Forgiveness Is Personal With Eternal Consequences!

For May 22, 2022
In Matthew 18, Jesus Christ offers a timeless lesson on forgiveness that features a somber warning to those who will not forgive others. His parable’s central message is that God forgives us—through faith in Christ—and He expects us to forgive others likewise.

A comparison and contrast between the Forgiving King and the Unforgiving Servant reveal some startling implications.

The man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart. Matthew 18:28-35 (NLT)

One initial impression notes that the servant imprisoned his fellow servant to recover the money by doing whatever was necessary to collect any outstanding debt. However, as we study the passage, it becomes clear that the Lord is teaching a profound lesson on forgiveness: We should have compassion on others, even as He has shown pity towards us!

We tend to keep track when we are offended and we bear grudges when we should overlook the offense and forgive the offender. We also construct a “sin sliding scale” by comparing sins as if one is more heinous than the other. Such comparisons are futile since all of us have sinned and are equal debtors in the sight of God. (Romans 3:23)

The parable begins with the Forgiving King reckoning a servant who owed ten thousand talents. The talent was the largest measurement for precious and non-precious metals for the Jews. Its weight ranged anywhere from 90 to 120 pounds, (or what a “normal man” could carry), and it represented the wages a common person earned over a “lifetime.” The value of a talent was worth somewhere between $1,000.00 and $1,500.00 in today’s US dollars. Multiply this by ten thousand, and we have a debt ranging between $10 and $15 million to illustrate our sin debt and how much the Lord forgives us.

In this parable, God is the Forgiving King who loves and forgives us in ways that are far beyond our comprehension. We take for granted the enormity of our sin debt, which has been canceled through the redemptive work of Christ. He exercised special, individualized care to blot out our sin debt and restore our lost fellowship as our great High Priest, as Hebrews 9:11-12 (NLT) tells us,

So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.

 Immediately after the Unforgiving Servant left the king, he met another servant who owed him 100 denarii. The denarius was the most basic unit of Roman coinage and equaled a normal day’s wage of approximately sixteen or seventeen cents in today’s US money.1 When multiplied by one hundred, we have a minuscule debt totaling no more than about seventeen dollars.

Compared to the massive debt forgiven, this minuscule debt could have been easily forgiven—and forgotten. But instead, the Unforgiving Servant explodes in anger and assaults his fellow servant by grabbing him by the throat, violently choking him, and yelling: “Pay me what you owe me!” (Matthew 18:28)

The unfortunate fellow servant acknowledges his debt, and he begs for mercy: “Have patience with me and I will repay you!” Although both servants made similar requests for mercy, there were two vastly different outcomes.

As equals, we should forgive and forget offenses because God forgave and forgot ours at Calvary. The Lord commands us to express His kindness toward others, especially those who need our forgiveness. Although sometimes forgiveness is difficult for us, Jesus warns it is required to secure God’s forgiveness. Thus, He requires us to extend forgiveness equally—to those who ask for forgiveness—and to those who do not ask for forgiveness in all other areas of our daily, human interaction.

Matthew 18:15-17 outlines a three-step process that can guide us towards radical forgiveness for church settings that can be modified for everyday use,

      1. Contact the offended person(s) for reconciliation.
      2. Use a mediator or mediators to help clarify the issue(s) to everyone’s understanding.
      3. Utilize appropriate church leadership (i.e., pastors, deacons, elders, etc.), who are led by the Spirit to resolve the matter through the Word of God and prayer.

The Unforgiving Servant suffered the consequences of his actions as the Forgiving King imposed severe punishment. The Bible rightly teaches, “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31 NLT)

Performing the ministry of reconciliation is part of a lifelong process of spiritual wholeness and harmony. Won’t you show God’s love towards others today through your forgiveness, to the degree and magnitude He’s forgiven us? Our world needs it today—as do we.

What a Wonderful Savior!

On Finishing Well

For May 1, 2022
At this point in our human history, with world events such as wars and rumors of wars, hatred, immorality, pestilence, famine, etc., we are close to living out Revelation 20:7-8 (NKJV),

Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth.

Thus, it behooves us to finish well, since our Lord’s return is imminent,

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Romans 13:11-14 (NKJV)

We can finish well by furthering the Kingdom of God; living out the principles of Psalm 1:1-4 (NIV),

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

Jesus tells about the importance of resisting the Enemy and finishing well in the last days,

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:10-14 (NIV)

None of us will ever achieve spiritual and moral perfection in this life, since we are yet subject to sin’s influence. Nevertheless, we have the wonderful example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who pledges His support and Spirit-power to enable us to live for Him consistently and serve Him faithfully.

The Lord is all-sufficient in supplying our temporal and spiritual needs beyond our comprehension. He protects, provides, and guides us with such precision when we need Him. Each day, we can experience His divine promises given in the following passages,

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” Lamentations 3:21-24 (NLT)

Also,

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 2 Corinthians 1:20 (NKJV)

The Lord continues to “show Himself strong” for us (2 Chronicles 16:9), especially during times of perplexity, uncertainty, and peril; even when we deserve God’s wrath and condemnation because “all have sinned.” (Romans 3:23) None of our good works should engender our boasting, since they are merely what He expects of us,

When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’ Luke 17:7-10 (NLT).

We can never be “good enough” to earn His consideration. Yet He loves and cares for us deeply.

Thus, we should press on toward the heavenly prize He has in store for all those who love His appearing (Philippians 3:14, 2 Timothy 4:8). There is an old hymn that expresses our charge to live valiantly and victoriously for Christ—especially in these last days,

Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus1
George Duffield, Jr.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross; lift high his royal banner, it must not suffer loss: From vict’ry unto vict’ry, his army he shall lead, till ev’ry foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the trumpet call obey; forth to the mighty conflict, in this his glorious day: Ye that are men now serve him against unnumbered foes; let courage rise with danger, and strength to strength oppose.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, stand in his strength alone; the arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own: Put on the gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer; where duty calls or danger, be never wanting there.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the strife will not be long; this day the noise of battle, the next, the victor’s song: To him that overcometh a crown of life shall be; he with the King of glory shall reign eternally.

Our self-centered plans need to yield to Christ-centered, God-honoring, and Bible-based ones. We do not know what the future holds for us, but we know who holds the future in His caring hands. He is always with us, watching over us—even when we’re not aware of His presence and providence.

Ultimately, life will never be a “bed of roses,” but through faith in Christ, it can be exceptionally blessed, nonetheless. And although our “outer house” continues to decay, the “inner person” is being renewed daily (2 Corinthians 4:16). And for this, we can be thankful. Won’t you give your heart to the Lord today and finish strong for Him?

What a Wonderful Savior!

Don’t Play With Fire!

For April 24, 2022
Have you noticed the news reports lately? There have been stunning and unfathomable reports of inordinate levels of insanity recently, in the form of crime and random shootings. I cannot recall another period in our nation’s recent history where there was such a proliferation of crime and random violence as such a common occurrence.

What seems particularly deranged about this behavior is how the individuals committing the heinous acts feel emboldened or even entitled to settle trivial disputes by ending the life of another human being—as if they themselves were God, who is the only one who gives  life and is the only one with the power to take life.

What ever happened to our expressing human decency? What ever happened to people communicating like civil adults? What ever happened to people engaging in rational and reasonable compromise to settle disputes? What ever happened to our showing emotional maturity by agreeing to disagree without resorting to violence?

More and more misguided individuals are playing with fire, since all of us will have to give an account for the deeds we do in this life, whether they are good or bad,

For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Matthew 16:27 (NKJV)

On the day of reckoning, one cannot use ignorance as an excuse or as a successful defense,

If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds? Proverbs 24:12 (NKJV)

The ‘playing God’ lunacy is not a recent phenomenon. From the time of Cain, who killed his brother Abel over a religious dispute (Genesis 4:8), we have been discovering new ways to settle our disputes… with violence.

To those deluded individuals who feel they are righteous in their actions, Jesus makes the following observation,

A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. Matthew 7:17-20 (NLT)

Jesus also draws a distinction between His good work and the Enemy’s destructive work,

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10 (NKJV)

Steal? Kill? Destroy? Sound familiar? It appears that these folks are agents of Satan as they wantonly and maliciously steal, kill, and destroy for their own nefarious purposes.

However one day—very soon—they will join their Leader and face a final retribution,

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:10-15 (NKJV)

Over six-thousand years of human history, God’s Word has been found to be  true and reliable, and its warnings are to be heeded.

Thus, I would never play with fire by assuming to be Creator and Sustainer of all that is living, and fall into the hands of an angry God in the process. There is but one God who has given us one Lord and Savior who is Jesus Christ. One day, He will be the Righteous Judge and dispense His eternal justice,

For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Romans 14:7-12 (NKJV)

Further,

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11 (NKJV)

People will be burned—forever—playing with fire. We must acknowledge God as the only giver of life, and accept His means to abundant, eternal life through Jesus Christ. Only through our faith in Him can we find true fulfillment and happiness; in this life and the next. Won’t you surrender your life to the Lord Jesus Christ today and find true and lasting peace?

What a Wonderful Savior!

But Jesus Rose From The Dead!

For April 17, 2022
It was the first day of the week, and like any other Sunday morning, just before dawn, in Jerusalem, it was peaceful and quiet. Those who were not sleeping, or just rising, were preparing for a normal day.

There were Roman soldiers guarding a brand new tomb that was sealed with a Roman seal. Tampering with the seal meant death at the hands of trained, war-hardened, fighting men. The tomb was sealed, and the soldiers were prepared to defend it with their lives. Yet, their morning was interrupted by the voices of women who were coming to the tomb to embalm their Savior and Lord.

Then it happened (my emphasis),

Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. Matthew 28:1-8 (NIV)

Unbelievers have futilely tried to dispute the resurrection speculating that the Disciples stole Jesus’ body, or the women went to the wrong tomb, or people hallucinated, or our Christ somehow escaped the tomb. Yet no one has yet to refute or discredit the New Testament account of the resurrection as one author attests,

The empty tomb is that silent testimony to the resurrection of Christ, which has never been refuted. The Romans and Jews could not produce Christ’s body or explain where it went, but nonetheless, they refused to believe. Not because of the insufficiency of evidence but in spite of its sufficiency do men still reject the resurrection.1

In addition, two-thousand years later, and we still cannot refute the testimonies of those who like you and me, have met Him, trusted Him, and accepted Him personally into our hearts and lives; we who have also experienced the Spirit-changed, God-transformed life He freely gives to all who would come to Him by faith.

As Jesus says in John 20:29 (NKJV), “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Amen!

Jesus died; He was buried, and He rose from the dead, just as He predicted. No other person in human history ever successfully predicted his death, and promised to rise from the dead, as our Lord did.

The Old Testament predicted the resurrection:

For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.    Psalm 16:10 (NLT)

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. Isaiah 53:10 (NIV)

His resurrection is the hallmark of the New Testament Church and is the core of our Gospel message,

Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Romans 5:25 (NKJV)

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures… And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 17-19 (NKJV)

Because Jesus Christ is risen:

    • He proved He is Lord, Savior, Redeemer and God.
    • We know that there is life beyond the grave, and that God is The God of the living.
    • He is the only Mediator between us and God.
    • We have victory over sin, death and the Enemy (Satan) because of His victory.
    • Our eternal fellowship with God is assured, as His Spirit keeps us until He returns for us.

Jesus  Christ is alive and well. He lives in Heaven where He is seated at the right hand of God. But He also lives as He occupies the hearts and lives of those of us who love Him even today, as this song reminds us,

He Lives2
Alfred H. Ackley

I serve a risen Savior; He’s in the world today; I know that He is living, whatever men may say; I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, And just the time I need Him He’s always near.

In all the world around me I see His loving care; And though my heart grows weary I never will despair; I know that He is leading, thro’ all the stormy blast; The day of His appearing will come at last.

Rejoice, rejoice O Christian, lift up your voice and sing; Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the king! The hope of all who seek Him, the help of all who find, None other is so loving, so good and kind.

Chorus:
He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

Christ the Lord is risen today…Yes! He is risen indeed! Won’t you trust in Him and receive the new, abundant life He promises?

