Monday, August 20, 2012

How to Freely Forgive

"...Freely you have received, Freely give" -Matthew 10:8

Many times, as Christians, we are hurt by associates, people in churches, or sometimes loved ones who we feel should have been more loving or less spiteful to us. Lack of forgiveness is very present among Christians because hurt hurts no matter how holy you are! It's never easy to let go of pain, especially when that pain is still hurting you. However, in life I've learned an easy step by step home remedy that serves as an instant cure to the pain of un-forgiveness and I would love to share it with you:

Think about every wrong thing you've ever done. Consider the sins you have committed, your inadequacies and the many times you have fallen short of the glory of God. The bible says even our righteous acts are seen as filthy rags to God. That's understandable because, if we're honest with ourselves we'd admit, there our times when even our good deeds are tainted with bits of ulterior motives, unwillingness or false humility.

Jesus did not die because he was killed by the religious people who didn't believe He was the Messiah. He died because you killed Him! Those religious men did not have the power or the authority to beat, abuse, spit on, degrade and kill the King of kings. Jesus said it perfectly when He said "No one takes my life, I lay my life down". The fact is, the King of kings laid His life down because of your inability to be righteous!

Factually speaking, there were things that your unrighteousness made you entitled to. Sickness is a punishment of your unrighteousness. Poverty is a punishment of your sins. Lack of peace and all these negative things is what you deserved as a person who constantly fails and falls short of perfection. 

When God saw that you were failing Him and (being the just God that He is) knew that you deserved pain, lack of peace and death as your punishment, His heart could not allow for that to be your portion. The bible says that in sending Jesus to the earth, He was PEIRCED for the transgressions that were YOURS, He was CRUSHED for YOUR INIQUITIES; the punishment that brought YOU peace was upon HIM (meaning He took the punishment you deserved), and by His wounds you are healed.

When, I really became honest with myself and thought about how much of a failure I was... always making mistakes and never able to be perfect in pleasing God, even though I genuinely tried... and then when I learned the true extent to which God doesn't care how imperfect I am because the price for my unrighteousness was taken care of by Him, I couldn't understand why He thought I deserved that type of treatment. Nevertheless, I was grateful for His love because I knew had it not been for his undeserved mercifulness and unconditional faithfulness to me, I would have been dead and in an eternal punishment of torment a long time ago.

When you really understand that all that you have in life is undeserved; when you really come to learn that had it not been for the grace of God (which you and I don't even deserve to be entitled to) you would not even be alive, you would realize that your imperfect brothers and sisters are equally entitled to that unconditional love. Technically, none of us deserve it. You might not have committed the same wrong that person who hurt you committed, but in the eyes of God all sin is equally unrighteous. There is not one person who is more or less deserving of forgiveness because ALL OFFENSES ARE OFFENSIVE!

I've reached the point where (sometimes) when people hurt me, I see the glory of God in it. I examine a person's mistakes and it takes me back to the fact that if I forgive that person, I am giving them forgiveness they do NOT deserve. That mere thought reminds me that without Jesus, I am nothing but an imperfect, undeserving sinner on my way to punishment and death. I see myself in other people's short-comings and am reminded of the scripture verse quoted above: Freely I have received so freely I can give. Out of the abundance of forgiveness I've received from God I can freely give forgiveness to others. You will know when you are truly conscious of how much God's love for you is unconditional when you are able to freely give forgiveness to others the way He freely gave it to you so you can live and have the right to live happily.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

All Things Work Together for Good

One of my favorite promises in the bible is Romans 8:28 where Paul says to the Romans:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.
This is a line that is quoted in churches all the time, but I always think it's important to look at memory scriptures, like this one, in context with the chapter it is found in to find out its intended meaning. So let's do that with this verse.

In Romans 8, Paul is talking to the Romans about being led by the Spirit and not walking after the flesh. He is not talking to a group of people who he is trying to convince to stop walking after the flesh. He is talking to a group who already walk in the Spirit. We know this because of verses like verse 9 where he says to the people, "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit". Or because of verses like verse 23 where he says to the people, "we... also have the first fruits of the Spirit".  In this chapter, Paul constantly is referring to the Romans as people who already have the Spirit of God. If you read the entire chapter (up until Romans 8:28, our reference text) you will see that even when Paul is talking about people who walk after the flesh, he refers to them in the third person; inferring that those types of people were not numbered among those he was speaking to.

Paul even goes on to say in verse 26-27

26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now [God] who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because [the Spirit] makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Here, Paul is talking about the Holy Spirit's ability to pray the perfect will of God for the lives of those who walk in the Spirit (when they pray in the Spirit/speak in tongues). 

So it is clear that Paul is exclusively talking to a group of people who have received and ALSO are led by the Spirit of God.
Then AFTER Paul points out the Holy Spirit's ability to pray the perfect will of God for our lives, He THEN says our reference text; verse 28:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.
We can conclude in this context, (and through reading the whole chapter,) that Paul is referring to those who are led by the Holy Spirit as the ones who "love God and who are called according to His purpose".

Paul is trying to inform the Romans that because they seek after and have the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit will always lead them to the right places at the right time, put the right people in their life, take the wrong people out, open the right doors, close the wrong ones etc. Since the Holy Spirit's role is to be our advisor and advocate to be led by the Holy Spirit means you are operating in the perfect will of God. So even when seemingly bad things are happening, a person led by the Holy Spirit can rest assured that even that bad thing will work together with God's plan for their good.

Paul wraps up this concept so perfectly by letting the people know that no matter what bad is going on around them, because they are in the will of God (by having the Holy Spirit) all things will work together in their favor. In verses 31-39 he says this:
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? ... 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? ... 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? 37 ... we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
These are the promises to those who love God and are called according to His purpose, to those who are no longer walking in the flesh, but are led by the infinite wisdom of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will always lead you to where you need to be. So remember, seek first the kingdom of God (which is described in the bible as righteousness and peace of the Holy Spirit) and all your needs will be added to you! All things work together for your good when you are led by this Spirit.