Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mirroring God's Forgiveness

Well…It’s not quite the weekend, is it? Oops, Oh my! If I could just get my life under control! We took off to Oklahoma on Saturday and moved our youngest child in with my mom. Then on Monday she and I spent the morning straightening out all the problems with her registration at the college she will be attending. Finally we returned to Texas for her to tie up some loose ends. Now I am finally sitting down to write Part 4 of Luke 15.

Let’s see what the prodigal son and God have for us as we dive in to Part 4 of Luke 15.

Luke 15:17-19
 17"But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."' (ESV)

Notice the first phrase of verse 17. “But when he came to himself”, basically Jesus is saying, “when he came to his senses”, or “when he realized what he was doing”, then this prodigal son said to himself “what am I doing here? I’ve sinned against God and my father! I repent!” Just like we talked about last time. I love the way Rodney put it, “Grace awakened the younger son to how the Father forgives!” He never would have returned if he had not known that his father would not forgive him, but he KNEW his father would forgive. We KNOW our FATHER forgives!!! I could camp here and praise GOD for his Grace in forgiveness! We are so blessed with HIS forgiveness!!! Well…we must move on…

Just like with repentance, we need to define forgiveness so we are all on the same page. Forgiveness is canceling someone else’s debt. In actuality, I wear that debt or pain.

Rodney shared several great points about forgiveness. I won’t go into them as points, but I would like to tell you some things this message taught me. Had I been that father I may have been sitting on the front porch waiting for the son, and plotting my punishment and even revenge on my own son for the way he had treated me. What about you? Remember…he has taken 1/3 of what you own and in essence said, “You are dead to me!” Is that what this father does? Is that what our Father does when we ask for forgiveness? Absolutely NOT!!! He is waiting, anticipating, our arrival. He is aggressive in His forgiveness. HE RUNS TO US! If you have never heard the song “When God Ran” you must listen to it. I know of 3 recordings of this song. It is about this very thing. Benny Hester recorded it in 1986, then Phillips, Craig and Dean did it in 1999 and in 2008 The Kingsmen Quartet also recorded it. Each time it has been very popular because of it’s extraordinary lyrics. I will post links to YouTube recordings by each person/group. Please listen! This is exactly what God does. He is aggressive, He runs to us, grabs us, hugs us tells us He is happy to see us and forgives us. God has sacrificed His one and only son to forgive us.

John 3:16  16"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.(ESV)

In our definition I mentioned that the one who forgives “wears the debt or pain”. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, He said to us, “I will wear your debt.” That gives me chills. That makes me want to cry. He sacrificed His LIFE for ME! ME!  I should be willing to give my life as a LIVING sacrifice. (Ok so that living sacrifice part isn’t necessarily part of forgiveness, I just added that. So as Michael Booth says, “that part’s free.” But don’t you think, if He was willing to DIE for us, the least we can do is LIVE for HIM!)

Romans 12:1-2  1I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)

Now consider this, the father began with a posture of forgiveness. What I mean is, way before the son ever returned, the father already had a forgiving and loving heart. Before we can forgive we must stop dwelling on the sin or the wrong that has been done. Ok did that sting? I know it did me.

So you may be saying, “Angie, these are all good principles, but how do I apply this in a practical way to my life?” If I am not constantly forgiving those in my faith family as they sin against me, I will build a wall of bitterness, strife and malice in my heart. Obviously that does nothing but hurt my spiritual walk and damage my relationship with others. So I need to examine my forgiving to see if it mirrors God’s. Do I forgive aggressively, sacrificially, and do I have a posture for forgiveness? That is the way God forgives. That is the way I want to forgive.

I want to touch on something. If you listen to the podcast you will find that towards the end Rodney talks about reconciliation. In most cases I believe that forgiveness and reconciliation go hand in hand. As we forgive we also rebuild or reconcile those relationships that were broken. But I also believe there are times that we do our part in forgiveness but reconciliation does not, some times cannot or even needs not happen. Before you quit reading and storm off mad, please let me explain. When I have been wronged it is MY job to FORGIVE! That takes care of me. It takes care of me on a spiritual level, emotional level and even a physical level. I have done what God has asked me to do. I am released of the anxiety, bitterness and other emotional turmoil caused by hanging on to the wrong that was done to me. This wrong cannot cause me physical pain, no headaches, stomachaches, tight muscles or any other ailments from holding a grudge. Yet we have all experienced times when the other party simply will not accept that we have forgiven them, for whatever reason. In that case, we are not responsible for them. We can pray for them, but we cannot worry about their acceptance of our forgiveness and reconciliation of the relationship. Then there are times when reconciliation should not take place. Unfortunately in this world this happens, when someone is physically or sexually abused. I believe that the abused person needs to forgive for all the same reasons I listed above, but there should never be a relationship with the abuser again for obvious reasons. Again this problem is the abusers’ not the abused. The abuser can be prayed for. However if the abuser tries to reconcile he/she usually ends up being hurt more and possibly even abused again. It is better to avoid that all around and “forgive and forget”.

I want to see if I can mirror God’s forgiveness. How about you?

Matthew 18:21-22  21At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, "Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?"
 22Jesus replied, "Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven. (The Message)

Living in Grace,

If you are interested in listening to any of the messages on Luke 15 by Rodney Hobbs, Pastor of Stonegate Church, Midlothian, TX. Please listen to the podcast at: 

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1 comment:

  1. Great post! I am glad you went there about reconciliation not always needing to happen as part of forgiveness. I can think of several situations where well intentioned people try to convince someone that they cannot forgive without reconciling, and actually encourage the person to open themselves (or their family) up to harm.