But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (Matt 6:15)

Is it impossible for a Christian to have unforgiveness in their hearts? What I mean to ask is does unforgiveness in my life prove that I am not a Christian, or not forgiven? I believe that we are all in a walk, and growing in our faith. One is a Christian when they surrender their life to Jesus. There is a point in time when we step from darkness to light, from the kingdom of satan (by the way – I leave that “proper name” all lower case just to dis satan) to the kingdom of God. And at that point in time, you are no longer under the condemnation of God. You have begun a walk that will never end. From this moment, right through all eternity, we continue to grow more and more like Jesus.

So one day you are just walking along and you see someone who once hurt you deeply, walking down the aisle of the grocery store. You avoid them like crazy, trying not to end up picking out soup together. God points out a place in your heart where there is still pain, and maybe even anger. You remember what they did to you like it was yesterday. What do you do about it?

God is a genius at walking our faults right up in front of us, so that we can deal with them and turn them over to Him for healing.

What would Jesus do?

That’s actually pretty easy, because He already did it. Or perhaps I should say the Father already did it. Check this out – God did not hold your sins against you. Consider this passage from 2nd Corinthians: “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:18-19)

Here is the key to living in community, and it will work in the Church, or in the work place, or even in your home. Don’t count their trespasses against them. [Tweet This] It is actually the job that you have been given from the Father according to this verse. You have been given the ministry of reconciliation – namely – not holding their trespasses against them.

So this goes for the lost you are trying to reach, as well as the family you are wishing you didn’t have to go visit this weekend. If you can cut them the same slack you cut yourself when you fail or fall short, or mess up, you will find that you can do a much better job of loving them.

Have you ever noticed that when someone rides up the shoulder of the highway and swerves right in front of you, they are a jerk, but when you find yourself in an awkward situation on the road, and have to slip into line, it has to do with circumstances beyond your control, and you were simply forced to do it. It wasn’t what it looked like right? Or how about when you are on line in the grocery store and it is taking forever. You are the next in line, and suddenly the next register over opens up, and some guy walks up just as they open, and gets out of the store before you have actually gotten to the cashier. You feel like – why didn’t they ask me to come over and go first. It’s not fair!!!!! Hmmm – it’s stuff like this that constantly tests your ability to forgive, to step back and not hold others trespasses against them. To take a look from their point of view.

Stop in tomorrow when I talk about the Fringe Benefits of forgiveness

If you missed yesterday’s post check it out here. Forgive It or Forget It!

Thanks for stopping in today.

Ben

Sign photo credit: quantumlars via photo pin cc

Soup photo credit: Ben Nelson

But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (Matt 6:15)

So here is a concept that I am not sure we embrace. According to Jesus we are forgiven in the same measure that we forgive. Definitely not what I wanted to hear. My concept of forgiveness is that God separates all my sins from me as far as the East is from the West, that He forgets my transgressions, and treats me as if I had never thought a single evil thought.

Let’s take a look at one of Jesus’ parables and see if we can get some help. In Matthew 18, which by the way is entirely about forgiveness and restoration of relationships, Jesus tells a parable.

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. And when he had begun to settle them, there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying,

‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything.’ And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.

But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’

So his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’

He was unwilling however, but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.

So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.

So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35 NASB)

This is such a powerful story and demonstrates exactly what Jesus is teaching here. Your ability to forgive demonstrates your understanding of what you have received. When you receive the full pardon for all your trespasses against the Father, and yet do not forgive that which has been done against you, it demonstrates your lack of comprehension of what has been done for you. It actually goes to demonstrate that you have not actually received that forgiveness.

Remember that the forgiveness of God is a free gift, which must be received by faith. Through this faith we see just how completely we need forgiveness, and how completely inadequate our attempts to pay or cover our sin have been. When we demonstrate hatred for others and a vengeful spirit, we demonstrate that we have not received that new nature, we are not born of the Spirit that can set us free. You cannot live in mercy and justice at the same time. When we have received mercy, and can’t give mercy, we walk back into the realm of justice, and undermine the mercy we have received.

Think of it this way. There are only 2 covenants that we can live in. We cannot expect to live in the New Covenant in the mercy of God, and not extend that forgiveness to those around us. [Tweet This]

Come back tomorrow when I answer the question: Can a Christian harbor Unforgiveness?

Thanks for stopping in today.

Come back soon,

Ben
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Chalk Board photo credit: LivingOS via photo pin cc

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Wipe our Debt
Wipe our Debt (Photo credit: Images_of_Money)

For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt 6:12,14-15 NASB)

I find it interesting that verse 12 uses the word debt, and verses 14 & 15 uses trespass or transgression.

Debt in verse 12 is literally anything owed -

Thayer's lexicon says this debt is an obligation imposed by

  • Law
  • Duty
  • Reason
  • The times
  • The nature of the matter under consideration

So then this is a very broad word. The request made to Our Father is to forgive all obligations, as we have forgiven all that by obligation is owed to us.

Here's Your Bill Sir

This would include money, honor, obedience, advancement, and friendship. This would apply to all our relationships including, friends, spouses, parents, children, acquaintances, and business associates. The Lord never bisects our lives between personal, business, spiritual, or social, the way we tend to. [Tweet This]

We are asking the Lord to forgive all our debts - everything we owe anyone, in the same way we forgive anything owed us.

In 14 and 15 Jesus brings it back more specifically to our sin debt. Our debt of sin is forgiven in the same way we treat everything we owe.

How are you at paying your debts? How are you at forgiving your debts?

Thanks for stopping in today. Come back soon.

Ben

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And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt 6:12,14-15)

These are some of the strongest words in all of scripture. How can Jesus make this unequivocal statement? And on such a difficult topic!

Is He really saying that our forgiveness is subject to review on the basis of how we forgive? I must be missing something. Or am I?

Consider this:

Without Christ, our ability to forgive is virtually non-existent. Without Christ, a man cannot ever really forgive, because he does not KNOW forgiveness. Until you know the true freedom that comes when your weight of sin is lifted, you cannot understand what it means to forgive.

Until you see the magnitude of your offence before a Holy God
Until you see the inestimable treasure that was laid down to pay the price for your forgiveness
Until you know how immense your sin was

… you will be hard pressed to reckon others worthy of your forgiveness.

Once you see that your offence was far beyond your ability to repay, then and only then, you may be able to let go of offences against you.

In conclusion, Jesus is not so much stating that if you want to be forgiven you can earn forgiveness by forgiving others, but rather, your ability to forgive others is an indication that you have been forgiven, [Tweet This] that you have been set free and given the ability to forgive.

Without God’s forgiveness, you will never be able to forgive.

Does this make sense?

Thanks for reading today. Tell me what you think.

Ben

This is an article I wrote a couple years ago, but it fits in with what I have been blogging on lately. 

I am thinking about how important relationship is to the Lord. We as "born again" Christians are quick to say that Christianity is a relationship not a religion. This could not be more right! God is all about relationship. Jesus sums up God's whole law with two relationship sayings "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength" and "love your neighbor as you love yourself." (Luke 10:27)

I know some Christians who feel like as long as they are doing OK with God, their relationship to other Christians is not so important. They can be at outright war with other brothers and sisters in Christ, not speaking to one another for years, and still consider themselves to be in a good spiritual place with the Lord.
Jesus said some things that militate against this idea. Consider this:
Mark 11:25-26  "And when you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses."
Matthew 5:23-24 "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you; Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
These two scriptures take away any excuses we may have. In Mark Jesus said if you have anything against anyone, forgive them, or you can consider your forgiven status forfeit. Ok I can live with this because it is about me. If I have a problem with someone I get it, I need to make it right.
But what about this gem from the Sermon on the Mount? Now it is my problem if someone has something against me. WOW, it sounds like God is really serious about us getting our relationships right. In both of these cases Jesus has us in the posture of approaching God, with prayers and sacrifices, and Jesus would rather we stop the service, and fix the relationships. He did not say, Jot down a note to call so and so when you get home, but he said leave your gift, go be reconciled, and then do your business with God.
John said it this way: 1John 4:20-21 "If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loves God love his brother also."
It is time to do this relationship thing right. [Tweet This]
BenThanks for reading!
Ben



Peace wall, Belfast - photo credit - http://www.flickr.com/photos/a11sus/460787247/

Four times in Matthews telling of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us we can expect to be treated in direct relationship to the way we treat others.

