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Monday
Oct052015

The Fundamentals of Forgiveness, Part 6 - I John 1:5 - 10

One of the most difficult aspects of the doctrine and practice of forgiveness is the conditional nature of divine forgiveness.  We must begin by asking a very important question:  does God forgive everyone absolutely, unconditionally, and unilaterally?  If your answer is yes, then if you are consistent, you will assert that every Christian has the obligation to forgive everyone, all the time, unconditionally.  In a sense, this is the easiest position to have and it appears to be the "nicest" position.  But is it the biblical one?  If your understanding is that the Lord is merciful and gracious and that He forgives eagerly and completely, but also that this forgiveness is extended only to those who come humbly seeking it while confessing that they have sinned and those who refuse to do so are not forgiven, then that leads us to a very different conclusion.  The fact that the Lord withholds forgiveness to a particular class of person is plainly taught in the Scriptures.  One of many examples is Matthew 6:15  "But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."  This one example shows that, at least in principle, the Lord does withhold forgiveness under certain conditions.  Based upon Ephesians 4:32, we are to forgive "one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."  That is, the act of divine forgiveness is to be our pattern and guide.  (DISCLAIMER:  To say that the Lord's forgiveness is in some senses conditional, does not mean that you should spend all of your energies trying to figure out a way to not forgive because some (likely petty) condition has not been met.  Rather, the biblical example of divine forgiveness shows that the Lord is longsuffering and eager to forgive.)
If We Say That We Have Fellowship With Him… (vv. 5 – 7)  At the beginning of this section, the apostle says, " This is the message…"  And that message is that God is light.  That is, it is not created, but inherent to who He is.  God is light means that He is light, not bits and pieces here and there, but light which permeates every aspect of who He is in Himself and there is no darkness in any respect.  Light reveals.  Light illuminates.  Light brings knowledge and exposes reality.  Darkness hides.  Darkness obscures.  Darkness perpetuates ignorance and keeps us from perceiving the reality of things.  Of course, when the Holy Spirit uses this kind of language, He is not speaking primarily of photons or the lack thereof.  The Scriptures are using these terms by analogy.  The created physical universe illustrates what is true metaphysically.  That is, there can be no deception or sin which attaches to God.  So, "If we say we have fellowship, it means that we claim to share in the light of God.  If we are walking in darkness, then there is a problem.  This is referring to a continual life and practice.  The apostle is speaking of a perpetual activity.  This should give you comfort.  When you sin, it is not the place of the Christian to assume that he is no longer a Christian.  (What we ARE to do will be addressed below.)  Perpetual walking in darkness is what is being referred to.  If you are walking in darkness, then you are lying.  You are not "doing" the truth.  Truth is not, in the biblical sense, merely abstract facts.  It is something to practice and ultimately it is a person.  The Lord Jesus Christ is the personification of truth and the one upon whom truth is based.  Indeed, as the text says, contrarily, if you are walking in the truth, you are the one that has fellowship with God.  Again, the verb is active and continual.  The question is, how do you know if you are walking in the truth?  The Scriptures are the infallible guide.  It is in the word that the light of God is revealed.  And when we are walking in the light, not only is our fellowship with God, we can have fellowship with one another.  And as much as the walking and doing are continual and active. So is the cleansing by the blood of Christ.  And that blood is sufficient to cleanse all sin.  Here is a great and glorious truth.  As you and I walk in our pilgrimage, we sin and stumble and fall.  But this is not an indication that we are lost.The reality of the struggle against sin does not mean we are a hypocrite or lost.  Rather, it is assumed and implied by the need of cleansing by the blood of Christ.  It is only by that cleansing that we can have fellowship with a God who is light.  It is the only way to have fellowship with one another.
Applications:
1.  It is possible to deceive oneself and live a lie.
2.  Cleansing from sin is indispensable to fellowship with God.
3.  It is also related to our fellowship to one another.  The removal of the offense is necessary for a relationship to be repaired and restored.
If We Say We Have No Sin… (vv. 8, 9)  The assumption is that there is sin.  This is a most reasonable assumption in regards to our relationship with a holy God.  To deny that we have sin is to deny who we are and who God is.  It is to live a lie.  The deception is also self-administered.  The light of the truth is proclaimed in the gospel:  you and I are great sinners, and the Lord Jesus Christ is a great Savior.  When you are confronted with sin against the most-high majesty of God by reading the Word or hearing it preached, what is your response?  When you are confronted with sin against another human (believer or unbeliever) made in the image of God, what is your response?  the text says, "If we confess…"  To confess means to say the same thing.  It is also active but not perpetual.  (As indicated by the tense in the original)  True confession implies that the mind has been changed.  This means no equivocation and no excuse-making.   It also implies that once it is (truly) confessed, it does not need to be continually confessed because it has been forgiven.  And if we confess our sins to God, then God is faithful/just/righteous to forgive.  The one who has confessed his sin ought to be confident that the sin is forgiven.  God will not still hold that one accountable who has been cleansed by the blood of Christ.  God would be supremely unfaithful if this were not the case.  It would also be a great injustice on God's part to forgive those who deny their sin.
Applications:
Confession (saying the same thing) is a necessary prerequisite to forgiveness.
Once confession is made and the offence is acknowledged, forgiveness is the only just course on the part of the one offended.  This is what the Lord does for you and me.
And notice, according to God's justice, there are "obligations of justice" placed on both the offender and the offended.
Lastly, the Holy Spirit says, "If We Say That We Have Not Sinned…" (v. 10)  This is distinct from the other verbs for "sinning" in the section.  The force, while not a good translation, is "I don't sin".  It demonstrates a particular hardness.  It is a refusal to come to grips with the plain truth of the matter.  And this is true whether we consider our fellowship with God or our fellow man.  When confronted with the charge of causing offence, it is natural to defend yourself.  If you are a Christian, this natural instinct was overcome by the Holy Spirit and you confessed yourself to be a sinner before the just and holy God.  But it is possible that someone accuses you of an offence and it is a false accusation.  Your first inclination should be self-examination, not self-defense.  If say we have no sin before God, we make God a liar.  In regards to the gospel, God has revealed to us the truth.  The Lord Jesus Christ has told us the truth.  Faithful gospel preachers preaching the message we have heard from the beginning have told you the truth.  To deny this truth is to accuse God, the Savior, and faithful preachers of being liars.  This is a serious charge and many do not even realize that they are making the charge.  Contrary to the spirit of the age, truth is non-negotiable.  Truth is true because the God of Truth has ordained it to be so.  And to deny that truth is to say that the giver of that truth is a liar.  But furthermore, if one claims to be a believer and yet denies that he has sinned, he is showing that he is, in fact, not a believer and the truth is not in him.
Applications
1.  It is necessary that you see yourself as a sinner.  This has eternal consequences.  To not confess this is to deny the salvation which is freely offered through Christ.
2.  But also, it is necessary that you remember that you also sin against others.  Confession of sin to one another is a prerequisite to restoration.
3.  This is the only way we can live in love and harmony together.
All For Him,
Pastor Schlegel
Wednesday
Jul082015

Have You Not Seen? Have You Not Heard? - Isaiah 40:12-31

In this text, there is a question posed by the prophet:  "To whom then will you liken God?"  All of mankind must answer the question posed in verse 12 and your answer to the first question determines the answer to the second in verses 13 and 14.  The Lord declares that He created all things and this means that the Lord determines right/wrong, good/evil, light/darkness (verse 14)  It also means that the Lord is not dependent upon, nor answerable to, His creation (verses 15 – 17).  So in a very practical sense, the civil order is as nothing to the creator.  They must answer to Him, not He to them.  It is a grave error and a provocation to the Creator to presume to drag Him before the court of human "justice".  "To whom then will you liken God?" we are asked again in verse 18 – 20.  Having declared His rights as the Creator/God, the Lord challenges the whole world:  "to whom will you compare me?"  It is in the nature of fallen man to make his own false gods – and so they do to this day.  Notions of so-called social justice and the voice of the people determining right and wrong are the god's of the day.  BUT THEY ARE NOT LIKE, NOR A REPLACEMENT FOR, THE LORD!
The prophet further asks, "Have you not known?  Have you not heard?" in verses 21 – 24.  In particular, have you not known?  Have you not heard that He sits above the circle of the earth?  (verses 21, 22)  That is, He is in His place (notice He is sitting secure in His place) as King over the earth, though at times it appears that the wrong is oh so strong, He is the ruler yet.  As the text says, He inhabits the realm of heaven.  That is, He is imminent in His creation.  He has not abandoned us to our own devices and certainly has not left us to determine right and wrong for ourselves.  Christian, you know this and you have heard this.  Now, believe this!  Have you not known?  Have you not heard that He brings the princes to nothing?  (verse 23)  Every prince, potentate and president will die and return to the dust.  So will all of the schemes of the ungodly ones.  Each magistrate, judge and law-maker will die and stand before the great King and Judge.  Each will give an account of the honor and power they have been given.  How greatly should they quake even now if they despise the law and honor of God!  If they do not, then they are fools!  Read Psalm 36!  Have you not known?  Have you not heard He will cause them to wither and blow away?  (verse 24)  The wicked powerful of the earth have the appearance of permanence, but it is an illusion.  Indeed, they have deceived themselves and love to be deceived.  And their quick end will be one of woe.  Hear the Word of the Lord as spoken through the Prophet Isaiah:
Isaiah 3:9  The look on their countenance witnesses against them, And they declare their sin as Sodom; They do not hide it. Woe to their soul! For they have brought evil upon themselves. 
Isaiah 3:11  Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, For the reward of his hands shall be given him. 
Isaiah 5:18  Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of vanity, And sin as if with a cart rope; 
Isaiah 5:20  Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 
Isaiah 5:21  Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight! 
Isaiah 10:1  "Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees, Who write misfortune, Which they have prescribed 
Isaiah 29:15  Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the LORD, And their works are in the dark; They say, "Who sees us?" and, "Who knows us?" 
Isaiah 30:1  "Woe to the rebellious children," says the LORD, "Who take counsel, but not of Me, And who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, That they may add sin to sin; 
Isaiah 31:1  Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, And rely on horses, Who trust in chariots because they are many, And in horsemen because they are very strong, But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, Nor seek the LORD!
Did you read that last woe carefully?  That was a woe pronounced upon you and me if we look to "Egypt" for aid.  That is, if we look to mere material and human aids.  No!  Verses 25 to the end of the chapter tell us where we are ato look.
