Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Repent of Your Sins and Be Refreshed by Salvation and Forgiveness’
© July 7, 2019, by Steve Mickelson
Based on a Message shared at BLCF on January 4, 2015
Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer
Opening Hymn #63: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name; Choruses
Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayer Requests
Responsive Reading #605 (Prayer of Penitence – Psalm 51); Prayer
Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Repent of Your Sins and Be Refreshed with Salvation and Forgiveness’
Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship for the first Sunday of July 2019. Last Monday happened to be Canada Day and in honour of the July 1 celebration, I have included a bit of trivia on the front of today’s bulletin, namely that the Canadian flag is unique in that we are the only country to have a flag that is twice as long as it is wide.
And this being the first Sunday Praise and Worship Service of the month, our service at BLCF will also be a Communion Service.
Today’s lesson is entitled: ‘Repent of Your Sins and Be Refreshed with Salvation and Forgiveness’ And in line with the topic of Salvation and forgiveness, I would like to open with an appropriate prayer on the subject from the Scriptures, found in the eleventh chapter of Luke’s Gospel, which is commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer”:
Let us pray…
Luke 11:2-4 (ESV)
2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,[a]
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
Footnotes: a. Luke 11:3 Or our bread for tomorrow
From the Lord’s Prayer, it is important to note that Jesus indicated that the degree of our forgiveness from God, the Father, is predicated upon our complete and total forgiveness of others. It is ironic that many people Christians give considerable thought and focus upon their own forgiveness through our Lord, Jesus Christ while giving little or no thought to forging others and yet our salvation is predicated only on God’s love for us, but how we demonstrate our love to others. And I mean all others, including those whom we considered who have wronged us, that is those who have “trespassed against us!” A factual account of this love towards those who have wronged us is described in Olympian, Louis Zamperini’s autobiography, which was made into a movie Unbroken in 2014. Here is a short synopsis of this film:
After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he’s caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.
Unbroken is the Louis Zamperini’s biography, authored by Laura Hillenbrand, and made into a film a few years ago. Those who have both read the book and viewed the film noted that the movie omitted how after the war, Zamperini who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) had suffered from depression which led him to turn to alcohol. Omitted from the film was how Zamperini while attending a Billy Graham Campaign Service, Zamperini chose to accept Jesus, as his Lord and Saviour. Then, by God’s Grace, Zamperini was not only healed from his PTSD and dependence on alcohol, but he was also able to forgive the Japanese guards who had brought him so much pain and suffering while he was a Prisoner of War. After the war, his PTSD nightmares had nearly led to him losing his sanity. Unfortunately, the movie director and producers of the film did not think it worthwhile to include Zamperini’s faith experience and how his heart was transformed by the Holy Spirit. They chose to omit from the film, the story of the true triumph achieved by Zamperini which is a story of the power of faith and the ability of the Spirit to heal deep emotional wounds and give us the strength to love our enemies.
As a broadcast journalist, the late Paul Harvey used to say, “Here is the rest of the story”:
“Unbroken” the Biography of Louis Zamperini by Laura Hillenbrand
-From the Wall Street Journal (Online) by Steve Oney
“Unbroken” details a life that was tumultuous from the beginning. As a blue-collar kid in Southern California, Mr. Zamperini fell in and out of scrapes with the law. By age 19, he’d redirected his energies into sports, becoming a record-breaking distance runner. He competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin where he made headlines, not just on the track (Hitler sought him out for a congratulatory handshake), but by stealing a Nazi flag from the well-guarded Reich Chancellery. The heart of the story, however, is about Mr. Zamperini’s experiences while serving in the Pacific during World War II.
A bombardier on a B-24 flying out of Hawaii in May 1943, the Army Air Corps lieutenant was one of only three members of an 11-man crew to survive a crash into a trackless expanse of ocean. For 47 days, Mr. Zamperini and pilot Russell Allen Phillips (tail gunner Francis McNamara died on day 33) huddled aboard a tiny, poorly provisioned raft, subsisting on little more than rain water and the blood of hapless birds they caught and killed bare-handed. All the while sharks circled, often rubbing their backs against the bottom of the raft. The sole aircraft that sighted them was Japanese. It made two strafing runs, missing its human targets both times. After drifting some 2,000 miles west, the bullet-riddled, badly patched raft washed ashore in the Marshall Islands, where Messrs. Zamperini and Phillips were taken prisoner by the Japanese. The war still had more than two years to go.
For 25 months in such infamous Japanese POW camps as Ofuna, Omori and Naoetsu, Mr. Zamperini was physically tortured and subjected to constant psychological abuse. He was beaten. He was starved. He was denied medical care for maladies that included beriberi and chronic bloody diarrhea. His fellow prisoners—among them Mr. Phillips—were treated almost as badly. But Mr. Zamperini was singled out by a sadistic guard named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, known to prisoners as “the Bird,” a handle picked because it had no negative connotations that might bring down his irrational wrath. The Bird intended to make an example of the famous Olympian. He regularly whipped him across the face with a belt buckle and forced him to perform demeaning acts, among them push-ups atop pits of human excrement. The Bird’s goal was to force Mr. Zamperini to broadcast anti-American propaganda over the radio. Mr. Zamperini refused. Following Japan’s surrender, Mr. Watanabe was ranked seventh among its most wanted war criminals (Tojo was first). Because war-crime prosecutions were suspended in the 1950s, he was never brought to justice.
Ms. Hillenbrand’s research was complicated by her disease. But as she likes to remind people, she came down with chronic fatigue syndrome before starting her writing career, and she has learned to work around it. “For ‘Seabiscuit,’ ” she says, “I interviewed 100 people I never met.” For “Unbroken,” Ms. Hillenbrand located not only many of Mr. Zamperini’s fellow POWs and the in-laws of Mr. Phillips, but the most friendly of his Japanese captors. She also interviewed scores of experts on the War in the Pacific (the book is extensively end-noted) and benefited from her subject’s personal files, which he shipped to Washington for her use. “A superlative pack rat,” she writes, “Louie has saved virtually every artifact of his life.”
During her exploration of Mr. Zamperini’s war years, Ms. Hillenbrand was most intrigued by his capacity to endure hardship. “One of the fascinating things about Louie,” she says, “is that he never allowed himself to be a passive participant in his ordeal. It’s why he survived. When he was being tortured, he wasn’t just lying there and getting hit. He was always figuring out ways to escape emotionally or physically.”
Mr. Zamperini owes this resiliency, Ms. Hillenbrand concluded, to his rebellious nature. “Defiance defines Louie,” she says. “As a boy he was a hell-raiser. He refused to be corralled. When someone pushed him he pushed back. That made him an impossible kid but an unbreakable man.”
Although Mr. Zamperini came back to California in one piece, he was emotionally ruined. At night, his demons descended in the form of vengeful dreams about Mr. Watanabe. He drank heavily. He nearly destroyed his marriage. In 1949, at the urging of his wife, Cynthia, Mr. Zamperini attended a Billy Graham crusade in downtown Los Angeles, where he became a Christian. (The conversion of the war hero helped put the young evangelist on the map.) Ultimately Mr. Zamperini forgave his tormentors and enjoyed a successful career running a center for troubled youth. He even reached out to Mr. Watanabe. “As a result of my prisoner of war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment,” Mr. Zamperini wrote his former guard in the 1990s, “my post-war life became a nightmare … but thanks to a confrontation with God … I committed my life to Christ. Love replaced the hate I had for you.” A third party promised to deliver the letter to Mr. Watanabe. He did not reply, and it is not known whether he received it. He died in 2003.
Mr. Zamperini’s internal battles and ultimate redemption point to a key difference between “Unbroken” and Ms. Hillenbrand’s previous book. “Seabiscuit’s story is one of accomplishment,” she says. “Louie’s is one of survival.
