Abide in Christ by Holding to Biblical Positions – August 12, 2022

Last week we observed from 1 John 2:18-19 that we must beware of false teachers. In the following six verses, John informs us that the primary way that we can identify false teachers is by holding firm to foundational Biblical positions. He begins this section by stating that we can have confidence. We will persevere because we have an anointing from the Holy Spirit. He also says that he did not write these hard things because we do not know them, but because we do know them and in verse 24 stated that we should abide in them.

This means Christians innately understand that this relationship in which the Christian remains in God is vital, intimate, and constant. A sign of a true believer is that they maintain foundational Biblical beliefs. This text shows that John is confident that those who belong to God will remain with God and the church.

True believers will hold firm to foundational Biblical beliefs. John then identifies two of those foundational beliefs which were under attack in the churches surrounding Ephesus. Unsurprisingly, Satan is still attacking these truths 2000 years later.

John’s first foundational belief (found in verse 22) is that every believer must believe that Jesus is God. This is an interesting and important statement. Remember 1 John 1:6 – If we claim to enjoy fellowship with God while we walk in darkness, we lie. And 1 John 2:4 – He who says he knows God but disobeys his commands is a liar. We will see later in 1 John that the person who claims to love God but hates his brother is a liar (4:20). But the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is THE liar, the great liar. Sadly, the KJV weakens this significantly by its mistake in translation, “who is a liar.” The Greek construct (ο ψευστηs) highlights that he is The great liar.

“The height of heresy is to deny that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God and Savior. To reduce Jesus to the status of a mere man, or to allow no more than a temporary indwelling of some divine power in him is to strike at the root of Christianity” (Marshall, 159). We see this heresy highlighted through the attempt to separate the historical Jesus (the human person of history in the first century) and the Christ of faith (The Jesus presented in the Gospels). Every Christmas and Easter, these same old heresies are resurrected. But we must hold fast to the truth that Jesus is God because the Word of God teaches it all over.

The belief that Jesus is God in the flesh results in some necessary and vital conclusions that Scripture presents. Jesus is the eternal God who created all things (Jn 1:1-10; Col 1:16-17). He is eternally God (John 1:15; John 8:58). Jesus is equal with God the Father (John 5:23; John 5:26; John 10:30; John 14:9-11). Jesus accepted and will accept worship as God (John 20:28; Phil 2:5-11). Scripture leaves no wiggle room; Jesus is God (Col 2:9; Tit 2:13; Heb 1:8; 1 Jn 5:20).

So, either Jesus was who he said he was, or he was the greatest liar, fraud, and lunatic ever to walk the planet. It is vital that Jesus was God. If he was not God, he could not have been our savior. He would have had to die for his sins and could not die for ours. Eternity hangs on the deity of Christ.

The second foundational belief that John identifies is found in verse 25: Because Jesus is God, He brings life. As God, Jesus promises us life. There is a literal place called heaven, and there will be a literal new earth. And we will gather for all eternity with some from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. This is the hope to which we anchor our lives. It is not a myth, and it is not a legend. It is a reality.

As we have worked through this section of 1 John for the last two weeks, there are two distinct takeaways so far. First, we must be very careful listeners. Our spiritual lives are too valuable. Just because someone claims to speak for God does not mean they do. Judge preachers. Judge them harshly. If they do not remain faithful to what the Word of God says, they are to be rejected. The title of pastor holds no authority. The authority flows from the Word that the pastor is to be preaching. Don’t settle for lousy preaching. Don’t allow your soul to be famished and starved by unfaithful, untrustworthy, or lazy preachers.

Second, we must hold to and live out our faith. This means that you know what you believe. Why do you believe what you believe? Is it your faith or simply your church’s faith? You must study on your own. There are not enough hours for your pastors to teach you everything. You must take the tools they give you and use them to feed yourself. Read the Word, meditate on the Word, ask questions of the Word, seek answers from the Word, and live the Word out.

Next week we will look at the second mark found in genuine believers, which this passage provides. We do this so that you may look in the mirror and check your life to ensure that you are of the faith.

Abide in Christ – August 5, 2022

I came across an article a couple of years ago about Aaron Rogers, the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. I had passed over the article with no intention of reading it until I came across it a second time. However, this time it was attached to the name of a former preacher who abandoned the faith, Rob Bell. So, I took the time to peruse it. What I read was tragic. Aaron Rogers was raised in a pretty solid Christian home. He grew up espousing Christianity. However, he had some questions about it. After winning the Super Bowl six years ago, he still felt empty and unsatisfied. It was at that time that he met Rob Bell. This man began funneling books to Rogers, which undermined his faith. The article detailed Bell’s journey to denying the Christian faith and espousing a blend of modern self-help and eastern mysticism. Sadly, because Aaron Rogers did not abide in Christ, he also appears to have departed the faith.

Why does this happen, and how can we avoid it? This is the message that John next tackles in the book of 1 John 2:18-29. It would be best to start this next section towards the end. Sometimes, to understand the context of the passage and the purpose, you have to look at how it concludes. This text is an example. 1 John 2:28 – And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

But how do we do that? How do we abide in Christ? With all that is happening around us, how do we avoid the same fate as Rogers and shipwrecked our faith? John gives us two ways we can Abide in Christ. These reasons appear in the subsequent two tests of life to see if we are a true church and a genuine believer.

The first way we can abide in Christ is by valuing Biblical beliefs. We must make sure that what we believe is right. We find this test in verses 18-26. Through this passage, we learn that, to value Biblical beliefs, we must beware those who depart from those beliefs because many false teachers exist.

John states that many anti-Christs have appeared. Now John is not referring Prophetically to the one he identifies in Revelation as The Anti-Christ (the one who seeks to replace Christ). Instead, he refers to false teachers who speak against what Christ taught. They do not follow the correct orthodox doctrine of Scripture. Sadly, many of these men exist. And many of these men pose as preachers of the Word of God.

Just because someone with the title of Pastor, Preacher, or Reverend says something does not make it right. You ought to judge your Pastor. And you ought to Judge any man who claims the title or Pastor or the privilege of preaching. We will see in Chapter 4, verse 1, that we are to test the spirits. That verse says that we are to test the teaching and lifestyle of these people to see if what they are saying aligns with the Word of God. If it does not, you run.

Why is this important, because numerous false teachers exist who mangle and misuse the Word of God for their gain. Too many preachers exist who are unwilling to put in the hard work to study and prepare a sound biblical feast for their flock. Beware false teachers.

While some of these false teachers start as false teachers, many come from within the church. So what happened? John gives a powerful statement about them in verse 19:  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

These false teachers departed from the true Christian faith. They went out because they were never really in the faith. When someone leaves the faith and begins to teach false doctrine actively, it is a sign that they were never a child of God in the first place. How can this be true? How can John make such a strong judgmental statement? Because this is supported by passages throughout the Word of God like Matthew 13:13, John 10:27-30, Philippians 1:6, Colossians 1:21-23, 2 Timothy 2:19, and Hebrews 3:6-14.

What these verses are referring to is something we call the perseverance of the Saints. Here is what they are saying: you cannot lose your salvation when you are saved. And the evidence that you are saved is your living out your salvation (James 2:17). And since you cannot lose your salvation and proof of salvation is living it out, those whose lives are marked by that which is anti-God, by continual unrepentant sin, and the teaching of false doctrine are giving evidence that they were never really a child of God.

We are not claiming that Christians do not sin. We saw that Christians do indeed sin back in 1 John 1. But we are saying that when one has the Spirit of God in his life, he will grow in the Spirit, even if only minutely. The Holy Spirit will evidence His presence in the believer’s life either through distinct spiritual growth or through the Spirit’s chastening. There is no category of Christian who knowingly, continually, and unrepentantly waves the white flag and submits himself to a life characterized and dominated by sin.

So, beware false teachers who come as angels of light. Beware the preacher who presents himself as the all-knowing authority. Beware the preacher who refuses to be questioned. Beware the preacher who is unwilling to back up what he is saying with the Word of God. And beware the preacher who is unwilling to do the hard work to do their own study and prepare a sound biblical feast for their flock.

Motivations to Not Fall in Love with the World – July 29, 2022

Last week we looked at John’s challenge to believers not to fall in love with this world. 1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. However, why would someone want to give up the things of this world and sacrifice them for the things of God? Why would I want to give sacrificially in the middle of inflation? Verses 15b-17 hold the key.

First, we observe that loving God is more important than loving the world. We see at the end of verse 15 that if someone loves the world, it stands as a sign that they do not love God. But love for God is the most critical thing in life. It is the chief command: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. In his commentary, John Stott states, “If we are engrossed in the outlook and pursuit of the world which reject Christ, it is evident that we have no love for the Father.”

Why is this true? Because the world is at odds with God. The world’s very nature is anti-God. John tells us that all that is in the world is not from the Father but is of the world. He classifies these things of the world into three categories: Desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes, and the pride of life.

