Making It Personal

Hosea 6:7–10 (ESV)
7 But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me. 8 Grand Junction is a city of evildoers, tracked with blood. 9 As robbers lie in wait for a man, so the pastors band together; they murder on the way to Denver; they commit villainy. 10 In the house of the United States I have seen a horrible thing; Ephraim’s whoredom is there; the United States is defiled.

Sounds a little different when we make it personal, doesn’t it? Grand Junction is where I live; interstate 70 runs through it to Denver. Okay, pastors don’t really band together to murder. Yet. But the similarities are there.

You could probably do this yourself with your own town and country. Because while it may not be an exact match, the whoredom of Ephraim is all over.

You’ll maybe say, “But we don’t have idols!” And I’ll say, “Are you sure?” Idolatry is not just a statue. It is really self-will. Self-seeking. A statue is just one expression of self-will. There are many others, such as movie or music stars, your job, your house, your church, or your position in the community. There are lots of expressions of self-will, and not all of them include a statue.

Idolatry is anything short of complete devotion to God. That’s why He hammered it so much in the first two-thirds of the Bible. A little bit of cheating, and next thing you know we have the whoredom of Ephraim with the judgment of God coming soon. Adam and Eve were idolatrous; they didn’t have a statue either, but they made decisions based on what THEY thought was good or right, and not what God said was right. We do this every day in almost every way. A statue is wrong because it represents the start of going our own way. Self-seeking my not utilize a statue, but it is still idolatry.

Churches have been leading the way into self-seeking idolatry for a long time. Every time someone preaches that “we can’t do the law,” or “Jesus fulfilled the law so we don’t have to follow it” we have another step toward the whoredom of Ephraim and the judgment that will surely follow. Every step away from His Word is a step further into idolatry, whether we use a statue or not. Sitting in judgment on God’s Word is, as surely as Adam and Eve kicked themselves out of the Garden, the crooked path to whoredom.

Try making other passages more personal by inserting your name or your church’s name or the name of your own town here and there. We’re pretty much doing the same things, after all. It might help us to realize that a journey that takes us a thousand miles away from God starts with a simple step of self-seeking. Just because there is no idol in the house doesn’t mean that we aren’t just as idolatrous as ancient Israel.

Happily for us, He is merciful in His warnings. We are being warned in no uncertain terms. Beast attacks, disease, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, drought, wars and rumors of wars are on the increase. He is telling us to repent and return to Him. Everyone wants to make the Bible more personal when it comes to blessings. Shouldn’t we personalize the warnings too?

Shalom

Bruce

The Testing of Jesus

At the stoning of the woman caught in adultery, did Jesus teach that the Law was gone, or did He criticize because the Law was not followed? Did Jesus eliminate the Law as popular church teaching suggests, or did He disapprove of the mishandling of God’s living oracles? I think in each question it is the latter. When Jesus was tested, He stayed with the Law while His opponents stuck with their own interpretations and traditions. His opponents were wrong in nearly every case.

Jesus never tells us that “we all sin” so none of us can judge. What He tells us is that to judge properly we need to stay within the whole of His Law. The people testing Jesus wanted permission to sin. They wanted certification for their self-appointed authority. But they didn’t want God’s Law. See the video for more details.

Shalom
Bruce

Perfect

Not long ago I had an exchange on Facebook with a man who posted this little tidbit.

“WWJD. We can’t be perfect like Jesus so in addition to ‘What Would Jesus Do,’ we need to be like ‘what would Jesus have me do given my current situation and given what He did for on the cross'”.

It’s a fairly typical comment coming from a fairly typical church educated person. Not unusual at all, really. But I have a little different view of the subject so I asked him, “So what then do you do with the words of Jesus?”

“Your therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, ESV).

His response was “We strive to be perfect like Him but never can because of sin. At least not here and now.”

It went on from there with him getting typically more and more upset as I presented more and more biblical evidence to support Jesus’ statement, and equally typically ended with him removing me as a friend. This happens a lot when church Christians are confronted with the Bible they claim to follow. Give ’em some truth and they fold up their tents and run away. Instead of practicing the love they claim, they practice anger and pride and cut themselves off from the truth.

The standard church teaching is that we cannot be perfect. The Bible teaching is that we can. How do we resolve this conflict? Either Jesus was telling us to do something well within our grasp, or He is a harsh taskmaster asking us to do something beyond our ability. He clearly tells us to be perfect like God. There is no ambiguity. Seemingly it’s a tall order. But perhaps not so hard when we realize exactly what biblical perfection really means.

The word perfect literally means lacking in nothing. It also means “complete.” (Compare 2 Timothy 3:17 in both the AV and the ESV for instance.) Sometimes it can mean mature (compare Ephesians 4:13 in the AV and ESV). So when Jesus says be perfect as God is perfect, He means exactly what He says. We have the Word, the Spirit, and a new heart of flesh. What else do we lack? We are complete, lacking in nothing.

“And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:4, ESV)

So here’s the difference. The church says we cannot be perfect, which is a hopeless state of affairs. According to this teaching, we are locked into permanently displeasing God. They are saying that we cannot do better. We will never be able to please God. It is a subtle difference, and depressing, but it is also counter to what the Bible teaches. Jesus says that we certainly can do better. He is optimistic and encouraging. We have power in the Spirit. We have a love of God, and His Word to guide us. We can confess and repent and be forgiven. We can indeed be perfect.

We may not be “mature” all the time, but it is not because we CANNOT be mature. It is because we WILL NOT. We have it within our ability to perfectly follow everything God says, but we do not always choose to follow. This is the big difference. If we do not do something perfect, it is because we choose not to. We don’t like this, because our pride gets in the way.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:7–10, ESV)

But it really isn’t a big deal, because we can rectify it as soon as we realize what we did. We can humble ourselves, confess and repent. We also keep working on taking in God’s Words and moving toward greater maturity. The standard church teaching of “cannot” robs us of motivation. It is a hopeless teaching. Jesus on the other hand is hopeful. His teaching encourages us; His Word provides all that we need. Thank Him that we have what we need to be “perfect,” and can get out of the rat race of imperfection easily. We just have to want it with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (Philippians 3:12, ESV)

This is a sobering thought. It doesn’t make the average human very happy, because instead of sitting in our comfortable mud pen of complacency we have to move out of the pen and wash ourselves clean with His Word. We “cannot” use the excuse of “cannot” to stay comfortable and complacent. Well we CAN, it’s just not really an excuse that God will buy. We have a goal. We can do better. We can bear more fruit, and practice the fruit of the Spirit better than we do. It is not comfortable, but it is doable. Of course it is doable. Jesus said we could do it.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even 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 loved me. (John 17:20–23, ESV)

Shalom
Bruce

Passover 2014

We are getting ready for our lamb barbecue tomorrow night, looking forward to spending time showing love for God by doing as He commands His people to do. We touch God and touch each other in an intimate fellowship that goes way past the physical markers and deep into a spiritual connection. His love flows to us, and our love flows back and between. We remember what God has done for His people, is doing, and will do. Remember means to speak or act on behalf of someone, which is why we can “remember” the future promises of God.

Some are speaking of the “blood moons” that will appear on this Passover and the Tabernacles celebration this year, as well as the same two holidays next year. I’m not big into that stuff, but it probably has some significance. Coupled with the increase in earthquakes, volcanic activity, and cultural degradation, we can definitely see that labor pains for the world are increasing. Maintaining our love for God through His commands is coming under attack at a greater intensity, but He said a “falling away” would happen before the end. Therefore be encouraged and keep your faith strong, standing on the Rock of His Word and our Savior Jesus the Christ.

I feel sorry for those who do not participate in God’s holidays, either because they just don’t follow God or because they classify His living oracles as “old” or “outdated” or for another group besides believers. Paradise awaits a change from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh, sensitive and trembling at His Word. All it takes is humble obedience to find out the nature of real love and spiritual renewal and refreshment. I feel sorry for those who choose their own way, like Cain, substituting their own understanding for God’s Word and offering slovenly disobedience through physical symbols such as ham and bunnies. The symbols show the disobedience in the balance of their lives, corrupt and unclean and spurning the love that is waiting. Compromise shows its fruit in sexual immorality and unfruitfulness through acceptance of behavior God said would cause death. No wonder they are known for hypocrisy. One cannot practice hate for God in trashing His commands and expect God to accept the resulting uncleanness using the cosmic eraser of Jesus. If we harbor iniquity in our hearts, our offerings mean nothing. “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7)

Rejoice, children of God. Look up for our redemption draweth nigh. Stand strong in the Lord and the power of His might. Pursue righteousness through humble submission to every word of His glorious instructions. Hold fast to the hope He has given, practicing as best we can every tiny utterance from our loving God and Savior Jesus our Messiah. Eat His body and drink His blood, taking in every breath from God through His Word and breathing it back to Him. Rejoice as our meager offerings of obedience gain His regard and we find acceptance in Him because of our love and practice of His Word.

Shalom
Bruce

Great. Joseph Prince, Mega putz, er, pastor

Wonderful. Another traveling “pastor” of a huge church (30,000 member Singapore church) preaching a part-Bible message is making his way around the U.S. What are his qualifications? He’s pastor of a big church, that’s what. He reaches “over 680 million households in over 200 countries” with a TV show. He’s got a book titled The Power of Right Believing, 7 Keys to Freedom from Fear, Guilt and Addiction. His influences are Kenneth Hagan and Watchman Nee. So this must mean he’s okay, right?

Not to my way of thinking. The only thing that qualifies a preacher’s messages is whether or not they are biblical. All you have to do is listen to Joseph Prince for about 5 minutes and you can tell he’s another big name with a false message. Which explains his popularity. So what is it about his message that doesn’t ring true? He’s another one that separates law and grace. He talks about “heavy rules and regulations” weighing him down when he was younger and that “grace” set him free. This might be true, but the rules weren’t God’s rules. The yoke of the Father and the Messiah is easy and the burden is light. This yoke is none other than His Word. All of His Word. Including the “rules and regulations.”

He speaks of “rules and regulations” as negative things (in particular God’s rules and regulations), then comes up with his own rules and regulations. He’s got seven “rules and regulations” or “keys” in the book, none of which are in the Bible (at least, not the way he teaches them). They are: 1. Believe in God’s love for you. 2. Learn to see what God sees. 3. Receive God’s complete forgiveness. 4. Win the battle for your mind. 5. Be free from self-occupation (change to “Christ occupation”). 6. Have a confident expectation of good. 7. Find rest in the Father’s love.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Except the goal is to listen to him, not the Word. God’s Laws accomplish all those things (without having to buy Joseph’s book), simply by doing God’s rules and regulations in the Spirit with a heart of flesh. Read the New Covenant, and it doesn’t mention a word about 7 Keys. It does, however, mention God’s Laws written on a heart of flesh by the Spirit.

Mr. Prince says “Jesus did not come to give us more laws.” Well, that’s true. First, it’s because the Laws were already there. He came to rip away false interpretations (or 7 keys) that cover over His laws and prevent people from reaching the kingdom. Second, Jesus for sure didn’t mean for us to reject His Laws then come up with 7 keys either. What this guy, and many like him, are saying is, “Hey. Don’t listen to God’s Laws. Listen to mine.” He is like a Pied Piper in sheep’s clothing, softly and gently leading away from God’s Word. For those of us who follow God’s living oracles (as Stephen called them in Acts 7:38) it is easy to hear his Piper music is discordant and out of tune with what Jesus delivered to us. Jesus said His will and the Father’s will were the same. The words He spoke were the Father’s words. Jesus didn’t eliminate the Law, He eliminated tradition that was interfering with the Word of life.

This guy is wrong on so many levels. He uses part of the Bible, mixed with his interpretations, to lead away from the Word. For instance, he says that Jesus was preaching “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” to a bunch of Jews who knew the law. Therefore the Law was the problem. But actually, the Law was not the problem because God’s Law was not being lived. Jesus reminded them (and us) that His Law includes love and the Spirit. The Jews knew “laws” but not God’s Law. They had many “Keys” for living, but they were not God’s keys. The Jews were not living God’s Laws, they were living rabbi’s rulings. These rulings were much different than the living oracles. God’s living oracles had been obscured my “rabbi’s keys” just like Mr. Prince is obscuring them now by his own keys.

How in the world (pun intended) these mega-putz, er, mega-pastors think that we “simplify” by chucking God’s Law while adding to the Word with their own books and keys is beyond me. It doesn’t get any more simple that reading and doing the Word. We don’t need more keys. All we need is the will of Jesus which He got straight from our Father and is expressed in His “rules and regulations.” If you want to “see as God sees,” then you will see that His Law is good and holy. Observing His Laws is the way to change from self-occupation to “Christ occupation.” It’s what Jesus did. The focus then is on God, as it should be. Everything from God is good, and we find rest for our souls when we abide in His living Word. If you see God’s Laws only as “rules and regulations,” then I suggest you don’t see God at all.

Shalom

For God So Loved…

A famous verse from the Bible. Even if you’ve been spending time on Mars or refusing to watch football games (like me). The one you see on signs on youtube videos from sporting events (even if you’re not watching the game). John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, ESV)

Usually this is foisted upon people like some sort of magical elixir. “All you have to do is believe in Jesus, and you’ll be saved!” goes the sentiment. Of course, this depends on how you define “belief,” because, after all, the demons also “believe” and shudder. But they ain’t saved.

However, I wanted to look at this a little different. God loved us so much He gave His only begotten Son over to be cruelly tortured and murdered for our sake. How about if I were to write a similar type of verse to God? “For Bruce so loved God that He gave”….what? “That he gave” a few Sundays to sitting in a building listening to some overstuffed overpaid preacher harangue me into sleep? “That he gave” a few bucks in the plate? “That he gave” some time in the choir for the Christmas play, or helped with coffee at the sunrise service? “That he gave” a few minutes to say “grace” for a meal or two? (Oh, and a couple times he even “gave” the grace for a meal in an actual restaurant where everyone could see him!) “That he gave” a grudging few minutes a year to actually reading God’s Words squeezed in between episodes of his favorite TV shows when he had the time and wasn’t too busy with grasping after the world’s kingdoms?

Or would I say, “I looked everywhere for your words. I hungered and thirsted after them. I ate them and drank them as if they were life itself. I took the huge amount of ‘grace money’ or ‘talents’ (way more than ten talents of gold) you gave me through the blood of my friend and made more out of it. I changed my diet as you asked. I celebrated the holidays you gave me. I worked six days as you commanded and rested one, where we met together every week. These were little enough to do considering the eternal life in your Son you gave me. After a while, wonder of wonders, the “small things” and “shadows” you commanded helped me to also give you the weightier actions of mercy, justice and compassion. In short, instead of just singing about giving my life to you, I really gave it. Instead of just proclaiming the wonders of your love by chasing people down and thumping them with a Bible verse through the TV I made your love and commands the priority of my life. The light you caused to shine in me through those commands made a greater impact on others than all my words put together.”

What would I give in return for the mountain of forgiveness, grace and love poured out to me from the source of all light, life and love? All I’ve got was given to me, so all I can do is give it back. All of it. Every scrap. Throw myself on the ground in abject humility in front of His throne and give Him the crown He has given me. Not sit in judgment on which of His words I will deign to follow and which I will not. Not clutter them up with all sorts of tradition and theology that blocks access to Him. Those don’t make for much of return on the “God so loved” investment, I don’t think. I can do better than that. He made it possible. Other not-so-famous verses give the clues:

“…yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39).

“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34).

Shalom

Abraham Intercedes for Sodom?

In Genesis 18 around verse 16 or 22 (depending on the version) there is a subtitle in the ESV, the NKJV, and the NIV84 that reads “Abraham Intercedes (Pleads) for Sodom.” This is not correct, according to the text.

 

The scene is after a BBQ Abraham put on for two angels and Jesus (the LORD), where a son has been promised to the happy couple (okay, they were laughing anyway). The men leave, but as Abraham is walking with Jesus the LORD stops to tell him that it looks like Sodom and Gomorrah are going to be toasted. Abraham intercedes, not for Sodom, but for the possible righteous living in those cities. Abraham asks, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (18:23). He starts off with the number 50, and bargains God down to 10. Jesus says if He can find 10 righteous He will not destroy the cities.

 

This is important because current modern sentiment would have us believing that we are to run around asking God to forego judgment on wicked people. “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” is a popular summary of this idea. Sometimes this text is cited for proof. But the sentiment is biblically out of whack. Judgment is not only for the recipient, but also for any others around watching the proceedings. God’s judgment on sin is part of God’s love. It is why Jesus had to die. Abraham is not concerned with the cities. He is concerned that the righteous be not condemned with the wicked. He does not argue for postponing judgment, he only wants the righteous saved (probably thinking of his nephew Lot).

 

It’s true that we shouldn’t wish for God’s judgment to fall on anyone. His judgment is awful and final. We want to pray for the conversion of our enemies, and ask God for His mercy. He is, I think, happy to grant it, but the key is to repent. The repentant sinner is welcomed with open arms, but the unrepentant stay locked on the path of judgment. So biblically we would say, “Love the repentant sinner, and hate the sin.” Too many in modern times want to stretch the mercy of God to cover wicked people assembling with them or residing in their homes. This is a misunderstanding. We are not to approve, accept or tolerate the sinner.

 

Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:32, ESV)

 

Removing the unrepentant sinner from our midst is about the best thing we can do for them. It is the ultimate gesture of love. A little bit of judgment now that might help the sinner repent is much better than a whole lot later when it is too late. By isolating them (a very tiny gesture of judgment) we hope they will see the folly of their ways and repent. Then they can be restored to full fellowship. Letting them go on and on down the path of death because we are afraid of “hurt feelings,” the loss of friendship or the loss of family members is an act of hate. I know of a Messianic synagogue who had a key elder announce a divorce to his wife on Yom Kippur. They did not boot him out of the congregation. As a result in my opinion, the divorce went ahead. Later, the congregation split over this and other things. I think the lady is better off, but that is not the point. I know the temptation was to “love the sinner” but what they did was “love” him right into wicked behavior.

 

Peter seems to tell us that God does not want anyone to perish. A reasonable idea, and perhaps close to the mark. However, a closer reading will give us insight more in line with Abraham’s intercession for the righteous.

 

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, ESV)

 

See how the Lord is patient “toward you?” (believers – see verse 1:1). He does not want any of His children to perish, but that all should reach repentance. Full repentance is not reached until death. We have to repent, and stay repented (or repent again if we fail). We help each other to repent by any means available. Believers have to keep believing. Not all who call Him “Lord, Lord” will be with Him in the kingdom.

 

The only intercession we can make for the wicked is that they would take advantage of the patience of God and repent. We, like God, would love it if they would do so.

 

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4, ESV)

 

So repent already. It’s easy now. Later, not so much.
Shalom
Bruce

Book review: The Harbinger

I was pointed to this book by a friend of our Facebook page, Darlene. My wife checked it out of the library and we both went through it pretty quick. She was so interested she finished it in a day.

 

I think it’s a good read. Keeps your interest to the end. I think he stretches a bit to connect things together, and I don’t think we have to go that far to realize that America (and the rest of the world) is in the process of being judged for departing from God’s ways. The point of the book, however, is not to report facts. It is a fiction book in a narrative form (conversations) that is meant to dramatically use facts to present a repentance message. And it does a great job.

 

As most readers of this blog know, I am all for repentance messages. We’re sliding down a greased pole into hell right now, and Jonathan Cahn is one other who is trying to arrest that slide as best he can. He’s not trying to be a prophet, though he uses some prophetic terms and imagery, so we can’t accuse him of error. The facts are historically accurate, so we can’t accuse him of making stuff up. His message is good, and the vehicle for delivery entertaining and thought provoking. It’s also a best seller, meaning he’s earning a good living which I don’t object to one bit, but also meaning he’s reaching a lot of people. That’s also a good thing.

 

For those who want to stick their heads in the sand because the realization of judgment scares them, you might want to avoid this book. But for those who have a suspicion that events now unfolding are warnings to change our course, this book will be right in the alley somewhere. We need to be careful how we match current events with Scripture, but I think Mr. Cahn is careful. His bottom line is the same as mine: wake up and repent before it is too late. If you need some help warning other people too, this book might be a good boost.

 

The only thing I would add to the book is specifics on what to turn to. I, of course, would say that we need to take up all of the Word. Practice every little scrap you can work into your life, including as many details of the Law as we can apply. Start with a day off a week (Sabbath). Eliminate pork and shellfish as our loving Father so graciously warned. Work in the feasts and festivals. Tie some tassels on your garments to help remind you to choose His Ways over your own knowledge. This means we take every word from His mouth seriously. From the easier things (above) we can then maybe take seriously the weightier commands of justice and mercy. Maybe if we go back to taking the whole Book seriously we can turn the tide of the coming judgment.

 

Shalom
Bruce

Father of Mercies, God of Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:3–5, ESV)

 

It’s tough to find comfort in the middle of sadness, and it is usually tough to offer comfort too. My mother-in-law passed away recently after a few years of not knowing who her family was and not hardly being able to feed and dress herself. Comfort was a little easier in her case because she had lived a pretty full life. My dad died from a brain disease at 62, a nephew died by his own hand recently at 30, and a friend died from cancer a few years ago in middle age after adopting five children. A six year-old girl I know is fighting leukemia. I have trouble finding comfort in understanding sometimes, but I do find comfort in the Father of mercies and God of comfort.

