up by just asking you a couple of these questions again. Are you living in the fear of the Lord? Is your life oriented around Jesus, or is he a supplement to everything else in your life?

Are you more concerned with pleasing Him than anyone or anything else? If not, repent, change, do things differently. Do the things you know he's calling you to do. Stop doing the things you know he's calling you to stop doing. If Jesus is not the center of your life, then what I'm about to say is not for you, because he doesn't make this offer to you.

But if Jesus is the sinned of your life, I want to remind you that he promises to meet your needs, materially and emotionally. And so if there's anything you need, I want to encourage you to stand on that promise tonight. Say, Lord, Lord, I'm experiencing a need in this area, practical or emotional, and just say, Lord, I just need this. Would you please meet that need? He will.

He will. But the thing that just breaks my heart is the thought that anyone would walk in here this evening with a burden, having a deep emotional need. Never ask the Heavenly Father that loves you to meet it and walk out of here with that same need, because you don't need to. You don't need to. Your Heavenly Father loves you so much, man, does he love you.

And he loves to meet the deep needs of our heart. So if you choose to leave tonight without getting that need met. It's not because you don't have a Heavenly Father who loves you. You do it's because you won't ask. And so I urge you ask.

Ask for peace if you need it. Ask for comfort if you need it. Ask for joy if you need it. Trust that you have a Heavenly Father who loves you. If you don't have that kind of relationship with God yet, and you want to, you can.

You can. He would love you to be part of his family. He would love you to have a life oriented around Him so that he can bless you that way. And if you want that, come and talk to me or BJ after the service. We'll talk and pray with you and we'll take that next step together.

And lastly, forgiveness. Man, if there's someone you need to forgive, do it. And if it seems impossible and you don't know how, bring that need to your Heavenly Father. Say, lord, I don't know how to forgive this person, but I want to, because I know you've forgiven me. I want to forgive as You've forgiven me.

Help me to do it, Lord, and then just in faith in your own heart. Just pray, lord, I forgive them. In Jesus name, by the power of the Spirit, I forgive them and let it go. And I believe he'll empower you to do that. You may need to do it again tomorrow, but then do it tomorrow.

You may need to do it again the next day, then do it again the next day. But we must forgive. This is not a recommendation from the Lord Jesus. This is a command from the One who has forgiven us of the unforgivable. So we must obey.

And if we understand the Gospel, we will feel compelled to obey. Let's pray together. Would you buy your head and close your eyes? Jesus, thank you so much for Your word. And thank you for the truth of Your word.

And thank you that every single one of us has a reason to praise you this evening, a reason to be thankful, a reason to call ourselves blessed because we have been forgiven and unforgivable debt. The slate has been wiped clean with Your blood. And You've brought us into Your family, adopted us as sons and daughters. And when you look at us, you see us the way you see your Son jesus spotless and blameless robed in his righteousness, not with a righteousness of our own, but a righteousness given to us by the generosity of Jesus. And so we thank you for that.

And we confess. We are blessed. We are blessed beyond measure.

Lord, we could sing a thousand songs for 100 days, and I'll put a dent in how much we owe you for what You've done for us.

We owe you an unpayable debt for what You've done for us, but you don't even ask us to repay it. All you ever say is, just be mine. Just be mine. Belong to me. Be my son.

Be my daughter. And so, we thank you that we have no burden, no burden of shame, no burden of guilt.

We're just forgiven. We're just clean.

So, Lord, I just pray for anyone here who doesn't experience emotionally that reality. Father, I pray that you would do it by Your spirit even now, that you would lift shame where there are people who know and comprehend the gospel, but the shame is just never lifted, for whatever reason. Would you do that? In Jesus' name?

Would you bring freedom, Lord, and a reminder of the power of Your blood and the power of Your forgiveness that you didn't make us good and then challenge us to hold on to it? You robed us in the righteousness of Jesus, and we stand on that. We find our identity in that. And we cannot lose that, much as we may try sometimes in our stubbornness and our foolishness and our rebelliousness. And yet Your righteousness stands unshakable, unchanged.

So, thank you for doing that for us, God. And I pray that the weight of that would fall upon us, Lord, so that all the petty quarrels we have in our minds of why we shouldn't have to forgive him, why we shouldn't have to forgive her, would fade away in the glorious light of what you have done for us. And we would feel the weight of understanding. There's just no comparison. It's such foolishness to compare what anyone has done to us to what we have done to you.

And so, Lord, we want to forgive because we've been forgiven, where we don't know how to do that, where the flesh is just so loud and so stubborn. We just say, in the name of Jesus, the blood of Jesus is stronger. The power that is in us is greater than the power that is in the world. The Spirit is greater than the flesh. The cross is greater than the grave.

Mercy, triumphs, covet, judgment, let it be so in our lives. And so we forgive, Lord, anything, anyone that has wronged us, lord, if there's anything that needs to come to mind, would you bring it to mind right now so that we can be obedient and forgive? And we do that in Jesus name, in faith. And then, Lord, I pray for anyone who loves you in this room who has an emotional need, maybe one that's so deep they don't even think they can pray it out loud and ask for it. But you know, lord, you know.

You see. And so collectively, Lord, we lift up those among us, our brothers and sisters who we love, who are wrestling with deep hurts, with discouragement, with depression or anxiety or pain or hurt or shame, whatever it is, you know? And so we ask our heavenly Father, who we know loves us, father, would you provide what is needed? We release joy in the name of Jesus. Peace.

In the name of Jesus. Faith and hope in the name of Jesus. Strength in the name of Jesus. The energy of the Holy Spirit who works so powerfully in us. In the name of Jesus.

Lord, there are needs in this room that none of us can meet, but you can. And so we ask that you would do it, and we thank you for it. In faith. We love you, Lord. You're just so good.

And we bless you that you care about all these little things in our life. You're sovereign over galaxies, over the most distant regions of the universe, and yet you are concerned with our good here and now, with our relationships, with our state of mind, with the condition of our hearts. Who can fathom a God like that? And yet you are. So we just love you.

And we declare Your wonderful praise worthy above anything else else. We ask that you would inhabit our praises in this time, as we thank you just for who you are and for what You've done for us. We love you, Lord. In your name we pray. Amen.


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