Ivan Mesa writing in thegospelcoalition.org, has the following take on the Louie Zamperini’s story:
Broken: The Power of Conversion in Louie Zamperini’s Life
Louie Zamperini’s amazing life is the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. It has remained on the New York Timesbestseller list for almost four years (a remarkable feat!), and on Christmas Day the much-anticipated movie adaptation is slated for release. Although it is one of my favorite books, I have to agree with Collin Hansen: “The title is all wrong.” After the war, Louie returned home a broken man.
Louie survived 47 days adrift in a lifeboat after his plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean. He narrowly escaped marauding sharks and strafing from passing Japanese airplanes. And he survived on rainwater, fish, and seabirds until he was picked up by a Japanese patrol boat. After two brutal years as a prisoner of war in Japan, World War II ended, and Louie returned home a hero.
Soon thereafter, he married a beautiful blonde woman named Cynthia. On the outside all seemed well, but hatred for one of his captors metastasized. “A once singularly hopeful man now believed that his only hope lay in murder,” Hillenbrand writes. Louie’s life spiraled downward as he gave himself over to drunkenness and reckless behavior. Money he had invested in get-rich-quick schemes foundered. Despite appeals and warnings from friends, he made no reform. His wife initiated a divorce.
Conversion Under Billy Graham
In September 1949 a young Billy Graham came to Los Angeles for a three-week campaign to bring the city to Christ. Cynthia attended and received Christ as Savior. She returned home, informed Louie of her new life in Christ, and made clear she would no longer pursue a divorce. Although relieved, Louie wanted no part of this religious awakening. Nevertheless, eventually Louie also attended and, although indignant at first, on the second day he came forward to receive Christ. Here is his account:
I dropped to my knees and for the first time in my life truly humbled myself before the Lord. I asked him to forgive me for not having kept the promises I’d made during the war, and for my sinful life. I made no excuses. I did not rationalize, I did not blame. He had said, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” so I took him at his word, begged for his pardon, and asked Jesus to come into my life.
His new life had begun
Joy replaced anger in Louie’s heart, and he freely forgave his former captors. Throughout his life he gave testimony of Christ, particularly with troubled youth near his home in Los Angeles. He was a faithful husband until Cynthia died in 2001 of cancer. Louie died earlier this year at 97.
The portrayal of Conversion in Zamperini’s Life
The inclusion of the tent meeting and Billy Graham’s sermon in Hillenbrand’s Unbroken was an answer to prayer for Louie. “Unbroken is Laura’s book,” Louie later told the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, “so all I could do was pray that she would somehow have the gospel in it.” We should all be thankful that Louie’s conversion was included, even if not explained in robustly theological terms.
Not surprisingly, however, major news outlets have minimized Louie’s conversion and offered man-centered interpretations. For example, the New York Times devoted only one sentence to this transformation in its obituary for him: “Mr. Zamperini straightened out his life . . . after hearing a sermon preached by Billy Graham.” According to The Guardian Louie “was overcome and born-again as a Christian.” But perhaps most disappointing was Hillenbrand’s own eulogy:
What made his life transcendent, what made it resonate in millions of hearts, was not the hardship he encountered, but the way in which he greeted it, how he turned it to joy, and what that told the rest of us about the potential that sleeps within ourselves. (emphasis mine)
In a recent profile of the film, Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie on Louie’s life, the Los Angeles Times indicates that the movie will end with Zamperini’s liberation and will not include his alcoholism, Billy Graham’s preaching, or Louie’s conversion. This is tragic. Louie was clear that one could not tell his story apart from his new birth in Christ. When CBS wanted to air a documentary of his life in the 1990s, he insisted on including his conversion:
My whole life is serving God. If you want this to be authentic, you have to have my conversion in there. . . . I want you to show a picture of Billy Graham to confirm it. When people hear the name Billy Graham they think of one thing: the gospel.
