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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Having been forgiven, we forgive others. 10/06/2013

Dear friend,

As we journey toward the cross with Jesus through the Gospel of Luke, we come to the 17th chapter and the first 10 verses. The setting and context for our meditation today is understood in the backdrop of the continuing Gathering ministry of Jesus in contrast to the Sorting ministry of the Pharisees and the scribes as is seen through the reading of the following verses. The Feast of salvation has been prepared, the invitations have gone out, and many have excuses as to why they cannot make the feast. To the multitudes, Jesus tells them that nothing can come in front of their following and serving of Him. He tells them that they must consider the cost of following Him.

As the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him, the Pharisees and scribes attempted to discredit Jesus by pointing out that He was associating with those who they, the Pharisees and scribes, had placed no value on and were not worthy of receiving mercy. At this point Jesus speaks a number of parables which center around the value of a soul and places these valuables in contrast to earthly riches and earthly valuables.

He points out that money is to be utilized in His Gathering ministry teaches of the proper use of earthly riches and warns of the danger of one being consumed and used by earthly riches by relating the parables of the Wise Steward and of the rich man and Lazarus. In other words, we are to use earthly blessings for His glory vs using them for our glory. Here are a few verses that guide what we have written. (It would be better to go back and to read the gospel from the beginning of chapter 12 to get the whole picture of what is going on here)

Luke 14;16 Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:
17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.

23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

25 And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them,
26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

KJV Luke 15:1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

As we listen and watch the interactions between the various groups of people, we are able to see how Luke arranges his material under the leading of the Holy Spirit to illustrate the words and actions of Jesus to bring light to the contrasts in the lives of the people that Jesus is teaching. It appears that the Pharisees and the scribes did not know of the value of a lost soul, they were not heeding the law of God, and they were covetous. (Luke 15 and 16)

Now as we come to the 17th chapter, Jesus turns to His disciples with counsel concerning their ministry, using the examples of the Pharisees and scribes as to how not to do ministry. We will have occasion to cause others to stumble and others may cause us to stumble in our walk with Jesus on our way to heaven. He now desires to teach them of the importance of watching one's attitudes and actions in our relationships with those whom we are partnering in the living in the Gospel and in the spreading of the Gospel. He speaks of being careful of those things we do as well as those things we do not do. They are referred to as sins of commission and sins of omission.

First He points to sins of commission, or things we do that we should not.

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.

If we take a look at the Pharisees and scribes, we see that they were offending the tax collectors and the sinners by their lack of mercy toward them, by making their traditions as commandments of God and they were coveting earthly possessions. Is Jesus referring to the little ones as those who the Pharisees and scribes consider to be of no value, the tax collectors and the sinners? It could be, most likely is, but we can broaden this out to include children as well as those who are new in faith or are very immature in their understanding of the things of faith.

How am I doing in the calling into which I have been called? Am I being a stumbling block? Am I doing things and teaching things that are causing people to stumble? Who am I accountable to? Do I listen to them? Will I listen to them?

He then moves to the area of omission, we should act but we do not.

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.

He now moves to the other side of the coin, moving from oneself being the offender to the one who is offended. If this is the case, we are to approach that one ourselves and bring the concern before that person. If there is acknowledgement of the offence and that person repents, we forgive them.

The relationship is restored and preserved through this action of love. Jesus goes on to say that even if there are repeated offenses against us and there is an attitude of repentance by the offender, we are to forgive that person. There is no limit to the grace of God, and we must remember that we never have the right to withhold forgiveness from those who ask.

When Jesus says, "if" it does not mean that we do not have a forgiving heart towards one who has sinned against us.

In order to there to be reconciliation there must be repentance by the offender, but that does not mean that we do not have forgiveness towards our offender. Jesus goes onto say that if a person sins against us seven times in one day, and they repent, we are to forgive them. Seven is not the limit, but it needs to be a habitual forgiveness.

If we cannot overlook another's sin and it is a clearly a sin against one, it is one's responsibility to go in a spirit of humility to them to talk to them about their sin. This is an important point to consider.

ESV Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

NLT Galatians 6:1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.

The apostles listening to this, say, wow, how are we going to live up to those standards, and so that say: "Lord, increase our faith." Here is the request and Jesus' answer to it.

5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

Jesus is saying that we do not need more faith to forgive someone, but what we do need is the genuine faith which means that we receive that which God gives to us in order to be able to forgive.

He points to the quality of their faith and says nothing about the quantity. He is showing them that the seed of faith must be of the right substance, for only out of living faith will forgiveness flow.

Let us look at the Root of forgiveness, the Source of forgiveness....

Forgiveness is the action of informing a guilty person that they have been freed of the future punishment they should have incurred. Forgiveness can only be freely initiated and offered by the victim, else it becomes a perversion of justice.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

In the following examples, we see the expansion of the heart of God through Christ, through Stephen the first martyr and through a holocaust victim.

KJV John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

KJV Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

Acts 7:59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

"O Lord, remember not only the men and woman of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us:

Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering—our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble.

When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness."

(Found in the clothing of a dead child at Ravensbruck concentration camp.)

How do we get to a place where we are able to have a heart of forgiveness? Where do we start?

And a simple illustration reveals the point at which we must start in order to understand our need for forgiveness...

A Sunday School teacher had just concluded her lesson and wanted to make sure she had made her point. She said, “Can anyone tell me what you must do before you can obtain forgiveness of sin?”

There was a short pause and then, from the back of the room, a small boy spoke up. “Sin,” he said.

The desire to be forgiven is universal as is illustrated by the following story.

There’s a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in Madrid newspaper. The ad read: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.”

On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.

God has come looking for us, in order to save us while we were running away from Him...
It is hard to forgive people for most of us. Most people believe that forgiveness is conditional, saying that there must be repentance and a promise to change, but that makes the bar higher than God put it. God forgave us while we were yet sinning.

Romans 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

We trample the blood of the Son of God if we think we are forgiven because we are sorry for our sins. The only explanation for the forgiveness of God and for the unfathomable depth of His forgetting is the death of Jesus Christ.

Our repentance is merely the outcome of our personal realization of the atonement which He has worked out for us. It does not matter who or what we are; there is absolute reinstatement into God by the death of Jesus Christ and by no other way, not because Jesus Christ pleads, but because He died.

It is not earned, but accepted. All the pleading which deliberately refuses to recognize the Cross is of no avail; it is battering at a door other than the one that Jesus has opened. Our Lord does not pretend we are all right when we are all wrong. The atonement is a propitiation whereby God, through the death of Jesus, makes an unholy man holy.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

There is one eternal principal which will be valid as long as the world lasts. The principle is -- Forgiveness is a costly thing. Human forgiveness is costly. A son or a daughter may go wrong; a father or a mother may forgive; but that forgiveness has brought tears ...

There was a price of a broken heart to pay. Divine forgiveness is costly. God is love, but God is holiness. God, least of all, can break the great moral laws on which the universe is built. Sin must have its punishment or the very structure of life disintegrates. And God alone can pay the terrible price that is necessary before men can be forgiven. Forgiveness is never a case of saying: "It's all right; it doesn't matter." Forgiveness is the most costly thing in the world.

It is impossible to forgive others without having come to realize that we have been forgiven by Him through Christ.

ESV Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Lord, Increase our faith. And Lord if our faith is being built on a foundation of self, please do what you need to do to destroy it so that we can have the proper biblical faith. Help us in our struggles to withhold forgiveness from others even when we know that we have been forgiven a debt that we can never pay............

IT WAS IN A CHURCH in Munich where I was speaking in 1947 that I saw him-a balding heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat, the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.

Memories of the concentration camp came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister's frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment of skin.

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland. This man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.

Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: "A fine message, fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say,, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!"

It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

"You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk, " he was saying. "I was a guard therre. But since that time, " he went on, "I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein-" again the hand came out-"will you forgive me?"

And I stood there-and could not. Betsie had died in that place- could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it-I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. "If you do not forgive men their trespasses," Jesus says, "neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses."

Still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgive- ness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. "Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently. "I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling."

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thriust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this amazing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. "I forgive you, brother!" I cried. "With all my heart!"

For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then.

And forgiveness is not only forgiving the past, but it is living in and with an attitude of forgiveness toward others...

A couple married for 15 years began having more than usual disagreements. They wanted to make their marriage work and agreed on an idea the wife had. For one month they planned to drop a slip in a "Fault" box. The boxes would provide a place to let the other know about daily irritations. The husband was diligent in his efforts and approach, noting the various things that he thought needed improvement and correction in his wife's attitude and behaviou. One evening at dinner, a the end of the month, they exchanged boxes. The wife reflected on what she had done wrong. Then he opened his box and began reading. They were all the same, the message on each slip was, "I love you!"

We thank you, Father, that you have enabled us to share in the inheritance of eternal life which is your gift of grace to all who live in the light, for You have rescued us from the one who rules the darkness and you have brought us into the kingdom of your dear Son. You have purchased our freedom with His blood and given unto us the forgiveness of all our sin. On that basis, Dear Father, we ask you to help us to see the smallness of other's sin in light of the greatness of our sin. Help us to understand that since you have forgiven other's sins as well as ours, we would willingly live in an attitude of forgiveness towards others. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Hebrews 13: 20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 06 Oct 2013 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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