Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Investment Factor: Investing in the Jesus Brand

Introduction

Back in the 1500s, people didn’t have a Bible they could read. The Catholic Church controlled the translating of Scripture and only offered it in Latin. But when Martin Luther rebelled against the abuses of the Church of his day he worked hard to make a translation available in German (the language of his people). The daughter of the printer Luther used was cleaning in her dad’s shop and she picked up a piece of paper off the floor. It read, “For God so loved that He gave…” and that was all. The rest of the verse was not printed yet, but what she saw excited her. The thought that God would give her anything moved her. Her mother noticed a change in her and asked her why she seemed so happy. The girl pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of her pocket and showed it to her mother. The mother read it and asked, “What did He give?” The girl said, “I don’t know but if God loved us enough to give us anything we should not be afraid of Him.” What she read on that scrap of paper changed how she looked at God.

This is the investment factor at its finest: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Oh yes, God gave! God invested his best for us and now his best is asking us to invest our best in him!

Some time ago, a teenager, Arthur Hinkley, lifted a 3,000-pound tractor with his bare hands. He wasn’t a weight lifter, but his friend, Lloyd Bachelder, 18, was pinned under a tractor on a farm near Rome, Maine. Hearing Lloyd scream, Arthur somehow lifted the tractor enough for Lloyd to wriggle out. Love motivated him to do it.

Our Father in heaven heard the screams of lost humanity, crying out for deliverance. He sent His one and only precious Son to the cross so that our sins could be lifted off of us and on to Himself. Love motivated Him to do it.

The question for us today is: Have I invested in the Jesus Brand? A Brand has been defined as a particular product or a characteristic that serves to identify a particular product; a product that has its own name, and is made by a particular company; or simply a recognizable kind. A factor has been defined as “an active contribution to production of a result; a substance of a particular process or system. For Christians Jesus is that factor that produces results in our lives by filling us with his Holy Spirit. For Christians, we have a particular product, that of salvation, we which make available through the marketing of the plan of salvation through the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, in order for this plan to be successful, Christians must invest in the brand name Jesus. The message of Jesus, the life of Jesus, has to become the identifying mark of the Christian to the world.

Move 1

What is the Jesus Brand? In his own words, Jesus states the characteristics of His Brand:

The spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19)

 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

“When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17)

“Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Jesus is a reconciler; Jesus is in the reconciliation business and he invites each of us to invest in the business of reconciliation. The Jesus brand is summed up in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21:  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Plainly put this is the identifying brand of Jesus. Jesus came to reach, teach, train, and send disciples into the world to redeem, restore, and reconcile people alienated from their heavenly Father by sin.

Move 2

Next question:  How I can invest in the Jesus Brand. Again Jesus makes this clear:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

Peter replied, “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off- for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

“If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

Plainly put you buy into this company with faith in the President of the Company, the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus Christ will get you in and keep you in even when sales are sluggish or profits are minimal. Faith in Jesus Christ will ensure your franchise will not go under; you will be successful with team Jesus. Hallelujah!

Move 3

Finally, once you have Accepted the Jesus Brand, Invested in the Jesus Brand, then Jesus calls on you to Promote the Jesus Brand. There are other brands vying for the customers Jesus sends you to reach, teach, train, and send. How then shall we recruit and outdistance the competition? Let us explore the method Jesus left for us to follow:

Then Jesus came to them and said. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

He said to them “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven, and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:15-20)

However, to do that will require a consistent effort against the opposition. And for those who think this promotion strategy too risky, too dangerous or too overwhelming, Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit come on you; and you will be my witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

This power is supernatural power. This power is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. This power once activated conquers all fear of the competition. This power once received separates your brand from any other brand. This power once charged to capacity turns you into a person that can easily be recognized. Men and women, devils and demons will recognize the mark of distinction you wear. All because you have connected to the Jesus Brand.

Now, I want you to remember that every successful company has a logo. Well, when you invest in the Jesus Brand there is a Logo. That Logo is the Cross and the Dove. That Cross represents what Jesus did. That Dove represents what you will do in Jesus Name. That Cross which was a symbol of shame Jesus turned into a symbol of victory. That Dove which was noted as gentle and meek has become an unseen source of strength and power. That Dove provides insight that is unmatched in the world and wisdom that is unstoppable in the spread of the gospel. That cross reminds us that we are all human, but that Dove reminds us that we are forgiven.

