What forgiveness looks like – Matthew 26.28
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
In 2019 people started using the word ‘climate crisis’ to talk about the bad state of the environment in the world. We had various celebrities and groups speaking out and taking action to encourage governments to deal with the climate crisis.
But the climate crisis is actually only a symptom of something more serious. If you get a thorn in your finger, the symptom might be that you have some pain. So you can take some pain relief. But to get rid of the problem, you have to remove the thorn. You may also need to take some pain relief but the source of the problem (the ‘root’) has gone. In the same way if you’re doing some gardening and you see a weed, you can cut the top bit off the weed but that only deals with what you can ‘see’. What you have to do is get rid of the ‘root’ that’s underground. That means the weed won’t grow back.
Christianity is all about Jesus coming to the world, dying and rising again having defeated evil. Jesus went around doing good and healing people but the main thing he came to do was to deal with the root of human problems. That root is called ‘sin’ and is all the evil things that people do which harms themselves and others. Jesus dealt with sin on the Cross and he then dealt with it fully and pulled up the ‘roots’ by rising from the dead. But this forgiveness that Jesus offers is doesn’t come automatically. We have to ask him and invite Jesus to forgive us and change us. We don’t want the thorns of this world to sting us and the weeds to choke us. So ask Jesus to deal with the sin and then you can be free. And when sin is dealt with and when people invite Jesus to be in charge, only then things will change in our world and environment!
Letting Go – Philippians 3.13
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.”
At a conference I was at, a woman was in a wheelchair and could walk a little way but not far. The leader said there may be someone who had to let go of a bad relationship from 13 years previously. A couple of women were prayed for and both of them seemed to be touched by God.
Suddenly this woman who was in a wheelchair summoned up strength and pushed to the very front and said, ‘that person is me.’ She was prayed for, fell to the floor and was instantly healed. It was amazing – she was walking and almost running around. Her boyfriend and her didn’t know whether to laugh or cry they were so excited! God still heals today. I could tell you other stories about people being healed at my church and outside my church.
One of the keys for this woman was her determination – her stepping out in faith (this should encourage all of us to pursue God with a passion and the things he has put in our heart). But the lady also had to let go of something that had clearly hurt her in the past. Maybe she had forgiven but just needed that extra push to really let go. And what was the unexpected result? She was completely healed! The story of her healing even went to the House of Lords (part of the British Parliament). The Apostle Paul also had to let go of his past (he had even killed Christians) and pushed on to what God had for him. He had to forgive himself I’m sure. It’s never worth hanging onto bitterness – forgive, let go and go forward. The results will always be worth it!
Forgiving even the hard-nosed crook!
If some major terrorist or a famous man who made lots of hate comments about God came to your church what would you do? Apart from phoning the FBI to claim the reward or selling the story to the national papers for the youth work budget? Would either of these men be welcome? Could God forgive either? You bet. In Acts 9 we find Saul the murderer, persecutor and top torturer met with God big time and helped spread the Gospel massively!
In Luke 19 we find a guy called Zacchaeus, we’ll call him Zac. This guy was hated, collected taxes, nicked other people’s money and generally looked a bit like Fagan out of the Charles Dickens’ book ‘Oliver Twist’. This guy met with Jesus and immediately offered to give half his possessions to the poor and pay back people he had cheated 4 times more! Jesus said, ‘today God’s saving power has come in this house.’ So another ‘untouchable’ added to God’s kingdom. Very few people are outside God’s mercy, even people like the leaders of terrorist and violent Islamic groups, despite bad stuff they did.
I expect if guys like this got saved, some people would complain. Would you? Or would you be thankful that God had turned round the lives of evil men? Hard challenge isn’t it. Something I struggle with too. Yet we have all sinned, all sin. Aren’t you glad God forgave you? I am.
Forgiveness is needed even when people don’t think they’ve done wrong
If someone does something to hurt you and they know it and say sorry, it’s easier to forgive. But what if they don’t think or even know they’ve hurt you? Or worse still if they don’t think they’re wrong. What then?
Recently some friends of mine were hurt by something someone said. The person wasn’t prepared to take back what they said despite it being very hurtful. Although they found it hard, they knew they had to forgive that person, and pray for them.
When someone has hurt you, the way ahead is to forgive in stage one. In stage two, you may need to go up to them and say, ‘I forgive you, even though you don’t know or think you’ve done me wrong.’ Stage three is to pray for them. Often this brings release for you. Stage four is to pray God’s blessing on them. Do this today and experience God breaking the chains of your lack of forgiveness!
