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Archive for the ‘Forgiveness’ Category

Longing For A Sweet Spirit

I know several brothers in the Lord who have sweet spirits.  They are delightful to be around.  They glow with love for others, are full of joy, and pour blessings onto others.  I want that.

My own temperament is typically laid back, discerning (though I fear sometimes I am just plain critical), and often opinionated especially about theology.  I am not argumentative contrary to what you might read.  I don’t enjoy fighting.  I would rather just talk.  When I feel threatened, my face gets red (cursedness of being a white man).  My boys have watched me debating someone and they always say that I look mad, that my face is red like fire.

I want a sweet spirit.  I’m not sure how to cultivate that.  I have prayed about this before.  I want to be loving and kind.

When I was in full-time pastoral ministry, I was more or less a jerk.  I admit that now.  In those days I thought I was just being “biblical” and standing my ground for the truth.  It was others who rejected God’s truth but not me!  I heard a brother say once that it is better to be righteous than to be right.  I wish I would have lived those words.  I would use the pulpit to beat others up (not by name but by my teaching).  I was right.  Everyone else was wrong.  I was not loving and kind.  I was mean.  No wonder I was “let go” from my position.

Having been out of “ministry” for over 10 years now, I see my errors.  I am not writing this for sympathy or to beat myself up.  I am done doing that.  I am writing to confess before the Lord my desire to be like Him.  Yes at times the Lord can be angry but His anger is not based on sin or pride.  The Lord’s anger is a pure hatred of sin.

This leads me to the gospel.  I look back at my past 20+ years of being a Christian and I see all the sins I have committed, all the times I have failed the Lord.  I see how I failed him while I was serving in full-time pastoral ministry.  Yet I am so grateful that He never gave up on me.  The Lord Jesus could have cast me aside (as I would have long ago) but He has not.  Jesus has been faithful to me.  He has provided for me and for my family.  Most of all, the Lord Jesus has been my Savior through  all this.  The Lord knows how many times I have prayed Psalm 51:1-2 or 1 John 1:9?  The Lord knows how many times I have failed Him yet He has never failed me (2 Timothy 2:13).

The gospel teaches me that yes I am a sinner.  No doubts there (Romans 3:10-18).  Yet in Christ Jesus I am saved and forgiven and declared righteous before a holy God (Romans 3:22-27).  My salvation is not me saving myself from myself but God saving me from Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  The gospel teaches me that my temperament can be transformed but only by the work of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  In my flesh, I cannot please God (Romans 8:8).  No matter how much I try,  I will never be perfect, will never do enough to please God (Isaiah 64:6).  The gospel teaches me that Jesus alone is my salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31) and He alone is my mediator before the Father (Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:25).  I am not lost today only because of the grace of God given freely to me in Christ Jesus my Lord (Romans 6:23).

I am so thankful for these small reminders of the faithfulness of God.  I am far from perfect.  Very, very far!  But I trust in the perfect Savior who can save me perfectly (Philippians 1:6).

Thank you Lord Jesus for Your salvation and Your forgiveness!  Where would I be without You?

And That’s Why I Need Jesus

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
– 1 Timothy 1:15

I find comfort in reading in the Bible that I am a sinner and that Christ came to die for me and my sins (Galatians 1:4).  I know many people read the Bible looking for “keys” to a deeper life, keys to victory, keys to a happier marriage, keys to a stronger prayer life, etc. but I read the Bible looking for my sins.  I want the mirror of God’s law to show me my ugliness and my sins so that I can repent and be refreshed (Acts 3:19-20; 1 John 1:9).  There is something wonderful about seeing God’s holiness in the light of my sins.  There is something beautiful that comes from confessing my sins.

Psalm 32:15-18 reads:

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.

16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.

18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

When the Spirit of God confronts me about my sins, I love it!  I really do!  It shows me His great love for me, that He would not leave me as I am.  Hebrews 12:7-11 reads:

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Notice verse 10.  The Lord disciplines us so that we might share in His holiness.  Amazing!

Tonight I could sit here and write all about my sins.  I don’t need to.  The point is not about me.  The point is about why I need Jesus and you do as well.  If Jesus came to save only the righteous, none of us would be saved (Romans 3:10-18).  I have met people who think they never sin after getting saved but I have found that they were mostly prideful, arrogant, condescending, and full of their own flesh.  They focused so much on themselves “not sinning” that they lost sight of their sins.  I am not advocating living in blatant sin but I am calling us to recognize the truth that Jesus came to save sinners.  Of course there is truth that those whom He saves become saints in Him (1 Corinthians 1:2).  Jesus saves us out of a life of sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  That I know but He is also still saving me out of a life of sin.  Sin is not out of me yet completely nor is it out of you.  Let’s face it, we like sinning.  No, we love sinning.  That is why Jesus had to die for us.  Because we enjoy sin.

And that is why I need Jesus.  I like sinning.  I don’t want to like it.  In fact, I want to hate it.  Yet I find that I enjoy sinning.  I have sinned in many ways.  I have let many people down over the years.  Those who know me best know I am not perfect.  I never confess to be.  Oh there was a time I thought I was all that.  Not anymore.  I see my sins.  I know my sins.  I hate my sins.

It’s funny how people think that we Christians are suppose to be perfect.  I have yet to meet a perfect Christian.  I have met arrogant Christians.  I have met prideful Christians.  I have been those myself.  Yet I have never met a perfect saint.  Every person I have known who truly loved Jesus needed Him.  They knew it.  I knew it.  Jesus knows it.  Even the godliest people I have known, once you get close to them you can just smell the flesh.  They hate it.  I hate it.  Jesus still saves them.

So here I sit writing at nearly 2 AM in the morning.  I can’t sleep.  I am pondering the truth that Jesus loves me and died for my sins.  Yet I still struggle with sin.  I recently had lunch with a godly man and I asked him how about sanctification.  I want to be holy, I told him, but I struggle to be holy.  I see my sins and I see how far I am from being like Jesus.  Yet I still want to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  So how can I be holy?  His reply:  look to Jesus and love Him and obey Him.  He died for you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8).  His love hasn’t changed since the day I first believed the gospel and He saved me.

So tonight I issue this call to all who know me: you know I am a sinner.  You know that I sin.  Yet that is why I need Jesus.  I am not perfect.  I am not a perfect father.  I am not a perfect worker.  I am not a perfect saint.  I am not a perfect “deacon” (as a guy at work calls me).  I am a sinner in need of a Savior.  I thank God for sending such a Savior.  I cannot earn His forgiveness (Titus 3:5).  My salvation is based on the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) and He alone is my salvation and assurance before a holy and just G0d (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  That is me.

When Do We Know They Are Not One of Us?

1 John 2:19 is a cornerstone passage for those who hold to unconditional eternal security and even those who hold to perseverance of the saints.  This verse is said to teach that those who go out from us (from Christians) proves they were never said to begin with.  I differ with this view in that I see 1 John 2:19 in context speaking about false apostles or in this case antichrists who claimed to be apostles like John but their teachings proved they were not apostles.  They went out from among us (apostles) but they were not of us (apostles); for if they had been of us (apostles), they would have continued with us (apostles).  But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us (apostles).

My question here is when do we know they are not one of us from the eternal security view?  At what point can we declare, “Never saved to begin with?”  I have even heard many exponents of eternal security teach that a person might be living in sin and the Lord will either discipline them to bring them back to Christ (Hebrews 12:3-11) or He will even allow them to die before they completely apostatize (1 Corinthians 5:4-5; 11:29-31).  I have heard eternal security teachers teach that a person living in sin can still be saved and so we are not to judge someone harshly.  They point to the examples of David or Samson as proof that a saint can live in gross sin and still be a child of God.

I have often said that eternal security leads to antinomianism.  How can it not?  The idea that we must be holy is not a true teaching among eternal security teachers.  Yes they preach holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16) but they often make statements contrary to holiness teaching such as “we all sin every day” and they view Romans 7 as the highest form of Christian living.  Further, they teach that sin has no effect on the believer so they ignore the Bible’s call to forsake sin (1 John 2:1-2).  They instead teach that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus even though we are warned over and over again not to get a hard heart, not to go back to living in sin, not to forsake Christ.  We are called to perseverance but these teachers teach preservation of the sinner.

This is not a perfection teaching.  I am not advocating that Christians are sinless or that we can obtain sinless perfection though some in the past have advocated such a position.  The Trinitarian hero Athanasius of Alexandria held to perfection.  He taught that saints of God in the Bible had obtained such a state such as Job or Noah.  While I am not advocating that position, I simply point out that Athanasius is viewed as a hero today despite his teaching on perfectionism.  I believe that Christians do sin.  I know.  I sin.  I don’t wake up and seek sinning.  I don’t want to sin.  I don’t try to sin.  But I have sinned.  I am thankful for 1 John 1:9 (which would be pointless if sin has no power over the disciple of Christ).

My point here is not to rail on eternal security.  I know godly people who believe in this doctrine.  I have also known people who used the doctrine for their own flesh.  I have known men who justified pornography by claiming eternal security.  I have known men who committed adultery by claiming eternal security.  I have seen churches ignore church discipline because its possible that the sinning person is truly saved and just needs the Lord’s discipline to come back to faith.  I have seen people “walk the isle” and say “the sinner’s prayer” and be told that they are saved and bound for heaven and are now eternally secure no matter what.  I have heard preachers tell people that they can even become an atheist and God will drag them into heaven kicking and screaming that they don’t want to go.

My point here is to simply ask the probing question, “When is someone deemed never saved to begin with?”  The lines seem blurred.  You could read Revelation 21:7-8 and ask a person who holds to eternal security if these people are not going to heaven and they will likely say, “No they are not.”  “But what about saints who do these things?  Are they still saved or are they never saved to begin with?”  “Well that is tough.  Only God knows a persons heart.  We can’t judge them.  We must leave that to God.”  “So are these people who do the things in Revelation 21:8 saved?”  “No.”  “But you just said that people who do these things might be saved?”  “Well yes we can but we shouldn’t and if we do, it might show that we are not saved to begin with.”  “Can you do these things if you wanted to?” “Yes I could I suppose.”  “Would that make you lost?”  “No because I am eternally secure!”  “Well would that prove you are not saved to begin with?”  “No I am eternally secure!”  “But what about others who do these things, why are they not eternally secure?”  “They possibly are!  God knows!”  “But you said that Revelation 21:8 are lost since they go to hell.”  “Yes they are but Christians can do these things too.”  “Should Christians do them?”  “No” “Why does it matter if they are eternally secure as you claim?”  “Because if a person does them they might not be truly saved.”  “But what about their eternal security? It doesn’t sound very eternal nor secure?”  “Those who are saved will persevere until the end for God keeps them but if they don’t persevere, they were never saved to begin with.” “And if a person does the things in Revelation 21:8 are they proving they are not saved to begin with if they claim to be a disciple?”  “Well only God knows.”

Do you see the circle of eternal security?  It doesn’t produce the assurance of one’s salvation.  I have often argued that if a person is seeking Christ, we have no fear (1 John 4:18).  Jesus said that if we abide in His teachings, we are His disciples (John 8:31-32).  As disciples, we have no fear (Romans 8:38-39).  Those who abide in Christ know that He is their high priest, their salvation, their security (2 Peter 1:10-11).  I fear the Lord because He is holy God (Romans 11:20-22).  I stand in awe of His grace toward me (Romans 6:1-4).  His grace teaches me to hate my sin (Titus 2:11-12).  God’s grace doesn’t give me a license for sinning (Jude 4).

True security is found in persevering in Christ.  True security is not found in teaching people that sin has no power over them.  We must teach the people of God to hate their sins, forsake their sins, confess their sins, and examine themselves (2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).  Holiness is the heart of God (Hebrews 12:14).  We are holy in Christ and being made holy though Christ (Hebrews 10:10, 14).

May the Lord help us all to hate our sins, forsake our sins, kill our sins, and confess our sins.  Our sovereign Father is faithful to help us (1 Corinthians 10:13) and He is faithful to forgive us when we sin (1 John 1:9).  May we run daily to the Lord Jesus and remain faithful to Him always.

The Point of 1 John 1:9

Modern Evangelicalism teaches that God forgives us of all our sins both past, present, and future.  How often have I heard evangelical pastors proclaiming that forgiveness from God means that He forgives us of all our sins both now and forevermore. Yet some of them would be quick to preach holiness, to preach that one must persevere in the faith, and that we must confess our sins.  A few will teach a radical view of eternal security (or “once saved, always saved”) to the point that even confessing of sin is not really necessary.  The rise of the hyper-grace movement over the past twenty years flows from this viewpoint.

