Forgiveness

I’m sitting here watching an episode of VeggieTales® with Josiah. The lesson is on forgiveness. Forgiveness – my Achilles heel. Forgiveness is hard for me. I feel things very deeply and I’ve got a memory better than an elephant. Add that to a strong sense of justice and you’ve got perfect conditions for bitterness and resentment to bloom. sigh.

Needless to say, Holy Spirit has had to do a lot of work in me. And while I have come a long way, His work is not done and I am schooled frequently in this subject.

I think I’ve struggled so greatly with this issue because often there is no apology. I want a confession of wrong-doing, a public admission of guilt and a vow to treat me better next time. And I want my offender to suffer feel remorse. Without this, I struggle to forgive because I think I deserve an apology and I don’t think they deserve forgiveness unless they admit the error of their ways.

But Holy Spirit showed me that as a follower of Jesus, I’ve been given a different set of guidelines to follow. Those who follow Jesus are instructed to forgive like we have been forgiven. Ephesians 4:32 (NLT) Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

That’s a tall order, because the way we’ve been forgiven is supernatural. Like nothing we’ve ever experienced before.

  • Psalm 103:3, 10 & 12 (NLT) Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things He does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. 10 He does not punish us for all our sins; He does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. 12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
  • Colossians 2:13 (NLT) You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for He forgave all our sins.
  • Hebrews 8:12 (NLT) And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.
  • Hebrews 10:17 (NIV) I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.

Think about that.

Abba extends forgiveness to all of humanity – without exception – through Jesus. And His forgiveness is for all of our sins – no exceptions. We choose whether or not to accept it. His extension of forgiveness is NOT contingent upon our acceptance. [the experience of salvation is totally contingent upon our personal acceptance]

He does not give us what we deserve, which is punishment and death. Instead He offers us forgiveness and through it, freedom and abundant life.

He separates us from our sin and chooses not to see us in light of our sin. He does not identify us with our sin. He does not hold them against us. He chooses not to remember them.

That’s powerful. That’s wonderful. That’s amazing. That’s supernatural. And that’s exactly how we are called to forgive others. I told you, it’s a tall order.

As followers of Jesus, we don’t get to choose who we will and will not forgive. We aren’t supposed to give anyone what they deserve but we are to release them from the debt owed. We are to choose not to see them in light of their sin and not to identify them with their sin. We’re to choose not to remember their offense.

And this applies to all offense. From the minor infraction to the most gut wrenching tragedy. Did I mention this is a tall order?

But how? How can we extend forgiveness – the complete forgiveness we’ve received through Jesus – to those who aren’t sorry or don’t want it? To those who clearly don’t deserve it?  How can we forgive when someone has crushed us and our life is in ruins? When we feel like we’ll never recover? When we feel like we can’t forgive? When we don’t want to? How can we do something so supernatural?

We do this through His grace. 2Corinthians 12:9 (NLT) My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. His grace empowers us to do what we could never do on our own. His grace is all we need.

And I see this so clearly in Pastor Davey Blackburn, the husband of murder victim Amanda Blackburn. What a beautiful picture of Abba’s grace. On Monday, November 23rd, Davey said that his hope is his wife’s murderer would “begin to experience the life-transforming power of the Grace and Mercy of Jesus Christ. And, “That Jesus would give me and our family a heart of forgiveness. Though everything inside of me wants to hate, be angry, and slip into despair I choose the route of forgiveness, grace and hope. If there is one thing I’ve learned from Amanda in the 10 years we were together, it’s this: Choosing to let my emotions drive my decisions is recipe for a hopeless and fruitless life. Today I am deciding to love, not hate. Today I am deciding to extend forgiveness, not bitterness. Today I am deciding to hope, not despair. By Jesus’ power at work within us, the best is STILL yet to come. Even when I don’t see it, I believe it to be true.”   [You can see the full article here.]

I love his transparency. I love his willingness. Davey knows this is beyond his ability to endure. He realizes he does not have the strength to forgive. So he is asking for Abba to give him a heart of forgiveness. He is making the choice to love and extend forgiveness. Even though his world will never be the same. Even though he is devastated. Even though her killer does not deserve this. In his weakness, he is drawing from Abba’s grace.

I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in all my life. This is taking up your cross and following Jesus. This is walking the narrow road. This is following in the footsteps of Jesus.

This is where I want to be. I pray I never have a challenge so great. But I do pray that in every offense I experience, Holy Spirit will empower me to tap into Abba’s grace so fully that I can draw from His supernatural strength and forgive the way He has forgiven me. I pray that forgiveness is no longer my Achilles heel and that it becomes my natural response to offense.

 

Six Habits of Sheep with Ears

We’ve all heard the stories. Stories told by others of Abba whispering to them, sharing vital information. Stories of how they heard Him warn them. Or how in their darkest hour, He spoke peace and promises to their frightened heart. Stories of Him expressing His deep love to their soul.

And after we heard their story, we sighed and wished we could hear God like that. We wonder what it’s like to hear God with such clarity and assurance. Wonder if it’s possible for everyone to hear God like that – or do you somehow have to be different in order to hear God’s voice so clearly and frequently.

I’ll admit – I’ve been there, wondering if that was possible for me or was that only for the select few. But then I read John 10:3-5 (NLT) The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.…….and I realized: I am a sheep!! And He is calling MY name, speaking to ME! And He would not speak if I could not hear.

So…..what’s the problem? That’s when I began to notice there is in fact something different about those who hear from God. The difference is they have established patterns of behavior in their life that enable them to hear God’s voice clearly and frequently.

So what are the habits you’ll find in the lives of those who hear from Abba?

  1. They are intentional. People who hear from God are deliberate – they make time to hear from God. They don’t leave it up to chance. They’re not hoping to catch something on the fly. They don’t just cross their fingers and wish they could hear from God. But they choose to spend time with God and they commit to it. They are devoted to doing what is needed in order to hear His voice. Psalm 27:8 (NLT) My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with Me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.”
  1. They listen. During conversations with God, they listen more than they talk. Prayer is not a one-way conversation where we do all the talking. Instead of telling God things they already know, (and God already knows them too) they ask Him to share what only He knows and let God do the talking as they listen. Psalm 85:8 (NLT) I listen carefully to what God the LORD is saying, for He speaks peace to His faithful people.
  1. They are students of the Word. People who hear from God are serious about spending time in the Bible. It is a priority with them. They make time for it and are consistent in reading. And they are in no rush. They are not trying to quickly get through it to check off an item on their to-do list or stay on schedule, [see my rant about this here] but they are diligent and thorough, taking time to meditate on it and hide it in their heart. When you increase your time in the Bible, you exponentially increase the frequency in which you hear Him speak and your ability to recognize His voice. Job 23:12 (NLT) I have not departed from His commands, but have treasured His words more than daily food.
  1. They meditate. They actively engage their mind on thoughts of God; pondering, dwelling, contemplating and thinking about who He is, what He’s done and what He’s said. They slow down their thoughts – refusing to rush through what they read or Truth they’ve learned – and deliberately think, inspect and turn it over and over in their mind. They mentally chew on Truth until they’ve thoroughly devoured it. Psalm 1:1-3 (NLT) Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.
  1. They act on what they hear. People who hear from God act on what they hear. They follow through on God’s words to them. They take it to heart, internalize it and take action. They let what He says to them change them. They implement what they hear into their lives. They are obedient. James 1:22 (NLT) But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 
  1. They are worshippers. Worship rolls out the red carpet for God’s Presence to invade your life. When we worship, we create a space for Him to occupy – sit – dwell. And those who hear God’s voice hear Him because they have created a place for Him to inhabit through worship. Psalm 22:3 (NLT) Yet You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

I can’t think of anything better than hearing the voice of Abba. And I am convinced that everyone can hear His voice. By incorporating these 6 habits into our life, we’ll find that we create an atmosphere for God to speak into and we’ll recognize His voice.

If you’d like to hear more details about this, click here.