The Freeing Power of Forgiveness

Text: Matthew 6: 5-15

Illustration: Jeffrey Dahmer is an American serial killer. He was known for preying on young boy whom he sodomized and would dismember them as he had sex with them. In order to dispose of the corpses, Dahmer would cook the remains of his victims and eat them reducing them to faeces. This dastardly act is repugnant, vile, contemptible and deserving of the severest punishment. Yet, we are presented with a counter-argument during Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount about the freeing power of forgiveness – even for the most repugnant of sins.

Jesus is somewhere in the middle of his Sermon on the Mount and he begins a conversation around prayer and that which hinders prayer (which is one of the ways we commune/fellowship/communicate with God). Jesus begins this conversation around the state of the heart – that centre of emotions – the place where we feel; where intent and motives are formed and often here hurt festers and brings decay. He begins show expose the evil motives in the hearts of the hypocrites who do good so that they might be seen but there is no reward or praise from him in such actions because of the state of their heart. You have often heard it said that prayer changes things. I wish to invite you to consider a different thought; that prayer does not necessarily change things but it changes people – and in particular the one doing the praying.

Jesus starts to show disciples how to change the condition of their hearts through their prayer. This prayer which we often misname as the Lord’s Prayer is really the disciple’s prayer or the model/pattern prayer. In verse 8, He presents the contrast to the state of the hypocrite’s heart by teaching the disciples how to pray. The first part of the prayer invites the person to look up

A. Looking up: The counter-intuitive culture that Jesus presents in His teaching of forgiveness calls for us to look outside of ourselves. This takes a recognition and admission that we cannot do this in our own strength and we must look to HIM who is greater and stronger and more capable that we are – that is The Father. Jesus says you must call on the strength of God (Our Father in Heaven) and we must relinquish (place/let go) everything into His capable hands (Your kingdom come; Your will be done)

B. Looking in: Jesus then invites them to look on the inside – something He does many times in the scripture. When other were quick to run to judgment and condemnation of that woman allegedly caught in the act of adultery, He invited them to look at themselves to see which of them had no flaws or had done evil (there is no evil more evil than the next. All evils are equal). “Ye without sin cast the first stone.” Similarly he invites the disciples to look inward at their own shortcomings and human foibles (And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors). When we consider ourselves, we cannot be like the hypocrites and pass judgment on others no matter how offensive we think their sin is. Here, Jesus encourages His disciples to realize that just as they are deserving of forgiveness, the other person is too. And just as they will want forgiveness, they must be willing to offer same. Forgiveness begins with the recognition that you are forgiven (too many people walking around with GUILT) and having been forgiven, you must now walk in that freedom by forgiving others.

C. Looking out: Verses 13 to fifteen is where the kernel of truth and liberation lies. “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” In verse 13, the forgiven prayers this prayer because he or she trusts God and distrusts themselves. The Father won’t allow us to be tested beyond what we are able to manage/bear. But the rest is also very instructive. Because it helps us to realise that in forgiving there are benefits that we enjoy. We forgive not because the other person is deserving but because we benefit from the act of forgiving. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you”. When you extend grace (giving someone that which they do not deserve – forgiveness) to others, that grace comes back to you. It is in forgiving others who have wronged us, hurt us, or caused us pain, loss or misfortune that we receive healing. Even if the offense against you was as awful as Jeffrey Dahmer’s, holding unto that pain not only blocks your prayers, it hinders the grace that is waiting to enter your life. Grace is (unmerited) favour but it is also power. It is that same root word from which we derive charisma. The truth is forgiveness may not change the other person but it transforms you from being bitter to being gracious; from weakened and imprisoned in hurt and pain to being strong and resilient.

Conversely, when we refuse to forgive, we block grace from entering our lives “but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”Unfogrivenesshinders our prayers. It stunts our healing. It blocks our advancing because it keeps us tethered to that old debt (hurt/pain/offense). You cannot move on to new relationships because you are still holding on to that old hurt. You cannot love and trust again because you keep walking around with that baggage. You cannot experience peace in your life because you are tormented by that which you refuse to let go of.

Forgiveness might seem illogical and counter-intuitive but it best for you. You cannot do it in your own strength. You have to completely trust in God’s enablement and surrender to the process. It is not easy to forgive, for it goes against our human nature. But it is possible once we surrender it to God. For He will not lead you into any test that you cannot bear/manage and He will deliver you out of them all. Keep praying. Keep confessing and keep moving in the freedom that forgiveness affords.

Becoming Like Christ For The Sake of Others

HUMILITY

 

The word of God, in Philippians 2:5, encourages us to “Have this attitude (mind) in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” NASB. This week, we will explore the attitude/mind of Christ which we are to imitate. Our first reflection on the attitude of Christ which should characterize the Christian life is  humility. Christ demonstrated the ultimate act of humility as seen in Philippians 2:6-7. First He did not think being God was something to be grasped at (vs.6) But emptied Himself taking the form of a servant (vs.7).

Jesus also taught and modeled humility during his earthly ministry “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). On the night before death he washed the feet of his disciples; not only modeling humility but teaching them that this was the required attitude they needed to have, ‘but whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant (vs.26).

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The world demands a different standard from people: where there is much hype, pride and boasting in self because of personal achievements, earthly possessions and positions. To borrow a line of a popular song which exemplifies this  “oh Lord it’s hard to be humble when you are perfect in every way”. Once we have achieved, we sometimes consider it beneath us to perform certain tasks and we rather to be served instead of serving. Consequently, ministers become mini-stars. The apostle Paul boasted about one thing only: that of knowing Christ (Phil. 3: 8). He could have boasted about his Hebrew heritage, his religious status, his obedience to the law, his extensive learning, but for him all those things were rubbish so that he might become like Christ. What was important was to know Christ, the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering. Which do we relate to? Do we have the attitude/mind of Christ demonstrating humility.

Prayer: Father, as we reflect today on the attitude/mind of Christ, help us to be obedient to Your word and move beyond all that is causing us to be puffed up with pride and to adopt an attitude of humility, being mindful that  all our earthly resources and status are short-lived and only what we do in service for You will have eternal value.

 

OBEDIENCE 

Philippians  tells us that He (Jesus )was  obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (2:8b). Christ lived a life of complete obedience  When he was 12 years old, He told His mother; ‘I must be about my Father’s business’ (Luke 2:41.) In John 5:30 Jesus responded to the Jewish leaders “I seek not to please myself but him who sent me”. In John 4:34, He said, “My  meat is to do the will of him who sent me”. The call to us as Christians is no different. In the book of Luke, Jesus outlined the requirement for discipleship: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple (14:27).” We must be prepared to be obedient to the will and purpose of God even to the point of suffering and death.  Daily, do we declare I must be about my Fathers business; or I seek not to please myself but my Heavenly Father?

Prayer: Father we thank You for entrusting us with Your ministry of reconciliation. Help us to be totally obedient in running  the race that is set before us in Jesus name we pray.

 

 

FORGIVENESS

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing” Luke 23:34. Those were the  words of Jesus Christ as he hung on the cross to face death to pay the penalty for our sins. Forgiveness is not always an easy task; especially when we are hurting and we want to hold to unforgiveness. “Of course I was offended!”  But forgiveness is a command and we do so out of obedience, not counting the number of times we exercise forgiveness, even if it is towards a repeat offender.

Jesus’s response to Peter’s question was “…seventy times seven”. Matt 18: 21-22. This means always, and not seven times as Peter alluded to in the same  discourse. Colossians 3:13 instructs us to “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you have a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you”.                                    Is there anyone you need to forgive? Choosing to forgive sets us free from anger and bitterness to enjoy peace, love and joy in/of the Lord. Let us choose today to be obedient to the word of God and be of the same mind/attitude as Christ and exercise forgiveness.

Prayer: Father, You have been merciful and have forgiven us unconditionally. Help us not to hold on to resentment and bitterness but to forgive as we have been forgiven; in Jesus name we pray. Amen.

PRAY WITH POWER: CULTIVATING THE RIGHT ATTITUDE OF PRAYER

HERE IS A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE SHARED ON SUNDAY, OCTOBER 7, IN OUR MORNING SERVICE ON “THE KIND OF PRAYER THAT GOD PAYS ATTENTION TO.”

Matthew 6:5-13. (THE PATTERN PRAYER, OFTEN CALLED, “THE LORD’S PRAYER”)

Matthew takes us on quite a profound journey. He record Jesus’ prayer, which serves to change our whole perspective on prayer.of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. But before Jesus engaged the content of the prayer His major

point was that prayer that will be effective really begins with a RIGHT it had ATTITUDE; it is an inner posture.

We are first defeated in prayer efforts if our attitude is wrong. More than the content of the prayer, the pattern prayer instructs us on the Attitude we should have as we approach God:

1. UNDERSTANDING/ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF WHO GOD IS (Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name). He is Father and He is in a class by Himself (hallowed). This means that He can be trusted. When we know this we are better able to approach Him with a heart that completely trusts.

2. SURRENDER (Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven). God’s kingdom is his rule – His rightful claim to our lives and our complete relinquishing of our desires for his will. A life that is unwilling and unprepared to accept God’s rule and  claim to it is a life that is also unprepared for God to be made manifest in it. Surrendering says to God, I am ready for you to manifest yourself in my and in my situation and when God does, we SEE it because it was NOT our will we were anticipating but God’s.

3. TOTAL TRUST (Give us this day our daily bread). A heart that trusts God with even the mundane things. Daily reliance on Him. Israel was tested this way in the wilderness with manna that they were to gather daily (to demonstrate trust that God will provide for tomorrow) and they failed miserably. We must be totally reliant upon him as we approach; not planning how in our own might we can solve our own issues.

4. ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF WHO I AM: (And forgive us our trespasses). In approaching God in prayer, we must be honest with ourselves before God; willing to acknowledge our faults and to turn from them. So often humble ourselves; we pray; we seek His face but we never quite get to turning around (2 Chronicles 7:14). God requires truth from us; in our inward parts. Honesty IS the best policy even with God.

5. WILLINGNESS TO RELEASE OTHERS (BURDENS) (As we forgive those who trespass against us). If we are going to stand boldly and honest before God in prayer, we have to be willing to release persons that we do not forgive. If we regard iniquity in our hearts (our prayer will be hindered) the Lord will not hear us. Moreover, we often walk around with burdens asking God for strength to carry them when God has offered us the facility of casting ALL of those upon Him.

CULTIVATING THE RIGHT ATTITUDE AS WE APPROACH PRAYER IS THE FIRST AND MOST CRUCIAL STEP TO PRAYER THAT IS IMPACTFUL. DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE IN PRAYER?