My question then is what is the point of 1 John 1:9?  Hyper-grace teachers teach that the point of 1 John 1:9 is for unbelievers. They argue that 1 John 1:9 has nothing to do with New Testament followers of Christ.  The context, however, destroys such a view.  Notice John’s usage of “we” and “our” and “us” in 1 John 1 below:

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The context is clear that John is not jumping from believers to unbelievers in the context.  John is writing to believers.

So let me go back to my point again: what is the point of 1 John 1:9?  If Jesus has secured our salvation and if He has died for all our sins both past, present, and future, what is the point of 1 John 1:9?

Calvinism teaches that Christ died only for the elect.  The elect’s sin were placed on Christ while He was on the cross.  Therefore, the cross secures the forgiveness of the sins of the elect.  Some Calvinists are inconsistent on this point however and teach that a person is lost, dead in their sins, and on their way to hell apart from the grace of God intervening in their lives and drawing them to salvation.  All Calvinists that I know of have a testimony of Christ saving them.  They all acknowledge that at some point in their life, the Lord opened their eyes to His grace and He caused them to be born again unto faith.

More consistent Calvinists teach that all the elect are born justified before God.  Some teach eternal justification where God looks through time and He has chosen His elect and because of His sovereignty, He knows the elect even in eternity past and thus all the elect were seen as forgiven in the mind of God through Christ Jesus.  Either way, in Calvinism, the elect have their sins forgiven in Christ and thus all their sins were in Christ when He shed His blood and thus they are justified forevermore because of the work of Christ.  Calvinists then can teach that all their sins are forgiven in Christ.

The problem then becomes the issue of holiness or even 1 John 1:9.  What is the point of 1 John 1:9 if in fact Christ has shed His blood for the elect’s sin already?  Some Calvinists simply teach that holiness is like prayer or evangelism: we simply do it because God has commanded us to do so and as His elect, we will obey Him completely.  Others teach that holiness is necessary and part of the perseverance of the saints.  Thus holiness and 1 John 1:9 are practices of perseverance.

From a biblical viewpoint, 1 John 1:9 is clear that we must confess our sins to be forgiven of them.  This plays into the very words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 6:12.  We confess our sins to be forgiven.  This would imply that the provision for our forgiveness is set: the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  However, we must confess our sins before God through the Lord Jesus to be forgiven.  This is the clear understanding of 1 John 1:9.  Even Calvinists acknowledge this in part.  Even John MacArthur in the MacArthur Study Bible (NASB) says that confession of sin is part of being a true Christian.  The mindset of the Christian is that we are sinners in need of a Savior because of our sins.

What then happens if 1 John 1:9 is not obeyed?  MacArthur would likely say that such a person would demonstrate they were never saved to begin with (1 John 2:19).  Others would say that nothing happens since Christ paid for our sins already on the cross.  However one looks at this, if you hold that Christ died for all our sins both past, present, and future then you would have to water down the clear meaning of 1 John 1:9.  In reality, if the Calvinist understanding of definite atonement is to be assumed, 1 John 1:9 does little to nothing for the elect.

In Arminianism, we hold that Christ died for the sins of the world (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2).  Forgiveness is based on faith in the Lord Jesus and His saving work (Romans 10:9-10).  The blood of Jesus even bought the forgiveness of false teachers though they did not trust in Him alone to secure their forgiveness (2 Peter 2:1).  Forgiveness of our sins must be through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 13:38-39).  Our forgiveness comes through Christ alone (Romans 3:22-25).  When Peter preached in Acts 2 the first gospel sermon, he didn’t preach “eternal justification” nor did he preach that their sins were already forgiven by simply trusting that Jesus had paid the price but he called them to repentance (Acts 2:38).  The message of the gospel is Jesus-focused, Jesus-filled, Jesus-centered and Jesus alone saves by His grace.  However, we must call people to repent and forsake their sins and place their saving faith in the Lord Jesus alone to save them.  The work of salvation: conviction, regeneration, being born again, etc. are the work of the Holy Spirit as He works to glorify the risen Savior (John 16:8-11).

