Faithful and Just to Forgive (Made Complete in Love to Love)

by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project

This read is a unique Bible Study on the essence and virtue of forgiveness both coming in and going out. My hope is that examining some truth concerning the matter of forgiveness and the cost of grace will make it nearly impossible for you to ever again suppress the motivation to let go and forgive.  God’s gift of mercy when shared is liberating… one less burden to carry. Take this ride with me.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (NKJV)

Have you fully considered the profound reality contained in the promise that when you confess your sins that God is faithful and (that’s right) just to forgive you entirely and cleanse you of all unrighteousness?

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. Psalm 103:10-13 (NLT)

What an incredible promise, but… what does it all mean for you, and what does it actually require of you, or from you?

Also, did you catch the qualifier in the promise? It’s in there twice. The promise applies to those who fear Him; like a child reveres his father—loyal, submitted under his authority and direction, honoring him, holding him in highest esteem. Children whose fathers are loving, gracious, generous providers, and protective; worship their dad’s; want to be like their fathers, or marry someone just like dad.

First, let’s examine more closely what the promise of forgiveness means for us.

As a child of God, having been reborn in the Spirit of God through relationship with Jesus, I have been renewed into newness of life… a new creation… with new thoughts and attitudes… my new nature being like Christ’s… viewed as holy and pure by Holy God.

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him,  throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:21-24 (NLT)

How did this come about?

Made Weak

Jesus_cross-340x170Well, it cost God His very own son. It cost Jesus his divine privilege, having embraced the full nature within a human existence, with all of its inherent flaws.  It cost Jesus his life by way of crucifixion. And most severe, it cost Jesus his human soul, having experienced the full weight of the consequence for sin; the full wrath of God against the evil hostility contained within the sin of all mankind.

For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4 (NKJV)

“Weak through the flesh” means that no one can have relationship with God by way of the law since the law of God is the moral standard that no man, woman or child can live up to. If adhering to the moral standard, according to the law, the old covenant, was the avenue to heaven and relationship with God, no human person would ever see heaven since relationship with God would be impossible. But as long as sin abounded in the flesh of human beings, there needed to be a way to kill it. To be separated eternally from sin meant that sin would be condemned to hell, put away for eternity.

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.
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Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.

So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Matthew 26:39-44 (NKJV)

Jesus understood the gravity of his circumstance. He understood that “the cup” was the cup of God’s wrath against His enemies. This is huge! It should not be minimized or marginalized. It was more than death on a cross while fully human in the flesh. It was three days in the heart of the earth to experience in his soul of flesh the full wrath of a just God. Within the soul of the Son’s flesh, by way of your sin and mine, was hostility against His Father. (“My God, why have you forsaken me?”)

For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. Matthew 12:40 (NLT)

He was positionally the same as the prodigal son, who in his reckless hedonistic sinful existence was dead to his father (“My son was dead…”  Luke 15:24), not in a “you’re dead to me” kind of way, but dead as far as his son chose to remove himself from relationship with him. Remember that the father of the prodigal son is not the one who left, forsaking his son; it was the son who left; forsaking his father, as if the son’s attitude toward his father was, “You’re dead to me.” Jesus chose to leave the comfort of His divine nature to take on my human nature and at the cross take on the burden of my sin and the full impact of its outcome (Romans 6:23).

Like the father and the wayward son in Christ’s story, this was the relationship between God the Father and God the Son for those three days that Jesus suffered the torture of the cup of wrath in the heart of the earth. It must have been an eternity for them.

It was the price for newness of life for all who receive this gift. When considering that this reconciliation into relationship with God cost Him everything(!), it really goes without saying that salvation cannot be earned lest any man dare to boast (considering what it cost).

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)

It is in this context of what mercy for sin cost both God the Father and God the Son that we examine what it really means that He is faithful and just to forgive when we confess our sin.

I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. Galatians 2:21  (NKJV)

Does it mean that God is faithful to you and me that He forgives us and purifies us from all unrighteousness? Or does it mean that God the Father is faithful to Himself and perhaps His Son, that the sacrifice for sin would not be in vain… wasted… shrugged off as insignificant? The justice of God concerning our confession is that because He loves us so much, and desperately craves relationship with us that He sacrificed His Son for us. He owes it, not to us, but to Himself to fulfill the purpose of it all by declaring us innocent; holy for that matter.

So, what actually happened when it all happened?

Made Right

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT)

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans 5:6-11 (NLT)

Again, when considering what it cost God (the condemnation for sin through the experience of His Son in the heart of the earth), how absurd would it be to contemplate for even a moment that somehow someone could be good enough to be called righteous?

The free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:15-17 (NKJV)

Jesus in GethsemaneEven more inane than some notion that salvation can be earned is salvation, by way of God’s mercy, being taken for granted. Meaning what? Meaning, why sweat sin and selfish indulgence since God is faithful and just to forgive each and every time I confess my sin, as though I merely have a sin problem? I am hooked and cannot help myself. Good thing I have my ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ grace card should I give in to the sudden urge for gratification by way of a selfish action that is sinful.

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? CERTAINLY NOT! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Romans 5:19-21, 6:1-2 (NKJV)

Made New, Whole, Complete

The Apostle Paul is clearly informing us that as we have been involved by way of baptism into Christ’s death and resurrected with Him into new life, we no longer live subject to the power of the sin nature, no longer a slave to sin but set free.

He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. 2 Corinthians 5:15, 17, 19 (NLT)

The old life is gone; the new life has begun! I want to believe that but then, oops, I did it again! I sinned again. Disgusting! Why do I continue to be seduced by temptation, at times craving what comes with temptation, if the old life is gone, and I have been transformed into this new creation? Or as Paul wrote, why do I keep doing what I really do not want to be doing? He said that it is no longer I doing it, but something else still within me that is doing it.

If I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. Romans 7:20 (NLT)

My friend, Pastor Fran Leeman, has said that the new person, the new creation, is no longer the one sinning. He can’t sin! It is the old sin nature hanging around that sins. If I am in relationship with Christ, however, even though it appears as though the old nature is cunning and baffling—powerful, it no longer owns me or defines me.

Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. Romans 6:1-8 (NLT)

If I am in relationship with Jesus, having been baptized into his death, buried with him, and then been resurrected—reborn—into newness of life with him, then as He was declared innocent of the sin of all people for all of time, I am declared innocent of all of my sin from this point going back in time, as well as for whatever sins my old nature will commit from today forward. The truth about justification is that it is just as if I’d never sinned… EVER!

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. Colossians 2:6-10 (NLT)

Buried with Him in baptism… you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. Colossians 2:12 (NKJV)

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. Colossians 2:13-15 (NLT)

Believe it or not, this is indeed a Bible study on forgiveness… being forgiven as well as forgiving. Once it is understood where the power and peace comes from to forgive even the unforgivable, the non-repentant brothers and sisters you come across, you will recognize that mercy is something that emanates from being complete in Christ, who has made you into a finished product, having been filled through your union with Him.

The glory of God is man fully alive.” —Saint Irenaeus

You and I were broken in our sin until our Messiah came on the scene to pick up the broken pieces, condemn to hell that which was breaking us, and then fill this restored vessel with Himself. To be filled is to be made whole, filled with the pure goodness that is all of the righteousness of God; meaning all that is good; all that is virtuous; all that is the very best of everything God is. It is the essence of grace. It is the fullness of all that is alive.

Resentment is one’s commitment to malice, hostility and unforgiveness.  The glory of God is not something to be suppressed by animus. It should be obvious at this point that an unforgiving, merciless heart grieves the Spirit of God.

Transformed with a New Mind

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him…  or as I believe it should say, “… as we came to believe in Him.”

As you read the following passage from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, is there any doubt what inspired the third of the twelve steps?

God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience… receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. Romans 11:29-32 (NIV)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world (aeon in the original Greek, meaning ‘age’), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

Central to living this new life experience in relationship with Christ is experiencing transformation. Paul reminds us that what God has done through the ransom for sin for all who were disobedient, are included in the resurrection and transformed into newness of life with a renewed mindset and new attitude.

There is what I do and there is what God does.

What I do is I offer my life (body, mind and soul) sacrificially as an expression of my gratitude in a spirit of worship to the life-giver. I live as though set apart and anew in clear contrast to the patterns of this age that is mortal, finite, and its end is in sight. What God does is He changes me; restoring me into something He intended from the beginning. I suggest that we are restored since we were created with humanity being something beautiful and wonderful.

67-mustange-junk-yardIt’s like that antique piece of furniture in the junk heap or automobile in the junk yard that was no longer useful and considered obsolete; left for dead. Then someone elects to care for it, applying favor and ingenuity to repair and refinish it with just the right parts and ingredients until it is once again fully functional and better than ever in every way. What was once considered junk and dead is found and made alive to be precious and priceless. The antique could not repair itself. It needed to be restored into something new.

I cannot change the internal parts of me that are dying and must be brought back to life. I cannot change the defects in my thinking as long as they are intrinsically flawed in me. All I do is what is suggested that keeps me positionally accessible to the work of my Creator.

The word ‘be’ in “Be transformed” is a passive verb. It is what God does to me…  within me. It is the same as when Jesus says to be perfect and righteous as He and the Father is perfect and righteous (Matthew 5:48). It is not something I do, it is what I am made into in relationship with God. (FYI: That’s also the case when Paul writes to “be anxious for nothing” and “be joyful always”, which is tied into what God does in me when I surrender my needs to Him, live celebrating relationship with Him with an attitude of gratitude, and He works in me to experience transcendent peace and strength that cannot be adequately understood, and joy that cannot be adequately described… Philippians 4, 1 Thessalonians 5)

Now it’s time to examine more closely what the promise of forgiveness requires of us.

Made to Love

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)

How is it evident that I am truly in relationship with God through Jesus Christ?

Well, if I commit sin since having been forgiven under the cover of grace, conducting myself as though I have a license to sin… not all that conflicted about it… there lacks sufficient evidence that I know Jesus and that Jesus knows me. If I defy relationship with God “committed” to living in disobedience by way of the flesh, though He loves me, Christ would not be living in me.

Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Romans 6:16 (NLT)

Having been made into newness of life since Christ is living in me, what does that look like? What do I look like?

Jesus and the apostles throughout the New Testament mandate that the clearest evidence that one is a follower of Jesus Christ is love. Disciples of Jesus are motivated by the love of God coursing through them, expressed to one another through loving kindness and mercy.

Jesus said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35 (NLT)

There, of course, is a myriad of Scripture in the New Testament on the topic of love and loving one another. Love is the foundation for new life in Christ.

67-mustange-junk-yardWhen Jesus was approached about what it truly means to be a disciple, he stated the need to love God with your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. He identified one’s neighbor as, not merely those you love and gravitate toward, but those who may be unattractive, even offensive to you; offensive being that you might be offended by the person or by the situation and circumstance they represent that you are not comfortable with.

Jesus spoke of love as sacrificial, willing to surrender your way of life to serve God through love to one another. He let wealthy people know that loving Jesus means being willing to surrender your wealth and your time to help those in need. Just like the question, “Who’s my neighbor?” comes the question, “Who’s wealthy?” I will leave it up to you to search your heart with God to respond honestly to those questions.

Extend the Blessing

We have been blessed with the gift of new life through salvation, having experienced resurrection with Jesus through redemption into right relationship with God. God loves us so much that He made himself fully human to experience the full impact of the burden for sin. He extended a blessing to us that we can never fully comprehend.

67-mustange-junk-yardHaving had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to
carry this message to others in need, and to practice these principles in all our
affairs.

