7-21-2013 sermon, Getting Passed Our Past

This is the third week in our summer blockbusters series.  Michael Jefferson started us off with a look at Man of Steel and Pastor Suzanne got her education on zombies with last week’s look at World War Z.  This week we will look at The Lone Ranger as we seek to continue to find God in the midst of our movies.

Is there anyone here who remembers the Lone Ranger TV shows?  I saw reruns of them growing up.  Let me tell you one thing-this was not what I remembered from those shows-it was way better!  I can say that if you are looking for an action packed, funny movie for the whole family, this is a good one.
There are two main characters in the movie: the Lone Ranger and Tonto, his Native American companion.  Tonto’s story is explored a little more in detail in this film.  As a child, Tonto leads two white men to a huge silver stash near his village.  These men become the villains throughout the movie, Latham Cole, a railroad magnate who wishes to use the new rail line to deliver his silver riches to market to cash in, and his criminal henchman, Butch Cavendish.  Cole and Cavendish kill the entire village in order to save their secret treasure, leaving only Tonto alive by chance.
Tonto sets his mind on revenge, and sets out to bring justice to the men who killed his people.  In many ways, he is haunted by his decision to show the men the silver that led to his people’s demise.  He never forgives himself for that act.
In a dream, he believes the Spirit has shown him that a great warrior who has been to the other side and returned will help guide him on his quest for vengeful justice.  After John Reid seemingly comes back to life while Tonto is burying him, he becomes the only remaining Texas Ranger that had set out to capture Cavendish before being  ambushed.  He is the Lone Ranger, and in Tonto’s eyes the great warrior who has been dead but came back to life to guide him.
I think a lot of us are like Tonto to some degree.  We have made mistakes in our lives, haven’t we.  And sometimes, we have trouble letting go of those mistakes.  We let them define how we see ourselves.  We label ourselves based on our past, as we wonder through life trying to make it right by our own efforts.
When I first realized God’s love for me, I was haunted by my past. It seems like every time I read the Bible I would discover another area of behavior that was labeled as sin that I had excelled at.  So I would listen to sermons about God’s love and just knew that his love was for others who weren’t as bad as me.  I even bought in to the lie that my sins had condemned me to eternity in hell but that I could live in such a way that I might be able to show other people how not to end up like me.  In my mind I was a hopeless case.  And that made my life so empty.  It took me a few years to come to realize God’s love had delivered me from my past and made me a totally new person.
In the Bible, we meet a guy named Paul.  You may have read some of his letters in the New Testament to churches he helped to plant and grow, like Thessalonians, Philippians, Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, and others.  What you may not know about Paul is that before he began to help plant the new church after Christ’s death and resurrection, his name was Saul.  He was a Pharisee, some of the people Pastor Suzanne mentioned last week that Christ insulted.  He was not only a religious leader of the Jews, but he set about to spend his time and talents to try to kill Christians and squash the new churches that were getting started.  Talk about a man with a past!  Before he discovered the love of Christ for himself, he had been guilty of killing those who believed in Jesus.
Paul could have lived his life like Tonto, forever dwelling on the mistakes of his past.  Who could have blamed him?  But he didn’t.  Listen to this:
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:12-16
Paul was able to get passed his past and get on with his life.  He realized Christ’s love for him made him a new creature.  And God used him to do great things for the Kingdom. For you and I to be free from our past and fully able to realize what God has for our lives, we must learn to forgive ourselves.
The Bible tells us in 1 JOHN 1:9  that If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
God makes it so easy for us, doesn’t he?  Just confess to Him, repent from our sins, and he will forgive us.  But he also cleanses us from our past.  What that means for you and I is that we are not who we used to be.  We are new. And if God in all his righteousness can see us as new, why can’t we?  if Christ can offer to forgive us from all our sins, why can’t we forgive ourselves?
Like Tonto, we too need a guide to help us keep moving forward.  We have one, a guide who has been to the other side as Tonto would say.  Christ did indeed die and was resurrected, and all so that we might know the fullness of God’s love for us and be forgiven of all our sins.  And he will guide us through the process of becoming more like Him, more full of his love for one another, full ready to offer grace and love to those around us. But we have to get past our selves first.
Forgiveness is unique in that when we give it away, we receive the gift.  When we forgive yourself and let Christ have our past totally, we receive freedom.  but for some of us, the one we need to forgive doesn’t reside inside our skin.  Many of us have been hurt by someone else, and we are hanging on to that hurt.  It is like a poison in our system.  We know we have been forgiven by Christ for our sins, but we can’t let go of the hurt others have brought on to us.
The Bible teaches us in EPHESIANS 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Christ has forgiven us for hurting him, so why do we hang on to the hurt that others have done to us?  If we don’t let that go, we will never know the freedom God has for us either.  We have to learn to forgive others and ourselves, just as Christ has forgiven us. If there is such thing as a key to knowing the freedom God has for us, it lies in our ability to forgive.
Maybe you are like me and your identity is tied to your past.  Or maybe you are defined by what others have done to hurt you.  But hear this..you don’t have to live as the guy was an alcoholic or the girl who slept around or the person who was a racist or whatever label you see over your name.  You are forgiven, that makes you his, and that means you only have one label to wear: free.
In the end of our movie, Tonto and the Lone Ranger have brought justice to bear on our villains.  Tonto and his guide live out their days riding together, seeking justice for others.  Tonto, even as an old man, is happy to tell others of the story of the one who came from beyond the grave to be his guide.  Don’t wait tip your last days to tell your story.  Discover the freedom that forgiveness brings to your life and let your life tell the story of the One who guides you.


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1 Response to 7-21-2013 sermon, Getting Passed Our Past

  1. Roxana Smyth says:

    Sermon was even better in person! Glad we can share with others. So proud of you!

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