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The Theology of Calvin . . . and Hobbes (Unconditional Love)

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2021 in Calvin & Hobbes

 

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How to Pray for Other Believers — Part 10

Prayer — Such a mysterious habit for the believer in Jesus. Maybe you don’t struggle with the discipline of prayer, but I do. I often treat prayer as a last resort, when I’ve run out of humanly-produced options, when I’m helpless and can’t solve my own problems. It’s like I have God on speed dial and His only number is 9-1-1. What a poor view of prayer!

And how often — when I do pray — are my prayers for me and mine? What about others? I’m slowly learning that God expects and invites me to intercede for others, to put their needs ahead of my own, to bring them before the throne of God and to earnestly pray for them.

I’ve recently been challenged by Colossians 1 and Paul’s prayer for those believers. Here’s what we read:

How to Pray for Other Believers (Col. 1:9-14)

We’ve noticed two parts of my outline of this challenging text:

I. The Commitment to Pray for Others (v. 9)

We’ve seen that Paul’s praying for these Colossians is not described as something he started to do, but as something he would not stop doing. And we asked, for whom are you continually praying?

We’ve also seen —

II. The Primary Purpose in Praying for Others (vv. 9-10)

Paul writes: “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives . . .”

Our prayers are to be for the critical issue of others knowing God’s will and growing in the wisdom and understanding the Spirit gives.

Let’s continue our study and notice —

III. The Specifics of What We Should Pray for Others (vv. 10-14).

How easy it is for us to pray for each other’s health, job, family, choice of college, etc. So what makes Paul’s list as he intercedes for these believers? He prays —

A. That They Would Live a Life Worthy of the Lord (v. 10)

B. To please Him in every way (v. 10).

C. Bearing fruit in every good work (v. 10).

D. Growing in the knowledge of God (v. 10)

E. Being Strengthened with All Power to Endure! (v. 11)

F. Giving joyful thanks to the Father who has qualified us as holy people (v. 12)

G. He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness (v. 13)

Let’s notice an eighth and final request Paul makes for these believers —

H. He brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves (vv. 13-14)

I’ve never been part of a monarchy! Have you? What better monarchy than the Lord’s? We’re children of the King! And we have already been brought into His kingdom. And what’s the first thing Paul gives as a benefit to being in His kingdom? “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”!

Challenge: What would it look like today if you and I acted as children of the King, already in the Kingdom? Redeemed and forgiven?

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2021 in Colossians 1

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #49 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 21

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and have been reading chapter 12 during the last while.I count 24 injunctions or commands or imperatives for the believer here in Romans 12. I’m aware that the expression “critical imperative” is redundant, but I think it’s useful for what we see here in this great chapter.

We’ve seen that the believer is to offer his body as a living sacrifice, not to conform to the pattern of this world, to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, to think of himself with sober judgment, to use his gifts to build up the body of Christ, to hate as God hates, to be devoted to the body in love, to honor one another beyond yourselves, to keep one’s spiritual fervor, to be joyful in hope, to be patient in affliction, to be faithful in prayer, to share with the Lord’s people who are in need, to practice hospitality, to bless those who persecute them, to use our emotions for the Lord and for each other, to live in harmony with one another, to reach out to others regardless of their status, to not repay evil with evil, and to do right before everyone!

Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 18.

The twenty-first critical imperative is quite clear —

21. Believers are LIVE AT PEACE WITH EVERYONE WHEN POSSIBLE (v. 18)!

Ahhh, living in peace. That’s not always easy to do. If I am left to myself, it’s fairly easy in the sense that I’m an introvert and I’m perfectly happy being by myself. That way I don’t have to worry about getting along with others!

But God is relational and He wants me to be as well. Simply being a cave-dwelling self isn’t what He desires in the child of God. We are to relate to others — and sometimes that produces conflict and disagreement and friction.

The answer? Do everything you can (“If it is possible”) to live at peace with everyone. I can only do what lies in my power (“as far as it depends on you”). I can’t force others to live at peace with me, but I can choose and make careful decisions to maximize the possibility of peace with everyone.

