APC 12th May 2021 Pandemic Praise – ‘Forgiven by God’.
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Wednesday morning worship. Today we continue with our series ‘Pandemic Praise’ as we reflect on some of the spiritual blessings that God has given us in Christ. We discover many of these blessings in the opening part of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
So far we have thought about the amazing truths that we have been chosen, adopted and redeemed by God. Today we are going to be reflecting on the fact that we have been forgiven by God. But as always let’s begin by stilling our hearts and talking to God, let’s pray…
Sovereign God, we confess to you with shame that sometimes, all too often, we have been guilty of the sin of pride. We have thought of ourselves more highly than we should, boasting of our own achievements and looking down on those around us.
Have mercy upon us.
We have not listened as we should to your voice or to the voice of others, believing that we know best, preferring our own way, trusting in our judgement alone.
Have mercy upon us.
And we have been guilty of pride in more subtle ways, trying to be independent of those around us, hiding our frailties behind a mask of self-sufficiency, denying our fears and refusing support when it has been offered.
Have mercy upon us.
Sovereign God, forgive us when we try to live life alone, when we think more of ourselves than of you, when we put ourselves before others.
Have mercy upon us.
Give to us true humility and true lowliness of heart – the ability to take proper pride in ourselves where it is due, but a willingness also to listen to your voice and the voice of others, accepting our faults, recognising our limitations, and confessing our mistakes.
Sovereign God, have mercy upon us, through Jesus Christ our Lord…
Join with me as we say the Lord’s Prayer together…
Our Father, which 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, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
Introduction to Bible Reading
Let’s read again that wonderful introduction to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Despite being imprisoned as Paul reflects on all that God has done for Him in Christ He puts pen to paper and pours out His praise. He writes…
Ephesians Chapter 1 v 1-14
”Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
Reflection Pandemic Praise – ‘Forgiven by God’
I want to begin our reflection today with a story-
A senior and novice monk were traveling through the countryside when they came upon a river. The river was swollen making it very difficult to pass. Standing at the edge of the river was a lovely, young woman in elegant clothes unsure of how to get across. She asked the monks for help.
The monks had taken a vow of celibacy that prevented them from making eye contact with women, much less touching them. But after barely a pause, the senior monk picked up the woman and carried her across.
The novice monk was shocked and speechless. His elder had broken his vows! As the monks continued their journey hours passed and no one spoke until the younger monk could no longer contain himself.
“How could you carry that woman across the river when we aren’t even supposed to look at women?” he blurted out in frustration.
The senior monk replied, “I set that woman down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?”
In his letter to the Ephesians Paul writes these amazing words, “In Christ, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”
Pause and let those words sink in for a moment. “In Christ,… we have the forgiveness of sins…”
You know, often I find as Christians we are like the junior monk in the story. We find it hard to forgive ourselves for mistakes we’ve made, things we should have said or done but didn’t, things we’ve said and done that have had consequences for ourselves or for other people. We carry the burden of this guilt day in and day out. All the time it drags us down and makes us weary with life’s journey.
This was how the apostle Peter felt at one point in his life. When Jesus was arrested and sentenced to death Peter was not only shocked and confused, He was afraid for his own life. So when questioned about his involvement with this insurrectionist, he lied 3 times saying that he had never even met Jesus. When Jesus was crucified, Peter thought it was all over. He never even got a chance to say ‘sorry’. He went back to the only thing he knew- fishing.
Jesus loved Peter. He wanted Peter to know not only that He was alive, but also that He had forgiven Him, that He valued Him and had work for him to do. So secretly, one morning after his resurrection, Jesus stood on the beach and shouted advice to Peter and his crew about where they should cast their nets. Having fished all night and caught nothing, they had nothing to lose so they followed the stranger’s advice. When they caught so many fish, that their nets were about to burst, they realised their shoreline consultant was the Master. Having hauled in the nets and rowed to shore they ran to meet him.
Jesus barbequed some of the fish they had caught for breakfast. It’s hard to imagine the mix of excitement and guilt that Peter must have felt. Jesus knew exactly how he was feeling. So as they were eating, he took the opportunity to restore Peter emotionally and to set him back on the path of ministry… Three times he asked him, “Peter do you love me?” Three times Peter replied, “Yes Lord you know that I love you.” On the third answer
Jesus commissioned him again for his life’s work, “Then I want you to be a pastor. I want you to feed my lambs and my sheep.”
Listen, maybe you’re listening today and you’re like Peter. Maybe you’ve made some ghastly mistake at some point in your life and you’ve never got over it. I want to say to you this morning, God loves you! Christ died to forgive you! So don’t carry that burden of guilt any longer. Set it down at the foot of the cross. Allow God to remind you just how valuable you are to Him. Do not listen to that negative voice in your mind anymore. Listen to Jesus and invite Him to touch you in a deeply spiritual way that will heal your emotions and give you the confidence to forgive yourself and to live again! You know, they say that those who never make mistakes, never make anything! Isaiah also says that “God will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten!”
Let the words of Paul and the story of Peter remind you that in Christ you have been forgiven by God.
He has cast your sins into the depths of the sea. And He has put up a sign that says, “No Fishing!”
So let me ask you, If Jesus has set your sins and mine down years ago. Why are we still carrying them?
Let us pray…
Prayer for others
Thank you for your gift of forgiveness. Your only Son loved us enough to come to earth and experience the worst pain imaginable so we could be forgiven. Your mercy flows to us in spite of our faults and failures. Your Word says for us to “clothe ourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony”. Help us demonstrate unconditional love today, even to those who hurt us.
Gracious Lord Jesus, thank You for the power of forgiveness. Today we choose to forgive everyone who has hurt us. Help us set them free and release them to You. Help us bless those who have hurt us. Help us walk in righteousness, peace, and joy, demonstrating Your life here on earth. We choose to be kind and compassionate, forgiving others, just as You forgave us.
Comforting Spirit, today we ask forgiveness for all the negative and harmful words we have spoken about ourselves. We do not want to punish ourselves in such a way again. Transform our thoughts and let us understand how marvelously you have made us. Change our habits so we use our tongues to speak hope and favour upon our lives. In Jesus' name.
God, what we pray for ourselves we also pray for others. Please give all people who have been deeply hurt and are finding it hard to forgive, your grace and mercy and power to let go. Help them to find freedom from their bitterness, anger and hatred. We pray too for people who, for whatever reasons, find it very difficult to forgive themselves or who can’t understand how you could possibly forgive them because they don’t deserve it. Lord again we pray that these people will find release from these chains. May they know that you value them, that you forgive them and that you have a purpose for them in life and that they can make a great contribution to the lives of others.
Lord help us to really understand the gospel about Jesus and help us to believe it.
Take a few moments to bring your own prayers to God…
All these prayers we offer in the name of Jesus Christ in whom we have forgiveness for all our sins, Amen.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on. I hope you’ve felt inspired and blessed as we’ve reflected on the reality that in Christ, God has forgiven us for all our sins.
The exciting news is that this Sunday we are allowed to reopen church! Again we are allowed two pods of up to 50 people in each. We’ve also upgraded our AV system during lockdown so that all songs can be displayed on the screen in the back hall as well as in the church. So if you would like to book a place at church this Sunday then please do text Aleida as soon as possible. You will shortly be receiving a reminder text about reopening this Sunday which will include the essential safety procedures to ensure we all stay safe and well as we worship.
But to close, let me share the benediction, after which I invite you to say the grace together…
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. And
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
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