The Art of Forgiveness

As We Forgive

As We Forgive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I am not the perfect example for forgiving others, I am learning and have learned a lot.  When Jesus prayed The Lord’s Prayer he asked God to forgive us as we forgive others, then turns around and says that if we won’t forgive how can we expect to be forgiven.  It is hard to forgive, and harder to forget.  While the mantra for to day is forgive but don’t let them do it again.  We will know whether we have forgiven or not when we see the person who wronged us and the feeling of anger wells up inside us.  That is where the art of forgiveness comes in.

We as humans are not programmed to forgive easily, but we also have to realize that our unforgiveness is sin and our sin put Jesus on the cross.  The good news is that Jesus and the cross is where the art of forgiveness begins to takes shape.  Our inability to forgive is transcended by God’s ability to forgive us.  As Jesus hung on the cross he looked at the crowd and asked God to forgive them because they did not realize what they were doing.  Because of our inability to truly forgive Jesus’ power is made full because through him we can do anything.  As we rely on him more and more to help us forgive we will see his power magnified in our lives cleansing us of the sin of unforgiveness.

The art of forgiveness is not a trick, but reliance on Christ.  Placing our burdens on him is what we are supposed to do, but they make us who we are sometimes and we wear our burdens for the world to see. Also, we shouldn’t wait on the people who wronged us to  ask for forgiveness.  They may not even know they have done anything to us. They may not even care that they have done anything to us.  Our willingness to forgive will free us in our relationships with others and with God.  As we forgive, so we will be forgiven.

 

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How Ascetic Should Christians Be?

Asceticism has been debated for at least a century in the non-catholic side of the Church body.  Whether it’s Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, or non-denominational. It has been debated.  This is generally a question about what rules should we follow and which ones were meant for specific situations.  We want rules to follow and sometimes the more rules we think we can check off be the better we think we will become.  Which is why us on the “by grace alone” side of the spectrum often lose out by putting God in our theological boxes.

We are saved by grace alone.  We grow through trust in Christ and relying on him for all of our needs to be met. (See Matthew 6:25ff, 11:25ff,  Romans 12:1-2) As we grow in our relationship with the Father we will trust him more and be able to discern his voice better.  So, how ascetic should Christians be is as simple as, how ascetic is God calling you to be.  Many people have spent many hours debating this very simple concept.  There is no set thing for you to do to draw closer to God except to trust him for your salvation and to meet your needs.  There are however, many ascetic practices God has called people to use over the years since Jesus’ death.  Yes these practices have been abused by many, but that does not mean they are wrong or bad it just means people are fallible and do the wrong thing much of the time.  Look at the Quakers and the Amish.  Some groups are more ascetic than others even within the same area.  They may not even seem ascetic to some Christians in third world countries.

At this point I hope you understand I am not talking about ascetics like many picture of the monk beating himself with a whip, or tying something around your leg or arm to pierce you when you move a certain way.  I am talking about fasting from anything from food to computers, taking time to leave society to just spend time with God, not using worldly conveniences, avoiding any addictive behavior or products, or abstaining from sex for a period of time.  Whatever means denying yourself for Christ.  So where do we start? let’s start with Paul.

Our word ascetic comes form the Greek word askesis which means to exercise or train usually for a sporting event.  The most widely referenced passage in the bible referring to askesis  is 1st Corinthians 9:24-27.  Paul tells the Corinthians they need to train to be good Christians as hard as the athletes train to be good athletes because in the end our prize is far greater.  We also know there is a level of growth that goes on in each Christian life just like each athletes life.  You can’t start out with a 40 day fast nor should you go out and give away all your electronics.  This training is only a means, and should be initiated by a growing relationship with Christ.  The first step is always trust.  When we start to trust God he will call us into an ever deepening, ever growing relationship with him.  Just like learning to walk once that training is over, you can learn to run. Jesus put it like this;

23Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 25And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? 26If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.

The level and depth of your walk with Christ is directly proportional to your trust.  St. Augustine said, “Love God and do what you want.”  What he was saying that if you really love God, what you want will be what he wants.

Asceticism has always intrigued me, and when I first read The Spirit of the Disciplines by Richard Foster I thought if I could just do enough of those I would be a great Christian.  I found out I was really wrong.  I hope this posts helps you walk through what God is calling you to and what you may want just to prove you are a Christian.  Don’t try to force the process.  Nothing you do can make God love you more than he already does.  Let Jesus love you and change you because you can’t change you.

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God Always Had A Plan

I love the way the New Living Translation phrases Ephesians 1:5, “His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him pleasure.” (Emphasis mine) God was not pleased that his son had to die, but he was pleased that the rift between us humans […]

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Serving Others

Serving others is on of the three tenants our church focuses on as part of our mission.  Until recently I haven’t thought about what it really means or could mean or even should mean to our church.  One of the examples we have used fairly consistently is of Jesus washing the disciples feet.  We used this one […]

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Trusting Christ Daily

12Don’t let sin rule your body. After all, your body is bound to die, so don’t obey its desires 13or let any part of it become a slave of evil. Give yourselves to God, as people who have been raised from death to life. Make every part of your body a slave that pleases God. 14Don’t let […]

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Sharing Your Faith

I remember the good old days when telling the cashier at the grocery store she was going to hell if she didn’t know Jesus as savior was all sharing our faith in Jesus consisted of.  While my sarcasm may not ring a bell with some of you, I know men who have used that technique.  I also know […]

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Are You Hungry For God?

One of the differences we can’t readily see in people is what they really want in life.  If we could look at someone walking across the parking lot and they had a cartoon bubble above their head showing what they wanted in their life.  Wouldn’t that be a lot easier on all of us.  Of course for […]

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Let God Change Your Attitude

My oldest son complained a couple of days ago about his brother making him mad.  I explained that he could not make him mad, being mad is a choice we make because we are hurting on the inside.  Maybe you have heard the saying, “Hurting people, hurt people.”  I don’t know who said it and […]

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Forgiving Others

I have struggled for years with forgiveness.  I have forgiven people only to feel the feelings of hurt and anger inside me when the person appears to be headed down the road to hurting me again.  In the book of Matthew chapter 18 Jesus is asked how many time should we forgive others.  His reply […]

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Making God Your First Priority

I read a book several years ago, and one of the premises that stuck with me was, we need to spend 50% of our time developing ourselves. I have never forgot that idea, but I can say I have also never practiced it.  I don’t know what amount of that time he said to spend […]

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