One Facet of the Diamond of Truth
Christmas—the Season to celebrate forgiveness and reconciliation with God through accepting Christ as Lord and Savior—is over! However, the unfathomable gift we gain from that babe in the manger is one facet of the diamond of truth we’ll rejoice in for eternity.
Welcome back to the mini-series on forgiveness—Forgiving Others Is All About Whose We Are, Not What They Did. It’s part of my ongoing study of How to Pray the Perfect Prayer, based on the Lord’s Prayer.
We’ve almost reached the end of Jesus’s model prayer, but there’s still more on forgiveness.
So let’s get started.
Our Place in God’s Economy
When our hearts are softened to His voice, the lesson on forgiveness Jesus gave in The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant from Matthew 18:21-35 helps us understanding the massive debt He has forgiven us of. If you have read the C.S. Lewis quotes from the first blog in this series, you know one must have reached rock-bottom in order to even admit she needs our Holy God’s forgiveness—let alone being able to forgive the debts others owe her.
Even true believers in Christ struggle, so it’s not surprising that forgiving others is hard.
The ability to lovingly release people who “persecute (us) and utter all kinds of evil against (us)” Matt. 5:11, among other terrible things, stems from a correct understanding of what excessive evil we commit against God.
In other words, we must understand our place in God’s economy.
When we truly know, accept, and repent of the innate evil that places us so far beneath Him, He forgives us and empowers us to forgive others. Consequently, our ability to forgive others depends on whether or not we are doing life in His strength, rather than just dragging along day in and day out in our own might.
What is this Excessive Evil We’ve Committed Against God
So what is the charge? What great evil have we done against God? I mean, of course, we’ve lied. We’ve felt jealous, shared in some gossip, used some bad language, chose to be angry, and so on. Everyone does.
But if we’ve asked God to forgive us it’s okay. Right?
Let’s not take that so much for granted. The fact that we can respond in such a relaxed manner suggests we may not think we’ve done anything too bad.
But whether or not we have sinned against God is not up to us to decide. As in the case of a crime, it’s always the victim or the prosecution who cries foul, not the criminal.
Here are a couple other important considerations:
Do we really believe those “little things” we do are (brace for impact) evil? Are we actually rotten to the core, wretched, defiled, broken, rebellious and depraved, evil people?
Answer#1–God does, and I agree. If you do too, then I’m encouraged. If you don’t, I’m still okay, especially if you’re willing to see things from His point of view.
Answer#2—Without the slightest doubt, in His eyes, the despicable wickedness we’ve committed against Him is not merely about the bad things we’ve done. It is about each one of our individual twisted and destructive hearts.
In other words, the charge against us is about who we are in the depths of our heart as well as what we’ve done.
***Ryan, my pastor did a great little facebook life session exploring Genesis 6:9—God’s comments/feelings about man. If you’d like a truly worthy goal instead of just another new year’s resolution, check it out. (Give him a few seconds to get going. It’s his first time using this tech, but his little fourteen-minute devotion is well worth your time.)***
Anyone up for a great little devotion from my pastor? QUESTION: How can I be the kind of person God uses? BIG IDEA: I won't be used by God if I don't walk with Him. Genesis 6:5-9
What’s Wrong With My Heart?
Back in Genesis, before God instructed Noah to build the ark, He said He was grieved by what people had become. God was so pained with regret He was going to destroy everyone because they were such wicked, violent, filthy, corrupted transgressors.
You can read the entire chapter if you want, but let’s look at Genesis 6:5 to find out what is wrong with our hearts. “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”
Wow, did you know He said that?
Some people don’t, but it’s really amazing how clear He is. And it’s convicting—if we’re willing to be honest. To top that off, that’s not the only place God diagnosis our heart trouble.
In Jeremiah 17:9-10—one more of many verses on our heart issue—He further clarifies with, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick. Who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind to give every man according to his ways according to the fruit of his deeds.”
I realize this is the exact opposite of what the worlds of psychology, philosophy, science, etc. say. That’s typical, though. Each of us and the world, in general, has and will always want our/its own way—rather than God’s.
(That’s what happened in the Garden of Eden. If Adam and Eve had chosen to accept the single, little rule He placed in front of them, we wouldn’t have all this trouble.)
God’s opinion about our problem may also cause some of you to run from me as if I am the plague, and I’m willing to live with that because this is His declaration, not mine.
And He is in the only position to ultimately Judge.
Unfortunately, our own deceptive hearts too often encourage us to think much more of ourselves than we ought. But if we accept God’s statement and have already yielded ourselves to this safe position of agreeing with Him, we are truly empowered to forgive the way He forgave us.
And that forgiveness is completely possible in every circumstance because . . .
His power in us is what does the forgiving.
When we recognize how bad (broken, selfish, sinful, finite, etc.) we are compared to how good (Holy, forgiving, pure, Infinite, etc.) He is, forgiving others—while very challenging and complicated—‘is not a thing’, as my Pastor Ryan would say.
In fact, offering forgiveness becomes more and more natural as we let go of who we were without Him and grow into who we are in Christ.
With Him, We Are Much More Than We Ever Could Be Without Him
God is the best open-heart Surgeon ever, and once we humble ourselves before Him and admit that we are who He says we are, He overcomes our problem by doing surgery.
Check Ezekiel 36:26. God says, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
This new, soft heart of flesh helps us realize how terrible we were before we had Him, and if we let Him, His Spirit reminds us DAILY to repent and ask for forgiveness and cleansing us as often as we fall short and sin. 1 John 1:9
In addition, our new heart enables us to yield to His Spirit so He can direct our lives, making us much more than we ever could have been without Him. Therefore, believing friend . . .
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Col. 3:12
And over time, even if you thought you never could, His amazing grace will flow through you, empowering you to do what you think is impossible.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matt. 19:26
Closing Thoughts on Amazing Grace
Do you know about John Newton (1725-1807), the writer of “Amazing Grace”? It’s my favorite hymn of all time, and his story is one of my favorites. This story, in part, is the inspiration for my Triangular Trade Trilogy.
Anyway, did you know John Newton was a slave ship master?
One more question:
When I stated his occupation, did you cringe or think: “Oh, no, how terrible.”—or something to that effect—in the deepest part of your heart?
I cry every time I hear “Amazing Grace” because, I’m no better than a slave trader; a murderer; a terrorist, or any other person. We all have that same “deceitful and desperately sick heart” that got broken in the fall.
The major difference between me and one of those others, who has not admitted what a mess he or she is, lies in God’s amazing grace.
The only way one can forgive others is by realizing how much of a debt she owes to God.
When we truly recognize the condition of our heart and acknowledge what a wretch we are, He exchanges our heart and empowers us with His Spirit so we have the capacity to forgive others the same way He forgives us.
Toward the end of Newton’s second career as a pastor who loved the sharing the good news about God’s forgiveness, he made the following statement about this one beautiful facet of the greater diamond of Truth concerning God.
“My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”
I pray we keep that in the forefront of our minds as we, through His power, forgive others the way He has forgiven us.
Continue having a good new year, and seeking Him.
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