Forgiveness Not Feelings

 

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“For we are God’s masterpiece.” Eph. 2:10

Mike was 56 and had been a Christian for most of his life. Now in mid-life he had settled into a mediocre form of faith in Christ. His examples growing up were two parents displaying opposite ends of the faith spectrum. His father was stoic and bound by rules he thought Christians should follow. His mother was frantic, fearing they would all end up in hell because they were not perfect. Mike carried a little of both views into his adult life.  

Mike began to wonder if he would “make it” to heaven because of his sins of infidelity which brought about a divorce after 25 years. He was walking in doubt, secretly hoping he would be allowed into heaven but rather doubting it. Mike did not understand his total forgiveness and his right standing in Christ.

Eph 2:8-10  God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.

Mike’s eternal standing is secure and his life on earth can be filled with that assurance, rather than the forboding of imaginary unforgiveness. This unforgiveness is a lie from the enemy of our souls. He wants Mike and any other Christian in doubt, to give up the promises of God and live in doubt—hopeless and ineffectual. If Mike had turned to his Bible for answers, he would have reminded himself of Christ’s continual interceding for all believers at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Romans 8:34).

1 Thess 5:9-11  For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

2 Thess 1:11-12  So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Phil 2:12-13  …Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and power to do what pleases him.

1 Thess 1:3  As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Tim 1:9  For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.

For various reasons, we take on the responsibility of saving ourselves, wrenching that responsibility from Jesus. Promise after promise fills the pages of our Bible, reminding us that Jesus’ death on the cross brought ultimate forgiveness to all who call upon His name. But because of satan’s lies and our misplaced “feelings”, we fall into disbelief and discouragement, rejecting the love and forgiveness of Christ.

Rom 8:29-30  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the first-born among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

Titus 3:4-8  But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone.

Two men served in Viet Nam. During combat, one was wounded. His buddy carried him through the jungle for two days. The wounded man begged his friend to leave him so he could make it. He refused and they finally found base camp.

Years later, the one who was carried heard that his friend had a terminal disease and was bedridden. Since he was no longer married, he sold all his possessions and moved to live with his dying friend. He nursed him for over a year until the disease claimed his life When asked why he did this, he replied, “He saved my life. There is nothing I would not have done for him to show my gratitude.”

Jesus gave his life to rescue us for all eternity. Are we grateful?

Rom 15:13  I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

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God’s Will

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What Is His Will?                                    
Most of us, either openly or secretly, struggle with finding God’s will for our lives. Sometimes, based partly on the influence of our more emotional brothers and sisters in Christ, we long for, no, expect an audible voice answering our plea. But what if we already know His will? What if He has clearly revealed His will for our lives?
First, let’s strip away theological meanderings, traditional liturgy, and false expectations. Let’s prepare the soil of our hearts and minds for a new crop; plow up the crusty surface of misunderstandings and misconceptions to reveal the pliable and rich soil of our hearts…ready to receive His direction — to know His will. Lo and behold, bits and pieces of this deep mystery (or so we think of it) rise from His written word, the book of absolute truth— there all the time!

  •     Romans 12:2  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Sounds so simple and yet, as we all know, so very challenging; “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world.” Lord I want to give up, walk away from, the world and all its trappings but…it is so difficult. It is right there all the time, waiting to pounce on me and drag me back into the mess of wanting to be liked and wanting stuff.

After I spend time reading the Bible and praying I feel spiritually strong, able to repel my own selfish desires and the Devil’s attacks. Then a friend calls with an invitation to coffee. I accept and as I arrive at our favorite coffee place, I see him standing by a shiny new car, my favorite model. “What do you think?” he says, grinning widely.

What do I think? I think I want your car— should have your car! Envy leaps upon me and holds on tightly. My mind is racing, and not toward the Lord. How can I buy one? Desire has not only planted seeds but they are the quick-growing variety and have sprung up to full size. My pulse quickens, I begin sweating, I’m ignoring my friend. And now, worse yet, I dislike my friend for having this beautiful car. Oh, what a fool I am— “copying the behavior and customs of the world.”

If following God’s will depended on me the result would always be like the one above. Thankfully, the second part of that sentence in Romans 12:2 says, “But let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Heaving a great sigh of relief, we can see it is Him who transforms our thought patterns, revealing His perfect will for our lives.