Bryan Chapell tells this story that happened in his hometown: Two brothers were playing on the sandbanks by the river. One ran after another up a large mound of sand. Unfortunately, the mound was not solid, and their weight caused them to sink in quickly. When the boys did not return home for dinner, the family and neighbors organized a search. They found the younger brother unconscious, with his head and shoulders sticking out above the sand. When they cleared the sand to his waist, he awakened. The searchers asked, “Where is your brother?” The child replied, “I’m standing on his shoulders!”

When you accept the Jesus Brand, you’ll be standing on Jesus shoulders.  When you promote the Jesus Brand, you will be standing on His Shoulders. And when the storms of life are raging, he’ll lift you above the dangerous waters.

I don’t know about you but I have invested in the Jesus Brand! Want you join me? Want you buy in to this product called Jesus? Want you begin to sale this product to those who Jesus came to save? Yes, I’m so glad to be invested with Jesus! Hallelujah!

Repentance that Leads to Reconciliation

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.” (Matthew 21:28-32)

Introduction:
A man discussing an argument he had with his wife says “Oh, how I hate it, every time we have an argument, she gets historical.” The friend replied, “You mean hysterical.” “No,” he insisted. “I mean historical. Every time we argue she drags up everything from the past and holds it against me!”

We’ve been discussing the importance of forgiveness all month long; Jesus commands us to forgive others so that we might be forgiven. Jesus says the standard of measure for our discipleship is how we love one another; one cannot love one whom one cannot forgive. Because the Apostle Paul is right, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God!” Lord, have mercy!

Many reconciliations have broken down because both parties have come prepared to forgive and unprepared to be forgiven. What is the missing ingredient? Repentance. The wife forgave him, but she did not reconcile with him. Without repentance, there can be no reconciliation; without forgiveness repentance is futile, for the pathway to forgiveness is repentance and repentance precludes reconciliation. Thus, repentance plus forgiveness equals reconciliation. And both parties must see their need for repentance in a dispute if forgiveness and reconciliation are to occur.

Move 1:
Repentance was the first message of Jesus the Christ, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, and Philip, the Evangelist. It was and it is the first message, because without repentance, you cannot be reconciled with God or your neighbor.

Even today repentance remains crucial to forgiveness and reconciliation. If you don’t believe me, listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 7: 21-23: “not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name? Then I will declare to them, I never knew you; go away from me, you evil doers.”

Listen carefully, undergoing infant baptism and joining a church does not independent of repentance, reconcile you to God nor guarantee you admission into the kingdom of God. Nor does being a good moral person make one right with God; Jesus said, “Marvel not that I say unto you” while talking with Nicodemus, a good righteous person, “you must be born again.” Nicodemus was a good moral person but he was estranged from a relationship with God because of unrepentance.

Move 2:
I apologized; I said I was sorry? Why is that not sufficient? So just what is repentance Pastor? Let us explore this term repentance together.

Repentance has been defined in many ways over the course of the Christian faith. According to Wayne Grudem (1994) Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ. Repentance is something that occurs in the heart and involves the whole person in a decision to turn from sin.

According to Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (1960), repentance from the Greek word “Metanoia” can be said to denote that inward change of mind, affections, convictions and commitment, rooted in the fear of God and sorrow for offenses committed against him, which, when accompanied by faith in Jesus Christ, results in an outward turning from sin to God and his service in all of life.”

For example: Several years ago the Peanuts comic strip had Lucy and Charlie Brown practicing football. Lucy would hold the ball for Charlie’s placekicking and then Charlie would kick the ball. But every time Lucy had ever held the ball for Charlie, he would approach the ball and kick with all his might. At the precise moment of the point of no return, Lucy would pick up the ball and Charlie would kick and his momentum unchecked by the ball, which was not there to kick, would cause him to fall flat on his back.

