Sunday, 8 May 2016

On Forgiveness: 3. Why some people are set free and others are not

Jesus came to set us free.  He said so himself.  This is what he said:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Luke 4:18-19

Some people become Christians and still struggle for the rest of their lives against bad habits, addictions, fears, what some call ‘besetting sins’.  They never get over them.

Some people become Christians and experience freedom from some serious issues, such as alcoholism, drug addictions, sexual vices, fears, depression, mental illness and so on.

How can one person’s experience be so different from another’s when they both trust in the same God?

There may be different reasons for this, but may I suggest one of the main ones.  Christians who have learned to forgive others and themselves can overcome some terrible things.  To put it another way,

Those who are forgiven much, love much.

If you speak to any Christian leader or counsellor who deals with lots of people, they will virtually without exception say the same.

Jesus went to an ‘open house’ party at the home of a religious man known as a Pharisee, named Simon.  A woman who worked in the sex industry approached Jesus.  In those days in the Middle East, as now, women who let their hair hang loose or touch or kiss a man in public are seen as immoral women.
[A] woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that [Jesus] was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.  Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”  And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed fifty thousand pounds, and the other five.  When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”  Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”  And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Luke 7:37-50

I have noticed that people who have lived a very bad life in the past, but who experience Jesus’ forgiveness have a huge amount of love in their hearts.  They may not be very good at behaving in a ‘churchy’ respectable way (as Simon thought), but it is really important that we help ‘bad people’ (sinners, as the above passage calls it) to know they can be completely forgiven, and to love them.


Those who are forgiven much, love much.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

On Forgiveness: 2. How to be Forgiven

I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it is, after being weighed down by guilt for many years, to be assured that God has forgiven me.  Yes, ME!!!  My eyes fill with tears when I just think about it.  I SO don’t deserve it!  But his forgiveness is mine to cherish.

For you and me there is nothing more important than this.  How do we experience God’s forgiveness?  Well, in order to explain this, I am going to recount what Jesus taught about prayer.  What some call the Lord’s Prayer…

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us this day our daily bread,
 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 6:9-15 (ESV)

I’m going to keep this very simple.  In order to receive forgiveness from God we have to do the following things:

  1. Realise that we have sinned seriously against God.
  2. Confess to God that we have sinned, turn from them and ask his forgiveness
  3. Forgive everyone who has ever sinned against us

It’s the third one that doesn’t get mentioned very much when someone explains how to be in a right place with God.

Do you want God to forgive you for the wrong things you have done?  Then forgive others for the wrong things they have done to you.

Some people are now going to say things like this:
  • Are you serious?  After all the abuse I received from my father?
  • Are you serious?  I can’t forgive my wife for cheating on me like that!
  • Are you serious?  I can never forgive that man who destroyed my daughter’s life.

The list can be endless.  I will discuss further what forgiveness involves in time, but I want to spell out once again.  It may be a real battle.  It may be the hardest thing you have ever done!  It may be a struggle you will need to take time over…

Do you want God to forgive you for the wrong things you have done?  Then forgive others for the wrong things they have done to you.