When it comes to 1 John 1:9 in Arminianism, the Christian must obey.  The Christian must confess their sins when the Spirit of God convicts them and they must repent (2 Corinthians 7:10).  God’s kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  1 John 1:9 is what happens after we have had our sins washed away with Christ (Romans 6:1-4).  When a person repents, their past and present sins are forgiven but their future sins remain in the future.  Their future sins must be repented of just as their past sins were (1 John 2:1).  The disciple of Jesus is thus forgiven of their sins (Ephesians 1:7) as we walk in the light of Christ and His saving work (1 John 1:7).  We must repent lest we fall into sin and perish (James 1:12-15; 5:19-20; 2 Peter 2:20-22; 3:17).

in Revelation 2, Jesus saw the sins of the people in Ephesus (Revelation 2:5).  Jesus Himself called them to repentance as He did others in Revelation 2-3.  How could the Lord Jesus do this if He didn’t see their sins or if their future sins were already forgiven?  Why didn’t Jesus just tell them they were covered by His righteousness and they were forever forgiven?  Yet Jesus called them to repent.  In fact, He promised them things for their overcoming (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26-28).

1 John 1:9 is a wonderful gift from God.  What a delight to confess my sins to the Lord.  King David cried the blessings of being forgiven (Psalm 32:1-2) that comes through confession of our sins (Psalm 32:5).  The godly realize this (Psalm 32:6).  We who know the grace of God in truth (Titus 2:12), know that God is willing to forgive sinners who come before Him confessing their sins.  I rejoice when I confess my sins knowing that God has forgiven me through the work of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the One who has secured my salvation and I trust in Him to pray for me before the Father (Hebrews 7:25).

The Chief of Sinners

I listen to a sports podcast in which they end it with their dopes of the week.  I always want to say, “I am the biggest dope that I know.”  I know some will not share my views here and will respond that we should only see ourselves in a positive light in view of the cross and what Christ has done in saving us.  I understand where they are coming from.  They want me to make only “positive confessions” about myself.

Yet I do see myself as the biggest dope.  It had nothing to do with comparing myself to you.  It has to do with me comparing myself to Jesus Christ.  The Bible is clear that Jesus was (and remains forevermore) absolutely perfect.  Jesus never sinned.  Jesus never erred in His judgments.  Jesus never committed adultery in His heart. Jesus never struggled with pride.  Jesus was tempted in all points as we are but He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).  Jesus was perfect in word, thought, and deed always and He never failed to obey the Father perfectly from beginning to end.  Jesus said in John 6:38 that He came to do the will of the Father and not His own will.  This is why the Lord Jesus was given the name that is above every name, for His perfect obedience to the Father (Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 5:8-9).

Not so with me.  I have erred in my judgments.  I have committed adultery in my heart.  I have lied.  I have been greedy.  I have been full of pride.  I have wasted my time.  I have not always obeyed the Father nor can I say that I always do God’s will.  Jesus said in John 8:29 that He always does that which pleases the Father.  That is not me.  I am not even close.

So I am the biggest dope I know.  Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:15 that Jesus came into the world to save sinners and he was chief (NKJV).  That is me.  I feel that way.  Not because I am comparing myself to you but because I compare myself to Jesus.  He is perfect.  I am not.

This makes the doctrine of salvation so precious to me.  Who am I that Jesus would die for me?  Who am I that He should love me?  Why does He tolerate me so?  If it were up to me, I would cast me away but He doesn’t.  He keeps convicting me and calling me walk after Him (John 16:8).  I don’t deserve this life (John 10:10) but His grace and mercy blow me away.

I know I am the chief of sinners.  I know I am the biggest dope there is.   This is not false humility here.  I see myself in light of the cross.  I know my wicked heart.  That makes the work of Jesus so precious to me.  That He took my sins (2 Corinthians 5:21).  That He prays for me before the Father (Hebrews 7:25).  That this salvation is not based on me but upon Him (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  That He came to take away my sins (Galatians 1:4).  That He is my salvation completely (1 Corinthians 1:30) so that I cannot boast (1 Corinthians 1:31).

