Pastor Terry Inman
Last week Pastor Don launched the year with a great message on Rescue, the first of our four purposes. He made it very clear that our motivation for recusing the lost is our own story of being rescued from darkness into light. We love the lost into being found because we are lost and found!
The prophet Isaiah said, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53.6 NIV) Jesus lost His life so we could find ours!
Rescue is only the beginning. Once saved from peril we need to experience recovery. Today we will take a fresh look at our second purpose; helping people RECOVER by embracing God’s healing presence.
Recovery isn’t linear. There are ups and downs in the healing process. It takes time. From aliments to addictions, recovery comes in stages.
We use the word recover for physical, emotional and spiritual restoration.
Paul writes, “May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ.” (1Th. 5.23 Message)
The opposite of recovered is uncovered, exposed or unprotected. When the first humans Adam and Eve violated God’s instructions, they took cover. God ask them why they were hiding. They were afraid and ashamed. They had eaten from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They had become aware of their nakedness.
Later God covered them with animal skins. This is one of the first biblical images of animal sacrifice for the covering of sin. Jesus himself was the final lamb to be slain for our recovery. When we feel uncovered, afraid and ashamed God re-covers us!
I started again in Genesis with my you-version bible app. I enjoy listening to the bible-in-a-year plan on my iPhone. When I heard the story of Noah and the flood. I felt deep sorrow as I heard that God grieved, his heart was filled with pain, for having ever created man. The bible says every inclination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil all the time.
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Humanity was rescued; man and animals were restored to the earth. It was a full reboot. Later as Noah drank too much from his vineyard he was found intoxicated and uncovered in his tent. His youngest son Ham saw him and told his other brothers. They carefully turned their faces and covered their father.
Ham and his son Canaan were cursed to slavery for exposing Noah’s nudity. The Canaanites became a nemesis to God people. It’s so easy to uncover people’s sins. We are called to help each other recover! The bible says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1Pet. 4.8 NIV)
One of the most notorious moral failures in the bible was that of King David. When he confessed his sin of adultery and murder he was fully restored. Psalm 32 is his journal of recovery.
“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. (v. 2-3)
There was not deceit in him he was no longer hiding or in denial. It’s a blessing to have our sins covered but we have to uncover them!
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
As long as he covered his sin he was under heavy guilt and shame. He was emotionally depressed and physically exhausted. The heat was on!
Then, David says, I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”— and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”
God not only forgives our sin but he removes harmful guilt!
Recovery is a process that begins with an uncovering or full disclosure. We must become humble and vulnerable about past hurts, broken hearts, hang-ups and harmful habits. We learn to trust God and our confidants.
Our Cleansing Stream seminars and retreats have helped so many of us experience healing and freedom. Also our weekly Celebrate Recovery promotes sustained healing and freedom in a safe and loving environment.
Cleansing Stream will help get you free and Celebrate Recovery will help you stay free! We have heard so many amazing stories of people in this congregation that have experienced authentic recovery in these groups.
Another support group in our church is Divorce Recovery. We have groups for adults and the children of divorce. I want you to hear a fresh testimony of a brave new believer whose life’s is being transformed.
As we experience our own recovery we are motivated and empowered to help our friends experience their recovery. In fact one of the best ways to maintain our own spiritual growth and health is to support others.
Dr. Luke a physician and historian summarized Jesus’ mission this way. “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” (Acts 10:38 MSG)
Helping people recover with God’s healing presence is “doing good”. It is freeing them from oppression, and restoring them to spiritual, emotional and physical health. It is restoring their God given dignity.
Jesus announced his rescue and recovery mission right in his own hometown…“God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free, to announce, “This is God’s year to act!” (Luke 4:18-19 MSG)
The evil one blinds us and binds us. Jesus frees us and heals us!
I love Jesus’ invitation also in the Message Translation: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matt. 11:28-30 MSG)
This is why we say recovery is “Embracing God’s Healing Presence”.
The religious leaders of Jesus day were laying heavy religious rules and regulations on everybody. Nobody including them could live up to this oppressive and legalistic system.
Jesus gave his own life for our failures. He rescues us from the futility of self-directed efforts. He forgives us, frees us and heals us. Recovery is not about keeping rules it’s about keeping relationships.
Recovery happens best in safe and sound relationships. What is a safe and sound relationship? It’s where you can be authentic and transparent with out any fear of exposure. A sound relationship is one that is secure and stable. It is a committed friendship that brings out your highest and best. It is both affirming and accountable.
We can ask Jesus for forgiveness and receive it unconditionally but total recovery happens when we receive the support and encouragement of caring and praying brothers and sisters of mature faith.
James, the brother of Jesus describes a recovery relationship. “Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out. Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. (James 5:15-16 MSG)
Here’s a great example of a recovery relationship. Jesus loved Simon Peter dearly but knowing his vulnerability and humanity he told him that he would have to face his failure. Jesus also offered him help and hope.
“Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start.”
(Luke 22:31-32 MSG)
The full circle of recovery is when we turn around and help someone else. God is so gracious. He heals us and strengthens us so that we are able to support people recovering in the very area we were vulnerable before.
So picture yourself with a group of followers of Jesus, sharing your hearts, your hurts, your joys, and embracing God’s healing presence. Jesus said, “When two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.” (Matt. 18:20 MSG)
As I mentioned before we have ongoing groups like Cleansing Stream, Celebrate Recovery, and Divorce Recovery. A new grief recovery group is beginning soon. In a few weeks we will kick off our second annual 40 days of Love and Light. We will be launching several new small groups.
Now the last thing most of us want to do is get into some therapy group where we are pushed into divulging stuff we really don’t want to expose. That’s not what we do here. What you share and when you share is totally up to you. We are all responsible for our own spiritual growth.
If we’re totally honest, we are all probably a little nervous about sharing our lives with other folks. That’s why it is really important to take time to build trust in recovery relationships. God wants us to feel safe.
Jesus had a small group that he hoped would carry his good news to the world. They were all in recovery. There was an unpopular tax collector named Matthew that invited Jesus to parities with his drinking buddies. He was probably working the 12 steps.
There were three fisherman, Peter James and John nicknamed ‘the sons of thunder”. They were activists who advocated the over-through of the Roman government. Peter was always getting his foot in his mouth.
Then there was Judas who betrayed Jesus, the group and himself. Not everybody wants recovery. This group wasn’t always functional but in the end, as apostles, they turned their world upside down!
So let me leave you with this. Do we want to live up to all God has intended for us. He rescued us. We have been guided into safe harbor in Christ. We have a destiny. We all have a personal purpose to fulfill.
This next step, recovery is part of reaching that calling. Let’s fully embrace God’s healing presence. Let’s pursue our complete recovery. Let’s help others experience recovery. I’m not all that good at resolutions but let’s set some new targets for our spiritual life and growth this year!