Forgiveness

Good Morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and it’s my pleasure to speak with you today about a 3500 year old story that will apply to your life and mine, because that’s what the Bible does.  It reaches through time and grabs our attention.  Especially parts of the bible like the part we have been working through over the past five weeks.

Today we finish our sermon series on the life of Joseph.  We are reading from Genesis chapter 50.  It’s the last chapter in the book – so not only is it the end of the story of Joseph, it’s the end of the book of Genesis.

Today we are going to be talking about things that seem too good to be true.  And I thought I’d start with a little test to see how discerning you are.  I’m going to talk about things that seem too good to be true, and you will have to decide whether it’s really true or not.  We’ll start with some products.

  1. For instance – these sneakers – made by Reebok. The claim is that walking in these will give you a better butt – they claim that they toned buttocks up to 28% better than regular sneakers.”  Is this real?  Or is it really to good to be true?
  2. Or how about this contraption that claims to make perfect s’mores in your microwave without the danger of fire. Is this real or is it really too good to be true.
  3. Let’s look at pictures. Is this picture of a panda on an airplane in China real?  Or is it too good to be true?
  4. How about this picture of a horse – that claims to have the word horse written on it’s side? Real or too good to be true?
  5. How about this picture of ants? I guess they are fishing?  Real or too good to be true?
  6. How about this picture supposedly taken at Flathead lake in Montana, in water so clear that you can see the shadow of the raft on the bottom? Real or too good to be true?

How many got all six correct?  Well aren’t you special?

The old saying goes that “If something seems too good to be true,…..  it probably is.”  But when we come across something that seems too good to be true, but really is true?  Well, you pinch yourself and rejoice.  There are some things that are simply truly good.

And that’s what we will come across today.  Josephs brothers are going to experience something truly good and beautiful.  Even though we will see they will struggle to believe it.

So let’s jump in.

We’ve covered Joseph starting in Genesis 37 – a young and brash 17 year old who perhaps arrogantly announces to his older half brothers that he had a dream that all of those brothers would one day bow at his feet.  That, coupled with his father Jacob’s obvious favoritism toward Joseph, pushes the brothers to make a horrific decision.

They plan on killing him – eventually land on selling him as a slave – and Joseph eventually ends up in Egypt.  In Egypt Joseph is unfairly accused of crimes and ends up unjustly imprisoned for a number of years.  Through a series of wild events he ends up in front of Pharaoh, and after interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, he ends up second in command of Egypt.

After a famine strikes the middle east, Jacob sends the sons to Egypt to buy food where they end up in front of Joseph.  After more than 20 years, Joseph is reunited with his family.  He forgives them and they move the entire family to Egypt, where they live under the provision and protection of Joseph.

17 years later, Jacob dies.  The family of Jacob – whose name was changed to Israel – take Jacob back to the land promised to their family by God and they bury him.  Joseph is now roughly 60 years old.  And we pick up the story from here.

14 After burying Jacob, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had accompanied him to his father’s burial. 15 But now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became fearful. “Now Joseph will show his anger and pay us back for all the wrong we did to him,” they said.

16 So they sent this message to Joseph: “Before your father died, he instructed us 17 to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.” When Joseph received the message, he broke down and wept. 18 Then his brothers came and threw themselves down before Joseph. “Look, we are your slaves!” they said.

Now, why did Joseph cry?  He knew his brothers were lying.  And for 17 years Joseph has been protecting and providing for his brothers and their families.  But all this time they’ve been living in fear – that the forgiveness Joseph had shown was a ruse.  that all of this was too good to be true.  And that Joseph was biding his time, waiting for his father to pass before he unleashed his vindictive fury.

For 17 years all Joseph had wanted was to be reunited with his brothers and to live in love with them.  He wanted a relationship but now after 17 years he realizes that all this time the brothers lived in fear of Him.

You can understand why the brothers were afraid.  At 17 years old Joseph had sat in the bottom of a well listening to his brothers discuss how they were going to kill him.  When they sold him into slavery they robbed Joseph of 22 years with his father whom he loved.  It resulted in incredible suffering and pain in prison.

So the brothers were incredulous.  Is anyone really able to be as loving and forgiving as Joseph appears to be?  It sounded too good to be true.

But Joseph has been transformed by God while in Egypt.  He really was truly good.  We’ll come back to the brothers but let’s read this next portion of scripture.  We will read what Joseph learned that helped him become the kind of person who could show such complete and utter forgiveness.

Joseph says…

19 But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21 No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.

First, I want us to notice that this verse, verse 20, is obviously the summary statement for Joseph’s life.  The brothers meant to do evil to Joseph.  But nothing that ever happens to us can thwart God’s plan for us.

In the case of Joseph – the brothers intended to do evil to him.  God intervened as only God can.  He was able to orchestrate even the evil intent of his brothers into the story about how God used Joseph to save the world.

And this is, in fact, the big idea in the book of Genesis.  God creates mankind and invites us to walk with him as friends walk in the garden.  But Adam and Eve muck it up.  They introduce evil to the world when they do the one thing God told them not to d.  So what’s God going to do?

Have you ever seen Bob Ross paint a picture on PBS?  Love this guy.  Timeless.  But everytime I watch him there comes a time after he has created this beautiful background that he says something like, Now I’m going to take some titanium black here and i’m going to just cut huge black marks all over the campus.  And I’m watching and I go NO!  Dude!  You just wrecked the painting!  What are you doing?

But what happens?  He turns what at first appeared to be ugly – and he incorporates it into the picture and makes something beautiful out of it!

This is what God does.  Except we are the one gashing up the painting with our titanium sin.  God never freaks out.  He is able to use it all to paint a beautiful tapestry out of life.

(Back to verse 20)The story of Joseph is the story of Genesis which is the story of mankind.  God is making something beautiful; rescuing and restoring the world, even a world where Evil still exists.

Evil is still here, right?  You know that, right? Evil people still drive cars into crowds of innocent people, whether in Charlottesville or Spain.  Evil still marches in salute of Hitler.  We know Hitler is evil, right?  I thought we figured that out 75 years ago.

Evil exists but we need not fear it, ever.  Because God is with us.  And nothing that ever happens is outside of his ability to turn garbage into gold.

Joseph understands this.  It’s what makes Joseph the kind of person he became.

See, as I read this, I see Joseph, not only announcing the summary of the story, he is Explaining to his brothers why he isn’t holding a grudge against them.  He is explaining what he learned that made him who he was.

Really, I see one thing that stands out.  In verse 19 Joseph asks a question that in reality is a powerful statement that brought Joseph peace instead of fear.

He asks the brothers, Am I in the place of God?

Want to know why Joseph was able to live such a confident and rock solid life?  Here’s the answer.  He knew his place.

Many of life’s most difficult struggles occur when we fail to remember which one of us is God.  When I fail to remember then I get frustrated when what appears obvious to me should be done, isn’t done.  When I get myself into situations where I’m disappointed with the decisions that God is making in my life.

Ever have conversations that sound something like, “God, even I can see that what is happening isn’t what should be happening.  And who am I to complain, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why you are letting this happen?”  Lord, why in the world are you not giving me what I want here?  Haven’t I always done what you’ve asked me to do?

Isn’t that what Joseph should have prayed in that prison?

Now you might be more polished than I am – but I think that people who struggle with feeling disappointed with God are actually struggling with their place.  In their inmost being they struggle with praying thy will be done.  Especially when we feel that God’s making unfair decisions.

But how did Jesus teach us to pray?  Our Father, the one in the heavenlies, hallowed be thy name.  Thy will be done.  On earth as it is in heaven.

What is Jesus doing?  He’s teaching us to remember who is in charge.  He’s teaching us reality.  Thank God that God is God and not me.

He’s teaching us our place.  He’s teaching us that God’s will is the will we want done!

