Forgiveness Empowering Grace

Tags

, , ,

We all know that we MUST forgive those that have hurt us.

The Lord requires that we forgive our enemies; that we forgive the people that have injured us (Matthew 6:14; Colossians 3:13). We must forgive as we are forgiven. That is what we, Christians, believe; that is what we, Christians, pray (Luke 11:4). If we know Christ, and have experienced His forgiveness – we can and we must forgive those that have hurt us.  We can forgive anybody and everybody that has hurt us because of what Christ did on the cross. For the cross is the promise of God that every wrong will be made right; either through the shed blood of His Son Jesus on the cross, or through an eternity of anguish in hell. If we know Christ and have the power of His indwelling presence we can forgive those that have hurt us, no matter what they have done to us, because Christ gives us the ability to do so. This is because forgiveness is an act of grace accomplished by the powerful working of the Spirit of God in our souls. In one sense, it is the most natural thing in the world for a Christian to forgive, for the very One who forgave us is the holy One who indwells us and empowers us to forgive others.

God is perfectly wise, perfectly good, perfectly just and absolutely sovereign. God is even sovereign over the sins that are committed against us and all that results from those sins.  This truth is what enabled Joseph to say to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20a). It is a comforting truth that when evil is intended against us – God intends it for our good. And, it helps us to forgive when we can see that God has sovereign power over all the painful providences of our lives and that He ordains them to the end that He may do us good.

But, what good can come to us from the evil actions of others?

Well, there are many good things that can result from the sins that are committed against us. Although, here I only want to focus on one of those ‘good things’ – the good thing of receiving more of God’s grace. God uses evils committed against us to cause us to seek and receive His grace. Just as the great enemy of our souls intends that all the evil committed against us will cause us to turn away from God in disbelief, God intends the evils committed against us to cause us to recognize our great need for God and His amazing grace. In this way, evils committed against us become a means of grace to us. That is, evil becomes our servant that carries us to God and bids us ask Him that the manifold expressions of His grace would be given to us – His comforting grace, His healing grace, His ‘forgiveness empowering grace.’ 

Since, God’s great purpose in the creation of the universe is to magnify the glory of His grace in the ages to come through us, every opportunity to experience God’s grace is an opportunity glorify God (Ephesians 1:4-7, 2: 5-7). We magnify His grace more fully by drinking of it more deeply. In this way, anything that causes us to realize our need of God’s grace is a very good thing. When we can begin to see the sins that others have committed against us as an opportunity of experiencing more of God’s grace, we are all-the-more empowered to forgive the evil-doers of those sins. This is so, if for no other reason than those same sins become for us a means of receiving God’s grace. So, let’s forgive those that have hurt us, let’s drink deeply of the grace that is ours in Christ our Lord, and let’s magnify the glory of the grace of our great God.

Praying the Gospel

Tags

, , ,

I once heard a message given by Jerry Bridges on the importance of preaching the gospel to one’s self. I had never really thought much about the idea before hearing his message. He talked about the importance of keeping in the front of our minds the truth that we are accepted by God solely on the basis of our union with the Lord Jesus Christ. He said that by preaching the gospel to ourselves on a regular basis we are safe-guarded from the folly of thinking that our standing with God is based on our own efforts, performance, or righteousness. His admonition has stuck with me. Preaching the gospel to myself has become the primary means of overcoming the soul-paralyzing influences of pride, false-guilt, self-condemnation, and disappointment in my walk with the Lord.

And, in no place is this more true in my life than in my place of prayer. Even as I begin my prayer time with confessing my sins to the Lord, I also begin my prayer time by preaching the gospel to myself. As I pray and seek God for forgiveness for my wrong doings, my wrong thinking, my ignorance, my frailty, my brokenness; I acknowledge my utter and desperate dependence upon Christ for receiving any mercy from God. As I make confession to God in this way, I remind myself that I am saved by grace alone, though faith alone, in Christ alone. When time permits, I do this with an ancient text that my husband introduced to me several years ago called “Anselm’s Tract for the Dying(posted below). By beginning my prayer time by preaching the gospel to myself, I am reminded not only of the great chasm that would exist between me and God if it were not for the forgiveness and redemption that I have been given in Christ, but I am also reminded that my hope of being heard by God in prayer is based entirely on grace alone.

