Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Key to Forgiveness (Part 4)

{Scroll down to read the first parts in this series}

Unforgiveness Hinders our Relationship with God
What if God forgives us exactly how we forgive others? Would we honestly desire to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors? (Matthew 6:12, emphasis added) We take for granted that God will forgive us. In fact, we expect God to forgive us . . . even when we fail to forgive others. But, according to Christ, such is not the case.
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11:26)
“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:” (Luke 6:37)

Jesus concludes the parable of the unjust servant with, “Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.(Matthew 18:32-35, emphasis added)

Because God has forgiven us so great a debt, we are then required to forgive others (“. . . For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required. . .” Luke 12:48).

Beyond being required of us, our lack of forgiveness directly affects our prayer (“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.  And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Mark 11:24-26) and our giving (“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Matthew 5:23-24)

We should continually check our hearts before God, to see if there is any “spirit of unforgiveness” in us.

. . . to be continued next week . . .

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Key to Forgiveness (Part 3)

{Scroll down to read the first parts in this study}

Truths About Forgiveness
“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” (Colossians 3:12-13, emphasis added)

This thought is explained in detail in Matthew 18:23-35. Jesus tells a parable of a master whose servant owed Him ten thousand talents (vs. 24). The servant fell on his knees and begged his master’s forgiveness (vs.26). The master was moved with compassion and promptly forgave his servant (vs. 27). The servant immediately went out and found another servant who owed him a mere one hundred pence and violently demanded that he pay him (vs. 28). We see a similar picture of the servant with his master: the debtor fell on his knees and begged the other servant to be patient with him (vs. 29). It seems like the servant who had just been forgiven his ten thousand talents would have compassion. Instead, he threw his debtor into prison (vs. 30). When the master heard how his servant had treated his debtor, he was angry and delivered him to the tormentors (vs. 31-34). Jesus concludes this parable with, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” (Matthew 18:35)

I think that many of us would like to defend our case and, like Peter, ask, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” (Matthew 18:21) Surely we have been patient enough! Surely, we have borne enough wrong at their hand! However, Jesus replied, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22) As children of God, we are commanded to forgive others. We are the man who owed ten thousand talents and Jesus Christ our Master freely forgave us our debt. Will we, in return, turn to our “fellow-servant” with unforgiveness, bitterness, and grudges towards their “debt of one hundred pence”? Or will we remember how compassionate Christ was towards us, and freely forgive others’ sins against us? As with all of God’s commands, He gives the strength to obey His command to forgive others, but He also allows us to make the choice whether or not we will obey.

. . . to be continued next week . . .

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Key to Forgiveness (Part 2)

{Scroll down to read the first part in this series}

God’s Forgiveness Available for Us
Though God’s very character is one of forgiveness, we are sinful and cannot simply reflect on God’s forgiving character. Something must be done so that we can personally experience that forgiveness.

In the Old Testament law, when a man came to make things right with God, he had to bring a payment. For any sin (theft, murder, adultery, ignorant sin, purposeful sin), an animal was to be brought to the priest. The priest would sacrifice the animal as a peace-offering between man and God and the sin would be forgiven (see Leviticus 4:20-26, Leviticus 5, Numbers 15). A sacrifice was required in order for one to gain God’s forgiveness.

This type of sacrifice for forgiveness continued for centuries. However God had a better plan. Since “almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission {freedom, pardon}” (Hebrews 9:22), “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:28)

Jesus Christ came to earth to shed His own blood – to be the sacrificial lamb so that we could have remission of sins (Matthew 26:28, Acts 2:38, Romans 3:25). We fully deserved to pay the full price for our sin (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23), but when Christ died in our place it made the way for God to freely forgive us. Today, it is only through Christ’s blood that we can receive full forgiveness of our sins (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14), but we must accept Christ’s blood atonement. To reject the Blood would be to reject God’s forgiveness (John 3:18, John 3:36, John 6:54).

Before we can forgive others, we must accept forgiveness. We cannot understand the heart of forgiveness until we understand God’s forgiveness for us. We cannot forgive others in our own strength, because true forgiveness only comes from God and through God’s power.

We must examine our hearts to see if we have truly accepted Christ’s forgiveness for our sins. If we have not, what is keeping us from asking God for His forgiveness and accepting His free gift of salvation? We cannot merely say, “God knows I’m wrong, God’s knows I’ve sinned.” Though God is all-seeing, He is also waiting for us to humble ourselves and bow before His holiness, recognizing our transgression (Psalm 51:3-4), confessing our sins (1 John 1:9), and asking His forgiveness (Matthew 7:7-11, Luke 11:9-13, John 14:12-13, James 4:2, 1 John 5:14-15). When we ask, God forgives us freely.

. . . to be continued next week . . .

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Key to Forgiveness (Part 1)

{This is the beginning of a 5-part series; Come back next Thursday for more}

Most of us have heard the importance of forgiveness, but when we try to apply forgiveness, it seems an insurmountable task. Perhaps this is because we do not truly understand forgiveness.

We cannot grasp the concept of forgiveness by looking it up in Webster’s dictionaries. We cannot grasp the concept of forgiveness by looking at those around us. However, we can get a clearer understanding of forgiveness by looking into God’s Word; we can see a pattern of true forgiveness by looking at the One Who is always consistent in forgiveness. So please join me as we search God’s Word to get a clear definition of true forgiveness.

God’s Character of Forgiveness
(emphasis added)
“ If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, Thou hast covered all their sin. Selah.” (Psalm 85:2)

“For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee.” (Psalm 86:5)

 “{God} forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;” (Psalm 103:3)

 “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

 “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith He to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.” (Matthew 9:6)

 “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted His raiment, and cast lots.” (Luke 23:34)   

 “Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 5:31)   

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) 

From these few verses, we gain that . . .
     ~God has full power to forgive any and every sin – purposed sin and ignorant sin (Psalm 85:2, Matthew 9:6, Luke 23:34)
     ~God is always listening/waiting for us to ask His forgiveness (2 Chronicles 7:14, Psalm 86:5, 1 John 1:9)
     ~God freely forgives when we ask His forgiveness (Psalm 86:5,
     ~God freely forgives when we do not deserve forgiveness (Luke 23:34)
     ~God freely forgives and heals (2 Chronicles 7:14, Psalm 103:3)
     ~God freely forgives and cleanses (1 John 1:9)
     ~God freely forgives and covers (Psalm 85:2)
     ~God freely forgives and forgets (Jeremiah 31:34)
     ~God made it possible for every man to be forgiven by Him (Acts 5:31)

God’s forgiveness is directly linked to His love for us – not what we do for Him.

. . . to be continued next week . . .
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