The desires of the flesh refer to the debased, sinful cravings of evil hearts. This would include anything in which humans improperly fulfill fleshly desires (overeating, drunkenness, etc.). We live in a culture that is all about fulfilling the desires of the flesh. This is the very premise behind the sexual revolution. If it feels good to you, you should have not only a right to do it but also an obligation to do it. Love is simply a feeling (not a commitment), so if you don’t feel in love any longer, you end the relationship (even if a marriage covenant binds it). If you don’t feel like you enjoy your job anymore, you find a new one. At all costs, fulfill the desires of your body.

The desires of the eyes refer to lust derived from what we see—those sinful cravings activated by what people see and lead to covetousness. The entire media industry is built on the desire of the eyes. Advertisers place before us everything that looks good. Through the eye gate, temptation enters our hearts and brings about discontentedness with what God grants us.

The pride of life refers to bragging and exaggerating what we have to impress people. If my reputation, my public image, matters more to me than the glory of God or the well-being of my fellows, the pretentiousness of life has become the object of my idol worship.

These temptations are not new. Satan presented sin to Adam and Eve in the garden using this playbook. The fruit was good for food (desire of the flesh), the fruit looked good (desire of the eyes), and the promise to be like God (pride of life). These seemingly ordinary desires are actually tools of Satan to draw us away from God. The motivation is not to love the world because these things move us away from God.

Finally, we must remember that that world is temporal. In his commentary, James Boice wisely notes, “All that is in the world is transitory and therefore headed for destruction. The world is passing away, John states. So are its values and those who were characterized by its values. How foolish, then, to pin one’s hopes on the world system, however attractive it may appear or however rewarding.” John Calvin comments, “As there is nothing in the world but what is fading, and as it were for a moment, he hence concludes that they received their happiness from it, make a wretched and miserable provision for themselves, especially when God calls us to the ineffable glory of eternal life.”

However, when we sacrifice this world’s stuff for the Kingdom of God, we learn that God will always provide for our needs. We need not worry about the provisions of life if we are serving God and sacrificing for him. For he has promised us, But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).

Will you choose to live for this world or the next? Will you value personal time over God’s people? Will you value your toys over God’s church? Will you value your comfort over God’s work? Will you value that which lasts only a lifetime over that which lasts for eternity?

Don’t Fall in Love with the World

Paul Yarrow of South London has a weird hobby. He seems obsessed with appearing in the background of any news camera he can find. He has appeared in the background of live reports almost daily and across various networks throughout London, reading the newspaper, standing and loitering, staring at the camera, or smiling and waving. It seems that if there is a camera crew around, Yarrow is there as well. He loves appearing on the news.

We all love something. John recognizes this and challenges us about what we love. Last week we remembered that genuine believers love one another. They do this because they are forgiven, have a true knowledge of God, have overcome Satan, and know the Father. However, in the following few verses of 1 John 2, John challenges us about what we should not love. 1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

If we summarized this text into one statement, it would be that God calls us to be holy. To be holy means to be distinct and separate. We also see this challenge in 1 Peter 1:15-17. While we have entered into a new loving relationship with God, our old nature and its temptations have not ceased. For this reason, John challenges the believer not to love the world.

John begins this section with a reminder to us to be holy. He states this with two distinct challenges. First, don’t love the world. Two choices stand before everyone – even in the church: we love the Father or the world. But what does it mean to love the world? Isn’t this a contradiction to John 3:16? In his commentary, Danny Akin notes, “In these epistles and the gospel, John employs this term in three distinct and basic ways: (1) the created universe ( 3:17; 4:17; John 1: 10 ); (2) the world of the human person ( John 3:16; 1 John 2:2); and (3) an evil organized earthly system controlled by the power of the evil one that has aligned itself against God and his kingdom ( 4:3 – 5; 5:19; John 16:11).” So, when we speak of the world as the people in the world, we are to love them. But when we speak of the world as an evil system organized under Satan’s rule, we must not love it.

One cannot love both the world and God at the same time. While loving God, one cannot become infatuated with the world’s systems and goals. What equals a successful life for you? What must happen to reach the end of your life and think, “I was successful?” We could even simplify it and ask what equals success in life for you now? Is it possessing a lovely family, advancement in your job, or the ability to buy bigger and nicer toys? The reality is that success in life is faithfulness to God. The ability to stand before God one day and hear Him say well done because you lived with eternity in mind. Anything else demonstrates a love of the world.

