25 May 2014

LIVE BY EXAMPLE



John 13:1-20

A merchant, who had been a very worldly, godless man, was hopefully converted. On being asked what had been more especially the means of his conversion, he replied, "The example of one of my clerks." He went on to say that this young man was one "whose religion was in his life rather than in his tongue. When I uttered an oath he never reproved me; but I could see it deeply pained him. When I fell into a passion and behaved in a violent manner, though he spoke no word to that effect, I could see how painful the scene was to him. My respect for him led me to restrain myself in his presence, and gradually to break off both these habits. In fact, this man, though he never spoke a word to me on the subject of religion, exercised an influence for good over me, wielded by no other human being. To him, under God, I am indebted more than to any other, for the hope in which I now rejoice of eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ." 

Sometimes it’s that person who speaks less and demonstrates more the grace of Christ that impacts a soul for the Kingdom of God. Don’t get me wrong! Faith comes by hearing, but it also comes by how we live our lives for the glory of God among lost people who desperately need the gospel. But sadly to the Christian’s shame, we try sometimes to convert or change people’s morals to fit ours, instead of getting at the core issue of the hardness of heart!

Being an example is not just…….. 
  • A workplace thing.
  • A neighbor thing.
  • An obligation thing 
Being an example begins…….in the home, in our marriages, in our everyday dealings with our children. It starts inside before it ever goes outside where lost people are. Being an example is a Christian thing, not a when we like to turn it off and on. Being an example is a godly thing that has been birthed out of a love towards fallen sinners like you and me because of the gospel! We need to give people more credit than we give them at times, because to be honest they are watching us more than they are listening to us. See, this kind of example to live by in front of others requires something we all should strive for and sometimes hard to reach! HUMILITY. What does humility mean? Ethically it’s a freedom from pride and arrogance, a modest estimate of one's own worth. In theology, humility consists in lowliness of mind; a deep sense of one's own unworthiness in the sight of God, and it’s an act of submission to God. “Humility is honestly assessing our lives in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness!” Jesus Christ in His humanity sets the bar or the standard to which we are to live by…
  • Not just at church
  • Not just at the work place
  • Not just when we feel like it
We are to demonstrate the example of humility at times through the good the bad our trial and our errors. Remember what the Apostle Paul reminded the good church folks at Philippi “Let nothing be done through selfish (interest, centered) ambition or conceit, but in lowliness (humility, meekness) of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Phil 2:2-4. Sacrifice follows humility! Sacrifice follows humility....And so we don’t have a misunderstanding in thinking I’m taking this verse out of context listen to the verses that follow……“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Phil 2:5-8

That’s true humility which is a product of self-sacrifice thinking of others above my wants and desires. “SACRIFICE FOLLOWS HUMILITY” How are you doing in that area of your Christian life? Though this passage is a wonderful reminder of how I’m to live in my culture……We’re going to go back even further in the word of God to see the greatest example of what true humility exemplified looks like in the face of Jesus’ disciples. The disciples are alone with Jesus in the upper room, the world was locked out. All 12 of them....Yes! Even Judas the betrayer! I want you to really remember Judas’s this morning as I share from God’s word today about being an example! The reason being……what is about to take place humbles me every time, as I think about what Jesus did here: This act of sacrificial love towards even the worst of sinners...............Judas, myself and you! Something I at times struggle with when I see the sins of others. We are so quick to throw them under the bus first and then ask questions or forgive later. This is where we need to most teachable as we examine this portion of John’s gospel. John wrote “The hour has come” referring to the death that Jesus is about to undertake for all humanity. Everything Jesus set out to do for the Father was about to be fulfilled through the Lord Jesus Christ. This was a divinely appointed hour (when He would be glorified through His Death and Resurrection and Ascension). Having known or completely aware of the present situation or future! The cross only being a few hours away and we see Jesus reminding us a truth that we need to live by.

CHRISTIAN bE AN EXAMPLE OF THE CONTINUING UNCONDITIONAL LOVE CHRIST DISPLAYED FOR HIS PEOPLE.

