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Category Archives: Forgiveness

Recovering from guilt…the purpose of being guilty is to bring us to Jesus


Satan really gets around!

While he is not omnipresent, like God, his influence has a daily influence against us. And our desires allow an opportunity for nose-to-nose combat.

When we succeed, we’re relieved. When we fail, Satan enters into his favorite position of all. He loves to accuse us of our sin and cause us to feel the guilt.

And his work is greatly enhanced if he can cause you guilt even when God has granted forgiveness!

Satan wants you to feel guilty. He wants you to experience regret and remorse, but not repentance. He wants to keep accusing you so that you focus your attention on yourself and your sins.

guilt Paul had a situation like that in the church at Corinth. One of the members had fallen into sin and had refused to repent and make things right with God and the church.

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul told the church to discipline that man; and apparently they did, for Paul wrote, Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority.[1]

At first, when this sin was detected, the Corinthian believers were very complacent and refused to act. Paul’s letter shocked them into their senses; but then they went to the other extreme and made it so hard on the offender that they would not forgive him! So Paul had to counsel them, So that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, lest somehow such a one be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him…in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his also schemes. [2]

Excessive guilt and sorrow can only lead to depression, despair, and  defeat. Sometimes it leads to destruction; even Christians have been known to attempt suicide in order to escape satanic accusation. What, then, is your defense against Satan’s accusations?

It is true that Satan stands at our right hand to resist us and accuse us. But it is also true that Jesus Christ stands at God’s right hand to intercede for us!

It’s not unusual that those of us who ‘ought to know better’ don’t often do better. We can even learn from the youngest among us.

A man went to steal corn from his neighbor’s field. He took his little boy with him to keep a lookout, so as to give warning in case anyone should come along. Before commencing he looked all around, first one way and then the other; and, not seeing any person, he was just about to fill his bag when his son cried out, “Father, there is one way you haven’t looked yet!” The father supposed that someone was coming and asked his son which way he meant. He answered, “You forgot to look up!” The father, conscience-stricken, took his boy by the hand and hurried home without the corn which he had designed to take.

I have heard often of the anonymous man who felt ‘guilty’ for some past tax returns. He wrote, “Gentlemen: Enclosed you will find a check for $150.  I cheated on my income tax return last year and have not been able to sleep ever since.  If I still have trouble sleeping I will send you the rest. Sincerely, A Tax Payer.”

To err is human, a little plaque on my office desk proclaims, but to blame it on the other guy is even more human!

It might be a way of life for some to believe that we have only one person to blame, and that’s each other.

It’s sad, but I’ve learned that often the greater a person’s sense of guilt, the greater his need to cast blame on others.

What’s the natural response when we’ve seen God? We’re convicted of sin. “Woe is me, for I am undone.” The closer I walk with God, the more quickly I feel my sin and realize how much I need God.

It’s like a huge mirror with a great big light over it. When we stand away from the mirror, things look pretty good: suit looks in order; tie looks straight; the hair, what’s left of it, is combed.

But as we begin to move towards the mirror, things begin to show up. The suit has a spot on it. The tie is a little bit wrinkled. The hair is out of place. The closer we get to the bright light, the more we realize our defects.

It’s the same way when we get close to God. When we get close to him, we realize how much we need him and how far we are from him. We’re convicted of our sin. [3]

Man does not like to admit that his sinfulness and rebellion are at the heart of the problems of society. He’s much more comfortable discussing imperfections, weaknesses, mistakes, and errors in judgment. These terms are socially acceptable, and almost everyone identifies with them. But an outright acknowledgment of guilt before a holy God, a 100-percent acceptance of responsibility for wrong-doing, runs against the grain. Yet this kind of honesty is the first step to the freedom from sin and guilt that God longs to give us and has provided in the death of Christ.

When the preacher says we need forgiveness, he’s not just fanning moonbeams with his hat — we need forgiveness!  Human nature in the raw is not nice at all.  When surveyors promised not to tell, 31 percent of the people questioned confessed infidelity, 91 percent regularly tell lies, 36 percent regularly tell dark lies — the kind that hurt people.  Half of all workers confess to calling in sick when they’re not, and only thirteen percent of all Americans believe in all ten commandments.[4]

When missionaries first came to Labrador, they found no word for forgiveness in the Eskimo language.  So they had to make one which meant, “not being able to think about it anymore.”

The Chinese consider Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness unmanly.  A Christian Chinese was once explaining forgiveness to a group of people gathered in the chapel by the mission hospital.  He said, “I will tell you how we obey this commandment.  When you are sick or hurt, you come to the hospital and we nurse you, dress your wounds, and care for you, but you go away and revile us and lie about us. Then, when you are sick once more, you come back and we nurse you, and care for you again and again.  That is forgiveness.

Some heed admonitions to gentleness and treat those about them with great kindness, but are unmercifully hard on themselves.  They exercise little understanding where their own faults are concerned.  True, we should, like Paul, feel we are least of all the saints, but one cannot let this feeling of unworthiness keep us from effective service for the Master.  Some have never forgiven themselves for past mistakes or great sins.  Their lives are lived in torment, and beneath the surface is a soul writhing in agony. 

C.S. Lewis had this to say about forgiveness:  “I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves.  Otherwise it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”

If God were not willing to forgive sin, heaven would be empty.

Jesus never attacked the sinner. He simply said, “I am willing to forgive you.” Meanwhile, he attacked the self-righteous with a vengeance, because He knew that until they felt guilty, they couldn’t be forgiven.

Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging one makes you even with him; forgiving it sets you above him.

The heaviest load any man carries on his back is a pack of grudges.

I get a ‘kick’ out of the story of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, who visited a prison and talked with each of the inmates. There were endless tales of innocence, of misunderstood motives, and of exploitation. Finally the king stopped at the cell of a convict who remained silent.  “Well,” remarked Frederick, “I suppose you are an innocent victim too?”  “No, sir, I’m not,” replied the man. “I’m guilty and deserve my punishment.” Turning to the warden, the king said, “Here, release this rascal before he corrupts all these fine innocent people in here!”

Christians aren’t perfect—just forgiven.

It is important that we learn to distinguish between Satan’s accusations and the Spirit’s conviction. A feeling of guilt and shame is a good thing if it comes from the Spirit of God. If we listen to the devil, it will only lead to regret and remorse and defeat.

Like a log tossed on a frozen lake, God’s word may appear to be rejected and ignored, but when the cold, hard heart thaws, the “log” of  truth sinks in and becomes a part of that life.

Guilt works like an inescapable video-tape machine that refuses to forget the mistakes we’ve made.

Guilt can be good, since it makes us aware of the need for a turn around. 

Many of the later-model cars are equipped with theft alarm systems. The more sensitive ones can be annoying to the general public. … But that obnoxious sensitivity is purposefully designed to be protection against unwanted entry.

God has built into each of us an alarm system to warn us of the unwanted entry of sin into our lives. The alarm system is called guilt. Guilt is our friend. Without it we would go on in sin until we were dominated and defeated by it.

In our pleasure-seeking, anything-goes, feel-good society, guilt is anathema. We run from it … but we can’t rid ourselves of it! … The only thing that can “wash away” our sin and guilt before God is the blood of Jesus Christ.[5]

Erwin Lutzer, in his book Managing Your Emotions, writes: “We all know that Alexander the Great conquered the world. But what few people know is that this mighty general could not conquer himself. Cletus, a dear friend of Alexander’s and a general in his army, became intoxicated and ridiculed the emperor in front of his men. Blinded by anger, quick as lightning, Alexander snatched a spear from the hand of a soldier and hurled it at Cletus. Though he had only intended to scare the drunken general, his aim was true and the spear took the life of his childhood friend. Deep remorse followed his anger. Overcome with guilt, Alexander tried to take his own life with the same spear, but was stopped by his men. For days he lay sick calling for his friend Cletus, chiding himself as a murderer.”

