Category Archives: Forgiveness

Remember, you were slaves!

leaving EgyptSome things need to be remembered! In the Bible there are many times where God exhorts us to remember things that are of importance. Once such location is in the book of Deuteronomy. Five times in Deuteronomy, the Lord through Moses told Israel “Remember, you were slaves” as He gives them various commands  and requirements.

The first time (5:15) is in the context of keeping the Sabbath day. They were to remember that they were slaves, that it was who God brought them out and because of this, God commanded them to keep the Sabbath, a day to remember God and their relationship with Him.

The second time (15:15) in the context of how Israel was to treat their slaves and deal with the poor, God again says “you shall remember that you were a slave” therefore “I command you this today”.

Then, again, in three more passages (16:12; 24:18,22) God tells them to “Remember they were slaves” as he gives them commands regarding festivals, loaning to brothers, how to treat the poor brothers and how to treat strangers.

So how did Israel do with this exhortation? Did they remember? In the New Testament, John records this conversation between Jesus and the Jews:

Joh 8:30-34 As he was saying these things, many believed in him. (31) So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, (32) and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (33) They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (34) Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

Apparently, they did NOT remember that they were once slaves. Did that present a problem? Yes, it did. Here’s why:

In Matthew, Jesus tells us that first and second greatest commandments are the foundation for the whole law and the prophets.

Mat 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (37) And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (38) This is the great and first commandment. (39) And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (40) On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

I find it interesting that the foundation of all the commandments of the Law, all that the prophets said was Love. Love of God and Love of your neighbor as yourself”  So it should not surprise us that, in the above passages in Deuteronomy, God talks about how they are to honor Him and how they are to treat their fellow man. There is something about them having been slaves that ties to these commands.

I will suggest a few things that happened, or could happen, in forgetting that they were slaves:.

First, they did not honor God as they should: In Mt 15:3 Jesus says that they broke the commandments of God by their traditions. Imagine that! They had developed a tradition which they enforced on others but that violated a commandment of God. In Luke 12:15-21, Jesus gives a parable of a rich man who was indeed rich but not towards God. His substance was not used for God’s honor nor to help his fellow man…God called him a Fool.

Second, they treated their fellow man with contempt. The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans (Jn 4:7-9) and no doubt it was because they thought of them as unimportant people. They didn’t so well with the poor, tax collectors, and sinners either. Jesus also told a parable in Luke 18, for the specific reason that some considered themselves to be righteous and held others with contempt (18:9).

Third, they might not become a forgiving people. Chapter 18 in Matthew deals with forgiveness. Peter thought 7 times was a good thing, which seems to be more than most people would do.  Jesus points out that it is not limited and again, tells a parable emphasizing the need to forgive our brother. He ends it with the warning that: If we do not forgive our brother from our heart, that God will not forgive us.

Do not think for a second that the exhortation to Israel to “Remember that you were slaves” does not apply to us. Actually, I think it applies even more to us. Because while Israel was in physical bondage, we were in spiritual bondage and slavery.

Rom 6:17-20 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, (18) and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (19) I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (20) For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

It is when we remember that we were slaves to sin and freed through the blood of Christ and our obedience to the Gospel of Grace that we will be motivated to worship God in great gratitude for His Grace and sacrifice. We will also in compassion treat our fellow man with the love that they need realizing that God showed that same love to us. This allows us to preach the Gospel, with all of its warnings and exhortations, in compassion and kindness, motivated by the remembrance that we were once slaves of sin as they are now.

If we forget that we were once slaves, not only will we not Honor God and treat our fellow man with love, we may find ourselves once again enslaved by sin.

Remembering that we were slaves will help us to serve our God and fellow man.

 

 

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Show Mercy

In this lesson, presented, Sunday January 18th a.m. we talk about the beatitude of Mercy.

Do you show Mercy? What are some reasons why we don’t show Mercy? How can we show Mercy?

The likelihood is that everyone believes that they show Mercy, sometimes called compassion. But a good question to ask might be: Can we do a better job of showing Mercy.

