Two Trajectories for Forgiveness

Lately, world attention has been locked on the conflict between North Korea and the United States. The growing tension found in rhetoric being bantered back and forth has led to what some say is the real possibility of war which may in fact happen because of a misunderstanding, misconception or overreaction from both sides. If that were to occur then you can expect lethal activity to occur.

This world crisis is akin to the Christians own plight in the world. The Bible does not speak in rhetoric. Spiritual warfare began after the fall and Christians are not to take flight but fight against the encroaching pagan influences on the Christian faith that seeks to neutralize it or destroy it altogether. The world will not surrender nor give an inch; it is spoken of being in darkness whereas Believers are the light whereas both are incompatible and cannot be mixed. Where the world lies in deceit, lies, and corruption Christianity makes sounds to the contrary voice and teaches all that is good, pure, and holy. Unlike a company of evil doers in the first century, Jesus Christ remained unaffected, without offence. He told his disciple that He would pay the temple tax so not to offend (Matthew 17:27). He resisted the temptation to chastise his disciples for arguing over who would be the greatest in God’s Kingdom even though earlier they had been informed about His Crucifixion; instead He taught them about humility as the pressing condition for Kingdom greatness. He then spoke of the offences that are expected to come from the world against His church and children and the damning warning against those who offend them. Jesus warned against offences that Believer may commit as well, possessing human bodies with hands feet, eyes that may serve as instruments to offend. It is for this reason that Jesus tells us how to deal with offences when they are exacted against us so that we do not unholster sinful reactions against the offender(s). If the light is to shine in darkness it must remain light and not lose its luster by becoming embittered or hateful when offended.

The Believer has two recourses which he may follow when dealing with offences against himself. He may simply overlook the offence. In such a case, the relationship is manageable and can continue since the one offended does not see the need to pursue further remedial action. He may hope for repentance but will not pursue it. He is prepared to let go of it, to drop it altogether. The offence is remembered no more and resolve is made never to bring it up again. This is an intentional act that can only be exercised by love. Love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). Hatred stireth up strifes, but love covereth all sins (Proverbs 10:12). The end goal is for the relationship to be restored to its previous state of peace. This is the all important objective in view: to reconcile differences so that the relationship returns to health once again. This cannot be emphasized too much. Always in Biblical problem solving the aim is to mend broken relationships; where this is not achieved the Scriptures have not been honoured.

The second means at our disposal in forgiveness is when repentance is absolutely necessary because the breach in relationship is far too great to overlook, or that it carries consequences too weighty to dismiss it. One instance of this is when it becomes necessary to exercise the churches cooperation to regulate situations that may affect the testimony of Christ or members of the Church (Matthew 18:15-20). Furthermore, forgiveness should never be allowed to cover up or become an enabler for the person to continue in sin. It takes wisdom and grace to deal with problems affecting the Church and its members and whether or not successful, a Christian must place complete faith in God, knowing that Biblical means are being exercised. Following God’s prescribed means for forgiveness should always end in peace for both parties if efforts are made to truly seek to honour Jesus Christ. Where there is indifference in attitude and lack of obedience then the process toward reconciliation is either stalled or compromised and re-establishing relationships will fail. All too often not enough emphasis is placed on seeing forgiveness from a divine standard. For this to happen, we must see that the point of reference for our motivation is God alone. The Lord taught a parable precisely on this point.

Jesus presented a story about forgiveness in Matthew 18:15-20. It underscores the kings willingness to forgive a large amount of money owing Him by his servant. The king in this story, epitomizes God’s willingness to forgive us our many sins, so that we ourselves are to do likewise with others. Based on God’s great forgiveness toward us, we should be prepared to forgive others too, the little that it is in comparison to God’s. The foundation for forgiveness is God’s amazing grace to richly forgive us and it is to be understood, practiced, and reciprocated among ourselves. (Matthew 18:15-20).

Undoubtedly, a many of us find it hard to forgive. Keep in mind that the practise of forgiveness is a sure sign of being forgiven (Matthew 6:14, 15), that being the case, surely there is cause for personal circumspection in many of our church members today. The world cannot enter into this type of letting go of past offences, or reconciling differences in the same manner that the Christian can, Christ is always glorified when brethren truly seek the welfare of one another to repair and restore broken relationships.

For you who has not known this type of relationship to Christ that we have spoken about but hope to experience, your first course of action is to seek forgiveness of your sins at the cross of Jesus. He will heal you of any guilt and shame and blot out your sins completely so that you will not die in your sins, but be justified and made-ready for heaven!

I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins (Isaiah 43:25 cf Jeremiah 31:34).

Prayer: The Weapon of Choice

Suppose in real life that the enemy, let us consider ISIS in this case, continues their human savagery, instilling fear through their striking commitment to murder, torture, rape any who stand in their way toward global domination. Just think if it is left unchecked what that would mean? It would lead to genocide of historical proportions and to date not since the Holocaust has the world seen a combined undertaking to annihilate a people as we see today in Muslim led lands. The anti-Christian abuse is unimaginable and only a fierce resolve from our leaders and troops can prevent them from establishing terror-run-states to wage greater jihad to reach their objective. Staunch and unyielding opposition is called for, not appeasement. But this is not the worst of it, there is an even more horrific enemy and he is in our homes.

The Bible describes him as the deceiver of the whole world “the accuser” (Revelation 12:9–10), “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), and “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan is no mere figment of our imagination, a creature with a pitchfork standing idly by waiting for his next victim. He is hard at work whose goal is well documented “The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). He is ruthless and clever and stops at nothing to bind men’s souls from believing the gospel. Not even Church going folk are off limits for him. Acts 20:30 teaches that they will not spare the flock, but will draw people away to destruction. His commitment to turn people from the truth is seen in Jesus parable of the four types of gospel reception in Mark 4:1-9. In it, the seed of the Word of God is sown, and some falls on the path and birds quickly take it away. Jesus explains in verse 15, “Satan immediately comes and takes away the Word which was sown in them.” Satan is busy! He is our “adversary [who] prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). At his most successful, his subjects march obliviously to destruction, and take as many with them as they can. He is a bloodthirsty enemy of the gospel and for many he seeks to make eternal life miserable and has done exactly that.

Satan’s strategies are many and all aimed at trying to kill, steal, and destroy us. Satan hates us. He hates God. His hatred is manifested through his schemes to hold captive men’s souls and silence God’s people. Satan will use every tactic possible to get our focus off of the Lord and onto ourselves. One of Satan’s greatest tools is deception. When we least expect it, we can be lulled into a trap set by him. We must become more aware of Satan’s schemes and take necessary steps to fight back. Ignorance of the enemy’s methods is not recommended. We must know his tactics and strategies if we wish to be successful with our own plan of attack.

Satan aims to entice our flesh. Our flesh loves pleasure and Satan knows it. He seduces us through desires for fleshly pleasures and creature comforts. We become complacent and indifferent toward the things of God. We tolerate things that prior convictions would never have permitted. Because our flesh loves pleasure, Satan lures us into thinking that some things that are “good to look at” are the best thing for us. The same thing Lot did when he saw that the land of Sodom and Gomorrah had agricultural promise to raise his livestock, but failed to consult God about his choice, and later it almost ruined him. Satan is good at what he does, always searching for your “Achilles heel” to tempt and bring about your downfall. He makes sin look attractive, profitable, and even harmless.

In 2 Co. 2:11, gross immorality was found in the church and was finally dealt with when the sinner repented. The congregation was to take him back not in a harsh repulsive manner which had they done would have contributed to an already difficult situation. Far too common in churches exist unforgiving censorous attitudes where true forgiveness is withheld which only furthers the Devil’s work, and gives him an advantage. Where there is true repentance, forgiveness is granted, and the sinner received into the church. The Church is not to exact greater church discipline then what is necessary especially not be overly severe which may leave the sinner in greater despair where he may be drawn into a denial of the faith. This is one instance of many that speaks of Satan’s design to “outwit us” and cause someone to stumble and undermine Kingdom Work. There are many more strategies that he uses and remember that he is not under any ethical review committee that can review his dirty work and hold him accountable. The rule of thumb for Satan is that if it works he will do anything to succeed. Paul points to the devil’s schemes in Ephesians 6:11 and commands us not only to stand against them but how we are to do combat against him.

While the response to battle Satan is comprehensive and played out for us by Paul (10-18), let me say that part of that weaponry is prayer. Our prayers are to be Holy Spirit assisted joined by an attitude of dependence on God. We do this daily along with set times of prayer where the focal point is concentrated on the spiritual. Jesus fought against the devil on our behalf with the weapon of prayer. He said to Peter in Luke 22:31–32, “Satan has asked to have you that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” Jesus illustrates for us the opposition of a specific satanic threat with prayer. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). That is, deliver us from any success Satan may have in his attempts to cause us to do evil. The question is: are you really aware of the greater enemy that we must confront today, or have you capitulated already to his many devices? If so, return to God and pray that He forgive you and help you in your spiritual battle. If you are somewhat unaware of Satan’s existence or simply have not thought much about it, consider this world and the catastrophic evil found in it and who is behind it. Go to Christ and find your salvation in Him. Through the blood of the cross, He has reconciled all things to Himself and has made peace. One day, Satan and his cohorts will be cast into hell fire, and Believers will enjoy eternity in a heaven where sin will be no more. Sound too good to be true? Read the Scriptures and learn for yourself the grand scheme of God’s redemptive plan.

May God lead you to believe His Word, and trust in His Son Jesus Christ to save you.