Lutzer concludes by saying, “Alexander the Great conquered many cities. He conquered many countries, but he failed miserably to conquer his own self.”

When the Spirit of God convicts you, he uses the Word of God in love and seeks to bring you back into fellowship with your Father.

When Satan accuses you, he uses your own sins in a hateful way, and he seeks to make you feel helpless and hopeless. Judas listened to the devil and went out and hanged himself. Peter looked at the face of Jesus and wept bitterly, but later came back into fellowship with Christ.

When you listen to the devil’s accusations (all of which may be true), you open yourself up to despair and spiritual paralysis. “My situation is hopeless!” I have heard more than one Christian exclaim, “I’m too far gone—the Lord could never take me back.” When you have that helpless, hopeless feeling, you can be sure Satan is accusing you.

      Charles Wesley has put all of this into a beautiful hymn:

Depth of mercy! Can there be Mercy still reserved for me!

Can my God His wrath forbear, Me, the chief of sinners spare!

I have long withstood His grace, Long provoked Him to His face,

Would not hearken to His calls. Grieved Him by a thousand falls.

Lord, incline me to repent; Let me now my sins lament;

Now my foul revolt deplore, Weep, believe, and sin no more.

Still for me the Savior stands, Holding forth His wounded hands;

God is love! I know, I feel, Jesus weeps and loves me still.

 

We need to depend on what God’s Word says, not on how we feel. Rest on the grace of God—he has chosen us, and he will not forsake us.

Guilt_ResponsesWhen Satan wanted to lead the first man and woman into sin, he started by attacking the woman’s mind. This is made clear in 2 Corinthians 11:3: But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

Why would Satan want to attack your mind? Because your mind is the part of the image of God where God communicates with you and reveals His will to you.

The doctor says, “You are what you eat.” The psychologist says, “You are what you think.” Satan knows the tremendous power of your mind, and he tries to capture it for himself. If Satan can get you to believe a lie, then he can begin to work in your life to lead you into sin.

A new product called “Disposable Guilt Bags” appeared in the marketplace. It consisted of a set of ten ordinary brown bags on which were printed the following instructions: “Place the bag securely over your mouth, take a deep breath and blow all your guilt out, then dispose of the bag immediately.” The wonder of this is that the Associated Press reported that 2,500 kits had been quickly sold at $2.50 per kit. Would that we could dispose of our guilt so easily.

There is nothing on this earth powerful enough in itself to dispose of our guilt. We cannot fix ourselves, which is what many of us are trying to do. That which makes it possible to be forgiven, to be cleansed, to be healed, that which makes it possible for us to receive our life back again, fresh and clean and new, is the power of God’s Grace in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

True guilt is a valuable asset for living.  It helps us when we hurt others or betray our own standards and values.  God uses guilt to influence us to change our minds about what we are doing, leading us to repentance.  If we never felt guilt, we would not follow rules or standards, obey the law, or have good relationships with loved ones. [6]

Only the inspired Word of God can reveal and defeat the devil’s lies. You cannot reason with Satan, nor (as Eve discovered) can you even safely converse with him. Man’s wisdom is no match for Satan’s cunning. Our only defense is the inspired Word of God.

It was this weapon that our Lord used when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness.

One solid solution is deciding what we will allow ourselves to ponder: Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things( Philippians 4:8).

Our Lord went through some one-on-one temptations from Satan but did not use His divine power to defeat Satan. He used the same weapon that is available to us today: the Word of God. Jesus was led by the Spirit of God and filled with the Word of God.

The Word of God is “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17); and the Holy Spirit can enable us to wield that sword effectively. If you and I are going to defeat Satan’s lies, we must depend on the Word of God. This fact lays several responsibilities upon us.

We must know God’s Word. There is no reason why any believer should be ignorant of his Bible. The Word of God is available to us in many translations. We have the Holy Spirit within us to teach us the truths of the Word (John 16:13-15).

There are a multitude of Bible study helps available. We can turn on the radio and listen to excellent preachers and Bible teachers expound God’s Word. In local churches, there are ministers and teachers who minister the Word; and in many areas, there are seminars and Bible study groups for further study. If an intelligent believer today does not know his Bible, it is his or her own fault!

This mean, of course, taking time to read and study the Bible. No one will master God’s Word in a lifetime of study, but we should learn all we can. We must make time, not “find time,” to read and study the Word of God.

Just as a machinist studies the shop manual, and the surgeon studies his medical texts, so the Christian must study the Word of God. Bible study is not a luxury; it is a necessity.

One more thought: I have known people in my life who “want to want to.” They want to do something for the betterment of mankind (or even a simple deed for their spouse) and will think about it and even talk about it with others. But they never seem to be ‘moved to action.’

Many people seem to have an ingrown appreciation for “Ziggy”, the lovable, roly-poly, albino cartoon character. He comes across as being “real.”

In one Ziggy episode, he spots water dripping from the ceiling and comments, “I should fix the roof.” Then he notices how dirty the floor is and adds, “I should give the floor a good scrub, too.”

On a tour of his house he also took note that he should fix the cracked plaster, should clean out the closet, and that he should use his time better. In the final frame of the comic strip, Ziggy is perched in his easy chair reprimanding himself. “I should stop ‘shoulding’ myself.”[7]

James 4:17 “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

Finally, leaving behind guilt and grasping forgiveness, we are then allowed the glory of moving forward and beginning again.

In 1986 Bob Brenley was playing third base for the San Francisco Giants. In the fourth inning of a game against the Atlanta Braves, Brenley made an error on a routine ground ball. Four batters later he kicked away another grounder. And then while he was scrambling after the ball, he threw wildly past home plate trying to get the runner there. Two errors on the same play. A few minutes later he muffed yet another play to become the first player in the twentieth century to make four errors in one inning.      Now, those of us who have made very public errors in one situation or another can easily imagine how he felt during that long walk off the field at the end of that inning. But then in the bottom of the fifth, Brenley hit a home run. Then in the seventh, he hit a bases-loaded single, driving in two runs and tying the game.

Then in the bottom of the ninth, Brenley came up to bat again, with two outs. He ran the count to three and two and then hit a massive home run into the left field seats to win the game for the Giants. Brenley’s score card for that day came to three hits and five at bats, two home runs, four errors, four runs allowed, four runs driven in, including the game-winning run.

Certainly life is a lot like that–a mixture of hits and errors. And there is grace in that. [8]

Forgiven souls are humble.  They cannot forget that they owe all they have and hope for to free grace, and this keeps them lowly.  They are brands plucked from the fire–debtors who could not pay for themselves–captives who must have remained in prision for ever, but for undeserved mercy–wandering sheep who were ready to perish when the Shepherd found them; and what right then have they to be proud?  I do not deny that there are proud saints.  But this I do say–they are of all God’s creatures the most inconsistant, and of all God’s children the most likely to stumble and pierce themselves with many sorrows. [9]

   Ronald Reagan’s attitude after the 1982 attempt on his life made an impression on his daughter, Patti Davis: “The following day my father said he knew his physical healing was directly dependent on his ability to forgive John Hinckley. By showing me that forgiveness is the key to everything, including physical health and healing, he gave me an example of Christ-like thinking.”

Oscar Wilde said, “Always forgive your enemies — nothing annoys them so much.”

[1]  2 Corinthians 2:6

[2] 2 Corinthians 2:7, 8, 11

[3] Rod Cooper, “Beholding the King,” Preaching Today, Tape No.  150

[4] Associated Press, 4-29-91

 [5] Anne Graham Lotz in The Glorious Dawn of God’s Story. Christianity Today, Vol. 43, no. 7.

[6] Brenda Poinsett in Understanding a Woman’s Depression. Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 4.

 [7] Fritz Ridenour, How to Be a Christian Without Being Perfect, p. 167

[8] Nancy Becker, “A Theology of Baseball,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 115.

[9] J. C. Ryle in Foundations of Faith.  Christianity Today, Vol. 32,  no. 4

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in Forgiveness

 

A study of Forgiveness: Forgiveness ‘Explained’


A SETTLEMENT OUT OF COURT

Two Christians appeared before the court on charges of assault and a breach of the peace.

When the magistrate had listened to all the evidence, he called them to the bench and whispered to them, “Being Christians, the two of you, couldn’t you have settled this matter out of court?”

One of the men, who still had a black eye, said to the judge, “SURE we could have settled this out of court, your Honor! And that’s exactly what we were TRYING to do when the POLICE arrived!”

When missionaries first came to Labrador, they found no word for forgiveness in the Eskimo language.  So they had to make one which meant, “not being able to think about it anymore.”

I can forgive, but I cannot forget” is only another way of saying, “I will not forgive.”

Forgiveness ought to be like a canceled note–torn in two and burned up so that it never can be shown against one.

Thomas Merton: We do not really know how to forgive until we know what it is to be forgiven. Therefore we should be glad that we can be forgiven by others. It is our forgiveness of one another that makes the love of Jesus manifest in our lives, for in forgiving one another we act towards one another
as He has acted towards us.

Marianne Williamson: Forgiveness does not mean that we suppress anger; forgiveness means that we have asked for a miracle:  the ability to see through mistakes that someone has made to the truth that lies in all of our hearts. Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness. Attack thoughts towards others are attack thoughts towards ourselves. The first step in forgiveness is the willingness to forgive.

As we practice the work of forgiveness we discover more and more that forgiveness and healing are one. — Agnes Sanford

Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging one makes you even with him; forgiving it sets you above him.

Forgiveness is a funny thing—it warms the heart and cools the sting. — William Arthur Ward (1812–1882)

Forgiveness is not that stripe which says, “I will forgive, but not forget.” It is not to bury the hatchet with the handle sticking out of the ground, so you can grasp it the minute you want it. — Dwight Lyman Moody (1837–1899)

If God forgives us, we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than him. — C. S. Lewis (1898–1963)

If God were not willing to forgive sin, heaven would be empty. — German Proverb

Never does the human soul appear so strong as when it foregoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury. — Edwin Hubbel Chapin (1814–1880)

Only one petition in the Lord’s Prayer has any condition attached to it. It is the petition for forgiveness. — Sir William Temple (1628–1699)

 

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2019 in Forgiveness

 

A study of Forgiveness: A Guiding Principle in the Issue of Love – Luke 7:36–50


“A person who is forgiven little shows only little love”

The present passage contrasts the attitudes of a sinful but repentant woman and the self-righteous. It needs to be studied carefully, for self-righteousness is a serious sin. It is both common and damning.

Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to dinner. Note several things. Simon invited Jesus to his house, but he did not extend to Jesus the common courtesies (Luke 7:44-46). He was rude to the Lord. He was not even sure Jesus was a prophet, much less the Messiah (Luke 7:39).

Why then did he invite Jesus to his house? We do not know; nothing is said as to why. The best speculation is that Simon enjoyed the company of celebrities, and he had heard so much about Jesus that he wanted to meet and talk with Him on an informal and friendly basis.

Jesus ate with both sinners and religionists (Pharisees) (Luke 5:29-30). No one was excluded from His attention or love, even when they lacked the common everyday courtesies and respect (Luke 7:44-46). He sought every man.

The house of Simon was a house of the rich. The rich always had an open courtyard, usually in the center of the house; that is, the house was built around an open courtyard. Sometimes the host would allow the public to stand around in the courtyard and listen to the discussions, in particular when a rabbi or some celebrity was the chief guest.

Notice the attitude of the repentant. The woman was a sinner, a prostitute. She demonstrated what a sinner has to do in coming to Jesus.

She sensed a desperate need. She was either convicted of her sin while hearing Jesus or else she had heard Him before and came under heavy conviction. His plea for men and women to repent and prepare for the Kingdom of God pierced her heart. She knew she was a sinner: unclean, lost, condemned. The guilt and weight of her sin was more than she could bear. She ached for forgiveness and cleansing, for freedom and liberty.

She approached the Lord despite all. She knew that the public scorned and gossiped about her, and the so-called decent people wanted nothing to do with her. What would Jesus do—He who said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest….” (Matthew 11:28-30)?

She knew that if she was recognized, the Pharisee might throw her out of the house. He knew about her (Luke 7:39). She thought about the situation, and her thinking turned into hope, and her hope into belief. Surely He who offered such an invitation would receive her.

Before anyone could stop her, she rushed to Jesus and stood behind Him at His feet. (Remember, in the East people reclined to eat. They rested on their left arm facing each other around the table with their body and feet extending out away from the table.)

She surrendered to the Lord in utter humility. Standing there, she was overcome with conviction and emotion. She fell at Jesus’ feet weeping—so broken that tears just flowed from her eyes. She unwound her hair and wiped and kissed Jesus’ feet. Seldom has such love and devotion been shown Jesus.

There was only one thing that could make a prostitute enter a Pharisee’s home—desperation. She was gripped with a sense of lostness, of helplessness, of urgency.

The loosening of her hair to wipe Jesus’ feet was forbidden of women in public. She must have been so desperate she was totally oblivious to the onlookers. The point is this: she was surrendering her heart and life to the Lord, begging Him to forgive her. She was so broken she was unable to speak, but Jesus knew her heart. Words were not necessary (Luke 7:47-48).

She loved much, giving her most precious possession. Perfume was highly valued by women of that day. Apparently, by describing the perfume as he does, Luke is stressing the expense of the perfume and the great sacrifice she was making. It was probably the most costly possession she had, so she was giving it to her Lord. However, there is something more important here. Note what she did with the perfume. She anointed her Lord; anointed His feet in a supreme act of humility and love and surrender.

The behavior of the self-righteous man revealed several things.

  1. The man was considerate, but self-righteous. Note, he only thought these things; he would not say them publicly lest he embarrass his guests. (How like the self-righteous!)
  2. The man considered himself better. He felt he was better than the sinful woman, so he would never allow her to touch him. He would keep his distance, ignore, and have nothing to do with her. But note something else. He considered his judgment and knowledge, opinions and behavior to be better than others. He expected others (Jesus) to judge and act as he did. He thought that if Jesus only knew who the lady was, then He would reject her.
  3. The man sensed no need for forgiveness and repentance. He thought of himself as good enough in two areas.
  4. He was good enough in religion. Note he was a Pharisee, a man who had given his life to practice religion. If anyone was ever good enough, he should have been.
  5. He was good enough in behavior. He was well behaved, decent and moral, just and equitable, respected and highly esteemed. He was not immoral; in fact, he would have nothing to do with immorality. He had not and never would commit a sin that would be publicly condemned. Therefore, he felt as though he had done nothing for which he needed forgiveness.

Jesus told a parable about two debtors. Note several things that say much to the self-righteous.

  1. Jesus announced that He had something to say, something critically important. Undivided attention was needed. Every self-righteous person needs to listen and listen closely.
  2. Jesus was a prophet and more—He was the Son of God; therefore, He not only knew the people who were sitting around Him, He knew their every thought. Note that from this point on, Jesus was answering the thoughts of Simon. Simon had never said a word about Jesus not knowing who the woman was nor about his own question about Jesus being a prophet. Simon had only been thinking these thoughts “within himself” (Luke 7:39).

Jesus is the Son of God; therefore, what a man thinks pales into insignificance when facing the One who knows all thoughts, including what one really thinks and feels within. Jesus knows the truth of every thought and feeling within a man. If a person is self-righteous, Jesus knows it. If a person is repentant, truly repentant, Jesus knows it. No one hides anything, no feeling, no thought from Him.

  1. The meaning of the parable is strikingly clear. A glance at the verses and points in the outline show this. Note how clearly the parable illustrates the grace of God in freely forgiving sin (salvation) (cp. Ephes. 1:7; Ephes. 2:8-9; 1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:1-2).

What was the overwhelming need of the self-righteous? To really see Jesus, who the repentant say He is. Note what Jesus asked Simon, “Seest thou this woman, this repentant?” The repentant had much to teach the self-righteous about Jesus. The repentant really sees Jesus, who He really is.

  1. Jesus was the One who deserved more than common courtesies. The host usually showed respect by providing water for the guests to wash their dusty, sandaled feet. The kiss was the accepted greeting among friends, and oil was usually given for honored guests to refresh themselves after travelling under the hot sun. It was expensive, so it was usually reserved for honored guests.
  2. Jesus deserved more than common respect (water); He deserved a worshipful respect. He was seen as Lord and was respected as Lord by the repentant. He was the One who alone could meet the needs of the human heart; therefore, He was the One who was to be worshipped. The self-righteous needed to learn this.
  3. Jesus deserved more than a common greeting; He deserved a humble, brokenhearted greeting. He was approached with a sense of unworthiness and humility. The repentant saw the worthiness of Jesus and grasped something of His awesome person as the Son of God and as the sovereign Lord of the universe; therefore, He was the One to whom all men owed their allegiance, the One who alone had the power to forgive and accept men. The repentant saw Jesus as the One who alone could help her, the One who alone had the power to help, so the repentant approached Jesus and greeted Him with a deep sense of humility and unworthiness. The self-righteous needed to learn this.
  4. Jesus deserved more than a common gift; He deserved a sacrificial gift. He was seen as the hope and Savior of one’s life, so the repentant gave Jesus her life, all she was and had. The repentant surrendered her life and gave the most precious gift she had to anoint her Lord. The self-righteous needed to learn this.
  5. Jesus was the One who had the power to forgive sins. Three simple facts are imporant here.
  6. The woman’s sins were many. Jesus did not overlook her sins, nor the seriousness of them. After all it was her sins and the sins of others that brought about His humiliation, His having to come to this sinful world and to die for the sins of men. However, He forgave her sins despite their awfulness. Every sinner should note this carefully.
  7. Self-righteousness sensed the need for little forgiveness; therefore, the self-righteous loved little. The self-righteous had only a formal, distant relationship with God. His relationship was cold, having only a small sense of sin and sensing only a little need for forgiveness. It was enough to have Jesus present at his table (the table was about the only place many acknowledged His presence).

The self-righteous approach to God…

  • has only a little sense of sin; therefore senses only a little need for forgiveness.
  • is blinded to man’s state of sin, to man’s true being, that of being short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
  • has little sense of the need for special mercy and grace, is blinded to God’s Sovereign Majesty and Person.
  • has only a formal, distant relationship with God, has little personal relationship with God.
  • gives little honor to God, makes little sacrifice for God.
  1. Jesus forgave sin. He had the power to forgive the sins of this repentant.
  2. Jesus was the One whom people needed to ask about.
  3. Jesus was the One who did save the repentant. The woman believed Christ to be the Savior, the One who could forgive her sins. Therefore, Christ saved her.

Could two people be more different? He is looked up to. She is looked down on. He is a church leader. She is a streetwalker. He makes a living promoting standards. She’s made a living breaking them. He’s hosting the party. She’s crashing it.

Ask the other residents of Capernaum to point out the more pious of the two, and they’ll pick Simon. Why, after all, he’s a student of theology, a man of the cloth. Anyone would pick him. Anyone, that is, except Jesus. Jesus knew them both. And Jesus would pick the woman. Jesus does pick the woman. And, what’s more, he tells Simon why.

Not that Simon wants to know. His mind is elsewhere. How did this whore get in my house? He doesn’t know whom to yell at first, the woman or the servant who let her in. After all, this dinner is a formal affair. Invitation only. Upper crust. Crème de la crème. Who let the riffraff in?

Simon is angry. Just look at her—groveling at Jesus’ feet. Kissing them, no less! Why, if Jesus were who he says he is, he would have nothing to do with this woman.

One of the lessons Simon learned that day was this: Don’t think thoughts you don’t want Jesus to hear. For Jesus heard them, and when he did, he chose to share a few of his own.

Simon invites Jesus to his house but treats him like an unwanted step-uncle. No customary courtesies. No kiss of greeting. No washing his feet. No oil for his head.

Or, in modern terms, no one opened the door for him, took his coat, or shook his hand. Count Dracula has better manners.

Simon does nothing to make Jesus feel welcome. The woman, however, does everything that Simon didn’t. We aren’t told her name. Just her reputation—a sinner. A prostitute most likely. She has no invitation to the party and no standing in the community.

But people’s opinions didn’t stop her from coming. It’s not for them she has come. It’s for him. Her every move is measured and meaningful. Each gesture extravagant. She puts her cheek to his feet, still dusty from the path. She has no water, but she has tears. She has no towel, but she has her hair. She uses both to bathe the feet of Christ. As one translation reads, “she rained tears” on his feet (v. 44 msg ). She opens a vial of perfume, perhaps her only possession of worth, and massages it into his skin. The aroma is as inescapable as the irony.

You’d think Simon of all people would show such love. Is he not the minister of the church, the student of Scripture? But he is harsh, distant. You’d think the woman would avoid Jesus. Is she not the woman of the night, the town hussy? But she can’t resist him. Simon’s “love” is calibrated and stingy. Her love, on the other hand, is extravagant and risky.

How do we explain the difference between the two? Training? Education? Money? No, for Simon has outdistanced her in all three.

But there is one area in which the woman leaves him eating dust. Think about it. What one discovery has she made that Simon hasn’t? What one treasure does she cherish that Simon doesn’t? Simple. God’s love. We don’t know when she received it. We aren’t told how she heard about it. Did she overhear Jesus’ words “Your Father is merciful” ( Luke 6:36 esv )?

Was she nearby when Jesus had compassion on the widow of Nain? Did someone tell her how Jesus touched lepers and turned tax collectors into disciples? We don’t know. But we know this. She came thirsty. Thirsty from guilt. Thirsty from regret. Thirsty from countless nights of making love and finding none. She came thirsty.

And when Jesus hands her the goblet of grace, she drinks. She doesn’t just taste or nip. She doesn’t dip her finger and lick it or take the cup and sip it. She lifts the liquid to her lips and drinks, gulping and swallowing like the parched pilgrim she is. She drinks until the mercy flows down her chin and onto her neck and chest. She drinks until every inch of her soul is moist and soft. She comes thirsty and she drinks. She drinks deeply.

Simon, on the other hand, doesn’t even know he is thirsty. People like Simon don’t need grace; they analyze it. They don’t request mercy; they debate and prorate it. It wasn’t that Simon couldn’t be forgiven; he just never asks to be.

So while she drinks up, he puffs up. While she has ample love to give, he has no love to offer. Why? The 7:47 Principle. Read again verse 47 of chapter 7 : “A person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

Just like the jumbo jet, the 7:47 Principle has wide wings. Just like the aircraft, this truth can lift you to another level. Read it one more time. “A person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” In other words, we can’t give what we’ve never received. If we’ve never received love, how can we love others?

But, oh, how we try! As if we can conjure up love by the sheer force of will. As if there is within us a distillery of affection that lacks only a piece of wood or a hotter fire. We poke it and stoke it with resolve. What’s our typical strategy for treating a troubled relationship? Try harder.

“My spouse needs my forgiveness? I don’t know how, but I’m going to give it.”

“I don’t care how much it hurts, I’m going to be nice to that bum.”

“I’m supposed to love my neighbor? Okay. By golly, I will.”

So we try. Teeth clinched. Jaw firm. We’re going to love if it kills us! And it may do just that.

Could it be we are missing a step? Could it be that the first step of love is not toward them but toward him? Could it be that the secret to loving is receiving? You give love by first receiving it. “We love, because he first loved us” ( 1 John 4:19 nasb ).

Long to be more loving? Begin by accepting your place as a dearly loved child. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us” ( Eph. 5:1–2 niv ).

Want to learn to forgive? Then consider how you’ve been forgiven. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” ( Eph. 4:32 niv ).

Finding it hard to put others first? Think of the way Christ put you first. “Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God” ( Phil. 2:6 nlt ).

Need more patience? Drink from the patience of God ( 2 Pet. 3:9 ). Is generosity an elusive virtue? Then consider how generous God has been with you ( Rom. 5:8 ). Having trouble putting up with ungrateful relatives or cranky neighbors? God puts up with you when you act the same. “He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” ( Luke 6:35 niv ).

Can’t we love like this?

Not without God’s help we can’t. Oh, we may succeed for a time. We, like Simon, may open a door. But our relationships need more than a social gesture. Some of our spouses need a foot washing. A few of our friends need a flood of tears. Our children need to be covered in the oil of our love.

But if we haven’t received these things ourselves, how can we give them to others? Apart from God, “the heart is deceitful above all things” ( Jer. 17:9 niv ). A marriage-saving love is not within us. A friendship-preserving devotion cannot be found in our hearts. We need help from an outside source. A transfusion. Would we love as God loves? Then we start by receiving God’s love.

We preachers have been guilty of skipping the first step. “Love each other!” we tell our churches. “Be patient, kind, forgiving,” we urge. But instructing people to love without telling them they are loved is like telling them to write a check without our making a deposit in their accounts.

No wonder so many relationships are overdrawn. Hearts have insufficient love. The apostle John models the right sequence. He makes a deposit before he tells us to write the check.

First, the deposit: God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. ( 1 John 4:9–10 nlt)

And then, having made such an outrageous, eye-opening deposit, John calls on you and me to pull out the checkbook: “Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other” (v. 11 nlt).

The secret to loving is living loved. This is the forgotten first step in relationships. Remember Paul’s prayer? “May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love” ( Eph. 3:17 nlt ). As a tree draws nutrients from the soil, we draw nourishment from the Father. But what if the tree has no contact with the soil?

I was thinking of this recently as I helped our daughter Tonia disassembled her Christmas tree (we have used a fake one for years). She had removed the ornaments and I helped carry out the tree, and sweep up all the needles. There are thousands of them! The tree is falling apart. Blame it on bad rooting. For two weeks this tree has been planted in a metal bowl. What comes from a tree holder?

Old Simon had the same problem. Impressive to look at, nicely decorated, but he falls apart when you give him a shove or two.

Does bumping into certain people leave you brittle, breakable, and fruitless? Do you easily fall apart? If so, your love may be grounded in the wrong soil. It may be rooted in their love (which is fickle) or in your resolve to love (which is frail). John urges us to “rely on the love God has for us” ( 1 John 4:16 niv, emphasis mine). He alone is the power source.

Many people tell us to love. Only God gives us the power to do so.

We know what God wants us to do. “This is what God commands: … that we love each other” ( 1 John 3:23). But how can we? How can we be kind to the vow breakers? To those who are unkind to us? How can we be patient with people who have the warmth of a vulture and the tenderness of a porcupine? How can we forgive the moneygrubbers and backstabbers we meet, love, and marry? How can we love as God loves? We want to. We long to. But how can we?

By living loved. By following the 7:47 Principle: Receive first, love second.

Want to give it a try? Let’s carry this principle up the Mount Everest of love writings. More than one person has hailed 1 Corinthians 13 as the finest chapter in the Bible. No words get to the heart of loving people like these verses.

And no verses get to the heart of the chapter like verses 4 through 8 .

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. ( niv )

Several years ago someone challenged me to replace the word love in this passage with my name. I did and became a liar. “Gary is patient, Gary is kind. Gary does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud.…” That’s enough! Stop right there! Those words are false. Gary is not patient. Gary is not kind. Ask my wife and kids. Gary can be an out-and-out clod! That’s my problem.

And for years that was my problem with this paragraph. It set a standard I could not meet. No one can meet it. No one, that is, except Christ. Does this passage not describe the measureless love of God? Let’s insert Christ’s name in place of the word love, and see if it rings true.

Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. Jesus does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. Jesus is not rude, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails.

Rather than let this scripture remind us of a love we cannot produce, let it remind us of a love we cannot resist—God’s love.

Some of you are so thirsty for this type of love. Those who should have loved you didn’t. Those who could have loved you didn’t. You were left at the hospital. Left at the altar. Left with an empty bed. Left with a broken heart. Left with your question “Does anybody love me?”

Please listen to heaven’s answer. God loves you. Personally. Powerfully. Passionately. Others have promised and failed. But God has promised and succeeded. He loves you with an unfailing love. And his love—if you will let it—can fill you and leave you with a love worth giving.

So come. Come thirsty and drink deeply. The person who comes to Christ must come with a broken and contrite heart.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2019 in Forgiveness

 

Six Things To Remember When We Are Treated Unfairly


How do you react when someone treats you unfairly? Let’s say someone double crosses you or cheats you. Maybe someone lies about you and your reputation is damaged. Perhaps your boss chews you out for something you know you didn’t do or singles you out because he doesn’t like what you stand for. What is your typical response? Do you…

unfair

  • Retreat into a depression?
  • Withdraw from human interaction?
  • Look for a way to get even?
  • Vow that you’ll never do anything nice for anyone again?
  • Cheat the next guy down the line because you conclude that it’s a dog-eat-dog world?
  • Become so cynical about the world that you no longer enjoy life?

These responses are all too common. As Christians, we are called by God to be different from the world and this is one area where that difference can really show.

 THE FIRST THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT THIS LIFE ISN’T FAIR.

I suppose some of you might think it is redundant for me to say that, but it never ceases to amaze me that so many Christians get so upset when things don’t come out even.

Whoever said that this life was fair, anyway? I’m not aware of any Bible verse that teaches such a thing. Of course, God will ultimately even things out at the judgment – a point the Bible makes often – but in the here-and-now there are no guarantees. In fact, in a fallen world like ours, with mankind corrupted by a sinful nature and God allowing freedom of choice, it only follows that things are not going to be fair all the time.

Yet, it bugs us, doesn’t it? It bugs me! The bad guy sometimes wins. The criminal gets off Scot-free. The ladder climber who steps on everyone in his path gets the penthouse. The politician lies and gets away with it because the economy is good.

I’m not suggesting here that we shouldn’t do whatever we can when we can to make things right. I’m simply saying that sometimes making things even is beyond what we can do. At that point, so that we don’t go insane at the unbalanced nature of it all, we need to remember that we live in a fallen world and until God redeems this place from the curse and removes sin, it’s not always going to be fair.

I’m not recommending defeatism or fatalism here. I’m simply trying to be realistic. Don’t set your expectations too high. In this life, no matter how you live or what you do, life isn’t always going to be fair.

Matthew 20 teaches us that lesson: a worker who worked only one hour received the same pay that another worker who had been there sincer 9 a.m. received!

 THE SECOND THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT WHAT HAPPENS IN YOU IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU.

Things are going to happen in this life that we are powerless to change. We usually cannot rearrange someone else’s behavior toward us, nor can we undo the moments in which someone has hurt us. Maybe it can be prevented next time, but once it has happened, it has happened. There is no backing up.

If we keep reliving the unhappy moment and devote endless hours to appealing the verdict of a wrongdoing in our minds, we will be left spent and miserable. Though it is sometimes hard to see, time passed in the courtroom of our mind trying the case over and over is really time wasted. Even though we’re sure the verdict is guilty, there is usually no way to bring about justice in this life without becoming guilty ourselves. Our best (and sometimes only) recourse is to ask the Lord to change our inner life – to use this evil to bring about good in us.

We’ve seen that Joseph knew this truth. For all that was done to him by his brothers, he could have died a bitter and unhappy man. He didn’t do that though. At some point along the way he decided he would concentrate his energies on being the best person that he could be for God in whatever circumstance he found himself. Over the process of a lifetime, because of this attitude, God could take him from a pit to a palace. One has to wonder how different it might have been had Joseph chosen to spend endless hours licking his wounds and rehearsing his hurts. After 23 years of living with this choice of betterness rather than bitterness, as his brothers stood before him in a position where revenge could have been a snap-of-the-fingers away, his verdict was this: “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”

Suppose you hold a glass of water as you walk towards me. I carelessly (or deliberately) bump into you. Whatever you have in the glass will probably spill out.

