The virtue of forgiveness

Reading 1 John 1:5-2:2

Self-condemnation is a common feature of our human experience. Many Christian believers suffer from condemnation of spirit. The reality of our daily failures in our walk with God and the pressure of our interaction with other people often lead to feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy. Forgiveness is a fact from God’s point of view. In Christ He has covered all our sins and when we come to Him in repentance and confession He never fails to cleanse us and give us that sense of freedom and freshness which is our right through the death of our Saviour. But the devil never likes to leave it there. He loves to play on our feelings of weakness and tries to lead us back into condemnation and bondage within our hearts. This is where we need to receive our forgiveness. It is the difference between what the old saints used to call legal and vital truth. Something can be true without our ever entering into the reality of the fact. Sadly, it is the case for many, that God has accomplished their full salvation in Jesus but they never realise it in their own lives. The live in fear and condemnation within their hearts instead of enjoying the full liberty of sons of God.

Satan tries to convince us that, in some way, we need to pay for our sins. But this is a total contradiction of the teaching of Scripture and the work of Calvary. Jesus has met all our debt and we need to receive our forgiveness in Him.

Payment he will not twice demand,
First at my blessed Saviour’s hand,
And then again at mine!

Bible Reading

“Read the Bible daily. Make it part of every day’s business to read and meditate on some portion of God’s Word. Gather your manna fresh every morning. Choose your own seasons and hours. Do not scramble over and hurry your reading. Give your Bible the best, and not the worst, part of your time. But whatever plan you pursue, let it be a rule of your life to visit the throne of grace and the Bible every day.”

~ J.C. Ryle

The facts of life?

Reading Isaiah 53: 4 – 10

To the person who has not experienced the love of God in Christ for himself, the fact of all the suffering in the world may be the very thing that prevents him from finding God. Why does a God of love allow all these things to happen? How can there be a God of love with such horror and tragedy going on? Questions such as these are wrung from the hearts of well-meaning people who don’t know God’s love at first hand for themselves. The person who has seen the reality and meaning of the Cross has a very different attitude to the question, although he may also experience the reality of suffering.

The Cross reveals certain facts to us which inform us at a deeper level of reality altogether. For example, it reminds us above everything of the awful fact of man’s own responsibility for much of the mess we find ourselves in. The Bible time and again makes a direct link between the world and man’s responsibility in it. Man was created as a responsible agent by God and given the government of every created thing. Man’s failure to carry out that responsibility is reflected tragically in the distortion and tragedy which we see all around us.

C. S. Lewis once said: `It is man, not God, who has produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets and bombs; it is by human avarice or human stupidity that we have poverty and overwork.’ (The Problem of Pain). It is not hard to apply this thesis to our own day. Although we express shock and horror at the millions who are threatened with death by hunger and disease in the Third World, it is fairly plain that with a different set of values in operation and a change of will and heart on all sides the problem would be reduced to the point of insignificance.

Questions questions

My daughter, Grace aged 9, keeps asking questions – which in itself is great and something that I really love and encourage. However, all too often I find myself feeling out of my depth when confronted by them. Maybe you have some ‘good’ answers for her questions – I try to avoid trite, superficial, answers to her. Anyhow here are two of the more recent questions;

Will we need to go to the toilet in heaven?
Just as Jesus was about to die on the cross did he know the names of everyone for whom he was dying?

Although I know people will love to tell me the simple, obvious answers to these I guess what i love most is a mind that is enquiring and asking all the time. It makes me wonder how often my mind goes to sleep in the things of God so that I stop pressing on to take hold more and more of Him who took hold of me.

So why not be radical, go and ask a question today.

United with Him

Reading Romans 6: 5 – 11

It is not enough to be amazed at the mystery of the Cross, however. For it to be effective in our lives we need to receive it into our own lives. A few years ago I heard a direct prophetic word which brought this challenge home to me in a new way.

“Yes! Many hold their hands up in adoration of what I have done, that death, glorious death, supreme sacrifice; their mouths show forth praise. But I say to them, `Come join me. You must enter into that death with me; you died with me. Don’t you see that? I know that you try to please me, but of yourselves you cannot, except that you join me in death. Then you will enter into resurrection life. I tell you that no man can crucify himself, purge his sins. I alone have paid the penalty for sins.’

Therefore we can now say, “I can do all things in Christ Jesus. It is no longer I that live but Christ lives in me.”

Those words made a great impact in my own life. They reveal the true heart of the work of Christ. It was in the power of the Holy Spirit that He offered Himself up for us (Heb. 9:14). It is as we allow the Holy Spirit to do the same work of overcoming sin, affliction and the power of death in us that we will enter into the true victory of Calvary.

The Unabridged Version

Reading John 19: 28 – 37

We have lived for so long with a domesticated idea of the Cross. We have refined it of its horror, and in doing that we have robbed it of its power. This came home to me some time ago when I was living in a convent for a weekend. I stayed in a room which had an exquisite crucifix on one wall. It was carved out of beautiful wood and was a magnificent piece of craftsmanship. But there was something about that crucifix which really troubled me. For two days I could not put my finger on the reason. It was not merely the fact that it was a crucifix.

The next morning I woke up early and when I looked at the crucifix again it suddenly dawned on me what was wrong. It was far too nice! The man on the cross looked as though he was a perfect specimen of humanity. There was a small spot of blood somewhere around his ribs but that was all. Apart from this it seemed as though he had stepped right up on to the cross and was hanging there with ease. There was little evidence of what really took place on Calvary. The person who had crafted the crucifix had completely missed the horror and agony which Jesus experienced in his suffering for us . I reached for my Bible and turned again to John chapter 19 . There was the testimony of what really happened to Jesus on the cross that day. It is not that we are saved by the horror but rather it reminds us that Jesus entered into every facet of human suffering and more to bring the saving power of God to mankind.

