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  O How He Loves You

Forgiveness - Part 1

    In the town of Brookings, Oregon there lived a tall thin baker named Jonathan, a righteous man, with a long thin chin and a long thin nose.  Jonathan was so upright that he seemed to spray righteousness from his thin lips over everyone who came near him; so the people of Brookings preferred to stay away from him.

    Jonathan's wife, Barbara, was short and round, her arms were round, her bosom was round, her rump was round.  Barbara did not keep people at bay with righteousness; her soft roundness seemed to invite them instead to come close to her in order to share the warm cheer of her open heart.

    Barbara respected her righteous husband, and loved him too, as much as he allowed her; but her heart ached for something more from him than his worthy righteousness.

    And there, in the bed of her need, lay the seed of sadness.

    One morning, having worked since dawn to knead his dough for the ovens, Jonathan came home and found a stranger in his bedroom lying on Barbara's round bosom.

    Barbara's adultery soon became the talk of the tavern and the scandal of the Brookings congregation.  Everyone assumed that Jonathan would cast Barbara out of his house, so righteous was he.  But he surprised everyone by keeping Barbara as his wife, saying he forgave her as the Good Book said he should.

    In his heart of hearts, however, Jonathan could not forgive Barbara for bringing shame to his name.  Whenever he thought about her, his feelings toward her were angry and hard; he despised her as if she were a common whore.  When it came right down to it, he hated her for betraying him after he had been so good and so faithful a husband to her.

    He only pretended to forgive Barbara, so that he could punish her with his righteous mercy.   But Jonathan's fakery did not sit well in heaven.

    So each time Jonathan would feel his secret hate toward Barbara, an angel came to him and dropped a small pebble, hardly the size of a shirt button, into Jonathan's heart.  Each time a pebble dropped, Jonathan would feel a stab of pain like the pain he felt the moment he came on Barbara feeding her hungry heart with the desire for the stranger's softness.

    Thus he hated her the more; his hate brought him pain, and the pain made him hate more.

    The pebbles multiplied.  And Jonathan's heart grew very heavy with the weight of them, so heavy that the top half of his body bent forward so far that he had to strain his neck upward in order to see straight ahead.  Weary with hurt, Jonathan began to wish he were dead.

    The angel who dropped the pebbles into his heart came to Jonathan one night and told him how he could be healed of his hurt.

    There was one remedy, he said, only one, for the hurt of a wounded heart.  Jonathan would need the miracle of the magic eyes.  He would need eyes that could look back to the beginning of his hurt and see his Barbara, not as a wife who betrayed him, but as a weak woman who needed him.  Only a new way of looking at things through the magic eyes could heal the hurt flowing from the wounds of yesterday.

    Jonathan protested.  Nothing can change the past he said.  Barbara is guilty, a fact that not even an angel can change.

    Yes, poor hurting man, you are right, the angel said.  You cannot change the past, you can only heal the hurt that comes to you from the past.  And you can heal it only with the vision of the magic eyes.

    And how can I get your magic eyes help pouted Jonathan?

    Only ask, desiring as you ask, and they will be given you.  And each time you see Barbara through your new eyes, one pebble will be lifted from your aching heart

    Jonathan could not ask at once, for he had grown to love his hatred.  But the pain of his heart finally drove him to want and to ask for the magic eyes that the angel had promised.  So he asked.  And the angel gave.

    Soon Barbara began to change in front of Jonathan's eyes, wonderfully and mysteriously.  He began to see her as a needy woman who loved him instead of a wicked woman who betrayed him.

    The angel kept his promise; he lifted the pebbles from Jonathan's heart, one by one, though it took a long time to take them all away.  Jonathan gradually felt his heart grow lighter; he began to walk straight again, and somehow his nose and his chin seemed less thin and sharp than before.   He invited Barbara to come into his heart again, and she came, and together they began again a journey into their second season of humble joy.

Forgiveness - Part 2

    God's Forgiveness - What's Required?

    The Bible gives us the costly requirement for God's forgiveness:  "Without the shedding of Blood, there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22).  In the Old Testament, the continual sacrifices of unblemished lambs were required to satisfy God's wrath and judgment.  However, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on a Roman cross and became the ultimate, once-and-for-all sacrifice for our sins.  Jesus purchased God's forgiveness on our behalf when he became the Lamb of God and died on the cross for you and me.

    "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18).  "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace" (Ephesians 1:7).

    God's Forgiveness - He Paid the Price Himself

    God hates sin, but He loves the sinner.  The price for God's forgiveness is high, but He paid the price Himself.  By Christ's loving act of grace, believers are eternally freed from the penalty and guilt of sin.  Once we're covered by the Blood of Christ, God doesn't keep a record of our sins.  Our forgiveness is total and complete.

    "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, who sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord doesn't count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit" (Psalm 32:1-2).

    "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more" (Isaiah 43:25).

    "It is possible for the Lord to look at us without seeing our sins because when he forgave us, he removed our sins as far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12).

    God's Forgiveness - Once and for All!  A BELIEVER receives God's forgiveness when he repents of sin and places his faith in Jesus Christ for salvation--ALL of his sins are forgiven FOREVER.  That includes PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE, Big or Small.  Jesus died to pay the penalty for all of our sins, and once they are forgiven, they are all forgiven (Colossians 1:14; Acts 10:43).  However, when we stumble, we are called to confess our sins - "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).  Yes, Christians do sin (1 John 1:8) - but the Christian life is not to be identified by a life of sin.  Believers are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).  We have the Holy Spirit in us producing good fruit (Galatians 5:22-23).  A Christian life should be a changed life.  A person who claims to be a believer yet continually lives a life that says otherwise should question the genuineness of his faith.  Christians are forgiven no matter how many times they sin, but at the same time, Christians should live a progressively more holy life as they grow closer to Christ.

    Christians continue to sin after they are saved - we will not be free from sin until we die or Jesus comes back.  However, becoming a Christian results in a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17).  A person will go from producing the acts of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) to producing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  This change does not happen instantly, but it does happen over time.  Paul tells us, "And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Forgiveness - Part 3

    Is forgiveness of sins free?

    Forgiveness of sins is absolutely free to all people.  Isaiah 55:7 says, "Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.  Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon."  The Bible says repeatedly that salvation and the forgiveness of our sins is a gift that has been given to us from God.

    In Ephesians 2:8-9 the Bible says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast."  There is no effort that man can make to earn forgiveness and no amount of money that he can pay for it either.  It is a gift given freely by God.

    Acts 8:20 demonstrates the conflict we have, "Peter answered:  'May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!'"  Man struggles to accept that the gift of forgiveness is truly free.  In this world, our concept has become "we give to receive" or "you only get what you pay for."

    Romans 4:4 says, "Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation."  When we come to recognize that we have sinned, we also realize that a penalty has to be paid for that sin.  Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."  All we really have to do is admit that we have sinned and then claim our free gift.

    If God's forgiveness is free - well, somebody has got to pay!  Romans 3:22-24 says, "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

    Hebrews 9:27-28 reiterates this statement:  "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."

    What is so special about man that God would send Jesus from his place of royalty in beautiful and wondrous heaven down to earth to become a lowly man and suffer persecution, pain, shame, and death as a criminal to pay the price of forgiveness for man's sin?  We find the answer to that question in John 3:16, "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."

Forgiveness - Part 4

    Learning to Forgive - Forgiveness is Not Inherent

    Learning to forgive implies that forgiveness is a learned process, not an automatic response.  Our sinful nature (our flesh) has a high resistance to laying offenses aside.  It prefers to take on an offense and use the energy that the offense brings with it, in every negative way.  Every part of our un-renewed mind, our carnal mind, has a preference to take on an offense and a propensity to hold grudges, and seek its own sense of justice.  Within the carnal mind, retaliation is most often not an option, but rather it's a driving force, it has to get even! Our flesh, unrenewed, unbridled, lacking illumination and understanding, prefers to be judge, jury, and executioner of the offender even when that offender is our own self.

    Learning to forgive - Christ Based

    Learning to forgive can only be fully achieved after we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, otherwise we are simply acting according to our flesh.  While we can learn to "forgive and forget" on a carnal level, as a good deed, but true forgiveness comes from the Spirit of Christ within us.  Until our mind is renewed, until we are enlightened by His Holy Spirit, there remains a resistance, an enmity between us and God that will govern our every decision (Romans 12:2, Titus 3:3-5).

    Learning to Forgive - Recognizing the "Old Man" Within

    Learning to forgive begins with understanding what God says about forgiveness in the Bible.  Part of our learning process includes becoming aware that our flesh is truly hostile to God, that it must be brought under authority, and re-trained.  Our "old man" must be put off and a "new man" must be put on (Ephesians 4:22, 24; Colossians 3:10-25).   According to Scripture, we are the ones who must put off the old and learn of God and choose His ways.  Thankfully we are not left alone to make decisions on our own because God, our Father, has sent His Spirit to help us.  The Spirit dwells within us and teaches us (John 14:26).  God has also given us His infallible Word, the Bible to teach us how to forgive.

    Learning to Forgive - A Personal Story

    There was a time in my life when I was extremely angry with my father.  He had, in my opinion, done something that was beyond forgiveness.  I knew what the Bible said.  I had been taught all the reasons why we should forgive, but the reality was that I simply did not believe that forgiveness was all-encompassing.  My anger and judgment were truly taking life from me.  One day I said to the Lord, "I don't believe You forgave him.  I don't believe You can love him either.  He has stepped over the line!  If You love him and forgive him, show me and I will consider forgiving him too."  My thoughts immediately were focused on an unshelled pecan.  I could almost feel the hardness of the shell, but I knew that inside of that shell the fruit was soft, pliable, and delicious.  As I continued to consider the unshelled pecan, I was suddenly impressed with the fact that the hard shell was representative of the shell that sin puts around us, while the fruit remains intact within the shell.  It is able to bear more fruit and to feed others when the shell is removed from it.

    My spirit grasped what the Lord was showing me.  The shell represented my father's hardened heart and his sin-altered lifestyle.  All of a sudden, I understood forgiveness and healing from God's perspective.  I understood for the first time that God loved my father for who he was, not for what he had become.  God saw through the shell and His love was focused on who He had created my father to be.   God recognized that my father's actions driven by sin.  Luke 23:34 echoed thru my head, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."

    I realized that I needed to separate my father's actions from his created being and I understood that I, like Jesus, could forgive the man without excusing his actions.  All of a sudden, I didn't need to consider if I would forgive my father, it wasn't even a matter of when, it was an immediate response.  God used a pecan for my "learning to forgive" lesson.  He completed His process in me and I learned a lasting lesson.

    I pray that the next time you see an un-cracked nut, God will use that to solidify your understanding of forgiveness, just as He did for me.  I encourage you to examine yourself.  Ask the Lord to reveal any shell that may have formed around you and, should you sense that there is one, ask Him to break it open and help you become all He created you to be!

    Forgiveness - Part 5

    Ask God for these three things because:

    Colossians 3:13 tells us to, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

    It is very difficult to forgive when we have been wronged, and yet the writers of the New Testament urge us to do so.

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

    It's important to ask God for three things:

    First, ask God to enable you to forgive the person; because it's too hard to do this on your own, therefore the reason for prayer.

    Second, ask God to bless that person that has wronged you, and make the request every day even though it may be difficult to do so.  

    Finally, ask God to give you an opportunity to show kindness to him or her.

    These three requests to forgiveness can be hard to make, yet the three requests when not made will result in serious separation from God by His not forgiving you.

    When we experience God's forgiveness to the degree that we are willing to offer the same gift to someone else as shown in Matthew 6:14 above our relationship with God and others are restored and changed in healing ways that once again show the miraculous love and power of God through the power of the Holy Spirit and the hurtful event in time will seem as if it never happened.  What great relief this will bring you.

    Prayer is the key to being able to forgive.  A loving prayer would be, “Lord, may we offer forgiveness to others for whom you have died.  Amen.

    Matthew 18:21-35
    The parable of the unmercible servant

    21  Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?   Up to seven times?"

    22  Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

    23  "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.

    24  As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.

    25  Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

    26  "The servant fell on his knees before him.  'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.'

    27  The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

    28  "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii.  He grabbed him and began to choke him.  'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.

    29  "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'

    30  "But he refused.  Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.

    31  When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

    32  "Then the master called the servant in.  'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.

    33  Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?'

    34  In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

    35  "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

    Ephesians 4:32 tell us to, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

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