Monday, December 11, 2006

One day a while back, a man, his heart heavy with grief, was walking in the woods. As he thought about his life this day, he knew many things were not right. He remembered those who had lied about him back when he had a job. About those who had stolen his things and cheated him. He remembered family that had passed on. His mind turned to the illness he had that no one could cure. His very soul was filled with anger, resentment and frustration.

Standing there this day, searching for answers he could not find, knowing all else had failed him, he knelt at the base of an old oak tree to seek the One he knew would always be there. And with tears in his eyes, he prayed:

"Lord, You have done wonderful things for me in this life. You have told me to do many things for You, and I happily obeyed. Today, You have told me to forgive. I am sad, Lord, because I cannot. I don't know how. It is not fair, Lord. I didn't deserve these wrongs that were done against me and I shouldn't have to forgive. As perfect as Your way is Lord, this one thing I cannot do, for I don't know how to forgive. My anger is so deep, Lord, I fear I may not hear You, but I pray that You teach me to do this one thing I cannot do. Teach me to forgive."

As he knelt there in the quiet shade of that old oak tree, he felt something fall onto his shoulder. He opened his eyes. Out of the corner of one eye, he saw something red on his shirt.

He could not turn to see what it was because where the oak tree had been was a large square piece of wood in the ground. He raised his head and saw two feet held to the wood with a large spike through them.

He raised his head more, and tears came to his eyes as he saw Jesus hanging on a cross. He saw spikes in His hands, a gash in His side, a torn and battered body, deep thorns sunk into His head. Finally he saw the suffering and pain on His precious face. As their eyes met, the man's tears turned to sobbing, and Jesus began to speak.

"Have you ever told a lie?" He asked.
The man answered, "Yes, Lord."

"Have you ever been given too much change and kept it?"
The man answered, "Yes. Lord." And the man sobbed more and more.

"Have you ever taken something from work that wasn't yours?" Jesus
And the man answered, "Yes, Lord."

"Have you ever sworn, using my Father's name in vain?"
The man, crying harder, answered, "Yes, Lord."

As Jesus asked many more times, "Have you ever…?" The man's crying became uncontrollable, for he could only answer, "Yes, Lord."

Then Jesus turned His head from one side to the other, and the man felt something fall on his other shoulder. He looked and saw that it was the blood of Jesus. When he looked back up, his eyes met those of Jesus, and there was a look of love the man had never seen or known before.

Jesus said, "I didn't deserve this either, but I forgive you."

I do not know who the author of the above was, but it illustrates what I'm about to say.

Matthew 6:14-15
"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."

Forgiveness isn't primarily for the person who sinned against you. It is for YOU. Bitter roots will spring up when we harbor unforgivenss. The rot of such is a stink in our Savior's nostrils and a slap on His bleeding face as He stares down at us from the Cross. How can we, who have given nothing for the grace which we received, dare to tell the One Who died such a horrid death, that WE won't forgive someone?? Christ didn't die to cover just the sins of those who accept Him. He died for ALL sin. Everything. It's our choice as to whether we acknowledge and embrace that forgiveness. It's still there, whether people accept it or not.

Mark 11:25
"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions."

WHENEVER...any time you come before the throne of God you should be making sure your heart is pure, without malice or anger or slander or envy or any of those things He's trying to take from our lives. There is NOTHING He wants more than pure lives from us. But we have to rid ourselves of those hateful ways we cling to. Otherwise, the enemy lives through us and causes immeasurable damage.

Luke 17:3-4
"Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, "I repent,' forgive him."

I've had people use this Scripture to tell me they don't have to forgive unless the person asks for it and repents. Who made you God? Last time I looked, it was Christ on the Cross saying, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." He didn't ask for repentance before He died. Otherwise, all of us who live today would be up the creek! We couldn't ask anything 2000+ years ago as He hung on the tree. If Christ is our example, then we have to follow ALL He says and does. He forgave for HIS HEART'S purity. Not because we asked for it.

I have had many people hurt me in my life. Most of them have no idea I'm aware of some of what they've done. As a youth leader, I can't tell you the pain some of my kids inflicted on me. I cried mroe times in those six years than I think I ever have. But you know what? Not one of those kids, now adults and having kids of their own, knows I forgave them. They never asked me to. But CHRIST did. I still have relationships with them. Who would it hurt if I didn't forgive them? Me, mostly. Them? Sure! They know they can come to me any time without judgment or me throwing back in their faces all the times they were wrong. How would THAT show them Christ lived out in my life?

Luke 17:4
"And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, "I repent,' forgive him."

Again, what is Christ's example? Forgiveness without question. It's for our sakes, and for our relationship with Him, that we forgive. The side benefit of obeying His words to "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." Hard to do if you're harboring unforgiveness in your heart.

2 Corinthians 2:10-11
"But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes."

Why would anyone want to give the enemy an advantage??? For those who, like me, are on the front lines of spiritual warfare, our very souls cry out for the enemy to be vanquished. Why would we allow anything in our lives to be used for the other side?? Especially when we have control over it???

There are some who will take this and go looking through the Scriptures to find counter quotes. At least it will get you in the Word. The time is short. We are to be living as if His return is any moment. I refuse to allow the enemy to steal any of the reward Christ has in store for me, by walking in disobedience and getting rid of those things in my life which are not of Him. Those things which shackle me, bind me, hold me back. They make my heart heavy and my days burdensome. Nothing like the easy yoke He calls me to.

Are you weighed down? Do you find the joy is gone? Are you constantly finding the faults in others? Do you tend to be someone others want to be around because you exude the joy of the Lord and His grace? If not, search your heart and allow Christ to renew it.

Galatians 5:22-6:9
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

"If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load. The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Against such things there is NO law. Live in them and be one who shows who Christ is in how you live. Be different from the world. It takes work like no other, but the rewards are so unbelievably sweet.

1 comment:

Sally Bradley said...

I heard someone say once that we are never more like Christ than when we forgive.

Isn't that what it's all about? Great post, Allison!