We are impressed with powerful things – a great earth mover, 400 horsepower under the hood, a football team’s front four, military might, and so on. Our 4 year old grandson loves to pretend he is one of the current superhero characters. We certainly believe that our God is all powerful. He can do anything He chooses, any time He chooses. But He always has a habit of turning our concepts of reality up side down. We think in terms of force and might. God doesn’t. The greatest power of God is displayed in His love, and in forgiveness, His care for all people. He has shown it to us by the bloody body of His Son hanging on a cross. Self giving love and forgiveness have the power to change hearts, heal long festering wounds, and mend relationships. People need to see that kind of power displayed in the Church. Love and forgiveness can change us and those around us for all eternity. No earthly power can do that.
Probably the hardest instruction Jesus ever gave His followers was to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you”.(Luke 6:27) Paul repeats this same instruction in writing to the Roman church “never pay back evil for evil to anyone…never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath God, for it is written ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’…do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”(12:17-21) Forgiving someone who has hurt us is so hard. It strikes us as unfair. We hurt and they get off easy. But the issue before God is not so much what the other person did. He will deal with that in His own way. The issue is what unforgiveness, anger, and bitterness does in our own hearts. It festers and puts a block between ourselves and our Lord. To forgive someone who has hurt us doesn’t say that what they did was right. It simply gives up the power to judge, and puts it in God’s hands. Even without the other person asking our forgiveness we refuse to let anything take root in our hearts that separates us from our Lord. Hard, yes, but the right thing to do, and the way to our own peace with God.
Forgiveness is a powerful and necessary characteristic for life. In our fallen state we all have our share of self-centeredness, and ignorance of others needs and feelings. This causes us to hurt and be hurt. It causes us to offend both God and others. The power to forgive and be forgiven was gained for us at the cross. It is vital that we depend upon daily. We have no life with God apart from the forgiveness granted us through Christ. We have no relationship with others unless we are willing to forgive, and to ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness has been given to us at the greatest possible cost. Let’s be willing to use it in all of our relationships.
Getting older we tend to forget things and have trouble quickly recalling words or names. Our God, of course, has an infinite mind that forgets nothing. He knows all of our actions from first to last, the good and the bad. Yet, scripture assures us that “when we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.(I John 1:9) In His divine grace Isaiah tell us that “you have put all my sins behind your back.”(Isaiah 38:17) Think of the magnitude of what our gracious Lord is doing.”Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”(Isaiah 1:18) In our time of confession in our Sunday worship I am allowed to say, by Christ’s command, “I declare unto you the entire forgiveness of all your sins.” The magnitude of that statement is beyond measure. By the blood shed on Calvary our sins, all of them, are cleansed and we are allowed to stand before our Holy God having the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. No, God doesn’t forget, but He forgives – and that is supremely more valuable.
Life is difficult. That’s not great revelation. There are a lot of things we enjoy among family, friends, and various activities, but we all face trials in this broken world. When sin entered the world it touched every aspect of life. Sin is a nasty word and perhaps seems to general. What is it? God had a plan, a purpose, a good direction for the world and the people He created, but we had other ideas. We thought we could do better on our own. So we rebelled from God. We broke the good relationship we had with Him. Rebellion from God’s good will entered and infected all parts of life. But something else was there, a depth of love that we have never been fully able to comprehend. God’s love for all people. In that love God refused to let sin be the final word, the end of the story. He dealt with sin in the atoning sacrificial blood of His only Son, Jesus. Some might say that all this is ancient history, so what. But it really is as current as our life today. God’s love in Jesus Christ is the declaration that this sin, this trial, this disaster is not the final word. There is more. There is life, good life, now , in our future, and eternally in turning again to our Lord. Our Lord always has the final word, and it is good.
Forgiveness is a powerful and necessary characteristic for life. In our fallen state we all have our share of self-centeredness, and ignorance of others needs and feelings. This causes us to hurt and be hurt. It causes us to offend both God and others. The power to forgive and be forgiven was gained for us at the cross. It is vital that we depend upon daily. We have no life with God apart from the forgiveness granted us through Christ. We have no relationship with others unless we are willing to forgive, and to ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness has been given to us at the greatest possible cost. Let’s be willing to use it wherever it is needed in all of our relationships.
There was a good comment in a monthly newsletter I received from our local Rescue Mission. The director wrote “You may move 10,000 steps away from God, but if you turn around He is only one step behind.” This is something of a paraphrase of St. John’s words, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.(I J1:9) This is no license to live in any way we please and then expect God to forgive and accept us. But it is the assurance that no sin is unforgivable, and if we honestly repent (turn around) He does cleanse and renew our lives. The Rescue Mission has proven this many times over, but it is a truth we each depend upon for the daily renewal of our lives.
An often used statement in the U.S. says, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance”. It comes by Thomas Jefferson in 1817. It is certainly applied to the safety of our nation, and the liberties established in our constitution. However, I also think it applies to the church as well. I’m not speaking here of guarding our religious liberty, which is important, but rather our liberty in our Lord. Jesus said, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”.(John 8:32) He was speaking of the power of sin to bind us, making us slaves to sin. True freedom from the bondage of sin is found in the atonement of Jesus Christ. Yet sin has a way of creeping back in through the pressures of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Vigilance through staying in God’s Word and fleeing again to the cross for cleansing is the way we maintain our liberty with our Lord.
Trash pick up is once a week in our neighborhood, and recycling pick up every other week. It is always good to get that stuff out of the house. Like a lot of other things in our days, there is a parable in it for life. Trash is collected weekly, and hauled to the dump. Each week in worship we kneel before God’s Altar in our time of confession, and dump the trash of our lives at the foot of the cross. If weekly confession is not the tradition in your church, it happens every time you bow in repentance, asking God for forgiveness. John assures us that “if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.(I John 1:9)The junk of life is removed and your house cleansed. Recycling? – God is in the business of recycling lives. He loves each one of us with an everlasting love, and is not willing to throw away anything that can be useful to reflect His glory. He is, even now, remaking us to share in His gracious and glorious life. Think about it the next time you cart that load out to the curb.
It is not unusual for our local paper to report various tragic events in the area, a fire, a death by a drunk driver, a shooting, and so on. However, we have also read of court trials where a close relative of a dead victim has forgiven the one who caused the death. In one case the headline read, “Court stunned by…” We naturally feel that the relative of one who was senselessly killed has a right to feel angry and bitter, but, at least in these instances, the person was able to rise above that bitterness. Jesus, in horrible pain and bleeding from scourge wounds, looked down upon the still remorseless ones that put Him there and said, “Father, forgive them.” Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we don’t hurt. It doesn’t mean that what the other did was right. But it does mean that we are willing to put all in God’s hands, and allow no bitterness in our heart to separate us from Him. It is not easy, but it is our decision to forgive as we have been forgiven.