April 11, 2010 John 21:15-19
Look what I found. It’s a mirror. No it’s not the one from the empty tomb. But I am sure that when the disciples looked in to find Jesus they found something very similar to this. For you see, they were all carrying some heavy baggage.
It reminds me of a story I heard of a guy who was at LaGuardia Airport and he was afraid he was going to be late for his flight, so he goes up to a complete stranger who is carrying two really big heavy looking black bags and he asks him for the time. Well, the stranger makes a big deal about carefully setting down his two bags. Then looks at his watch and says, the time is 6 PM. In Singapore, it’s 12 AM. The temperature outside is 37 degrees, and the barometer is dropping. My stocks went up two points today. Well, the guy was amazed. He said—your watch told you all of that. He said—oh, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This watch tells you so much more than just that. Well, the guy was amazed. He said—I have to have that watch. I will pay you $1,000 right now for that watch. The guy said—no, you don’t understand. I made this watch. I invented this watch. It’s not for sale. The guy wanted the watch. He said—I will write you a check right now for $5,000 if you will give me that watch. He said—no, you don’t understand. I made it as a gift for my son. He has graduated from college. I am taking it to him right now. He said—I will write the check right now for $10,000 if you will give me that watch. Well, $10,000 was too much for the stranger to resist, so he said—okay, it’s a deal. So the guy writes out a check for $10,000, hands it to the stranger. The stranger hands him the watch. He puts it on his wrist and is satisfied, turns away from the stranger and he says—hey, wait a second. He reaches down and grabs the two big heavy black bags, and smiles, and hands them to the guy and says—you forgot the batteries.
Baggage. It is part of life. No one wants to look in the mirror and face it. We have made bad choices in our lives. We have put off doing things that could have been a blessing. We have done stupid things. And we carry around the residue of these things in our hearts and on our minds. They weigh us down. They stop us from reaching out, from loving, from believing. The worst part of all is that sometimes they stop us from reaching out to God. We know that we have blown it. We know that we aren’t part of the A team anymore. So we settle for less.
You may remember the animated classic “The Beauty an the Beast.” The Beast covered over every mirror in the house because he couldn’t bear the thought of what he had become. Many of us do the same thing. We run from it. We ignore it. We live as though it never happened but deep inside we keep beating ourselves up. That’s the baggage that sin brings with it.
The Bible says sin separates us from God. Too often we get caught up in naming other people’s sin. He’s an alcoholic. She runs around. He’s always at the casino. She’s extended on her credit cards and deep in debt. He’s caught up in pornography. She’s… You get the point. But to God sin is sin and all of us have this baggage that we carry around. We feel better if we can shine the mirror on someone else. But every once in a while, we turn and catch our own reflection and it isn’t nice.
The only solution, the only way to get rid of this baggage is to look in the mirror and tackle it head on. And I’ve got good news for you. If you were here last week you heard that the first thing the disciples found in the empty tomb was forgiveness. That’s what Good Friday and Easter was all about. When Jesus was nailed to the cross, every one of our sins was nailed up there with him. The scriptures tell us that he was punished, he was crucified, he was killed for our sins… every one of them. He didn’t die just for the little white lies we tell. He didn’t die just for the cheating you and I did on this year’s tax return. He died for our financial irresponsibility. He died for our sexual immorality. He died for our slanderous, libelous mouth that destroys relationships. He even died for us if we have rejected him and are living only for ourselves.
I love that song we just sang. “Years I lived in vanity and pride, caring not my Lord was crucified. Knowing not it was for me he died on Calvary. Mercy there was great and grace was free. Pardon there was multiplied to me. There my burdened soul found liberty. At Calvary.”
Now I always went to church. Many of you know that I went through a bad spell in college. I let everything that had happened to me in my life catch up with me and I went wild. I partied. I got involved in things and relationships that were unhealthy. Basically I didn’t care about my life or anything. I flunked out of school and was lost for a while. Then one Sunday my Pastor said something, I don’t even remember what it was, but it clicked. And we sang this song and it fit. I was beating myself up because I couldn’t forgive myself for things I had done. So I was digging a deeper hole for myself. But then I realized that God had already forgiven me and all that was left was for me to go to him and find a way to forgive myself.
