Monday, April 5, 2010

The Cost of Forgiveness

Forgiveness. Yesterday was Easter and my reflections fell on it. It is not a frightening word. It is not a negative word. On one hand it's expected. On the other, it's... impossible. Forgiveness is the act of moving beyond an offense, intentional or otherwise. Neither side of forgiveness is pleasant. The one who has offended must accept it with humility, with lowliness and meekness. The one who offers forgiveness does so at a cost.

God has been teaching me the cost of forgiveness and I am learning a greater sense of awe and reverence for who He is. I have discovered that forgiving others means that, although they were wrong, I bear their offense. If I was slandered by another, I bear the price of their slander. I am the one that was defamed. But in forgiveness, the price is not laid on the one who initiated the crime. It weighs on the one who was wronged, the one who forgives.

To forgive is to relinquish the expectation of reconciliation or retribution*, although that may come. To forgive is to simply live on apart from the offense. It is so very impossible. My mind recalls words, details, memories and I must put them to rest. I must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). I must choose not to dwell on, or remember, those details, by the grace of God. Apart from the working of God Himself, this is humanly impossible.

This is the forgiveness of God. This is the picture of Christ's death, His substitutionary death for me--that He took on Himself my sin, my wickedness, my death, and I pay nothing. God does not expect me to make it right. I cannot. He does not expect me to pay Him back. I cannot. In His forgiveness, He indwells me and enables me to "simply live on apart from the offense."

The other amazing thing I've learned in practicing forgiveness is that God has already given us an antidote for relieving the pain. Five times the writers of the gospels quote Jesus saying, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:39, 16, 25; Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, 17:33). In a voila moment, I realized that the hurtful moments that roll off my back are the ones I don't take personally. Jesus was not only speaking of finding life after death, but of the eternal life we can experience in the here and now. I can experience the joy and peace of God when my life is not my own. In those moments that my life is lived for Christ and not for myself, the offense is not mine, it is His. Not only is the offense not realized at the time, the pain of forgiveness is nil. It is not mine to forgive, it is God's and He has already given it.

To walk in the Spirit is to walk with an eye ever on the Savior, with a heart bent to His will, with an ear listening to His voice. To forgive is to rely on God to faithfully prune those areas of my life that I hold too dearly, and cling to those that will draw me closer to His side.

* I may be wrong, but I believe God's forgiveness is free of reconciliation--Jesus forgave those who nailed Him to the cross. But reconciliation is the only way to experience a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The forgiveness is available, but must be received in order to restore the relationship. Through Christ I can forgive someone apart from a restored relationship.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The How

Yesterday, I blew it. I gave in to eating more than I should, to eating more of the comfort foods than I should. Just simply gave in. You might say I had good reason if I unloaded my excuses, but in my heart, I know excuses don't count. Reality does.

How encouraging then, this morning, to realign myself and agree with God about my failure. I need His forgiveness and help. If you will allow me, I will open my daily reading journal for you to read. Perhaps it will be a comfort and encouragement to you, too.

March 2, 2010 Romans 9:1-16
Verse 16: So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

Impression: There is no “me” in salvation—it is all about God. If this is true, even my sanctification—and certainly my glorification—is an act of God. How can one part be my choice, my will, my decision, my doing, but not the other parts? I know I cannot resurrect this body and replace it with a glorified one. How much more will I take credit for my salvation (WHO died and paid for my sin? Certainly not me.)? How much more will I take credit for my sanctification (“for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure)? So, then, it is God who does the work.

Will I submit myself to His will and ways today? He is so much more able, more capable, more invested in this fleeting, minimal life of mine than I am. How could I trust myself to know where to go, what to do, what is best? How much wiser to entrust it to the One who knows all, does all, enables all and is all loving, all just…. Simply trust and obey. Now. Today.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Free Stuff!

A few years ago I was visiting with a little boy from China. His father was an international student and his family lived a simple life here in America. When I told him that his faith in Jesus meant he would spend forever in heaven with God he asked, "Is there any free stuff there?" "It's ALL free!" I answered. "And it's better than anything you'll ever see on earth!"

It's been awhile--allow me to share today's thoughts from my personal time in the book of Romans. The freedom of heaven will comes later, but even today we can be free from our guilt and sin.

February 18, 2010
Romans 3:21-31
Verse 24, 27: “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus…. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.”

Impression: When will this stubborn pride and fleshly mind of mine accept the fact that there is nothing I have or can do to bring about my justification (a right legal standing before God—not guilty)?! It is God who justifies. It is God who gave justification as a gift. According to verses 25-26, the death of Christ was a demonstration of the righteousness of God. It revealed the wickedness of man and the price required to redeem man from death. God, in His goodness and grace, allows me to come to Him on the basis of faith. Simple faith. No works will accomplish His righteousness: not penance, not baptism, not attendance, not heritage, not commitments, not sacrifice, not self-recrimination, not guilt, not self-adulation. The only way to gain a “not guilty” status before Almighty God is by simple, resting faith in Jesus as the One who bore my sin.
And He doesn’t just cover my sin now, today. Verse 25 says that God, in the forebearance of His righteousness, passed over the sins previously committed. What generosity! He doesn’t forgive me from this point forward—He forgives me from this point backward and into this present time—the now of today. And tomorrow, this will be the present time (now) and the previously committed sins will be forgiven then. And the next day, previously committed sins will be forgiven along with the present sins… and on, and on.
“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (verse 28).