“He loved them to the end” Which means: “to perfection” with “a perfecting love” We know Jesus loved the whole world (John 3:16) and lost sinners! But we see Jesus isn’t talking about the whole world in these verses! “Having loved His own”
  • Those whom He called unto Himself
  • Those whom He saves
  • Those whom He perfects with an eternal love
John MacArthur says “Even the imminent of His own death could not separate His disciples from his love. Jesus despite the reality and future events that He was aware of knowing that His disciples would in a few hours…..
  • Be scattered like scared sheep.
  • Forsake him like a leper
  • Curse His name like the world
  • Betray Him like the Pharisee’s did
Yet! Jesus loved them all……….yes, even Judas the betrayer. See the Lord Jesus love exemplified is the essence of the gospel message. He loved us before we would ever love Him. God loves us so much it’s a love like nothing else, a love that is willing to lay down His life for a friend! It’s the same kind of love we should demonstrate……..
  • Men in our marriage
  • Ladies in your marriage
  • Children as you obey your parents
  • Church as you care for one another and the lost in our community.
And if you think this love extends only to those who don’t wrong or mistreat us and only for those who do good things that please us, then you truly don’t understand this passage or the gospel that saved your wretched soul from the wrath of God. Again He loved His children unto the end Perfection! But Jesus had a betrayer amongst His children (look at v2) His name:  Judas Iscariot
  • A man who was in charge of the money for the group
  • A man who followed and listened to Jesus speak and teach for 3 years
  • A man who had the opportunity to see amazing things done by our Lord
  • A man who’s heart was growing harder and more hateful by the minute
  • A man who demonstrated to humanity how evil a heart is able to sink
  • A man whom the Lord loved so much to even go to the Cross for him
     See......
  • Judas was a greedy man
  • Judas was a heartless man
  • Judas was a wicked man who had one thing on his mind (ME, SELF)
  • Judas cared only about what was best for Judas

We see something that is unprecedented (unbelievable, extraordinary) in the next verses! We see something that is unheard of or unusual. We see something that should never happen. We see something that would seem uncalled for in our present day situation........Why? Because naturally we are born:
  • Selfish
  • Sinful
  • Prideful
  • Possessive
  • Ignorant
  • Blind
  • Wicked at heart
What is that? Love put into action…..which brings me to my next point!

CHRISTIAN BE AN EXAMPLE BY PUTTING THAT LOVE INTO ACTION

What were about to see is an act of true humility that ultimately follows sacrifice! (Look at verse 4) “Jesus girded Himself” assuming a servants dress (example) getting ready to do your chores or go to work! Taking off your good cloths to put on work cloths. Why did Jesus remove His robe and display Himself as a servant or a slave? We will see the answer in a minute! Foot washing was never to be done by a master. For a superior to wash the feet of an inferior was unheard of in Jewish or Roman culture. This was reserved for the lowest of slaves (even Jewish slaves were not required to perform it! Only Gentiles were....)The disciples dropped the bomb on this one and so do we at times…...They knew better! But their pride and arrogance got in the way. See, the disciples were too busy debating who was going to be the first among them in Luke’s letter. In Luke 22:24 it says “Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.” They forgot what Jesus said earlier to them and the people that were listening “…….And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Matt 23:9-12. So why did Jesus gird Himself? Because His words fell on deaf ears! Why? Again, we are naturally selfish people, who don’t understand what true humility really means! So Jesus exemplifies this by putting his words into action. So He got a basin of water to do what? To wash the disgusting, dirty, smelly, dried, calloused hairy feet to show them the extent of His love for them despite their understanding and selfish hearts. Then to top it off Jesus sues the towel to dry the feet of His selfish disciples.....every single one of them: including Judas. Why did Peter speak up with a question? In (v6) we read “Lord, are You washing my feet?”

He knew that His Lord shouldn't have been doing this to see His Master, Teacher lowering Himself beneath His disciples was something that was shameful or unheard to the Jews. Especially for the ones who feet were being washed (Peter and the disciples). Peter miss understood what Jesus was doing and why! This was an example of what had to be done if Peter was ever to see his Lord again! This is a wonderful picture of the gospel. Jesus would humbly submit himself on the cross……… which was the lowest form of punishment for the worst of criminals. He took drank the cup of wrath by the Father for our sins and by drinking this cup His death cleanses us from our sin with His precious blood. This why Jesus asks the question and explains to His disciples (v9-v10). He finishes by saying “you are completely clean” (See, it’s wasn’t the act of washing the disciple’s feet and that we should go around washing feet). When you are saved through the gospel, your are set apart for God, you are His forever (which is speaking about your salvation that never needs to be repeated). But all who have been cleansed By His grace need constant washing to battle sin in the flesh!

It’s the same Idea that Paul speaks in his personal walk with the Lord “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.” Phil 3:12-14. Peter you have been “Bathed all over and your sins are washed away forgiven”. Peter! Was clean! Jesus said to Peter that he would one day understand all this later. Peter penned these words “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” 1 Peter 3:18

Here is where the rubber meets the road for the Christian life. Here is where you’ll truly see the heart of a Christian and how they display Christ’s love to others. Why? Jesus says something in (v11) that confused the disciples “Peter you are clean! But one of you is not clean? Judas! My question to you is………Can you love the unlovable, the haters and blasphemers? This is where we see the grace of the gospel extended to sinners! Jesus loved Judas despite his hatred and plan towards the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus knew Judas’s heart and it was in line to Satan. BUT HERE IS THE HUMBLING PART! Jesus gave Judas every opportunity to come to Him as He knew the other disciples would. Jesus displayed the greatest example of humility by washing the very feet of the one who would betray Him a few hours later. Jesus displayed the greatest example of humility! Despite Judas heart that He loved Him to the end. Jesus did this for every single person on this earth! Whether you love Him or hate Him! And what does Jesus tell His disciples to do?  (v15) “you do the same also”

I love how Kent Hughes makes this passage practical for church people like you and me! “We must become people of towels” How do we do that as a church family? By sacrificing our wants and desires by humbling ourselves to those around us and seeking the needs of others through the example of Christ. By showing Christ’s love to the fullest extent to those around us and in our communities. By starting with each other!  Here in this church! Be a servant that is humble not full of pride wondering if you’re going to be greatest!

We are not here in this life to be served or to have our best life now! We are set apart unto good works which He works in and through our lives. We are called (elected) by Him because he knew our hearts needed a Saviour. We are given life through His Son because He humbled Himself on a Cross. We are loved with a perfecting love which only the Lord can do........whether you realize it or not! Jesus washed your feet and He declared you to be clean! IF YOU ARE HIS! SACRIFICE FOLLOWS HUMILITY! SACRIFICE FOLLOWS HUMILITY. Let me ask you the Sunday question: Have you sacrificed today?_________Have you picked up your towel?_________. Because the Lord Jesus said “now that know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (v17)

19 May 2014

Our Only Hope Is This


Lam 3:22-23

“God’s consuming wrath!” This is a sobering thought, especially when read this portion of Jeremiah's letter! It’s ONLY because of His mercy we are not consumed! “Consumed” by definition is “to eat or drink up; devour, to destroy, as by decomposition or burning. “Wrath” by definition is “violent anger; passionate or violent fury. When I think of those two words put together in the same sentence I’m reminded of the event between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. The bible tells us about an event in history where God displayed His amazing powers over fallible man and the god they created in their image. The battle to see whose God is better and more powerful! (1 Kings 18:20-39). The only person you know who has the qualification to consume anything is God himself!

Not only does He have the right to consume, but He also has the right to show grace where  He chooses………..He alone is 100% faithful 100% of the time. As Paul reminded Timothy “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” 2Timothy 2:13. This should bring great comfort in light of God’s consuming wrath towards sin and the sinner. I want you to think about that this morning….especially after singing songs and praising His sovereign name and the goodness found in Christ through the gospel. God’s consuming wrath relented towards sinners like you and me. The Bible explains God’s wrath is very real and we need to heed the warnings!

God’s wrath is demonstrated in terror......Jeremiah 10:10 says “But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, And the nations will not be able to endure His indignation [His outrage].”

God’s wrath cannot be resisted......Nahum 1:6 says “Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, And the rocks are thrown down by Him.” In Psalm 76:7 it says “You, Yourself, are to be feared; And who may stand in Your presence When once You are angry?”

God’s wrath is being stored up or better yet reserved for the “Day of Wrath”.......Rom 2:5 reveals to us “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent [unremorseful or unrepentant] heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” and in 2 Thess 1:8 we read “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

God’s wrath is against the wicked, unbelieving, apostates, idolaters, and most of all sin and the sinner......Psalm 7:11 reminds us that “God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day.” Remember Hell is not full of sin it’s full of people….. “wicked” people! In Romans 1:18 says “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,”

God’s wrath is towards those who oppose the gospel......1 Thess 2:16 says “forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.”

God’s wrath is adverted only through Christ......Rom 5:9 gives us a promise “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

Please hear my heart this morning! I don’t read you these passages to scare or intimidate you! But, I do tell you this…… because we need to understand where we stand in light of God and His infinite glory and power; when it comes to His consuming wrath. See we need to understand God’s divine wrath is not vindictiveness; it is divine perfection, issuing forth from God because it is right. As one writer said “God's anger is always predictable, always steadfast, and always set against sin. We must never forget that God's nature is uncompromisingly set against sin. We may tolerate it; He never”. And it’s only because of His mercy and compassion that we haven’t been consumed by His wrath described a minute ago! That’s a WOW moment isn’t it? Or at least it should be. This is a letter of a broken minister of God, who sees the turning away from the only one who can show clemency to sinners like us. And here in this letter ultimately Jeremiah feels all alone. (Read Lam 3:1-21)

There is something we also see in this portion of Jeremiah’s letter! We see the promises and attributes of God’s faithfulness to those who whom are truly His. This is a beautiful reminder of God sustaining graces in the midst of affliction and sorrow and desperation. This is where our hopes begins and ends! (v22-v24). This is our only hope!

HIS MERCY

God's mercy is a massive theme in Scripture, the English word appearing some 341 times in the Bible. The four Hebrew and three Greek words associated with this term appear a total of 454 times and are also translated as "kindness," "lovingkindness," "goodness," "favor," and "pity." Psalm 136 continually says “…..For His mercy endures forever.” Even though "mercy" is an important concept, it is somewhat difficult to prescribe a definition, especially since "grace" is occasionally closely coupled with it. Mercy and grace are often confused. While the terms have similar meanings, grace and mercy are not the same. To summarize the difference: mercy is God not punishing us as our sins deserve, and grace is God blessing us despite the fact that we do not deserve it. Mercy is deliverance from judgment and wrath. Grace is extending kindness to the unworthy sinner. We don’t deserve God’s mercy and it’s only by His mercy through the gospel that we have not been consumed by His righteous anger towards sinners. But as Richard Sibbes said “By honouring God’s mercy in Christ, we come to have the Spirit of Christ; therefore, when the waters of sanctification are troubled and muddy, let us run to the witness of blood.”

HIS COMPASSION

Compassion by definition is “"to be loved by, " "to show concern for, " "to be tenderhearted, " and "to act kindly." Compassion is the feeling of empathy for others. Compassion is the emotion that we feel in response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help. Lam 3:32-33 reminds us and Jeremiah about His compassion “Though He causes grief, Yet He will show compassion According to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, Nor grieve the children of men.” 

Ray Stedman said   “Isn't that encouraging? He does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men. He will bring grief because He loves us and we need it, but He does not do it lightly. He feels our pain with us. As a good parent with His children, He hurts worse than we do at times. He does not willingly do it. I think we need to recall that when we are put through times of pressure and danger. God’s compassion surpasses  all that we are going through!" http://www.raystedman.org/daily-devotions/job/gods-compassion-and-mercy ]

