May 10 “Forgiveness”

Forgiveness

Peter thought he was doing fine when he volunteered to forgive an offending brother seven times.
He wasn’t even close! Jesus told him the limit was seventy times seven, an infinite amount! We don’t have to work hard to imagine the look on the fisherman’s face. How was that even possible? Who had that much grace? While Peter was trying to do the math, Jesus told a story to illustrate what He meant.

A King and His Servants
In the process of settling the accounts with his servants, the king called each one forward. One poor soul owed 10,000 talents and was unable to pay. This was the king’s money given to the servant to invest and bring a profit. Not only was there no profit, the king’s money had disappeared. The king demanded that the servant and his family be sold to replace his losses. At this decree the servant fell on his face at the feet of the king and begged for mercy.

‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’

His genuine sorrow broke the heart of the king. He was moved to forgive the debt and set the servant free. Wonderful. But the story takes a tragic turn.

When the Forgiven do not Forgive
The forgiven, unproductive servant was owed a small amount by another servant. The forgiven one went out and found the fellow who owed him money and demanded immediate payment. The fellow who owed the debt also pled for mercy but was given none. In fact the first servant laid hands on him and demanded payment. Servants could not keep a thing like this quiet. The injustice of all this grieved them deeply and they told the king about it. The king was also grieved.

You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?

He sent the wicked servant, at first slothful and finally cruel, to the prison to be tortured until all was repaid.

The crowd and the disciples with them waited in silence for Jesus to make application of this horrible story. Finally, it came:

“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Peter forgot about the math and began to calculate how much he had been forgiven.

Heavenly Measures
We cannot measure spiritual things with physical tools. Offences to not add up in the same way we count apples. One offence can outnumber a whole bushel. Acts of forgiveness are the same. We have to calculate spiritual things with spiritual tools. Whether we have been much offended or little, our forgiveness should be greater by a large measure. When we compare the forgiveness we have received from Christ, so lavish, so abundant, so readily granted, how can we measure out our forgiveness in lesser amounts?

It isn’t easy to do. The wounded heart wants to tend its wounds. The offended mind never wants to forget the hurtful words spoken. But we are more than mind and heart; we are also spirit—that part of us that knows God. His Spirit is there and He helps us forgive and forget and go on to real joy.

Scriptures:
Matthew 18:21-35
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Philippians 3:12-14 NKJV
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You have forgiven me! Help me be fast to forgive others. Keep me from sinful pride in my own spirituality; that is folly. Help me measure my life by heavenly instruments—grace, mercy, compassion. Don’t let me be hindered by grievances. Help me to let go of the bad things that have happened and to hold on to the good things. I want to press on for You, Lord Jesus, until I hear You say “Well done!” Amen and Amen.

Song:
When We See Christ
Words and Music: Ester Kerr Rusthoi

1. Oft times the day seems long, Our trials hard to bear.
We´re tempted to complain, to murmur and despair.
But Christ will soon appear to catch his bride away!
All tears forever over in God’s eternal day!

Refrain:
It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ.
One glimpse of his dear face, all sorrow will erase.
So, bravely run the race till we see Christ.

2. At times the sky seems dark, with not a ray of light;
We’re tossed and driven on, no human help in sight.
But there is One in heaven, Who knows our deepest care;
Let Jesus solve your problems, just go to him in prayer.

Refrain

3. Life’s day will soon be o’re, all storms forever past;
We’ll cross the great divide to Glory, safe at last!
We’ll share the joys of heaven: a harp, a home, a crown;
The tempter will be banished, We’ll lay our burdens down.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 17, 2018 “Offenses”

Offenses

Just as Jesus was not immune to the pain of the whip, the thorns, and the nails, personal offenses hurt him, too.
He was not a whiner, easily upset by every little thing that happened, but the rejection of the religious leaders hurt Him. The ingratitude of those who received His miracles but refused to follow His teaching offended Him. In the days ahead of Him as He turned toward the cross, the betrayal of Judas will hurt Him. The denials of Simon Peter will offend Him. The taunts of the crowd around the cross will be an emotional storm of offense as hurtful as the Roman soldiers working at their horrid craft of crucifixion.

Offenses will come.
The road to Calvary was not an easy one. The Kingdom of God Jesus brought was a radical departure from the established Old Covenant religion. As such, it sparked violent opposition from the religious establishment. Leaders understood immediately that the “Good News” Jesus preached was not good news for them. He threatened their power structures and jeopardized all their control mechanisms.

The freedom Jesus brought was dangerous on many counts:

  1. They could not match the flow of God’s power through Jesus to heal and deliver.
  2. They could not refute the truth He taught—He knew the Law and the Prophets better than they did.
  3. His message of the love of God for the individual threatened to bypass the leaders altogether.
  4. His friendliness toward sinners, tax collectors, the sick, and the poor upset the carefully balanced stratified society threatening chaos at every level.
  5. His radical teachings and the accompanying signs and wonders could not be ignored by Rome. When the people called Him, “Messiah,” this was an insurrection in the making, something the leaders did not need.

In fairness to the leaders, they were trying in their own way to be true to the Covenant with Jehovah and keep the peace with the Romans at the same time—no easy set of tasks. Their lives were tough enough without Jesus; with Jesus in the picture, they seemed impossible.

So they fought back. The schemed against Jesus, spied on Him and His men, attacked Him in public, and finally conspired against Him. Jesus saw their tactics and these things broke His heart. The Bible is sparse in its descriptions of Jesus’ pain, reporting only His times of solitude and His tears over the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. We know Jesus loved His enemies, these same Pharisees, Sadducees, priests and scribes. He came to save them, not antagonize them, to relieve their suffering, not add to it. Thus His sad commentary:

“It is impossible that no offenses should come…”

The Cost of Offending
Offense causes more than just the pain of the one who is offended. Jesus completed the sentence:

“…but woe to him through whom they do come!”

Everyone has the power to offend and to strike back when offended. This is how cycles of violence get started and continue from generation to generation: attacks followed by reprisals, ad infinitum.

In Jesus, every believer has the power to forgive—the Sermon on the Mount in action!  Violence and counter violence can only be stopped by a new and living way—the Gospel of the Kingdom of God!–Repentance and forgiveness, grace received and extended. If your brother offends you, forgive him, no matter how many times it happens!

Life Lesson: Do not offend your brother and when offended, forgive.

Scriptures:
Luke: 17:1-4
Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there is so much violence in this world! May I never contribute to any of it! Give me the courage to break the pattern of strike and reprisal with forgiveness. Help me turn the other cheek when necessary. Lord, may I never offend my brother or sister and help me be quick to forgive others. Most of all, may I never offend the Holy Spirit! May I never break Your heart! Keep me true, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Freely, Freely

Words and Music: Jimmy and Carol Owens

Freely, freely, you have received.
Freely, freely give.
Go in my name and because you believe,
Others will know that I live.

God forgave my sins in Jesus’ name.
I’ve been born again in Jesus’s name.
And in Jesus’ name I come to you
To share His love as He told me to. He said,

“Freely, freely, you have received.
Freely, freely give.
Go in my name and because you believe,
Others will know that I live.”

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved