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Ben Fleming: Forgive Us, Exodus 19:3-6

July 8, 2024

Audio Recording

God’s covenant with Israel highlights our need for forgiveness and God’s readiness to offer it. We experience genuine healing and transformation when we extend this forgiveness to others.

Westside Church Podcast
Westside Church Podcast
Ben Fleming: Forgive Us, Exodus 19:3-6

Sermon Transcript:

You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us through this series of Exodus. We are overlaying the Lord's prayer over the top of the book of Exodus because both tell us how God communes and relates to his people. So let's say the Lord's prayer together. Here we go. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. You can be seated.

Father God, we're grateful that we get to come before you today in unity. We get to learn from you and be inspired by your scripture, your word. Pray, that we would have even more clarity of who you are and that we would apply that thing to our lives today. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Like I said, this sermon is titled Exodus, part five. And actually forgive us our sins. We're talking about forgiveness. Forgive us our sins, and how that specific piece of the Lord's prayer plays into the story of Israel in Exodus, chapter 19.

But one of the things that happens in this story is what we could call a little bit of a pleasant surprise. And it's kind of like this. A little while ago, I was sitting on my couch, and I had this great revelation. To get up and to get a drink from the fridge.

Okay. And I wanted a Fresca. My family likes Fresca. Have you had this little soda water? Great food, very refreshing. Zero calories. I'm sure there's something else in it that'll kill me than the calories.

I get up, and I open up the drink drawer, and there's a bunch of cans of, you know, sparkling water and all kinds of stuff in there, but no Fresca. And so I close the drawer in disappointment. And then, just in case, I open up the main part of the fridge, just if something catches my fancy.

And what do I behold in just a few moments as I move the milk out of the way? But the last piece of homemade cheesecake, the perfect substitute for a zero calorie soda water.

And I am overcome with joy. I thought this was all finished and gone, but here it is in its own container, and it's more like a piece and a half. The Lord is with me.

And then I take it out, try to do it in secret, grab a fork, sit down on the couch. And then wouldn't you know it? But my nine year old son comes next to me and goes, is there any more?

And I say, no. And then I give him half because I'm a great, great father.

Sometimes we come to faith and we come to our relationship with God with certain expectations or hopes or an understanding of how things are going to go and what we realize, if we're paying attention, if our eyes are open, if our ears are open.

God often brings something into our lives that we truly need and not just something that we want.

Which is why my secondary title today I'm stealing from the Rolling Stones and it's, you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need.

The christian faith is full of these stories where we approach church, we approach God, we approach community in a certain way with certain hopes and expectations. But God has a tendency to not always necessarily give us exactly what we want, but then he elevates and gives us something that we are in desperate need of, even though we don't know it. And we find that in the story of Israel here in Exodus, in chapter 19. So the nation of Israel has been delivered from pharaoh. They've been given Manna and quail in the wilderness, and now they find themselves in the desert of Sinai. And that's where the story picks up verse one of 19. It says, on the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt, on that very day they came out to the desert of Sinai. And after they set out from Rephidim, they entered the desert of Sinai. And Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.

Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, this is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel. You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I carried you on eagles wings and brought you to myself. Now, if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, this important word, covenant, then out of all nations, you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you are to speak to the Israelites. And in verse seven, it says, Moses went back and some of the elders of the people and set before them all the words of the Lord commanded them to speak, and the people all responded. Together, we will do everything the Lord has said.

Spoiler alert. They did not almost immediately, they did not.

Hey, the nation of Israel is a little bit like those of us who get those terms of use agreements for your iPhone update, right? Or whatever pops up. And it's like, read these 27 pages to understand what you're getting yourself into. And you're just like, I accept. I don't have time for all this stuff. The people of Israel are like, whatever God says, we're absolutely going to do it. We're equipped. We can handle this.

And they failed miserably more than once.

So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.

So the Israelites are walking into this seeking covenant, and God offers covenant in return.

Now, the word covenant, especially for these people, is so essential and important.

The word covenant runs all the way through the Old Testament. And you can hear of covenant everywhere, from Adam and Eve to Noah to Abraham to Joseph and now Moses and Israel. And it continues on. And one of the reasons that this word, that this thing entering into a covenant with God is so important is it reminds this nation who has been promised so many things and heard the promises of generations before. It reminds this nation of their deep connection and relationship to God, and it keeps them connected to what is called a liberation theology, or people who see God often because of their experience through the lens of God is our deliverer.

Now, for a group of people that have been enslaved and moved and pushed into babylonian exile down the road to a people who have experienced all these things, they've been enslaved so many times, they've been put under the foot of some ruler or some king so many times.

It's so important to keep this covenant and this promise at the forefront because there is a power in understanding your connection with God and the promises that he has made to you.

