Thoughtless Forgiveness

“So, as God’s own chosen people, who are holy [set apart, sanctified for His purpose] and well-beloved [by God Himself], put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience [which has the power to endure whatever injustice or unpleasantness comes, with good temper]; bearing graciously with one another, and willingly forgiving each other if one has a cause for complaint against another; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so should you forgive. Beyond all these things put on and wrap yourselves in [unselfish] love, which is the perfect bond of unity [for everything is bound together in agreement when each one seeks the best for others]. Colossians 3:12-14 AMP

I have been trying to count out how many times in scripture we are told to forgive others as God has forgiven us, or to forgive others so God in turn will forgive us. Forgiveness isn’t a recommendation in scripture but a command. We can’t claim to be a Christian and hold unforgiveness in our hearts.

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:3-6

As far as I can tell or have read…Jesus didn’t hold grudges.

Forgiveness is not something God does, it’s who He is. He doesn’t have to think about it, or decide to do it, it’s part of His character. God’s forgiveness is an expression of His lovingkindness. It doesn’t diminish His righteousness or hold back His justice.

Our God is a forgiving God. We are called to be equally forgiving I can already hear the heavy sighs as each of us consider those areas we hold on too. Deep hurts we can’t imagine letting go of areas we feel very entitled to cling too. Even though we know that the only person suffering from our unforgiveness is us. You heard me right, we willingly keep ourselves from receiving God’s forgiveness so that we can continue to hurt ourselves. Sounds silly when we say it like that, but it’s true.

Unforgiveness’ main victim is us. Please know that I am not trying to diminish any hurt that you may have experienced or make light of the pain you feel as a result. It is my deepest desire that you experience a freedom that can only be found through forgiveness. In Isaiah we hear a recounting by God of Israel’s transgressions, and in the midst of God’s expectations, He makes the most marvelous statement, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (bold added)  Isaiah 43:25

Matthew Henry comments on this verse, “as if the great God would teach us that forgiving injuries is the best way to make ourselves easy and to keep ourselves from being wearied with them.” Forgiveness is freedom! It allows us to move forward from our pain toward healing and restoration. Freedom from the bitterness and anguish that can taint every area of our lives.

As we continue to follow Jesus and allow ourselves to be transformed into His likeness by the Holy Spirit, forgiveness becomes part of who we are, not something we do. Yahweh Hesed is the closest name we have to Forgiving God. More specifically Hesed is translated as lovingkindness. Forgiveness, like mercy, compassion, and love, are characteristics of who God is, not what He does. He doesn’t need to think about forgiving, it’s in His nature. The Lord’s forgiveness is an expression of his character, and the more we reflect His character the more our forgiveness will manifest.

For many of us forgiveness is one of those words that can feel like a sucker punch, “how does that person who hurt me so deeply deserve my forgiveness”. I hear you! But let’s acknowledge, at the same time, the truth that none of us deserve forgiveness. None of us can earn forgiveness,  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23.  Your forgiveness is not about the person who hurt you, it’s about reflecting God’s character in a way that allows you to move forward and be more like him.

Unforgiveness stunts our growth, it keeps us from forming healthy relationships, it holds us captive and keeps us from healing and restoration. It doesn’t have this effect on those who hurt us, it affects us. Not only are you keeping yourself from the blessing of God’s forgiveness, but you are also continuing to give control of your life over to those who have harmed you, giving them permission to continue to have power over your emotions, and actions.

Forgiveness is hard. A lifetime of bitterness, regret, and condemnation is harder. Scripture is clear, if we want the very best that God has for us, we have to be ready and willing to give the best to others. When asked what is the greatest commandment Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

We must first love God, to love Him is to know Him. Then we must love others as ourselves. Jesus defined neighbors as everyone else; those we like and those we don’t, those like us and those who are not. We can’t say we love those who we won’t forgive.

Forgiveness needs to become a characteristic of who we are, second nature. We should be inviting God into our everyday lives, to change us to be more like him so that we can let go of our hurts and forgive like He does. God will not tell us to do something we are incapable of doing, but He will ask us to do that which we can only do with Him.

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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Easy and hard, we have it backwards

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend who was facing a dilemma. She knows the right decision to make, she knows the wrong decision to make. She knows the wrong decision is going to cause long term pain and suffering while providing immediate satisfaction. This is not an uncommon conversation, someone comes to you, wanting your support for a decision they know they shouldn’t make, but they give 101 reasons why it will make them happier…in the short term.

What struck me was the comment she made, it’s one we’ve all heard, and I’m sure agreed with, for the most part. She said, “Why is choosing the right path always so hard?” The right decision is always the hard decision, the decision that is going to require sacrifice or cause pain. The wrong decision is the easy decision, the one that brings the most immediate satisfaction.

As I thought about this on my way home after the conversation, I think we have this concept of right being hard and painful and wrong being easy and satisfactory, backwards. We believe that to do right we have to suffer and to do wrong we are indulging our fleshly passions. First when I state right and wrong, I’m talking about sin; specifically, when we are faced with choices to love God first, and then others as ourselves, or the choice to place our fleshly wants and needs above loving God first and others as ourselves. When you think about it, those are the only choices that really matter.

