Posts Tagged 'Forgiveness'

Video Sermon: 18 October

Good morning my friends. Thanks for dropping by today. On today’s VIDEO SERMON we’re looking at God’s amazing forgiveness, so open up those Bibles to the book of Micah.

If you have mind to give, click HERE to access our church’s secure giving page.

Panic Podcast: A Handful of Psalms, Part 3

Good morning, fellas, gals, and others.  Today’s podcast is all about getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar. That ever happen to any of you? It happened to David, and after Nathan the prophet called him out, he wrote the famous Psalm 51, and that’s what we’re looking at today.

 

Seven Healthy Habits, Part 2

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We’ve looked at the first three healthy habits every Christian should possess and cultivate. They were:

Trust in God, Galatians 2:20
Pray to God, Philippians 4:6
Remain in Christ, John 15:4

You may refresh your memory here if the details of each habit are a bit fuzzy. We’ll pick up right where we left off with healthy, helpful habit number four:

Walk as Christ walked, 1 John 2:7, 8 and 1 Peter 2:21

Dear brothers, I am not writing out a new rule for you to obey, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the start. You have heard it all before. Yet it is always new, and works for you just as it did for Christ; and as we obey this commandment, to love one another, the darkness in our lives disappears and the new light of life in Christ shines in. (1 John 2:7, 8 TLB)

In this section of John’s first letter, the apostle writes about three tests for his readers to take to make sure they really possess eternal life. It may seem strange to you that some Christians, from time to time may doubt their salvation. Or maybe it doesn’t; perhaps you’re a Christian like that. Doubt doesn’t have to be sin. Doubt can actually confirm your faith, if you’re smart about it. John’s readers were doubters because they had been entertaining the notions of some false teachers. To help his readers smarten up – and to help you doubters reading this – is John’s purpose in writing about these three tests. The three tests include: moral, social, and doctrinal tests.

The second test, the social test, is really just a call to have a loving attitude.

For he who dislikes his brother is wandering in spiritual darkness and doesn’t know where he is going, for the darkness has made him blind so that he cannot see the way. (1 John 2:11 TLB)

So, as John taught, if you don’t get along with fellow believers, you aren’t “walking in the light.” In fact, it’s worse even than that. If you have unresolved problems with other believers – even just one – you are on your way to becoming spiritually blind! Can you imagine that? A rift between two Christians is that serious.

And the third test, the test of a believer’s doctrine, is all about the what the believer believes.

So I am not writing to you as to those who need to know the truth, but I warn you as those who can discern the difference between true and false. (1 John 2:21 TLB)

A believer whose relationship with Jesus Christ is healthy and whose relationship to the Body of Christ is healthy will be able to discern between true and false doctrines.

But it’s John’s first test, the moral test, that’s the healthy habit that should be developed in the lives of all believers. The key to this test, and in fact all three tests, is this verse, which introduces them:

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. (1 John 2:3 NIV)

There are two Greek words that translate into English as “know.” They are ginosk and oida. The false teacher of John’s day, and common way of thinking today, is characterized by the first word, ginosk. This is a very odd word that speaks of intellect or intellectual knowledge gained through experience and, as the false teachers used it, the experience was a kind of pseudo-spiritual mumbo jumbo. But John wants believers to know that we can KNOW God in ways other than merely through the intellect or through some weird voodoo-like trances. John’s word for knowing God speaks of the kind of knowledge that comes from an intimate relationship with God. So believers’ knowledge of God comes through the mind and through experience, and part of that involves keeping God’s commands. Or, as we would say today, living right. That right living must be based on God’s Word. So we have the intellect and the experience involved.

This is a very important test because anybody can claim to be a Christian. But are they really? Anybody can go forward during an altar call, but did they really change? The proof, John wrote, is in their knowledge of God’s expectations as revealed in His Word, and in their behavior.

But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:5, 6 NIV)

A healthy habit to practice is that of living as Jesus did. That takes knowing how He lived and knowing how He expects you to live, then simply doing what you know to be true. We can know for sure – beyond the shadow of any doubt – that we are saved if we cultivate the habit of living as Jesus did. And we can’t do that without knowing what the Word of God teaches.

