. . . as I forgive those who . . .
Carving out pathways to bring us through 2020 may be a natural part of January. We seek newness, growth, health, happiness, prosperity, and I pray our Lord, who is the giver of all good things, blesses us all abundantly this year. Our Father's plan is indeed to bless us (Jeremiah 29:11), so why do we sometimes feel unblessed?
Why do we sometimes feel emptiness when we want to be filled, hurt when we want healing, distance when we long for intimacy, unrest when we search for peace? If the promises of Jeremiah (29:11) are true, why are we so often caught in the waiting game? Not blessed now, but waiting, praying, hoping, for the blessings to come? Is there anything we can do to open up the heavenly storehouses to unleash the blessings? Or is this all in God's control while we sit tight?
As Christians, we surrender to the Father's will, but that does not mean we are pawns in our own destiny. Of course the most exuberant blessing we can receive is eternity with the Father. It is interesting that God's design for salvation held a role for us. While all of the mechanics were held in His mighty hand, we each needed to step into the blessing with a confession of our sin, an acknowledgement of the need for atonement, and a humble request for forgiveness. And with that, a powerful, magnificent, eternal and holy blessing for each of us was poured out.
That was the day of our salvation. Now it's January 2020 - what do we do now? What other blessings are there, just waiting for us to receive? And instead of sitting patiently . . . waiting . . . praying . . . hoping . . . for them to fall, what if there is something we could do, as we did with our confession to receive salvation, to open the Hand of God?
God's beloved Israel was a chosen nation (Leviticus 20:26). He had a special covenant with them - a relationship of love, nurturing, hope, truth, prosperity, and posterity. But Israel, God's chosen people whom He loved, walked away from Him. They distanced themselves from God and His blessings. "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2).
God pleaded with them to return to Him and the promises he had for them! "'Return, fatherless Israel,' declares the Lord, 'I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,' declares the Lord, 'I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt - you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me.' declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 3:12-13); "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing" (Matthew 23:27).
All God longed for was their repentant heart, so they could come back to HIm. "'If you return, O Israel, return to me,' declares the Lord. 'If you put away your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way, you swear, 'As surely as the Lord lives,' then the nations will be blessed by Him and in Him they will glory" (Jeremiah 4:1-2).
By the blood of Christ, we have been grafted in to the vine of Israel (Ephesians 2:12-13); we, like Israel, now have a covenant relationship with God, and we, like Israel, fall away - everyday, in some small way. There are many reasons why we fall away from God, but all of them have the same remedy for bringing us back to the heart of God: our confession and His forgiveness.
There are different types of confession and forgiveness:
1. Confession before God. When we sin, the greatest harm is to our relationship with our Father. A contrite heart is all we need to make genuine apology before God.
2. God's forgiveness of us. He is merciful and just and will cleanse us from ALL our sins if we confess (1 John 1:9). His forgiveness is total, everlasting, and without judgement.
3. Confession to one-another. There is little else more humbling than a raw-faced, heart-felt apology. Admitting our wrong and acknowledging the pain we have inflicted on someone else is sobering.
4. Our forgiving of others. When someone sins against us, we are to forgive them, as the Father forgives us (Luke 11:4). This command is not contingent on whether the offender is truly repentant or not, or if they ask for forgiveness - they may not even be aware of their offense. It's about our relationship with the Father, independent of their position before God.
When we don't forgive others for the wrong they have done to us, we ourselves, are in sin.
What if 2020 was the year for forgiveness for each of us? Cleaning house - removing our sin through confession to God, removing our bitterness of others' sin through forgiving others, receiving His daily cleansing and making restitution. What if, like Israel, He is calling us back to Him, to surrender into the comfort of His protection and His provision? What if we did in fact hold the keys to unlocking the blessings of heaven . . .
We have an active role in the blessings we receive. We hold the power to know our hearts (Psalm 139:23), to know our bitterness (Psalm 139:24), and to recognize any unforgiveness that abides within us (Psalm 139:24). We have the power to deny it, or to acknowledge it (Jeremiah 3:13); the power to self-pity it (Job 6:14) or confess it (Luke 11:4). We have the power to live a life that conforms to the world (Romans 12:1-2) or to place ourselves on the altar in full submission to our Lord (Romans 6:22; Matthew 16:24).
'Test me in this' says the Lord almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it'" (Malachi 3:10).
The Lord is ready to bless. Are you ready to receive?
1. When someone sins against you, do you feel they need to understand the hurt they caused in order for you to forgive them? If they never admit, or own their sin, how would that impact your decision to forgive them? How would it impact your personal relationship with God?
2. Can you think of 3 or more people who you have been offended by in the past year or two? Have you fully forgiven them? How do you know? If you haven't, what is holding you back?
3. When we repent of our sin before God, He promises to cleanse us fully from anything and everything (1 John 1:9). How does this provide latitude in your willingness to surrender to Him in all things? Where do you stand in Paul's argument for grace in Ephesians 6?
Our Father, we ask that you would teach us to surrender fully to you, confessing our daily sin, and forgiving others as you have forgiven us. Lord we ask that you would work in us a pure heart that we would not deceive ourselves into believing there is no sin in us, but that your Holy Spirit would convict us, that we would listen, that we would respond, confess, and be cleansed, that we may walk with you more deeply and humbly - For Your Glory. Amen!