We have a mindset, and we share it with others, that to love God first and others as ourselves (that is a very important statement found in Matthew 22:36-40) means we must suffer, it will be a grueling decision that will cause short term pain and maybe long-term gain. I want you to listen to Jesus own words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus tells us that he is humble, we’ll find rest in him and that his burden is light. The reason that we struggle with the right decision (love God first and then others as ourselves) is that we are constantly battling with the world. We are constantly at war with what our sinful nature wants, not what the Holy Spirit in us wants. The battle is self-inflicted. When we chose God, when we chose love then as long as we stand with those choices and don’t stray from that path the choice to love is easy.

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11

“The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” Proverbs 4:18

“Feet trample it down— the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor.  The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth. Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.” Isaiah 26:6-8

When we follow the path that Jesus has laid out for us; Love God first and others as ourselves, our life, our choices will be dictated by love. The only pain or loss we’ll feel is that of the world, and the more we chose life over death the less we’ll feel that sting.

Doing what is right means we are giving up on the things of this world that lead us to death. Choosing right, then, should be the easy decision. Living for immediate gratification from things of this world that are temporary and will disappear, only leads to wanting more things of this world for immediate gratification from things of this world that are temporary and will fade away. This choice is a vicious cycle of insatiable want that will never end and leads to death. The pain in that cycle is eternal dissatisfaction with who we are, what we have, and how to get more, because it will never be enough.

The simplest way I can state this; love is the easy decision. Loving God first and others as ourselves is the only thing that can satisfy our souls. Truly satisfy, as in we will not want anything else. The hard decision, the one that brings unending pain and suffering is the one that seems to bring immediate satisfaction, but it soon fades and leads to greater and greater need for more to fill the never-ending gaping hole in our lives.

The choice, then, is easy; eternal life by loving God first then others as ourselves. When we are truly satisfied by Christ and that abundant blessing is overflowing from us to others, even when the storms of live are brewing around us, and circumstances are trying to make us forget that we have everything, we can stand firm knowing that the storm will pass, and we will be with Christ victorious. Storms subside, always. Trials cease, always. Christ’s love, forgiveness, peace, patience, kindness, and grace are boundless, unceasing, and eternal.

The hard choice is the one we make that keeps us in bondage to the world of suffering, pain, loss, and confusion, that always leads to death. The easy choice is Christ, that always leads to life.

Pease help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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Even if

We are told to let God fight our battles, but what does that mean exactly? What does it mean for us to be in a place where the God of the universe will stand before, behind, and beside us against our enemies?

Reading through the book of Daniel, I see such a moment. A moment where three men were given a choice, God or the world, and by choosing God, He defended them.

“I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” Daniel 3:15

King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t pick a fight with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Sure he thought he could bully them into submission by holding their lives in the balance, but notice the last line of his statement, “And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” He dared God to intervene, he arrogantly proclaimed that there was not god that was stronger than he. Even after all God had done for him personally, he took his fight to the highest court, God was not going to leave his chosen and faithful believers unaided.

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” He said, “Look! I see four men talking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Daniel 3:24-25

God will not abandon His faithful. That does not mean you have to be perfect, or get all things right, or never make a mistake, it means you must be faithful. You must put God first, when we do that, when we chose Him over whatever else is calling for our attention, God will ALWAYS show up.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:9-10

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down and worship an enormous gold statue that the King had erected for himself. They made the decision to remain faithful to their God and His commands, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:1-6

Even though they were in exile, taken as children and acculturated into Babylonian society, they remembered the teachings of the Lord. They remembered his commands while being basically brainwashed to be Babylonians. Because of their faithfulness, God provided for them in all ways. Elevating them well above those who were native to the culture. They stood apart, stood above, and were favored by the king, until they drew a line in the sand. They would NOT bow down and worship a foreign God.

King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t just threaten the lives of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, which was bad enough, he dared God to defy him. He dared the God to, “just try”, and step in. He challenged the Sovereign God of the Universe to a game of chicken, and lost, miserably.

I love the answer that they provide the King after he lays down the ultimatum, assimilate or die a painful horrible death.

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”” Daniel 3:16-18

WOW! Not only do they respond with, “yes, He is able” but also with “yes, He will”. Their confidence in Gods ability and willingness to save them (either in this life or the next) is absolute and they have no doubt. My favorite words, however, are what come next. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

Even if… Even if we die in this world, we will not worship your Gods. Even if we lose our job, our home, our family, we will not turn aside from the God who sent His son to save us. Even if we become outcasts, lepers, strangers, we will remain faithful to the God of our forefathers, and we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will do battle for us.

Even if. We hear these words from Daniel, Esther, Ruth, Job, Paul, Peter, all the saints and faithful believers throughout history and into today. Those living in countries where owning a Bible is a death warrant, even if it means they die a horrible death, they remain faithful.

Even if, is our response to, But God. We read throughout God’s word how His people faced unsurmountable odds, situations and conditions that pushed them well beyond the limits of natural human endurance, then we read, But God. He defends His faithful, our response is, Even If. Even if we don’t get what we want or thing should happen, even if our lives turn out every different and we are forced to endure the unendurable, even then we will praise you Lord. Even then we will refuse to bow down before any idol, even then we will worship you, and no one else but you.

Even if…

Pease help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries