Abundant life, Cross, Death to self, Flesh, Forgiveness, Love
We are continuing our discussion about “The Road to Golgotha.” If you missed the previous post, you should probably go back and read that one first. Last time, we talked about Matthew 16: 24-27. We talked about what Jesus meant when he said: “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” We talked about how it really comes down to two words; Trust and Surrender. When we parted last time, I asked you these questions:
Are you willing to surrender all and finally trust Him? Why not take a moment and ask him, Is there a place that I haven’t fully surrendered to you? Listen to what He says. He’s talking, but are you listening?
I hope you took the few minutes to ask him that all-important question. I also hope you stayed and listened for his answer.
Some of you really have no idea what I’m talking about. But, there are some who know exactly what I’m talking about and you are struggling. You are searching for answers and are growing weary. You want more, but are unsure what that even means. You are the reason I am writing this. You are tugging at my heart. This is for you, today.
Why is this walk sometimes so difficult? Well, in general, the Christian walk is easy. Jesus said “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt 11:30) The problem then, is us. We carry burdens we were NEVER supposed to carry. It weighs us down, because the load is just too heavy. What are these burdens that we are carrying? Sin, shame, guilt, worry, pride, jealousy, envy, anger, hatred, bitterness, resentment and other forms of brokenness to name a few. Jesus paid the price for all of these and more in order for us to be completely free. I’m not going to go into all of the reasons for difficulty, just a few of the biggest.
Not Understanding the Cross
So, the first reason for difficulty is this: Not recognizing or fully appreciating what was done for us on the cross. He paid the price for sin, so you don’t have to. You are no longer a slave, but a son. When you live as a slave, you are not entitled, nor do you have a seat at the table with the master. You live trying to impress the master, hoping to gain favor, in effect saying “look at me, look at what I do for you!” You also live under the law, and punishment is always around the corner if you fail. But, because of the cross, we are no longer slaves, but sons. If we’re sons, then we are heirs of God through Christ (Gal 4:4-7). To live as a son, is a different matter entirely. We ARE entitled. We are an heir of God and joint-heir with Christ (Rom 8:17). We can access our father anytime. We can go boldly to the throne of grace (Heb 4:16). As sons, we can go about our Father’s business as Jesus did (Luke 2:49). What do you suppose our Father’s business is? How about telling others the good news (preach the gospel), healing the sick, raising the dead, being a father to the fatherless, feeding the hungry, loving the unloved and impacting a generation?
Unwilling to Forgive
Let’s talk about those who have hurt you in some way. I can hear you already; “But wait, you don’t know what they did to me!” This brings us to the second reason for difficulties: The unwillingness to forgive. Here is the BIG deception: If you refuse to forgive somebody, you think you are keeping them bound and chained. Here’s the truth: The ONLY one imprisoned because of your refusal to forgive IS YOU!! The saddest part of all is you have the key to your cell door and you can let yourself out at anytime. The key is FORGIVENESS.
When Jesus was asked about forgiveness in Matt 18, Jesus told this parable about the Kingdom of Heaven :
Mat 18:23-35 “Therefore the kingdom of Heaven has been compared to a certain king who desired to make an accounting with his servants. And when he had begun to count, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he had nothing to pay, his lord commanded that he, and his wife and children, and all that he had, be sold, and payment be made. Then the servant fell down and worshiped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me and I will pay you all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. And he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me what you owe. And his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, Have patience with me and I will pay you all. And he would not, but went and cast him into prison until he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry. And they came and told their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after he had called him, said to him, O wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have pitied your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you? And his lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors until he should pay all that was due to him. So likewise shall My heavenly Father do also to you, unless each one of you from your hearts forgive his brother their trespasses.”