"…the disciple whom Jesus loved"

I am amazed at the fact that from Scripture there appears to be one of the disciples whom Jesus loved ‘more’ than any of the others (John 13:23) – though I should add that I have only nascent thoughts and  a developing idea of what that actually means – I would add that in a godly way I am jealous of John for receiving such a compliment.

I am taking three devotional sessions at a youth conference next week and was thinking about tackling this idea, thinking about what it was in the life of John that Jesus found especially appealing, what about John as a person that in some way made a deeper relationship happen, what drew Jesus to John.

My initial thoughts are to speak on the following three aspects of John’s character and relationship with Jesus:

Passion – after all James and John are described as ‘sons of thunder’, I don’t have a vision of a weak, effeminate man, but of a mans man, a dude, but undoubtedly someone who was intense in his devotion to Jesus.

Truth – surely the man whom the Holy Spirit inspired to talk of the Word in the face of gnosticism was  an individual who knew and understood truth as not a simple concept of right and wrong but of living dynamic transforming power – didn’t Jesus say of himself, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”?

Love – so it has to be in here, John writes that “God is love” and whilst some might argue that this view has been tempered by his experience of life (and of church!), still it seems integral to his understanding of God.

I’ll let you know how it goes – maybe even with some photos.

The Sin Offering

Reading 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Hebrews 9:11-14

I like what P. T. Forsyth said in his book, The Work of Christ: `God made him sin, treated him as if he were sin, he did not view him as sinful. God lovingly treated him as human sin, and with his consent judged human sin in him and on him. Personal guilt Christ could never confess.’

This leads us to the heart of Calvary. It was not a simple expiation. God did not deal with the question of sin merely by observing the physical death of His Son. No, Jesus entered into that death!

This was no ordinary sorrow. Physical death is the outcome of man’s sin and disobedience, but it is not its only effect. Divine judgement and dereliction are the result of sin. Death toward God is the ultimate outcome of sin. Satan’s oppression and bondage are the result of sin. Sickness and disease are the results of sin. For man to be delivered from the fact and effect of his sin, the Son needed to take all this sin into Himself. This is the most humiliating truth of this necessity. No wonder we are reluctant to carry these thoughts through to their conclusion. What a horrific claim to make with regard to the Son of God! He became sin! We need to come in awe to Calvary, to take our shoes from off our feet, for the place on which we stand is holy ground! I doubt if we will ever be able to plumb the depths of it, now or in eternity. The truth is expressed by Elizabeth Clephane in her old evangelical hymn, The Ninety and Nine when she writes:

But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through,
Ere He found the sheep that was lost.

Don't Give Up!

I read this today on the Desiring God blog – sometimes I guess I need reminding that I should battle through to take hold of God

When You Don’t Feel Like It, Take Heart

November 12, 2009  |  By: Jon Bloom  |  Category: Commentary

Did you wake up not feeling like reading your Bible and praying? How many times today have you had to battle not feeling like doing things you know would be good for you?
While it’s true that this is our indwelling sin that we must repent of and fight against, there’s more going on.
Think about this strange pattern that occurs over and over in just about every area of life:

  • Good food requires discipline to prepare and eat while junk food tends to be the most tasty, addictive, and convenient.
  • Keeping the body healthy and strong requires frequent deliberate discomfort while it only takes constant comfort to go to pot.
  • You have to make yourself pick up that nourishing theological book while watching a movie can feel so inviting.
  • You frequently have to force yourself to get to devotions and prayer while sleeping, reading the sports, and checking Facebook seems effortless.
  • To play beautiful music requires thousands of hours of tedious practice.
  • To excel in sports requires monotonous drills ad nauseum.
  • It takes years and years of schooling just to make certain opportunities possible.
  • This goes on and on.

The pattern is this: the greater joys are obtained through struggle and pain, while brief, unsatisfying, and often destructive joys are right at our fingertips. Why is this?

Because, in great mercy, God is showing us everywhere, in things that are just shadows of heavenly things, that there is a great reward for those who struggle through (Hebrews 10:32-35). He is reminding us repeatedly each day to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Each struggle is an invitation by God to follow in the footsteps of his Son, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Those who are spiritually blind only see futility in these things. But for those who have eyes to see, God has woven hope (faith in future grace) right into the futility of creation (Romans 8:20-21). Each struggle is a pointer saying, “Look! Look to the real Joy set before you!”

So when you don’t feel like doing what you know is best for you, take heart and don’t give in. Your Father is pointing you to the reward he has planned for all who endure to the end (Matthew 24:13).

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (1 Corinthians 4:17-18)

suffering for no name

I was in Pakistan a few weeks ago – always amazing, always challenging, always humbling.

I couldn’t help but wonder, as I preached, about the spiritual condition of the people who listened…how many of the people there bore the name of Jesus Christ, as designated by the word Christian (though it is worth noting that was not one Jesus himself was too keen on using), and actually suffered as “Christians”, yet did not know him?

As an evangelical I am keen on people getting born again (a term Jesus himself did use, and seemed to approve of). So what if these people in Pakistan were suffering and yet did not know the God for whom they suffered?

Did the church in the west learn at least one thing through the highly successful Alpha courses – that many of the people who come week in week out are living in desperate need of discovering the reality of the life and love of God in Jesus Christ?

The Church it would seem needs Jesus just as much as the world we preach to does.


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