October 22, 2023, The Benefit of Forgiveness and Cleansing, Pentecost 21

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If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. And also with you.
The risen Christ is with us. Praise the Lord!
Let us pray: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

HYMN 707 Hymn of Promise
Hymn of Promise with Lyrics – video by Jenni Wright – singing by Debra Nesgoda

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − Dear Lord, This morning as I contemplate a new day, I ask you to help me. I want to be aware of and filled with your Spirit—leading me in the decisions I take, the conversations I have, and the work I do. I want to be more like you, Jesus, as I relate to the people I meet today—friends or strangers. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN 357 Just As I Am
Carrie Underwood – Just As I Am (Live From The Ryman Auditorium/2021)

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: The Benefit of Forgiveness and Cleansing
1 John 1:4-10, John 15:1-12
Series: The Benefits of Belief

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley Sermon Audio


1 John 1:4 And we are writing this that our joy may be complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; 7 but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

HYMN 357 Just As I Am,
Just As I Am by Alan Jackson

BENEDICTION The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!


The benefits of forgiveness and cleansing. Let’s recap. A sermon series is a little bit like an athletic season for the Cardinals or your favorite football team. One game follows another. And so, we started talking about the benefit of Jesus as Lord. Because when Jesus becomes Lord, Jesus begins to sort out your life. There are things that should stop. There are things that should start. And there are things that we do to maintain our spiritual health.

The next week, we talked about the benefit of loyalty. Our world is one where many, many choices come to us, so many choices that, quite often, we get bewildered and can’t make a choice at all. But loyalty, once we figure out what we want, what we like, what we prefer, we are able to be loyal. And that will calm and simplify our lives, in the midst of many choices.

Last week, we talked about the benefit of God’s Word, specifically, the words of Jesus, and how – because we learn the words of Jesus – they will reveal to us the truth. And knowing the truth will bring stability and blessing to our lives.

And you see, here’s the truth, friends. It is a wonderful benefit to experience forgiveness and cleansing. You may have heard this phrase, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” It’s not a phrase that’s in the Bible. It actually comes from John Wesley, who included it in a sermon. And here’s his exact words, “Let it be observed that slovenliness has no part of religion, that neither this nor any text of scripture condemns neatness of apparel. Certainly, this is a duty, not a sin. Cleanliness is indeed next to godliness.” Now, how shall we understand that? Cleanliness is stewardship. If you have a yard, it’s good for your yard to be clean. If you own tools, it’s good for your tools to be clean. If you live in a home, it’s good for your home to be clean. And if you appreciate the life that God gives you, it’s good for your life to be clean, to be neat, to be well taken care of. Cleanliness is stewardship. If God has given us something, we should certainly take care of it. And that’s part of this idea of cleansing. We want to keep things clean the way they should be.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, back in the 1800s, people would quite often run short of money as they went through the year. And so every grocery store that wanted to stay in business would extend credit to the people who bought groceries there. And in this particular small town, there was a grocery store that was owned and run by a man who was an atheist. The new pastor at the Methodist Church came to the grocery store to shop and as he was checking out, he smiled at the grocer and he said, “I’m the new preacher at the Methodist church. I sure would love for you to come to church.” And the grocer glared at him, slammed his hands down, and just walked away and left him standing there. The other employee came up and said, “Pastor, you’re going to have to be kind to my boss. You see, he doesn’t believe in God, and anytime somebody brings up church or the Lord, he gets absolutely furious and has to leave the room. You don’t want to try to keep him here. He has a terrible temper.” And the pastor said, “Well, I’m really sorry to hear that he feels like that.” But he continued to shop there. He continued to buy his groceries there. He would smile at the grocer. And after several months, the grocer actually began to smile back at the pastor. And finally, there came a day, as the minister was checking out, the store owner said, “Pastor, I think I’m going to come to your church this coming Sunday. I would like to hear you preach. I’m curious about your sermons.” And the pastor was kind of dumbfounded and overwhelmed and he just said, “Well, thank you. I’m so glad that you come to that decision.” But he said, “I’m curious. Since this is such a sensitive topic to you, why have you changed your mind?” And the man who owned the grocery store said, “Well, it’s really very simple, pastor. You preach every Sunday and I’ve begun to notice. Your church members are beginning to pay their bills.” That’s what it means to have stewardship of what goes on in your life and to keep it clean, keep it the way it should be.

Back in the early 1900s, the Times of London, the most respected newspaper in the world at the time, in an editorial issued a challenge: What’s wrong with the world today? And they began to list all of the problems of the world that were later going to lead right up to World War I. In a letter to the editor, G.K. Chesterton, an English writer and Catholic philosopher, sent a letter to the editor that was published and it simply said this,

“Dear Sir, I am. Yours, G.K. Chasterton.”

What’s wrong with the world today? I am, G.K. Chesterton had the courage to say. Friends, there’s a lot that’s wrong with our world today, and I want to be really honest with you. What’s wrong? It’s me. There are a lot of problems this church faces. It’s me, because part of the stewardship that’s involved in repentance and forgiveness is taking responsibility for your part in what’s wrong with the world. It’s me.

I would like to smile and look out at all of you and just let you know, thank you very much. None of you are nodding, going, “It is him!”

But it’s me. First John 1:4, the most beautiful passage in the Bible about forgiveness, in my opinion, begins with this: “We are writing this that our joy may be complete.” It is a joy to be forgiven! Verse 5, “This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaimed to you that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.”

Now, if you’re curious about what it means to walk in the light, you can turn over to John chapter 3 where it says that Jesus came into the world like light coming into darkness. And all of a sudden, everyone started moving. Most of the world started moving farther back into darkness, John’s gospel says. Because if you’re evil and you come into where the light is, people will see the evil. In fact, it takes courage to come to the light because it means that other people will see you as you are with nothing hidden, with the truth revealed. And, you see, the truth about the world is people want to hide their faults. They want to hide what’s wrong. It’s a very human tendency.

First John goes on to say, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” But look at verse 9 – this is a promise: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That word, unrighteousness, means to be cleansed from everything that shouldn’t be there. To be restored, repaired, made right, made new. And then verse 10 sums it up, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

So you can see when you look at that verse, well, you can understand why I want to say to you, “You know what’s wrong with the world? It’s me.” Because I do not want to say that I have not sinned. I do not want to call God a liar. I do not want to be someone where his word is not in me.

If you flip over to John 15, you find these words, which I’ve always found to be very interesting. This chapter is my favorite chapter in the Bible. Jesus says, “I am the vine. You are the branches.” John 15:2, “Every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes.” The gardener cuts off branches that will not lead to fruit. And the reason the gardener does this is not to harm the plant or to hurt the plant but because it’s good for the plant that it may bear more fruit. Now look at verse 3. This is profound. Jesus says, “You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you.” Remember what we said last week? Jesus says, “If you continue in my word, if you continue to listen to what Jesus says, you will know the truth.” And it turns out he’s talking about the truth about sin, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Verse 3, “You are already made clean.” You know that’s the exact same Greek word that is translated pruned. You are already pruned. “You are already made clean by the word,” Jesus says, “that I have spoken to you.” Friends, if there’s something in your life you want to change, if there’s something in your life that you need to stop, take a look at that verse. If you take it literally – you know what it means – if you smack that thing that you should stop with the words of Jesus, it’ll stop. Because the way God prunes us for our benefit is the word of Jesus. What Jesus says is literally like a pruning shear that cuts away from us what we don’t want and what we don’t need so that we can bear more fruit. Jesus goes on to say, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine. You are the branches.”

But how is it that cleansing and change happen in your life and my life? If Jesus said something about it, you can apply those words to your life … and your life will change. And if this phrase is true, that will help clean up quite a big mess.

So, what should we understand about forgiveness? First of all, you and I need to listen to our conscience. And we need to learn because we are human beings who have this feeling, “There’s something I’ve done. And it’s not quite right. There’s something I said and I wish I didn’t say it. There’s something I want to do and it makes me afraid because I know it’s wrong.” That’s what it means to be human. If you read in psychology, a person who has no conscience, who is simply not aware that what they do is wrong or evil, the word for that is a psychopath or a sociopath. In a lighter version, it’s called a narcissist—people who don’t know how to be caring people. So we need to listen to our conscience and learn from it. We need to listen to that feeling that I just made a mistake, whatever it might be.

And we need to learn because, see, here’s the truth:

Not everything you think is wrong is wrong.
And not everything that you think is right is right.
And if that’s true, how are we going to know right from wrong?
This is why we need to listen to Jesus,
because if it’s wrong, Jesus would’ve said something about it.
If it’s right, Jesus would’ve said something about it.

Sometimes we have to build on what Jesus said, but it’s Jesus that tells us what’s right and wrong. If we say we have not sinned, if we are in denial, in other words, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

Now, if you think back in the scripture, where did that start? Remember in the Garden of Eden? This is a story that explains the problem of sin. There was a tree in the center of the garden; if a person ate of it, they would know the difference between right and wrong. It was the tree of the fruit of the knowledge of good and of evil. Now, in our stories, we always make it an apple, but it doesn’t actually say apple. It just says fruit.

So one day, Eve is hanging out with Satan and having a conversation with the devil – by the way, that’s not smart. And the devil says, “You know, if you eat that, you’ll be like God. You’ll know the difference between right and wrong.” And so she took a bite, and she immediately knew right from wrong, and she came to her husband and she said, “Honey, try this. It’ll blow your mind.” So Adam eats from the apple, and all of a sudden, both of them knew right from wrong. And that evening, God is walking in the garden and Adam and Eve are hiding. And God says, “Why are you hiding?” And Adam and Eve said, “Well, we’re naked and we know that’s wrong.” And God’s response is, “Who told you that was wrong?” It goes right on to say, “Have you eaten of the tree that I told you not to eat?”