Again, the prophet asks, "To whom then will you liken me?  (verses 25, 26)  The prophet tells us, "Lift up your eyes and see…"  The Lord is manifested in the order of the creation.  Who set the planets in their courses, and the galaxies spinning in their habitations?  Who keeps all the stars in their places and plots their tracks across the sky?  The ungodly and unbeliever will snicker and howl at the answer.  Let them snicker and howl, it does not change the answer.  So lift up your eyes.  Do you see the might and power of God?  Of course you do and so does the reprobate.  For him it is a truth to be suppressed, for you who love the Lord, it is an indication of the power of the Lord who will vindicate His truth and defend His people.  Lift up your eyes and see.  The Lord is manifested in the control of the creation.  The ungodly seeks to control the creation for His own glory and aggrandizement, or he worships the creation seeks to be dominated by it.  Both deny the place of God and man.  And this is most clearly shown when mankind would seek to overthrow the created order and the distinctions of man and woman.  But lift up your eyes.  The Lord who controls the creation and sets the limits of nature will not allow the man in rebellion to overrule His order.  It has been triumphantly proclaimed, "Love wins!"  That, dear ones, is a wicked deception.  Beloved, God wins!  The Lord is triumphant and will be triumphant!  (I Cor. 15:25 and Rev. 6:2)  The Lord Jesus Christ is the one who conquered hell and death.  How much more so will He conquer those who have openly declared their rebellion against His rule.  Lift up your eyes and see.  The Lord is manifested in the preservation of the creation.  The Scriptures say in Colossians 1:16, 17, "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist."  That is, lift up your eyes and see that the very fact the universe has not collapsed tells you that the Lord is still preserving His creation until the last day.  Lift up your eyes and see that the same one who preserves the creation will even more so preserve you and me even in these dark days.  Let the nations rage, let the courts rule; it is the Lord who reigns and it is to Him alone we swear loyalty and allegiance.  Let the Gentiles rage, the Lord reigns indeed!
Have You Not Known?  Have You Not Heard?  (verses 27 – 29)  The Lord has revealed that He is attentive to our distresses.  Though the faithful ones in Isaiah's day may have said, "my way is hid from the Lord and my judgment is passed over from my God" the Lord does hear the prayers of His people and He does know what is happening in the world.  As verse 28 tells us, the Lord still in control.  The Lord is not weary.  The Lord is not blind and deaf.  But as the verse says, "His understanding is unsearchable".  That is, we often will not understand the wisdom of the Lord, but we can know that we are to trust Him.  The truth is, the Lord still gives what is needful to His people.  (verse 29)  He gives power to the weak.  Do you feel weak?  Do you feel defeated?  Trust in the Lord and He will give you strength.  The means of grace, the Word of God, the Sacraments, and prayer are there for you.  Do not neglect them.  He increases strength to those who have no might.  Times when endurance and power are needed may be coming very soon.  You do not have to trust in yourself.  In fact, I am telling you to not trust in yourself.  If you do , you will utterly fail.  But trust in the promise that the Lord will give you the endurance and power you need.  You may not see it until it is needed, but the promise is as true as the Lord is true.
So what are we to conclude?  We find the conclusion in verses 30 and 31.  Humanly speaking,  there is no reason to trust or hope, "but those who wait upon the Lord…" have a precious promise.  to those who eagerly hope and expect the Lord's vindication of His own truth and justice, "shall renew their strength."  Weariness will not touch them and they will soar like eagles on renewed feathers.  Of course, the implication being that there will be times when you ought to be weakened, you ought to be worn out, you ought to be weary, you ought to be faint.   And that weakness and weariness will come upon you if you do not wait upon the Lord.  But whatever may come, whatever the godless seek to do, whatever we are called upon to endure, do not lose heart, do not lose faith, do not despair.  The Lord still sits enthroned and the Lord Jesus Christ is still King of kings and Lord of lords.  Have you not seen?  Have you not heard?  Lift up your eyes and see.  Wait on the Lord.  He is still on the throne.  The Lord Jesus Christ has already won the victory!
All For Him,
Pastor Schlegel

 

Wednesday
Jun102015

The Fundamentals of Forgiveness, Part 5 - Psalm 86

We now turn our attention to Psalm 86 and some selected verses in particular.  As always, we need to keep in mind the foundational verse of Ephesians 4:32, "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."  In verses 1 through 5, the Lord is revealed to be ready to forgive.  God's readiness to forgive is expressed by the Psalmist initially as a part of God's goodness.  The Lord is good in every way.  He is good in His very essence and He is good in how He deals with His creation.  He is also good in that He is ready to forgive.  Of course, the readiness to forgive on God's part implies a necessity of forgiveness on our part.  It is the Lord we have offended by sin and it is the Lord who has provided for the forgiveness needed in the giving of the Savior.  When we seek forgiveness through the blood and sacrifice of Christ, the Lord does not stand aloof.  Rather, the forgiveness is given graciously and freely.  As soon as we plead for it it is given to us.  As the Psalmist notes, the Lord does all of these things because He is abundant in mercy.  Without the mercy of the Lord, the forgiveness would never be extended to sinners such as you and me.  So, to sum up the first point, we know from God's word that we are to "…be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."  (Eph. 4:32)  When David pleaded for mercy, He found that the Lord did not stand aloof.  Rather, the Lord was eager to forgive:  so should you be eager for Christ's sake.  (Please note:  I know that I have been emphasizing the obligation to forgive during these first five sermons and you may be thinking that this is all there is to it.  Please do not misunderstand.  I do believe that the Scriptures teach that sometimes forgiveness is rightly withheld.  We will get there.  The reason we are spending so much time on this part is because this is, in my judgment, where the problem mainly lies in the believing, evangelical church.  When you are confronted with the "opportunity" to forgive someone who has hurt you in some way, is your first inclination to decide whether or not they deserve it, or whether you can withhold forgiveness from them?  Should it not rather be looking for ways to show godly mercy to them?  For as we read in verses 6 through 13, the Lord has great mercy.
In verse 7, David shows that the Lord's mercy is demonstrated in the fact that He answers when we cry out to Him.  Indeed, the Lord encourages us to call out to Him.  Though He is great (verse 10), He hears the cries of His people when they seek deliverance and forgiveness.  The fact that He is great and that He has promised to hear us ought to give us comfort and boldness in seeking from Him what we need most:  forgiveness.  And since the Lord has goodness and mercy in their perfections and He has showered this goodness and mercy upon us, this means that we are also obligated to Him.  We are obligated to love Him, obey Him, worship Him, and to seek to emulate Him.  How much mercy have you required?  How much do you rely upon the goodness of the Lord?  All who truly understand their state, know that we would deplete the stores of goodness and mercy if that were possible.  So, to sum up this second point, did you notice how mercy appears again?  This Hebrew word, chesed, can be translated a number of ways.   It can mean kindness, beauty, kindness, mercy, pity, (and many other words).  But the root meaning is a reference to the neck and a bowing of the neck.  That is, to show this kind of mercy means that God (or you) stoop down to one who is lower.  The implication being that they are lifted back up again.  Christian, the Lord looked upon you with this chesed; the Lord Jesus Christ lowered Himself to take upon Himself your sins.  Likewise, you are to show chesed to those who are seeking it from you.
Lastly, in verses 14 through 17, the Lord is shown to be full of compassion.  We find this especially shown in verse 15.  You should notice first that there is a contrast indicated with the term "but".  The contrast is between those who had no compassion, grace, patience, or truth described in the immediately preceding verses.  David's enemies sought his death and destruction.  They had no compassion upon him and they were not looking to restore a broken fellowship with him.  Yet, the Lord showed Him compassion and shows compassion upon all who seek it from Him through Christ.  Where David's enemies sought his life, the Lord showed him grace.  The Lord would rightly seek your life for your sins, yet He shows compassion to the sinners and rebels who have sinned against Him.  Indeed, the Lord is said to be longsuffering.  Has the Lord told you what His will is?  Has the Lord commanded you to obey and that death is the consequence of disobedience?  Is the Lord blind that He cannot see, or deaf that He cannot hear?  Does He not know even the thoughts of your heart whether they are good or evil?  And yet, He stays His hand of judgment and rather, He gives to those who have defied and disobeyed Him.  And once again, the Lord is said to be merciful.  But in this case, the Psalmist says that the Lord is abundant in both mercy and truth.  This is very important.  The Lord's compassion, grace, and patience is not merely a show or falsely promised.  The Lord truly shows us His benefits and grants to us a path to restoration and a peace.  So now, to sum up this third point, the Lord is not playing games with us.  When He promises to deliver; when He promises to have mercy; when He promises to forgive – He truly does all these things.  That is, as we saw last time, the offence no longer causes a break in fellowship, though the pain and effect may continue.  The offence is put behind God's back and when we forgive it should be put behind our back.
So what is your attitude and disposition toward those who seek your forgiveness?  Are you ready to forgive?  Are you inclined to show mercy, or do you try to justify withholding forgiveness?  Your Lord has readily shown you mercy of such depth that it is a wretched thing to not show the same mercy to the one who seeks it.  In your heart and in your actions, are you compassionate to the offender?  For dear one, as the Prophet Nathan told King David, "you are the man!"  May the compassion we seek be the compassion we give.
All For Him,
Pastor Schlegel
Wednesday
Jun102015

The Fundamentals of Forgiveness, Part 4 - Isaiah 38:9-20

Regarding the biblical doctrine and practice of forgiveness, we will look at the example of Hezekiah who sought forgiveness from God. In this chapter, Hezekiah experienced the effect of the broken relationship and the Lord's mercy upon him. And once again, I would remind you of a foundation verse: Ephesians 4:32. "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." The example of divine forgiveness is to be our guide.
In verses 9 through 13, Hezekiah recognized that his offense had brought personal disaster. His whole life was negatively affected. He also saw the true end of his offense. In his case, the end was death. There was no part of the relationship which was not affected. The illustration of the sickness of Hezekiah is a perfect one. Hezekiah was wasting away and nothing else mattered. And while his whole life was affected, his relationship with God in particular was negatively effected. Even though the cause of the offense was over, the effect continued because it was unresolved. He saw that apart from some intervention, the problem would be a perpetual problem (as a lion which will not leave the prey, but break all the bones (verse 13). One can sense the total despair which overwhelmed Hezekiah. His whole world had been turned upside down. So the first point is that offenses play havoc with relationships and lives. While death is not necessarily the result, a relationship can be severely wounded by the thousand little paper cut offenses. These unresolved offenses can very easily affect the whole relationship and this principle is true whether you are examining your relationship with your spouse, your children, or your parents, not to mention your relationship with your Heavenly Father.
In verses 14 through 16, Hezekiah realized the result of his offense and it caused him pain as well. (He calls it mourning and bitterness) Something as simple as a word can cause relationship foundations to quiver. And if a word can do this, certainly harsh actions, cruelty, and so many other behaviors can tear down what has been built over many years. So it is not unusual for the one who has offended to grieve at this, The one who has offended can also perceive no way to restore what has been lost. When God is the one offended, believers can (and should) feel the pain, bitterness and yet, for all this, seeking forgiveness and granting forgiveness is not about finding a way to ease the pain, or to make what is bitter sweet. Seeking and granting forgiveness is about restoration and reconciliation. It is quite possible that the pain of a sin will never pass even though the offense is repented of and forgiven. Do not mistake feeling good with the purpose and goal of forgiveness. Sometimes one can forget that both the offender and the one offended can experience the pain which is caused by the offense. (In the case of offending God, it is not that He experiences pain, but that His holiness is offended and violated.) But notice the glimmer of hope which Isaiah reports in verse 16. Hezekiah knows that God is a God who is merciful and looks with compassion upon him and the act of love and compassion is described in the next verse.
In verse 17 through 20, we see that God's forgiveness brings personal restoration. Restoration was possible because the one offended loved the offender. This relationship between love and reconciliation is at the core of the message of the gospel. John 15:9-13, "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." Galatians 2:20-21, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." I John 3:16, "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." Restoration was possible because the Lord had cast Hezekiah's sins out of His sight (behind His back). The Lord has promised to not remember your sins when they are forgiven in Christ. Psalm 103:8-14 says, "The LORD is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." So the pattern of divine forgiveness is to take the offense and put it in a place where it cannot be seen anymore by the one who was offended. That is, the offence is removed and therefore, the relationship is restored. Restoration is possible, but love and forgetfulness must meet together. When you forgive, it is an act of love, but for it to be true forgiveness and true love, you must cast the offense behind your back. And if you forgive, you are to forget the offense as well. I do not say that it is easy, but that if you find yourself embracing that offense, consider that the Lord has pardoned you and restored you.
So in review, offenses cause great damage, but there is a remedy. The effect of offenses also tends to spread, but there is a remedy. And true restoration is the forgiving of the offense so that it never becomes a matter to be brought up again. Are you ready to forgive? Are you ready to restore?
All For Him,
Pastor Schlegel

The Fundamentals of Forgiveness, Part 4 - Isaiah 38:9-20
Regarding the biblical doctrine and practice of forgiveness, we will look at the example of Hezekiah who sought forgiveness from God. In this chapter, Hezekiah experienced the effect of the broken relationship and the Lord's mercy upon him. And once again, I would remind you of a foundation verse: Ephesians 4:32. "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." The example of divine forgiveness is to be our guide.
In verses 9 through 13, Hezekiah recognized that his offense had brought personal disaster. His whole life was negatively affected. He also saw the true end of his offense. In his case, the end was death. There was no part of the relationship which was not affected. The illustration of the sickness of Hezekiah is a perfect one. Hezekiah was wasting away and nothing else mattered. And while his whole life was affected, his relationship with God in particular was negatively effected. Even though the cause of the offense was over, the effect continued because it was unresolved. He saw that apart from some intervention, the problem would be a perpetual problem (as a lion which will not leave the prey, but break all the bones (verse 13). One can sense the total despair which overwhelmed Hezekiah. His whole world had been turned upside down. So the first point is that offenses play havoc with relationships and lives. While death is not necessarily the result, a relationship can be severely wounded by the thousand little paper cut offenses. These unresolved offenses can very easily affect the whole relationship and this principle is true whether you are examining your relationship with your spouse, your children, or your parents, not to mention your relationship with your Heavenly Father.
In verses 14 through 16, Hezekiah realized the result of his offense and it caused him pain as well. (He calls it mourning and bitterness) Something as simple as a word can cause relationship foundations to quiver. And if a word can do this, certainly harsh actions, cruelty, and so many other behaviors can tear down what has been built over many years. So it is not unusual for the one who has offended to grieve at this, The one who has offended can also perceive no way to restore what has been lost. When God is the one offended, believers can (and should) feel the pain, bitterness and yet, for all this, seeking forgiveness and granting forgiveness is not about finding a way to ease the pain, or to make what is bitter sweet. Seeking and granting forgiveness is about restoration and reconciliation. It is quite possible that the pain of a sin will never pass even though the offense is repented of and forgiven. Do not mistake feeling good with the purpose and goal of forgiveness. Sometimes one can forget that both the offender and the one offended can experience the pain which is caused by the offense. (In the case of offending God, it is not that He experiences pain, but that His holiness is offended and violated.) But notice the glimmer of hope which Isaiah reports in verse 16. Hezekiah knows that God is a God who is merciful and looks with compassion upon him and the act of love and compassion is described in the next verse.
In verse 17 through 20, we see that God's forgiveness brings personal restoration. Restoration was possible because the one offended loved the offender. This relationship between love and reconciliation is at the core of the message of the gospel. John 15:9-13, "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." Galatians 2:20-21, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." I John 3:16, "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." Restoration was possible because the Lord had cast Hezekiah's sins out of His sight (behind His back). The Lord has promised to not remember your sins when they are forgiven in Christ. Psalm 103:8-14 says, "The LORD is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." So the pattern of divine forgiveness is to take the offense and put it in a place where it cannot be seen anymore by the one who was offended. That is, the offence is removed and therefore, the relationship is restored. Restoration is possible, but love and forgetfulness must meet together. When you forgive, it is an act of love, but for it to be true forgiveness and true love, you must cast the offense behind your back. And if you forgive, you are to forget the offense as well. I do not say that it is easy, but that if you find yourself embracing that offense, consider that the Lord has pardoned you and restored you.
So in review, offenses cause great damage, but there is a remedy. The effect of offenses also tends to spread, but there is a remedy. And true restoration is the forgiving of the offense so that it never becomes a matter to be brought up again. Are you ready to forgive? Are you ready to restore?
All For Him,
Pastor Schlegel