That is the way our lives are. When we are bumped, whatever is inside comes out. For most of us, an injustice done to us personally is a very jarring bump. Sadly, it is disgraceful sometimes the things that spill out.

God wants the things inside the glass cleaned up. From time to time He will allow us to be bumped, sometimes quite forcefully and unjustly, to reveal what is there. A life where the work of the Holy Spirit has been neglected will reveal a cup full of hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissention, faction, and envy. God wants all of that to change. What happens in you is far more important than what happens to you.

THE THIRD THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT GOD IS WATCHING TO SEE WHAT YOU WILL DO.

There is more happening when an injustice is done to us than just the unpleasantness of the moment. God is watching to see what we will do and He sees it all, from beginning to end. As the Scripture clearly reveals, He is testing us. There are so many verses on this subject that I hesitate to pick just one, however, there is a passage that I have found quite helpful at such times. Maybe it can help you.

(1 Pet. 2:19-20) says, “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.  But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”

God is watching to see how we handle unjust suffering.  So what does God want us to do when we suffer unjustly? These verses tell us that it finds favor with God if we “bear up under the pain of unjust suffering.” When we suffer, lets make God proud by enduring the pain and handling it properly.

THE FOURTH THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT YOU MUST NOT BOW TO BITTERNESS.

All of us need to set some standards for ourselves. We need to draw the line in the sand and say, “Beyond this point I will not go – not for comfort – not for security – not for revenge – not for anything!

 Paul wrote to the Ephesians “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Eph. 4:31).

 You see there is no part of “all” that allows for an exception. God wants all the bitterness out of you and me.

 ILLUSTRATION:

A doctor told a man that he had rabies. Upon hearing the diagnosis, he took out a piece of paper and started writing on it. The doctor thought, “Oh, he must be making up his will,” so he asked, “What are you doing, making up your will?” The man said, “No, I’m just writing down every person I’m going to bite.”

 Sadly, that is how some folks handle injustice. They are so bitter that they bite everyone else around them. We must never bow to bitterness.

 solidarityTHE FIFTH THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT WHAT YOU DO IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN HOW YOU FEEL.

God has spelled out what our behavior is to be in the kind of situation we’re discussing in many places in Scripture. I’ll mention just a few:

 Matthew   5:44 says, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…”

 Luke   6:27-28 says, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…”

Romans   12:20 says, “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink..”

 

It isn’t particularly difficult to figure out what these verses say we must do. The difficult part is our feelings, isn’t it? Why is it so hard…

  • To get on our knees and pray for that person whose carelessness or neglect caused us so much pain?
  • To go down to the store and buy a gift and send it to that person whom we know must hate us?
  • To say something that blesses them rather than cursing them under our breath?

The answer is simple. Every feeling in our bodies is screaming that it isn’t right!

Ah! We’ve come to an important crossroad in this matter. We’ve come to the place where we learn whether we’re serious about our faith or not. The true Christian will strive to do what is right even if his/her feelings aren’t in favor of it.

Many of us have yet to learn this very important part of our faith. Doing the right thing isn’t always the thing that makes us feel good at the moment.

Many of the things God has called us to do require us to go against our feelings for the moment. “Love your enemies?” Who feels like doing that?

But, you see the Christian knows that actions lead, feelings follow. Want to see an example?

 John   3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son….”

 God loved us so much that He gave His Son. How do you suppose that made God feel? Was He jumping for joy when His Son hung suffering on the cross? What do you think would have happened had God acted on His feelings that day rather than His loving commitment to offer a way for the world to be saved?

The right thing isn’t always the thing that feels good at the moment. Actions lead, feelings follow. Where did the good feelings come in then, when Jesus died on the cross? They came later, after the sacrifice had been made and people were coming to God because of what Jesus did!

Hebrews   12:2 says exactly that: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…”

 The joy followed the cross. It didn’t come prior or during. Likewise, the good feelings that result from our doing right usually come after the act, not before. If we wait around in the beginning, hoping to get our feelings to go along with our actions, we’ll seldom do what is right.

How about it?  Are you returning good for evil? Are you turning the other cheek when it is appropriate? Are you walking the second mile? Are you praying for that person who has hurt you so? Are you, like God, allowing whatever blessings you have in your life to fall on the just and the unjust, or are you selective, based on the records you’ve kept of wrongs done against you? Are you blessing rather than cursing? (The word “bless” in this case means literally, “to speak well of.”)

 “But I don’t feel like it!” Welcome to the world of discipleship. It’s that way for all of us.

 THE SIXTH THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT YOU ARE STILL THE BIGGER DEBTOR.

In (Matthew 18), Jesus tells the story of a man who owed a king ten million dollars. There was no way he could pay his debt and in that day, there was no bankruptcy – only debtor’s prison or slavery. As he was about to be thrown into prison, he begged the King to give him another chance and more time to pay. The King listened to his pleading and felt mercy for him. He didn’t just give him more time to pay. He completely forgave the debt. The man walked away free.

You probably know the rest of the story. As soon as he got home he found someone who owed him a few hundred dollars. The man didn’t have the money, so this man who had just been forgiven a debt of millions of dollars had his own debtor thrown into prison. After all, it’s only just. “It’s what the man had coming for what he did to me. He should learn to pay his debts on time! It’s his fault. Fair is fair, right?”

Then the King got word of the whole thing. He was angry and resummoned the man he had forgiven just a short time before. To make the long story short, he called the unforgiving man “wicked” and reinstated his millions of dollars of debt. The man went to prison until he could pay it off – which, of course, was never. He went to prison for the rest of his life.

Then Jesus said, “So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

 My friends, no matter whom might wrong us, we are still the bigger debtor. We always will be. God has forgiven a huge debt that we could never pay on our own. Because of that, is it really that much for God to ask us to overlook some of these hurts we experience here? I think not.

 Are you one who feels you must even the score here? Then expect God to even the score on you when you get to judgment.

 CONCLUSION 

A certain tenant farmer had worked hard for many years to improve the production of the land he leased. Then something happened that caused him to become very bitter. When it was time to renew his lease, the owner told him he was going to sell the farm to his son who was getting married. The tenant made several generous offers to buy it himself, hoping the man’s decision would be reversed, but his pleading got nowhere.

As the day drew near for the farmer to vacate his home, his weeks of angry brooding finally got the best of him. He gathered seeds from some of the most pesky and noxious weeds he could find. Then he spent many hours scattering them on the clean, fertile soil of the farm, along with a lot of trash and rocks he had collected.

To his dismay, the very next morning the owner informed him that plans for his son’s wedding had fallen through, and therefore he would be happy to renew the lease. He couldn’t understand why the farmer exclaimed in agonizing tones, “What a fool I’ve been!”

 Try as we might to even up the score when we’re treated unfairly, the result for us will be the same as it was for that tenant farmer. At the end, we’ll exclaim, “What a fool I’ve been!”

 

A study of Forgiveness: The Need to Forgive…Is He Talking To Me?


(Appreciation to Marvin Bryant for many insights into this subject matter)

Vengeance is popular today; forgiveness is not. Retaliation is heralded as an inalienable right of f personal freedom. Like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, some would love it to “make my day” and allow them to gain revenge.

Those who regularly are involved in counseling with church members find one thing: most troublesome problems would be significantly diminished (and in some cases solved completely) by a right understanding of what Scripture says about forgiveness. Of course, they would also need to heed God’s direction!

forgiveness (2)Some of us may not have anyone we need to forgive, & if so, praise God! That’s a wonderful thing. Others of us know full well we have someone we need to forgive. But I am concerned that there are also those of us, & this might include you, who need to forgive someone but we don’t realize that we do.

 (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. {24} See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

How do we tell whether we need to forgive someone?

Who has wronged you? If you already have an answer, you may not have forgiven them.

Who has hurt you very deeply in your life? If there is someone, you may or may not have forgiven them, but that person is a likely candidate for someone you haven’t forgiven. If you have been deeply hurt or wronged, I want you to know that whatever happened was wrong & your anger about it was righteous anger, at least in the beginning. But even so, if the anger & hurt still linger, you may need prayer for healing & you may also need to forgive.

Do you feel resentment or a grudge toward anyone? Or maybe someone you can’t stand to be around or that you avoid?

Is there anyone you feel does not deserve to be forgiven? Do you feel you have justifiable resentment?  Augustine once said, “There was never an angry man who thought his anger unjustified.” Gary Inrig compares non-forgiveness to spiritual anorexia. The person becomes convinced that the very thing that is God’s provision for heath is really something dangerous and to be avoided. Even as her body wastes away, she clings to the notion that eating is bad for her. It is a delusion that kills slowly but surely. So is an unwillingness to forgive.

Do you have a case against someone, perhaps a case that you keep trying to prove to others? Someone you’re consumed with?

If you think you even might have someone to forgive, I want you to know it is possible to do–you can forgive them. God doesn’t ask us to do something we are not capable of doing. What’s more, you get to forgive them!

One of the real keys is for us to see clearly how important it is to do so. Let me share several reasons why we need to forgive.

God said to.

(Luke 23:34 NIV)  “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

(Eph 4:32 NIV)  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

(Col 3:13 NIV)  “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Our own forgiveness depends on it.

(Mat 18:21-22 NIV)  “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” {22} Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

(Mat 18:35 NIV)  “”This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.””

(Mark 11:25 NIV)  “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.””

If you receive grace, you’ll pass it on. If you harden your heart, you either forfeit his grace or never had it to begin with. You cannot take a grudge to heaven.

To restore relationships.

We need relationships; we were made for relationships. And we need to try to make all our relationships good. The trouble is none of the humans who are available to have a relationship with is perfect. The only way to get along is to forgive. Since we are not perfect, we couldn’t have a relationship with God—but he forgave us so we could have a relationship with him. That’s exactly why we need to forgive—so we can have relationships. It will be possible without them.

For our own spiritual, emotional, & physical health.

This is huge. Researchers have discovered direct links between forgiveness and physical & emotional health. Not forgiving almost inevitably leads to chronic anger & stress, both of which are toxic. It leads to higher rates of stress-related disorders, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, clinical depression, lower immune system function, & higher divorce rates. Some evidence it also decreases neurological function & decreases memory.

Holding on to resentment and failing to forgive leads to anxiety, depression, and stress. Stress can take a huge toll on the body, leading to ulcers, backache, and a weak immune system.

Stress is responsible for 75 percent to 90 percent of Americans’ doctor visits, according to the American Institute for Stress. It is no mystery why this insidious biological response has been called America’s number one health problem.

Chronic stress — the type that eats away at you little by little over time – is the worst variety. Having no redeeming qualities (unlike acute stress, which may rev you up when you need the extra energy boost), chronic stress has been linked to a host of major illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, depression, autoimmune diseases and reproductive problems, along with more minor maladies like stomach upset, back pain, headaches and fatigue.

For the health of our marriages, families, friends, & church.

There might be marriages in our congregations that are going to disintegrate unless someone finds a way to forgive. There are families that will collapse, unless someone finds a way to forgive.  There are friendships that will unravel, unless someone decides to forgive. There are groups that will split, unless someone forgives.

The bitterness & resentment we feel will also alienate us & cut us off from others. It will make us suspicious & fearful of relationships. It will isolate us. Unforgiveness destroys community. Churches ought to be a no-debt zone, but it’s not always so.

So for these reasons, we really, really must forgive.  (Heb 12:14-15 NIV)  “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. {15} See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

The following check-up was developed from a longer test created by Susan Wade Brown, Ph.D., as part of her doctoral dissertation in psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, in Pasadena, CA., edited by Robert Enright, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin.

Think about the specific person you want to measure your forgiveness toward. Rate each item to the extent that the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors match your own.

0 = Strongly disagree 1 = Disagree 2 = Neutral 3 = Agree 4 = Strongly agree

1. I’m going to get even.

2. I’ll make them pay.

3. I replay the offense in my mind, dwelling on it.

4. I think about them with anger.

5. I can understand where they are coming from.

6. I have a clear ability to see their good points.

7. I prayed for them, asking God to bless them.

8. I told God I forgive them.

9. My resentment is gone.

10. I feel peace.

11. I keep as much distance between us as possible.

12. I live as if they don’t exist, or never existed.

13. I looked for the source of the problem and tried to correct it.

14. I took steps toward reconciliation: wrote them, called them, showed concern.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2019 in Forgiveness

 

A Guiding Principle in the Issue of Love Luke 7:36–50: “A person who is forgiven little shows only little love”


The present passage contrasts the attitudes of a sinful but repentant woman and the selfforgiveness-righteous. It needs to be studied carefully, for self-righteousness is a serious sin. It is both common and damning.

Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to dinner. Note several things. Simon invited Jesus to his house, but he did not extend to Jesus the common courtesies (Luke 7:44-46). He was rude to the Lord. He was not even sure Jesus was a prophet, much less the Messiah (Luke 7:39).

Why then did he invite Jesus to his house? We do not know; nothing is said as to why. The best speculation is that Simon enjoyed the company of celebrities, and he had heard so much about Jesus that he wanted to meet and talk with Him on an informal and friendly basis.

Jesus ate with both sinners and religionists (Pharisees) (Luke 5:29-30). No one was excluded from His attention or love, even when they lacked the common everyday courtesies and respect (Luke 7:44-46). He sought every man.

The house of Simon was a house of the rich. The rich always had an open courtyard, usually in the center of the house; that is, the house was built around an open courtyard. Sometimes the host would allow the public to stand around in the courtyard and listen to the discussions, in particular when a rabbi or some celebrity was the chief guest.

Notice the attitude of the repentant. The woman was a sinner, a prostitute. She demonstrated what a sinner has to do in coming to Jesus.

She sensed a desperate need. She was either convicted of her sin while hearing Jesus or else she had heard Him before and came under heavy conviction. His plea for men and women to repent and prepare for the Kingdom of God pierced her heart. She knew she was a sinner: unclean, lost, condemned. The guilt and weight of her sin was more than she could bear. She ached for forgiveness and cleansing, for freedom and liberty.

She approached the Lord despite all. She knew that the public scorned and gossiped about her, and the so-called decent people wanted nothing to do with her. What would Jesus do—He who said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest….” (Matthew 11:28-30)?

She knew that if she was recognized, the Pharisee might throw her out of the house. He knew about her (Luke 7:39). She thought about the situation, and her thinking turned into hope, and her hope into belief. Surely He who offered such an invitation would receive her.

Before anyone could stop her, she rushed to Jesus and stood behind Him at His feet. (Remember, in the East people reclined to eat. They rested on their left arm facing each other around the table with their body and feet extending out away from the table.)

She surrendered to the Lord in utter humility. Standing there, she was overcome with conviction and emotion. She fell at Jesus’ feet weeping—so broken that tears just flowed from her eyes. She unwound her hair and wiped and kissed Jesus’ feet. Seldom has such love and devotion been shown Jesus.

There was only one thing that could make a prostitute enter a Pharisee’s home—desperation. She was gripped with a sense of lostness, of helplessness, of urgency.

The loosening of her hair to wipe Jesus’ feet was forbidden of women in public. She must have been so desperate she was totally oblivious to the onlookers. The point is this: she was surrendering her heart and life to the Lord, begging Him to forgive her. She was so broken she was unable to speak, but Jesus knew her heart. Words were not necessary (Luke 7:47-48).