Forgive because the Bible commands it – Matthew 6.12-13
Sometimes we needed to be reminded to obey the Word of God. Sometimes it’s because it carries a blessing (like ‘Honour your mother and Father, then everything will be well with you and you will have a long life on earth.’ (Ephesians 6.2-3 quoting Exodus 20.12). Sometimes it’s because we need to be reminded that God’s Word is there for our benefit and should be obeyed!
In the Lord’s Prayer we see that Jesus has given us the model prayer.. Jesus says ‘when you pray, you should pray like this..’ So we need to be careful to obey. We also see that we should forgive others as God has forgiven us. Think it’s difficult to forgive someone? Yeh it is. But think now how sinful you are (and were and will be) and think that God has forgiven you. There is also a link between God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others. Read the words again.. ‘Forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who sinned against us.’ The more you forgive, the more of God’s forgiveness can come to you. Read verses 14 and 15.
Old Testament Prophecies – Isaiah 54 (1-4)
Isaiah 52 is entitled ‘Jerusalem will be saved’ in the Youth Bible. It is looking forward in part to a time when Jerusalem would be saved and the Lord would return in saving power. What did this mean? Isaiah 53 talks more specifically about what would happen, about Jesus who would be crucified for the sins of the world to make way for people to accept him if they choose.
This was the mystery, the thing hidden from the Old Testament prophets (see Colossians 1.26-27) who prophesied about Jesus but did not exactly know what they were prophesying!
In Isaiah 54.1-4 we see something of the promise offered to the people. It starts off by saying you are like a woman who has never given birth.. in verse 4 it says don’t be afraid, you won’t be ashamed and will forget the shame you previously felt. Sounds like forgiveness, restoration huh!?!
Verses 2 and 3 say make your tent bigger, stretch out the tent pegs because you will spread out to the left and the right. A promise of a large family?? Well, yeh in one way. In another way this is part of the fulfillment of the consequences of the Lord’s forgiveness. This forgiveness is still being worked out in our lives if we are Christians, we can also play a part in this forgiveness being worked out in humanity too. It is a promise for now and for the future when Jesus returns – exciting or what!!
The Punishment we all deserve
Isaiah 53.6, Romans 3.23, Hebrews 2.10. What do all these verses have in common? Don’t just read this, read the Bible now and find out for yourself.
They say this: Jesus had to suffer the punishment that we deserved when he died on the cross. He took on all our evil and sin because each of us has done so much wrong. The Bible says that all of us have sinned and fallen way short of God’s standards – that’s why Jesus came and ‘saved us’.
It’s like in a football match when someone gives away a penalty but the keeper saves it. We all ‘give away penalties’ every day. But because of what Jesus has done, when we do give away a penalty and we say sorry to God (and really mean it), he will save the penalty.
What do you need to say sorry to God about today? Read 1 John 1.8-9.
How can I forgive? – Read Matthew 18.21-35
Two fathers – both with daughters killed by drunk drivers in 2 separate incidents. Same loss, different reactions, completely different consequences.
The first is torn apart by hate for the drunk driver. His daughter is lost and his marriage is collapsing as his bitterness infects his family like a disease. The second father and his wife sit back, touched by the loss but feeling a peace that can only come from God. A peace that comes only from forgiveness. It is forgiveness that separates the two men. Forgiveness that heals the broken heart.
Matthew 18 talks about forgiveness. Jesus told Peter that he should forgive people even if they did wrong to him 77 times! Jesus also told Peter and us today, that we should forgive people otherwise God can’t forgive us. This is hard and sometimes we have to keep on saying ‘I forgive ……’ time after time. But we must do it. Forgiveness heals. You and them.
Sin and Forgiveness – Read Luke 17.1-4
So much in just 4 verses! That is what’s incredible about the Bible – God’s Holy Spirit reveals so much to us – often something different each time! That’s why we need to ask the Holy Spirit to speak to us through the Bible.
1. Things will happen that can cause people to sin – how we choose to respond is up to us, of course. God showed me recently how it hurts him when I sin and so I really don’t want to sin – I need God’s help though!
2. Don’t cause other people to sin – especially new Christians or children – Jesus says it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large stone around your neck. So watch it!
3. If another Christian you know sins, warn them – that means tell them without shouting or judging them.
4. Forgive that person if they sin against you. Go on forgiving them if they do wrong (or if you need to) because God goes on forgiving you all the time. Keep on forgiving – always. It’s so important.