Words after confession: 1. Church family, members of this assembly, people who have been forgiven much, do you forgive Joel for his sin against this congregation? Will you release Joel from his sin? If you do, say, I forgive. 2. Joel and Suzanne both have even more deliberately brought themselves under the leadership and spiritual care of the elders. As you can imagine the hard work has just begun. Pastoral Exhortation: Church family, I need to exhort you this morning. 1. Relational: Some will be tempted to avoid Suzanne and or Joel. You have placed the scarlet A about their necks. To you I say, you who are without sin, toss the first stone. If you identify Joel with this sin after today, then you are not thinking like God thinks. Joel and Suzanne are accepted in Christ, loved by God, given the treasure of the holy Spirit. But most of us, it is just difficult. How should I approach them? What should I say? Joel and Suzanne both need us to love them like Jesus through this. They each need the special ministry of the Holy Spirit, so let us resolve to intercede for them. Put yourself in their place and love them as you would want to be loved. Do not ignore or avoid them, come near to them and weep with them. Embrace them even if silently. Speak the truth in love to them—give them words of hope and edification. 2. Skeptical: Some are tempted to think, well we’ll see if the repentance bears fruit. Yes, we’ll see. We’ll see whether it does in your life and Joel’s. I am personally optimistic that the Spirit has come and is alive and working to sanctify. We are going to toil and strive to wage war against sin. We must not be among those who think, well we’ll see if that wondering sheep returns. Good thing God didn’t sit back about you and me. 3. Personal: I hope these solemn minutes have an enduring effect on us. Beware you stand, lest you fall. Some here are on a trajectory toward unfaithfulness in small or great ways, and you might not be married. You are lax in your morals. You are undisciplined in your life. You are not self-controlled. You are simple and open to temptation, and making your way toward evil. You live in your freedom and for your freedom and rarely make choices to voluntarily restrain your freedom for the sake of others. You have almost completely forgotten the eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding the evil and the good. You think life is a playground to enjoy and forget that it is a battlefield to fight on. Dear friends, I exhort you to be sobered by this, to examine your heart and confess your sins with disgust and grief and helplessness. If you are currently the slave of some life dominating sin, you need help. You can’t do it alone. You need Jesus; and one of the great helps that Jesus provides is his people. You know you can call me or e-mail or stop in to my office or home. 4. So let us warmly love Joel and Suzanne; let us believe that the gospel is working; let us soberly evaluate ourselves this day. 5. I want to pray for --------: Father, we mark this morning with soberness and with tears. This morning, we as a church body have deliberately chosen to forgive Joel of his sin against us as a congregation, to loose him from that and to be reconciled to our body. We are not the main people against whom Joel has sinned; nor is Suzanne. It is you. We believe that on the basis of Christ’s finished work on the cross, that you have forgiven Joel, and it is that same blood that has pleaded for our forgiveness. Oh, Lord, we desire that the glory of your holiness and purity shines from this assembly, while here worshipping, and individually in our day-to-day lives. Give us your grace to live this way; and we resolve this morning to more deliberately live in holiness and honor. Father, we uphold our sister Suzanne this morning. Remind her again and again of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Nurture in her thoughts of forgiveness and mercy. Sustain her faith in you through these difficult days. In the name of Jesus Christ, who has made the full atonement for our forgiveness, I ask for these things, Amen. Transition to the Lord’s Table: Do you remember when Nathan confronted David and David confessed his sin. He says, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said to David, The lord also has put away your sin. That’s it. Uriah’s blood cries out for justice. David’s adultery demands the stiff penalty of the law. And the prophet replies: The Lord has put away your sin. What about the woman caught in adultery in John 7. Jesus says, you who are without sin, cast the first stone; stone her. Go ahead. The woman is left with Jesus who was without sin, who has every right and reason to singlehandedly stone her. As God, the woman’s sin was against Jesus specifically. The law made it clear that adulterers and adultresses must be executed. But David lives. But the adulterous woman lives. Frankly, you and I live. How is the justice of God satisfied while he forgives sinners and releases them from their debt? This table is the answer to that question. The broken body and spilled blood of our Lord Jesus focuses our mind on his cross, where as Paul writes, God nailed to christ’s cross the record of debt that stood against us with all its demands for justice upon the guilty. David lives because Christ would die in his place; God would put away David’s sin; God would put David’s sin upon Jesus Christ. The adulteress walks away forgiven because Christ died innocently as the pure lamb of God for her. Andrew lives and is forgiven only on the basis of Christ’s death for me to satisfy my debt with the king, by paying the debt with his own infinite, precious blood. Friends, if for you there is no other answer than the cross of Jesus Christ, if he is your only hope and you are trusting that by his death he payed your debt and you have bowed low and begged for mercy, then this table is for you. Whether you are a member of this church or another, I invite you to this table which speaks God’s mercy to us repenting sinners. Friend if you are walking in darkness and you want to make a quick apology before the bread comes to you so you can be seen by others as eating it, don’t eat condemnation on yourself. But if you are moved to turn from your sin and if you resolve to live a life hating that sin and living Christ’s holiness, then eat. The Lord’s table is only for sinners, for repenting sinners. In this table Jesus left an enduring drama for us to act out to remind us of what is truly central to the Christian faith: Jesus broken body and shed blood.
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