This comic strip episode opened with Lucy holding the ball, but Charlie Brown would not kick the ball. Lucy begged him to kick the ball. But Charlie Brown said, “Every time I try to kick the ball you remove it and I fall on my back.” They went back and forth for the longest time and finally Lucy broke down in tears and admitted, “Charlie Brown I have been so terrible to you over the years, picking up the football like I have. I have played so many cruel tricks on you, but I’ve seen the error of my ways! I’ve seen the hurt look in your eyes when I’ve deceived you. I’ve been wrong, so wrong. Won’t you give a poor penitent girl another chance?”

Charlie Brown was moved by her display of grief and responded to her, “Of course, I’ll give you another chance.” He stepped back as she held the ball, and he ran. At the last moment, Lucy picked up the ball and Charlie Brown fell flat on his back. Lucy’s last words were, “Recognizing your faults and actually changing your ways are two different things, Charlie Brown!”

Move 3:
Repentance then, is a turning away from one state of mind toward another more appropriate state of mind and acting in line with that new thought. Repentance involves the total person: body, soul, and spirit. Hence, repentance involves three aspects of our being: intellectual, emotional, and volitional.

Jesus illustrates this pattern in Matthew 21:28-32. “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.”

I believe the first son experienced these three stages of repentance which led to his salvation. First, Repentance is intellectual. It changes the way a person thinks about God and neighbor. This young man acknowledged, who it was that asked him to go to work. He understood that his father had the right to ask him to go to work, and finally he believed it was his duty to do what his father required of him. My brothers and my sisters, when you hear the word of God, and the word of God challenges you to be about your heavenly father’s business; you may initially rebel, and leave God’s Work undone. Yet even though you are not obeying God’s Word, you can still agree that God has the right to ask of you to do his will. This is called intellectual agreement, but this alone will not cause repentance.

Intellectual repentance occurs when one has a change in consciousness. In other words, when you hear the word of God, the Holy Spirit awakens your spiritual consciousness. When your spiritual consciousness is awakened you begin to discern between good and evil. You start to see yourself for who you really are, a sinner in need of salvation. Doing wrong is no longer done without a fight. Galatians 5:17 instructs us “For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other to prevent you from dong what you want.” Therefore, guilt is produced with the aim of convincing one that repentance is in order and necessary to reconcile one’s thinking with that of God or another person.

Second, repentance is emotional. It is preceded by godly sorrow — it moves an individual to grieve, to weep with bitter tears. Second Corinthians 7: 9 to 11, reads “Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance; for you felt a godly grief, so that you were not harmed in any way by us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, what alarm, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves guiltless in the matter.”

This young man, after his father left him, after he began to intellectually meditate on what his father had asked of him; after he had concluded that his father had every right to ask him to work in the vineyard; he got up and went about his father’s business. This is a sure sign that this son grieved in his heart that he had not done what his father asked him to do. We see the fruit of his intellectual and emotional repentance by the fact that he went and did what his father asked him to do.

Third, repentance is volitional — it is an act, a decision, of the will. In other words, you have to agree to do the will of God, not because you are embarrassed; not because you got exposed; not because you’re afraid; but because you desire to please God. This young man changed his mind. This young man grieved in his heart that he had sinned against his father. This young man was moved deeply and without any motivation other than to make things right with his father, he got up and did what he was asked to do; and this totally changed his life. It led to his salvation.

Move 4 (Celebration)
This is repentance that leads to reconciliation. When a person is persuaded that they have wronged someone and it effects them emotionally to the point of grieving about it, then they make a conscious decision to not only ask forgiveness but to determine never to commit that egregious act again, that is the kind of repentance that leads to reconciliation.

Beloved, God has opened the door through Jesus Christ for you to repent: to change the way you think about God and God’s care for you. God reconciled the entire world unto himself through the blood of Jesus Christ His Son. You only have to repent and have faith in what God did through Jesus to be reconciled with God.

Yet some people are like the little boy who got his hand stuck in a vase. His parents applied soapy water and cooking oil hoping he would slide his hand through, but to no avail. They tried everything they knew to set the boy’s hands free of the vase. Suddenly, they decided to break that valuable vase because they loved their son just that much.

It was at this point, when they had decided to demonstrate their love by destroying the vase, that the boy asked, “Would it help if I let go of the penny I’m holding?” What are you holding on too that prevents you from reconciling with God today. What offense, what bitterness, what resentment precludes you from a relationship with God through Jesus Christ? Let it go today and return to God.

