Archives For forgiveness

On your journey to discipleship, it’s important to remember following Jesus is always about the next step. We aren’t concerned with where He’s leading us, we’re simply content to follow. A hallmark of discipleship is never looking back. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, or what you’ve done. The blood, grace, and love of Jesus makes all which has come before irrelevant. We are who He says we are, and He sees only who we are becoming.

past doesn't matter,don't look back,God's love,love,grace,mercy,forgiveness,mission,discipleship,God's kingdom,kingdom of God,purpose,Romans 8:38-39,nothing can separate us

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As far as God is concerned, the past doesn’t matter. He’s not interested in what you’ve done, only in what you will do for His Kingdom.  He holds no grudges. Jesus never looks at what you’ve messed up in the past as an indicator of what you might accomplish in the future.

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As I write this, it is only a few days until Father’s Day will be celebrated here in the United States. This holiday affects people in different ways, depending on their situation or upbringing, but few are emotionless about it. For those whose fathers’ have passed away, this day probably brings mixed emotions of joyful memories and sorrowful realities. Some never knew their father, and for these there can be an ever-present emptiness.

father's day,fathers day 2017,forgiveness,love,John 1:3,nothing was made,Exodus 20:12,honor your father,honor your parents,John 15:12,love God as He loves you,fathers,Mark 12:30-31,love your neighbor,greatest commandment

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Unfortunately, there are those who have fathers who were abusive in one way or another and, as a result, Father’s Day is a day of bitterness. To those like myself who had good fathers who are still with them, it is a day of celebration of years past. But to all who profess Jesus as their Lord, we have something even more important to celebrate: the love of our Heavenly Father.

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clean slate,forgiveness,second chances,mulligan,new years resolution,change your life,god's will,life purpose

Those who know me best know I love this time of the year. A new year brings new goals, new dreams, and new prospects. As followers of Christ, we have the same opportunity every moment of our lives. No matter what we did ten minutes ago, no matter how badly we failed, we immediately get a brand new start thanks to the cleansing blood of Jesus. He is constantly making all things new (Revelation 21:5). If your life is as inconsistent as mine, this is tremendous news! We don’t have to wait an entire year to kick things off fresh. We can begin anew right here and right now.

Have you ever stopped to consider the power of Christ’s forgiveness? There aren’t many things in life where you get a “do-over”. While it’s true that once a moment has passed we have lost it forever, it is comforting to know that Jesus doesn’t give up on us because we blew an opportunity. He is infinitely patient and always forgiving. He is always willing to give us another opportunity to serve Him as long as we are truly seeking after Him. Serving God is not a one-time event, but rather a life-long string of chances to glorify Him.

While in our minds we might see a list of all our failures and missed opportunities, Jesus patiently waits with a clean slate on which to write how much He loves us. Every new moment is surrounded by His love for us. Christ wants nothing more than to see us become the person He created us to be. He roots for you every second of your life. He is your greatest cheerleader and constant companion. Because of this, our greatest goal should be to honor Him and in some small way thank Him for His infinite love and forgiveness.

What will you do with your clean slate this year? How will you serve Him better? In what new ways will you bring Him glory? If you’re a goal-setter like me, your goals should start with how you will grow in God and detail how you will seek to serve Him. I would argue that every goal you have should in some way relate to how it furthers the Kingdom of God. If you aspire to earn more money or achieve a certain status, make certain you know how you will exploit those things to glorify God and empower those less fortunate than yourself.

Don’t stumble into the New Year without a plan. You were created for a purpose, not for some sort of random wandering. God’s plans are always specific, not a collection of vague generalities. He has blessed us with grace, forgiveness, love, and a unique purpose for our lives. What will we do with those gifts? Don’t let failure get you down; dust yourself off, get up, and serve Him again. There are few gifts as great and full of possibilities as a clean slate. What will you do with yours?

love,mercy,god is love,forgiveness,disciple,repentance

God is so merciful and His grace is unending. We all know the things we should do, but in practice few of us consistently succeed. We go through seasons of growth, but then there are those times when it seems all we can do is mess up. We could spend the majority of our days living in guilt, discouraged that we have missed the mark again. God rejects that idea. He sent His Son to free us from guilt and to remove all of our sins. Walking in the footsteps of Jesus gives us never ending opportunities to start again.

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Our purpose in life is to glorify God. This is not a part-time purpose or one we fulfill once and move on to the next task. Glorifying God is our life-long pursuit and the way in which we will fulfill the mission He has given us. The thought of constantly glorifying God is daunting at best; is it even possible to live one’s life in this manner? I know that it is; I am confident because I have had moments in my life where I have achieved the goal of glorifying Him. It may have only been for a moment, but here’s what I know: if you can do something for a few moments, you can do it for minute; if you can do it for a minute, you can do it for an hour; if you can do it for an hour, then you can do it for a day. If we can glorify God for a day, then surely we can string those days together to make a lifetime. It all starts with making a conscious choice in a single moment of our lives.

