Forgiveness in the Age of Rage

The Bible has a great deal to say about forgiveness. The world, and even many in evangelicalism, justify their anger. As MacArthur notes, anger is fueled by psychology and narcissistic self-centeredness. Our churches today are now even telling their members that in order to extend forgiveness to others that true believers have to forgive themselves.

Further, preachers intone that it is a necessity to forgive yourself for your own sin or shortcomings. This is a dangerous teaching that quickly borders on heresy for it leads to the teaching that we have to forgive God.

Forgiveness is necessary in order for true believers to portray the Christ by which we are named. He forgave us when we were unloveable and did not deserve to be forgiven. To NOT forgive is to make ourselves to better than Christ.

Winning the Battle Against Sin – Part 1

Every true believer fights against what remains of the human nature. Just because we have been given a new heart by God does not mean that we can be sinless as some teach. Until we are glorified and forever with the Lord, we will battle daily against the things that plague us.

John MacArthur’s new series should prove to be a great encouragement to us. It is our intention to post the next parts over the weeks to come.

A Hymn from Psalm 130

Our precious Savior said the following words in Matthew 11:28-30.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

It echoes the words from King David in Psalm 130.

A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Sighing and Groaning?

In my reading through the Scriptures in a year, today I read Ezekiel 5-9. I realize that Ezekiel was written by the prophet Ezekiel to the people of Judah and Israel. Yet, my mind struggled with what was prophesied would happen to Jerusalem.

V. 3 tells us the glory of God had departed! This is itself is tragic, but read on.

Vv. 4-6 give a solemn declaration of judgment pronounced against those who were God’s chosen people. These verses read like this in the ESV,

4 And the LORD said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” 5 And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. 6 Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house. — (Emphasis added)

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Dear brothers and sisters, how often do we read through the pages of Scripture and fail to understand what is happening?

We can often overlook the principles found in the Scriptures and do not comprehend how it can apply to our own lives over 2 1/2 millennium after Ezekiel wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Under the judgment of God, the ONLY people who would be protected from the wrath of the Almighty were those who sighed and groaned over all the abominations.

There would be no pity shown, and nobody was exempt. Sadly, the nation had become so corrupt that the messengers who would be placing the mark upon the foreheads were told to start with the elders.  These were the men charged with the religious and governmental affairs of the nation.

In other words, there were people from the top of the religious and social stratum who were NOT sighing and groaning over the abominations. These abominations were so vulgar and grotesque that Ezekiel only alludes to some of what these might have been.

The scenario we find in the 21st century is much different. The world faces even greater abominations. Abortion is now acceptable. The family is being destroyed. LGBTQ issues cloud every aspect of culture and society. What transpires behind closed doors is now openly flaunted and accepted.

In fact, our own governments willingly and deliberately strip financial aid from countries that refuse to allow for abortion at will and who refuse to legitimize ALL aspects of the LGBTQ movement.

What is NOT different is that many “elders” who are to stand in the gap and proclaim thus saith the Lord refuse to stand anymore. Even evangelical churches are becoming more open and accepting of contemporary issues of the day.

Instead of being like Martin Luther and stating, “Here I stand, I can do no other”, elders and churches are allowing for more and more abominations to come into the places where God’s people are to worship. Entertainment drives the masses and the goats feel happy while the sheep starve for lack of the bread of life from pulpits.

In this life, we are not worried about the enemy brazenly storming across our land. We do not go to sleep worrying whether our women will be violated, our children openly sold as slaves, and whether we will even have enough to eat for tomorrow.

Sadly — nay, tragically, the abominations that surround us are compounded by the reality that very few sigh and groan. Instead, we laugh when it flickers across our screens. At times, we can become so hardened in our hearts that there is only a twinge of guilt that we have mocked the God we claim as our Father.

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My challenge to you — go and read Ezekiel 9. See the state of Israel and Judah. Ask yourself whether you are laughing and enjoying the fruit of the world and its abomination.

If we truly desire revival, we need to begin learning once again how to sigh and groan over the abominations. We need to seek forgiveness for our own areas where we fail to meet the perfect, holy standard that is Jesus Christ. We must hold ourselves accountable and strive to become more like the Master.

May you and I who truly know Jesus Christ as our Savior remember that like Israel of old, we are called to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5). Unlike the abominable offerings that God refused to accept from Israel, we MUST offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Take the world, BUT GIVE ME JESUS!

Consistent Inconsistency – Part 3 – Divorce

This next problem is one where way too many churches are consistently inconsistent, and I believe it is a shame for several reasons.

  1. This should NOT be a problem within the body of Christ, but it is.
  2. This should NOT be divisive between brothers and sisters, but it is.
  3. This should NOT be what defines congregations, but it is.

The problem I am speaking of is the matter of divorce.

It is imperative that we define marriage and what God commands regarding marriage. Biblical marriage can ONLY be defined as: One man and one woman united together before God in the bonds of matrimony for the rest of their natural lives. As God is the One Who created marriage, it is He and He alone who defines the rules for what makes a marriage. Government has NO RIGHT to try and define what they think marriage is or what it should be.

Stated otherwise, this means: Continue reading

Bless Them Which Persecute You

Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.  ~Romans 12:14

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.  ~Matthew 5:5-12

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  ~Matthew 6:14-15

These are some of the verses I’ve been quoting to myself recently. It is not easy to do the right thing when others seem to hate you and want to make your life miserable and yet, in order to truly have peace and joy, one must obey these commands that Christ laid out for us.

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The other night when I was lying in bed upset about the way a person was treating my family, I began to think about the Father and how He must feel by all the people that mock Him, take His name in vain, and do everything imaginable to grieve Him. All of a sudden, my focus changed, as it put things in a new light.

I don’t think there is anything we can go through on earth that Jesus didn’t experience in some form or fashion and yet He prayed for those who crucified Him. He mourned for Jerusalem and the way they would treat His people. He died for a world that He knew would hate Him. That is the posture He wants us to have. We must rid ourselves of all pride, the “need” to be right, even the desire to justify our actions at times, and humbly go to God in the midst of difficult situations. And somehow we must find a way to pray for those who persecute us. I think, many times, they really don’t know what they’re doing. And, even if they do and their goal is to hurt you in every way they can, only God can change a heart. Retaliation will only make it worse.

As I write this, a part of me wonders if anyone else can relate to this or if I should just be writing in my journal. I’ve learned, however, that most of the time, God allows me to go through things because someone else is going through a similar situation and needs to know they’re not alone. They need encouraged to draw near to the Lord and reminded of how they need to walk in various situations. That is my prayer. No matter who is being mean to you right now, God sees and He will take care of it in His time. This is simply a time to keep growing in walking in His ways. Hold tightly to His hand and don’t deal with it in your flesh. Ask God to give you His heart for this person and to give you wisdom in dealing with the situation. I’ve no doubt that He will.

Thoughts on Fear

I’ve been pondering lately what makes people afraid. To fear is to not trust God but the average person would not give that as a reason for their fears. I know, in my life, my biggest fears have been due to thinking God would not intervene in a bad situation. The bottom line was that I wanted what I wanted and I did not want to accept the fact that God may not give me what I wanted. (How selfish is that!)

In talking with a friend recently, I realized that fear in some people may have to do with knowing that one is not right with God. Maybe they fear God will do bad things to them because of how they are living, or maybe they’re afraid of dying because they know that they are not ready to meet Him.

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If this is the root of your fear, it is not too late to repent of your sins and ask God’s forgiveness. God did not give you that spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). He desires for you to walk in faith and victory, completely trusting Him in everything! This is not impossible.

When one knows that there is nothing hidden in their life that is displeasing to the Lord, he or she can lay down that fear and walk in complete trust, knowing that God will take care of them. Sure, disappointments will still come. We will still face financial stress, sickness, death, and a myriad of other things but we will also be able to say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him” (Job 13:15).

I am praying for strength to trust Him more than ever this year. This past few years, I’ve dealt with more fears than I remember dealing with previously, but I know in reality that nothing can happen to me that my God doesn’t allow. I am continuing to learn to rest in that. I pray that you are too.