My friend, this isn’t just a quaint little story about what we should do or how we should act. He is describing the kingdom of Heaven. Those are key words. He is talking about us and how things of the kingdom operate. The economy of Heaven is driven by grace, love and forgiveness. The man owed the king an amount that was larger than he could ever hope to pay. The king had mercy and completely forgave the debt. He didn’t deserve it, but the king forgave everything. The man was completely free. But then the man turned around and started demanding payment and even imprisoning those who couldn’t pay what was pocket change by comparison. The king called this man’s actions “wicked” because he would not extend grace to forgive the small debts when he had been forgiven of so much. So, if his actions were deemed to be “wicked,” then what would the not wicked, or more accurately, the kingdom response have been? The kingdom response is to forgive. Let that soak in for a moment. Just to be clear, here it is again:
- Not forgiving the smaller debts when he had been forgiven of much = “Wicked”
- FORGIVING those smaller debts when he had been forgiven of much = “Not Wicked” and is the proper kingdom response.
If you’re going to go outside of the kingdom and demand payment from others when you have been forgiven of so much, then you’re going to have a rough go of it. It is going to be difficult… until you forgive. This level of forgiveness is NOT just an external act. It is not just saying the words. It is an INTERNAL action of the heart where you truly forgive and you allow the other person to walk in the freedom of that forgiveness. When the king had forgiven what was owed, the servant was released and completely free of that debt. He was restored to the place where he was BEFORE he borrowed the money and owed nothing. No pointing fingers and saying “stay away from that guy!” If your forgiveness doesn’t include room to reset or restore the other person, then perhaps it isn’t really forgiveness at all.
Wait, I can hear it again “You don’t understand what they did to me!” Well, did they murder your friends? Did they celebrate the death of your friends, believing that murdering them was God’s will? Let’s talk about the Apostle Paul for a moment.
Act 7:58-8:3 And throwing him outside the city, they stoned him. And the witnesses laid their clothes down at the feet of a young man named Saul. v59 And they stoned Stephen, who was calling on God and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. v60 And kneeling down, he cried with a loud voice, Lord, do not lay this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Act 8:1 And Saul was consenting to his death. And in that day there was a great persecution on the church at Jerusalem, and all were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. v2 And devout men buried Stephen and made a great mourning over him. v3 But Saul ravaged the church, entering into every house. And dragging men and women, he delivered them up to prison.
Before Paul was an Apostle, he was called Saul and was in charge of hunting down the other Apostles and having them killed or imprisoned. Read the scripture above again and think about how you might feel about this guy. He oversees the killing of your friend, Stephen. Then he drags other friends and family members off to prison. The very mention of his name caused people to fear. Yet God had a place for him in the kingdom as an Apostle to the gentiles (Acts 26:14-17). The other Apostles had to not only forgive him, but recognize him as a brother in Christ and ultimately as an Apostle, called of God (Acts 9:26-31). Consider Stephen again for a moment. Look again at Acts 7:60 “And kneeling down, he cried with a loud voice, Lord, do not lay this sin to their charge.” Even while he’s being stoned, he’s interceding on their behalf. THAT is kingdom. That is love in action. How about you? How’s that forgiveness going? Are you willing to let the offenses go and truly forgive or do you prefer having someone in your own little prison until you feel they have paid their debt to you in full? Food for thought.
While you’re thinking about that, why not take a moment and ask God if there is someone who you need to forgive? There may be one or there could be many. Ask him to show you and then wait for an answer. He will show you. Write the names down if you must. Then do the following for each name:
- Repent for holding unforgiveness and whatever else you have against that person. “Father forgive me for withholding my forgiveness from <their name>. Forgive me for harboring <anger>, <resentment>, <hatred>, <whatever else> against <their name>.”
- Forgive them. “Father I FORGIVE <their name> for <whatever they did to you – name everything> and I release them into the fullness of my forgiveness right now. – in Jesus’ name.”
You see, it’s just that simple. For some, this may be difficult and you may find yourself unable to forgive owing to the trauma of that situation. If this is you, then you need to get some help. There is no shame, you just need to ask.
Lastly, I wish to point out that there are situations where the restoration that I speak of may be difficult or even seemingly impossible. For example, let’s take a marital situation where there has been physical violence from the husband against his wife. While there most certainly MUST be forgiveness, the restoration is something that must be taken in small steps as that husband demonstrates the fruit of repentance. The fruit of repentance is change. Even Paul (formerly Saul) had to demonstrate the fruit of repentance by preaching the very gospel that he once persecuted (Acts 9:26-30). If you’re in a difficult situation such as this, please seek godly counsel.
We’ll stop there for now. We’ll pick it up again next week.