ABC: Ask and Accept, Believe and Be Bold, Call on Christ, Delightfully Do, Eagerly Exclaim, and now Forgiven to Forgive.
Forgiven to Forgive? Synopsis of Matthew 18:21-35
One day the disciple Peter asked Jesus to explain forgiveness. Jesus answered him with a parable: There once was a king who wanted to settle his accounts with his slaves. One slave owed the king a tremendous amount of money, which he could not repay. When the king summoned him, the slave fell on his face before the throne and begged him for mercy, saying, “Have mercy on me and I will repay you everything.” The king felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. Ironically, not too long after receiving mercy, this very same slave went to one of his fellow slaves to collect only a small debt from him. The servant angrily seized his fellow slave by the throat and began to choke him demanding, “Give me what you owe!” The slave then fell on his face and began begging, “Have patience with me and I will repay you.” However the forgiven servant did not forgive his fellow slave.
Forgiven to Forgive! Synopsis of Matthew 18:28-35 (the same passage).
As we look at the parable above, of course the king in the story represents the Lord Jesus, and each one of us are like the servants. None of us are able to pay our enormous sin debt; it is much too great. Yet our King mercifully decided to take our debts away from us by putting them on His shoulders; our debt was paid in full at the cross. He, in turn, asks us to forgive others. We are forgiven to forgive! King Jesus’ mercy brings freedom, and this freedom is meant to be shared withthose around us. He promises, Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy (Mathew 5:7).
When I compare the two main characters in this parable, the king and the forgiven (yet unforgiving) servant, here are a few questions:
Who am I most like?
Can I really forgive someone that has hurt me?
I know who I want to be most like. But I must realize, I cannot even begin to forgive like King Jesus does, without having HIS POWER within me. I am a natural being, and Christ-like forgiveness is a supernatural act. Without His Spirit in me, I am destined to be controlled by the very real emotions of bitterness, resentment, confusion, hurt, and anger towards my wrongdoer. I must bring these real and raw feelings to the Lord and ask Him to help me deal with them, heal from them, and then ask Him to fill me with His peace. Again, it’s impossible to forgive in my own effort, but NOTHING is impossible with God! (Luke 1:37) He can soften any willing heart. Dear Lord, let it be mine!
I have seen forgiveness beautifully played out in specific people who have experienced some of the most extreme circumstances, and I have to say, these people are some of the most radiant and FREE people on earth. God gave them the ability to forgive, and now He is using them mightily.
Is there someone you are thinking of right now--someone that has hurt you in some way? Reconcile your hurt with the Lord today. Ask Him to help you forgive. He is the One who brings peace to your heart, even if your relationship with this person never changes. Ask Him to flood You with the mercy that flows from His powerful blood. Remember, you are forgiven to forgive.
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
Ask and Accept, Believe and Be Bold, Call on Christ, Delightfully Do, Eagerly Exclaim, Forgiven to Forgive…Go and Give with Gladness.
Go and Give with Gladness? Synopsis of Acts 5:1-11.
The book of Acts speaks about the formation of the early church. Believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and the church was alive with eagerness and excitement in coming together as a unified body. Many gave freely of their possessions to meet the needs of others. It was a powerful, beautiful time in biblical history. However, one man named Ananias, along with his wife Sapphira, only pretended to be part of this unity. Like others, they sold their land to benefit the church; but instead of giving with gladness, they secretly kept back some of the money they made from the sale. They were not only lying to the church members and the church leaders, but more dangerously, they were lying to the Holy Spirit. Their lack of trust in the Lord, as well as their deception, brought about their untimely demise.
Go and Give with Gladness! Synopsis of Acts 4:32-37.
However, in the same church body that Ananias and Sapphira were a part of, there was a man named Barnabas. Not by coincidence, his name means Son of Encouragement. He, being filled with the Holy Spirit, was given the gift of compassion towards the poor. His heart was pure in his motives and he was always willing to go and give to the downtrodden. In fact, Barnabas made the decision to sell his tract of land and give all the collected money to the church. His cheerful heart and his monetary gift blessed all those around him.
When looking at these two contrasting stories, here are a few questions:
Do I like to share?
Am I a cheerful giver?
Am I willing to grow in this area when convicted by the Lord?
In the Bible stories above, I don’t think the Lord was concerned by the amount of money that these individuals gave (or withheld) from the church. He was, and always is, peering into the heart of the individual. Our heart is the center of our worship, so making a heart-decision to give something freely is first of all, a sacrificial act to the Lord, that He, in turn, uses to bless others. He can take any gift of any kind and multiply it in any way He chooses. (Another Bible story: think of the little boy's five loaves two fish that Jesus divided among thousands on the hillside. God can do anything with our faith-filled gifts of the heart.)
What do you have to give today? Time? Money? Encouragement? A helping hand? Trust the Lord fully, respond to the Holy Spirit’s nudging; don’t hold back something that God is asking you to give in order to bless others. Go, and give with gladness. Be assured that He smiles on your act of worship. No telling how He will multiply your gift among those who need it.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
Check out my previous ABC posts: Ask and Accept, Believe and Be Bold, Call on Christ, Delightfully Do, Eagerly Exclaim, Forgiven to Forgive, Give with Gladness…Helper, Please Help:
Helper, Please Help? Synopsis of Acts 7:54-8:1; Acts 9:1-2.
There once was a high standing Jewish leader named Saul who persecuted the faithful followers of Jesus. These new Christians believed in the Messiah’s resurrection, and they now lived with the Holy Spirit inside of them. Saul passionately pursued these men and women, even to the point of imprisonment and death. Saul wanted to stamp out the good news. Although he believed in God the Father, he could not accept Jesus as His Son, nor the Holy Spirit, who came to help all Christ-followers in their daily faith-walk.
Helper, Please Help! Synopsis of Acts 9:3-22.
But then one day, as Saul was traveling on the road to Damascus with the purpose of gathering and imprisoning the Christ followers, God stopped Saul in his tracks. Suddenly, a bright light appeared that brought Saul to his knees and blinded him in the process. Jesus’ voice then spoke saying, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me?” From that point onward, Saul began to understand the error of his ways. A man named Ananias was sent to heal his eyes; and at this time, Saul by faith, received the Holy Spirit. Saul was given a new passion: Jesus. The remainder of Paul’s life was full of persecution and trial for Jesus’ sake, but he pressed onward, relying on the Holy Spirit each step of the way. Because of unrelenting hardship, Paul embraced these words as truth from his Lord and Savior: My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness. (II Cor. 12:9) The Helper had become his help.
When contrasting the before-Christ-Saul and after-Christ-Paul… I want to be like Paul! His passion didn’t change, but his purpose did.
How can I live my out faith in this same way, in my world?
God gave me an opportunity to do so just last night. I was sitting in the window seat of an airplane, really really tired, not wanting to talk to anybody--at all! Then the sweet stewardess led a young woman to sit beside me. When she sat down, I realized that underneath the fluffy pillow and blanket she was holding, a 1 month old baby was pressed against her chest. And this newborn had a sour smelly diaper. My first selfish reaction was, Really?!! Then, because I was working on this post in the airport only 30 minutes before, I prayed, Helper, please help…me make it through this flight without this baby waking up! But then, as I had my head turned away, looking out the window, avoiding all smells and small talk, a convicting Light came on in my heart. I realized I was not supposed to be making self-centered requests for a comfortable flight home. I was supposed to be praying, Helper, please help…me know what to say to this young frazzled unmarried new mom who may not know You personally. Well, thankfully, by her initiation, we chatted the whole flight; she told me about her upbringing, and the more she talked, the more my heart ached for her. She asked me questions about life, about relationships and she listened to my answers. She was hungry for truth; she said she longed for peace. I told her about Jesus and the good news: there is a Helper who can help. When we landed, I gathered her things, walked her off the plane, bought her some water and SunChips, went with her to get the sleeping baby’s diaper changed(!), and then got her situated at her next gate. Now, I’m praying, Helper, please, help her! Continue to pursue her with Your love through Your people.
To close, here are a couple of questions to ponder:
Do I ask God for help? In little and big things, ask.
Do I accept his help? His Spirit can help you do very hard things.
Trust that His powerful Spirit lives in you. Call on Him and He will come.
And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth. John 14:16-17a
Check out my previous posts for other ABC scripture-based phrases. Last week’s was Helper, please Help! This week it’s Invade me and Involve me.
Invade me and Involve me? Synopsis of Exodus 5-14.
During ancient times, the Israelite nation was in great distress because they were living as slaves in Egypt. The Pharaoh mistreated the Israelites by demanding hard physical labor with little rest and nourishment. Thankfully, God heard the desperate cry of His people; He then selected Moses to deliver them from bondage. When Moses and his brother Aaron approached Pharaoh about the Israelites’ freedom, he refused to listen. In fact, he responded to them by saying, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” Pharaoh did not allow God to invade him and involve him; in the end, his stubborn denial and hardened heart became his downfall.
Invade me and Involve me! Synopsis of 4:10-12, Exodus 14
However, Moses, although tentative at first, obediently followed the Lord’s commands. He faced Pharaoh and told him to let God’s people go. When Pharaoh refused, God worked through Moses by sending plague after plague on the Egyptian land and people. Finally, Pharaoh relented and released the slaves, only to chase after them a short time later. The fearful Israelites came to the edge of the vast Red Sea with nowhere to turn. God once again invaded and involved Moses by telling him to lift up his staff and stretch out his hand; and through God’s power, the Sea divided into two walls of water, and all God’s people walked through on dry ground towards freedom.
When I look at these two contrasting biblical characters, here are some questions I ask myself:
Do I realize that the Holy Spirit is alive in me?
Do I realize that my flesh can quench the Spirit?
At this moment, is there something the Lord wants me to be involved in concerning his kingdom work?
Am I willing?
I am so thankful for the life-changing truth of the gospel. Because of the Christ’s death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit can now invade and involve anyone who believes on His name. Pharaoh did not believe, Moses did. Pharaoh was stubborn, Moses was submissive… and their stories unfolded.
You too, have something of Him to give this world–something that only you can give. Believe you are His unique workmanship. Allow Him to invade you and involve you.
On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul. Ps 138:3
The previous ABC post was Invade me and Involve me. The next letter and phrase is J:Just for the Unjust.
Just for the Unjust? Synopsis of John 18:33-40.
During Jesus’ questioning and trial before Pilate, a mocking crowd, spear-headed by the high ranking Jewish leaders, had gathered. These jealous leaders wanted Jesus to be put to death because He was gaining many followers into what they believed was heresy. Pilate was unsure of what to do because he found no guilt in this man (Jesus). He eventually spoke this option to the heated crowd, “You have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at the Passover. So, do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a revolutionary. Barabbas was certainly not a just man; therefore, he could not have given his life for an unjust people.
Just for the Unjust! Synopsis of John 19.
But then there was Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords. No blemish, no flaw, no sin, no guilt. All love, all truth, all mercy, all God. The story unfolds: Then Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged. The soldiers also twisted together a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and threw a purple robe around Him. And they repeatedly came up to Him and said, “Hail King of the Jews!” and were slapping His face…when the chief priests and the temple police saw Him they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” And soon afterwards, Jesus was nailed to a cross and put to death, becoming the One and only, Just for the unjust.
When I look at the above story, I ask myself:
Who am I like in this story?
Sadly, I can see myself in all the characters:
I am Pilate who sometimes gives into people pleasing.
I am one of the chief priests, pressing forward with my own selfish agenda.
I am one of the soldiers, mocking and striking and turning away.
I am Barabbas, a sinner who was released, with the God-Man dying in my place.
And with these thoughts, I then want to cry out, “Dear Jesus, thank You!"
You became poor that I might become rich!
You gave Your life a ransom for many!
You who knew no sin became sin!
By Your stripes I am healed!
(2 Cor. 8:9; Matt. 20:28; 2 Cor. 5:21; Is. 53:5).
Let's spend today filled up with humble gratitude.
For Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God… (I Peter 3:18).
Amen and amen.
The last few ABC posts have been: Helper, please Help, Invade me and Involve me, and Just for the Unjust. The next letter and phrase brings us to Kind Words, Kind Ways.
Kind Words, Kind Ways? Synopsis of 1 Kings 21:1-25; 2 Kings 9:30-37.
There once was a queen named Jezebel who reigned over Israel during the days of Elijah the prophet. She was an extremely evil queen who persuaded her husband, King Ahab, and all of Israel, to worship Baal. Unkind words and unkind ways continuously poured from Jezebel's heart. For example, she deliberately had an innocent man, Naboth, falsely accused and then stoned to death just so her husband Ahab could possess his piece of land in order to grow a vegetable garden. Jezebel's evil heart brought about much death and destruction in Israel; in the end, her own actions brought about her untimely and brutal demise.
Kind Words, Kind Ways! Synopsis of 1 Kings 17:1-16.
During this same time period, there was a widow who lived alone with her son. A severe drought had come over Israel due to God's judgment and Elijah's prayer. This woman was gathering sticks to build a fire for her and her son's last meal when the Elijah approached her. He said to her, "Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink…and bring me, please, a piece of bread." Although the woman had only a handful of flour and a little oil, she willingly prepared a small cake from what she had. As a result, Elijah said to her, "The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land." God daily blessed her for her kind words and kind ways.
What an extreme contrast between these two women! One was full of selfish ambition and the other was the picture of selflessness. My intentions may not ever be as evil as Jezebel's, but I do have to stop and ask myself:
What is the motive behind the things I think, say, and do?
Am I pushing others aside or manipulating a situation to get my own way?
Who can I be kind to today?
My prayer is that my words and ways would reflect that of the widow's, even when the situation is difficult or the circumstances are harsh. I must remember, kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. So really, if Christ lives in me, then through his Spirit, I can be kind (even to people that I might not think deserve it!).
Kindness is a choice.
Kindness softens hearts.
Kindness reflects God to others.
Today, intentionally choose kind words and kind ways. Ask the Lord to show you exactly who He wants you to bless; then ask Him to show you exactly what He wants you to say or do for this person. And then, do it. Your small portion and your act of faith, like the widow's, is all you need for the Lord to abundantly bless, not only the recipient, but your heart as well.
For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us... Titus 3:3-5
So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" John 12:13
Dear Lord Jesus,
Just as palm branches were waved before you 2000 years ago, may we bow before you now, not merely as a temporal savior; but rather as an eternal King. Open our eyes to more and more of who your are so that we may have hearts that praise you every day, until we finally see you face to Face. Amen.