Wednesday
Jun102015

The Fundamentals of Forgiveness, Part 3 - Psalm 130

The relationship between the Lord's act of forgiving is directly tied to your obligation to forgive. When considering the biblical doctrine and practice of forgiveness, there is a temporal and causal relationship which bears directly upon what you are, and what you are not, to do and expect when forgiving or seeking forgiveness. In the first two sermons, we learned that when one offends you and seeks forgiveness, you are to forgive, and that if you know that you have offended, you are to seek to be reconciled. In both cases, I pointed out that the basic principle of forgiveness is found in the divine practice of forgiveness. In Ephesians 4:32, that principle is explicit. But before we can consider Ephesians 4:32, we must understand Psalm 130.
In the first half of the Psalm, the Psalmist expresses the realization that his offences have put him in a very bad place. It is like drowning. The knowledge of the break in fellowship is overwhelming to him. You should notice that his pleas excluded all of the other circumstances. That is, what the Psalmist wants above all things is for the Lord to hear his cry so it is to the Lord that the cry is made. This is the ordinary place of all of Adam's fallen children. We are all drowning. But some cry for mercy and others do not. Nevertheless, we ALL offend and we all need for the Lord to hear our cry. But what if the Lord hears your cry and responds with condemnation and lets you drown in your sins? So, the Psalmist asks a terrifying hypothetical and rhetorical question: what if God marks iniquities? "Mark" meaning keeping track of and preserving for the Day of Judgment. If God were to summon any one of us before His throne of justice to answer according to one's own iniquity, none could endure it. Yet, the hypothetical would indicate that the Lord does not "mark" our sins. In commenting on this, one of my favorite OT commentators said it much better than I can: "…were it not for pardon, and the hope of it, men would be desperate; and, having no hope, would resolve upon taking their swing of sin, and be entirely negligent of the worship and service of God: was there no forgiveness of sin, there would be no more fear of God among men than there is among devils, for whom there is no forgiveness; there might be dread and trembling, as among them, but no godly fear: yea, if God was strictly to mark iniquity, and not pardon it, there would be none to fear him, all must be condemned and cut off by him; but, in order to secure and preserve his fear among men, he has taken the step he has to pardon sin through the propitiatory sacrifice of his Son; and a discovery, and an application of his grace, teaches men to fear to offend him; influences them to serve him acceptably with reverence and godly fear, and engages them to fear him and his goodness, and him for his goodness's sake…" (John Gill)
In the second half of the Psalm, the Psalmist confesses his hope in the promised forgiveness. He says that, "I wait". He is patient in anticipating the blessing. When one is sure of the good purposes of the one appealed to, it is enough to lay the appeal before them and wait. He places his trust in the sure word of God. And what does His word say? Psalm 86:1-5 says, "Bow down Your ear, O LORD, hear me; For I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am holy; You are my God; Save Your servant who trusts in You! Be merciful to me, O Lord, For I cry to You all day long. Rejoice the soul of Your servant, For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You." He also compares himself to those who wait for the morning. What a beautiful illustration! Those who wait for the morning know that morning will come: they are confident. And those who wait for the morning are refreshed by the sight of it. Without the hope of God's mercy, we would despair. The one's who had sold themselves in slavery – the slavery of sin – experience the abundant redemption as they wait upon, and place their hope in, the God who forgives. The psalm began with the cry from the depths; it ends with the quiet confidence that the Lord's purpose will be fulfilled. Notice how the confident expectation dispels doubt and restores the peace which had been disturbed by the offence. There is no greater act of mercy; there is no greater act of reconciliation; there is no greater act of grace. But this does not mean that mercy, reconciliation, and grace are not found elsewhere. Indeed, they are to be found elsewhere. And we find it in the description of the practice of forgiveness in Ephesians 4:32.
The explicit and plain principle expressed here is, whatever offences are committed, or whatever injuries are inflicted by the Lord's people to one another, they should forgive according to a specific standard. Notice the standard! How much grace have you received? How much kindness?, How much tenderheartedness? In whatever measure you have been forgiven: forgive. In the NT, there are two primary words translated "forgive." One means to send away. It often refers to a debt which is cancelled. The other means to show grace or favor unconditionally. This is the word used here. You are to graciously forgive because you have been graciously forgiven. You are to forget the offence and you are not to throw it in the face of the one who offended because that is what the Lord has done for you. (Lord willing, I will preach on this aspect this coming Lord's Day.) As the Lord declares through the prophet Micah, "Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea. (7:18, 19) Do you delight in mercy, or do you retain your anger when one sins against you?
All For Him,
Pastor Schlegel


