by pastor david
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.”
Do you expect to go through life without ever being hurt? Of course not! You have lived and loved long enough to know that you will be hurt and, sometimes, by those closest to you. Everyone gets wronged and offended by others. There is no way around it. That much is obvious.
However, I want to challenge you to consider another observation that may not be quite so easy to accept. As radio host Nancy Leigh Demoss says, “The outcome of our lives is not determined by what happens to us but by how we respond to what happens to us”.[i]
I am reminded of Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
The Apostle is not saying that everything that happens to us is good but that God has the ability to take all our circumstances, the pleasant and the unpleasant, the just and the unjust, and turn them around for our good and for His glory.
I am not suggesting that these wounds do not leave scars, but these injustices, horrendous as they may be, do not have the power to control the outcome of our lives as believers, if we respond Biblically.
Ephesians 4:32 reminds us that, “God in Christ forgave you.”
1. The believer is forgiven.
This is the starting point – we are forgiven. Oh how we should thank God that all our sins have been…
ü Removed from us: (Psalm 103:12) “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
ü Blotted out: (Isaiah 44:22) “I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, And like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you."
ü Cast into the depths of the sea: (Micah 7:19) “He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
ü Remembered against us no more (Hebrews 10:17) "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."
Hallelujah! We are forgiven! Therefore, says Ephesians 4:32, we are to be “forgiving one another”.
2. The believer is to be forgiving.
There are essentially two ways of responding to life’s hurts and unfair experiences. The first and natural response is to become a debt collector. We set out to make the offender pay for what he has done. But the problem is that being a debt collector does more than keep our offender in debtors’ prison; it put us in prison as well.
However, there is another way. As an alternative to being debt collectors, God calls us to the pure, powerful choice of forgiveness and, when possible, reconciliation. Keep in mind that…
No sin against you is as horrific as your sin against God.
Yes, I said “choice”. Forgiveness is a choice. It is a step of obedience to Christ. Regardless of your feelings, make the choice today to forgive your offender(s). Then, you will discover that, over time, your emotions will catch up with your choices.
Feelings follow choices.
When emotions like hurt, anger, resentment, and thoughts of revenge arise within us, we can remind ourselves that on a specific day we, in obedience to our forgiving Savior, chose to forgive the indignity that conjures up so many unpleasant feelings.
Steve Canfield, with Life Actions Ministries, suggests five steps to follow in order to free oneself from the prison of bitterness and resentment.
1. Make a list of the people who have wronged you.
2. Confess to God, and then the offender, any wrong responses you may have had (e.g. hatred, bitterness, gossip). (Acts 24:16)
3. Thank God for each person who has wounded you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
4. As Christ has forgiven you, fully forgive each offender and offense. (Colossians 3:13)
5. Rebuild relationships and confirm your Christian love to the people on your list. (2 Corinthians 2:8)
The Lord Jesus was very clear and direct when He said, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25
One portion of the Lord’s model prayer is very dangerous to pray. Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” What if God’s forgiveness of us was in direct proportion to our forgiveness of others? If we do not forgive those who have “trespassed against us” then we are telling God not to “forgive us”. Can you seriously offer such a prayer to God? John Wesley said that kind of prayer was, “daring God to do His worst”.
Jesus calls us to embrace His love and accept responsibility for extending His gracious forgiveness to others. He wants us to apply the forgiveness we have received from God to our relationships with others. In so doing, we become partners with God in extending forgiveness to lost, sinful, rebellious people.
We show the world the reality of our faith by our shockingly gracious response to those who sin against us. The light of Christ shines ever so brightly when we obey His command to forgive one another.
[i] Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Choosing Forgiveness, Moody Publishers © 2006
“I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.”
At www.dictionary.com, we find the official definition of the word, “conscience”. It reads, “The inner sense of what is right or wrong in one's conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action.”
The Bible teaches that our conscience, or inner sense of right and wrong, is a part of our original DNA. However, like everything else about us, that aspect of our DNA was polluted by sin in the Garden of Eden. The corrupted DNA has been passed down to each of us, from that day until now. It is a part of our “sinful nature” with which we are born and a part of us that needs to be redeemed.
In (Acts 23:1) we read Paul’s bold declaration, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day”.
Every person who has come to God and acknowledged Christ as personal Lord and Savior should strive to maintain a clear conscience toward God and toward his fellow man. A clear conscience involves that inner freedom of spirit toward God and others, that comes by knowing that God’s holiness is not offended by one’s thoughts or actions. It also includes the freedom that comes from knowing that no one can point a finger at you and say, “You have offended me, and you have never asked for my forgiveness”.
Far too often, when our conscience alerts us to our wrongdoing, we begin to rationalize. It is our natural inclination, because of our polluted conscience, to find other people or circumstances, which are to blame for what we have done. The greater our guilt, the more we must blame. The resulting bitterness and guilt are devastating to our mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.
It is essential that we recognize and confess wrong actions against God, as well as others we have offended. However, it is more important to discern, confess, and change wrong attitudes, which either caused or resulted from our wrong actions.
In (1 John 1:9), we read, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. The wise writer of the Proverbs tells us that, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy”. (Proverbs 28:13)
The only way to “live in all good conscience” is to keep short accounts with God.
According to Jesus, one of the tasks of the Holy Spirit is to convict us when we have done wrong. (John 16:8) The moment we sense in our spirit that we have done something wrong, we should pray for clarity: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24) God will immediately make perfectly clear to you what you have done wrong and will graciously forgive your sincere confession and repentance. Again, (Proverbs 28:13) is applicable here: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”
The peace of mind that comes from a clear conscience is priceless. Knowing your sins are forgiven and that nothing stands between you and your Savior is inestimable. Let us make it our goal to “always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men”. (Acts 24:16)
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you."
Did you ever say something like this? “I love everyone but there are some people I just don’t like!” As Charlie Brown of the Peanuts cartoon once said, “I love mankind. It’s people I hate.” I think most of us have said something to that effect at one time or another. We certainly do not wish anything bad would happen to anyone, but we just cannot get past something that has been said or done to hurt us.
Ivor Powell, Internationally known as, “The Preacher from Wales”, made an extraordinary statement about this very issue – a statement that will shine much needed light on the subject. He said, “Overflowing compassion is a refreshing rain falling upon the parched soil of human hearts.”[i]
Paul’s inspired instruction in Ephesians 4:32 is placed in the context of his teaching about believers putting on “the new man”. In other words, the ability and propensity to forgive one another is a characteristic of the believer’s new nature. The refusal to forgive others is a characteristic of the old, sinful nature. Yes, I said, “refusal” because the failure to forgive is a choice. Since God commanded us to forgive others, that means we have the choice and ability to do so or refuse to do so.
Churches filled with compassionate, forgiving people are an oasis in a desert of hatred and hostility. This kind of Church is a light in the darkness and a signpost pointing to better things. However, we will only have that kind of Church if we are that kind of people. The key to making forgiveness a reality in our attitude and actions is found in Paul’s phrase, “just as God in Christ also forgave you.”
The thing I try to remember is that no one has hurt me as much as I have hurt Christ. No one has sinned against me as much as I have sinned against Christ and yet He has forgiven me.
The reason we should forgive each other is that God has forgiven us. No matter how much a person has done against us, it does not come close to what we have done against God.
Yet, God has forgiven us. Why? For Christ's sake. Jesus Christ died for us—died for our sins so that we could be forgiven. Therefore, God forgives us. No matter what we have done, God forgives us when we turn to Him in faith and ask for His forgiveness. He forgives us despite our having rejected, cursed, ignored, neglected, and rebelled against Him.
Because of what Christ has done for us, we should forgive others no matter what they have done to us.
An unforgiving spirit will eat at your soul like a cancer, always consuming you, leaving you empty and bitter. The most frightening thing about holding a grudge against a person is that we develop the tendency to do the same thing with everyone! Before long we find ourselves with a long list of people, we will not forgive.
Choose today to move those people you have in your “Unforgiven File” over to the “Forgiven File”. Then, when you are reminded of those hurtful and harmful things someone has done, you will remember that you have forgiven them “just as God in Christ also forgave you”.
[i] Ivor Powell, The Exciting Epistle to the Ephesians, Kregel Publications
Pastor David Boggs
I hope these occasional posts will encourage and challenge you as we grow in Christ together.
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