Forgive AND Forget – Psalm 103:8-12

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:8-12, NIV).

In a recent discussion in Sunday School our class got off the lesson and into a discussion of “forgiveness.” Of course, we generally concluded that it is much easier to forgive than to forget.

You may have even said that sometime in your life about somebody who has wronged you, “I can forgive them but I can’t forget it.”

When you analyze what you are saying in terms of how God transacts forgiveness, you soon realize that “forgetness” is an integral part of forgiveness. It you don’t forget, then you probably haven’t forgiven.

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Taking Care of Sin First – Mark 2:1-11

first_things_first“Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, Your sins are forgiven, or to say, Rise, take up your bed and walk? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins—he said to the paralytic—I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” (Mark 2:9-11, ESV).

Jesus was at His home in Capernaum (the base for His ministry) where many people were gathered listening to Him teach and preach. Four men carrying a paralytic man tried to bring him to Jesus for healing, but they were unable to get the disabled man near Jesus because there was no more room in the house. Then, they went up on the roof and removed some of the clay roof tiles (see Luke 5:19) and hoisted the paralytic man down near Jesus. 

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How To Deal With Guilt – Psalm 51:9-11

guilt“Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you” (Psalm 51:9-11, NLT).

All of us commit sins and our sinning is usually accompanied by a personal sense of guilt. We’ve failed God…

While the psalmist understood that he needed absolution from the guilt of sin as legal consequence of God’s universal justice system, he also understood that guilt had serious and debilitating psychological and spiritual consequences for individuals that needed to be addressed before God.

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Guess How Much I Love You – Psalm 103:10-12, 17-18

“He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us…But from eternity to eternity the Lord’s faithful love is toward those who fear Him, and His righteousness toward the grandchildren of those who keep His covenant, who remember to observe His precepts” (Psalm 103:10-12, 17-18, HCSB).

In a popular children’s bedtime story by Sam McBratney, father and son rabbits use ever-greater exaggerated measures to quantify how much they love each other until the baby rabbit falls asleep.

“I love you right up to the moon–and back,” the father rabbit whispers as the baby rabbit dozes off.

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Rock My World! – Matthew 27:50-53

“Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split. The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And they came out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many” (Matthew 27:50-53, HCSB)

The death and resurrection of Jesus literally rocked the world in and around Jerusalem at the time these historical events occurred.

Jesus’s death and resurrection were of such cosmic proportions that nature didn’t know how to react.

God became human and was put to death by the humanity He created. When Jesus died, the earth quaked and rocks were split so that even tombs that held the bodies of dead people were opened.

But the full magnitude of the events occurred after Jesus was resurrected–like a tsunami caused by an earthquake at the bottom of the ocean.

When Jesus was resurrected, many of the saints in the vicinity of Jerusalem were raised from the dead and came out of the tombs that had been opened and actually entered the city.

When the One who was the resurrection and life was resurrected, it seemed that death and the grave could no longer contain the dead bodies of those who would one day also be resurrected!

Jesus’s victory over death guaranteed that God would also resurrect His people.

And Jesus can still rock your world today!

Catastrophic changes will occur in your life when by Christ’s death on the cross, God forgives your sinfulness, and then by the power of Christ’s resurrection, He transforms your old sinful life into a new life of righteousness and obedience to Him.

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die —ever” (John 11:25-26, HCSB).

Finding God’s Will – Part 2: Why God Reveals His Will – Psalm 25:6-11

<< Part 1: Looking For God’s Will

“Remember, Lord, Your compassion and Your faithful love, for they have existed from antiquity. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my acts of rebellion; in keeping with Your faithful love, remember me because of Your goodness, Lord. The Lord is good and upright; therefore He shows sinners the way. He leads the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. All the Lord’s ways show faithful love and truth to those who keep His covenant and decrees. Because of Your name, Yahweh, forgive my sin, for it is great” (Psalm 25:6-11, HCSB).

The explanations the psalmist provides in Psalm 25 about how God reveals Himself and His will to us are so perceptive and penetrating that it merits another post to explain the reasons why God reveals His will.

Fortunately, Psalm 25 provides explanations for both How and Why!

In Part 1 we noted that how we look for God’s will is to turn to God, trust Him, and wait for Him.

And, we concluded that God reveals specific details of His character and His will to people who are desperately looking for Him. In other words, when we depend on God, then He will show us His way for us to follow.

But you might be left wondering why God would want to bother with providing a personal revelation of Himself to you and me?

Why go to all that trouble?

The psalmist provides a powerful theological explanation for God revealing Himself and His will to His people in these verses: God is good!

The psalmist contrasts the faithful love of God and His goodness with the depravity of human beings and their need for restoration.

The juxtaposition of remember/not remember/remember demonstrates that God’s consciousness (remembrance) of His own everlasting love and mercy is the reason He acts beneficently toward His people.

Therefore, people’s sins are forgiven (not remembered). And only then can God act on behalf of His people (remember) who have humbled themselves and depend on Him.

In fact, it is God’s reputation (His name) that is at stake in the forgiveness of people’s sins.

God’s reputation–His essential nature or character–is closely connected with His actions toward His people.

Because people are sinful and God is good, He must impute His goodness by forgiving our sins!  

It’s as if God is compelled by the force of His own nature to reveal Himself and His will to His people!  

“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

Santa Claus Theology – Matthew 18:21-22

“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times? No, not seven times, Jesus replied, but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:21-22, NLT)

In a series of stories and parables Jesus explained how His followers should get along with one another.

So Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him.

Peter probably supposed with his suggestion of seven times he was being magnanimous. But Jesus’s recommendation of seventy times seven was astounding!

It was the same as saying always forgive someone who sins against you!

While it is quite ordinary behavior not to allow someone to mistreat you repeatedly, but it is most extraordinary behavior to forgive them if they do!

And Jesus constantly encouraged such radical behavior from those who followed Him.

But this radical behavior can’t be formulated into a list of do’s and dont’s. It’s a matter of the heart, a lifestyle!

Jesus’s intention was not to create good people out of His disciples, but to establish God’s righteousness in their hearts.

And forgiveness was a matter of the heart, a lifestyle, not a one-time, or seven-time, or seventy-time, or even seventy-times-seven behavior.

C.S. Lewis once said that improvement is not redemption. He said that being Jesus’s disciple was more than a matter of being a nice person, or even an extremely nice person!

Jesus is preparing us for eternity and so the real issue is not how many times your were nice to somebody but how your heart is. Not what your are, but what you are becoming!

Unfortunately, our understanding of what Jesus was teaching us about God’s righteousness is sometimes based on a sort of Santa Claus theology: “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!”

And then we become like Peter in this story.

We perceive God as being up in heaven keeping a list of how many times we have been naughty or nice. And, if at the end of our lives we have more good behavior than bad behavior, then we make it into heaven.

But God is not keeping score to determine your eternal outcome.

And you couldn’t be good enough, even if He was. God knows that. That’s why He sent His Son, Jesus, to conquer sin and death for us!

Eternity starts now and how you choose to spend your eternal life is not a matter of being naughty or nice. It’s a matter of a transformed heart and a redeemed life, which occurs when God imputes His righteousness into your life by your faith in Jesus, God’s Son.

“If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us,”(1 John 4:12, NLT

If My People Pray – 2 Chronicles 7:14

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” After the temple was built and dedicated, the glory of the Lord filled the temple (vs. 1–3) and God appeared to Solomon and told him that He had heard Solomon’s prayer (vs. 12–22). God’s answer to Solomon’s prayer was a message of repentance and restoration. God’s purpose above all is to forgive his people and heal their land when they repent of their evil ways. This verse describes the process of individual and collective repentance: humble oneself, ask God for forgiveness and mercy, and turn away from sin and unrighteousness. When God’s people truly repent, then He will “heal their land,” which includes not only deliverance from drought and pestilence but the restoration of people to their right relationship with God. Be assured that God hears you and will restore you into fellowship with Him when you repent and turn away from your sin and unbelief.

Where Forgiveness Is Found – Hebrews 13:13

“Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.” Unlike most other Old Testament offerings, the tabernacle priests could not eat the meat of the sin offering from the Day of Atonement. The body of that sacrificial animal was burned outside the camp (see Leviticus 16:27). Because Jesus’ sacrifice was an atonement for sin, once and for all, Jesus suffered “outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood” (vs. 12). Thus, we don’t receive atonement through religious ceremonies or by doing good deeds, but we find forgiveness and redemption “outside the camp” at the cross of Jesus! We should, therefore, leave behind the love of this world and the desire for its approval by enduring the same contempt by this world that Jesus suffered. Our endurance of the contempt of this world is based on the realization that we are only sojourners in this world en route to our eternal residence: “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (vs. 14).