Freely Forgiven & Free to Forgive

5EC6D870-3E2E-49BE-B95A-0B21116AEC59“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Eph 4:32 ESV

Parenting reminds us much of our heavenly Father’s love for us.  Personally, as a mother, my heart breaks when my children disobey.  I see their insistence on folly as destructive to their souls and lives.  Even when they frustrate me and make the same wrong decisions time and time again, I would never wish their harm.   I forgive them over and over again out of my momma love for them.  This kind of agape love it is not based on their behavior, but on something much deeper.  Yet, our kindness toward one another should exhibit this kind of tender-hearted love.  God is so gracious to us, despite how much we justly deserve his anger and wrath, and so should we be toward others.

Admittingly, some people are harder to love than others—especially our real enemies or those whom we perceive to hurt us or threaten the ones we love.  Why would we want to love people like this?  Scripture gives us the answer–Christ loved us in this way while we were still His enemies, and gave us an example to follow if we are his own.  As Pastor John MacArthur says, “We are never more like Jesus than when we forgive.”  The ultimate demonstration of love is forgiveness.  Retaliation and vengeance are not ours to administer.  It is in His jurisdiction to ensure justice.  Moreover, justice would have placed us all behind the fiery bars of hell.

The call of God to love and forgive others in our lives as Christians is a non-negotiable.  It is an affront to God’s gracious character and indwelling Spirit, to not forgive others whatever debt they owe us since it could never even come close to the insurmountable dept that Christ paid for us.  We cannot stay in the harbor of bitterness in our hearts toward another and not suffer serve consequences.  John Hopkins University connects unforgiveness to physical health issues.  Ultimately, the culmination of unrepeated unforgiveness is not only detrimental physically, but leads to spiritual death.  “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.” Mt:14-15

In contrast, there is wonderful blessings both now and for eternity, in the giving of ourselves away in love.  When my late husband checked himself in to be hospitalized after having had what appeared to be a successful bone marrow transplant, his doctors didn’t think it was anything to worry about.  He spent a whole week in the hospital before they told us they no longer thought he merely had an infection.  At first, I was tempted to be resentful at the doctors for not realizing this sooner.  However, when his primary doctor walked in to the ICU room for the first time to tell me that Josh would likely not make it, God had already worked in me to forgive her.  I was then able to reassure her with tears streaming down her face.  I had the blessing of being able to share with her the reason for the Hope in me of why Josh would be going to heaven–his faith in Christ.  Furthermore, I was given peace and comfort within my own aching heart.  Grief entails much guilt and anger.  I was free of anger and bitterness… The faultiness of humanity point us to the gracious and lavish glories of heaven and freely gifts us with Jesus himself, in whom is found fullness of joy and lasting peace.  He is the reason we can forgive and why we ourselves were forgiven.

A New Husband

3061B327-F399-4889-83DF-305801C5083D“Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?  For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage.  Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive.  But if her husband dies, she is free from the law and if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress.  Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.”  Romans 7:1-4

Isn’t it ironic that sometimes we live tied down even though we have fought-after freedoms?  We may limp around weighed down by a heavy burden even though Christ offers us a light yoke through the cross He bore.  God has unfastened us from our natural bondage to the law and its accusations of our sin.  Therefore, we need not live in the dark shadows of it since we are joined to a new master and free to pursue the true holiness that God requires by faith.  “But now, that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus out Lord.” Romans 6:22-23

Years ago, when my oldest son Noah was merely in pre-school, I rented a duplex from my dad.  My cousin, next door, owned a rambunctious large puppy.  The pup was friendly; however, he would run and jump on Noah as soon as we opened our door.  This terrified little Noah so much that my cousin had to start keeping her dog on a leash.   One day, we came out of the house as usually and found the dog sitting on the back patio wagging his tail.  Surprisingly, though, he was not on his leash.  At first, I put on the momma-bear hat and hovered over my child to protect him from alarm—then I noticed something peculiar, the dog was acting like he was on the leash! He did not move a muscle!  The pup thought he was tied down thus, he didn’t even attempt to approach Noah.

In the same way, we sometimes act as if we are under the law’s tight leash even though through Christ we have been loosened to run to God.  If we are born-again, we have been set free to live by the same power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill His purposes; and rest in His unshakable joy and peace.  We don’t have to walk around dragging our feet as if the chains that once enslaved us still press upon our ankles.  “We have died and therefore our marriage to the law is over.  The law no longer has dominion over us the way it did before we died.  We died in Christ, and in Christ the law was fulfilled.” RC Sproul (St. Andrews Expositional Commentary; Romans)

Abba, Father! When the tempest is strong, and the waves feel like they will overtake us—you command them to cease and still our hearts into a sweet trust and intimacy with you.  Forgive us for our tendency to turn back to our old familiar ways of slavery to sin even amidst such great a deliverance you have already fully accomplished.  Thank you that you are ever with us to convict and move us to humble surrender and dependency upon thee.  May you help us seek and grasp the heights and depths of your grace and our position in Christ.  As a result, may we run the race before us with perseverance as we seek Jesus as our ultimate prize and treasure—our beloved and betrothed.

A Perfect Adobe in Christ

63A31CA0-C2B0-4099-ACF8-C029DD867E4D“Since, then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts of the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on the things above, not on earthly things.  For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:1-3

Recently I bought two bookshelves for our new place from Ikea, which sells everything disassembled to take home to be put together.  As I tried to lift the heavy long and narrow box of packed shelf pieces out of the car, it would not budge.  My strength alone was not enough to carry its weight.  I had to recruit help from my oldest son and with one of us on each end, we were able to handily lift the boxes out of the car and into my living room floor.  The saying holds true that many hands, make light work.  Having a full scope of our position in Christ gives force to our frail self efforts toward spiritual growth even when the weight of adversity or discouragement tempts to set in.  In Christ we are made new, have access to his throne and are protected in His heavenly adobe even now.

The moment we surrender ourselves to Christ, we are made anew and freely given his indwelling Spirit.  Jesus already bore the weight and punishment of all sins—past, present and future for believers.  Our slavery to sin is lifted through Christ blood-bought birthright into the family of God.  We are united to Christ in His death and resurrection through faith in him.  The amazing thing is that Jesus prays and accomplishes the answer to his prayer that we would be one with God through himself, “that they may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you have loved me.” John 22:22b-23.

One of the best parts of being united with Christ is that we get to enjoy the privileges of his sonship to soar to His throne of grace through prayer.  Jesus gives us VIP access to our heavenly Father above.  Therefore, it is only fitting that we look to him and set our thoughts upward in prayer with heavenly purposes in our daily living.  We are nearsighted if we miss the great power of heaven’s kingdom abiding within us and able to work through His Spirit in our lives and for those around us.

The wonder and glory of faith in Christ that God graciously grants us is not to be hoarded and kept stored away in our privacy of our homes.   In Christ’s death, we have died to ourselves in order that we would live onto God and shine his truth and love to the watching world.  This high calling is the most fulfilling and joyful in all of history; yet it is not pain-free.  On the contrary, it is filled with temptations, hardship and trials.  However, as children of God, we are protected by the Almighty.  We are hidden with Christ in God.  He wraps us around the shadows of his strong wings and hides us from prevailing harm.   He will not allow us to be overcome, but secures our faith to withstand all hell.