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Dr. Jay P. Cook, Pastor

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Free – Freed – Freedom
Roman 8:1-8

Football Player Can't Forget the Ball He Dropped
Noble Doss dropped the ball. One ball. One pass. One mistake. In 1941, he let one fall. And it's haunted him ever since. "I cost us a national championship," he says.
The University of Texas football team was ranked number one in the nation. Hoping for an undefeated season and a berth in the Rose Bowl, they played conference rival Baylor University. With a 7-0 lead in the third quarter, the Longhorn quarterback launched a deep pass to a wide-open Doss.
"The only thing I had between me and the goal," he recalls, "was twenty yards of grass."
The throw was on target. Longhorn fans rose to their feet. The sure-handed Doss spotted the ball and reached out, but it slipped through. Baylor rallied and tied the score with seconds to play. Texas lost their top ranking and, consequently, their chance at the Rose Bowl.
"I think about that play every day," Doss admits.
Not that he lacks other memories. Happily married for more than six decades. A Father and a Grandfather. He served in the navy during World War II. He appeared on the cover of Life magazine with his Texas teammates. He intercepted seventeen passes during his collegiate career, a university record. He won two NFL titles with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Texas High School Hall of Fame and the Longhorn Hall of Honor include his name.
Most fans don’t remember that play but he does. Doss remembers the one he missed. Once, upon meeting a new Longhorn head coach, Doss told him about the bobbled ball. It had been fifty years since the game, but he wept as he spoke.
Max Lucado, Fearless (Thomas Nelson, 2009), pp. 31-32

            What controls you?  Is it your memories of failures?  Is it something you did that you regret?  Are there areas in your life that you can’t seem to let go?  Who or what controls your thoughts and emotions? 

Many people struggle with guilt, failures, sins and major mistakes that we just can’t let go of.  Most people today would say (and say is the operative word here) that nothing bothers them.  And it does seem like nothing really fazes us today or at least that is what we allow ourselves to believe and we let on that nothing bothers us.  If it feels okay it must be okay.  So what does control us?  I don’t believe that nothing bothers us.  I have counseled people for over 35 years and that is not the case people are bothered by things they have done or done and have said and should have said.

Many people if you look below the surface they will reveal uneasiness in life and many times it is a feeling of being enslaved to their own mishandling of things and a guilty conscience.  I believe that all of us are in need of freedom; a freedom from remorse and guilt. Here is what Paul has to say about being free.

Romans 8:1-8 (NIV)
1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

            I want to just look at the first 2 verses this morning and we are going to use Judas, the guy that betrayed Christ to help us understand the freedom that Christ offers.  Let’s take a look at the last encounter with this tormented so-called follower of Jesus – you can check him out for yourself in Matthew 27:1-10:


We can learn some things from Judas, the man who becomes remorseful, regretful and sorry for the decisions he had made.  Do we feel sorry for things we have said or done – I mean really sorry? What do you do with those areas in your life that you need freed of? 

Our neighbor in New Castle was a nice guy – kind of rough around the edges and you knew there was something bothering him below the surface.  One day soon after we moved there I sat with him outside his garage where he was re-weaving a lawn chair and he told me about an accident that he had as a truck driver.  He drove big rigs and was going through New Castle – down a hill on his way home when a little boy darted out between 2 parked cars and he ran over the little boy killing him instantly.  He was not at fault but he carried that wound with him even after many years.  The parents didn’t blame him, the court cleared him of any charges, but he couldn’t forgive himself.  He told himself over and over again that it wasn’t his fault but it ate at him.  I don’t believe that he allowed God’s grace to heal his wounds.  He raised a family – had a wonderful family and grandkids but one of the first conversations we had was about this horrible accident.  He didn’t first tell me about his grandkids – he told me about the pain in his life.  I look back and realize that he never experienced what Paul talks about when he said … there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

What about you? Is there anything you struggle to forgive in yourself? Have you got a sin of commission or omission you find hard to think about sometimes or that may be hanging you up? If so, let me touch on four steps that may be of help.

Don't forgive yourself too easily. I know this may sound strange or counter-productive, but forgiving ourselves ought to involve some struggle. Lewis Smedes  (professor of theology and ethics for twenty-five years at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California) put it this way: "If forgiving ourselves comes easy, chances are we are only excusing ourselves, ducking blame, and not really forgiving ourselves at all."

If you are self-aware enough, conscious of sin enough, concerned about God and others enough, some part of you ought to ache a bit over the remembrance of the wrongs you've done.

On the other hand don't inflate the significance of your sin, mistake, and or failure. Don't let your pride inflate the significance of your sin. It is true that some people make far too little of their failures, but there are also others who make far too much of their sins and failures.

Listen to what one remorseful man wrote in his diary. "I have done nothing. My life has been spent in vain and idle aspirations, and in ceaseless rejected prayers that something should be the result of my existence beneficial to my own species." Do you know who wrote those words? (I will give you a hint he is a historical figure and not of our century) John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States. Was his whole life really a waste?

How about the last words spoken by Hugo Grotius: "I have accomplished nothing worthwhile in my life." Well that's not really true, for the minor fact that he founded the entire system of modern international law.

We need to believe Jesus' words. I am not sure that Judas' greatest sin was stealing from the disciples' common purse, or selling Jesus out to the religious leaders, or being a part of the story that led Jesus to the cross. I know that's his story, but I think that storyline misses the thrust of the gospels. I think Judas' greatest failure wasn't his decision to betray Jesus; it was his decision not to believe Jesus.

Commune with other forgiven sinners.  It's hard to keep our belief in the outrageous grace of God that Jesus both taught and modeled, isn't it? Even when we hear the truth that we've been forgiven by others or forgiven by God, the voice of the Accuser attacks us at times. This is why, if you want to forgive yourself, the fourth step I'd recommend is to make it a priority to commune with others who have been forgiven. 

Conclusion: Live as one forgiven – experience what Paul tells us – that we have no condemnation in our lives if we trust in Christ.

Please click here for attached slides to the sermon.