Oh what grace Jesus has shown this sinner!  Oh what goodness Jesus has given unto me!  How can I not praise Him?  How can I not rejoice in the saving work of the Lord Jesus?  Oh how great is His love (1 John 3:1-3) and how great is His grace (1 Corinthians 15:10)!

Jesus came to save sinners and I am the dopiest of them all.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/15/2014 at 4:59 PM

His Resurrection Guarantees Our Justification

Romans 4:25 reads,

“Who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Jesus gave His life for our sins.  He died a cruel, unjust death at the hands of sinners.  Yet Jesus did this for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6).  His blood was shed so that we could have peace with God (Ephesians 2:14).  His blood was shed to wash away our sins (Ephesians 1:7).  He committed no sin yet He bore our sins (1 Peter 2:22-24).  2 Corinthians 5:18-21 reads,

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

He died to take away our sins (John 1:29) and in Him alone do we find forgiveness of our sins (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 9:22, 27-28; 10:10, 14; 1 John 2:2).

Yet the resurrection is key to this forgiveness.  Without a resurrection, there is no forgiveness.  This is the point of Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 15:16-19:

16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But since Christ has been raised from the dead (Matthew 28:6; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:6-7; John 20:1-10; 21:24-29), we have the blessing of knowing that our sins are truly forgiven.  This is not merely God ignoring our sins or simply by-passing His just law to forgive us just by the waving of His hands but this is true forgiveness.  Jesus took my place on the cross.  It was my sins that He bore.  He died in my place and He stood condemned  for me.  

And how do I know this?  Because of Romans 4:25!  Jesus was raised for my justification before a holy God.  My only hope for salvation, my only assurance of my forgiveness before a holy God is the blood of Christ that He shed on the cross.  The Father raised Christ from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:4; 8:11) and showed that the Father had accepted the sacrifice of the Son.  Jesus was crucified for my sins and He was raised for my justification.  Now I have peace with God because of Christ Jesus and because of Christ alone (Romans 5:1).

What a glorious truth is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus!

Prayer and Forgiveness

Mark 11:25-26 reads in the NKJV:

25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

There is much to be said about these two verses.  Many Greek texts do not contain verse 26 but I prefer, like the NASB does, to still place them in the text and not like the ESV or the NIV does and make them appear at the bottom of the page.  These verses work together to show us the power of forgiveness both from God and toward others.  When God forgives us, He expects us to forgive others as He forgave us.  We see this for example in Matthew 18:21-35 where Peter asks Jesus how often he should forgive his brother who sins against him.  Peter actually went beyond what the Rabbis had taught (they said four times was enough) but Jesus showed Peter that forgiveness must be given no matter what.  Notice that Jesus doesn’t even say that the brother who sinned against Peter had to repent.  He simply told Peter to forgive.  While we cannot make another person repent, we can forgive and Jesus shows Peter this truth with His parable beginning in verse 23.  Notice in verse 35 that God demands complete forgiveness of others without reservation.  If we fail to forgive then according to verse 35, we will be cut off.

I use to listen to a cheap grace preacher who had a call-in show on the radio.  The guy despised the words of Jesus in the Gospels about forgiveness.  He believed in forgiveness of our sins but this radio preacher denied that we had to forgive others.  If so, he reasoned, then we would be teaching works-salvation since this would mean that God asks us to do something to secure salvation.  The problem with this man’s view was that he, as always, never saw sanctification as part of the work of salvation.  I agree that we cannot earn God’s forgiveness.  Jesus alone is the only one who can forgive us of our sins and He alone died for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6).  I agree with Ephesians 2:8-9, that salvation is the free gift of God given through faith and not by works.  Yet I also believe that when God saves a sinner from sin, He delivers that sinner from sin.  We must not separate salvation away from sanctification.  The Spirit of God regenerates a sinner (Titus 3:5-7) and then He proceeds to help the sinner overcome sin (Galatians 5:16-17).  The Holy Spirit leads us to be more like Jesus and less like the old man (Ephesians 4:30).  Part of that work is forgiving others (Ephesians 4:31-32).  You can rest assured that where there is no desire for true forgiveness of others, there is no true salvation.  The redeemed person of 2 Corinthians 5:17 is a new creation (Ephesians 4:17-24) and forgiveness flows from our broken heart through the gospel (Colossians 3:12-17).