This liberation theology, this understanding of God as a deliverer, is what kept this nation alive. There is something beautiful and powerful to it. And I want you to understand today that the promises of God work the same for you. That when we rest in the promises of God, that he loves us, that he sent his son, he died on the cross for our sins so that we might have eternal redemption with him. When we hold onto these things, we become a secure, a strong and a hopeful people, not a cynical and angry and a broken one.

And there's evidence that this story matters in, even in american history with the slaveholders Bible. Maybe you've heard of it. The slaveholders Bible that was given to slaves to be able to read while they were working on plantations, shockingly omitted the entire book of Exodus.

Why? Because slaveholders would not want their slaves understanding that there is a God who loves them and sees them right in the middle of their oppression and not just on the other side of it. And the idea was, we can't allow them to consume this story because this promise and this story might motivate them to understand the power that they hold in and of themselves.

So we keep the story and the promise from them.

So as the nation of Israel enters into this next covenant, they know that they are empowered, that they are encouraged once again that God is indeed with them. This covenant matters so much, and in the middle of it, God tells them that they are fully accepted and delivered.

And now in the covenant, they get to obey.

God's grace and love is nonsensical, often to our own human heart and our minds.

But this law was not given just to simply save them.

The law was given to, in part, to make us his love.

That God offers a new and alternative way of living. And knowing the israelite people, he sets down a law and a covenant that they can follow after in order to live in the best possible way.

Now, I love that God does this, that he sees his people. He knows their wants and needs, and he knows what they really, really, really, truly need. And so he begins to almost research them right as he is watching them. I did this when I met my now wife in college, and now today, I don't know how you young people do it. The idea that somebody can immediately meet you and then get onto your instagram and look at a whole history of stuff gives me the heebie jeebies, man. I don't need anybody looking at pictures of me from high school to determine whether or not they want to hang out with me.

God bless all of you young people that can navigate the dating in this day and age. But what I slowly understood about Rebecca, who I was interested in at the time, was, well, I need to learn kind of what makes her tick.

And it didn't take long before I understood that my wife, that Rebecca, who is super into soccer and was on scholarship and, you know, the best player on the team, and she was going through the nursing program. What I began to understood when I was trying to help understand her. Her hobbies and her maybe, like, movie preferences or shows, is that she had no hobbies and no movies and no shows that she was watching. It's like, well, you know, I play Mario Kart at night, and maybe you don't do that. I see. Okay, you're a little bit more driven and smarter and athletic than I am. All right, I understand. And so, of course, what I began to do is I began to make adjustments. Well, she wants to study. I can help her study. What a guy I am. Yeah. I'll read you textbooks. I could send coffee and food for while you're studying. And, you know, it was kind of amazing. She somehow fell in love with me by me being like, hey, I understand you're busy. I'll stay out of your way. You know, it was a seeking to understand this other person. And God does this with the nation of Israel. He seeks to understand and then help them through this covenant because he wants to make this nation his love. Them being happy is God's happy.

But notice he doesn't say that you need to obey so that I can accept you.

He says, you've already been delivered, you've already been accepted, and now you get to walk in my covenant.

God also gives us this covenant. He gives the Israelites the covenant in this story so they can see into their own imperfections.

It shows them the best way to the best standard of living. Not so, because God knows that they will follow every single step along the way, but instead, so they will understand how often they fall short and how desperately in need of forgiveness they are.

And so the nation of Israel who goes about seeking a covenant with this God that maybe some of them have only heard rumors of or they've seen bits and pieces, this nation seeks out this covenant for the sake of the covenant. But what they discover is their desperate need for forgiveness as well as God's desire to offer forgiveness.

Cause what happens with the nation of Israel over the course of hundreds, thousands of years is they do everything right, followed by everything wrong.

They'll follow commandments. They'll create an alternative culture and city, and then they'll build idols and then they'll tear them down. There's one great story I love, this interaction of the nation of Israel with God, where they say, give us a king like all the other nations have. And God literally goes, this is a terrible idea. And they go, don't care. Give us a kingdom. And God goes, all right, they're a messy bunch like us, and so it's short sighted and incomplete to consider. Just have the covenant find the covenant for the sake of the covenant. Instead, what God seeks for us to find the cheesecake in the fridge, so to speak, is forgiveness.

And this is illustrated by Jesus in Mark two. But first, I want to share with you this quote from Nt. Wright. It says the covenants are the backbone of the biblical narrative, the mosaic covenant set the stage revealing human inability to fully obey God's law. The new covenant inaugurated by Jesus fulfills and surpasses that covenant, offering a way for complete forgiveness in an unbroken relationship with Goddesse. And I'll show you a way. How? In Mark, chapter two, says this. When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. And soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room even outside the door. And while he was preaching God's word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn't bring him into Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat right down in front of Jesus. And seeing their faith, watch what Jesus does. Seeing their faith, Jesus says to the paralyzed man, son or my child, your sins are forgiven.