Last week we talked about the Lost son, the prodigal son who came to himself and returned home to ask his father’s forgiveness. We heard that even before he came through the gate, his Father was reaching out to him, ready to restore him to grace. Jesus told that story for your benefit and mine. God is more ready to forgive then we can imagine. All we need to do is ask.
It’s funny, but one of the people who was there in person and who heard Jesus tell the parable of the Prodigal Son, was a man named was Simon Peter. Bold, outspoken, one of the inner circle, Peter stood up and scolded the other disciples when Jesus told them that they would all fall away and betray him. Peter boldly declared, “Well the rest might, but not me.” His pride got the best of him. You see pride is a sin. Jesus warned him that even he would fall. That famous prediction that Peter would deny him three times before the cock could crow, came true and the scriptures say that Peter wept when he realized what he had done. – Talk about some baggage.
We don’t blame Peter. We all have done things like that. Every time we choose to do something we know is wrong, we deny Christ. We may not think of it that way, but inside we know it. After a while we justify it and then try to forget it. But it is there. So we go to the tomb like Peter and we find a mirror. God wants us to see ourselves so that we might come to him and ask forgiveness so we can be restored.
There are five things you need to know about God’s forgiveness. First God forgives specifically. Many of us have no problem asking God to forgives us with a generic prayer. “God forgive me if I have done anything wrong today.” That’s great but it doesn’t do anything for the baggage. It’s kind of like putting on a rain coat after you’ve been out in the rain for an hour or two. Good, but it won’t make you dry.
When we go to God with specifics, he responds specifically. No matter what it is, God will forgive you if you ask him. Scripture says no sin is greater than another. Because sin isn’t a list of rules, it is an attitude of the heart. When you confess that you thought you knew better than God on some issue and ask him to forgive you, he does.
Second God also forgives instantly. You don’t have to stand and beg. You don’t have to plead your case. You don’t have to justify it. You can’t. God forgives because Jesus has already pleaded your case and won your acquittal. You just need to show up. Case closed.
The third one is this—God forgives completely. Specifically, instantly and completely. You see with God, there are no leftovers. There is no residual unforgiveness. God doesn’t come back and say—remember when you did this? God doesn’t bring up our past sins and then throw them in our face. Your wife might. Your kids might. Your mother in law might. But not God. When God forgives, it’s done and it never has to be forgiven again. You are forgiven.
Fourth, God forgives repeatedly. With God, there are no limits. Turn to the person next to you and say—there are no limits.You see, God will forgive you over and over again without end. There is never a time when you can’t turn to God. There is no sin too great. There is no sin that you may have committed too many times that God won’t forgive it. God forgives repeatedly.
I know we have a hard time with this. We don’t think it is fair. Why should they get a break? Don’t they know any better? You know what God says to that? I am who I am. How many times have I forgiven you? You worry about you and let me worry about them.
Then the fifth one is this—God forgives freely. You see Jesus has already paid the price. That is what Easter was all about. You just ask for it and it is yours. So if God has forgiven you, then why are you still carrying your baggage? You need to let it go. You need to look in the mirror and say “God loves me. God has forgiven me. I need to let go and forgive myself so I can begin life anew.”
Then you need to begin life over again. That’s what Jesus meant when he said you need to be born again. He was saying you and I need to put the past behind us and to walk with Christ from this day forward. We need to make the commitment to love him and serve him and walk with him forever more.
That means you will try to get rid of the bad habits, the obvious sin in your life and live in a way that will bring glory to God. But if you do stumble, then you simply need to go back and ask him to forgive you. Ask him to help you not do it again, and go back every time for as long as it takes.
The good news is that once you realize that God loves you and that he has forgiven you, then you can look in the mirror and see the beauty that God saw when he created you. God bless that mirror. For it truly helps us see us as children of God. Amen.