There are many reasons why people do not show Mercy. One reason is most likely this: They didn’t show me mercy. But that is hardly a good reason to return the (dis)favor. Considering how much we do against God’s character and Holiness and yet still want His mercy, perhaps we should not consider revenge to be a desirable characteristic.

There many ways to show mercy. One of those is how you speak about a person when they are not there. Gossip and character assassination are definitely not merciful characteristics.  In a fight, at least, the person can start out defending themselves. When Gossip is involved, the chance to defend themselves never existed. Speak to build a person up not tear them down.

More is dealt with in the sermon.  We hope you enjoy listening to it.

Why study the Bible?

readThere are many reasons to read and study the Bible but one of those reasons is so that you can live your life the way God wants you to, not just the way you think you should.

Good ideas are a dime a dozen but God’s word often directs us in ways that we, ourselves, would not think of.  Even more important, some of those things that we think of as good ideas are not just bad ideas, they are offensive to God and His holiness.  They are also ultimately harmful to us: There is a way that seems right to a man but the end is way to death. (prov 14:12) The Bible is filled with passages that show us the problems of doing what we think is a good idea.

Abraham and Sarah thought it was a good idea to bring about God’s promised son through Hagar.

Saul thought that holding onto some of the Amalekite animals for sacrifice to God was a good idea.

David thought it was a good idea to take a census of the people.

People during Jeremiah’s day thought it was a good idea to go to Egypt.

The leaders of Israel thought it was a good idea to crucify Jesus.

Ananias and Sapphira thought it was a good idea to lie to God.

The list can go on and on but each of these people could have avoided the problems, curses,  and consequences if they had simply combined a desire to serve God with a knowledge of His will.  Paul wrote of his people:  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. (Rom 10:2)

God warned through Hosea that His people were destroy by a lack of knowledge; they did not know His word. He warned Timothy to study to show himself approved.

Often the zeal to do so is not the problem but the knowledge is. Of course, you could also argue that if one knew what God wanted of them, the zeal might diminish.  In other words, we believe we are serving God when all we are doing is serving God according to our desires, not according to His. We don’t know His will and so we are unable to do so and yet, if we did know, would we be willing to serve?

I think a desire to serve God that is based on the recognition of our having sinned against Him and His Grace by sending His son to save us is a good foundation to build on. One may never know everything, nor is knowledge itself the goal, but it is part of our growth. We learn about Jesus by the preached Gospel, we are baptized in His name, and then we are taught the things he wants us to do (Matt 28:19-20) That last part is important too.

Paul wrote to Timothy so that “one may know how to behave himself in the household of God which is the church of God” (I tim 3:15)

Do you know how to behave in the household of God? If you do not read your Bible quite often, you may be as surprised as Josiah (2 Kings 22:1-13) to find out that you don’t!

Jesus is not a homophobe

I just could not resist writing about this story I saw.  Here is a  link to a story where a 16 year old high school student is suing for the right to wear a shirt which says “Jesus is not a homophobe”. There seems to be a controversy over the issue. Maybe he will win, maybe he won’t but I have a few things to say about this:

First, the young man is a brave individual. Regardless of what many people might say publicly, I still think that the vast majority is more uncomfortable with the homosexual lifestyle than comfortable with it. So for that reason I will give him the due of his courage to stand up for what he thinks is correct. In this country we value, or we say that we value, the freedom of speech.

Second, the young man is correct. Jesus is not a homophobe. In fact, Jesus loves the homosexual just as he does the heterosexual. To Jesus both are created in the image of God, have an eternal soul and if they believe in the Son of God, God will grant to them too the right to become sons of God.

Christians are not to be homophobes. This is also just as true. The fulfilling of the Great commandments of Loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself cannot be fulfilled if you have hatred toward the homosexuals of this world.

Of course it helps to define the terms we are using here. To be homophobic according to an online dictionary search says that it is “to fear or to hate homosexuals”. If it were only that simple; however, there is more to it than that. We also need to be very aware of what this young man is saying, it isn’t just that Jesus does not hate homosexuals but that Jesus tolerates homosexual behavior. He wants to be accepted and accepted as he is.  Well, Jesus does save us “Just as I am” but he doesn’t want any of us to stay there but to become more like the I AM so that that song reads better “he saved me as I was”.  Can you grow in Christ and be a practicing homosexual?

To answer that question, there are somethings that I will point out where this young man is wrong.

First, there are not “lots” of religions who “accept gay people””:  I would ask him to name the ones that do. I think he would have a hard time doing so unless he resorted to looking some denominations who claim to be a Christian church who do and in that case, there are at least several groups that would indeed accept a homosexual. Of course, what he means really is that there are groups that will accept someone as a Christian and allow them to practice the homosexual lifestyle. Key word: PRACTICE as in participate in it.

Second, he may not realize this but Jesus does not love sin: We have to acknowledge this premise even before we even ask the question about whether homosexuality is a sin or not. This is the virtue that we add to our faith. If we accept that Jesus does not love sin, then we will also not love sin.  As we add knowledge to our lives we will see what is and what is not a sin.  Our view on this must be the same as Jesus’. Sin is an abomination to him. What is sin? Sin is missing the mark, sin is lawlessness, sin is not living the way God (who does all things in love) tells us we should live. So what constitutes sin?

What about heterosexuality? Sometimes! Make sure you read that correctly. I am talking about Hetero not HOMO sexuality. Is practicing sexual behaviors as a Heterosexual not a sin when two people who are not married engage in sexual behavior? When both are single we call it fornication, when one or both are married, we call it adultery, when it is forced on another we call it rape.

While we do frown on rape, most people are quite tolerant even supportive of heterosexual activity outside of marriage. We have friends who live together, we support TV shows with live-in couples and cheer for our favorite one. We want Amy to break up with Casey because she really belongs with Mark. And unless soap operas have changed in the last 20 years, everyone gets married to everyone else regardless of age differences or prior marriages (my former step father and I just got married after he divorced my mother…sigh! I cor 5 no longer applies even to the Gentiles)

So here is the point I am getting at. Yes, we know that the Scriptures teach to love all sinners but the scriptures also teach that all who come to Christ need to stop practicing their sins.  If you want acceptance in the body of Christ you cannot, must not, shall not, continue to practice sin. Look at this list of sins the Corinthians were guilty of. Only one sin mentioned is of homosexuality, many others are listed.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
(1Co 6:9-11)

Should the thief say “Well, I will not accept the practicing homosexual but I should still be allowed to steal?” Then neither can the homosexual say “I will not accept the drunkard but should still be allowed to practice homosexuality” All are to abandon their sinful ways!

Maybe this young man would support the wearing of a shirt that said “Jesus doesn’t hate the homosexual but wants him (and all sinners) to repent” After all, we just want to be accepted too. But our acceptance is an acceptance into the Kingdom of God. If this young man truly wants to be accepted and comforted, he needs to come to Jesus, not on his terms but on the Lord’s terms. However, that is the way it is for all of us.

Virtue. David vs. Uriah

In adding virtue to our faith, it helps to see the examples of those who have acted with virtue. Virtue, as I understand it, is a deep seated characteristic. The willingness to do what is necessary, what is right, doing whatever your task is and accomplishing it well. When we find examples of virtue, we need to point them out. Our sermon Sunday dealt with David and Uriah. Both men of virtue but in this one case, David’s virtue failed him and it serves for us a great example. Read 2 Sam 11 and 12 for a better understanding of this account.

Virtue Lost:

David was at home during a time when the kings would go to battle. Why David choose to stay home is not clear, nor is it certain that anything was wrong in his choice but the events following might have led David to declare “If only I had gone to battle.”

Have you ever been in a small town or maybe a college campus when a major holiday comes. It is deserted, empty, lonely. A person who does not have a lot to do can become restless in boredom and I suppose for David, with his armies gone and many officials as well, may have felt a bit restless too. It was on one such occasion that David got up off his couch (an indication of ease) and took a walk on the roof.  While that is not a problem, he may have declared later “If only I had not gone outside”

While walking, he noticed a woman bathing. Much is written to place the blame here on Bathsheba. The Bible is silent on that account and I think it is wise to be so too. What is noted in the text though, was that she was beautiful to behold. Such a statement, undoubtedly true, is to me an indication that David didn’t turn away. He continued to gaze in her direction and her beauty intoxicated him. Again, he may have declared “Why didn’t I turn away?” as would have been proper to do.

From there it just got worse. When he inquired about her, he found she was married. (“Why didn’t I leave it at that?”) He sent for her and brought her to the place, one thing led to another and they slept together. That she got pregnant should not be a surprise and is probably further reason why verse four tells us that she was completing the purification from her uncleanness. This is a likely reason for her bathing and lends more credence to the idea that she was not attempting to trap David. (see Leviticus 15).

When she notified him that she was pregnant, David sent for Uriah in clear attempt to cover this indiscretion.

A man with Virtue:

David called for Uriah to come and share out the battle was going. Can you hear that conversation? “How’s it going?” “How’s the weather?” “Go home and be with your wife!” David even sent a present with Uriah. (Chocolate covered strawberries, perhaps?)

But Uriah did not go home as expected, he stayed in the king’s court and when David was told of this, he made inquiry. Uriah’s response is really simple: “How can I?”  His reasoning was that if the Ark of God and Israel and Judah are not in their homes, and the officers are camping in an open field that he did not deserve to be at home with his wife.  It is not likely that his words were intended to be a rebuke to David who stayed in his home but the impact of this statement serves the same purpose.

David, as you know, had Uriah killed, married Bathsheba and probably breathed a sigh of relief thinking that the whole incident was over.

Of course, God called him out on it and in a brief blog, I will just note that David repented for his sin. God, did forgive him but the consequences of the sin continued for David for the rest of his life.

Virtue restored:

David’s confession of “I have sinned” is just the way we should confess our sin when we come to our senses (or God brings us to our senses). Repentance and starting over is the road back to virtue. Doing what it is that God wants us to do, a determination to do what is right regardless of the cost.

Uriah shows us a great example of concern for his fellow soldiers and in doing so shows his virtue. I will comment on this in the next blog.

 

 

Grace and Forgiveness

To me the word Grace has had a kind of mysterious flavor. Something that belongs in the ‘better felt than told’ category. However, the Bible, at least the New Testament, uses the word many times. There is a lot to be said on the topic of Grace and this morning’s sermon does not touch on everything ( how could it?) but it does make a start into an area that I think many Christians do not understand.

Using Matthew 18:21-25 and the parable of the unforgiving servant, we will see at least three things that we should note about Grace. One is God’s grace for us, its enormity and magnitude. Trying to understand that will give you a headache and send goosebumps up and down your spine like standing in a glass floored elevator on the 98th floor. Second is our reaction to God’s grace and how we let it affect our lifes–or don’t, as the case may be. Third is the grace that we show to others.

Grace is a word that, in most cases, can be translated ‘favor’;  “unmerited favor’ is a favorite substitute also. It appears about 123 times in the Bible (depending on versions) and about 117 of those are in the NT. Grace is not always called grace in the scriptures but the concept of it is found in things like mercy, forgiveness, compassion, leniency and the like.

Paul uses it in every one of his epistles (unless you include Hebrews in that list) at the beginning, he wishes God’s grace and at the end he does the same. Amazing!

The point of the parable, if you don’t want to take the 30 minutes for the sermon, is that when we are forgiven so very much by a Holy God, the small offenses that our brother give to us should be easily and gladly overlooked.

I think it is worth noting that the text seems to imply this is for our brothers. However, the concept of this being for our brothers should not lead us to the extreme of being cruel with those who are not. It should, instead, emphasize the absolute idea that in relationship to fellow Christians, forgiveness is an over riding principle and must be practiced.

In other words, we too must show Grace if we wish to have Grace shown to us.

the lesson is linked here

 

 

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