The first shows up in the beatitudes. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." (Matthew 5:7 NASB)
The next is in the Lord’s prayer
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:12-15 NASB)
In the next chapter Jesus tells us: “Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2 NASB)
Finally Jesus tells us to live our lives by one simple rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 NIV)
Oh and by the way, just for the record, in Luke's gospel it happens that this same principle is true with your time, talent and treasure. "Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." Luke 6:38 NASB
What would happen if you actually treated your wife, sister, brother, husband, boss, neighbor, pastor, enemy… the way you want to be treated? What if when someone hurts you, you gave them the same amount of mercy you give yourself when you mess up? Did you get that question? If you are like me, when you screw up you cut yourself a lot of slack. You rationalize a thousand mitigations  and totally excuse yourself. But when others hurt you, will you even listen to their apology?
Many times we find ourselves with no mercy, no forgiveness, and full of judgment especially toward  those closest to us. Those who have paid the highest price of relational time with us get the least consideration and mercy.
God’s kingdom is upside-down, isn't it?
The lengths to which God expects us to go to protect relationships amazes me. But on the other hand God crucified His only son to restore His relationship with us! If I am ever to look like Jesus, I am going to have to put a much higher value on relationship.
What could you do today to improve a relationship that is not where you want it to be? [Tweet This] Ask the Lord for some ideas, if you don’t already know where to start. Even if it is only a baby step toward reconciliation, it will be worth it. Take a deep breath and go for it.
 
Thanks for reading!
Ben

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Matthew 5:7 NASB)
Oh how we need to hear this! After taking a big step up this stairway to heaven and stirring up a hunger and thirst for righteousness, what do you know, my spirit gets all, well, judgmental! I am a wreck. The more I see Jesus, the more I am amazed. Here is the one who never – ever – no never darkened a commandment with the slightest nod, but does he get all stirred up about sinners and their sin? Nope! He has lunch with harlots, and protects the virtue of adulteresses. He goes out to dinner with the drunkards, and hangs out with the worst vermin of all, tax collectors.

We have to get this. Have you ever used the line – I love the sinner but hate their sin? Are you aware that there is no chapter and verse for that? I have heard this used as an excuse for hate on more occasions that you can image.

If I am brutally honest with myself I wonder if I would have been the Pharisee in Jesus’ day. Is He talking to me when He says: “go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt 9:13)

Have you read in 2 Corinthians 5:19 where Paul tells us: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” Do you read this the way I have for decades, “God is not counting Christian’s sins against them?” That’s not what it says. If it did we are all without hope. God is not counting anyone’s sins against them today! Today is the day of mercy and the day that grace is available! A quick comment about the difference; Mercy is the fact that God is not counting your sin against you. This is currently true for all men. You will have to give account in the last day, but today, there is nothing keeping you from approaching God. Grace on the other hand is the free offer of righteousness that is extended to everyman. It must be accepted or received.

So here is the deal, and it’s pretty straight up here. If you expect to receive mercy on any level, give it in the same measure you are expecting it. In this moment of grace, don’t impose condemnation where God is not doing it. [Tweet This] In the mean time we must keep up our pursuit of integrity, our submission to God’s voice, our honesty with God about our failings, and our humble spirit. WOW these beatitudes are not just kid stuff, are they!

Hey – thanks for reading this. Tell me what you think. Is this sloppy grace? What am I missing here? Together we can press into the mind of Christ.
Ben