Biblical Messages

Fishing For Forgiveness

In this worship gathering, we hear a message from John 21 about how obeying Jesus can bring wonderful results, and how the apostle Peter was restored in his relationship with Jesus.  If you’ve ever wondered if your sin is too great to be forgiven, you need to watch this video.  The message begins at 37:59.

 

Encouragement From The Word

You can forgive sins!

Our congregation’s LifeConnect Groups have all stumbled on one verse that’s giving us a challenge this week.  It’s John 20.23, which was part of our Scripture focus last Sunday:  “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven.  If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (NLT).  Jesus said this to the disciples immediately after breathing on them and giving them the Holy Spirit.

It kind of sounds like it could be a power trip, doesn’t it?  If Jesus has given his followers the power to forgive or not forgive anyone’s sins, that suggests that we could decide who’s in and who’s out.  But I don’t think that’s where Jesus was going with it.  There are a couple of levels of understanding this verse that may be encouraging to us.

First, it can be seen as an approach to personal peace.  By that, I mean that when we forgive others for their sins against us, we are set free from bondage to the transgression.  But when we don’t forgive, it’s another story. Somebody once said that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  Seems silly when it’s put that way, right?  But a lot of people refuse to forgive even when the other party seeks it, and that is the poison.

But did you know you can forgive the other person even when she or he doesn’t ask for it?  I’ve had to do that a few times in my life, where someone has not acknowledged wrongdoing against me, but in order to move on with life, I’ve had to forgive that person in my mind and in my spirit.  Even though there may be a sense of injustice about that, it sets you free, and that’s what matters.

The other approach to John 20.23 is to be reminded that Jesus invites us to be partners in forgiveness as we proclaim the gospel to others.  Jesus offers forgiveness of sin that lasts for eternity, and when we share our relationship with him, that opens a door for those people to receive forgiveness of sin.

Of course, a literal reading of the verse suggests that the disciples – and perhaps through them, we – have the power to forgive others’ sins.  While I believe we are empowered to do that in terms of our sins against each other, I can’t see any biblical evidence that suggests we are empowered to offer eternal forgiveness of sin.  That’s Jesus’ job, since he paid the price for our sin at Calvary.

But it’s still through our faith-sharing efforts that doors open for Jesus’ forgiveness to be received.  And that’s why it’s so important for us to talk about our relationship with the Lord.  As the apostle Paul tells the Corinthian church, “Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others….So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us.  We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (2 Corinthians 5.11, 20, NLT).

Who knows whose life you may affect by your faithfulness in speaking about God’s love?

Biblical Messages

Caught!

When the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery before Jesus, they were expecting a judgment.  What they got was quite different!  But there’s a twist to the way many people read this beloved story.  Watch or listen below to “Caught!”, based on John 8.1-11.

The LifeConnect Group discussion questions can be found here: 2018 11 18 lcg questions

Encouragement From The Word

Forgiveness

We all make mistakes.  Some days, our blunders are bigger than others, but even on our good days, there are booboos.  We need to deal with them quickly and constructively.

One of the things I help couples understand during marriage preparation is the importance of open communication – owning our own feelings, telling the other person in a constructive way if something is bothersome, or even offensive.  This is true in all our interpersonal relationships, of course, but most people don’t come and talk to me about it unless they’re preparing to get married, when I require them to have the conversation.  I wish it were required for all people at various times in life.  (Maybe if we had a crash course in interpersonal relationships as often as we have to get our licence plate stickers renewed, the world would be less encumbered by conflict!)

If you have been offended – I don’t mean in the trendy way of a new generation, but truly hurt – you have a responsibility to tell the person who hurt you and own up to how you feel.  The other party then has the responsibility to apologize for the offence and to make amends, even if she or he doesn’t think anything was done inappropriately.  After all, what the other person received was her or his reality, and something can be learned for the sake of the relationship if an apology is offered and the conflict is cleared up.  And then – this is sometimes the hard part – your next responsibility is to forgive that person quickly.

It may be hard to forget the offence, but for the sake of the relationship, it’s important to clear the slate and start fresh.  I often illustrate it this way:  I have a small scar near the knuckle of my left index finger.  I remember exactly how it got there.  I was adding weight to a freight car on my model railroad, about 16 years ago, when a dollop of hot glue landed on my hand.  Of course, my immediate reaction was to get rid of what was causing the pain.  As I brushed off the glue, it took some skin with it.  It healed, and I have the scar – but no pain.  I remember the incident, but it’s over.  It causes no angst, no pain; I am left only with the memory.

That can be the case in relationships, too.  We may remember the offence, but the pain is gone when we’ve forgiven the other person.

“…be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4.32, NLT).

Biblical Messages

ALTAR EGO: That ‘F’ Word (Again)

Many people carry a burden of unforgiveness.  In this message, we’re encouraged to lay on the altar of God’s grace our right to be offended.  It’s based on Proverbs 19.11 and Romans 12.1-5.  In the middle of the message, I showed this video.  You can listen to the message here:

Encouragement From The Word

“If I get to heaven, I’d better not see you there.”

On the news the other night, I saw a tragic story about an elderly couple who, in the process of giving away kittens via Kijiji, fell victim to what’s called a “distraction crime”. While one potential kitten owner talked to the couple, that person’s partner went to use the bathroom and stole some valuables from the couple. The good news from the story is that the robbers have been caught, because a vigilant neighbour recorded the unfamiliar vehicle’s licence plate number. Some of the stolen goods have been recovered.

But there was something very sad that struck me about the story. Near the end, the lady who was robbed said that if she were to encounter the thieves again, she would say, “If I get to heaven, I’d better not see you there.

That statement broke my heart.

I know absolutely nothing about the spiritual lives of any of the people involved, so I will not say anything about how that lady should have responded. But I will say this: I hope that no follower of Jesus would ever say that to anyone else. Ever.

Many people harbour bitterness in their hearts. And when a crime has just been committed against you, there is an understandable anger and grief that is experienced. But my hope is that as a Christian, I would never find myself saying to someone who had wronged me, “If I get to heaven, I’d better not see you there.” In fact, my hope is that I would see that person there, as a result of the grace of God pouring out over that person, leading to repentance and forgiveness.

People respond to being wronged in various ways. Some respond with anger, even after a long time; they hope, perhaps, that the offender will ‘rot in hell’, or something like that. Others respond with forgiveness and mercy. As Christians, our model is Jesus, who said, even from the heinous pain of the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23.34, NLT).

Think about it: Jesus forgave those who were responsible for his crucifixion, in order that the way would be paved for you and me to be able to be forgiven of our sins – and be free to forgive others their sins. Jesus gave us a dangerous model for prayer when he encouraged us to pray, “…forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” (Luke 11.4, NLT).

Let’s not harbour bitterness or unforgiveness against those who have wronged us. They take up space in our souls and don’t pay rent. It’s not easy to give those feelings up to God, but we are invited by the Lord to do so. When we surrender our bad feelings and ill will, he will open our hearts to enable us to wish heaven’s joy for those for whom it might otherwise have seemed a long shot.