Granting Forgiveness: An Eternal Issue

Granting Forgiveness: An Eternal Issue

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.
Matthew 6:14-15, ESV

Living in this world without offending others — intentionally or unintentionally is difficult. Living with others in the church is often as difficult. Sometimes, you will need to make those matters right, seeking forgiveness from those you have offended. It is difficult to stand before someone and say, “I was wrong; I sinned against you. Please forgive me.” Yet, that is what must be done. In so far as one knows his own heart, he should never live within the confines of the Christian community with known offenses aimed at others. Yet, another side to this matter is as important: if someone seeks forgiveness from you, you are duty-bound to grant it. After all, when you seek forgiveness from your heavenly Father, he is quick to give it, for he is just and righteous to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). Therefore, like your heavenly Father, you must grant forgiveness to the one who asks you for it. It is not optional. Yet, some would seek to justify their inability or unwillingness to do so. They will make excuses, shift the matter to some other issue, or make things worse by blaming the one who has been convicted and seeks to make it right. 

The Lord Jesus Christ issues a warning in Matthew 6 within the context of what we know as The Lord’s Prayer. One of the petitions is “forgive us our debts as we forgive the debts of others ” (6:12). From that petition, the Savior says, “If you forgive others, you will be forgiven. If not, you will not be forgiven your debts.” Indeed, we owe a great debt to a holy God. We offend him daily in thought, word, and deed. Suffice it to say, the numerous ways we offend God are legion. Yet, each time we come to our Father in heaven, plead his mercy and grace, seeking forgiveness, he gives it. He buries it in the deepest ocean and separates it as far as the East is from the West. He does not remember it anymore. The blood of his beloved Son covers it. Why, my friend, would you withhold forgiveness from your brother or sister? You have been forgiven much! Therefore, you must do likewise for those who ask it of you. To refuse that act of kindness is to demonstrate that you are a seriously sick Christian who needs to repent and resolve that matter with the help of the Spirit, or you are not a Christian at all. Matthew Henry puts it this way:

But if you forgive not those that have injured you, that is a bad sign you have not the other requisite conditions [being forgiven by God], but are altogether unqualified for pardon; and therefore your Father will not forgive you. And if other graces be sincere, and yet you be defective greatly in forgiving, you cannot expect the comfort of your pardon. Those that would find mercy with God must show mercy to their brethren. (Matthew Henry Commentary, 1230)

Daily Proverb (Proverbs 14:7)

Daily Proverb (Proverbs 14:7)

Leave the presence of a fool,
for there you do not meet words of knowledge.
Proverbs 14:7

I suspect that each of us has had the unpleasant experience of talking with someone who knows it all. You know, the kind — the one who has an opinion about everything and has no problem offering it to anyone with ears. It is not that they talk too much, but that what they say is full of nonsense most of the time. Solomon gives wise counsel regarding these times. If heeded, it will free one from great frustration.

Simply put, he advises the wise to walk away from someone like that. He encourages the wise to refuse to be a party in a conversation with one who knows it all, refuses to listen to rebuke, and does not heed the counsel of those wiser and older than they. A few observations that run parallel to this appeal:

First, there is the simple reality that this world is full of fools. Solomon does not offer any sense of possibility. He utters a fact embedded in the advice. If (not when) you encounter someone who behaves in this manner — one that makes it plain that they will not listen — then the time is right to leave them to their foolishness and walk away. 

Second, there is a simple reality: fools usually don’t know they are fools. Those are the most dangerous kinds of people to talk to. They know more, always. It doesn’t matter what you know or what experience you have in various matters, they always know more. I have witnessed these kinds of people in the pews from time to time. The best course of action is to identify them and leave them to their ignorance. Typically they are unreachable, always needing to “push back” on everything you say. They cannot help themselves. 

Third, there is the simple reality that if you hang in with them in a conversation, you will become like them. A fool will wear you down and frustrate you, leading to sinful words. So, it is best to walk away. 

