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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What Gives Us the Power to Forgive?

Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV) 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

It is very clear that God expects us to forgive one another. Yet, even as Christians, we often have trouble forgiving others for certain offenses. It is easy to say and even agree that we should forgive but the actual forgiveness is often lacking even when we want to forgive. So, beyond agreeing that we should forgive, what should we do to forgive those especially eggregious offenses?

Forgiveness is based upon the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It is through His sacrifice that we understand that all offenses have been forgiven.

Hebrews 9:22 (NIV) 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

It is not our blood which accounts for the sin of others. In fact, it would do no good for us to spill blood for our blood would not be innocent. It would not be a perfect sacrifice for the sins of others. It is on the basis of Jesus' spilt blood that forgiveness is given.

God has given the forgiveness we need to us. The connections is unmistakable. The forgiveness we are given is pure grace. The grace of God comes to reside within us. We are in Christ as much as He is in us. We have been given the power of forgiveness through the forgiveness we have received through Him.

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
His Spirit dwells is us. Thus, we have the desire and strength to forgive on the basis of the blood of Jesus.

Romans 8:9 (NIV) 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
His Spirit dwells in us so that we also do not depend upon our own ability to forgive. We forgive on the basis of the power of Christ who dwells in us. He has already paid for the sins of others and has fully forgiven them. Thus, His forgiveness flows through us to forgive others.

These statements concern our abilty to forgive. They do not encompass the individual's need for forgiveness. He will still have to confess and be cleansed from all unrighteousness. We have no ability to do that for the sinner. Our responsibility is to forgive by the power of Christ who reigns in us while accepting the spilt blood of Jesus as the basis for that forgiveness.

Christians have tried to forgive by their own strength alone but some sins have been too difficult for us. The Christian asks for God to give him the strength and may feel that he has forgiven only to have the unforgiveness raise its head again and again. It is here that we must realize that we do not have the strength to do this on our own. We cannot even receive the strength so that we can do it on our own. We must accept His strength and His forgiveness or we will continue to be defeated.

Next month I am going to Rome. Should I ask God to give me the strength to swim there or should I board a vehicle that will take me there? Of course, I can become a stronger swimmer but that distance is not one that I will ever be able to accomplish. I must ride on a plane that will take me to Rome. Such it is with the forgiveness of some sins against me. I can ask to become stronger but I will never be able to forgive on my own. I need the "vehicle" of God's grace to carry me to forgiveness.

While I can do all things through Him who strengthens me, there are times when I must rely upon Him who is within me to do what I cannot do. In the end, is it me that is forgiving? Yes, but not by my own ability nor even my enhanced ability to do so. I forgive because Jesus died on a cross for me and the person I am forgiving. I accept His forgiveness and Him living through me to forgive.

1 John 4:9 (NIV) 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
Amazingly, we not only forgive but love those who have sinned against us. See, the majesty of the power of His grace and love! We have no choice but to forgive for we live through Him.


3 comments:

Anthony Chia said...

The opening Scripture text, Ps Prentis quoted, the equivalent is NOT found in the Luke version of the Lord's Prayer, although it is NOT unclear that there was exhortation in the Lord's Prayer for us to forgive others. In fact, in the Lord's Prayer, Jesus said to us, to ask God for forgiveness, "as" or "for" we also have forgiven the sins of others against us.

There are 2 points to note (and we MUST note): One, believers are to ask for forgiveness. Two, we are to forgive others who sinned against us. Matt 6:14-15 reinforced that, with the stating that if we do NOT forgive others, God will NOT forgive us. TO ME, even without Matt 6:14-15, an honest reading of the body of the Prayer, is that the receipt of what we are asking in regard to forgiveness, is conditional on our having done the same for others who have sinned against us.

What am I saying; our entry into salvation is contingent on our having forgiven others of their sins against us? None of the Sinner's Prayer I have come across, for that matter, even the one I crafted myself, did NOT specifically ask for the person coming into salvation to say he forgives all who have sinned against him. If at all it is included, it is being included in the asking of God to forgive him of all his sins, taking, “not having forgiven others”, as sin. I believe it is NOT overtly critical whether or not, mention is made of one's forgiveness for others at the point of entry into salvation. It is sufficient, and quite imperative (short of using "MUST") that in any Sinner's Prayer confession, the person asks God to forgive him of all his sins (preferable to be specific for those, the Spirit brings to memory). So, what I am saying, is that our entry into salvation is NOT conditional upon us having forgiven others of their sins against us; it is only conditional upon our faith that Jesus Christ died on the Cross, and that with our appropriation of His propitiation for sins, we enter into salvation, with all our sins incurred up to that moment of entry, forgiven of us. At the point of entry, are you fully forgiven; are you fully righteous? Yes, at that every moment. Entry into salvation is by grace, it does NOT require that you need to work at forgiving those who sinned against you, first, and when you have succeeded, and so, you have merited, you get the forgiveness of God.

But do you NOT sin, thereafter? Well, I do sin, and so, I ask for forgiveness, again. Are you sure you do NOT sin at all? Scripture said you are calling God a liar if you insist you NEVER sin since your entry into salvation. It is rubbish to say that the Lord's Prayer is no more applicable for one who have entered into salvation (believers); only the overly grace believers would have you believe that. Because we do, at times, sin, even though we are to resist sin to the point of shedding blood (Heb 12:4), we have a need to confess our sins, and that is why 1 John 1:9 is also for believers.

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Anthony Chia said...

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After entry into salvation, do we have to ask for forgiveness? Yes, the Lord’s Prayer and 1 John 1:9 are the supporting verses. Must we forgive others in order to receive forgiveness from God? Yes, the Lord’s Prayer and Matt 6:14-15 said so. When we enter into salvation, it is NOT imposed upon us, but thereafter it is a requirement. Too difficult to accept that? That is the problem; today, we get bombarded with too much teachings that are saying when we entered into salvation, we did NOT have to do anything, we did NOT have to merit it, and so, after that, it cannot be that we have to do anything at all! Such teachings are saying, we, believers do NOT have to do anything anymore, just bask in grace; does NOT matter if we do good works or not, if we bear fruit or not, if we forgive others or not, if we ask God for forgiveness or not. Where does it say in Scriptures? On the contrary, all the items I have mentioned, there are numerous exhortations in Scriptures for them.

Who are we to demand that since God allows us in, He cannot make demands on us once we are in? Don’t be ridiculous, He is God; you and I are, but dust of the earth, shaped by His Hands into Man, given life (soul) and made a living soul (through His giving to us, a spirit), on our entry, be having His Spirit indwells us, given the privilege to be His sons, soldiers and servants. Before salvation, and after salvation, we are different; before salvation we are without God indwelling us, after salvation, it is different, God is in us, with us. Now, I am the master of my home, and if I allow you to stay in my home without you satisfying any conditions attached to your life up to now, does NOT mean that I cannot prescribe any requirement for you when you have come to stay with me. For example, you know that I do NOT accept people walking around in the home, bare-bodied; now that you live in my home, please put on your clothes; I do NOT care if prior to this, it was your habit to walk around your own home naked. I did not reject you when I knew that you did that previously, all I am saying is that you now follow my requirement because we are living together. Now, is this too difficult to accept? No, right? No.

God does NOT insist that we undo all our sins before entering into salvation or does He insists you forgive first all the people who have sinned against you, before you enter. Why? Because you cannot undo what has been done, and you probably cannot forgive. Isn’t it true, God does NOT require you to undo, He forgives you for what you have done (sins of commission) or left undone (sins of omission). But now that you are a new creation, with the indwelling Holy Spirit, He is expecting that you and I, having entered into salvation, to live in the manner He prescribed for a child of God. In short, we are to live a life imitating Jesus, our Big Brother, God’s Firstfruit. God forgives, Jesus forgives, so we must also forgive. God has shown it, Jesus, too, forgives us when we did NOT merit it, so we are to do the same, forgive others without them meriting it. You want to walk around in the home or not; then put on your clothes! Forgive if you want to continue to be forgiven.

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Anthony Chia said...

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Why does God NOT insist previously, and then now want to insist I forgive? Then, you cannot manage to, but now, you can, because you have the indwelling Holy Spirit. You have been enabled, I commonly say, and the Enabler is the Holy Spirit. That you are enabled does NOT mean automatically you will do it, unless you resolve to do it. Occasionally, we read of story that some street beggar somewhere, died with lots of money in bank accounts in their names. These people, they were empowered or enabled, but they did not choose to use the money to avail themselves a decent living; the money was in fact, useless TO THEM, although, in fact, the money was NOT useless. The Holy Spirit enables and empowers, He is NOT useless. He is useless to you only because you did NOT know how to or did NOT want to ALLOW Him to operate in and through you. You must resolve, or the proper jargon is conviction. Faith is NOT just belief, and it is NOT just conviction; it is both belief and conviction. In fact, it is NOT any belief, but a right belief; and it is not any degree of conviction, but it is inaction threshold-busting conviction that counts.

Do NOT view faith generally all the time. Be specific in your thought. What is the faith here? The right belief is that we believe God wants us to live a life of forgiveness (we forgive, NOT just we be forgiven), and we must keep reinforcing that right belief until it becomes so strong that we want to do it, to forgive, and we do it. This is what a faith to forgive is about. The devil may whisper to you, that you are already so painful; that chap hurt you, if you forgive, you will feel even more miserable; or you are stupid to let that chap off the hook; you should hate, and curse him, etc, etc. Still you will say, I resolve to do it, and I want to do it, to forgive, and ask for God’s grace to do it. I believe, even though grace is God’s to give, faith does attract the grace of God.

Most recently, I heard this testimony from a missionary’s wife: This English missionary couple, soon after their marriage, was in missionary work in Indonesia. One day, at a remote place in the nation, the missionary’s wife was pinned down on the ground by a group of the locals, wanting to violate and rape her. In a nick of time, the husband arrived to save her, but she was already too traumatized by the event. Over the next few months, the missionary’s wife was a changed person; she had frequent nightmares, and begun to disdain what they were doing there, trying to bring the message of salvation to the very people of the land. She begun to be upset with all the people there, although it was NOT everybody attacked her. In the end, the missionary couple knew that they had to do something conclusive to end the disturbed state that the wife was in. Earlier repeated ministry and prayer by the husband did NOT resolve the matter. The missionary’s wife shared that finally, she went before God and told God that she found it too difficult to forgive the people of the land for what they had done to her when she did no harm to them, and was well-intentioned to come there to bring salvation to them. She said she could NOT do it, to forgive, but she knew God wanted her to forgive, and she asked the Holy Spirit to work through her. Soon, the nightmare disappeared, she was able again to face the locals, and in days, the husband and she, read a Scripture and the Scripture jumped at them, and they discerned that God would be flowing His love for the people through them both. The couple was able to love the people and they stayed in Indonesia for many years, reaching to the people of the land. These ending words of Ps Prentis fitted so nicely to end this testimony:

“Amazingly, we not only forgive but love those who have sinned against us. See, the majesty of the power of His grace and love! We have no choice but to forgive for we live through Him.”