She loved much, giving her most precious possession. Perfume was highly valued by women of that day. Apparently, by describing the perfume as he does, Luke is stressing the expense of the perfume and the great sacrifice she was making. It was probably the most costly possession she had, so she was giving it to her Lord. However, there is something more important here. Note what she did with the perfume. She anointed her Lord; anointed His feet in a supreme act of humility and love and surrender.

The behavior of the self-righteous man revealed several things.

     1. The man was considerate, but self-righteous. Note, he only thought these things; he would not say them publicly lest he embarrass his guests. (How like the self-righteous!)

     2. The man considered himself better. He felt he was better than the sinful woman, so he would never allow her to touch him. He would keep his distance, ignore, and have nothing to do with her. But note something else. He considered his judgment and knowledge, opinions and behavior to be better than others. He expected others (Jesus) to judge and act as he did. He thought that if Jesus only knew who the lady was, then He would reject her.

     3. The man sensed no need for forgiveness and repentance. He thought of himself as good enough in two areas.

a. He was good enough in religion. Note he was a Pharisee, a man who had given his life to practice religion. If anyone was ever good enough, he should have been.

b. He was good enough in behavior. He was well behaved, decent and moral, just and equitable, respected and highly esteemed. He was not immoral; in fact, he would have nothing to do with immorality. He had not and never would commit a sin that would be publicly condemned. Therefore, he felt as though he had done nothing for which he needed forgiveness.

Jesus told a parable about two debtors. Note several things that say much to the self-righteous.

     1. Jesus announced that He had something to say, something critically important. Undivided attention was needed. Every self-righteous person needs to listen and listen closely.

     2. Jesus was a prophet and more—He was the Son of God; therefore, He not only knew the people who were sitting around Him, He knew their every thought. Note that from this point on, Jesus was answering the thoughts of Simon. Simon had never said a word about Jesus not knowing who the woman was nor about his own question about Jesus being a prophet. Simon had only been thinking these thoughts “within himself” (Luke 7:39).

Jesus is the Son of God; therefore, what a man thinks pales into insignificance when facing the One who knows all thoughts, including what one really thinks and feels within. Jesus knows the truth of every thought and feeling within a man. If a person is self-righteous, Jesus knows it. If a person is repentant, truly repentant, Jesus knows it. No one hides anything, no feeling, no thought from Him.

     3. The meaning of the parable is strikingly clear. A glance at the verses and points in the outline show this. Note how clearly the parable illustrates the grace of God in freely forgiving sin (salvation) (cp. Ephes. 1:7; Ephes. 2:8-9; John 2:1-2).

What was the overwhelming need of the self-righteous? To really see Jesus, who the repentant say He is. Note what Jesus asked Simon, “Seest thou this woman, this repentant?” The repentant had much to teach the self-righteous about Jesus. The repentant really sees Jesus, who He really is.

     1. Jesus was the One who deserved more than common courtesies. The host usually showed respect by providing water for the guests to wash their dusty, sandaled feet. The kiss was the accepted greeting among friends, and oil was usually given for honored guests to refresh themselves after travelling under the hot sun. It was expensive, so it was usually reserved for honored guests.

a. Jesus deserved more than common respect (water); He deserved a worshipful respect. He was seen as Lord and was respected as Lord by the repentant. He was the One who alone could meet the needs of the human heart; therefore, He was the One who was to be worshipped. The self-righteous needed to learn this.

b. Jesus deserved more than a common greeting; He deserved a humble, brokenhearted greeting. He was approached with a sense of unworthiness and humility. The repentant saw the worthiness of Jesus and grasped something of His awesome person as the Son of God and as the sovereign Lord of the universe; therefore, He was the One to whom all men owed their allegiance, the One who alone had the power to forgive and accept men. The repentant saw Jesus as the One who alone could help her, the One who alone had the power to help, so the repentant approached Jesus and greeted Him with a deep sense of humility and unworthiness. The self-righteous needed to learn this.

c. Jesus deserved more than a common gift; He deserved a sacrificial gift. He was seen as the hope and Savior of one’s life, so the repentant gave Jesus her life, all she was and had. The repentant surrendered her life and gave the most precious gift she had to anoint her Lord. The self-righteous needed to learn this.

     2. Jesus was the One who had the power to forgive sins. Three simple facts are imporant here.

a. The woman’s sins were many. Jesus did not overlook her sins, nor the seriousness of them. After all it was her sins and the sins of others that brought about His humiliation, His having to come to this sinful world and to die for the sins of men. However, He forgave her sins despite their awfulness. Every sinner should note this carefully.

b. Self-righteousness sensed the need for little forgiveness; therefore, the self-righteous loved little. The self-righteous had only a formal, distant relationship with God. His relationship was cold, having only a small sense of sin and sensing only a little need for forgiveness. It was enough to have Jesus present at his table (the table was about the only place many acknowledged His presence).

The self-righteous approach to God…

  • has only a little sense of sin; therefore senses only a little need for forgiveness.
  • is blinded to man’s state of sin, to man’s true being, that of being short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
  • has little sense of the need for special mercy and grace, is blinded to God’s Sovereign Majesty and Person.
  • has only a formal, distant relationship with God, has little personal relationship with God.
  • gives little honor to God, makes little sacrifice for God.

c. Jesus forgave sin. He had the power to forgive the sins of this repentant.

     3. Jesus was the One whom people needed to ask about.

     4. Jesus was the One who did save the repentant. The woman believed Christ to be the Savior, the One who could forgive her sins. Therefore, Christ saved her.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2018 in Forgiveness

 

Some Pictures of Forgiveness


Removing offense far, far away from us (Ps 103:12)

forgiveness (1)(Psalm 103:12 NIV)  “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

 Putting offenses behind our backs (Isa. 38:17)

(Isa 38:17 NIV)  “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.”

 Blotting out what was done  (Isa. 43:25; Psalm 51:1, 9)

(Isa 43:25 NIV)  “”I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

 (Psa 51:1 NIV)  ” Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.”

 (Psa 51:9 NIV)  “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.”

 Casting the offense in the depths of the sea (Mic. 7:19)

(Micah 7:19 NIV)  “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

It means releasing the resentment, hatred, bitterness, ill-will & desire for revenge.  It means you don’t hold a grudge, or cherish bitterness or harbor any desire to harm them. It means dropping the case we have against them.

Does have to be from the heart (Mat 18:35 NIV)  “”This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.””). Can’t just say the words. This is difficult to determine sometimes because we can’t necessarily keep ourselves from having primary feelings like anger. But we can make choices, including the choice to let go of the things that anger often leads to, like resentment, hatred, bitterness, & ill will.

It also means we stop trying to make them pay (we cancelled the debt so we can’t demand any more payments). We stop exacting psychological payment. If we forgive, we don’t bring it up anymore—to that person or anyone else, & we stop trying to make them pay. Both are wrong!

Does mean we stop dwelling on what was done to us. We may not be able to forget what happened and our mind may go there once in a while, but forgiveness does mean we don’t dwell on it anymore. It is taking the arrows out of our gut instead of continuing to twist them around inside of us. Whereas before we may have nurtured that hurt to keep it active & alive. But now we refused to do that. That may take some prayer to keep releasing it to God, but we don’t let our mind stay there.

Does mean treat them with love, even if we don’t feel it. Feelings are important, but they are not what we base our decisions on. We forgive because it is the right and healthy thing to do, and then we treat the person with love. When God forgives us, he doesn’t wait to see how it’s going to go before he starts to bless us again.

It does mean we are opening a door for reconciliation. That’s one of the purposes. God’s people are supposed to be reconciled to each other. We can’t say ok I forgive you but I never want to see you again. Doesn’t mean you have to be the best of friends, but it does mean you tear down the walls. And remember, reconciliation takes two people—they have to be open to it as well.

Does mean we’ll have to take responsibility for our own happiness & we’ll have to change. As long as we’re resentful we give ourselves an excuse not to do the hard work of looking at ourselves and changing our own lives. Perhaps that’s another reason why God tells us to forgive.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2018 in Forgiveness

 
 
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