Transformation through Forgiveness

The subject of forgiveness is a touchy one for most people.  I freely admit that I am most people.  The idea of forgiving someone when they have wronged me, or repeatedly wronged me, is displeasing.  Or, should I say it is displeasing to my fleshly nature?

Why does God require us to extend forgiveness to those who have offended us?  Is He simply wanting us to let wrongdoing go and let the offender off the hook?  Through study and my own experience, I can confidently assure you that is not case.  God requires us to extend forgiveness for our own benefit.

Forgiveness from God

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Quite simply, God has forgiven us a great sin debt.  This was accomplished when Jesus was crucified and died.  Our new life came through His resurrection.  By nature, we are sinners.  No matter how hard we try or how good we are, we are unable to atone for our sins.  Jesus paid a great price to free us from our sinful nature.

God freely gave us His forgiveness.  Once we accept what Jesus did as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, we become born again.  When we sin, we go to the Father, through Jesus Christ, to receive forgiveness.  We did not deserve this grace and mercy, but He freely gave it.

Forgiving Others

Because of the forgiveness we have received, we must forgive others when they sin against us.  Refusing to forgive puts a barrier between us and God.  It also opens us up to being ruled by other sins such as malice, unbridled anger, gossip, and many others.  We become obsessed with getting revenge which can be dangerous to us and others.

Forgiving others does not mean that the offense was not wrong.  It does not mean that is is okay that you were hurt.  It simply means that you release the offense to God giving Him the right to take care of it.  Trust me, God knows how to deal with other people.  Once you have released the offense (an act you might have to repeat several times), you will find that you have joy and peace.  You will realize that the offense was weighing you down.

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Forgiving Yourself

Often, the person I have needed to forgive is myself.  You might find the same is true in your case.  When I keep falling into the same sin over and over, I begin to become self-condemning.  Unfortunately, this is not productive.  What is productive is bringing myself to the throne of grace, pouring my heart out in repentance to the Father.  His Word promises that He will cleanse us of our sins when we go to Him.

Once you have repented, leave condemnation alone.  If you try to carry it, you will be of no use to the kingdom of God.  It is not humility.  It is a selfish focus on yourself and an insult to the blood of Jesus.  Whether you realize it or not, you are saying the blood of Jesus is not enough when you walk in condemnation.  We do not need to do penance.  We simply need to repent and allow the Holy Spirit to transform us.

So, How about Forgiving?

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Are you struggling to forgive someone who has done a great wrong to you?  Are you struggling to forgive yourself?  Bring that hurt to the Lord.  He is able to take it and make you new again.

Refusing forgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping your enemy will die.  It is dangerous, and it is heavy.  You will feel much lighter when you let go of the offense and allow God to take vengeance.  Forgiveness, whether being given or received, brings transformation.

What Heresy Is and Is Not

While it is true that heretical teachings are rampant in this day and time, far too often, Christians are quick to use the “heresy” label on anything with which they disagree.  The Bible is clear that we are not to tolerate false doctrine; however, we are also admonished not to label people heretics concerning certain matters.

The Definition of Heresy

christ like pixabay (2nd pic)Heresy is defined as a belief that is contrary to religious doctrine, more specifically, orthodox religious doctrine.  1 John 4 also defines what is false.  When you look at the scriptures in 1 John in context with Romans 14, you will find that a doctrine can only be declared Biblically heretical when it attacks the deity of Jesus Christ; suggests that salvation can be obtained by any other way than the Way, Jesus Christ (John 14: 6), or twists specific scriptures in the Bible to justify an act that is clearly a sin.  Examples of this would be abortion, changing the Biblical definition of marriage, or stating that sexual sin is now acceptable to God.

Now that the definition of heresy is clear.  We should be careful whom we label a heretic, or apostate.  Many of God’s people are quick to state that certain people are false teachers simply because of a disagreement about doctrine that does not pertain to salvation.  You might be wishing I would give some specific examples.  Wish granted!  I am getting ready to do just that.

Heresy:  What It Is and What It Is Not

Although I support ministers who are women, I have no right to label as heretics those who disagree with me.  There are many Christians who do not believe women should preach or teach in the church.  I disagree, but that does not make those with whom I disagree unsaved.  Why?  There is no denying the deity of Christ nor claiming another way of salvation in this belief, so, we can agree to disagree.

Another example of what is not heresy is the following:  I believe that all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12-14 and Ephesians 4) are for today.  I have been blessed to see these gifts at work, and working in order, in the body of Christ.  However, those who believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased with the Apostles are still my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Why?  Refer to the previous paragraph.

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The following is an example of heresy:  If a minister preaches another way to heaven, or another means to obtain salvation other than Jesus Christ, I can declare that preaching or teaching to be heretical because it goes completely against the Word of God and the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

Another example of heresy would be for someone to teach that Jesus Christ is not God.  The Bible plainly declares His deity in John 1 and Colossians 2:9.  The deity of Jesus, aka The Word in Flesh, is also declared throughout the Old Testament.  It is fair and right to declare attacks on the deity of Jesus Christ heresy.

Agree to Disagree

On issues such as the gifts of the Holy Spirit, women ministers, the doctrine of Oneness, etc., we can agree that we disagree yet continue to love each other.  Why?  Jesus clearly stated in John 13:35 that our love for each other would be how the world would know we belong to Him.  Love is the answer for what divides the body of Christ.  Love is what points people to the way of salvation–not squabbling over doctrine.

UnityWe are living in what I believe is the season of Christ’s return.  People are hurting and searching for something that is real and lasting.  All that will fulfill people’s longings is Jesus Christ.  Point people to Him.  The rest can be sorted out later.

If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can know Him right now.  Romans 10:9-10 states the following:  “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

 

Love Is…

On my personal Facebook account, I belong to several bible study groups.  Mostly, I enjoy the posts in these groups, that is, when I have time to look at them.  Over the course of the weekend, some people in one group I belong to were arguing over the pagan origins of Easter and whether or not Christians should celebrate it.

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I could detail every argument that was made in this post for you, but that would take too much time.  Instead, I am going to address what I believe to be an extremely important point.  The point is love.

Pride

At the root of most arguments is pride. As Christians, it is easy to take pride in our knowledge.  Of course, we need knowledge.  God’s people perish for lack of knowledge; however, when the display of knowledge supersedes love, then it is nothing more than pride.  In 1 Corinthians 13:4, the word of God states that love is not proud.

When I observe these arguments, I often am tempted to add a few words myself.  Sometimes, I have.  It is then that I must question my own motives.  Do I really want to help people who might be misguided, or do I want to appear “right”?  Of course, there are some issues that are worthy of debate, but most issues are a matter or pride.

Are Religious Celebrations a Sin?

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When I have studied the origins of Easter, I can not deny that there is a pagan influence in the original celebrations, yet, I can say that what I am celebrating is not the Easter Bunny, but the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In my own heart, I know what I am celebrating.  When I am thanking the Lord for His sacrifice and victory, the Easter Bunny does not cross my mind. However, my children participated in egg hunts when they were smaller.

If you believe your children should not participate in egg hunts, then pay heed to that personal conviction.  If you have no problem with it, that is good also.  In our pursuit of righteousness, we must remember that our righteousness comes from Jesus Christ, not our acts or deeds.  There are some matters in which we must be led by the Holy Spirit.  Any holiday or celebration could become an idol to some depending upon the condition of the heart.  What we must bear in mind is that it is the Lord who knows the heart.

Love is the Answer

If you truly believe fellow Christians are sinning by observing the death, burial, and resurrection on Easter weekend, then pray for them.  God is surely able to convict His people of wrongdoing.  Berating people and involving himself in heated arguments is not what Jesus would have done while on this Earth.

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Image via Pexels by Kristina Paukshtite.

If you truly believe celebrating Easter is just fine, then proceed.  The point is to walk in love and avoid needless arguing.  Read Romans 14.  Paul encouraged believers to take the high road of love with others and follow their own personal convictions for themselves.

Personally, I celebrate and give praise for the death, burial, and resurrection of my Lord Jesus Christ frequently, not just at this particular time of year.  I do this because He has changed my life.  He has changed me!  He has turned around impossible situations in my own life.  He has made me more than a conqueror.  No matter the time of the year, the love of Jesus is worth celebrating!