Here in our text, Jesus makes forgiveness of sins and prayer linked together.  True praying brings us into the presence of God.  Our prayers, unlike the Pharisees in Matthew 6:5, are focused only on God and not others.  As we focus on God, He shows us our sinfulness simply because of His holiness.  We think we are pure but when we encounter the purity of God, we realize that we are so tainted by sin.  That is why I love 1 John 1:9.  I don’t use 1 John 1:9 as a crutch to stand upon before God but I do realize that I am a man saved by His grace and He is in the process of making me holy.  I am holy in Christ but I am being made holy (Hebrews 10:14 NKJV).  The Spirit of God shows me my sins and He shows me where I need His grace to help me overcome my sins (John 16:8-11).  As He does this, I realize, at times, that I need to forgive others just as He forgave me.

John Wesley said that “the love of God is the measure for Christian perfection.”  The love of God must flow out of us toward others.  We must forgive our enemies and those who wrong us (Matthew 6:12).  In light of the gospel, I am able to forgive others.  Apart from the gospel, I hate others just as the world hates others.  The forgiveness of my sins through Christ allows me to forgive others.  It is not always easy but through the cross, I can forgive others.

The great Bible commentator Thomas Coke wrote about Matthew 6:14-15 (which is parallel to Mark 11:25-26):

From what our Lord here says, we are not to imagine that the forgiving of injuries will entitle us to pardon: it only places us in a condition to receive it through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ. However, all negative declarations being in their own nature absolute, he who does not forgive never shall be forgiven, as it is in the 15th verse. Behold then the necessity of forgiving all kinds of injuries established by the Lord Jesus Christ himself! in opposition to the foolish opinions of the men of this world, who, associating the idea of cowardice with the greatest and most generous act of the human mind, the forgiveness of injuries, have laboured to render it shameful and vile, to the utter disgrace of human reason and common sense. It is a strong remark of Archbishop Wake, upon that petition of the Lord’s prayer whereof these verses are explicatory, that “if we do not forgive as we hope to be forgiven, we imprecate the wrath of God upon our own heads, when we use the Lord’s prayer, and do in reality pray after this desperate manner: ‘Thou, O God, hast commanded me to forgive my brother his trespasses; thou hast declared that unless I do so, thou wilt not forgive me my sins. Well, let what will come, I am resolved to stand to the hazard of it. I will not forgive, nor be reconciled to my brother: do then with me as thou shalt see fit.'” Can the man of unforgiving temper see his sin and his danger in a stronger point of view?

For the Christian, in light of the cross and all that God has forgiven me of, I must forgive others.  The cross teaches me the great depth of my sins and also the great forgiveness of my God.  In light of that truth, I can and I must forgive those who wrong me.

In prayer, the Lord often reveals those areas where we have stored up bitterness toward others.  Bitterness is a snare.  Bitterness leads to the poison of unforgiveness, despair, and depression.  It has been said that the jails of America could be cleaned up tomorrow if bitter people would simply learn to forgive.  Unforgiveness leads to wrath.  Unforgiveness leads to anxiety.  Unforgiveness puts up a block not only between our human relationships but with God as well (1 Peter 3:7).

The gospel sets the sinner free.  And it is the gospel that empowers me to forgive others (1 Peter 3:8-12).  Philip Yancey wrote, “When we forgive others, we set a prisoner free and we discover that the prisoner we set free was ourselves.”  We have heard it said, “I will forgive but I will not forget.”  This is not true forgiveness.  Does God forgive us that way?  Isaiah 38:17 says that God casts all our sins behind His back.  He forgives and forgets (Micah 7:19; cf. Psalm 103:11-12)!  Further, He calls us to forgive others the same way that He forgave us (Colossians 3:13).

Following the Civil War, Confederate General Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal artillery fire. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said, “Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it.” It is better to forgive the injustices of the past than to allow them to remain, let bitterness take root and poison the rest of our life.

God can forgive us and He does forgive us if we repent.  He expects nothing but the same from us toward others.  Our hope is that as we look to the cross of Christ and His great sacrifice for our sins, we can forgive others by His grace.  This is the only way to true forgiveness of others.  Forgiveness cuts down the trees of bitterness that only spread their poison.  May we forgive others as God in Christ forgave us.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/17/2013 at 10:59 AM

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