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What God Wants More Than Your Worship

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(5/27) Introduction –

Brenda Lee – "I’m sorry, so sorry, please accept my apology…"

Cliff Barrows – Long time associate of Billy Graham once said that the key to a successful marriage was the ability to say the 12 hardest words in the English language:

"I was wrong, I am sorry, please forgive me, I love you!" He knew that in the course of a marriage, there would be hurtful words spoken or hurtful actions taken that would result in hurt, anger, disunity, pain, grief, etc. Contrast his advice to that of the movie from 40 years ago.

Love Story – "Love means never having to say you’re sorry."

The Desire for Unity (John 17, Eph. 4:1-3, Psalm 133, 1 Peter 3:11) Love, peace, and unity are high priorities of our God for our lives. Jesus prayed for it, Paul says to make it a priority, Peter says to seek and pursue it. David reminds us of how sweet it is. But just as sin disrupts our relationship with God, it also creates disunity between friends, spouses, children, families, churches, and more. The key to restoration, reconciliation, and peace is forgiveness.

For the last 5 weeks, we have been looking at Forgiveness. Forgiveness means to be released from debt, to no longer be obligated to pay, to be set free. We have looked at the need to be forgiven by God, both as our judge, and as our Father, for the many offenses we have committed against Him. It means that the forgiver accepts, or bares the pain and the loss along with the memories, while no longer seeking the offender to pay. We looked at the need to Pay it Forward and forgive others as God has, in Christ, forgiven us. We looked last week at Forgiving God; that is, getting past our anger and inability to understand why God allowed the pain that has come into our lives. Today, I want you to understand that:

I. God wants reconciliation more than worship (Matt. 5:23-24).

When you and I sin against God, we can fall on our knees and confess it and know we are forgiven because of Jesus and His death on the cross. We know that all sin is ultimately against God. David said that in Psalm 51. "Against thee and thee only have I sinned…" he said. While I will not argue that, the truth is that much of our sin is against people that we have offended or have hurt by our words, attitudes, or actions or have developed anger, distain, or hatred towards. Relationships are ruined, hurt, or estranged because of what has happened. Often our pride causes us to make excuses, or rationalize or try to justify what we said or did or failed to do. We try to make it the fault or the just results of the other person, or we try to hide it. Sometimes we try to make it go away by good deeds or giving in church. Our text in Matthew 5:20 refers to having righteousness that is different than those who are self righteous; that is, those who have justified their own actions and lives before God because of their religious activity. Breaking God’s laws are as much spiritual as they are actual, and the Bible here and in James 1:10 reminds us that just breaking one law makes us completely sinful. Verses 21-22 tell us that angry, hateful, slanderous thoughts and words towards others are equal to murder in God’s eyes. Listen carefully, you can even be the one offended, but to strike back with anger, hate, and slander makes you guilty before God. Verses 23-24 tell us what we need to do. God wants reconciliation more than your worship, or your gifts, or your sacrifices. The Alter is probably the Bronze Alter in the outer court of the temple where animals were brought to atone for sins or as a thanks or peace offering to God. Before you hand that over to the priest, seek reconciliation. Then you come and worship and present your gift or sacrifice to the Lord. Next week is Communion Sunday, before you come to take communion next week, some of you may have to do business and seek reconciliation with family, friends, or adversaries.

II. The effects of sin & guilt are endless

A. The effects – Charles Stanley wrote, "The effects of sin are endless, Feelings of rejection, projection of feelings onto other people, the inability to say ‘no’ depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive behavior, blame-shifting, spiritual loss of intimacy with God, addictions, and continuing indulgence as a result of the ‘blackmail,’ Satan brings against the behavior once a sin is committed." (The Glorious Journey, p. 11)

B. God’s Consequences – It is unmistakable, that God will discipline us to get our attention and to encourage us to repent and seek reconciliation with Him and others. That is the message of Hebrews 12:5-16 and others. I Cor. 11. Tell us that the discipline could come in the form or weakness, sickness, even death. Jesus said in Matt. 18, that it could be torment, which could be nightmares, lack of peace, or any of the things that Charles Stanley mentioned. And the other results are strife, fighting, jealousy, etc.

C. The effects of sin on our worship – Isaiah 59:1-2 says it separates us from intimacy with God. Psalm 66:18 tell us that God will not listen to our prayers with any intention to act. 1 Peter 3:7 reminds us that it will hinder our ability to pray. So, what do we do?

III. What do we do?

A. Identify the offense – You may need to do this in prayer, or just be totally honest about what you did, said, expressed by attitude, neglected to do, or have been carrying around in your heart towards another person.

B. Identify the offended – Who did you do this toward? Who did you injure, wound, anger, etc. Be careful here. There a few sins that needs to be dealt with only with God. I will tell God that I am angry with our President for endorsing Gay Marriage. If you have lusted for Brad Pitt or Angelina Jollee, tell God.

C. Schedule a personal appointment – Leave your gift and go quickly, call and ask for a meeting. It is best not to do so by letter, email, face book, Twitter, or even phone, unless there is no other opportunity to do so in person. Go in person, so your words, body language, and tone of voice, can be clearly seen and heard. The offended needs to see your eyes, and your sorrow. A phone call may allow the person to hear the words, and maybe the tone, but not the body language. Writing can only convey words. Writing is hard to express the tone, or the body language, and can; in fact, create misunderstanding. It takes greater courage to go in person, but it is the best way, not only towards family, and friends, but even your adversaries.

D. Ask for Forgiveness – not just to apologize. You may start with, "I want to apologize, or say I’m sorry for the offense that I committed," but that alone isn’t enough. That only makes you feel better. Like children who say, "Sorry!" They have fulfilled their parents command to do so, and have said the words, but there is no indication that repentance has taken place.

E. Acknowledge the pain of the offense. State the offense, and express how it must have hurt them, express your guilt, and then say those 12 words including "Please Forgive Me." Please release me from my debt to you,

F. Refuse to Blame others – Like Adam and Eve, or Aaron did. Don’t state that PMS, GPS, the weather, the moon, my boss, or any other thing caused you to do what was done. Don’t say, I did it because of what you did. Be honest and admit, I did it, I was wrong, and I alone am responsible for my actions.

G. Make Restitution – Like Zacchaeus (Luke 19:8) or the Leviticus code in Lev. 6:1-6; Ex. 22:1; 33:15. Do you remember the story where Nathan tells David the story of man who had many sheep but stole a poor man’s only lamb and David said, that man will repay 4 times what he took and he needs to die. Well that restitution is what the law required, and then Nathan dropped the bomb on David and said, "You are the man!" Damaged cars, stolen property, broken windows, whatever, needs to be paid for. If the damage was verbal you may have to tell as many people as heard the assault that you were wrong in what you said. If the offense was public the acknowledgment needs to be public. (Like Paul in Jail, they wanted to release him out the back door). You may need to mow lawns, shovel snow, or whatever to make restitution, not to work for forgiveness. But to repay what was lost. Forgiveness is a gift. You can not earn it. It must be given. Therefore;

IV. Be prepared for a negative response.

The pain may be of such that the offended either just won’t forgive you, or needs time to process your request. They may not believe you and it will take time and the evidence of a repentant heart to know that you are sorry and want to be reconciled. They may want to hold on to their anger and hate, because they think to forgive is too easy for you and they want you to suffer as they have. Their anger is necessary to the memory of the loss or pain they feel. They may want to see restitution first. They may not trust you or your words. They don’t realize that to forgive doesn’t mean to forget and they can’t forget so they feel they can’t forgive. They confuse forgiveness and trust. Trust takes time and perhaps lots of time to re-earn. BUT, make no assumptions, and don’t let Satan or your self tell you not to do it assuming that they will never listen. You are to be obedient to God and Trust Him regardless of their response. You may need to do this more than once. God forgives on first prayer, but they are not God. Wait a week, or a month, or six months or a year, and go again, after they have time to see your sincerity, and process your request.

A couple of more insights:

Remember you aren’t asking them to forget about it; neither are you asking them to approve of your actions; or asking them to trust you again, re-hire you, or even be reconciled to you. Tell them you know they are under no obligation to forgive you. Do not play the Christian Card; that is, "God says you have to." Only God can play that card. These things may happen if they forgive you, or they may forgive you and these things never occur. What you are asking for is forgiveness out of repentance and faith towards God. You are asking to be released from the debt of pain that you have brought; even towards your enemies.

V. Freedom is the result of obedience and a clear conscience. If they forgive you, there may be a reconciliation of family and friends, even of enemies becoming friends. That results in peace and unity. God is honored and glorified. Look at Proverbs 28:13. But even if you are not forgiven, there is peace in being honest, and confessing your faults, and that also blesses God. It is an act of faith. Faith is obedience based on trust regardless of the circumstances or consequences. Heb. 11:6 says without that kind of faith, you can not please God.

When that is done, you have the freedom of genuine worship from a clean heart to render to God.

During our invitation time, the plates will be up-front. As we sing, only if you know that there is no one you need to ask forgiveness of, bring your offering and as you lay it in the plate, pause and say, I give and I forgive because you loved and forgave me. Otherwise, pocket your offering and maybe you need to ask someone here to forgive you, if so tap them on the shoulder and ask them to go outside and talk with you or maybe you need to go and make an appointment, Then bring your offering next week. and say these words; in fact, let’s say them together, "I Was Wrong, I Am Sorry, Please Forgive Me, I Love You."

Let’s stand and sing, Just As I am, and take care of business.

Maybe you need to be reconciled to God. You can do that there, or I will help you. Maybe you need to receive Jesus and receive His total forgiveness and cleansing and the new life He wants you to have. I will be standing to the side, you come and we will talk.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman