Receiving the Gift that Heals: Forgiveness

Brad Stenberg

– Read: Psalm 103:2-4; 8-13; Isaiah 44:22; 1 John 1:9 –

We all wish there was a delete key for dealing with the past so we could forget the hurtful things we’ve done. But our memory gets in the way of forgetting the pain our sin has caused others. The only way this pain can be truly removed is through forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the basis of our life in Christ. The Christian life is a forgiven and forgiving life. Jesus taught us to pray, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. We cannot give what we do not have, so forgiving is a function of having first received forgiveness. Thus, we live and relate to one another in the forgiveness of our sins.

What does it mean to receive forgiveness? Does it mean what we did is approved of, excused, or denied? Not in the least. Does it mean the hurt we caused is forgotten and not taken seriously? No. Does it mean we’re exempted from any consequences of our behavior? Not at all. Does it mean we’ve fully reinstated into the relationship we damaged as if nothing happened? Usually not.

To be forgiven simply means having our debt canceled. The forgiver, while blaming us for the serious, wounding wrong we did to them, gives up their right for vengeance and extends mercy instead.

Receiving forgiveness is experiencing grace ‘ receiving a gift we don’t deserve.

We all have difficulty receiving forgiveness and feeling it because we have difficulty receiving unmerited favor. We would prefer to have to work at it. Grace goes against who we are because we don’t feel like we deserve love when we’ve messed up. But deserve and love don’t go together. Gift and love go together. If we have to deserve love it’s not a gift; it’s a wage we have to negotiate. Forgiveness is a gift from the forgiver.

Receiving forgiveness is a process that requires several things. First, you have to be guilty of wrong doing. Some of us have difficulty accepting the fact that we did something wrong. We resist being in the ‘I am wrong’ position and owning the fact that what we did caused others to experience serious pain and to suffer the resulting, and often prolonged fallout of this. But you cannot receive forgiveness unless you own up to, take responsibility for, and truly feel remorseful of your wrong doing.

Then you must confess it in specific terms. Proverbs 28:13 says, He who conceals his transgression will not succeed, but He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy. Some guys admit they sinned in global terms, but not in specific, personal terms. They admit they’re weak in sexual sin like every other guy without naming and identifying with the specific wrong they’ve done. We are to be specific. General confessions do very little to convict of sin, convince the one offended of your seriousness, or to bring healing.

We are then to turn away from our sin; remove it from our thoughts, and resolve in our heart that we will not do it again. Isaiah 55:7 says, Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. God knows the difference between those who are sincere and those who are trying to temporarily ease their conscience. He is not mocked or deceived. If you come in sorrow, humility and sincerity, His grace is abundant. However, He has little patience for those who would abuse His mercy. Search your heart for true repentance, and seek the Holy Spirit’s power to make the necessary changes.

We also need a forgiver. Forgiveness is relational. It’s an interpersonal process, not an intellectual thing, mind set, or some meditative state. It’s something that transpires between two people. Someone has to give forgiveness for us to receive it. The forgiver needs to be a good accuser by making the offense direct and specific. Once we’ve admitted to and taken ownership of it, the forgiver’s words should be something like those of Jesus to woman caught in adultery, Neither do I accuse you. Now go and sin no more.

The wrong that we’ve done is serious, but true repentance and the forgiveness received is more serious still. Wounds are healed, self-respect is restored, hope for the future is birthed, light removes the former darkness, positives replace negatives, and newness of life made possible.

Celebrating God’s Attributes: His Holiness

Mark Verkler

“The Christian is strong or weak depending upon how closely he has cultivated the knowledge of God.” ‘ A.W. Tozer

If Tozer is correct we need to understand, meditate and grow in the knowledge of God’s Holiness. But what is holiness? The most significant meaning of holy is to be ‘separate.’ God is separate, unique, and apart from us. Being holy includes moral purity. When something is made holy it is set apart to purity. And we learn from scripture that God is holy in every part of his nature and character.

In the book The Holiness of God,( p 40) R. C. Sproul says this about Isaiah 6:

‘The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy, the whole earth is full of His glory.’

The emphasis from scripture shows us that God is Holy and separate; above and apart from us. Though we were made in the image of God, we were not made God. His holiness is above and beyond our imagination. And yet we are called to meditate and grow in our knowledge of God and his attributes.

Let’s look at some great scriptures to help us learn about and meditate on the holiness of God.
Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
Fearful in praises, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:11, NKJV).

No one is holy like the LORD,
For there is none besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God. (1 Samuel 2:2, NKJV)

He is the Rock, His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice,
A God of truth and without injustice;
Righteous and upright is He. (Deut 32:4, NKJV)

Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.” (Rev 15:4, NKJV)

The Holiness of God is something to meditate on, something to chew on. I urge you to spend some time meditating on these verses’chew them up. G. K. Chesterton said ‘The object of opening the mind as of opening the mouth is to close it again on something solid.’ The Holiness of God is something solid. It is something to meditate on and hold onto. Reverence and awe should be a natural result of our growing in knowledge and understanding of God’s Holiness.
We find the scripture gives us a progression from the Holiness of God to our calling as believers in Christ.

Later we see that because God is holy, we are called to be holy. Many believe that is something that is unattainable and therefore unreasonable to aim for. We might ask the question ‘If I am not aiming for holiness, what am I aiming for?’

Let’s look at some verses about this:

For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. (Lev. 11:44a, NKJV)

but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16, NKJV)

He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:6, NKJV)

Can we be holy like God this side of Heaven? Apparently not in a complete way, but it is still to be our aim. And when we miss the mark we confess our sins to God and our brothers in Christ. It keeps us humble and dependent on our need for the sacrifice Christ made for us on the cross. Joseph Caryl said it this way, ‘Perfect holiness is the aim of the saints on earth, and it is the reward of the saints in Heaven.’ And in 1 John 3:2 (NKJV) we read this:
‘Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

So we see that our calling is to pursue the knowledge of God and His holiness, to grow in our understanding and reverence for His holiness. If we look to God and His holiness it will draw our hearts and minds in that direction. George McDonald said, ‘We remain such creeping Christians because we look at ourselves instead of Christ.’
We’ll close with an excerpt from My Utmost for His Highest September 1 devotional, Oswald Chambers:

Continually restate to yourself what the purpose of your life is. The destined end of man is not happiness, nor health, but holiness. Nowadays we have far too many affinities, we are dissipated with them; right, good, noble affinities which will yet have their fulfillment, but in the meantime God has to atrophy (whither) them. The one thing that matters is whether a man will accept the God Who will make him holy. At all costs a man must be rightly related to God.

Discouragement in Recovery: A Silent Ambush on the Heart

Invia Betjoseph

“Why don’t you just give up on me Lord? I’m hopeless!” Sound familiar? Thousands of Christian men have uttered those words out of sheer frustration. At some point they promise God that they will stop acting out their sexual fantasies’that THIS time they are ready’ that THIS time it is different’ that they are, to quote a famous Alcoholic Anonymous saying, ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired.’

Maybe you’re one of these men who decides to ‘starve’ himself of anything remotely sexual. You get rid of cable television, cancel the internet access, throw away all pornographic material, and even avoid having sex with your wife for a while! Several weeks pass and you notice that you don’t have the desire to view internet porn, visit massage parlors, or even masturbate! You begin to think that this is pretty easy and tell yourself, ‘maybe I can conquer this after all’ or, ‘I think I’m on my way to getting healed.’

But before you know it, lustful thoughts invade your mind like ‘pop-ups’ from Yahoo! You try not to panic but find yourself completely preoccupied with sexual thoughts for the next few hours or even days. At work you try to concentrate and endeavor to meet deadlines but your attention span is that of a woodpecker. You attempt to pay attention at staff meetings but each minute that goes by makes the struggle more intense. And then it happens’you end up in front of a computer screen or an x-rated video and for the next three to five hours you gratify your fleshly desires by viewing every known porn site under the sun, compulsively masturbate or ‘binge’ the whole weekend from massage parlors to escort services.

You cry out, ‘What happened? Why can’t I just quit?’ You not only feel disillusioned and guilty but you also feel like you are perverted to the depths of your being. You want to ‘resign’ as a Christian because you continually feel helpless and hopeless and you believe that no one can relate to you.

Well, you are not alone! You don’t believe me? Read with me Peter’s letter; specifically chapter 5:9 ”because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.’

All of us are running in this race for sexual integrity and sometimes we trip and fall. And when we do, we can’t afford to just sit there and watch everyone run by. Can you imagine watching Olympic athletes trip and fall and just sit there in bewilderment as to why they fell? No, they immediately get up and run’ they don’t even wipe the dirt off of themselves. Their whole focus is the finish line. Proverbs 24:16 adequately captures the theme of what you’ve read thus far: ‘For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again!’ So before you decide to beat yourself up any further let me suggest that we pay a visit to some of our Heroes of the Faith and see just how human they really were.

In I Kings chapter 18 Elijah and the prophets of Baal engage in a contest to see who is truly God. In verse 27 when the prophets of Baal are struggling Elijah feels so confident that he begins to taunt them (how cocky we get sometimes). You know how the rest of the story goes. What amazes a lot of Christians is that after his amazing victory Jezebel puts a contract on his life and the man cowers into a cave and starts whining. God didn’t tell him to go there. The Lord even asks him, ‘What are you doing here Elijah?’ (19:9). Do you see how human Elijah really is? Just like you and I, he distances himself from the Lord out of fear, shame, and other feelings that damage our confidence.

What about John the Baptist? Jesus says of him: ‘Among those born of women there is no one greater than John (Luke 7:28). This is a prophet who boldly spoke against Herod’s adultery, he put Pharisees ‘in their place’ and preached about the coming Messiah as if his life depended on it and he did not sugarcoat his words. Yet in Luke 7:18-19 we read that from his prison cell he sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ Excuse me John, wasn’t it you that said to Jesus, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’? It is amazing what despair does to the person. It slowly strips him of his confidence, blinds his eyes to past victories, and finally creates an environment in his soul in which doubt can thrive.

Let’s not forget good old Peter. When Jesus predicts his death and tells his disciples that they will all fall away on account of him our beloved brother protests, ‘even if all fall away on account of you, I NEVER will’ (Matt 26:33). Can you just picture him speaking in a baritone voice with his chest sticking out? Jesus then tells Peter that he will disown him three times. One can only imagine the level of agony Peter felt when the rooster crowed three times. The Bible says ‘he went outside and wept bitterly’ (Matt 26:75).

So, do you still feel alone? I hope not. There are many other accounts in the Bible where men and women ‘messed up’ but God used them anyway despite their shortcomings. Meanwhile, what does one do when he has messed up in the sexual integrity department? I thought you’d never ask!

First, it is very important not to mistake the absence of symptoms for cure. Just because you’ve thrown out your porn stash or haven’t masturbated for weeks does not mean that the condition of your heart has changed.

Secondly, if and when relapse occurs, there will be a tendency to abandon the whole process altogether. It is vital that you do not give up’to get up and run the race.

Thirdly, if you have someone in your life that holds you accountable pick up the 100 lb. phone and call him. Let him know what you did and do not hold back (Satan thrives on secrecy).

Fourthly, try to identify what exactly happened. Usually, there are 3-5 things happening at the same time. For example, you’re having car trouble, the boss is acting like Hitler and you have not been sleeping enough… all of the above can have a toll on your body and mind. Try to pin-point what the trigger was for you.

Finally, you need to strategize. In other words, you need to place preventative measures at each trigger point so that you do not repeat the cycle.

You know, theologians and preachers often speak about the work Christ did on the cross for our salvation. However, the work that Jesus continues to do on our behalf is often not talked about. Just as He prayed for Peter during some dark hours, so also he intercedes before the Father’s throne on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus’ ongoing ministry of prayer is there for you as long as you are in need of His guidance, comfort and blessing.

Robert Murray McCheyne, the beloved Scottish minister of the 19th century, wrote, ‘If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference. He is praying for me!’

If you are still sitting there asking the Father, ‘Why don’t you just give up on me? I’m hopeless!’ I would imagine he would say, ‘Because I who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 1:6).