What a wonderful Savior!

But Jesus Had To Die!

For April 15, 2022
It was early Friday morning, and Jesus had not yet slept. Thursday evening, He celebrated the Passover Seder with His Disciples and spoke of His death and glorious return. During the meal, He instituted what would become a commemorative Lord’s Supper, which symbolizes His death and suffering for all humans everywhere.

While praying in the Garden of Gethsemane with His beloved Disciples, Judas would lead a band of corrupt religious zealots to capture the Lord—for thirty pieces of silver. Those zealots would later that evening condemn the Lord to death because He affirmed His deity as the Only Begotten Son of God.

They hastened Him before Pontius Pilate, who sent Him to Herod Antipas, who returned Him to Pilate again to be condemned to death; but not before the blood-thirsty Roman soldiers mercilessly beat Him.

Then, shortly after sunrise, the Roman soldiers made Simon the Cyrenian carry Jesus’ heavy wooden cross to the place of execution, Golgotha (or Calvary); also referred to as the Place of the Skull, because our Lord was too exhausted from the beating He sustained and the loss of blood. There, they crucified Him between two thieves.

Although He was a sinless, guiltless, innocent victim of egregious injustice, our Lord had to die as this familiar hymn attests,

The Old Rugged Cross1
George Bennard

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,  The emblem of suff’ring and shame; And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best For a world of lost sinners was slain.

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, Has a wondrous attraction for me; For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above To bear it to dark Calvary.

In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, A wondrous beauty I see; For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died To pardon and sanctify me.

To that old rugged cross I will ever be true, its shame and reproach gladly bear; then he’ll call me some day to my home far away, where his glory forever I’ll share.

Refrain
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.

Ezekiel 18:4 tells us that everyone who sins will die, and Romans 6:23 affirms that the wages of sin is death. To remedy sin’s curse, God sanctioned blood sacrifices to atone for human sin in Leviticus 17:11. In other words, sin requires death as its penalty, but blood atones for sin.

As the Son of Man, Jesus accurately predicted His vicarious death and suffering when He said:

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.   John 3:14-18 (NIV)

John the Baptist rightly proclaimed: “Behold the Lamb of God!” when he introduced Jesus to others in John 1:35. For He who knew no sin became sin for us as, so that we may become the righteousness of God through His vicarious death, as 2 Corinthians 5:21 teaches.

Jesus loved us with such a great love that He willingly paid the price for our past, present, and future sins with His precious blood at Calvary. In other words, someone had to shed blood and die to pay for our sins, and Jesus alone chose to pay this enormous price for us—we could never pay ourselves.

Jesus Christ could have escaped death on the cross, but He sought to fulfill God’s will instead of His own, as Isaiah 53:5-6 (NKJV) tells us,

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Beaten all night, spat upon, degraded, insulted, ridiculed, and insulted, our Lord chose to be hung on a wooden cross. He had the power—and every right—to command legions of angels to destroy us. But He did not. Lovingly, He gave His life for our sins, and became our Perfect Intercessor as this song tells us,

Love Lifted Me2
James Rowe and Howard Smith

I was sinking deep in sin, Far from the peaceful shore, Very deeply stained within, Sinking to rise no more; But the Master of the sea Heard my despairing cry, From the waters lifted me, Now safe am I.

All my heart to Him I give, Ever to Him I’ll cling, In His blessed presence live, Ever His praises sing. Love so mighty and so true Merits my soul’s best songs; Faithful, loving service, too, To Him belongs.

Souls in danger, look above, Jesus completely saves; He will lift you by His love Out of the angry waves. He’s the Master of the sea, Billows His will obey; He your Savior wants to be, Be saved today.

Refrain
Love lifted me! Love lifted me! When nothing else could help, Love lifted me. Love lifted me! Love lifted me! When nothing else could help, Love lifted me.

Yes! Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ chose to be the innocent victim so that we could experience eternal love, joy, peace and fellowship with God that continues through this life into the next. Jesus had to die for us so that we can have the gift of eternal life through Him. Won’t you consider receiving His wonderful, sacrificial gift to pay for your sins?

What a wonderful Savior!

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