Now, this is beautiful because we have the greater understanding of Jesus, but I imagine being one of those friends that heard about Jesus, ran and got a little bit of help, grabbed the mattress of the paralyzed friend, crawled up on the roof, began to dismantle the roof, and then using ropes to lower him down. Mission accomplished. We did it. We're high five and fist bumping. We get our friend right down in front of this healer, and we're so excited because our friend, who hasn't walked and Lord knows how long is about to walk, and what do they hear?

Your sins are forgiven.

Now, I don't know about you, but if I'm one of those friends, I got to believe I'm going, no, I don't care. It's not why we did this.

We're not looking for forgiveness. We're looking for walking.

Do the thing that we heard you can do.

Now, this is a lot of times how we approach church. It's how we approach this environment. It's how we approach community. It's how you approach relationships. You get into a romantic relationship, a family relationship, and you come up with a certain amount of expectations based on your needs and your wants and desires and hopes and dreams. And so often with how God works in the church and how humans work in relationship is we don't see that fruit right away.

I came to church so that I would feel better, and then I met people and I felt worse.

I got into community so that I would feel a sense of belonging, and I feel like an outsider.

I got in this romantic relationship so that you would complete me.

And it turns out you are just as bad as I am.

I came for healing, and you're offering me something else.

What a letdown.

But notice the rest of the story. It says in verse six, it says, but some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, what is he saying? This is blasphemy. Only God can forgive sins. Now, we give a lot of hard times to the teachers of religious law in these stories because they're so pessimistic toward Jesus. But them, through their pessimism in this story, highlight how incredible it is to receive forgiveness.

They're there, and they're pretty confident that Jesus can perform this miracle, at least curious. But they know that the power of someone being forgiven is far greater than someone being healed.

There's an eternal thing that happens with forgiveness. There is something that only God can do, that God can breathe, that God can bring it to us to forgive sins. And they are highlighting this and noting this, saying, whoa. What he's trying to do is way, far beyond anything that we signed up for in the realm of just teaching and healing. I want you to understand here in this church, we believe deeply in healing. We believe deeply in the prophetic word of God. But I want you to know that so many things, especially including healing, they will pass away. Our bodies will die anyway, even after we find healing. But eternity is full of forgiveness and grace and mercy. It cannot be taken away from you, no matter what you have done or where you go.

And then in verse eight, it says, then Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking. So he asked them, why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man, your sins are forgiven? Or stand up, pick up your mat and walk? So I will prove to you that the son of man has the authority on earth to forgive sins. And then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, stand up, pick up your mat and then go home.

And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat and walked through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, we've never seen anything like this before.

See, at this point, Jesus had performed the miraculous.

The thing that everyone had not seen was the forgiveness sin.

And Jesus took their idea of what the tabernacle and sacrifice and repentance looked like, and he brought it into a home that now didn't even have a sufficient roof. But because his presence was there, so was forgiveness.

I want you to understand today is the main takeaway that we are a people of forgiveness.

And I truly believe that if we understand how much we've been forgiven, the scripture tells us that those who have been forgiven much love so much that if we are a people that can understand what we've been forgiven of, how faithful God has been to us in that forgiveness, our perspective on life will change. Our ability to love will broaden and deepen, and the world will know who Jesus is through that love and grace and forgiveness.

So I'm going to give you a few ways to consider practicing forgiveness as we close. This will be reviewed for some of you, but maybe brand new for others.

I want to encourage you today because we can be confident in our forgiveness that God is giving us. I want you to practice acknowledging your feelings.

I've been pretty open about regularly going to therapy. I have an awesome therapist that's helped me out a lot. And she noticed in several of our sessions, and she finally called it out and she said, you say you should do things a lot. I say, oh, I should do this and I shouldn't feel this way and I shouldn't hack that way and I shouldn't. She said, what you, what you're trying to do is just minimize that you have some feelings that are coming up or you have some emotions that are coming up and you're trying to breeze past them to pretend to be somebody that you haven't grown into yet.

Why don't you teach yourself to stop and to acknowledge these feelings? And the reason I think that I've resisted that a lot of my life is because of this idea that I need to be mature. I need to hold myself to this great standard again. The standard isn't the wrong thing, but I'll actually breeze past how those emotions and those feelings even came to be in my life in the first place.

And what that does. Again, breezing past used to feel to me like a version of toughness. Now I can see what's wrong and be by willpower immediately. I can change and I can fix this. But what I've learned in my relationship with God is that if I am confident in my relationship with him, if I know that I am forgiven, then I can also have the patience to stop and to hold on to whatever is happening inside my body and my mind. At this moment, I can consider where these feelings and emotions have come from and I can allow God to forgive me again. In the middle of those moments, all of a sudden, I begin to grow out of things instead of trying to run past them.

My life with Jesus becomes deeper instead of just simply fast and shallow.

I hope you're looking for a depth of relationship with Jesus today. Forgiveness gives us access into that. So alongside that, I want you to, like I said, I want you to practice acknowledging and understanding and feeling your feelings, your emotions. I want you to practice self compassion on the other end of that, you are a human being that's fallible, that has experienced all kinds of different life and trauma and difficulty. And I want you to be compassionate with yourself in the middle of those feelings.

Again, if we are confident in the forgiveness of God, we can be compassionate for ourselves, even when we're acting in a way that we feel like we shouldn't, then I want to encourage you to practice self care. Don't let the work of everything breeze past activities and moments and things that allow you to stop and find peace in your life. And then finally, and this is where we go away from. Not away from, but we add on to this forgiveness, understanding between ourselves and understanding and developing ourselves and our relationship with God and where it moves out to others. This will be my final point. I want to encourage you to let go of grudges today.

Let go of unforgiveness toward people in your life.

Now, this is where the rubber meets the road with forgiveness.

It can be really difficult to receive forgiveness from God because we know who we are and what we've done, and that can be difficult to come to grips with the idea of anybody forgiving us. But I've especially learned that if we're not comfortable with receiving forgiveness from God, we're even worse at offering forgiveness to people around us.

And one of the reasons this is so difficult is because people have legitimately hurt us.

And you know what they did. I've seen this with my kids. You know, one of them will smack the other one or something like that. And then. And then they go, they hit me and they did it on purpose.

And eventually, you know, for a little while, used to be like, well, you know, you don't understand. Like, maybe they didn't do it on purpose. And then after a while, I was like, no, they're doing it on purpose for sure.

And I come to my son and be like, you need to forgive your sister. He's like, no, she did it on purpose.

And I would love to say that this is a thing that only belongs to kids, but we feel this way. They wronged us, but it was kind of an accident. I can understand it. I'll forgive them. But this person hurt me with intention.

They dug the dagger in deep and they twisted it and they hurt me. And then they did it again, and they did it on purpose.

And they are not deserving of my forgiveness. Let me set you free from something real quick. You are right. They are not deserving of your forgiveness.

They absolutely don't deserve it.

And I believe that the way of Jesus is to offer them forgiveness anyway.

You don't gotta become best friends. You don't have to be as close as you once were. You don't have to reengage in that relationship. But I promise that unforgiveness, festering in your heart will do more bad to you than it will do to anybody else.

And so we go out of our way to offer forgiveness because it is the way of Jesus.

It has eternal ramifications.

So we let go of grudges, and we hold on to the forgiveness that Jesus brings. Why don't you stand with me, and we'll close?

We're gonna take communion in just a moment. There's tables all around the room, and you can grab the cracker and dip it into the juice.

Be sure to grab a cracker big enough so you don't dip your fingers into the juice. Okay?

My goodness. I'm talking like I see it happen all the time. I never see this happen. You guys do a great job.

I want to offer you an invitation this morning, so go ahead and bow your heads and close your eyes, and I'm going to give you the opportunity to kind of respond physically with maybe something that's going on in your spirit that matters to me, I guess. I don't know if it matters to you. I know we make all these decisions and commitments and covenants in our souls, and they're something that happens with us and goddess. But I found in my own life that if I have even a little bit of a physical movement along with these decisions, it seems to matter to me. So I want to ask you, with every head bow and every eye closed, do you need to let go of a grudge this morning?

Do you need to get past that place of pride, that legitimate place of no. They hurt me, and they did it on purpose, with intention, and they don't deserve it.

Again, you want to talk about a miracle?

The sideshow of this was that a paralyzed man could walk. The main event was that Jesus offers forgiveness of sins.

So let's receive that today and make a decision to let go of some of these grudges in our lives. So I want to ask you, if you're someone that needs to, to let go of a grudge, you need to offer forgiveness, even go out of your way to offer forgiveness. I want you to raise your hand in three, two, one. Go ahead. Put your hand up. If that's you, that's good. Come on. Hands going up all over you. Put it down. Father God. You see, the hands that have been raised in this place have made a physical movement along with this soulful longing. But I pray for the courage to not just have a moment in a room in a church with music playing in the background, but they would have the courage to walk up to that precipice of pride and say, I forgive.