Our attitude is the differentiator in how we will live. We can choose to pursue the life of the American dream because we are of the mind that it’s what we “deserve”, or we can instead live a life of intentional service to God. Most Christians get irreparably stuck in the middle somewhere, living an ugly and ultimately ineffective hybrid form of life. True followers of Christ will opt to live their lives wholly devoted to God. We will seize the moments we have been given and use them to further His kingdom. Jesus lived every minute of His life with the end in mind; He knew who He was and was keenly aware of His purpose. This is the life we are called to live, one which glorifies the Father.

Plan your day around divine appointments; schedule time with God just as you would any other appointment on your calendar. Recognize that the time you have set aside for Him cannot be moved and must be honored. One of the great aspects of prayer is that you can do it anytime, wherever you are. You are never somewhere that you cannot pray, and you are never so busy so as not to have an open channel. I spend a good majority of my day in prayer, having an ongoing conversation with my Creator. There are specific times though when I get alone and engage in less casual conversation, times when I can shut out the world and focus solely on Him. I suggest you find some time each day to do this, whether before going to sleep each night, or perhaps getting up five or ten minutes earlier to steal some quiet in the morning. You will find the time alone with God to be some of the most refreshing moments you will ever experience.

Get excited about knowing Him better and plan ways to accomplish this. Right now I’m in the midst of charting out what the next year of my life is going to look like. I have goals in many areas, but none more significant than those regarding my spiritual life. I’m looking forward to praying for the entire world (not as impossible as it seems, see the “Operation World” project) next year. Starting my day off by focusing on the needs of others around the world promises to be enriching, educational and invigorating. Determining new ways to experience the Word of God is another way to improve your walk and draw closer to Him. Next year I’ll be listening straight through a dramatized reading of the Bible with my wife, while reading it through chronologically on my own. You certainly do not need to read the Bible through in a year to get closer to Christ. I do know that it won’t hurt however, and the more you are in the Word, the more you will understand and marvel at His holiness and love.

As you plan to get to know Him better, His life will begin to reflect brighter and brighter through you. As He shines from within, you begin to glorify Him without even trying. People will take on added significance to you and you will begin to treat each of them as people highly valued by God. Traffic jams will become opportunities to demonstrate patience and allow you the opportunity to speak to God in prayer. Your job can now be seen as a mission field and it is up to you to establish the ministry of Jesus in that place. Every day, in every way, we have the ability to affect those around us. When we choose to honor them with love and respect, we glorify God. When we humble ourselves to serve others, we glorify God. When we forgive without receiving anything in return, we glorify God. A life spent devoted to Christ is more that a possibility; it is our duty and our calling. Choose right now to devote the rest of your life to His service. You can live a life that glorifies Him every step of the way; it only takes a moment to choose, and that moment is now.

Recently we’ve been looking at the various attributes that make up the concept of living in love, deconstructing what it looks like to demonstrate Christ-like love to others. We previously looked at kindness and patience, and today I’d like to discuss one of the most difficult attributes: forgiveness. In addition to being the foundation for our salvation, Scripture is replete with references commanding us to be a forgiving. In I Corinthians 13:5, it says that love keeps no record of wrongs. In other words, love is forgiving; it does not hold past offenses against another. Ephesians 4:32 tells us to forgive one another, just as Christ forgave us. If we want to live lives that look like Jesus, we must be forgiving people. Why then is it so difficult to do so, and what would it look like if we would truly model Christ’s forgiveness in our own lives?

To ask forgiveness of someone else means we must admit that we are sorry for behaving in the way we did towards them. If we are prideful, we will resent the insinuation that we are in the wrong. Pride often leads to anger, and anger to bitterness. Once we reach this stage, forgiveness can indeed be very hard to achieve. You don’t feel like humbling yourself and the other party now wants nothing to do with you. That’s why it is vital to heed the instruction in Ephesians 4:26 to not let the sun go down on your anger. Don’t let the day end with anger in your heart or it will fester all night, robbing you of sleep and depriving you of joy when you awaken. If you have wronged someone, seek forgiveness immediately. It is uncomfortable to do so, but it is far more difficult later. By remaining conscious of your words and actions, you can begin by asking forgiveness for small things. This will be easier and it will begin to develop the habit of forgiveness in your life. If you feel anger, make sure it doesn’t set up shop in your heart. Dispense of it immediately; nothing soothes anger quicker than forgiving someone of their trespass, even if they deliberately hurt you and refuse to apologize. You have no control over the actions of others, but you have full charge over your own reaction. Choosing to forgive disperses tension and anger, and allows you live a less stressful life.