This is the twelfth of the twelve steps except that I modified it to include “others in need” for the purpose of emphasizing this point. I am called, in light of the spiritual reality of new life from the inside out, to carry the message of hope through newness of life to all who are receptive. I do not (because I cannot) contain the blessing, meaning that as I experience the fullness of God living in me I am unable to keep it to myself. The force from within is like a mighty river from within that will force its way out. It hasn’t left me. It continually flows though me and overflowing from me.

Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:38 (NIV)

Made for Mercy

“Vengeance may be right but it’s not yours. It doesn’t belong to you.” —Darwin Williams, Chicago, IL

A couple of years back, I was in a circumstance when I was wronged in a big, big way. I was hurt by it, disgusted by it, and when the person who wronged me I saw doing wrong, I wanted desperately to get even. It would have been justifiable. I get stirred up inside just thinking about it again, since “the wronging” persists doing wrong in that area of my life. But the anger in me is selfish, corrupt, and infected by my old sin nature. God’s anger is righteous and He is just. I need only to trust Him, and in trusting Him, let go of the resentment that churns and burns from within.

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19 (NLT)

David had been anointed to be the next king and King Saul was having none of it. He wasn’t ready to go anywhere for some time and he wasn’t going to let David hone in on what was his. So Saul and his army went looking for David and his little band of brothers, seeking to kill David and put an end to the momentum David was building to become the next king sooner than later.

David was a smart young warrior of valor, but on one occasion you might say he got lucky. He and his men were sleeping deep into a cave. Saul’s men were sleeping too. Saul recessed into the cave and also lied down for the night. Fearful, angry, and seemingly with just cause, David was poised to put an end to the chase by killing Saul quietly in his sleep and then slipping out with his men. Instead, contrary to the urging of his advisers, David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe swaddled next to him and then showed Saul from a distance away that he had it.

In the daylight of the morning, David called out to his adversary:

“For the Lord placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you… This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me… May the Lord judge between us. Perhaps the Lord will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you.” 1 Samuel 24:10-12 (NLT)

To burn with anger and resentment is to entertain for gratification the selfish sin nature. For the new creation full of grace, resentment and the spirit of unforgiveness is in no way a reflection, extension, or expression of the love of God that is the fruit-bearing evidence of the new life in relationship with Him. It is love that bears witness to new life in God. Compassion and mercy is the evidence of the love that reflects Christ.

Testimony Time

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)

I apologize in advance for the ambiguity in this testimony but the details are not important. With what I will disclose, you can fill in the gaps from your own personal experience and relate it to your own issues when it comes to anger and resentment.

I will admit to you that I definitely struggle with resentment and remembering. A couple of years back this really came to a head in meaningful relationships of mine. Things were done and things were said over time that resulted in substantial harm to me. It wasn’t that the relationships were in themselves toxic but there were obvious toxins in the goings on in the relationships in need of a remedy. They could not continue as they were.

The resentment burned and grew like cancer infecting my mood and attitude and spilled out onto valued loved ones in my life, and it was not at all fair to them. It was likely affecting my work as a counselor, especially since it conflicted with the integrity of my recovery and my ability to educate, listen to, and counsel my clients in need of recovery. I doubt I effectively modeled recovery during that time.

One Sunday morning at a worship service, the pastor spoke from Matthew chapter 18 concerning forgiveness:

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35 (NIV)

My Challenge 

God began challenging my spirit, though I didn’t know it yet. I had come to the place where my resentment sank so deep into my being that it was feeling like hatred toward people I cared very much about; individuals I love. It was sickening to me how bad it was. I was feeling deep conviction, guilt for that matter, and was feeling pushed from within to do something. But I didn’t know what to do.

Something I understood was that Jesus mandated,

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)

I confessed to God my feelings after service and began to pray in my mind. I sometimes pray my ABC of recovery and did so here walking to my car from church.

I A… admitted to God that the situation was way beyond my ability to control it or change (fix) it and that on my own, I was unable really to do much of anything about it. I admitted to God that even my feelings by now were out of control and that I couldn’t turn them off.

I told God that B… I believed in what He could do since all things in the end were under His control. He has given us each free will but God knows what makes each of us tick and what it will take for each of us to move from where we are in the circumstance, as well as in the relationship with one another.

I told God that C… I committed to turning my will and my life over to His plan for me and for those in this conflict with me. I told God that I will seek not my will in it, and that I will comply with His will and what He tells me to do.

God did tell me. He told me what I needed to do for reconciliation in these relationships. I did not hear an audible voice; never have. I heard the Spirit of God communicate something clear as a bell. Words came to my thoughts. I understood what He wanted me to do and I did not like it.

Anybody want to guess what God told me to do?

Are you ready for it?

He told me to apologize… to tell them I am sorry.

How could I apologize to them when they should be apologizing to me?! They owe me that!

What was I sorry about? How can I say that I’m sorry when I am not sorry?

Then the Spirit of God flooded my heart and mind with conviction about what I was sorry about. He revealed to me that my resentment and unforgiving spirit was sin against God and brought substantial harm to them (and to me) and that it was not justifiable on any level. He told my thoughts that I was entirely responsible for all that I contributed to the mess and ugliness. He informed my mind that my resistance to repentance for my sin was on me, not them.

When I am under conviction about my merciless heart, I wrestle this question: If God is faithful to Himself considering the price He paid to reconcile with me, how can I not be faithful to Him considering the price He paid to reconcile with my brothers and sisters?

While I can never repay my Savior for what He sacrificed for me, I must certainly sacrifice by way of forgiveness for those who have hurt me. I OWE HIM THAT!

That is what is required of me; to be faithful and just (meaning right) to forgive.

I might not feel merciful. But that is no excuse. Extending mercy to my brothers and sisters is primarily an act of obedience to my Lord. It is necessary for my relationship with Him to be made right, before it is about them and those relationships to be made right.

animals_loving_each_other_5 (2)

At that point, I committed to turning it over to God. I surrendered intellectually, even though my heart was heavy with the weight of the burden. Then came something awesome. The Spirit of God gave me serene peace about the situation and the strength to give up the fight and to let go of the pain I had experienced for several months. It was gone! I had forgiven them, sincerely from my heart. It had no bearing on me whether these people I had felt wronged by were repentant or not. That would be between them and God.

So, I did it that very day; a cold Sunday in January. In separate opportunities, I went to each of them individually as soon as I could. I told them I was sorry… without any qualifiers. The response was incredible. Not simply the response to my words, which was pretty cool; but there was a sustained response to the problem, even though my repentant words to them made no mention of the problem I had (with them). Neither of them said to me, “I’m sorry too.” By then, I didn’t need that. It was clear they each had a problem with me. My attitude toward them had been ugly and ungodly. I was truly sorry for that. God had showered me with all of the mercy and the grace I needed.

The issues surrounding the immense conflict resolved themselves in a number of ways. The problems were no longer problems; not just because I perceived the problem differently, or was merely given enough ‘grace’ to cope, becoming more tolerant and accepting. Things changed! Really! Attitudes were different and better. Altogether, we shared in an authentic grace experience. It was a marvelous thing. To this day, I doubt they know much how miraculous this expression of God’s grace was.

I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NLT)

What I tend to battle against when it comes to faith isn’t what I believe God can do. I believe in that from my deepest intellectual sensibilities. I combat emotionally in my spirit doubt about God will do. There lies the spiritual conflict for me.

But God is good all of the time!

We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NLT)

The Spirit of mercy that He imparted to me put my soul at rest. God’s love healed me.

This cycle now continues for me. It is now a way of life. I will get unreasonably angry and resentful still. But now I have an escape. I have to find the book on the shelf that gains me access to the mysterious passage into God’s healing grace. The Word of God is my path to Him. My ABC recovery from resentment and ill-willed feelings is an ongoing movement within me. My emotional well-being is manageable in God’s hands.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)

The Call

If you have read all of this and you are here, then you are likely mindfully drawn into a circumstance and relationship(s) that is troubling you.

I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will. John 5:30 (NLT)

Do what Jesus did.

A) Admit to yourself and to God that you are powerless on your own to the change that is needed.

B) Believe in what God can do in the matter, starting with what God can do in you, even if you doubt emotionally in what God will do.

C) Commit to trusting in what you believe God can do and surrender your life, which includes your circumstances and relationships, into His care His way.

Confess to God your sin. Pray for a spirit of repentance to receive forgiveness. Pray for peace. Pray for the healing of your heart. Pray for an attitude of surrender to let it go. Pray for a spirit of mercy to forgive as an expression of worship to the one who has paid the price to forgive you.

Now, let go and give God all that burdens you. Then wait for God to communicate to your mind and heart what is next for you to do, or not to do. Let God go to work and do what only He can do. Be washed clean in the righteousness of your Savior, Jesus Christ. Soak yourself in His love.

See if God’s grace is sufficient for you.

“When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6 (NLT), The Words of Jesus

The Harsh Reality

Please know that there is the flipside to forgiveness, that is unforgiving and merciless. Unforgiving grudges, unrelenting resentment and bitterness, and preoccupations with vengeance fueling some persistent pursuit to get even, do not reflect the love, nor even the life of God from within.

I will leave you with the following Scripture from the disciple Jesus loved.

14 If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.

16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?

18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. 20 Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.

21 Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. 1 John 3:14-21 (NLT)

Carry on my wayward son,
For there’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more

Once I rose above the noise and confusion
Just to get a glimpse beyond the illusion
I was soaring ever higher, but I flew too high
Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man
Though my mind could think I still was a mad man
I hear the voices when I’m dreamin’, I can hear them say

Carry on my wayward son,
For there’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more

Masquerading as a man with a reason
My charade is the event of the season
And if I claim to be a wise man, it surely means that I don’t know
On a stormy sea of moving emotion
Tossed about I’m like a ship on the ocean
I set a course for winds of fortune, but I hear the voices say

Carry on my wayward son,
For there’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more

Carry on, you will always remember
Carry on, nothing equals the splendor
Now your life’s no longer empty
Surely heaven waits for you

Carry on my wayward son,
For there’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more

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6 Responses to Faithful and Just to Forgive (Made Complete in Love to Love)

  1. Pastor Maurice Adero says:

    Praise the Lord again… This message blessed me this morning. Wow, I didn’t even know how i bumped into this. Thank you glorious father God.

  2. Yes, Christian concern is love each one, meaning forgive every one and every time; it’s how we are forgiven by Jesus.

  3. Albertha McArthur says:

    Thank you, Steve. It is an ongoing experience in my life too. I thank Jesus daily for His ongoing grace and work in my life. What a joy it was to read this about forgiveness! And what a joy for Pastor John and me to see God working in your life and ministry. However, I still get updates and ever since you first “came on board” I have been asking God to guide you in his ways. You were very young when our paths crossed, but we always remember your Mom and the rest of the family.

  4. Jeri Wickersham says:

    I thought it should be a sermon preached on a Sunday. The gospel and the gospel of forgiveness could not be more plain. I read it out loud at the computer and thoroughly enjoyed it. You are a preacher, Steven, and I pray that God would use this talent in some other way to His glory, so that many more would be able to hear your heart. I love you and keep up the mighty work of God. Thank you for being a joy to my life. I love you , Mom

  5. Bishop D. says:

    I don’t know you but thank God for you because this is right on time. Thank you.

  6. Lucia says:

    Thank you very much for the forgiveness bible study. There’s a lot to chew and swallow but I am going to eat it… all… for l do need it. I appreciate the opportunity and invitation. God bless you abundantly my brother and thank you for allowing the Lord to use you as a conduit.

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