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

Monday, January 2, 2012

Receiving the Gift of Forgiveness

                 The Christmas season includes much to do with giving gifts and the New Year is a perfect time to practice the theme of my previous blog post to evaluate whether you are focused merely on symptoms or whether your resolutions have a good chance of producing solutions. A related theme in this blog post is understanding forgiveness as a gift. It is more blessed to give than receive, right? When considering our human-to-human relationships Jesus certainly taught this to be true, but when we humans can learn how to better receive from our loving Father and Creator, we will have much more to give in our human relationships. The truth of the matter is that we have nothing to give, that we haven't first received from our heavenly Father. 
                 When it comes to understanding and practicing forgiveness, one of the most common errors is to try to forgive in our own strength. Human will power and mere choice does not accomplish forgiveness. God does, through the Gift of His Son Jesus Christ. Allowing this revelation to become more or a reality, could be the most radically life-changing resolutions you will ever make.
            Knowing about forgiveness is not enough; one must experience forgiveness. To practice God-centered forgiveness, one must know the Forgiver. A cognitive ascent to the truth about redemption helps to prepare the way, but a personal relationship with the Redeemer affords the intimacy needed for the act of receiving the gift. For a gift to accomplish its intended purpose for being given, it must be received. An act of kindness shrugged off by a recipient does not complete the purpose for a giver expressing love. A $100 check may be given to a family member on a special occasion, but unless the check is cashed into a bank account, the gift cannot be discharged for its intended use. 
The transforming power of forgiveness must be received and experienced in our heart (as a gift from Father God) in order for the “renewing of the mind” to be accomplished. A Christian’s conversion opens the door (deposits the check in the illustration above) to the Holy Spirit’s power to appropriate the miracle of God’s free gift of forgiveness as discussed more in Chapter Three of my book referenced in this blog.
            Another dominant theme in the book is how sanctification involves a cooperative effort between God and man. One of the gauges of maturity in a Christian’s life is the ability to receive God’s love (in greater and greater measures) and extend His love to other people. Being able to express and receive love is the true test of our relationship with God.
            Jesus completed the work of forgiveness. Recognizing both the volitional and emotional aspects of the suffering of Christ in accomplishing forgiveness creates increased awareness of the depths of God’s love. Christ acted in accordance with the Father’s pleasure. No greater love can be known. The type of suffering Christ endured had been prophesied by Isaiah and others hundreds of years before Christ came to earth. Christ knew precise details of the kind and magnitude of his sufferings, including the excruciatingly painful death He would have to experience.
            In order to atone for the sin of mankind (to satisfy God’s wrath), Christ had to suffer. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:2-3). In his humanity, Jesus suffered. He suffered temptation; rejection, and betrayal; hardships in ministry on behalf of others; sorrow and remorse; and the struggle of accepting the suffering in the garden of Gethsemane.
             Christ suffered extreme physical pain in the process of crucifixion. Though sinless himself, He suffered the judgment of God the Father for sin. In his death, Jesus accomplished the death of death. The work of Christ on the cross provides the basis of forgiveness of sin. Forgiveness of sin was the focus of the teaching of Jesus. Jesus demonstrated his power over evil, performed miracles (not being preoccupied with his own suffering), gave glory to whom glory was due (His Father), showed great patience in his sufferings, refrained from returning evil for evil, and maintained a sense of mission through it all. His suffering in death and His resurrection give meaning and hope in the midst of our suffering (Bible references are included in the book).
            What a gift! In my own life, this has been one of the most liberating revelations of all time. When I feel hurt or offended in some way, I do not have to come up with an ability to forgive, but instead simply believe and allow God's ability to be activated in my heart.
            I invite you to explore the same reality. Maybe you feel like you are the greatest offender against yourself, like you don't deserve such a wonderful gift, or that others can receive, but you are unable to receive the gift for some reason. Don't believe the lie!  Nothing disqualifies you from being able to receive the gift. Self-doubt and self-condemnation are tactics of an enemy mindset designed to rob you from accessing the Refuge of healing through Jesus--Savior, and most wonderful gift ever given. Don't allow disappointments, discouragement, depression, anxiety, fear, hatred, bitterness or symptoms of the like to steal the solution of receiving and trusting God's love today.

            Note:   The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  Most of the text above is taken directly from text near the beginning of Chapter Four of the book. I pray that you will find this book a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here:
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry