Forgiveness: Living Out the High Calling of Our Faith


forgive

Hurt. Anger. Pain. Grief. Agony. Disbelief. Sorrow. These and a hundred different other words describe the powerful feelings that naturally flood our hearts when someone has wronged us. As common as they may be, if left unchecked, these emotions can easily mutate into the gravely destructive disease of bitterness. The only antidote for such a spiritually fatal ailment is… forgiveness.

The truth is we all need forgiveness. The apostle Paul declared, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It then is painfully clear that we all have incurred an enormous debt of sin to God. However, the sum of that debt was graciously paid in full by God through the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus. The penalty we deserve was paid by our Lord.

As Christians we celebrate the forgiveness we receive from our Father, but the rub comes from other people. It’s the apostle Paul who charges us to, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Surely, those who have been forgiven so much by God should, of all people, forgive the offenses committed against them right? One would think, but even the saintliest of saints can struggle to forgive those who have wronged them. The fact of the matter is, how we deal with those who wrong us is a matter of spiritual life or death. The goal of this series is to empower us to live out the high calling of our faith; to forgive as we have been forgiven (cf. Matthew 6:12).

Throughout our lessons we’ll explore the various facets of forgiveness in light of the scriptures. There won’t be any magic words or secret formulas to learn. In fact, it’s unlikely that we’ll uncover many, if any, profound or new insights. Simply stated, forgiveness is not a method to be learned, but a truth to be lived. For most Christians, the problem isn’t that we don’t know the truth about forgiveness, it’s that we don’t practice it as we should. To encourage us to be more forgiving the course of our study will be two-fold:

God’s Forgiveness of Us:

1. Our Forgiving Father (Luke 15:1-32)

2. Our Need for Forgiveness (Ephesians 2:1-10)

3. Confessing Our Sins (1 John 1:5-2:2)

4. Accepting God’s Forgiveness (Psalms 32, 51)

Forgiving One Another:

5. Saying I’m Sorry (Matthew 5:21-26)

6. Saying You Hurt Me (Matthew 18:15-20)

7. The Power Of A Forgiving Spirit (Romans 12:14, 17-21)

8. The Danger Of A Unforgiving Spirit (Matthew 18:21-35)

When printing lessons, set printer to double-sided w/ flip on short edge.

It has been said that forgiveness is like a door leading to peace and joy. But it’s a small door, and it can’t be entered without stooping – or kneeling. Yet, if we’re willing to humble ourselves and pass through that door, joy and peace awaits us on the other side. I’m truly convinced that when a person forgives another the transformation power of the gospel of grace is at work. Friends, this dark dying world needs more believers who will freely share God’s grace and thereby bring more joy and peace into the lives of others.

It’s my prayer, that as we search the scriptures together, our hearts will be open and receptive to God’s word concerning the grace of forgiveness and that we will be divinely inspired to live out these truths in our lives.

~Clay Gentry

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In What Way Are God’s Ways & Thoughts Higher Than Ours?


Isaish 55.9

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)

Whenever someone is going through any of the inexplicable tragedies of life (you can fill in the blank ____________ with your tragedy de jour) sooner or later somebody will attempt to comfort the confused soul with the above words from Isaiah 55:8-9.

The idea of invoking this passage is to say that God must have a glorious plan in allowing the tragic event(s) to occur. Granted, we cannot wrap our feeble minds around those plans but they must be wonderful and glorious because God knows what He’s doing. (On a side note, I think many unwittingly use this passage as a thought-terminating cliché.)

However, upon closer examination of the immediate context, we learn these words speak to nothing of the sort. The prophet is not addressing the bewildering heartaches of life, but rather, he is expressing something joyful and uplifting. This is plainly seen when vv. 6-7 are considered,

“Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near;  let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7)

What our feeble minds cannot comprehend is how freely and graciously God pardons the sins of the penitent! Taken together, Isaiah 55:6-9 is one of the clearest, most uplifting invitations to salvation in all the scriptures. The chapter opens with the fervent cry, “Come, everyone who thirst come to the waters” and enjoy the grace of God (55:1). Forgiveness is liberally offered to anyone who would seek the Lord God; call upon Him and depart from evil.

If any would doubt God’s willingness to freely forgive them (especially when they can’t forgive themselves) the prophet reminds us, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our way. He forgives when others will not, and His love knows no limits going far beyond our comprehension (cf. Psalm 103:11).

So friend, turn to Father, forsake evil calling upon His name and accept His limitless love for you! If I can help you with any spiritual need drop me a line at clay@claygentry.com. God bless.

 

Go In Peace – The GO! Statements of Jesus


Slide7

Christianity is a doing religion. We are not saved in order to become statues in a museum; rather, we are saved to become active doers of God’s will in this world (ref. James 1:22). It should be no wonder that our Lord so often commanded His followers, and us, to “Go!” and do something.

Last week we started a series exploring and applying our Lord’s various “Go!” statements. So far we have considered, “Go be reconciled,”  “Go and tell,” “Go and learn” and “Go and surrender.” in this post we will explore the application of “Go in peace.” 

On two occasions Jesus told someone to “Go in peace.” On one such occasion He gave a blessing of peace to a woman who was healed by touching the hem of His garment (ref. Mark 5:24-34; Luke 8:42-48). On another occasion, and the one we will focus on in this lesson, our Lord gave His blessing of peace to a notoriously sinful woman He had forgiven (Luke 7:36-50).

In Luke 7:36-50, Jesus was dining at the home of a Pharisee named Simon (v. 36). When, “Behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that He was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed His feet and anointed them with the ointment” (vv. 37-38). Dinners at this time involved dignitaries and were often open to spectators, but no one would expect a woman of such ill repute to attend. Yet, driven by the desperation for forgiveness, she took courage and humbly approached Jesus.

As the Pharisee watched the events unfold before his eyes, he contemptuously said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner” (v. 39). Knowing his thoughts, Jesus answered the Pharisee with a story commonly called the parable of the Two Debtors (vv. 40-43).

The parable teaches the simple truth that the degree of thankfulness expressed by someone whose debt has been forgiven stands in direct proportion to the amount of that forgiven debt. Jesus applied this truth to the way Simon and the sinful woman had received Him.

“Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (vv. 44-47).

Then turning to the woman, “He said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven’” (v. 48). The usual banter of, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” (v. 49) followed. Undeterred by His detractors, Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (v. 50). Saved from the guilt, power and eternal consequences of her sin, she could go away basking in the Lord’s peace.

This is the peace Jesus came to bring to humanity. On the night our Lord was born (Luke 2:1-7), a group of shepherds heard “a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased’” (Luke 2:13-14). This should not be understood as a universal declaration of peace toward all humanity (a Christmas songs says, “Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be…”). Rather, the angles spoke of the peace of salvation that God gives through His Son, the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Indeed, the peace that was meant to be is a reality, so, “Go in peace.”

How do we gain this peace? Just as it was for the sinful woman, peace with God comes through faith in Jesus. As Paul said, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2). This peace is not a subjective, internal sense of calm and serenity, but an objective reality. God had declared war on humanity because of the former’s rebellious sins. But now, through faith in Christ’s sacrifice, the sinner’s war with God has ended forever (cf. Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21-22). Now we can “Go in peace.”

Finally, our peace with God transforms our lives. Again, the apostle Paul said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). While the peace we enjoy with God transcends all human understanding, nevertheless, we should allow it to calm our anxious hearts. Because God is sovereign, Christians can entrust all their difficulties to Him, who is wise and loving, and “Go in peace.”

Peace, it is the constant desire of humanity. However, peace will never be found in human institutions, but rather, through Jesus Christ who declares that all who believe in Him can “Go in peace.” 

It is my hope you will accept His offer. As always, I’m more than happy to help you in your quest to know more about Christ. Please email me at clay@claygentry.com, I’ll be happy to come alongside you on your spiritual journey.

Loose Lips Cause Rifts


gossip

Wisdom to shape your conversations this weekend,

“Whoever conceals an offense seeks love, but whoever repeats a matter separates close friends.” (Proverbs 17:9)

Gossip need not be false to be hurtful; there is a lot of truth that should not be passed around. The one who resolves to never bring up or reveal the forgiven offenses of a friend is the one who seeks love and those who seek love will find it. However, a hate filled heart repeats the transgressions of others; thus, injuring themselves by alienating their closest friends. So, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).   

Other post in this series:

The Wisdom To Overlook Offenses;

Imitate Christ By Forgiving Others;

God’ Prescription For Overcoming Evil;

An Angry Heart Is The Devil’s Domain

Go Be Reconciled – The GO! Statements of Jesus


Slide1

Christianity is a doing religion. We are not saved in order to become statues in a museum; rather, we are saved to become active doers of God’s will in this world (ref. James 1:22). It should be no wonder that our Lord so often commanded His followers, and us, to “Go!” and do something. Over the next several weeks, we’re going to explore Jesus’ “Go!” statements and what they mean for us today. In our first lesson, well consider two of our Lord’s “Go!” statements under the title Go Be Reconciled.

Other post in this series:  “Go in peace,” “Go and tell,” “Go and learn” and “Go and surrender.”

In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord’s uncompromising interpretation of the sixth commandment, “Thou shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13) went beyond the act itself and addressed the inward attitude of hate, which, according to Jesus was just as culpable as murder (Matthew 5:21-22).

Jesus taught the positive counterpart to the anger described in vv. 21-22 is extreme reconciliation.

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (vv. 23-24)

To stress the high importance of reconciliation, Jesus presented a picture of a worshiper traveling some distance to offer sacrifices on “the altar” at the temple in Jerusalem. Suddenly, the worshiper “remembered” he had offended a brother. Jesus advised the worshiper to leave his sacrifice at the altar, immediately seek to be reconciled with his brother, and then come back and present his offering to God. The urgency of this scenario illustrates Jesus’ high importance on confessing sins and seeking reconciliation.

Think about the absurd image of two worshipers separated by sin seeking to worship together. By staying, the man who wronged his brother would have fulfilled the outward aspects of the Law, i.e. sacrificial worship; nevertheless, his outward piety would have been tainted by his sinful act(s) of hatred toward his brother (cf. v. 22). Jesus went on to illustrate the importance of seeking reconciliation with another parable in vv. 25-26.

We, who have wronged someone else, are to take the initiative to seek reconciliation for the wrongs we have committed. In this way, we can fulfill not only the Lord’s command, but Paul’s as well, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). As I recently learned from one brave sister, you cannot make someone change his or her mind about you, but you can make every effort to extend an olive branch and be a “peacemaker” (ref. Matthew 5:9). Nevertheless, our spiritual lives depend on it.

Furthermore, there are times when others have sinned against us, and this too calls for reconciliation. Our Lord also framed this as a “GO!” statement,

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15)

Although many offenses against us can and should be overlooked (ref. Proverbs 19:11), there are sins that must be addressed so that reconciliation can occur.

Unlike our previous passage, in Matthew 18:15, Jesus puts the ownness for seeking reconciliation on the one who has been sinned against. When considered in the context of the parable of the Lost Sheep (vv. 10-14), it becomes abundantly clear Jesus had something more in mind that a toe-to-toe confrontation with a sinful brother or sister. Rather, He is clearly calling for us to go seek reconciliation with the goal of bringing a lost soul back to the fold of God. This theme of restoration is echoed throughout scripture, as Christians are urged to “help” (1 Thessalonians 5:14), “restore” (Galatians 6:1), and “save” (James 5:20) those who are caught up in their sin.

The other side of this coin is that we also need to be quick to forgive in order to achieve reconciliation.

Christians are the most forgiven people in the world. Therefore, we must be the most forgiving people in the world. So, when someone comes to us seeking reconciliation and thus our forgiveness for the wrong they did against us, let us, with “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience… forgive [them]; as the Lord has forgiven [us], so [we] also must forgive” (Colossians 3:12, 13; cf. Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Mark 11:20-25). But how many times should we forgive those who sin against us?  As often as needed, the Lord said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4).

What the world needs are more “peacemakers.” Christians who will seek to correct their wrongs. Brothers and sisters who will seek to lovingly bring others back into fellowship. Christ imitators who are quick to forgive. Who is someone you have wronged, or has wronged you, or who is someone you have withheld forgiveness from? Will you obey your Lord and go and be reconciled with them today?

As always, I’m more than happy to help you in your quest to know more about Christ. Please email me at clay@claygentry.com, I’ll be happy to come along side you and walk with on your spiritual journey.

Imitate Christ By Forgiving One Another


Forgive Colossians 3:13

A God-given challenge for your day,

“Bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgive each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”               (Colossians 3:13).

Christians are the most forgiven people in the world. Therefore, we should be the most forgiving people in the world. Because Christ as the model of forgiveness has forgiven us all of our sins, as believers we must be willing to forgive others. Just as we continually draw upon God’s grace and mercy; we must continually bestow grace and mercy to those who wrong us. Remembering, “judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

Other post in this series:

The Wisdom To Overlook OffensesGod’ Prescription For Overcoming Evil;

An Angry Heart Is The Devil’s DomainLoose Lips Cause Rifts

The Wisdom To Overlook Offenses


An opportunity to exercise wisdom today,

“Wisdom makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook offense.” (Proverbs 19:11)

I’ve often heard people debate rather or not one has to forgive, or should forgive, when there’s been no repentance. However, for me, the proverb demonstrates that there are, at least, some offenses that require no repentance for me to forgive because I should have the wisdom to overlook the offense in the first place. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5)

Other passages to consider: Proverbs 16:32; 20:3; Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Mark 11:25; Colossians 3:12-13

Other post in this series:

Imitate Christ By Forgiving Others;

God’ Prescription For Overcoming Evil;

An Angry Heart Is The Devil’s Domain;

Loose Lips Cause Rifts