Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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True Love Seeks Restoration 9/04/2011
Today's meditation concerns relationships between ourselves and our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We recognize that God has reconciled the world (us) to himself through the cross. This means that he is not holding our sins against us and he desires that we come to the knowledge and experience of this reality for our joy and eternal salvation. He is not angry with us, instead He is our Friend. We are friends of God. Additionally he invites us to be a partaker in the work of reconciliation/restoration of that which he has done so that others may come to this knowledge and experience through repentance and faith. We see this reflected in the following Scripture:

2 Cor 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. {committed...: Gr. put in us}
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

As we approach text today, we must do so from the point of view that as far as God is concerned, that which was separating us from himself, namely sin, has been carried away and He wants all to come to know this reality. As far as humans are concerned, there are two categories of people, those who believe God and those who do not believe God. Within both groups exist the difficulty of knowing as well as experiencing that which God has done through the cross.
God desires that we would love him and one another. Within the church there are people of various heart conditions, of which only God knows the state. Nevertheless, He wants all to know Him for who He is.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

As we approach our text for today which concerns how to deal with differences between ourselves and others, we must emphasize that God has both dealt with our sin as well as spoken to us about our sin.

John 15:22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin,1 but now they have no excuse for their sin.

What does this mean? Who is going to talk to us about our sin? Jesus would, could and did! For He said in the gospel of John: "If I had not come and spoken to them they had not had sin, but now they have no cloak for their sin." In other words, Jesus has cared enough to come and speak to us about sin, not his, but ours. This is the perfect picture of Jesus. He has come, and through his Word, has described to us how guilty we are. His Word has described how it was our sins, our faults, that placed him on the cross of Calvary and it was for those sins and faults that he died. And therefore, we see the example that Jesus sets, and that is that there was a brother, there was a friend who trespassed against him. That was me. That was you. And he cared enough to come and speak to me about what I had done, what you had done and by the power of His Spirit, within the heart, He has revealed to me what I have done, what you have done.

And we have concluded that we have sinned against the Lord. And that is what really breaks the heart, isn't it? It's when we recognize that there has been a relationship of trust that has been broken and we have been the ones to break it. We have made the mistake, it is our fault. And so likewise between us, when there is the trust that has been broken, or there is betrayal, we find that we look and see, that I am the guilty one. But Jesus has come and has spoken to us in love, concerning our trespasses, our faults, and what happened?

Because we are sinners, we yet sin. And therefore, God has given us tools by which we may be helped in this area. There are two basic teachings that encompass this area of our relationships with one another. One when we are the offender and the other when we are the offended. We must have come to recognize that we are the offender/sinner before we can properly go to speak to someone else about their sin.

1. There are times when we need to reflect on our thoughts, actions and behaviours. Jesus addresses this in an earlier part of Matthew's gospel.

Matthew 5:23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,
24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.
26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.1

2. There are times when our brother or sister sins and we are called to rebuke them for the purpose of restoring the relationship. Both readings, one from Luke and the other from Matthew are similar in nature.

ESV Luke 17:1 And he said to his disciples, "Temptations to sin1 are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!
2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.1
3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,
4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him."

This is our text today and for the most part we will focus on it.
Matthew 18: 15 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed1 in heaven.
19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."

The first step is given, verse 15.. It is to restore, not for any other purpose.

If it so be that we hear He has gained us. Not our gain, but His. He has gained this brother, who has trespassed against Him. So here we see that in this first place there is a deep love and a deep care that causes the person to go, to tell, to see if they will hear and to be restored. And what a blessing if we can be honest with one another concerning these things, and how hard it is, sometimes, to go and talk about these things.

But for what reason does He command this one to tell him of his fault, and not another? Because the one who had been wronged, who hath been pained, who hath been despitefully used wishes to shield his brother's sin from others. For when one comes to us in our error and is not demanding justice but restoration of the relationship, this has more power to bring us to change than any other means.

But why not go to the church immediately with the offense? Why keep it between two people? Because of mercy and of compassion. A story I remember went like this: In the 16th century in this village there was seminary and it was customary to go to the church for confession when it was warranted. A young man was attending the seminary, and after a few months, the professor noticed that the student looked pretty burdened and unhappy. Upon inquring as to what was wrong, the young man confessed that he had yielded to the lusts of his flesh in the last few months and was living in guilt. At which the professor told him, tomorrow you must go to the church for confession, to which the young man replied, "how can I do that, everyone will see me and know that I have sinned?" The professor gently told him, "I will walk with you so that no one will know who is going to do the confessing."