Matt 9:36 says “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matt 14:14 says before He feed the 5000 [not including women and children] “And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.” That’s the level of compassion that Christ demonstrated for us on the cross! Jesus saw broken and wondering sinners who needed redeeming because they were blind and in bondage to sin. He took something that was unlovable [you and me] and loved us any way despite who we are. Why? He loved us and He knew the pending doom that awaited each and every one of us if they didn’t have a Saviour to show mercy and compassion. God’s flaming wrath! Again “Through the LORD's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” (v22). And it’s all because of His mercy and compassion we have this hope and Jeremiah has this hope. The prophet seems to stand amidst the ruins of city and temple, burned with fire, scattered with the ashes of his people. Remember! Jeremiah didn’t go around telling the people “I told you so” no, he weep for the people, because he knew and we know that our generations have turned their backs on a holy God who is merciful and compassionate. As Jeremiah sometimes we take our eyes of the prize which is Christ and look our situation or circumstances though the lenses of fallible men and women.

And we forget that a holy God who……
  • Loves us unconditionally despite your short comings and downfalls.
  • Chastens us as a good father does with his own child.
  • Doesn't consume us according to His mercy and compassion.
  • Disciplines us, but won’t destroy or consume us according to His promises.

We need to remind ourselves of this truth every day! Why? Unbelief causes us to look at God through our circumstances and this usually creates hopelessness. See, faith in an all-powerful God who displays these wonderful attributes enables us to look our circumstances through the reality of God and gives us hope. As one writer said “look at yourself and you’ll be depressed. Look at circumstances and you’ll be distressed. Look at the Lord and you’ll be blessed!” His mercy…His compassion is new every morning! 

Do you understand what that means for you and me as God’s elect children?
  • When I fail and fall to temptation of sin.
  • When I fall into grievous sin that changes my relationships with others.
  • When I stumble and become discouraged because of my current situation.
  • When I lack faith to understand he knows what’s best for me.
  • When I don’t do the right thing or say the right words.
  • When I don’t love others like I'm supposed to.
  • When I deny you before others in order to fit it at times.
  • When I yell at my kids for disrupting my peace and quiet.
  • When I unable to thank God for my family and friends.
  • When I forget to selflessly think of others above myself.
  • When I overlook to show compassion and clemency to others.
  • When I lose my cool with someone I love.
  • When I don’t study your God breathed words and pray as often that I should.

This absolutely amazing……when you think of infinite supply of His amazing mercy and compassion; especially when you think about those truths in light of your past week, month, even year…that we haven’t been consumed by the flaming wrath of God. Woodroll Kroll eloquently penned these words “Although we have no claim on God's mercies, and although they are altogether undeserved, nonetheless they never cease. We have done much to provoke God and give Him cause to cut off His mercy in our behalf. We have abused His mercy, ignored His mercy, even at times ungratefully accepted His mercy. Still, while God's mercies may not always be visible, they are always present. The mercies of God may change their form, as the morning light varies from the evening light, but the mercies of God will never cease to give their light. Even chastisement is mercy in disguise; and frequently, under the circumstances which make chastisement necessary, it proves to be more merciful than if God had not chastised us at all.”

What does that mercy and compassion look like each and every day?  I came across a story that might illustrate this truth for us this morning. “It was a hot day in the dry old West. As the railroad came roaring down the tracks, sparks were flying everywhere because of the hot temperatures. When the sparks flew, often they would begin a fire that would destroy ranches, homes and livestock. One particular day, there was a fire that spread from a railroad train in West Texas and did major damage. As the old farmer who owned the property walked through the ashes of his home and ranch, he saw an old hen lying on the ground, burnt to death. Her wings were spread open. In his anger, he kicked the old hen. To his surprise...several baby chicks ran out from under her burnt wings. When the fire came, the hen draped herself over her little ones and took the fire to save their lives.” 

We have a mighty Savior who did exactly that for us. When the fire of God’s holy wrath should have consumed us...Christ spread out His arms on the Cross and covered us in His blood! See, God has to be merciful because of what I did and said today! Otherwise we would be consumed. This is only made possible through the finished work of the cross and the continuing grace found in the gospel that transforms us day by day. Always remember this wonderful truth in the midst of suffering….in the midst of confusion and despair…….in the midst of your sanctified Christian life! No matter how dark our day may appear to be, let us remember this with Jeremiah, "It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” God may hide His face for a moment, but with everlasting kindness He will have mercy, according to the multitude of His compassion's........They are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness"

05 May 2014

THE HEART TO EMBRACE FORGIVENESS



Book of Philemon

There are a lot of people who try to run from their past, with the hope that it will all go away in time and all will be forgotten. But the sad reality is that never goes away it festers and eats away at your heart and conscience. For some it takes months, even years to realize the unresolved issues [whether it be a disagreement or a sin against one another]. We see this even in the church! Statistically this is one of the main reasons people leave churches and attend another one. This is one of the number one reasons why pastors leave churches. Trials happen and conflicts falls on families, marriages and people tend to flee then to work through the circumstance. See, unresolved issues or unwillingness to resolve issues is really sad, because unforgiveness is like a nasty virus and it will spread throughout the entire church if not dealt with immediately. And as Born Again Christians, sometimes the hardest part of dealing with forgiveness is being reconciled with those who have hurt us, or those that we have hurt. Sometimes it’s just easier to ‘FORGET’ a bad relationship and walk away that to see forgiveness and restoration.

Let me ask you a couple of personal questions? Has someone close to you maybe a(family member/ friend/ co-worker); hurt you so deeply you couldn’t forgive them? Better yet! Has that someone or that situation has hindered your Christian walk, because you are not willing to forgive? What would be your first response to a situation when someone has hurt you deeply?
  • Do you get bitter and resentful?
  • Do you get so mad that you would like to hit them or break things?
  • Do you sit and ponder some ways to get back at them, to get even?
  • Do you speak nastily words or gossip about them to other people?
  • Do you feel saddened or broken hearted for what has just happened to your relationship?

Forgiveness is “the act of excusing or pardoning others in spite of their: offences, their short comings, it is the pardon or remission of an offence or crime. Remember this important truth! If you struggle in the area of forgiveness, understand the every one of us have committed a crime! A crime against a perfect, holy and righteous God. That’s why forgiveness in the New Testament is directly linked to Christ Jesus and the precious gospel that we love. In Luke 23:34 we read “Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." In Eph 1:7 Paul said “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”Jesus came to this earth to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, from our wickedness, from our short comings, from ourselves. His forgiveness is an essential part of the Gospel message and for the believer’s life! It is the Gospel message. Jesus said "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." Mark 11:25-26.

God’s forgiveness of us demands that we forgive others. Why? Because it’s only by His grace that we are forgiven and it’s only by His grace that we are able to forgive others. Christian forgiveness starts with a heart for reconciliation, not resentment and bitterness. Why? Because God places no limits on the extent to which Christians are to forgive others. Otherwise if God put limits on forgiveness, no one could be saved. Listen to what Jesus said to Peter when asked about forgiveness…..Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” Matt 18:22. Jesus said forgiveness should be granted unendingly, we must always work to reconciliation and forgiveness no matter what. I think this passage that Jesus explains is exemplified every day in our homes as parents, when we deal with our children. Please don’t miss this truth, a true forgiving spirit will always show the maturity of the person and their spiritual walk with the Lord. As Proverbs 16:32 “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty (kings, or rulers), and he who rules his spirit (one who displays self- control) than he who takes a city.”

See when it comes to the matter of forgiveness we have to consider what the Lord Jesus demands from us. It may require you and me to be proactive and make the first move towards reconciliation with the person who hurt you. I want us to look into this personal letter from a man who desired for his friend, a brother in Christ to forgive someone who they both knew very well. His name was Onesimus.  A slave who found Christ through Paul’ ministry, after fleeing to Rome for stealing from his master.(v18). See this is a beautiful letter about the:
  • Providence of God in salvation to fallen sinners.
  • The grace of God expressed in the gospel that saves.
  • The unconditional love of God in the believer’s life.
  • The beauty of friendship between brothers in Christ.
  • The steps to restoration and genuine love, and understanding for forgiveness.

This is what the Christian life should be all about in this small letter, when it comes to forgiveness. A personal willingness and a desire to do what is right in the eyes of God. Our desire should be nothing less than to please our Lord God for His goodness towards us sinners and glorify His name through reconciliation. Why do I say that? Do you realize that people in our community around the world are watching us? As this person who was a staunch atheist who said not long before she died "What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me." This person saw something in Christian’s we tend to overlook ourselves at time! A genuine love and concern for others. I want you to put yourself in Philemon’s shoes for a moment as the one who was the victim in this letter that Paul pens. We need to understand how important this personal letter was that Paul wrote We need to understand how important it is for believers to forgive one another. As Paul said “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph 4:32. 3 IMPORTANT THINGS we need to consider for forgiveness to happen, and it’s found in this personal letter by brother to a brother in Christ.

EMBRACING FORGIVENESS MUST START WITH A SELFLESS HEART (V5- V7)

Everything starts and finishes from the heart! What do I mean by that? Look what Paul noticed about Philemon and his love for others (v5). That kind of selflessness is where forgiveness becomes easier to accept or to give because you are growing in your Christian walk you see the beauty of the gospel in your own salvation. Philemon wanted nothing more than to please the one who gave him a new life (v6) “Jesus Christ”...See the Word of God is a powerful love letter that will always steer you in the right direction and it will also refresh and transform you into the likeness of Christ. Look how it affects Paul.  (v7) “great joy”   (Paul had great comfort in Philemon’s selfless heart). The Apostle Paul knew Philemon had a shepherding love for the truth of the Gospel, a caring love through prayer for the saints and a love for all the saints. Paul wrote this letter because he had a great concern for 2 brothers in Christ Jesus, 2 men saved by grace. Paul knew all to well the importance of restoration for the believer, because he also knew the pain of unforgiveness. Look at how it affects you and the others when forgiveness has been avoided by one or more parties.
  • It change the way you act or behave around that person?
  • It causes you to fall into habitual sin more often?
  • It has lasting affects to how you perform your job?
  • It affects a person’s home life (marriage, relationships, quiet time with God?)

We must always seek the interest of restoration because our Lord Jesus set the standard by forgiving us our crimes towards a holy God. This is the first step to forgiveness.  It begins here: a selfless heart that is faithful to Christ Jesus as Lord and also to the saints of God.

EMBRACING FORGIVENESS REQUIRES A WILLINGNESS TO LISTEN TO THEIR HEART (V8-V14)

Forgiveness must be willing not forced. Otherwise it’s not really true forgiveness. Look at (v8-v9). Paul is appealing with Philemon to look into his heart and he’s not relying on his authority as an apostle….but as a friend who wants to see two people come together again. Look at (v14). True forgiveness needs to from a willing heart and desire to see God be glorified through reconciliation.

For example:

Joseph over his brother’s betrayal (Gen 45a) “he kissed ll his brothers and wept over them...” Jesus’ love for his broken servant Peter (John 21)  “Lord you know all things; you know I love you” Stephen the first martyr as he faces the Sanhedrin (Acts 7)  with a loud voice “Lord do not charge them with this sin” Every single one of those situations displayed a willingness to see reconciliation for God to get the glory. See! Paul could have forced Philemon to say I forgive you and accept Onesimus back with open arms. But Paul knew that wouldn’t be the right thing to do. Philemon had to look deep within his own heart and make that conscience decision for himself. “I want to forgive Onesimus”, “I want to forgive that person at work, school, or at home”. See this is where we need to proceed with extreme caution! A person can outwardly say I forgive you, but never really forgive that person inwardly from the heart. I understand not all situations are an overnight fix where we are all singing “Kumbaya my lord” Here is the caution! If there are no steps towards restoration and reconciliation than we are no better than the hypocrite Pharisee’s who were supposed to exemplify the grace our Lord towards one another. It creates a harden heart to grace that has already been given and it leaves a person like this gentleman General Oglethorpe, who once said to John Wesley, "I never forgive and I never forget." To which Wesley replied, "Then, Sir, I hope you never sin." Philemon I plead with your faithfulness to the Lord that you will do what is right not because you are required, but because you desire to make things right again with your servant Onesimus. Application: Christian I plead with you if someone has wronged you. Look within your heart and listen! Forgiveness must come from the heart voluntarily (a willingness of the will) in order for it to be genuine. (v14) again.