  •     1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 

  •     Ephesians 5:15-17  Be very careful then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

    I find encouragement and excitement in knowing that not only has God revealed His will to us, but has given us His Holy Spirit to come alongside and comfort. We are truly prepared to walk this walk and know His will for our lives. And we can also pray for each other to see His will for our lives, according to the following verse:
    
    Ephesians 1:15-17  For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

How Do I Know I’m Saved

 

Perhaps you have already trusted Jesus Christ as your own Savior, yet . . . you’re not sure if what you did took hold in your life. God loves you and wants you to fully experience the peace and life that only He can give, including knowing without a doubt that you belong to Him. So, let’s start from the very beginning and review the steps you took when you turned your life over to God.

Being at peace with God is not automatic because human beings by nature are separated from God. The Bible says, “everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence” (Romans 3:23). Romans 6:23 adds: “sin pays its wage — death; but God’s free gift is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.” Humanity has tried to bridge this separation in many ways — through good deeds or religious acts, for example — but none of these things are enough to close the gap between God and humans.

God’s love is the only way to bridge the gap of separation between God and humanity. When Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave, He paid the penalty for our sins. In the Bible, Jesus Christ says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). It also says, “God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

If we have surrendered our lives to Jesus Christ and accepted His death on the cross as payment for our personal sins, we now belong to Him. The Bible says this about those who received Jesus and believed in Him: “He gave them the right to become God’s children” (John 1:12).

Sinning doesn’t mean we lose our relationship wit God. If it did, then every little slip-up would put us in jeopardy and Christ’s death, which covers all our sins, would be useless. Nor does waking up one morning “not feeling saved” mean that we’re in spiritual danger. While feelings are a part of life, they are not an indicator of truth. Compare our relationship with God to a marriage. Any married couple will have to admit that sometimes they just don’t feel in love. Their feelings, however, don’t mean that they are no longer married.

Again, good deeds and religious acts don’t give you salvation. However, wanting to serve God and to change your actions are indicators that you belong to Him (see Galatians 5:22-24). The Bible strongly states that true believers have a clear desire to live in a way that honors the Lord: “If, then, we say that we have fellowship with Him, yet at the same time live in the darkness, we are lying both in our words and in our actions” (1 John 1:6). Jesus Christ gives us this promise, “ I give them eternal life, and they shall never die. No one can snatch them away from me” (John 10:28). If you know in your heart that you have committed your life to Christ but you doubt your salvation, look to God’s Word for assurance:

God accepts everyone who calls on His name (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13).

God will never push us away (John 6:37).

God’s love endures forever (Psalm 136).

We cannot be separated from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39).

© Starting Point Study Bible

The Power of Forgiveness

“If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” 1 Jn 1:9

Not so long ago I watched a video entitled, The Power of Forgiveness; a video every Christian should see. In my life as a follower of Jesus Christ, I have learned one powerful principle that never changes: Unless we personalize the problem, violation, or catastrophe we cannot begin to understand how those involved may feel. That message comes through with life-altering results in this video.

The man who compiled the video is 50-years-old, a Christian, and a teacher of Biblical forgiveness. One day, his life was shattered by a young criminal who decided to creep into his Mother’s home on New Year’s Eve. The lights were out so he thought the occupants were probably at a party. He broke a window, entered and let in a friend. During their pillaging, the lights suddenly came on and a woman in her seventies (the mother of the man who made the video) confronted these youths.

What were they to do? Someone had seen them. Using the crowbar that he smashed a window with, one of the young men began beating her on the head until she was bludgeoned to death. Later, on New Year’s Day, Dr. Everett J. Worthington, the Executive Director of the Templeton Foundation’s Campaign for Forgiveness Research said, “I had spent most of the day with my brother and sister, going over what had happened to our mother, never once considering forgiveness. As a matter of fact, in the room where we sat was a baseball bat and I said, ‘If I could get to him, I would use this bat to bludgeon him to death.’ Where was my forgiveness?”

Another case in the video was that of two young men who grew up together and were in their twenties. At a party one night, fighting broke out and a friend of these two was attacked and had a severe head wound. Wanting vengeance, one of the men began brutally attacking every male at the party. He was strong and violent, pummeling all the men he could. Finally they headed to the E.R. for stitches but he wanted more vengeance. His best friend said it was not a good idea and he was not willing to return. So the violent young man returned to inflict more damage and the other went home (they lived together) and to bed.

