What words would your friends or family use to describe you? Jesus referred to two brothers’James and John’as Sons of Thunder. Why? We’re given a glimpse of their fiery personalities in the Bible. After some people rejected them, James and John asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven to consume the village. Jesus rebuked them for their impulse to retaliate.
Yet that’s not the end of their story. Jesus worked in these brothers’ lives so that they became known for love and forgiveness.
Though the two brothers had once been ambitious for their own personal gain, they became ambitious to share God’s love with others. The brothers discovered that when you understand and experience God’s love, you are free to live and grow. And as you grow and share with others, you be used by God to touch the lives of many in need of God’s healing help.
Can you relate to the anger and selfish ambition of these men? If so, be encouraged by God’s work in their lives. He wants to do the same in you!
Do you tend to keep a mental list of all the wrongs that have been done against you’an accounting of what you think others owe you? You may feel they owe you an apology, a favor, a sum of money, or something else. If every time you’re hurt, you’re mentally adding to the ledger of debt that others owe you, I want to help you see how and why to let go and erase that ledger of debt.
Jesus told this story to address what I’m talking about: ‘A king’decided to bring his accounts up to date’In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.’ The man begged for forgiveness. ‘Then the king was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.’ This was reported to the king. ‘Then the king called in the man he’d forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant. I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:23-35).
When you look at the enormous moral debt God has forgiven you and the price Jesus paid for us to be forgiven, you should be compelled to forgive others. Forgiveness will free you from the torture of festering resentment. You can’t change what others have done to you, but you can write off their debts by handing the accounting process over to God.
For most of the wrongs you’ve done, you’re probably grateful and eager to accept God’s forgiveness. But sometimes we’re so shocked or ashamed or heartbroken over what we’ve done that we find it hard to believe that God could really forgive us. Yet God does forgive and he desires to restore you. He wants to redirect the course of your life for his service. But this can’t begin until you receive God’s forgiveness and forgive yourself.
Peter had once sworn his love for Jesus. He pledged even to die with Jesus if necessary. Yet that same night after Jesus was arrested, Peter sheepishly denied that he even knew Jesus. Jesus wasn’t surprised; he had already told Peter that Peter would deny knowing him three times. Jesus was ready to forgive Peter before he even betrayed Jesus. But Peter had a hard time forgiving himself.
After Jesus rose from the dead he asked Peter three times if Peter loved him. Peter had denied him three times and so Jesus gave him the chance to reaffirm his love three times. Jesus reached out to Peter.
When you’re disheartened by the things you’ve done, it can be difficult to receive God’s forgiveness. But God reaches out to us. Once you confess your sins, you need to let go of them. Find encouragement through the story of Peter. Once he accepted forgiveness, God was able to build him up and use him for His great purposes.