Edit The Fundamentals of Forgiveness, Part 3 - Psalm 130TUESDAY, JUNE 09, 2015Posted by: Providence Reformed Church | more.. 400+ views | 130+ clicks
The relationship between the Lord's act of forgiving is directly tied to your obligation to forgive. When considering the biblical doctrine and practice of forgiveness, there is a temporal and causal relationship which bears directly upon what you are, and what you are not, to do and expect when forgiving or seeking forgiveness. In the first two sermons, we learned that when one offends you and seeks forgiveness, you are to forgive, and that if you know that you have offended, you are to seek to be reconciled. In both cases, I pointed out that the basic principle of forgiveness is found in the divine practice of forgiveness. In Ephesians 4:32, that principle is explicit. But before we can consider Ephesians 4:32, we must understand Psalm 130.
In the first half of the Psalm, the Psalmist expresses the realization that his offences have put him in a very bad place. It is like drowning. The knowledge of the break in fellowship is overwhelming to him. You should notice that his pleas excluded all of the other circumstances. That is, what the Psalmist wants above all things is for the Lord to hear his cry so it is to the Lord that the cry is made. This is the ordinary place of all of Adam's fallen children. We are all drowning. But some cry for mercy and others do not. Nevertheless, we ALL offend and we all need for the Lord to hear our cry. But what if the Lord hears your cry and responds with condemnation and lets you drown in your sins? So, the Psalmist asks a terrifying hypothetical and rhetorical question: what if God marks iniquities? "Mark" meaning keeping track of and preserving for the Day of Judgment. If God were to summon any one of us before His throne of justice to answer according to one's own iniquity, none could endure it. Yet, the hypothetical would indicate that the Lord does not "mark" our sins. In commenting on this, one of my favorite OT commentators said it much better than I can: "…were it not for pardon, and the hope of it, men would be desperate; and, having no hope, would resolve upon taking their swing of sin, and be entirely negligent of the worship and service of God: was there no forgiveness of sin, there would be no more fear of God among men than there is among devils, for whom there is no forgiveness; there might be dread and trembling, as among them, but no godly fear: yea, if God was strictly to mark iniquity, and not pardon it, there would be none to fear him, all must be condemned and cut off by him; but, in order to secure and preserve his fear among men, he has taken the step he has to pardon sin through the propitiatory sacrifice of his Son; and a discovery, and an application of his grace, teaches men to fear to offend him; influences them to serve him acceptably with reverence and godly fear, and engages them to fear him and his goodness, and him for his goodness's sake…" (John Gill)
In the second half of the Psalm, the Psalmist confesses his hope in the promised forgiveness. He says that, "I wait". He is patient in anticipating the blessing. When one is sure of the good purposes of the one appealed to, it is enough to lay the appeal before them and wait. He places his trust in the sure word of God. And what does His word say? Psalm 86:1-5 says, "Bow down Your ear, O LORD, hear me; For I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am holy; You are my God; Save Your servant who trusts in You! Be merciful to me, O Lord, For I cry to You all day long. Rejoice the soul of Your servant, For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You." He also compares himself to those who wait for the morning. What a beautiful illustration! Those who wait for the morning know that morning will come: they are confident. And those who wait for the morning are refreshed by the sight of it. Without the hope of God's mercy, we would despair. The one's who had sold themselves in slavery – the slavery of sin – experience the abundant redemption as they wait upon, and place their hope in, the God who forgives. The psalm began with the cry from the depths; it ends with the quiet confidence that the Lord's purpose will be fulfilled. Notice how the confident expectation dispels doubt and restores the peace which had been disturbed by the offence. There is no greater act of mercy; there is no greater act of reconciliation; there is no greater act of grace. But this does not mean that mercy, reconciliation, and grace are not found elsewhere. Indeed, they are to be found elsewhere. And we find it in the description of the practice of forgiveness in Ephesians 4:32.
The explicit and plain principle expressed here is, whatever offences are committed, or whatever injuries are inflicted by the Lord's people to one another, they should forgive according to a specific standard. Notice the standard! How much grace have you received? How much kindness?, How much tenderheartedness? In whatever measure you have been forgiven: forgive. In the NT, there are two primary words translated "forgive." One means to send away. It often refers to a debt which is cancelled. The other means to show grace or favor unconditionally. This is the word used here. You are to graciously forgive because you have been graciously forgiven. You are to forget the offence and you are not to throw it in the face of the one who offended because that is what the Lord has done for you. (Lord willing, I will preach on this aspect this coming Lord's Day.) As the Lord declares through the prophet Micah, "Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea. (7:18, 19) Do you delight in mercy, or do you retain your anger when one sins against you?
All For Him,
Pastor Schlegel