But, what if we don’t? Are there believers who have heard the truth, but then refuse to practice it? What happens to people like that? Peter tells us the bad news:

It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. (2 Peter 2:21 NIV)

There’s a high price indeed to be paid for refusing to put into practice what the Lord has shown you. Jesus taught as much:

The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. (Luke 12:47 NIV)

That’s pretty severe, and it serves to point up how seriously our Lord takes obedience to His revealed will. Here’s the point: Not only does He expect us to obey it, He expects us to know it. At least in keeping with our spiritual maturity level.

That’s why this fourth healthy habit is so important. Develop the habit of walking as Jesus walked. It will become more than just a habit.

Find what you need in Christ, Isaiah 27:4, 5

My anger against Israel is gone. If I find thorns and briars bothering her, I will burn them up, unless these enemies of mine surrender and beg for peace and my protection. (TLB)

Here’s a habit that’s difficult for our self-absorbed culture. Christ should be the first Person we turn to for every need we have.  These verses are part of a song about God’s care for His vineyard – His people – or more accurately, it’s the interpretation of Israel’s sufferings. Contrast Isaiah 27:4, 5 with what he wrote way back in chapter five:

I have given you the story of God’s people. They are the vineyard that I spoke about. Israel and Judah are his pleasant acreage! He expected them to yield a crop of justice, but found bloodshed instead. He expected righteousness, but the cries of deep oppression met his ears. (Isaiah 5:1 – 7, verse 7 cited TLB)

Back there, God the Master Gardener is seen as being really peeved with His garden; with His people. And who could blame Him? God treated His people as carefully and tenderly as a gardner cares for his special garden, but the people essentially spat in His face.

What more could I have done? Why did my vineyard give me wild grapes instead of sweet? I will tear down the fences and let my vineyard go to pasture to be trampled by cattle and sheep. I won’t prune it or hoe it, but let it be overgrown with briars and thorns. I will command the clouds not to rain on it anymore. (Isaiah 5:4 – 6 TLB)

Yes, that’s God talking and He’s peeved. Yet here, a few chapters on, everything is different.

Israel is my vineyard; I, the Lord, will tend the fruitful vines; every day I’ll water them, and day and night I’ll watch to keep all enemies away. (Isaiah 27:3 TLB)

It’s a startling change-of-attitude on God’s part. The condemnation is gone. Instead of abandonment, there is constant care. Instead of drought, there is more than enough rain for the vineyard. The Lord is seen guarding His precious vineyard day and night. His anger against His people by chapter 27, is gone. Of course, there is a whole eschatological side to this passage, which we won’t get into here. That’s a discussion for another day. But for now, take another look at verse 5 –

…let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me. (KJV)

This verse is really an Old Testament promise of forgiveness to those who ask for it. In it, God’s enemies are offered refuge by the great Gardener. The key to forgiveness is for God’s enemies to lay hold of it ; “let him take hold.” God’s enemies are encouraged to receive what God is offering: peace, which is essentially forgiveness. God offers it, but they must take it. It’s a picture of God’s mercy in action. He cares for His vineyard and even makes a way for His enemies to have a part of His mercy. Can you imagine God offering His mercy to His enemies? It’s incredible.

And we can see that it was while we were powerless to help ourselves that Christ died for sinful men. In human experience it is a rare thing for one man to give his life for another, even if the latter be a good man, though there have been a few who have had the courage to do it. Yet the proof of God’s amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6 – 8 JBP)

And if He’ll do that for penitent enemies, how much more will He do for His children? God has what you need. All you have to do is ask.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11 NIV)

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, but I’m so far from being blameless.” That may be true, but that’s not what’s important. Here is what’s important:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV)

That’s you Paul is talking about. If you are “in Christ,” then you are “the righteousness of God.” It’s a statement of an accomplished fact. What would God withhold from you? But here’s the point: You have to ask. Remember the words of Isaiah?

…let him take hold…

Make it a habit to “take hold” of what you need from God. He’s offering exactly what you need at no cost to you; the price was paid. You’re needs have already been met. Just “take hold.” It’s not the natural thing to do. That’s why it’s the fifth healthy habit that you need to practice.

Jesus on Forgiveness

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Oscar Wilde once observed:

Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much.

That may or may or may not be a good reason to forgive your enemy, but then maybe the most important thing we can do is to practice forgiveness because, as Christians, that’s what we’re supposed to do. John F. Kennedy made this statement that probably makes sense to a lot of us:

Forgive your enemies. But remember their names.

It seems everybody knows that forgiveness is important. They know it’s virtuous. And they know it’s hard to do. Jesus knew forgiving others was a difficult thing to do, so much so He made the request part of the Lord’s Prayer:

…forgive us our debts and we forgive our debtors.

Another time, our Lord said this:

Your heavenly Father will forgive you if you forgive those who sin against you; but if you refuse to forgive them, he will not forgive you. (Matthew 6:14, 15 TLB)

That’s another good reason to practice forgiveness! Let’s take a closer look at the art of forgiveness, from Jesus’ perspective.

Luke 17:3, 4

Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him. (NKJV)

The art of forgiveness is illustrated by our Lord in pretty strong language. Believers should never offend anybody, but especially other believers. Those who cause such offenses run the risk of experiencing some pretty negative consequences.

It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea… (Luke 17:2a NKJV)

But if we somehow cause another (“little one,” or a weaker brother or sister) offense, then we should be held accountable. Having said that, Jesus goes even further: We should not take offense, ether. Christians shouldn’t offend nor should they be walked all over. If we have been wronged in some way, according to Jesus we are to make the offender aware of what he did to us. That’s what Jesus meant by “rebuke.” The offender must be made to appreciate his fault, and if he sincerely repents, we have no choice but to forgive him – even if he does it again and again and again.

There should be no end to the number of times we forgive. We could say Jesus wants us to walk in an attitude of forgiveness, all day, every day.

Matthew 18:21, 22

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Sir, how often should I forgive a brother who sins against me? Seven times?” (Matthew 18:21 TLB)

That question goes back to something Peter heard Jesus say a few verses back:

If a brother sins against you, go to him privately and confront him with his fault. If he listens and confesses it, you have won back a brother. (Matthew 18:15 TLB)

If that looks vaguely familiar to you, that’s because it’s pretty much the same thing Luke recorded Jesus as saying in his Gospel. Peter had obviously been thinking about the issue, and so he asked Jesus the question. Peter probably thought he was impressing Jesus by suggesting that he should forgive an offending brother up to seven times. After all, all the rabbis of the day said two or three times would have been going above and beyond. But Peter’s “generous attitude” was puny compared to what Jesus expected from His followers:

Jesus replied, “seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:22 TLB)

It doesn’t take Common Core to know what Jesus is getting at here! A Christian should be able to forgive an offending brother 490 times! It would be a mistake to take Jesus’ comment as being literal. Jesus isn’t concerned about math; He’s concerned about forgiveness on an infinite scale. Our capacity to forgive should be unlimited. One Bible scholar understood the spirit of Jesus’ words, “seventy times seven” when he commented:

We can’t do it “in our heads.” This is celestial arithmetic. We do it in our hearts.

Matthew 18:23, 24

The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him $10 million! (TLB)

To help Peter and us understand the principle of forgiveness, Jesus told a parable about a servant who was forgiven but refused to forgive. The point of the parable is evident by verse 35:

So shall my heavenly Father do to you if you refuse to truly forgive your brothers.

Jesus demands that His followers forgive, “therefore” the Kingdom of Heaven is like a King. Of course, the King in the parable is God and His reign establishes certain kinds of relationships which are illustrated in this parable. The way we relate to each other under God’s headship ought to be markedly different than that of worldly relationships.

The King discovered a servant who owed him an astronomical amount of money. The exact amount of the debt is difficult to ascertain, but estimates range from a million dollars to a trillion dollars. The amount isn’t the issue. What is at issue is the fact that the debtor was unable to repay the debt.

But the man fell down before the king, his face in the dust, and said, ‘Oh, sir, be patient with me and I will pay it all.’ Then the king was filled with pity for him and released him and forgave his debt. (Matthew 18:26, 27 TLB)

The King wanted this unfortunate to sell himself and his family into some kind of slavery to pay the debt. Naturally our Heavenly Father would never suggest a debtor do this. Remember, this is only a story told to illustrate a much greater truth. Since this is a “kingdom parable,” the debtor can be representative of people who owe a debt they are unable to pay. Nothing any sinner can do is enough to pay their “sin debt.” A sin isn’t a debt; it’s a way the Bible looks at it. In other words, if you could place a dollar amount on your sins, how much would that amount be? Jesus wants us to think about that. The poor schmuck in the parable was a trillion dollars in debt. He’d have to dig up a trillion dollars just to be broke! That pretty much describes the unrepentant sinner: the brokest person on the planet.

There is another, smaller lesson just percolating under the surface. This man’s debt was so severe it actually impacted other people – his family. Sin is like that. When we engage in willful sin – even as we think nobody knows about – it reaches out to touch the lives of others close to us in ways unimaginable. Nobody sins in isolation. Nobody.

The King was moved by the man’s plea. Here is a picture of a compassionate King; an understanding, empathetic King. And so he takes pity on the debtor and, with the stroke of a pen, cancels the debt.

Matthew 18:28 – 30

Now, you’d think that a man who had just been forgiven of such a huge debt would be predisposed to treat others in a similar situation the same way. In this case, you’d be thinking wrong. Never underestimate the capacity of man to act like a boor.

But when the man left the king, he went to a man who owed him $2,000 and grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. (Matthew 18:28 TLB)

What an jerk! This man has an appalling attitude. While he was owed a significant amount of money, it was a tiny amount compared to what he had owed the King. This piece of irony seems to have escaped him.

The man fell down before him and begged him to give him a little time. ‘Be patient and I will pay it,’ he pled. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and jailed until the debt would be paid in full. (Matthew 18:29, 30 TLB)

It’s amazing, isn’t it? The arrogant servant wouldn’t cut his debtor any slack at all. Even when the debtor used almost the same words he himself used on the King. Yet this man, as the song says, “would not be moved.”

At this point in the parable, it would be good to step back and glance back to a verse in the Old Testament, Numbers 32:23 –

But if you don’t do as you have said, then you will have sinned against the Lord, and you may be sure that your sin will catch up with you.

The minute the forgiven debtor refused to forgive another debtor, he sinned against God. And guess what? His sin did indeed catch up with him.

“Then the man’s friends went to the king and told him what had happened. And the king called before him the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil-hearted wretch! Here I forgave you all that tremendous debt, just because you asked me to—shouldn’t you have mercy on others, just as I had mercy on you?’” Matthew 18:31 – 33 TLB)

That’s a good question the King asked. And it’s the answer to Peter’s question:

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Sir, how often should I forgive a brother who sins against me? Seven times?” (Matthew 18:21 TLB)

The King’s response is truly remarkable and serves to show the seriousness of forigiveness:

And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. (Matthew 18:34 NKJV)

This parable is really an awful warning to every Christian, not just Peter. All believers have been forgiven their sins – sins that when added up come to an incalculable debt that they could never hope to repay. In other words, there is not thing any sinner can do to change his pathetic state. A sinner is redeemed when God wipes his sin-debt away. That’s a glorious thought. And yet many of the beneficiaries of this amazing grace will hold a grudge against a fellow church member for years and years as if that grudge was a brick of gold. Often these grudges are the result of something so trivial they’re forgotten even as the unforgiveness continues. A person cannot claim to be a Christian if he habitually harbors grudges in his heart. Joyce Meyer offers this interesting observation:

Many people ruin their health and their lives by taking the poison of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness. Matthew 18:23 – 35 tells us that if we do not forgive people, we get turned over to the torturers.


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