The applications of this exhortation are legion, but social media is where it should often be exercised. With the ability to speak on any given subject, social media creates a platform for the fool to vent his “knowledge.” I have seen it time and again. It is best to leave the fool to his own devices. Do you want to avoid being a fool? Listen more. Talk less, especially when dealing with the wiser, older, and more experienced among you. 

Daily Proverb (Proverbs 8:10-11)

Daily Proverb (Proverbs 8:10-11)

Take my instruction instead of silver,
    and knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is better than jewels,
    and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.
Proverbs 8:10-11

Money is a necessary part of this life. It is challenging to live in this world without it. The Lord uses it to sustain us as he answers our prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Yet, there is something more valuable than money, jewels, and all the material good of this life: wisdom. Solomon clarifies that wisdom is worth far more than silver, gold, or anything else. That is not in question. The question is whether we see it that way. A few comments:

First, note that we are to take instruction. Of course, that means it is being offered. Another gives it, but it does not serve us if we do not take it. Imagine giving a gift to someone who never opens or uses it. Though offered in kindness and love, the gift is not much use. 

Second, note that taking this instruction is compared to the riches of this life. In a sense, the writer is saying, “Here, take this instead of that.” The contrast is established. Instruction and wisdom are preferred over the trinkets this life offers, even if that means much material possessions. The problem is not that we can read that. The problem is that we rarely believe it. 

Third, note that the enticement of this life and all that you may desire that you may never possess cannot compare with wisdom. The writer pushes the envelope. We are to prefer instruction and wisdom over money. We are to prefer instruction and wisdom over potential money and possessions. 

These things, as simple as they are to understand, are difficult to practice. In order to practice it, we must believe that wisdom and instruction, as found in God’s Word, are to be preferred over all the wealth one may attain in this life. God’s wisdom leads to eternal life. 

Daily Proverb (Proverbs 7:1)

Daily Proverb (Proverbs 7:1)

My son, keep my words
and treasure up my commandments with you;
Proverbs 7:1

Many of us have seen the movie “National Treasure.” It is the fictional story of a man, along with a few trusted friends, who seek diligently and passionately a treasure that is innumerable in its worth. The movie depicts them running from clue to clue seeking this elusive treasure trove with all of their might. But, in the end, they find it making all of their efforts worthwhile.

There is a treasure that is worth more than all the riches in the world. It is found in the inspired pages of God’s holy Word. Solomon refers to this treasure numerous times throughout the Proverbs, and it is one that we cannot place a price tag on or truly understand when it comes to its value for us. God, in an act of infinite kindness, gave us his Word so that we might not wander in darkness. He gave it to us to read, study, and meditate on as we live out our days in this pilgrimage as Christians. He gave it to us to keep — that is, to obey. A few observations:

First, one will never seek to obey what he does not truly treasure. Most Christians readily admit that the Bible is valuable. They would never say it has no worth or importance in their lives. They say it is the Word of the living God, inspired and inerrant in everything it says. Yet, the question for us today is: “Do we treasure it?” Are we willing to part with all the gold, silver, and precious jewels for the sake of the Word of God?” Again, I suspect many would say “Yes” to that question. However, the proof of it is in action. If we do not treasure it beyond all riches, we will never study it, read it, or meditate on it. 

Second, if one treasures something, they spend time with it. Consider a person in your life that you cherish and love. You spend time with that person and enjoy one another’s company. If we cherish God’s Word, we will be busy reading it, studying it, and meditating on it daily. Many read through the Bible in a year. That is a good plan and one that I recommend. Yet, there is more to knowing God’s Word than merely being aquatinted with the facts. We must allow the Word of Christ to dwell richly in our minds and hearts. Reading is good, and studying is better. Meditating on it is the best of all three. Yet, one cannot meditate on that which they are not acquainted with. Do you treasure God’s Word so much that you carve out a portion of time each day to read, study, and meditate on it? In the movie cited above, the individuals in pursuit of treasure had a plan and executed it. We must also have a plan and execute it daily if we are to keep the commandments of the Lord. 