The first trailer of the film included some small hints of Christianity. We hear Louie addressing God, “If you get me through this, I swear I’ll dedicate my whole life to you,” which is a bargain he made at sea while in the raft.
Unfortunately, the Jolie film omits the key fact that Zamperini’s faith in Christ was the key to his triumph over alcoholism and depression due to his PTSD. This omission not only dodges Louie’s healing through faith It does also little to honor the memory or testimony of Louie Zamperini.
The site, deadline.com reports that Pure Flix produced a film sequel in 2018 to Unbroken:
A sequel of Unbroken is on the way from the film’s original producer Matt Baer and God’s Not Dead franchise director Harold Cronk which looks at the life of hero Louis Zamperini post WWII. The faith-based film — to be distributed by Pure Flix — is based on the second half of the book from author Laura Hillenbrand. The film is entitled Unbroken: Path to Redemption.
The film will pick up where the first left off and follows Zamperini’s life after the war and his struggle to get back on his feet after suffering PTSD, falling into despair and alcoholism. The young soldier would be put back on the right path by the Rev. Billy Graham
Our first Scripture passage speaks of how the Lord brought a restoration, by forgiving their sins, as we read in Luke 7:36-50 (ESV):
A Sinful Woman Forgiven (Parable of the Two Debtors)
6 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among[a] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Footnotes: a. Luke 7:49 Or to
It is interesting to observe that A Sinful Woman Forgiven also described as Parable of the Two Debtors tells how two debtors, which in reality alludes to the sins of the Pharisee, named Simon, and the sinful woman. Jesus compares how his host offered Jesus, no water to wash his feet, which was the Jewish custom, not embrace or kiss, and no anointing of his head with oil, and yet the sinful woman lovingly gave the Lord all of those.
Not only did the Lord forgive the woman of her sins, Jesus indicated that his Pharisee host eluded his own forgiveness by not forgiving the trespasses of the woman. The other mistake of the Pharisee, as well as others, gathered at the table, was in not acknowledging Jesus’ true identity, as Christ, the Anointed One, an observation that was only made by the woman who carried and was forgiven of the burden of her many sins.
Finally, the Pharisee made the mistake of harshly judging both the woman, as well as the Lord, while failing to acknowledge his own transgressions, though not as great as the woman.
The next Scripture passage in today’s lesson comes from Luke 19:1-10 (ESV):
Jesus and Zacchaeus
19 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Christ acknowledged the tax collector Zacchaeus, though not Pharisee or leader of faith, had practiced great faith in his own life, by giving half of his goods to the poor, and seeking restitution to those that he had defrauded fourfold.
Just as had happened at the house of Simon, the Pharisee, those around Jesus and Zacchaeus had wrongly judged both the Lord and Zacchaeus, again, unaware that the Lord already knew Zacchaeus’ name, but likely the heart of this man, whom others had wrongly judged as a sinner. This is a reminder that we are wrong to judge others when we do not know what is truly in their hearts. It is not for us the judge others, as we would be placing ourselves in the dangerous position of usurping our Lord. Both Adam and Eve had already made that mistake when they ate the forbidden fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge.”
For us, Jesus came on earth on earth as the Anointed One, the Christ, bringing salvation and forgiveness to all who chose to confess their sins and to turn away from a life of sin. This was the message that Peter shared, shortly after healing a lame beggar in the name of the Lord, on the steps to the temple, as we read in Acts 3:11-21 (ESV):
Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico
11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant[a] Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus[b] has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
As Christians, we receive God’s grace not only by confessing sin and by turning away from sin; the Lord expects us to not judge others or to hold others in contempt. And by judging others, we bring the same judgment from the Lord upon ourselves, eluding our own salvation in the process.
Let us pray…
Communion (Luke 22:14-20) – Institution of the Lord’s Supper:
14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it[a] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.[b]
Closing Hymn #410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day
Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.