Wednesday, September 4, 2013

26 minutes in...

About a year ago, I listened through a series of talks on marriage by a godly pastor named Steve Wilkins.  I have been thinking once again about the content from his talk about was truly a wonderful talk, given at a family camp in California, and you too can listen to it by clicking this link.  Around the 26 minute mark, he notes that forgiveness costs us something. 

We know it cost God something, don't we?  Forgiveness cost God big time…for Him to be both just and the justifier, Jesus had to suffer and die on our behalf.  But oh the gains!  God could have stayed angry with us and we all could be facing His just wrath on account of our many wrongdoings.  He would have been perfectly just…He is the Judge and we have done wrong…there would be no wrongdoing on His part to make us suffer the due consequences of our sins. That is because He is God.

One of the often memorized verses of the Bible is John 3:16, which says: “For God so loved this world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Now slow that down.  God SO LOVED.  He GAVE.  His only begotten SON.  Are you a parent?  Could you give your child to rescue rebels?  Would you even want to re-establish relationship with those who have betrayed you, lied to you, forsaken you, killed your messengers, and sinned against you in an overwhelming myriad of ways?  John was not kidding when he told us in 1 John 3:1 to “BEHOLD what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!  Forgiveness wasn’t free for God…it cost Him mightily.  And He didn’t stop at forgiveness in the sense of wiping out  our liability for punishment with His love…He more than restored relationship by adopting us and bringing us into His family.  

He took initiative and died for sinners (not people who had begged for His mercy and totally cleaned up their act...people like you and me, still in our sins and not even caring a hoot about Him)...and we know that.  For those of us who have been forgiven by God, we also know we are supposed to forgive others as Christ forgave us. But have you ever been asked by someone to be forgiven and found it really hard to do?  Getting back to the 26 minute mark, Pastor Steve shed some helpful light: 

"It sounds simple, but it is really hard BECAUSE in order to do this, you’ve got to:
  1. Give up the feeling of superiority that comes from being bitter against someone for a good reason.  It is a delicious feeling, and we have all been guilty of enjoying it. You have grounds for being really angry.  And your holy little soul has been damaged by Mr. or Mrs. Inconsiderate, and you take great inward pleasure in standing above them in your so called righteous judgments.  It is a delicious feeling to think yourself more holy than other people [and it destroys the church all the time because all of us like it!].  You know you are supposed to forgive when someone asks you to, but you delay it…”I just can’t talk about it right now” with puckered lip.  We put people off so we can feel superior for at least a little while longer.  It is a great wickedness.  We hang onto the offenses so that we can feel more righteous than they are.
  2. Holding onto the hurts makes us feel like we have something to hold up as a reason for people to feel sorry for us.  Nobody appreciates me, nobody is thoughtful like me, nobody knows what I suffer…I feel sorry for myself and I like it when someone else feels sorry for me too.  If I let go of the offenses, I lose this power.
Forgiveness costs you something…it costs you your self righteousness and your self pity.  BUT, if you give up your self righteousness and self pity, you are going to be free of anger, and bitterness, and frustration and the poisonous spirit of revenge that drains you from the ability to love, and of peace and joy.  Forgiveness does cost us something, but when we understand the gain we know there is no greater bargain.  There is no substitute for mercy."

We can only do that by remembering the greater price that was paid by God for us all.  It frees us to love.  Notice that the things it costs us to forgive are self-focussed.  Doesn't God call us to consider one another, to lay our lives down, to take initiative to point people to Jesus that they might live by His grace?

Later in his talk, he said: "Nothing but repentance and forgiveness solves the problem, and when you do that you have a place where you can begin to rebuild on the right foundation, the foundation of our Savior and have the life you stopped thinking is possible." 


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