Joseph was a “thy will be done” kind of guy.  He knew his place.  It’s is what helped Joseph deal with the reality of his world.  He knew his place.  And that knowledge transformed him.  it made him rock solid in his faith in God.

And the result was that Joseph became the kind of person who forgive and really meant it.  He became the kind of person Jesus tells us we can become – the kind of person who is able to bless people – and forgive people who harmed him.

Now let’s return to the brothers.  This is all too good to be true to them.  They can hardly believe that Joseph could become this person.

I feel for them.  They are living in fear that at any moment, things are going to get ugly for them.

I grew up with two younger brothers and we weren’t always very good kids.  I feel for my mom thinking back to having to try to discipline us.  My brothers and I, our brains really didn’t work well.  They didn’t begin to develop until after we got married.  Long after, my wife Jody would tell you.

So my mom would often bust us and when she had enough she would say, you just wait until your father gets home.  I’m going to tell him about this.  And my dad was kind of old school when it came to discipline.

And so when Dad came home we tried to stay away from the house until we got called in for dinner.  And then we walked and waited for our punishment, right?  Except sometimes, my mom wouldn’t tell on us.  But we never knew if she did or didn’t.

So it made for really awkward family dinners – all of us wondering if we were eating our last meal, right?  Trying to be normal but living in fear that at any moment we would receive in my body the just penalty for my sin.

And you know what, that’s how Joseph’s brothers felt for 17 years.  And it broke Joseph’s heart.  And you know what, that’s how some of you are living with God, and it breaks God’s heart too.

Some of you are thinking, that at any moment God is going to give you the just penalty for your sins.  You understand that through faith in Jesus you are forgiven, but it seems to good to be true and your waiting for God to give you what you got coming to you.

You know what that it?  That’s religion!  Religion wants to make you live in fear of God – that at any moment God might reach for the belt.  Religion robs you of a loving relationship with God.  It robs you of the confidence and security that Joseph felt with God.  And it leaves you fearful and worried.

That’s what religion always done. And it’s what Jesus came to put an end to.  It seems too good to be true, but listen, some things are simply truly good.  And when you decide to follow Jesus, then you are forgiven and you are given a fresh start to walk with God.

When we place our faith in Christ, our sins are forgiven. Loudly, lavishly, absurdly, undeservedly, Forgiven!  Yes you are!  I think God understand how difficult it is to believe it, so it goes to great lengths to reassure us that through faith in Jesus we are truly and freely and forever forgiven.  The Bible says that

  • Our sin is removed from us as far as the east is from the west. Psalm 103
  • Swept away like a cloud – like mist Isaiah 44:22
  • Our sin is cast behind God’s back. Is 38:17
  • It is set aside Col 2:14
  • Put away Heb 9:26
  • Covered, Rom 4:7
  • Blotted out Ps 51:9
  • We’ve been washed in Acts 22:16
  • Cleansed in I John 1:9
  • Purified in Hebrews 9:22
  • Our debt has been cancelled in Matt 6:12
  • Our sin is not counted against us in 2 Cor 5:19
  • Not remembered in Jeremiah 31:34
  • Our sin has been nailed to the cross in Col 2:14.
  • It is cast into the depths of the sea Micah 7:19  

Some things sound too good to be true.  But some things are truly good.  And through faith in Jesus, your sins are forgiven.  And nothing stands between you from a walk with God, as two friends walk together in a garden.  You are forgiven.

Your sins are all behind you
They’ll never find you
They’re on the ocean floor
Your sins are forgotten
They’re on the bottom
Of the ocean floor

They’ve been wiped away
By a mighty wave
Your sins are erased
And they are no more
They’re out on the ocean floor

Some things are too good to be true.  But some things are truly good.  And a clean slate through faith in Jesus?  Well that’s truly wonderful.

And when we come to communion, what are we celebrating?  We are remembering the tremendous price Jesus was willing to pay in order to be able to justly forgive us.

26 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”

27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.

Matthew 26

 

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