Letting Go Through Radical Forgiveness

September 28, 2019
In Matthew 18, it was only “natural” for Peter to ask the question: How often should I forgive? Seven times? From our human perspective, forgiving once is remarkable, and forgiving seven times is extraordinary.

We too often keep track of the times when someone offends us, and we bear grudges against those who have offended us when we should overlook the offense and forgive the offender.

We also “rate” sins on a “sliding scale” as though one sin was more heinous than another. But we can’t make such comparisons since all of us have sinned, and we are deficient of God’s righteous standards (Romans 3:23). Rating sin can lead to falsely characterizing others for past criminal behavior, drug use, marital infidelity, divorce, or an abhorrent lifestyle—even when they now live for Christ fully.

In addition, it’s hypocritical to condemn someone for his or her past when we too have “skeletons” in our closet, as Jesus observes in Matthew 7:3-5 (NLT):

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, “Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,” when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

Our “sliding scales” have to be challenged. We cannot impose human standards on godly principles by forgiving certain offenses or forgiving only to a certain level.

The Lord’s response to Peter’s question was immediate: Not just seven times, but seventy times seven! In other words, we must be perfect, even as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48) by forgiving to the extent that He has forgiven us.

Then the Lord Jesus illustrated endless forgiveness with the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.

In this parable, a certain king had a servant who owed him ten thousand talents (about 15 million dollars), yet he forgave the entire debt. But, this same forgiven servant could not find it in his heart to forgive the debt of one hundred pence (about $17.00) that his fellow associate owed him. 1

The Lord used the largest and smallest forms of ancient currency to emphasize how the first servant’s debt was so massive that it could never have been paid—yet it was forgiven. Thus, the unforgiving servant was condemned because he could not find it in his heart to forgive his fellow associate’s minuscule debt. The Lord provided the application in Matthew 18: 32-35 (NLT):

Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

How miniscule are the offenses we commit against each other in comparison to the enormous sin debt that we owe God, Our Lord Jesus Christ was perfect. He never sinned, yet He chose to be fastened to a wooden cross for our eternal benefit.

Moreover, He did not complain about His unjust treatment—being tortured and executed like a common criminal. Instead He willingly bore our sins because only His precious blood could wash them away once and for all (and secure our eternal destiny with Him).

What a wonderful Savior!

Since the Lord forgave us completely, and His Spirit lives within us, we have the means to forgive also. Let us truly practice letting go through Christ-empowered radical forgiveness.

 

Love: Handle With Care

For September 1, 2019
Performing good works is the path to God for many people. For them, consistent charitable giving, or demonstrating selfless acts of hospitality, or showing kindness to a friend or stranger in need or encouraging the downtrodden guarantees one’s eternal bliss in Heaven.

There was an era when being raised in a Christian home, as part of a nuclear family was common practice. Then, it was common to see neighbors assisting parents with providing proper instruction to children using revered Bible teachings, especially those of Jesus Christ—even in public schools—because Christianity held a prominent role in the public discourse.

Timeless principles like don’t steal, murder, covet, commit idolatry, worship crafted images, lie, irreverently use God’s name, or commit adultery, along with honoring one’s parents, remembering to worship and abide by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” were constantly reinforced at home, in church and the community as well, thank God.

As a result, treating others with civility and respect was a common practice for many. As “looking out for #1” seemed to be more the exception than the rule. Altruism was encouraged and reinforced through the promise that if we performed enough good deeds, we would make it to Heaven.

Trying to earn God favor through our good works alone leads to futile exhaustion and ultimate disappointment. Because without Jesus Christ in our hearts; prompting and perfecting our works. Certainly good works matter, but good works without fellowship with God just won’t cut it alone. Because without Christ, our works are motivated by selfishness as we do them not with what’s best for the recipient, but with what’s best for us in mind.

Jesus gives us a new paradigm for good work by emphasizing love as the greatest work in Matthew 22:37-40:

Jesus replied, You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.

The Lord Jesus Christ was the only person who could perform untarnished good works because He alone was without sin. More importantly, He loved us so much that He freely gave Himself as a holy sacrifice. In this way, He canceled our debt of sin so that each of us could inherit His righteousness and thus have unbroken fellowship with God.

Now loving God with our entire being through Christ not only grants us unlimited access to God. It also frees us to express His unselfish love fervently towards others and ourselves as well.

Our Lord’s Return is Imminent

For March 15, 2019
Christians around the world look forward to our Lord Jesus Christ’s imminent return with great anticipation. Jesus’ Disciples asked Him what would be the sign of His coming (Greek: parousia).

Over the past two-thousand years, theologians have offered many complex views concerning His glorious return1. Yet in Matthew 24:30-31 (NIV), our Lord uses very simple language to declare His imminent return will be a glorious, unmistakably noticeable event befitting divine royalty:

Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

I am amazed at how people dismiss the Lord’s return as trivial when the signs of the times (also featured in Matthew 24) are so prevalent and irrefutable:

      • Many deceivers claiming to be the Christ will arise.
      • Ongoing wars and rumors of war (nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom).
      • Constant world-wide famines, pestilence and earthquakes.
      • Heightening levels of hostility and persecution towards Christians and Christianity.
      • Increasing numbers of false prophets deceiving many people.
      • Increasing immorality and decreasing benevolence as the social norm.
      • The Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed around the world.

Christians need not fear the “last days” since a wonderful future awaits uswe shall see the Lord in His full glory! And as 1 John 3:2 states, We shall be like Him and see Him as He is.

Remember at Sinai, when Moses asked God to show himself? God warned him that one brief glimpse of His glory would be too much for any mortal. So instead, God placed Moses in a cleft on the mount, and He passed by, allowing Moses to see His backside only briefly.

As Moses bowed and worshipped the Lord, he caught a glimpse of God’s glory from behind. Yet that split second glimpse illuminated Moses’ face so brightly that he had to veil his face to keep from frightening the Children of Israel assembled at the base of the mount.2.

If a momentary glimpse of God was this illuminating and frightening, imagine how powerful, how glorious and how magnificent a full view of the Jesus Christ, the Son of God “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” will be? Awesome indeed!

Then in an instant, we shall forever know true ecstasy as we share His loving, glorious presence in the company of all of those who have placed their faith God since the beginning of time.

Although many speculate, no one knows the precise day and time of the Lord’s return. Yet as we wait, we can stand firm and let nothing deter us. We can give ourselves fully to the Lord’s work because we know that our labor in the Lord is never in vain, just as 1 Corinthians 15:58 teaches.

The Lord Jesus Christ’s return is imminent. Are you ready?