Now, here’s something we will never understand. We will never understand what might’ve happened if Adam had, in the story, looked at God and said, “God, you’re right. I did. It was wrong.” But that’s not what happened, is it? You remember what happened? God says, “Did you do that?” And Adam goes, “My wife made me do it.” Now, by the way, friends, that’s evil.

And they both turn and they look at Eve. And Eve goes, “The devil made me do it.” Nobody was willing to say, “What’s wrong with the world? I am.” So we’ll never know … because the result of people learning the difference between good and evil is that people chose to be evil to get out of trouble, and to make excuses. Because think about what an excuse is. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s all their fault. And so the blame gets passed around because nobody is willing to say their part, even if it’s a small part.

Do not avoid the truth about what you’ve done wrong. I’ve had the privilege at different times in my life to be a guest at meetings of the group that is called Alcoholics Anonymous. They get together and they talk about what they did wrong. And ironically, talking about what they did wrong during their drinking days helps them to stop drinking. And as each person speaks, the first word they say, “My name is Dave and I am a alcoholic.” There’s different groups for drug users. I am a drug user. I am an addict.

And what these recovering people tell me is, when you are able tell the truth about what you are, it’s astonishing how it gives you power to change it. And that it’s hiding from the truth, pretending that the mistakes you make are something that someone else makes you do … that causes you to be a slave to that behavior. So if you want to understand forgiveness, listen to your conscience and learn from it, but let your conscience be guided by what Jesus said, because then you’ll truly know the truth.

Part two, seek forgiveness from God. Look at verse 9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins.” You need not have a fear of confession because God is faithful and just and will forgive you. Now let that sink in for just a minute and think about confession. You see, all this time, human beings have been pretending that what they did isn’t wrong. But let’s be honest, you can’t surprise God with something you did. God already knows. You can’t shock God with something you did because God already knows.

So what exactly is confession? Confession is where we agree with God, that God is right and that we were mistaken. So if we agree with God about what we’ve done wrong that God already knows about, it will release the love of God toward us to forgive our sins, which is wonderful. But there’s something that’s even more wonderful than this. Because you see, in the history of the Christian church, in the theology of the Christian church, we have been so focused on being forgiven by God that we have missed the second half of this promise in verse 9, that God would forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Forgiveness is the first part of what God wants to do. The rest of what God wants to do is to cleanse us of everything that’s not right.

There’s a picture of an ashtray on the screen because what we know from doctors is that when a person smokes, it does harm to their lungs. And I don’t mean to make anybody feel bad if they do smoke. I’m just explaining the medical part of this. Ashes go down into the lungs, and they cause harm to your lungs. They actually will turn your lungs dark. But what I understand from the chart on the wall in my doctor’s office – – you know one of the reasons they make you wait before the doctor comes in is so you can read all the stuff on the walls! – – The minute a person stops smoking, the minute a person stops doing the thing that is harmful, the lungs begin to clear up and to clean themselves. It takes a while, but every harmful, foolish thing that you and I have done, every harmful, foolish thing that you and I have ever said, everything that if we were truthful, we’d admit to God that was wrong, that was stupid, God can cleanse the damage from that and reverse it.

Friends, let’s not think that forgiveness is all because it’s too easy for us to go right back and do the same thing again. Let’s let God do the full work of forgiveness and begin to change us so that the harm that we’ve done is reversed and turned into good. Let’s move onward to cleansing and let God solve the tendency within us to do wrong, in whatever way that is. Let’s let God do the full work of forgiveness and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, I’m so very thankful today that the people who are perfect didn’t bother to show up for church. I’m really grateful today that I’m in a room with a lot of people who understand what I mean when I say I’m not the person I want to be. I’m glad I’m in the room with people who understand what I mean when I say I don’t live the way I really want to live in my heart of hearts. And as a result of this, Lord, sometimes the things we’ve done wrong just pile up, and the burden seems to be heavier and heavier and heavier. Lord, thank you so much for forgiveness that washes away the sins of a lifetime.
And as John said in the first verse we read today, it brings us joy to be forgiven. But Lord, I’m also thankful that what brings us even more joy is that when you come and stand with us; and as the word of God fills us with truth, we find that you’re there to help us not only to be forgiven, but to change … so that what needs forgiveness becomes less and less something we do, less and less a problem we struggle with, less and less something that controls us in this life. And so, Lord, help us to confess our sins. Help us to agree with You that You’re right. But Lord, now that we’ve been forgiven, help us to live a new life and be the people that we most want to be like, the best version of ourself in this world. We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )

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