Faithlife Sermons

Spiritual Healing

Fresh Air: How The Gospel Renews and Revives  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The gospel shows us that God’s plan for us has always been reconciliation. When we accept the gospel as truth, we can be freed to begin healing the hurts, mistakes, and regrets of our past.

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Today, I want to start by telling you the story of Thomas Torrants, in his own words, taken from an article he wrote for the Gospel Coalition in 2019.
Thanks to my dear Baptist mother, I grew up going to church regularly. By the age of 13, I knew that hell is a terrible reality, and I didn’t want to go there when I died. I also knew that Jesus died for my sins and that by accepting him I’d go to heaven. After talking with the pastor, I made a profession of faith one Sunday morning and was baptized that evening. I was now sure I would go to heaven when I died.
But nothing could have been further from the truth. Eventually I came to see that I was motivated by fear. Accepting Jesus had been a matter of intellectual assent, not repentance and faith. Unfortunately it took 10 years to discover that—years filled with much sin and suffering.
The impetus of my life - the thing that drove it - was fighting for God and country. At first blush, that sounds admirable—like noble military service. But I was in the midst of the civil-rights era of the 1960s, and in my case “fighting for God and country” meant embracing far-right extremism, with its hatred of blacks, Jews, communists, socialists, and liberals. I adopted the views of the Christian Identity movement, a virulently racist, anti-Semitic cult.
One night an accomplice and I attempted to bomb the home of a Jewish businessman in Meridian, Mississippi, but the house was staked out by a police SWAT team. My accomplice was killed, and I was shot four times at close range with shotgun fire. When I got to the hospital, the doctors said it would be a miracle if I lived 45 minutes.
But God had mercy on me and miraculously spared my life. If ever there was a time to repent of my sins and turn to Christ, it was then. But I was dead in trespasses and didn’t think what I was doing was wrong. After all, I was fighting for God and country.
I was sentenced to 30 years in the Mississippi State Penitentiary, said to be one of the worst prisons in America at the time. I went there with one thing in mind: to escape and return to my activities. It took six months to work out a plan and recruit two other inmates, but we pulled off a successful escape. Two days later, however, the FBI found us in a wooded area, and one of the inmates was killed in the ensuing gunfire. Had he not relieved me from standing watch 30 minutes earlier than planned, I would have been the one killed.
I was taken back to prison—this time to a solitary cell in the maximum-security unit. It was the lowest point in my life, since any hope of escape was gone. Rationally speaking, this would’ve been another good time to repent and turn to Christ. But I still saw myself as a patriot fighting for God and country. When someone is blind and dead in sin, rational considerations alone can’t bring them to life.
It takes something more. Something supernatural.
To keep from going crazy, I occupied my time with reading. Top priority was catching up on all the racist and anti-Semitic books I hadn’t devoured before. I then read a book on neo-fascist political theory and cultural analysis, which exposed me to a much more sophisticated intellectual approach to the issues of race and culture. Many Western philosophers were referred to, and they were intriguing to me. I had never seen anything like this before, and it awakened in me an interest in philosophy. So I began to study.
I had no idea that such a study would take me away from my racist, anti-Semitic, far-right ideology. In retrospect, I see it as the Holy Spirit’s pre-evangelistic ambush. It liberated my mind and gave me a desire to seek truth, wherever that might take me and also to examine my life, as Socrates urged. Since philosophy didn’t possess the truth I was seeking, I was drawn (I now realize, by the Spirit) to read the Gospels, where I was encountered by Truth Himself .
Unbeknownst to me, a group of women had read about me in the newspaper—and had been praying weekly for two years that God would save and use me for his glory. The leader of this prayer group was the wife of the FBI agent who orchestrated my capture in Meridian. Not long after I started reading the Gospels, my eyes began to be opened—“a divine and supernatural light imparted to the soul,” as Jonathan Edwards said. My many sins began flooding to mind—and with them conviction, repentance, and tears of confession. One night, I knelt on the floor of my cell and prayed a simple prayer to Jesus, asking for forgiveness and offering my life to him if he wanted it. It felt like a thousand pounds had been lifted from my shoulders. Something changed inside of me, and I haven’t been the same since.
I awoke the next day to find that I was now spiritually alive, and God was real to me! I had an immediate appetite to read the Bible, pray, and live for God. The more I read the Bible, the more I grew. God gave me love for people I once hated and has helped me to change in many other ways. Miraculously, I was released from prison in 1976, after serving eight years. And from 1978 to the present, I have been active in ministry.
As I look back over the 50-plus years since that night in 1968 when I was given 45 minutes to live, all I can do is marvel at the goodness and love of God, who sent his Son to rescue me from the way of sin and death. He has been a gracious Father to me over the years as I have sought, however imperfectly, to walk the narrow road to eternal life. He has been kind and patient, convicting me of sin where needed, forgiving me as I repent, strengthening me for fresh obedience, showering me with blessings, and steadily fulfilling his purposes through my life. It hasn’t always been easy, of course, for Jesus said it wouldn’t be. But God has been faithful and carried me through the trials and tribulations of life—some very painful—using them for my good.
I am so grateful that the Christian tradition is filled with thousands of stories like this - of people lost in evil and being dramatically saved by Jesus. It reminds me of how powerful the gospel really is - that even a hardened white supremacist like Thomas Torrants can be redeemed and have his life turn around.
I am aware though, that while many of us are inspired by stories like this, we don’t often see ourselves in them because we look at ourselves and say, “Well, I’m not a white supremacist, I’m a good person.”
And while being a “good person” is great and all, it sure makes it difficult to resonate with the gospel. You see, good people don’t need Jesus. Only us sinners need Jesus and unless you come to that place where you can actually see the sin in your life and you desire the forgiveness of God and the freedom which that forgiveness gives, you are going to stay stuck where you are.
As we conclude our series Fresh Air: How the Gospel renews and revives, we are going to look at a story where a woman receives forgiveness and how it changed her life. And if you let it, it might just change yours as well.
Luke 7:36–50 NLT
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!” Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.” “Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied. Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?” And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Passage overview

Main idea: Healing Happens in the Face of Forgiveness

Break down passage:

Spiritual healing happens when you experience God’s forgiveness

Psalm 32:1–5 NLT
Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Interlude Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Interlude

Spiritual healing happens when you give forgiveness

James 5:16 NLT
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
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