However, we see second that John goes further and states that we are not to love the things of the world. We are not to fall in love with stuff. It is not wrong to have something in this world. For some, God has chosen to entrust them with lots of stuff in this world. Worldliness does not reside in things, but it does undoubtedly reside in our concentration on things. I am reminded of the words of Christ in Matthew 6:24 – No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Can you live without your stuff? If God took it away, would you be ok with it? This is the measure of an idol. You can’t live for your stuff, friends, family, job, or yourself and live for God simultaneously. God is exclusive.

Too many Christians are in love with the world. God takes a back seat to the things we love more than Him. We quickly allow our families, jobs, seasonals, ATVs, and sports to move God to the backburner. We give our funds to these things and choose not to give God his own money. Sadly, through these actions, we demonstrate that God is not the most important. Have you fallen in love with the world? Does it bother you when you miss church, miss serving others, or fail to give sacrificially because you are too busy doing other things? May God strike into each of us a love for Him. Next week we will look at verses 16-17 and examine the motivation for abstaining from a love of this world.

A New Commandment – July 15, 2022

Last week we looked at the need to love one another as a mark of true belief in God. As we draw close to God, we naturally love one another. John addresses this reality in 1 John 2:7-14. Yet, we understand that hate is often easier and feels more natural than love. As a result, John addresses the varying motivations for loving others.

John begins with the motivation for new believers (those he calls little children). They must remember that their sins have been forgiven. New believers demonstrate zeal and excitement over their newfound forgiveness and purpose in life. Frankly, this should never wane. We all ought to seek to cultivate this attitude. Yet, John states that this should translate into love for one another. Because we have been forgiven, we ought to be quick to forgive others. Because we did not deserve salvation, and yet God still showed us mercy and grace, we should show mercy and grace to others.

John then moves to the motivation for maturing believers (those he calls old men). To these, he gives three motivating factors in their lives. First, John states that they have overcome Satan. How have they overcome Satan? The following two motivations tell us. Second, maturing believers demonstrate that they are strong in the Spirit of God. They have a passionate personal relationship with God, so they have spiritual strength to live lives that please God. They can love the unlovable. But how is this possible? Third, they have the Word in them. Through consistent meditation on the Word of God, they have become strong in their faith and begin to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. Sadly the average evangelical Christian spends less than one hour a week reading their Bible. As a result, they are weak and listless in their spiritual life. One might even argue that this evidences unbelief. We cannot fulfill God’s commands without consistent meditation on the Word of God.

Finally, John moves to the motivation for elders (those he calls fathers). They have known God and seen God work through the years. They have traveled the Spiritual journey, walked the Calvary Road, and have seen God tried and tested in their life. They have seen God emerge faithful and loving over and over. Thus, they are motivated to obey God’s command to love one another because they have seen God’s love toward them.

Where do you fit in this conversation? Do you love others because God loves you? Or, are you marked by anger and bitterness because you assume God’s love? We must humble ourselves and seek a passionate relationship with God so that His love might pour through us into others’ lives.

A New Commandment – July 8, 2022

Over the past few years, our society has fractured around us. Whether the fault lines break around immigration, black lives matter & white lives matter, gun-control & 2nd amendment supporters, pro-life & pro-abortion, Republican & Democrat, we seem less unified as society progresses. However, the church should stand as a light of something different. We should be a model of unity and love. We must always understand that unity and love are fragile and can shatter in an instant without constant, intentional care. John understood this, and 1 John 2:7-14 reminds us of the new command from Christ in John 13:34-35. 

John begins with the confusing statement that the command is new and old. To start with, what John was writing to them was not a new command but an old one. They had learned it before because John had taught it before. They had known it from the beginning of their Christian life. The apostles taught the church this outworking of the gospel from day one. While the command was not new, Jesus Christ invested it in several ways with a richer and more profound meaning: Emphasized quality – It was to be true heartfelt love, not just a fulfilling of obligations; Emphasized extent – It was to go to all people, not just people like us; Emphasized fresh apprehension of it – We gain it through the Spirit of God. 

Further, John informs us that when we fail to love, we demonstrate that we walk in darkness. When we fail to love others, we act like Satan’s children. If you find your identity in racial or geopolitical politics and not in the kingdom of heaven, and if you are characterized by hate, you are in unbelief. 

