Summary: The changes God wants to see in us.
Extreme Makeover: Thick Skin
Sunday, April 2nd, 2006
I was in Ethan’s room the other night after he had already fallen asleep. I looked at the outline of his body underneath the covers and it was hard to believe how far down those little legs went. I remember spending Sunday afternoons watching football with him sleeping on my chest, his little legs didn’t even reach to my waist and in such a short time, he’s grown so much that those memories of the tiny little baby are all but gone. If you have little children, you know what I mean. It’s a joy to watch them grow and there’s nothing we can do to stop the growth process in their lives. God looks down on us in the same way. For a Christian, growth should be natural and God wants to see evidence of that growth that’s taking place in us. He wants us to look different this month than we did last month and to continue to grow from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity.
So, we’ve been looking at this idea of Extreme Makeover, Life Edition. We’ve looked at those areas in our lives that need to change for growth to happen. We began with internal change. A broken heart that changes the way we view sin, calloused knees that know how to pray and develop an intimacy with God and crossed eyes, eyes that focus on the cross of Christ and in doing so, our meaning and purpose become clear. When these internal changes happen, the outside is going to begin to reflect the inside. Out of our relationship with Him is to flow our relationship with His children. Last week we looked at the first visible, outward sign of change, a pierced tongue. This is a tongue that is under the control of God. It’s a tongue that builds up and encourages, that is truthful and free from gossip and slander and cursing. It’s people being able to see that you’re different by the way that you talk. And finally, this morning, I want to look at another change that deals with our relationships. God wants us to have thick skin.
My daughter hates to wear shoes. She always takes them off as soon as she can get away with it and loves to run around barefoot. The skin on the bottom of her feet has gotten visibly thicker than the rest of her skin. It protects her feet from getting hurt by some of the things that she steps on, there are still things that will penetrate it and hurt her, but a lot of what would hurt most people, won’t even phase her, she’s developed thick skin.
God has made us all with a complex system of emotions. Some of us wear them on our sleeves, some of us hide them very well, but all of us have them and because of that, all of us have the ability to be hurt; to experience pain and sadness and disappointment and often it comes from the way that we’re treated by other people.
The Christian with thick skin is able to deal with the hurt, deal with the pain, and extend forgiveness to the person or persons who have hurt them. It doesn’t mean that they don’t hurt or that they are immune to anger or bitterness over the actions of others, but they have learned not to let it consume them. The Christian who develops thick skin is the one who understands the nature and the necessity of forgiveness. Forgiveness, this is one of the hardest things for many of us to do. We live in a day and age where we love to blame. We blame anything on anyone and then feel that we are justified to hold a grudge and to return pain for pain. The reality is that a lot of us like to hold onto those things that are done to us, we hold onto the anger, we dwell on the pain, we think of ways that we can get even, but God says to us, don’t let it penetrate, let it go, and trust me to take care of it. Learn to forgive. Why? Because God has forgiven us. For a Christian, choosing not to forgive is not an option.
Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:15 in as clear a way as possible.
But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
There is not the slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms. It is made perfectly clear that if we do not forgive, we shall not be forgiven. There are no two ways about it. C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity p104-105)
Without forgiveness, there is no relationship with God, and our ability to forgive goes hand in hand with experiencing God’s forgiveness in our lives. This is a teaching that is often ignored, it’s a teaching that is often not fun to look at or talk about. All of us have been hurt, all of us are tempted to hold a grudge, but because of the price that was paid to obtain our forgiveness, God commands that we forgive freely as well. For a Christian not to forgive is the epitome of a double-standard.