Now is the time to repent not simply in your mind; but with your emotions, and with your will. Present your entire being to the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transform you. He will abolish your sins. Acts 3:19 records, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” He will refresh you. He will renew you. And 2 Corinthians 5:17 declares If any man one be in Christ; He is a new creation, old things have passed away; behold all things have become new. Hallelujah
Will you come and receive forgiveness and reconciliation? Jesus is calling you to act today in concert with the Word of God. Come now!

Forgiveness: Where Do I Draw the Line?

Introduction

Forgiveness is the one weapon Satan cannot defeat in the Church. And this week our lectionary text answers the question: “How often should I forgive somebody who offends me?” Or “When is enough enough?” I want to deal with this issue of how often we should forgive those who offend us. I want to help us come to grips with the type of behavior that Jesus expects of his disciples. Here again the parable of the unmerciful servant:

One day a king decided to call in his officials and ask them to give an account of what they owed him. 24As he was doing this, one official was brought in who owed him fifty million silver coins. 25But he didn’t have any money to pay what he owed. The king ordered him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all he owned, in order to pay the debt. 26The official got down on his knees and began begging, “Have pity on me, and I will pay you every cent I owe!” 27The king felt sorry for him and let him go free. He even told the official that he did not have to pay back the money. 28As the official was leaving, he happened to meet another official, who owed him a hundred silver coins. So he grabbed the man by the throat. He started choking him and said, “Pay me what you owe!” 29The man got down on his knees and began begging, “Have pity on me, and I will pay you back.” 30But the first official refused to have pity. Instead, he went and had the other official put in jail until he could pay what he owed. 31When some other officials found out what had happened, they felt sorry for the man who had been put in jail. Then they told the king what had happened. 32The king called the first official back in and said, “You’re an evil man! When you begged for mercy, I said you did not have to pay back a cent. 33Don’t you think you should show pity to someone else, as I did to you?” 34The king was so angry that he ordered the official to be tortured until he could pay back everything he owed.

Move 1
Some of us do some pretty strange things when we have been slighted or wronged. In a 1930s edition of the Chicago Herald Examiner there was an article, “Man Spites His Wife by Staying Blindfolded in Bed Seven Years,” which read:

The strange story of Harry Havens of Indiana, who went to bed—and stayed there—for seven years with a blindfold over his eyes because he was peeved at his wife, was revealed here today when he decided to get out of bed. Havens was the kind of husband who liked to help around the house—hang pictures, wipe the dishes, and such. His wife scolded him for the way he was performing one of these tasks, and he resented it. He is reported to have said: “All right. If that’s the way you feel, I’m going to bed. I’m going to stay there the rest of my life. And I don’t want to see you or anyone else again.” His last remark explains the blindfold. He got up, he explained, when the bed started to feel uncomfortable after seven years.

Still others like the official in our text try to get payback from the other person who wronged them. Max Lucado tells this story about such a person. He writes,
Each week Kevin Tunell is required to mail a dollar to a family he’d rather forget. They sued him for $1.5 million but settled for $936, to be paid a dollar at a time. The family expects the payment each Friday so Tunell won’t forget what happened on the first Friday of 1982.

That’s the day their daughter was killed. Tunell was convicted of manslaughter and drunken driving. He was 17. She was 18. Tunell served a court sentence. He also spent seven years campaigning against drunk driving, six years more than his sentence required. But he keeps forgetting to send the dollar.
The weekly restitution is to last until the year 2000. Eighteen years. Tunell makes the check out to the victim, mails it to her family, and then the money is deposited in a scholarship fund.

The family has taken him to court four times for failure to comply. After the most recent appearance, Tunell spent thirty days in jail. He insists that he’s not defying the order but rather is haunted by the girl’s death and tormented by the reminders. He offered the family two boxes of checks covering the payments until the year 2001, one year more than required. They refused. It’s not money they seek, but penance.
Quoting the mother, “We want to receive the check every week on time. He must understand we are going to pursue this until August of the year 2000. We will go back to court every month if we have to.”
Few would question the anger of the family. Only the naïve would think it fair to leave the guilty unpunished. But I do have one concern. Is 936 payments enough? Not for Tunell to send, mind you, but for the family to demand? When they receive the final payment, will they be at peace? In August 2000, will the family be able to put the matter to rest? Is 18 years’ worth of restitution sufficient? Will 196 months’ worth of remorse be adequate?

How much is enough? Were you in the family and were Tunell your target, how many payments would you require? Better stated, how many payments do you require?

No one—I repeat, no one— makes it through life free of injury. Someone somewhere has hurt you. Like the 18-year-old, you’ve been a victim. She died because someone drank too much. Part of you has died because someone spoke too much, demanded too much, or neglected too much.

Move 2
In contrast, we need to know that each act of forgiveness has the potential to transform another person’s life. Forgiveness is so powerful because forgiveness affords a person three opportunities: to repent, to be transformed, and to help someone else.

When Shannon Ethridge was just 16 years old, an act of forgiveness and love changed her life forever. While driving to her high school one day, Ethridge ran over Marjorie Jarstfar, a woman who was riding her bicycle along a country road. Marjorie died as a result, and Ethridge, who was found completely at fault by authorities, was consumed by intense guilt. She contemplated suicide several times, but she never took her life because of the healing response of one man: Gary, Jarstfar’s husband.

Gary forgave the 16-year-old and asked the attorney to drop all charges against her, saving her from a probable guilty verdict. Instead, he simply asked that Ethridge continue on in the godly footsteps that his wife had taken. “You can’t let this ruin your life,” Gary told her more than 20 years ago. “God wants to strengthen you through this. In fact, I am passing Marjorie’s legacy on to you.”

Gary’s act of forgiveness showed Ethridge the amazing love of God. Today, Ethridge is the bestselling author of Every Girl’s Battle and Every Woman’s Battle, and her recent book, Completely His: Loving Jesus Without Limits, helps women overcome guilt-ridden, wounded lives.

Shannon repented for her actions, was totally transformed by Gary’s act of forgiveness, and is now helping others to overcome their guilt and shame about past indiscretions. That’s what Jesus wants from you. Jesus wants you to become the type of disciple that can offer God’s grace not God’s wrath to those who do you wrong. Lord, have mercy!

Move 3
I hear ya, Reverend, but you haven’t answered the question: How many times do I have to forgive someone who offends me? Even moreover, how often do I have to forgive if it’s the same person hurting me over and over again?

Here is what Jesus replied when asked this same question by Peter? Look at Matthew 18: 22, “Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven.” Long story short, we are to forgive others until forgiving becomes second nature; until forgiveness becomes a lifestyle; until forgiveness is given so freely the devil cannot use an offense to keep you from fulfilling the will of God for your life. What Jesus is after is a lifestyle of forgiveness, grace, and mercy shown toward others, most especially your enemies.

Did he not say? 11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Did not Jesus say? 38-42 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

Did not Jesus say? 43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. ”

Move 4 (Conclusion)
There it is. “Grow up. You have to resist the urge to live in your old nature of sin and evil and determine, decide to walk intentionally in your new nature which reflects God and your Savior Jesus Christ. I urge you to do that; I urge you to offer forgiveness to those who you know have wronged you and forgive yourself for those times that you have offended others. The altar is open for you right now. Come and have a talk with Jesus about changing your heart to one of forgiveness and love.

To the one to whom the Holy Spirit is speaking, let me invite you to come this morning. God offers you forgiveness right now. Is there anyone standing in need of the love of God found in God’s forgiveness? God wants to give you this gift of grace called salvation right here and right now. Come and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. The doors of the church are open; the altar of God is open for you this morning. Come and ask God to come into your hearts this morning through the grace and mercy found in Jesus Christ! Will you come?

And I sought, but could not find….

And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. (Ezekiel 22:30)

Whatever strategies we use to uplift the downtrodden, promote the oppressed, or defend the poor, prayer must be our first priority. The natural eye, the human mind, nor the empathetic heart can search out the will of God without prayer. Prayer turns the natural, human, and empathetic aims of men toward a spiritual reality that confounds the wise, defeats the evil, and heals the hurting. Prayer is our first defense; let us use it without ceasing.