As he lay sleeping, five men from the party, wanting to get revenge, slipped into the house and stabbed him to death, thinking he had been involved since they knew where they lived. The police were called and he was taken to the local E.R., hoping to resuscitate him. They rushed his bloody body into the E.R. And a team of doctors and nurses attempted to bring him back. After being declared dead, one of the nurses got his wallet to see his identity. It was her son! Her first thought was, what was my son’s wallet doing in this person’s pocket? And then she looked at his face for the first time: it was her son. She is a Christian and it was her turn to learn about God’s forgiveness.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis said, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.” We all have something to forgive in our lives.

From the video: Forgiveness has its origin in God, who is just and merciful. As humans, however, we struggle with being just, forgiving, and merciful. Our natural impulse is to seek revenge and to make things fair. Forgiveness goes against what we would do, left to ourselves.

Forgiveness is not about ignoring, excusing, or forgetting a wrong that has happened. It involves a decision to extend mercy or cancel a debt. Luke 23:32-34. Luke 23:39-43.

“We want to see justice!,” Dr. Worthington said. “We have a strong desire to punish wrongdoing even at the expense of mercy. Forgiveness never entered my mind. Truly, with Jesus Christ as our Lord, there is no situation that we cannot forgive.”

The nurse whose dead son she cradled in her bloody arms said, “When we become Christians, we leave forgiveness, anger and hatred right at the foot of the Cross. The Lord reminded me that ALL my sins are forgiven so I have no right not to forgive.”

Forgiving is a choice. Just as Jesus chose to forgive those who beat and crucified him, we must obey God and forgive others. Forgiveness is a gift we choose to unwrap daily and use to heal our hearts and minds. Forgiveness breaks the cycle of hatred, anger, rage and bitterness. If we do not forgive, we are not free to move forward.

Matthew 6:14-15  “For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Only God can heal us unconditionally. He wants us to live in wholeness and healing instead of hatred. God can put love in our hearts.

“One of the hardest  things to do is forgive ourselves for our sins,” says Dr. Worthington. “How can I have the abundant life? What about my sins? God’s love is available but sometimes we won’t allow Him to forgive us or show us love. God has taken away all our sins. The blood of Jesus cleanses all of us and we must forgive ourselves. God gives us mercy as we forgive. Who am I to refuse to forgive myself or someone else when Christ has forgiven me?”

Eph. 4:32   ”Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Col. 3:12-13  “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

Matt. 5:7  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

Lord God, help all of us see how dependent we are on Your forgiveness, which is freely given and never merited by anything that we could ever do. When we are hurt and mistreated, teach us to forgive the offenders, as you do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

*This is a revised version of a study written in May 2011.

God…The Great Dispenser of Stuff?

“You, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth” Psalm 97

Lawrence beamed at the capacity audience in San Francisco; the sixth stop of his Worldwide Evangelical Movement tour. “God is sitting on his throne, waiting for you to give him a hint. That’s right, God is leaning forward, anxious to hear your requests so he can give you what you desire in the deepest place in your heart. He made you to abide with him some day and until that day, he wants to make you happy and satisfied.

“Have you been passed over for that promotion? God knows and wants to release the blessings of that new job to you. Can’t find that special person to complete you? God is aware of that missing piece in your puzzle of life as well. What about the home you keep driving by, wishing it was yours? Yes, my friends, God is fully aware of your needs and he wants to fulfill them, make you happy and give you the greatest, most fulfilling experience that life has to offer.

“I know some of you are thinking something like, ‘How can I ever afford that home I truly want? I need a better job and less debt.’ Friends, God is the God of satisfaction and delight. He made you and knows how to make you satisfied and content on this earth as you prepare for eternal life with him.

Lawrence became silent, walking back and forth on the platform, scanning the audience as he moved. And then, “What is the key to unlocking God’s blessings, you ask? Sacrifice. Yes, it is sacrifice. Think of how he showed his love for us. Sacrifice! He sacrificed his own Son so we could have this wonderful life. And now he expects us to learn that same sacrifice. God GAVE so we could live and now it is our turn. We must sacrificially GIVE to release those blessings from heaven.”