EMBRACING FORGIVENESS IS ALWAYS COMPLEMENTED WITH PEACE AND JOY IN THE HEART (V20-V21)

When a person humbles themselves with a selfless love and willing heart, forgiveness brings joy and peace. Look at (v20). By forgiving Onesimus Paul would have peace, a great joy in his own heart. That same joy as he had with the church in Philippi “Therefore if there is any consolation (encouragement) in Christ, if any comfort of love (portrays the Lord coming close and whispering words of gentle cheer or tender counsel), if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”Phil 2:1-2. Paul knew that Philemon will forgive Onesimus because of his maturity as a Christian man who took God’ word seriously. Why? Because of what Paul says near the end of his letter.  (v21). Me personally, I hate when someone is mad at me for something I did. Ask my wife. I have a difficult time myself when things are not resolved, especially when I’m angry with them or vice versa. It’s like what Paul said to the church at Ephesus "BE ANGRY, AND DO NOT SIN": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, Eph 4:26. We as Christians [God’s children] must resolve our differences before the sun goes down on the day. I know that’s hard to do……….. but we MUST try! We are never to let it fester because it affects our Christian walk; it affects our relationship with God.
Paul knew this all too well in his life! Remember what he was before the Lord took a hold of his life….a Christian hater! We must do whatever it takes to make things right again. (Look at v17-v18). Paul had a confidence in Philemon, a joy in his heart that things were going to be just fine. Not as a master and his slave but as 2 brothers saved by the grace of God. (v16). When a genuine heart of forgiveness happens, it affects everyone around you!
  • Your family
  • Your local church
  • Work
  • Relationships with others
  • Your personal spiritual walk
  • Your health

It is vital that we try our best to seek forgiveness in all situations of our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit, because it leads to joy and a clear conscience of heart. We all make mistakes sometimes and we all need to be forgiven of something we have done to our shame on a daily basis. Christ called it sin and we need to be able to forgive any and all of our little problems or grievances that come our way whether big or small. Have you done that this morning? Is there someone you know who needs your help of encouragement, in this area of forgiveness? I guess the big personal question is: Do you need help in this area of your life? Or do you say this is not for me, you really don’t know what I have been through Mike Your right I don’t know what you have been through, but I know someone who does, and He laid His life down for you and me and His name is Jesus Christ. Please a plead with as Paul...don’t let selfish pride get in the way of a refreshed and fervent (a burning passionate) heart for others when you've been wronged or have wronged someone. As George Herbert said "He who cannot forgive others destroys the bridge over which he himself must pass."

It has been said….
  • To forgive is to turn the key, open the cell door, and let the prisoner walk free.
  • To forgive is to write in large letters, across a debt, “nothing owed”.
  • To forgive is to pound the gavel in a courtroom and declare, “Not Guilty!”
  • To forgive is to bundle up all the garbage and trash and dispose of it, leaving the house clean and fresh.
  • To forgive is to loosen the moorings of a ship and release it to the open sea.
  • To forgive is to grant a full pardon to a condemned criminal.
  • To forgive is to smash a clay pot into a thousand pieces so it can never be pieced together again.

We must always embrace the truth of seeking to forgive and the same rule applies to seeking forgiveness. As Charles Swindoll said “Live long enough, and you will understand the difficulty of offering forgiveness when you have been wronged. It does not come easy, yet as believers, we have to recognize that our ability and willingness to offer it are the result of Christ’s saving work on the cross. Because of that fact, forgiveness serves as a determining factor in who we say we are and how we hope to live our lives. When we do not forgive, bitterness takes root in our hearts and chokes the vitality out of us.” Let me ask you! In what ways has forgiveness been a struggle for you since you accepted Christ’s forgiveness? Please allow Paul’s letter to Philemon to encourage forgiveness in your own life, and trust God to foster renewed life in your heart and your relationships. Listen to Paul as I close “..... do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph 4:30-32. Do you believe that this morning? The harder question is……. can you do that, this morning?