This involves several steps, it seems to me. It means that (1) I’m to keep short accounts with others. That is, I’m to apologize when I’ve wronged someone and to be honest with them when they’ve wronged me (Matthew 5 and 18). It means that (2) I’m to forgive others just as God in Christ has forgiven me (Col. 3:13). It means that, on occasion, I might have to bring others into my conflict situation to act as peacemakers (Mt. 5:9; James 3:18). And that’s a humbling, but important, thing to do.

Today’s Challenge: Are you presently living at peace with everyone? If  not, what specific steps will you take in your power to resolve that situation or restore that relationship? Anything keeping you from taking those steps?

 

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #45 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 17

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 12 each day this week.I count 24 injunctions or commands or imperatives for the believer here in Romans 12. I’m aware that the expression “critical imperative” is redundant, but I think it’s useful for what we see here in this great chapter.

We’ve seen that the believer is to offer his body as a living sacrifice, not to conform to the pattern of this world, to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, to think of himself with sober judgment, to use his gifts to build up the body of Christ, to hate as God hates, to be devoted to the body in love, to honor one another beyond yourselves, to keep one’s spiritual fervor, to be joyful in hope, to be patient in affliction, to be faithful in prayer, to share with the Lord’s people who are in need, to practice hospitality, to bless those who persecute them, and to use our emotions for the Lord and for each other.

Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 16.

The seventeenth critical imperative is —

17. Believers are to LIVE IN HARMONY WITH ONE ANOTHER (v. 16)!

How critical is it that believers get along with one another? Well, critical enough that the Apostle Paul, led by the Spirit of God, included this charge in this list of imperatives. The world is, indeed, watching Jesus-followers and when they see needless disputes and quarrels and bitterness and unforgiveness and unresolved issues, they stop watching and look elsewhere for spiritual truth.

We are to live in harmony with one another. We don’t have to agree with each other on all issues, but we do have to get along. This means we keep accounts short with one another. We apologize quickly when we’ve wronged another believer. We are fast to forgive when we’ve been wronged. And if the conflict keeps paralyzing the friendship, the spiritual leaders might need to intervene.

Today’s Challenge: Any grudges between you and another believer? Matthew 5 and Matthew 18 speak to both you as an offender and you as the offendee. Pursue harmony today!

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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UNFORGIVENESS — “One of the Best Weapons in My Arsenal!” (Satan) (2 Cor. 2:5-11)

Friends: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that my friend Frank (in New Jersey) and I have been doing an email Bible study for over a year. We read the same chapter every day for a week — and then send a brief email of encouragement to each other. We’ve completed most of the epistles of the New Testament — and it’s been a great discipline for both of us.

We’re now working our way through 2 Corinthians. Here’s my outline for several verses in chapter two:

UNFORGIVENESS — “One of the Best Weapons in My Arsenal!” (Satan) (2 Cor. 2:5-11)

What does it look like to be outwitted by Satan? When we make choices for our happiness that ruin our holiness, he wins. When we follow our own priorities and lose our passion for Christ, he wins. When we immerse ourselves in everything but God’s Word, he wins. When we live for our own comfort and choose not to risk anything for the gospel, he wins. When we settle only for what we can provide for ourselves and forget to pray, he wins. When we fudge the facts, turn away from honesty, and engage in lies black or white, he wins. When we are determined to keep a grudge going, to steadfastly refuse to forgive another, he wins.

In our passage this morning, the context is UNFORGIVENESS. The Corinthians had a lot to forgive, didn’t they? This man who was sleeping with his mother-in-law disgraced them. Now they needed to forgive him.

When we choose not to forgive, we have been outwitted by the Devil himself! He is somehow invested and involved in our conflicts — and unforgiveness is his primary goal. When unforgiveness is the result, love dies — and he wins.

Today’s challenge: Anyone you need to forgive? We are to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (Col. 3:13). For the sake of God’s people, in the sight of Christ, choose to forgive that other person. Today. Right now.

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2020 in forgiveness

 

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Colossal Truths from the Letter to the Colossians! GET BUSY GETTING GODLY! (Part 5)

Colossians 3 presents the challenge that we should GET BUSY GETTING GODLY. Let’s look at the next two specific commands about the Christian life in this very aggressive chapter:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Today the two challenges are:
(1) Bear with one another, and
(2) Forgive one another.

How we get along with fellow believers is really critical. The world watches our relationships with one another. And how we treat one another affects our walk with the Lord. How can I be in intimate fellowship with Him if I am at odds with other believers? The idea that I can have a meaningful and productive walk with the Lord and internally or externally be fighting with others in the faith is greatly challenged by I John (see how often that book substitutes “the people of God” or “one another” for “Jesus” or “God.” Quite an interesting study).

Bearing with one another seems like the very least we can do, but requires a great deal of patience and strength from the Lord. The second command of forgiving is qualified as “forgive as the Lord forgave you.” That’s a lot more difficult than simply putting up with someone else!

HOW has the Lord forgiven you? Show that same forgiveness to another brother or sister in Christ today!

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2019 in forgiveness

 

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Colossal Truths from the Letter to the Colossians! Pictures of Our Salvation!

As we continue looking at prominent themes in the epistle to the Colossians, we move on to Chapter 2. There we read —

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Do we think too much about our personal salvation? Or too little? This paragraph focuses on what it means to be right with God through the Lord Jesus. Notice the several images Paul uses:

1. Circumcision/Uncircumcision: This is a painful image for guys, but a powerful sign for the Jewish nation. Paul uses this picture to speak of spiritual circumcision and how we needed Christ to do that internal work in us (note in verse 11 that we were circumcised by Christ!). Before conversion we were DEAD in our sins and in the uncircumcision of our flesh.

2. Life/Death: We were spiritually dead before God made us alive with Christ. Do most people recognize that they are spiritual corpses before salvation? No life in them. No ability to do anything good to save themselves. Just waiting for the funeral service. And notice that we have been “made alive with Christ.” We have been raised up with Him!

3. Forgiven/the Debt Cancelled: We read that “He forgave us all our sins.” Not just the big ones. All our sins! And He cancelled the bill! He not only took the bill away, He nailed it to the cross! What an amazing statement! Jesus did some nailing of His own when He was on the cross.

4.Disarming the Powers and Authorities: The area of “spiritual warfare” (how we relate to the demonic world) seems to be a prominent focus in Colossians. We know that the devil and his minions are the enemies of the believer. What has Christ done about that? He has disarmed them. He has also “made a public spectacle of them” and has triumphed “over them by the cross.” This dimension of reality — of angels and demons — may not be overt to us, but it is real and Christ has won!

If we could only look behind the scenes, if we could only have a bit of God’s perspective on how lost we were before Christ saved us, we would appreciate our salvation so much more. We were not in a spiritually-neutral position before God. But Christ’s redemptive work changed all that!

Savor those truths today — and perhaps share with someone else what an incredible gift salvation is!

 

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2019 in salvation

 

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Some Thoughts on the Book “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” (Post #14): Chapter 13- “Jesus’ Grace”

As we continue in the second half of Martin Thielen’s book What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?, we are looking at the question Am I accepted? Thielen points out in this chapter that the unique feature of the Christian religion is . . . grace! He defines grace as “God’s unconditional love and acceptance of us just as we are.”

He refers to Anne Lamott’s story of feeling that God couldn’t love her with all her shortcomings and sins. An Episcopal priest said to her, “God has to love you. That’s God’s job.” Thielen then tells the well-known Tony Campolo story about Campolo throwing a birthday party for a prostitute in a diner. When asked what kind of church he attended, Campolo said, “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning.”

Jesus loved sinners, Thielen says, and “refused to judge and condemn them. Instead, Jesus saw them as beloved children of God, created in the image of God, with great value and worth. Obviously Jesus hoped they would change for the better” (87) In short, Jesus offered grace. Thielen quotes John 3:16-17 and says that grace does not mean that we can accept God’s grace and then live any way we please (“cheap grace,” according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer). “As we say in the United Methodist Church, we must move from ‘justifying grace’ (grace that makes us right with God) to ‘sanctifying grace’ (grace that leads to spiritual maturity).” (89). The bottom line, Thielen says, is Even with our  flaws, Jesus loves and accepts us as beloved children of God. (90).

MY RESPONSE: I am not really looking to find errors in Thielen’s chapters. And it is hard to disagree with this chapter on grace. My only concern is that we can confuse creation and redemption. What I mean is that creation (being made in God’s image) does not equal redemption (being “saved” or forgiven by God). The expression “children of God” can refer to people being created by God or to those who have repented of their sins and have trusted Christ (John 1:12). I wish Thielen were clearer about this distinction.

I would also point out that Jesus said that He would judge those who rejected Him. While His primary desire is to save, Jesus says the Father has given all judgment into the Son’s hands (John 5:22) and He will be the One who will separate the sheep (those who are saved) from the goats (the lost) at the end of time (Matthew 25). And that’s not grace — that’s holy wrath!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2019 in grace

 

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Ten Habits That Have Helped Me in My Christian Life (Habit #7)

We are discussing habits that help us in holiness. How do I measure my holiness? Well, I need to ask if I am saturating myself in the Word of God, the primary tool of God the Holy Spirit to make me more like Jesus.

I also need to ask, what is my commitment to prayer? Do I only pray for my own needs — or am I laboring in prayer for others?

Am I thankful for the Lord, for His people, for my present circumstances in which I am to serve Him? Scripture says we are to be thankful IN everything not FOR everything (I Thes. 5:18). We read, “ In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (KJV). We are not to call evil good and when evil things come into our lives, we are not to give thanks for them, but to ask the Lord’s help as we respond IN that situation.

I enjoy spending time alone with . . . myself. Spending time alone with the Lord takes intentionality — and I need to work at that.

Witnessing and developing true friendships are two other habits which I need to focus on daily.

A seventh habit I’m working on is being quick to forgive. This is one of the toughest of the bunch! I’ve been helped here by John Bevere’s book The Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense. Bevere writes: “Many are unable to function properly in their calling because of the wounds and hurts that offenses have caused in their lives. They are handicapped and hindered from fulfilling their full potential. Most often it is a fellow believer who has hurt them.”

Forgiveness is a huge topic, but the Word of God is clear that we must forgive others.  We read in Matthew 6 the following: 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Yes, I can continue to harbor a grudge, take offense, refuse to forgive someone else.  But that is contrary to God’s Word and His will.  Forgiveness does not necessarily equal reconciliation.  And it certainly doesn’t mean we are to put ourselves in the same situation where we can be hurt again.  But in my heart I have to forgive them!

The story is told about Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross. One day Clara was reminded of a vicious deed that someone had done to her years before.  But she acted as if she had never heard of the incident. “Don’t you remember it?” her friend asked.  “No,” came Clara’s reply, “I distinctly remember forgetting that.”

Whom do you need to forgive?  (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2018 in holy habits

 

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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 32)

Can you imagine getting mad at God for forgiving someone else?!  What about the rape victim who learns that her rapist trusts Jesus in prison and is now a brother in the faith?  What about a terrorist on death row who realizes that Islam isn’t the truth of God, hears the gospel, and repents of his actions that led to the death of hundreds?  What about your snarky neighbor who’s always borrowing your tools but never returning them?  (This last one does seem a bit silly, doesn’t it?)

But we struggle with God’s forgiving others, don’t we?  Especially if they have offended us.

Jonah 4 begins with Jonah’s throwing a temper tantrum over God’s withholding judgment from the Ninevites.  Thomas John Carlisle summarizes Jonah’s attitude in his poem entitled “Tantrum”:

 

 

 

 

(to be continued)

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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