Meditating on the gospel puts me into the right frame of mind for prayer. Whether I use Anselm’s Tract for the Dying or not, I always try to start my prayer times with the recognition that the mercy and grace of God is not only the only hope that I have of being saved, but it is also the only hope that I have of being heard and answered by God when I pray. A humble mind and a contrite heart is the result of preaching the gospel to myself, and a humble mind and a contrite heart are essential to being heard by God. I thank God for the admonition of Jerry Bridges to preach the gospel to myself, and I also thank God for this ancient text that has helped me pray the gospel to myself.

Anselm’s Tract for the Dying

“Question. Dost thou believe that the Lord Jesus died for thee? Answer. I believe it.

Qu. Dost thou thank him for his passion and death?

Ans. I do thank him.

Qu. Dost thou believe that thou canst not be saved except by his death?

Ans. I believe it.

And then Anselm addresses the dying man: “Come then, while life remaineth in thee; in his death alone place thy whole trust; in naught else place any trust; to his death commit thyself wholly; with this alone cover thyself wholly; and if the Lord thy God will to judge thee, say, ‘Lord, between thy judgment and me I present the death of our Lord Jesus Christ; no otherwise can I contend with thee.’ And if he shall say that thou art a sinner, say thou: ‘Lord, I interpose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my sins and thee.’ If he say that thou hast deserved condemnation, say: ‘Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my evil deserts and thee, and his merits I offer for those which I ought to have and have not.’ If he say that he is wroth with thee, say: ‘Lord, I oppose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between thy wrath and me.’ And when thou hast completed this, say again: ‘Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between thee and me.’”

See Anselm, Opera (Migne), 1:686, 687.

 

Forrest Gump, King David, and Psalm 55

Tags

, ,

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22

In the movie Forrest Gump there is a memorable scene of Jenny when she was a little girl praying in the corn field with Forrest. Trying to get away from her inebriated and abusive father she grabs Forrest’s hand, runs into a field of tall cornstalks, falls to her knees, and cries, “Pray with me, Forrest! Pray with me!” She then starts her desperate lament, “Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far-far away from here. Dear God, make me a bird so that I can fly far, far-far away.”  In the movie, God answers that prayer – not by making her a bird, of course; but by having the police take her to live with her grandmother.

Over three thousand years before Forrest Gump ever came into time-space history, King David wrote a similar prayer: “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness… …I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.” Just like the movie-screen Jenny did, the mighty King David was earnestly pleading with God for refuge from those that were harming him. He was praying for refuge from those that were speaking against him, oppressing him, ‘dropping trouble upon him’, and in anger bearing a grudge against him (v.3). He was also praying for comfort from the betrayal he had experienced, the hurt that he felt over the loss of a dear friend, the insolence inflicted upon him, and from all the wickedness he was witnessing in the world around him (vv.9-15). Unlike the movie character Jenny, the Psalm gives no evidence of a clear-cut answer to David’s requests. Instead, we read an exhortation: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” And, the Psalm ends with David making an affirmation of faith: “But, I will trust in you” (v. 23).

Earlier I was thinking about a situation in my life that has been really trying, and David’s prayer “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest…” came to my mind. But, as I thought about the situation in my life and this prayer, I realized that even if I did have the wings of a dove I wouldn’t be able to escape the difficulty of my trying situation. I realized that even if the Lord did turn me into a bird and I could ‘…fly far, far-far away’ from the people that have hurt me; no matter where I flew the hurt would still be with me. In other words, it dawned on me that a geographical cure wouldn’t work. Getting away won’t bring healing or comfort, neither will it provide me a refuge from the raging tempest of the enemy. My major issue: I can’t escape from myself. Even if the wrongdoers repented of their wrongdoing against me today, I would still be feeling all the emotions that come with betrayal and hurt.  I would still feel the bewildered hurt that comes with an unexpected betrayal. I would still feel the frustration over the damage that has been done to my reputation by the lies that have been told. I would still feel the disappointment over the insolent behavior of those whom I trusted. Sprouting wings won’t heal a broken heart; neither will it calm a troubled mind.

God can heal a broken heart and He can calm a troubled mind. David prays, “Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!” In other words, he says “God please listen to me, please don’t turn away from me when I need You.” And, after He lays it all out before the Lord, he counsels me, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

So, I can cast my burden on the Lord. I can trust Him with the bewildered hurt I feel over the betrayal. My reputation is in His hands, and if he so chooses to let it remain damaged – I can trust Him with that too. I can trust Him to protect me from insolent people– I do not need to defend myself or fly away to be at rest. I only need to cast my anxieties on Him and to trust Him and He will bring me through it all. He always has and He always will.

Video

John Piper on the Ultimate Essence of Evil

Tags

,

This is the sermon John Piper preached at Passion 2017. Sunday a friend told me to check it out. She said that her and her husband listened to it last week and that it left them dumbfounded – that it changed their whole perspective on sin and the essence of evil. So I heeded her sisterly admonishment to ‘check it out’ and started to listen to it while cooking dinner earlier tonight. After listening to the first twenty minutes of this message, I wanted my kids to hear it. So I hooked-up the movie projector and we listened to (watched) John Piper preach on the ultimate essence of evil.

The reason that I wanted my kids to hear this sermon is my desire that they understand that preferring anything else more than they prefer God is the ultimate essence of evil and the root of all sin. I wanted to remind them that the Christian life is not about a check-list of dos and don’ts, which is an easy thing to forget when raised in a Christian home. I wanted my kids to hear again that the Christian life is about seeing “…the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6), rejoicing over all that God is for us in Christ (Romans 5:11),  “…being transformed into the same image from one degree to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18), and that pleasing God in righteous living and obedience results from a faith-filled love for God (Hebrews 11:6). Or, to put it another way,  I wanted my kids to remember that loving God, wanting God, desiring God above all other things is at the heart of glorifying God, magnifying Christ, and serving Him in this world. I wanted them to lay-hold of the reality that Christ is everything, and that everything other than Christ is nothing without Him.

God has been very kind to give this generation preachers like John Piper. I am so glad that I took my friend’s advice and was able to share this sermon with my kids. It blessed us all. So if you have 45 minutes and you need to be reminded of some of these truths too – check it out.

What’s Old is New Again

Tags

, , , ,

What’s Old is New Again

I have always loved the freshness of this time of year. Opening a brand new appointment calendar. Flipping through the stuck together pages of days-to-come thrills me. It’s a clean slate open for endless dreaming, new ideas, and things that have not yet been.

However, this new year brings circumstances that I wish could have been thrown out with last year’s trash. I wake up in this first month of 2017 and my mother is still battling Alzheimer’s and well, it’s complicated and difficult to know what this never been traveled before terrain should look like, much less feel like. Am I doing this right, God? I often hear myself asking. She’s alone now; a single mom who independently ran her life and remarried at 57 losing her second husband five short years later.

Layer this family situation with my one sibling, a brother who is a year older than me (53) and struggling with mental health issues. It’s been a 15 year struggle. He’s managed to lose everything, wrecking every relationship in his life, which when speaking about ours, is a difficult and complicated loss. This is the one single piece of reality that still stuns me enough to feel like it’s not yet real. But wait I’m awake. It’s real.

So I sit with the anticipation of fresh newness all around me and circumstances that don’t reconcile with anything remotely close to fresh and new.

I have a confession to make, though and it’s completely counterintuitive. You would expect me to say that I’m one hot mess. I can’t stop worrying, feeling sorry for myself (fill in the blank of ways that would seem natural to react). It’s the opposite though. I actually caught myself smiling to myself earlier today. This is the mystery of Christ. His nearness. His peace changes things, it changes everything. Not around me, but inside me where it matters most.

He’s got this. No really, HE’S GOT THIS! He’s the God of our victories and the God of our disappointments. Especially our disappointments.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

OK breathe. And say it again. Now close your eyes. And surrender.

Whatever you may be facing today … don’t fret it. God is here. Those three little words are life altering. He is here. With us. Emmanuel. It’s his first and most important promise. Think about how precious this Jesus – front-and-center with every breath – really is.

Shift the prayer from, “God please make everything in my life workable,” to “God I trust you and love you in the midst of my chaos.”

And then wait on the Lord who will ring in this New Year bigger and brighter than anything you have seen before. Because with surrender comes peace and with faith comes joy. And with love comes a worldwide of new possibilities.

Happy 2017!

Happy New Year and All Glory Be To Christ

One bittersweet memory from my childhood was of celebrating the turn of a new year at my Nana’s house. At the stroke of mid-night, big and small alike would stand in a circle, hold hands, and sing the first verse and chorus of Auld Lang Syne. Last year, my kids introduced me to this song- All Glory Be To Christ –which is set to the tune of the Scottish melody traditionally used to sing Auld Lang Syne. I loved it, and decided that come New Year 2016, if I was still blogging- it was going on BIW. Many thanks to King’s Kaleidoscope, for transforming this beautiful folk tune (which is so full of bittersweet memories for me) into a God-glorifying worship experience (which is all sweetness for me). I have included the first stanza and chorus of the traditional Auld Lang Syne and the lyrics to All Glory Be To Christ below. Happy New Year.

Auld Lang Syne

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On old long syne.”

Chorus

“On old long syne my Jo, On old long syne, That thou canst never once reflect, On old long syne.

All Glory Be To Christ

Should nothing of our efforts stand
No legacy survive
Unless the Lord does raise the house
In vain its builders strive

To you who boast tomorrow’s gain
Tell me what is your life
A mist that vanishes at dawn
All glory be to Christ!

[Chorus]
All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign we’ll ever sing
All glory be to Christ!

[Verse 2]
His will be done, His kingdom come
On earth as is above
Who is Himself our daily bread
Praise Him, the Lord of love

Let living water satisfy
The thirsty without price
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet
All glory be to Christ!

[Chorus]
All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign we’ll ever sing
All glory be to Christ!

[Verse 3]
When on the day the great I Am
The faithful and the true
The Lamb who was for sinners slain
Is making all things new

Behold our God shall live with us
And be our steadfast light
And we shall e’er his people be
All glory be to Christ!

[Chorus]
All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign we’ll ever sing
All glory be to Christ!

Knowing Jesus

Tags

,

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”  John 17:3

The new life that God has called Christians to walk in is an eternal life, which consists of knowing God. We cannot know God without knowing Christ. It is by faith in Jesus Christ, faith in the Gospel, i.e., the message that “…Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5) that we begin to know God and that we begin to walk in newness of life. It is through faith in Christ that we are saved from the wrath of God, restored to a right relationship with Him, and given the ability to know God. (Romans 1:18; Ephesians 2:8; Colossians 1:19-22). Without Christ, we cannot know God, and as you can see from the verse above (John 17:3), knowing God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, is eternal life.

When I say that we cannot know God without knowing Christ, I mean that we must believe in Christ, and in believing, confess Him as Lord if we are to know God. Romans 10: 9-10 says, “…If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” When we confess Jesus as Lord, we confess Him as He is- our master, our ruler, our God. When we confess Him as our Lord we are acknowledging that Jesus Christ has absolute ownership rights over our lives. In His grace and kindness, He has chosen to give us new life in Himself. This salvific (saving) confession is not a magic incantation that saves our souls. It is a public declaration which is an outward manifestation of an internal belief about who Jesus Christ is. We confess with our mouths that which we know to be true- that Jesus is God the Son incarnate (in the flesh), crucified for our sins, buried, and raised on the third day by the power of God, and as such, He is Lord of our lives.

During His earthly life, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). No one who rejects the Lordship of Jesus Christ knows God. It does not matter how spiritual sounding or outwardly pious they might seem. The Bible teaches us, “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” (1 John 2:23). Jesus Christ is the measure of all true religion. Any religion which claims to have the way to God, and yet denies the deity and Lordship of Jesus Christ is a false religion, a pathway that leads to further condemnation and alienation from God. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life… …Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16-18). Jesus also said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Therefore, it is impossible to believe in God and at the same time reject Jesus. To reject the Person of Jesus Christ is to reject God. If someone says that they believe in God, but do not believe that God sent Jesus into the world to reveal Himself to man-kind, and to die for the sins of His people, they do not truly believe in God.

You see to believe in Jesus is to believe in God. Jesus is God. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the pure self-revelation of God. Hebrews 1:3-5a teaches us that, “…in these last days he [God] has spoken to us by his Son… …He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power…”. And, in another place we are told, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).” So, in short, walking in newness of life begins with knowing Jesus Christ as Lord. As Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

 

An Acronym for HUMBLE

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you…” 1 Peter 5:6

Acronyms help me remember things that I should remember– but that I sometimes too easily forget. Being humble, or having a humble-mind, as Scripture commands the believer to have (1 Peter 3:8), is one of those things that I should remember how to do, but can all too easily forget how to do. So, I asked the LORD to give me an acronym for the word ‘humble’, and this is what He gave me.

HOPE in God.

UNDERSTAND that God is completely in control.

MEEKLY cast your anxiety upon the Lord.

BELIEVE that God is working for your good and His glory.

LOWER yourself before God and wait for Him to-

EXALT you in due time.

A Ten-Fold Plea for Faith

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”  (Mark 9:24 ESV).

It can be hard to believe God when we feel hurt, disappointed, or maligned by those that we have trusted. Here is a ten-fold plea for faith for unexpected seasons of suffering and affliction of this kind.

  1. Please, Lord, give me faith to believe your promises. Lord, may I never stop believing your promises- no matter what. Your promises were sealed with the precious blood-of my Savior and Lord, the King Jesus Christ. “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Corinthians 1:20 ESV).
  2. Please, Lord, give me faith to believe that You alone declare the end from the beginning. Please do not let me ever forget that You have and that You alone can say, “…I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’… …I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it”  (Isaiah 46:8-11 ESV).
  3. Please, Lord, let me never forget that you are not unjust. Oh Lord, may I never forget that by inspiration of Your blessed Holy Spirit, You have told us that You are not “…unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do” (Hebrews 6:10 ESV).
  4. Please, Lord, let me believe that you will take into account every careless word of man. May I remember that you will render a judgment that is accurate and true. For you have said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36). Lord, let me remember this that I might not sin against another in carelessness of my own words. And, please, let me remember this so that when I am hurt by the careless words of others, I do not seek to avenge myself by repeating their foolish words to others.
  5. Please Lord, give me faith to believe that you will show mercy to the merciful. Please, Lord, do not let me forget that You will measure out mercy towards me in equal proportion to the mercy that I have used towards others. Give me faith to believe these words, and to be merciful, especially, with those that have not shown me kindness, and to those who have not loved mercy and fidelity in their own words and deeds towards me. As the Scripture has said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy,” (Matthew 5:7 ESV) and also, “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment”  (James 2:12-13 ESV).
  6. Please, oh Lord, give me faith to never seek revenge. For you have comforted me with these words, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12: 19).
  7. Please, oh my Lord, give me faith to forgive. May I not hold it to charge against those that have harmed or spoken of ill of me or those that I love. For you have taught us to pray, “…Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Luke 11:4). And, you have given me power to forgive as I have been forgiven: “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld”  (John 20:22-23 ESV). And, for this reason, you have warned us  “…but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15 ESV).
  8. Please, Lord, give me faith to pray for those that have hurt me. For you have said, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:28). And, also, you have said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:320).
  9. Please, Lord, give me faith to receive your comfort when I have been hurt. Lord, this is perhaps the hardest one for me. I feel so hurt and it can be painful to be vulnerable- but you have said, “I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass” (Isaiah 51:12). And, also, You are blessed by the holy apostle when He rightly says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV).
  10. Finally, Lord, give me faith that overcomes my unbelief that by my belief I might please you. For Your Holy Word says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him…  (Hebrews 11:6 ESV). So, Lord, I do believe you, but with the man of Mark 9:24, I cry out to You: “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”