Third, if one treasures the Word of God, then one will seek to obey it. That is, after all, the point of the Scriptures. It is designed to conform us more and more to the image of Christ. It is intended to point us to the one who made us so that we might be like him in righteousness and holiness. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That is all that he has said, not only in the “red letters” of some Bible versions but all of it from Genesis to Revelation.

Of course, you cannot keep and obey what you do not know. Therefore, with purpose, read, study, and meditate on the Holy Scriptures so that you will know what they say and live them to the glory of God. 

Daily Proverb (Proverbs 6:6)

Daily Proverb (Proverbs 6:6)

Go to the ant, O sluggard;
    consider her ways, and be wise.
Proverbs 6:6

One of the things I learned from my father is the value of hard work. Laziness was not tolerated in my father’s house. One summer day, I announced, rather loudly, that I was bored. I wasn’t bored much longer as my father marched me to the garage and told me to clean it. It was the last time I said that, at least in his presence. I have numerous memories of my father getting up early each day and going to work. I have as many memories of him working two jobs so his sons could go to a private school. It wasn’t that my father regularly preached diligence and hard work with words. He did model it, however, often. Yes, there were occasions when he would demand diligence, but usually, it was modeled. 

Our culture is consumed with laziness. We are raising a generation of people who do not understand the value of hard work. Solomon wisely uses a creature of nature as an example of diligence. We would do well to think through the issue and model the examples around us. 

First, we were made to work. Work is not a result of the fall of man into sin. God told Adam to work in the Garden. Due to sin, work has become hard and, often, drudgery in many ways. 

Second, working keeps us from being idle and, therefore, from being prone to sinful habits. Everyone has heard the expression, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Indeed. 

Third, as image bearers of God, we are to work as he is working. 

Laziness should not be a mark of the professing Christian. Work hard and do it with all your might. 

Daily Proverb (Proverbs 5:21)

Daily Proverb (Proverbs 5:21)

For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord,
    and he ponders all his paths.
Proverbs 5:21

When I was a child, I was convinced that my parents had eyes in the back of their heads. They always knew what I was doing — whether good or bad. Of course, they didn’t, but it sure seemed that way many times. Though my earthly parents did not have the power of omniscience, my heavenly Father does. As Solomon so wisely states: man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord. A few thoughts considering this proverb. 

First, the fact that God’s eyes see everything we do and think should strike a sense of fear in our hearts. Many of us have been in circumstances when we do something embarrassing. Our first reaction was to look around to see if anyone noticed. Usually, that reaction is preceded by wrong behavior. Why did we do that? A conscience that is working well. Yet, God saw it. Though our behavior may not have immediate consequences, God noticed it. The conduct or thought did not escape his attention. God’s presence in every action and thought should cause us to stop and think before we act.

Second, the fact that God sees everything we do should cause us to live that way. Many of us would be embarrassed if the Lord suddenly appeared out of thin air when we were doing something that displeased him. However, he is there, and he did see it. Thus, as 1 Cor. 10:31 reminds us, we should live each moment to the glory of God. 

Third, the fact that God sees everything should bring us comfort and hope. Indeed, we are never alone. Through hardship and difficulty, we have the presence of an all-knowing, all-seeing God who cares for his people. He sees our steps long before we take them. He knows our thoughts long before we think them. He sees our behavior, and he sees the behavior of others. He is conscious of the concerns his people face, and he knows. When the people of old were stuck in slavery, Moses writes, “God saw the people of Israel — and God knew” (Ex. 2:25). God knows your concerns and your struggles. He is not unacquainted with the plight of his redeemed people. He sees. He knows. Therefore, we can be comforted by this simple truth.