By now Lawrence was commanding the audience with his fine-tuned and powerful voice, it was as though he hypnotized them…”Give, give give. Sacrificially give. Give when you don’t think you can. God is waiting. Release those blessings from the throne of God.” They were on their feet as the army of ushers passed buckets across the rows of excited, believing people.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Do you have, perhaps secretly, desires that God will bring to pass to make your life better? Desires of more money, better job, better marriage, better body, bigger house? If you do, admit it to God. As the famous southern pastor, J. Vernon Mcgee once said, “You might as well tell Him because He knows anyway.”

God does understand our secret desires of wealth, health, homes, trips, etc. But what he wants for us is far better. Does anyone really believe that God sent his only Son, Jesus, to live and die for us so that we could have more money, bigger homes, better cars, and more fun? Jesus did give sacrificially, didn’t he? His sacrifice was given freely so you and I could experience redemption and forgiveness of sins. Surely we can see clearly that Christ did not experience such an excruciating torture and death so we could accumulate more stuff on earth.

Psalm 97:1-5 “The Lord rules! Let the earth rejoice! Let all the islands celebrate! Clouds and thick darkness surround God. His throne is built on righteousness and justice. Fire proceeds before him, burning up his enemies on every side. His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees it and trembles! The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of the whole world!”

Our lives are actually spiritual. As such our warfare is taking place in the spiritual realms, every day…every hour. God’s great sacrifice has made it possible for us to walk in the spirit, guided by the Holy Spirit. As we gear up each day with the Armor of God, we engage in the battle with God as our guide. Do you see material things as important in this daily battle for souls and lives?

Ephesians 6:10-13 “In conclusion be strong—not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless resource. Put on God’s complete armor so that you can successfully resist all the devil’s methods of attack. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground.”

Men and women who claim to speak for God but seek to gratify their flesh are, in truth, serving the enemy of our soul and feeding their own flesh. The Bible tells us to die to the flesh:

Romans 8:12-16 “So then, my brothers, you can see that we have no particular reason to feel grateful to our sensual nature, or to live life on the level of the instincts. Indeed that way of living leads to certain spiritual death. But if on the other hand you cut the nerve of your instinctive actions by obeying the Spirit, you are on the way to real living.

All who follow the leading of God’s Spirit are God’s own sons. Nor are you meant to relapse into the old slavish attitude of fear—you have been adopted into the very family circle of God and you can say with a full heart, “Father, my Father”. The Spirit himself endorses our inward conviction that we really are the children of God. Think what that means. If we are his children we share his treasures, and all that Christ claims as his will belong to all of us as well! Yes, if we share in his suffering we shall certainly share in his glory.”

A man left his house early one morning to attend a Bible study. It was then he saw an obstacle! A flat tire. Not low but dead flat. He had no time to change a tire. He pondered his situation and felt God nudge him to have faith that He would take care of the tire. So, he prayed and believed that God would do the impossible.

He drove three miles to a gas station, filled the tire with air and drove to the study. The tire never leaked or deflated again. Life is spiritual!

I Bring Good News

David Wilkerson
tscnyc.org
July 20, 2016

“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). As Scripture testifies, our lives here on earth are like grass (see Psalm 102:11). One day we’re here, growing and thriving, and the next day we’re fading away with the season. We’re like the vapor of breath we see on a frosty day: here one moment and gone the next. And I’m convinced that just one moment into eternity, we’ll realize how unimportant and fleeting our present fears and trials have been. We’ll also see just how present the Lord has been with us the whole time, watching over us with His saving and keeping power.

I bring you good news—glorious news—that will help combat all the bad news you’ve been hearing. I believe this news will keep your heart and spirit peaceful, even joyful, through all that’s coming upon the earth. Here is that good news:

If you have repented of any and all sins and you are trusting Jesus—believing in His cleansing blood, submitting daily to His lordship—you’re going to stand before His throne without fault or fear. In fact, you’re going to be acknowledged before everyone present—every human, every angel, every demon in hell—as the precious Bride of Christ.

You will not have to face even a single sin against you, nor be exposed for any failure, but you will be able to stand without blemish.

Not a single sin of yours will be mentioned. Instead, only your good works—including your faith in Jesus Christ—will be expressed to the multitudes gathered.