Refuge

Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

God's People United


            Before we get into the topic at hand, let me encourage you to take action in keeping with the current US Presidential "election season" before us.  Register to vote, and vote!  

            My September 2, 2012 blog post dealt with a biblical posture of heart for a follower of Christ to have toward government. Maybe it shouldn't surprise us to discover how many believers seem to be apathetic about elections coming up. Although our heart connection to God is much more important than our loyalty to a political platform, they are not completely independent of one another. Apathy towards our nation's heritage and future purpose on the globe, generally indicate an apathetic view towards God and His purposes for family, church, and community. 

            Apathy, or complacency,  is one of the "sins of Sodom" listed in the prophet Ezekiel's writings in the Old Testament.  The New International Version (NIV) calls it "unconeern."  Sodom's sins "'were  arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy'" (Ezekiel 16:49).  Frankly, the abundant prosperity in our nation has caused many people to become proud and lazy.  Being a disciple of Christ involves transformation of the inner person to root out apathy and complacency. This process takes intentional effort and dedication.  If your attitude is indifferent towards people less fortunate than you, beware lest the same needy condition appears in your own life. Worse yet, if your attitude is apathetic towards the sin in your own heart (and those around you) and deemed wicked (2 Chronicles 7:14) as discussed in my previous blog post, your personal life and relationships will suffer serious consequences. Complacency in the hearts of followers of Christ is one of the greatest threat to America today. Seeking God's forgiveness is the only hope.

            I wrote a book on the topic of forgiveness because it is the central theme of all Scripture and life with God.  Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart helps the reader find freedom from the anger and fear that keeps people bound in pride and apathy.

            God not only designed the process of forgiveness and reconciliation for individual and family relationships to be the best they can be, but God’s purposes are much larger.  God is building a family of His very own—a kingdom of sons and daughters.  He restores relationships to be an expression of unity for Kingdom purposes. 

            The first sin fractured unity.  It broke the unity between mankind and heaven.  It fractured the unity between man and woman.  It destroyed the unity between man and nature (Genesis3:17-18).  God wants us to share in the restoration of unity throughout creation, fulfilling His purpose throughout the heavens.  Through the Church, He wants to bring all creation into His eternal purpose (Rom.3:19-21; Eph 3:10-11; Phil 2:12).  Forgiveness is the seat of unity for the restoration of the Kingdom of God.  “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!   It is like precious oil … It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.  For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore” (Psalm133:1-3).

            The level of unity discernable among members of a church congregation is indicative of the overall health of that body of believers.   If there is disunity, there will be heaviness, rancor, and distrust.  If there is unity, there is lightness, joy, and a sense of blessing pouring over all.  Forgiveness restores unity, and only where unity exists can blessing be poured out.

            The Church is riddled with the effects of unforgiveness.  Unforgiveness distorts truth and locks people in their own subjective perceptions of reality (Romans7:21-25).  Discernment becomes warped because issues are interpreted from a childish, ungodly point of view (1 Cor 3:2-3, 13:11-12; Eph 4:2-3).  Unforgiveness causes people to fall short of the grace of God (Heb 12:15; Rom 2:1).  It causes stress from unresolved debt and cycles of sin (Matt 18:23-35).  It destroys any hope for resolving conflict by taking away the ability to lovingly confront others and to receive correction from others (Prov 20:30, 25:11; 27:5; 2 Cor 4:16-18; 1 John 4:17).  The disunity caused by unforgiveness makes the Church more vulnerable to attacks by Satan (2 Cor 2:5-11; Eph 4:26-27, 31-32).  It creates facades, superficiality, distrust, and lack of transparency, honesty and integrity (Luke 11:39-40; 1 John 4:19-20).  It creates exhaustion! (Matt 11:28).  

            The heart of Jesus is for His Bride, the Church.  The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life" (Rev 22:17).  Forgiveness is the “free gift of the water of life.”  Christ’s forgiveness is transforming the Church into a beautiful Bride. 

            Forgiveness changes hardness of heart into compassion.  People become consistently pure and transparent.  Forgiveness makes life richer, more filled with love, more expansive, more spiritually alive, more abundantly satisfying.  Although people may disagree with others, they appreciate the differences.  They begin to value diversity.  They learn to appreciate people for the way they provide balance for the whole—lifting, enriching, blessing, fulfilling, challenging and sometimes wounding as well.  Forgiving helps make people appreciate the ways differences, challenges, rebukes, and woundings drive them to perfection for Him.  People walking in forgiveness also provide the means by which God’s Kingdom is established on earth and the Father’s blessing is extended. 

            Spiritual authority is granted through forgiveness. “Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."  And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven" (John 20:21-23).  God’s authority is carried out through his people receiving and granting forgiveness. 

            Peace and rest are also granted through forgiveness.  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt 11:28-29).  Forgiveness provides a framework for authenticity in relationships.  It relieves the stress of trying to hide the inconsistencies in one’s life.  Forgiveness and reconciliation reveal a heart of trust in God’s plan for repentance and rest as the means of salvation (Isa 30:15). 

            In order to press in to a deeper place of abiding peace and joy in Christ, are you ready to throw off whatever hints of complacency are left in your heart?  Will repentance and forgiveness be understood and practiced by the Church, to the degree necessary for us to awaken from our slumber and unify.  Before we are overtaken by the consequences of apathy, I pray our hearts respond and heed the wisdom of Proverbs 1:32, "For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them" (NASB).  If you haven't yet read Eric Metaxas' biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, it is a must read to discover a practical example in modern history. It has been said, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

            Let's remember the words of the author of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament, " See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.   We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first" (Heb. 3:12-14). We are forgiven, forgiving, and called to forgive until the end.
 

            Note:   The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith)  to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: http://bluerockbnb.com/healing/book_main.htm . If you get anywhere near Pennsylvania for vacation or on business, be sure to look us up for lodging at  http://bluerockbnb.com 

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

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