On the other hand, John states that if you love your brother, you are walking in the light. In other words, if you love your brother, you walk in truth and demonstrate that you are a child of God. What does it mean to love one another? First, it will mean that when we fail to love and sin toward each other, we will go to each other and say sorry. Second, because this offense is often the other way, we must show our love through forgiveness. Third, we must show love by practical demonstration, even when it is costly. 

As believers, we are marked by our love for others. How are you doing in this area? As a fruit of the Spirit, this love occurs as we draw closer to God. For, your view of God dictates your view of life. May God grant in each of us a passionate love for others. 

A Win for Life – July 1, 2022

Sometimes, God reminds us that He controls this world’s events. Last week was one such time. Friday, as my family exited a White House tour, we noticed a large media contingency off towards the west wing. Wondering what was happening, we did what every self-respecting modern person does: we took out our smartphones. We learned that Roe V. Wade had been officially overturned.

While we heard rumblings for months that this day was coming, one never counts on the decision until it is official. Now we rejoice! Psalm 127:3 informs us that children are a gift and reward from God. They are not an inconvenience that needs to be eliminated. Friday’s decision will save countless lives. May God be praised!!

Yet, there remains work for us to continue. The work of pregnancy centers continues in importance. As a church, we must continue (and even increase) our partnership with Helping Hands. We ought to encourage our legislators to make adoption cheaper and easier to accomplish. And we must pray that God will continue to move in His sovereignty to change the course of our culture.

As we consider our current efforts, two actions rise to the surface. First, we must fight for life on the state level. Our governor has continually made one of her more true statements. She claims she will “fight like hell” for the right to murder unborn children. Indeed, the powers of Hell are the ones behind this satanic push. We must encourage our legislators to also fight for the unborn. We must pray that the State Supreme Court rules correctly and holds to the rule of law on the books. The battle has just begun at the state level.

Second, we must return to a Biblical sexual ethic. The foundation of the abortion movement is that sex must happen anywhere and anytime. Too many Christians fail to hold to the Biblical view that sex must only remain inside the marriage union. God, however, does not take a soft stance. Hebrews 13:4, Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. We must train our children when they are young and rebuke them when they are old that sex must remain only inside of marriage. The one-flesh relationship pictures God’s perfect relationship with the church. When we move sex outside of marriage, we mock the gospel. Hold to a Biblical sex ethic!!

While work remains, we do not cease to rejoice in this victory. God is great and greatly to be praised!!

Genuine Believers Obey God – June 17, 2022

Growing up, we had a plant in our back yard that looked like a cross between a tree and a bush. For years we wondered what sort of plant this could be. Then one year, we discovered the truth. The bush tree was an apple tree (it had not been cared for after the previous owner had planted it). We found that it was an apple tree because one summer day, we noticed that something was growing on it, apples.

When Christ walked the earth, he stated that just as we can identify trees by their fruit, we can recognize people by their fruit. Men can claim what they are all they want, but their fruit tells the true story. As a result, John states in 1 John 2:3-6 that genuine believers obey God. Your view of God dictates your view of life. So, if you are a genuine believer (thus possessing a proper view of God), you will seek to obey God out of gratefulness for all that God has done for you in salvation. So, John states that you can have confidence in your relationship with God if you obey Him. Genuine believers obey God. John illustrates this obedience in three areas.

First, John states that those who know God keep his commandments. The “knowledge” of God describe throughout the text of Scripture is not only intellectual but also experiential and dynamic. John further explains that this personal knowledge of God is not devoid of action. Those that know God keep his commandments.

Yet there is one more essential facet to this phrase. This verb, keep, means more than the observance of the command. It implies duration and perseverance: to observe diligently, guard carefully, and suddenly realize a truth. In other words, “to keep God’s word” goes far beyond mere conformity to law. It expresses a zealous desire to adhere to God’s will.

Christ illustrated what this looks like in the Semon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). In this text, Christ examined the ten commandments and revealed that keeping those commandments went well beyond the letter of the law. For instance, although one might refrain from actual murder, if one becomes angry with another, he murders his heart. The heart action is the same as the physical action. When the believer seeks to obey God’s command, he is not simply content with outward conformity but with inward change.

This mark of a believer raises an essential question for each of us. Do we seek to surrender or accomplish the bare minimum for God or willingly submit entirely to God’s commands? When you serve, do you serve only when convenient, or do you serve wholeheartedly and sacrificially? When you give, do you count down to the exact 10% tithe, or do you give sacrificially out of the abundance of grace God has given you? Genuine believers obey God’s commands, all the way down to the heart behind the command.

Genuine Believers Live A Life of Forgiveness – June 10, 2022

1 John 1:9 informs us that when we confess our sin, God is right and faithful to forgive our sin. Believers often struggle with forgiveness because we don’t understand it. We have false views of what forgiveness means. For us to value God’s forgiveness and pass forgiveness on to others, we must understand it correctly.

Peacemakers International presents a valuable picture of forgiveness through their book, Resolving Everyday Conflict. The author, Ken Sande, begins by describing some false views of forgiveness. Many find themselves struggling with these erroneous views. First, forgiveness is not a feeling. Often, individuals struggle to forgive because they don’t feel like forgiving. The hurt, bitterness, and anger remain so deeply seated that they cannot be overcome. But forgiveness is not a feeling. As humans of emotion, feeling and truth often clash. Our hearts deceive us (Jer. 17:9). But forgiveness is an action, not a feeling.

Second, forgiveness is not forgetting. Sometimes individuals state that they cannot forgive because they could never forget the sin against them. However, this statement misunderstands forgiveness. God forgives us and yet knows all. He does not forget our sin. Instead, God chooses not to remember (Jeremiah 31:34 and Hebrews 10:17). When God asks us to forgive, He is not asking us to forget. He is asking us to choose not to remember. While this is incredibly difficult, it is an important step.

Finally, forgiveness does not mean we need to excuse the sin. Sin is always sin. Sin must always be called sin. Forgiveness does not alter the nature of sin. Many times when someone seeks forgiveness, the response given is that they should not worry about it. Or that is it fine. However, sin must be acknowledged and addressed.

What then is forgiveness. True forgiveness involves four promises. When understood, these promises provide freedom and release. The first promise of forgiveness is that I won’t dwell on this incident. When God forgives us, He informs us that He will cast our sin as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). Often, we love to dwell on the sin against us. We think about it at night. We ruminate on it throughout the day. And as a result, we never truly let it go. We must choose instead to think about other things.

The second promise of forgiveness is that I will not bring up this incident and use it against you. God does not bring our sin back to us once it is placed under the blood of the cross (Is. 43:12; Hebrews 8:12). So we should not weaponize all that has happened against us. Instead, we must move forward and seek healing in the relationship.

The third promise is that I won’t talk to others about this incident. Often, others take up our offense. Yet, when reconciliation arrives, they are not a part of that reconciliation. We must ensure that we keep the circle of conversation only as large as the circle of offense. Don’t sin by gossiping about others.

The final promise is that I won’t allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our relationship. I must choose to repair the relationship. Although we have sinned against God, he does not hold it against us (Rom. 8:1). Relationships take hard work. This work requires humility. Ephesians 4:32 informs us that the motivation for this work is the incredible forgiveness of God for us.

Regardless of the sin against you and the pain you feel, God requires forgiveness by the believer. Yet, he also exemplifies this forgiveness to the believer. When we come to God in confession and repentance, God is right and faithful to grant that forgiveness to us. So also, we should give that forgiveness to others.

Genuine Believers Live a Life of Confession and Repentance, Part 3 – June 3, 2022

Corrie Ten Boom was a young Dutch woman during World War 2 in Amsterdam. From 1942-1944, her family hid Jews from the Germans in their home. However, they were discovered in 1944 and her entire family was sent to prison camps where they suffered unspeakable atrocities. When the war ended, Corrie was the lone surviving member of her family. After the war, she began to travel the world speaking to groups about the struggles of the war and the forgiveness of God. One day in 1947, the unthinkable happened. She relates the incident in her book, Tramp for the Lord.

“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to a defeated Germany with the message that God forgives … And that’s when I saw him working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and cross bones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin.

The place was Ravensbruck and the man who was making his way forward had been a guard – one of the most cruel guards. Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course – how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ He was saying, ‘I was a guard there. But since that time, He went on, I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, will you forgive me?’

And I stood there – I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven – and I could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place – could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could not have been many seconds that he stood there – hand held out – but to me it seemed like hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. For I had to do it – I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’

I still stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion – I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘Jesus help me!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being bringing tears to my eyes.

‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried ‘With all my heart.’ For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then. But even so I realized it was not my love. I had tried, but I did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Romans 5:5, ‘… because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us’.”[1]

May God grant us this heart of forgiveness for all those that wrong us. True forgiveness is in short supply today. Yet, it is needed in great supply today. Next week we will spend some time examining some confusion around forgiveness that may help us learn to forgive.


[1] Corrie Ten Boom, Tramp for the Lord (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1994), 55-57.