If one does not hear, there is a second step:

16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

If one does not hear the truth spoken by the offended, one takes one or two more with them to speak to the offender. These people are to be impartial, mature, honest and truth loving Christians. They are not to be those who could not be trusted to listen carefully and speak graciously and truthfully.

There is yet a third step that if necessary is provided for:

17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

From one person, to one or two people, and now to the large assembly of the congregation.
What caring is demonstrated by the Father in providing for restoration of one who has caused offence in a relationship. Only upon one's resistance to hearing and humbling oneself before the truth is the discipline of the church to be exercised. And again, let us remember, it is not for putting someone out, but it is for the purpose of restoration of relationship. It is only to the one that is offended that the offender is to be consider a publican, sinner, pagan or as we would understand an unbeliever. To no one else is the person under discipline to be considered an unbeliever.

We must be careful in our understanding of the last verses of our text, for the words “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven.” can sound like the heavy hand of authority coming from the church, But let us look closely, for Jesus did not say to the church, “Bind such a man,” but, “If thou bind,” committing the whole matter to the person himself, who has been approached for the purpose of restoration.. It is not he who did the approaching who is to blame, but he who has not been willing to be persuaded.

18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

This place is amazing and I have never seen the beauty of it before. It is loaded with grace and truth. The progressiveness is seen in the three steps of grace and truth toward the offender, first in keeping it between the two, but if there is blindness or unwillingness to acknowledge truth unto repentance, the steps get more people involved. The binding first happens on earth as a visible sign in the church and if nothing changes on earth as far as bringing one into release and freedom, heaven will honor the earthly binding. But if at anytiime there is a loosing through one's coming to repentance, all of heaven will rejoice and honor that which was done on earth. A sinner has been loosed from his sin.

One needs to understand that the word "if" is used in each of the steps and the understanding is that if one does not hear the truth, one binds himself in his sin. No pastor or person has the right or ability to bind another in their sin. The binding occurs due to ones refusal to come to repentance and faith.

An illustration of this beautiful blessing of grace that God has given us occurred after WW2.

(Nearly all of the remaining information is from the book "The New Freedom of Forgiveness" by David Augsburger)

45-47 Corrie Ten Boom returned to Germany in 1947 to speak of God's forgiveness, her message was received in silence, and as she got up to leave,she was approached by a former Nazi guard who had so mercilessly abused her and her sister when they were in the German prison camp. He approached her, telling her how glad he is that God has forgiven him, telling her that he is now a Christian. He knows that God has forgiven him, but he wants to hear it from her. He does not recognize her, but she does him. Now her speaking of forgiveness is put to the test and she fights her will, but praying for strength from Jesus, she raises her hand and as she does the feeling comes into her heart and she says, "I forgive you, brother, with my whole heart."

47: When one sees another as outside the realm of capability to love, one must return to the place where one can see how God loved them, at the cross.

48: Steps of Forgiveness

1. Restoring the Attitude of Love: To love another is to see that person as full of worth and precious regardless of any wrongdoing. It is not forgiveness, it is the prerequisite to forgiveness.

2. Releasing the Painful Past: To accept another is to meet him or her now, as the person she really is. You are not your past, you are equally free to change if you accept the freedom that is within you. To affirm that freedom is the first step of forgiveness.

3. Reconstructing the Relationship: This is the real work of forgiveness. To review the pain of offense within each of us and between the both of us is not easy, but it is the way to healing. As we work through our anger and pain in reciprocal trusting and risking, at last we come to recognize the genuineness of each other's intentions.

4. Reopening the Future: This involves the transformation of memory from a wound that will not heal to a wound that has healing power within the soul. It may mean different things depending upon the relationship. It may return to a civil participation in community with mutual respect, or to a new level of friendship resulting from the depth of encounter that has taken place; or it may mean a return to or the beginning of profound trust and willingness to risk. In each case, the future is reopened to whatever level of relating is appropriate to the two participants. Not all relationships should be pursued, not all will be, there is time to withdraw.

Forgiveness, by definition, is the mutual recognition that repentence is genuine and that right relationships have either been restored or are now achieved. Perfection in performance is not a requirement, for Jesus instructs concerning that in Luke 17

KJV Luke 17:1 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

Who decides whether repentance is genuine? Only God knows. On the basis of Jesus' words, we must simple forgive one who comes to us asking, for there is greater danger in not forgiving a penitent than in forgiving a hypocrite.