If we are the ones who have been offended and now seek the forgiveness of someone else, we probably are hurt and retain some resentment against them until they apologize. Sometimes someone forgives us and we accept ever so gently by telling ourselves (or the other person!) that we forgive them, but we’ll never forget. That’s not forgiveness; that’s merely glossing over the problem and allowing it to be a problem in the future. When someone asks our forgiveness, we are to accept it and move on. We can no longer harbor animosity toward them; it is up to us to open our clenched fists and lay our hurt down at the feet of Jesus. He will take it from us, allowing us to move on unencumbered by the burden of malice. Always accept forgiveness from someone; doing so will benefit you both and allow your relationship to grow.

Anger is the opposite of love; therefore you cannot live in love and be angry at the same time. Ask God to take away your anger so you can begin living in love. Don’t be afraid to take the initiative in forgiving someone even if they don’t deserve it. You don’t deserve to be forgiven either, but Christ did it anyway. When someone asks you to forgive them, have the grace to do so. Jesus said we were to repeatedly forgive others (Matthew 18:21-22). Remember Christ placed no limits on His forgiveness, so neither should we. Begin by asking for forgiveness in the small things until you’ve developed the proper habit and spirit. Nothing reflects Christ more vividly than a forgiving heart. Asking for forgiveness demonstrates humility and gentleness. Giving forgiveness shows mercy and consideration. Taken together you can easily see how love is indeed forgiveness. A heart that practices forgiveness is a heart that Jesus can use to change the world. Forgive others as Christ forgave you; confess your shortcomings to those you have hurt. Live in love.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to severely beat myself up when I fall short of the standard of Jesus. While I intellectually realize I can never achieve the level of devotion to God that He did, emotionally I am somewhat distraught when my actions do not match the desires of my heart. I can truly say with Paul that the very things I hate I end up doing, while the things I want to do I leave undone. Sometimes my relationship with Jesus looks more like a train wreck than anything else. I passionately love Him and am in awe of His holiness and love for me. I study and structure my life in ways that I believe put me in a place where I can best follow Him. Still, I fail and I fall like everyone else. I literally amaze myself that despite all my planning and preparation, I can still be led astray and not walk in His light. These are the days that end in prayers of desperation and pleading for Him to not let me wander from the path I know He would have me to walk. I believe we all have our “thorns of the flesh”, triggers that knock us off course. I think at this point I’d just like some new triggers to replace the old ones instead of always being tripped up by the same character flaws!

Thankfully, Jesus is patient beyond all our understanding. The One who told us to continually forgive those who sin against us, no matter how often they do so, forgives us in the same way. He sees our hearts and our devotion to Him. He loves us through our triumphs and our failures. The despondency I feel when I miss the mark is a great ploy of Satan. He wants nothing more than to convince us that we will never measure up so we may as well just stop trying. He attempts to sideline us by pointing to our failures and telling us that Christ can’t see past our sin to get to our hearts. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we must reject these lies in order to push past our failures and accept the forgiveness of Christ. We need to confess our sin and then let it go. We need to learn from our mistakes, but we need not dwell on them any longer than it takes to recognize them and repent. I have often found myself repeatedly confessing the same sin because I am so overwhelmed by my failure. Years ago I read an article in Keith Green’s Last Days magazine entitled “Dirty Linen in the Throne Room”. The gist was that Christ cleanses us, so that when we appear before Him we are washed clean. However, we refuse to recognize what He has done for us and instead see ourselves approaching Him in filthy rags. We have an identity crisis; we are listening to Satan’s lies about who we are rather than living in the reality of who we are in Christ.

I have often taken comfort over the years in the following lyrics from Margaret Becker’s amazing song, “Just Come In”:

You think you’ve crossed
Some sacred line
And now I will ignore you
If you look up
You will find
My heart is still toward you
Look at the sky
The east to the west
That’s where I threw this
When you first confessed
Let it go now

We need not beat ourselves up when we fail. Falling is a part of learning to walk. God loves us, skinned knees and all. We must never stop seeking Him and we must never cease our desire to live a life that looks like His. I will never understand why He loves us so much, despite our failures and our brokenness; but I will spend the rest of my days doing what I can to prove myself worthy of that love. I will get up again and again; I will not stay knocked down. My heart is toward Him and I will continue striving to live a life that is pleasing to Him and in a way that reflects His glory to everyone I meet. We are forgiven; we are empowered and we are clean. Walk in your true identity and reject the lies of Satan. We are cleansed and we are free. Live in His beauty.