 

Believers have comfort because we know this life is not all there is. Our hope is that we will be reunited with loved ones who have gone before. This life is hard and death abounds because of sin, but it’s not going to stay that way forever. God is righteous, just, merciful and loving and has offered us a way out of the eternal consequences of sin.

 

It is a comfort to realize in a way that we MUST die once in order to enter eternal life. Sometimes it happens sooner than we want, but it must happen. None of us is getting out of this alive. We have a resurrection hope, that even if we lose life in this age we will regain it in the next. It is a comfort that God is in control, and He knows what He is doing.

 

Pagans are a different story in the comfort department. It’s a super tragedy when someone dies without God. There is no hope there, except perhaps that we might be wrong, they really did have God, and maybe God will look with favor on them somehow. The other hope is that people will be moved to make their own position with God secure by accepting His mercy in the form of His only begotten Son Jesus the anointed.

 

Before we get uptight about bad things happening to good people, we really should make sure of our definitions of bad and good. We can take comfort in the fact that just because something feels bad doesn’t mean it really is. And we might think we are good, but is that really true? Are we really doing everything we can to pursue His kingdom? Yet even if we are good, we live in a sinful, wicked world and sometimes we suffer because of other people’s sin. In all of it believers find comfort that God is a God of reason and all things work together for good for those of us who love Him.

 

The bottom line is the mercy of God. We need to recognize that He doesn’t owe us anything. We owe Him everything. Pagans don’t acknowledge this (even though they owe Him everything too) so they have no comfort. Believers do, so we throw ourselves on His mercy and ask humbly for things to be different. If not, then we continue in comfort knowing that we are in the household of the Father of mercies. We suffer as sons and daughters of the most High God, brothers and sisters to the Messiah who makes adoption possible, and have the mercy of eternal life. In 10,000 years or so, we will look back on this life as a wisp of a memory, and only our walk with Him will remain.

Forgiveness

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6–7, ESV)

 

God forgives sin, and expects us to do the same. “Forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:2). Colossians 2:13-14 says that God has forgiven all our trespasses in Christ, cancelling the record of debt that stood against us. For those who enter into the new covenant, God will be merciful toward our iniquities, and will remember sins no more (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

 

Sin is lawlessness or iniquity (1 John 3:4). It creates a debt against us. It’s like causing damage to someone as in an auto accident or having your bull gore someone else’s (Exodus 21:28-36). It’s not hurting someone’s feelings, though hurt feelings might be a part. It’s not violating what someone else thinks is right or wrong. Sin goes against the life and love of God. We always incur a debt to God for sin, and we owe people we sin against too. Sometimes the sin is private or internal, meaning no other people were harmed (sin always hurts), but we still owe a debt to God. Forgiveness comes when we confess that we’ve sinned and repent or change direction away from the sin and towards righteous behavior God expects from us.

 

We see some examples of forgiveness in the monetary sense in the laws of the Sabbath year (Deuteronomy 15 “you shall grant a release…every creditor to his neighbor”), collateral (Deuteronomy 24:10) and the above mentioned ox. These laws help illustrate for us the concepts of forgiveness and restitution.

 

My take on forgiveness then is to dismiss the debt. When someone has sinned against me, I forgive when I relinquish my claim to payment. In other words, forgiveness means I am not owed anything. When I think of the debt again, I have to remember that the person doesn’t owe me anything. I can only dismiss the debt against me, however. I cannot dismiss the debt that others might have with each other, nor can I dismiss any debt for others that is owed to God. Only Jesus can do that, and only on the basis of believing in Him. Believing doesn’t mean just to acknowledge His existence. It means to abide in His Word, trusting and obeying in all things, especially in forgiveness.

 

Sometimes I forgive a person, but I still don’t want anything to do with them. Forgiveness doesn’t mean I have to hang around them. There are stories that make the rounds in different forms about rattlesnakes or scorpions getting carried out of danger, and they always end up biting or stinging the person who helped them. The moral of those stories is, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.” So just because I forgive someone, doesn’t mean I don’t know what they are. I might forgive the poisonous snake, but I don’t hang around waiting for them to strike. I know what they are, and don’t even stay in their neighborhood.