5. Reaffirming the Relationship: Reconciliation must end in celebration, or the process has not ended. There is yet no reconciliation. We must touch each other as deeply as possible in our release of the pain and then celebrate the mutual recognition that right relationship has now been restored or achieved.

Forgiving, Forgetting, Foregoing
Did Corrie Ten Boom forgive the prison guard? Not at the moment. She took the steps possible at that moment, but she herself described it as steps one and two. Love was extended, the past was recognized as past. Before real forgiveness could take place, the two would need to remember the pain together, recall the injury together, recognize real repentance together, and agree to forget together.

Frank Stagg: Forgiving and forgetting are related, but forgiving precedes forgetting. To forgive, one must first remember the injury, the impact, the injustice done. To forget ignores the need of the offender and injures the offended by driving the sense of being wronged deep into one's own being where resentment does its slow and destructive work. Forgetting is negative, passive; forgiving is positive and creative.

Before one can forgive and forget, both offender and offended must remember together, recall the wrongdoing together, finish the feelings together, reconstruct the relationship together and then they may forget together. In the remember, reconstructing, forgiving and forgetting, each regains the other.

Forgetting is the result of complete forgiveness; it is never the means. It is one possible consequence, and not always a desirable one. At times if we say I can forgive, but I can't forget may mean that we have not forgiven. On the other hand memory can serve us in the area of teaching us.

Forgetting sometimes follows forgiveness, but it is not essential. The past is the past, nothing can change that. But the meaning has been changed, the consequences of the past can be altered, the future can be reopened, and a harmonious relationship can be restored.

For-give: An extended, expanded and strengthened form of the verb to give. It means that we give from the depths of our soul, we give deeply of parts of self. It is the process of giving up, We give us demands for perfect behavior, perfect justice, perfect resolution, perfect retribution. All we can ask of ourselves and the other is genuine repentance. In forgiving we give up the angry picture of the offender. We put aside the view of the other as an unworthy, unacceptable, unforgivable offender. In forgiving, we lay aside the view of ourselves as righteous and the other as totally unrighteous, and we begin to experience the truth that we are both fallible human beings in need of being forgiven.

To for-give is a process of giving forth. In forgiving we give a new trust to another, exemplified by our risking being open, vulnverable, and available again. We allo the future to come to us without constricting its flow through ironclad guarantees of perfection or fearfully frozen limitations on our spontaneity. In forgiving we give forth a new freedom by believing in the other, by accepting fully the geninue worth and value who is as much a child of God as we are.

In giving up, we forgo revenge and forfeit recriminations; we forbid old resentments and forbear strategies of getting satisfaction for the injury. In giving forth we foresee an open future in our relationship; what we cannot foreknow we can still foretell out of our commitment to forgive. In forgiving we forsake old patterns of brooding review and move toward forgetting the pain and remembering the healing. In forgiving and forgetting, we forge a new relationship.

Forgiving is Rare, Hard, Costly

Forgiveness is far more rare than one assumes at first thought. More often it is not forgiveness that occurs, but pious denial, memory fatigue, polite avoidance, or deliberate (subterfuge) deceit.
1. Deceit used in order to achieve one's goal. 2. A statement or action resorted to in order to deceive

When one comes to us with an apology, we must be careful that we to not brush them off by simply saying to forget it or to minimize their apology. If we truly from the heart do that that is fine, but if we continue to harbor resentment or ill feelings, we have not begin the process of forgiveness. It is difficult to stop and discuss the difference. It is painful, therefore forgiveness is rare. It is costly. We may risk further hurt by exploring the injured relationship with some who caused us the injury to begin with. We may have to absorb pain without any apparent improvement in the relationship. We may be further rejected, brushed off, blamed, yelled at or given the silent treatment.

In our Western world which is individualistic by nature, forgiveness has become superficial. It is tolerance or indifference to others. In this attitude it is tempting to call our forgiving attitude "forgiveness' and move on. Yet the relationship lies unresolved and therefore broken.

Jesus calls us to go to the brother or sister in order to regain the brother or sister. In doing so, He is calling us to make forgiveness an action and not just an attitude. Where the actions of reconciliation are not possible, we feel the failure of the relationship, but let us not call it forgiveness and restoration.

May the Lord open our hearts for understanding of others, may we value them in as creations of God and may we love them so that they may see who they are in God and in Jesus Christ.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 04 Sep 2011 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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The Temptation of Jesus
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The Lawry Kilpela family as they grieve but yet rejoice in Lawry's being called home.