By now all the wrapping paper is put back in storage. The tree and decorations are safely put in bins until next year. Whew, it was great, but now on to 2019. But wait. What if you forgot to give a gift? Maybe some of us are forgetting a very important gift. This gift would benefit the recipient in immeasurable ways, while also liberating the giver from increasing bondage, providing vivid testimony to the gospel, and showcasing Christ-like love to the unsaved world. What gift could do all this? It’s the gift of forgiveness.
In his book Unpacking Forgiveness, Chris Brauns helps us understand that forgiveness is not only right (in that it glorifies God by obeying His will), but it is also best. God, as the standard of holiness and goodness, will only require of His people those things which are best for them. Our joy is completely full only when we live in submission to God’s design for our lives. And part of God’s good design for us is forgiveness to those who’ve sinned against us. Forgiveness is not a bitter pill to swallow; it is the doorway to maximum joy and peace.
Our ability to forgive others is a result of God’s forgiveness of us, and our desire to forgive others is based entirely on His forgiveness of us (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). Brauns highlights three ways in which our forgiveness must mirror God’s forgiveness of all those who’ve been redeemed:
1. Forgiveness is gracious (Eph. 2:8,9; 2:4; I John 4:10).God’s forgiveness toward us is a gift motivated by His love for us (Eph. 2:4). But though this gift is graciously offered to all, this gift wasn’t free: God paid for it with the blood of His Son’s death (I John 4:10). In the same way, our forgiveness of others must be freely offered even though it is costly. There is nothing that we have done or ever could do to receive God’s forgiveness; He graciously offers it because He is gracious. Our offer of forgiveness toward others must not be dependent upon their efforts, their remorse, or anything else we want them to do, feel, or say. And it will be costly. We will need to die to ourselves, our desire for revenge, and our pride.
2. Forgiveness is conditional.God’s forgiveness is graciously offered to all, but it’s only given to those who repent and believe (Acts 20:21). God’s forgiveness is dependent; it is conditional. Like any present, God’s gift of forgiveness in Christ must be accepted, or “opened.” As we graciously offer forgiveness to those who have legitimately wronged us, we pray and plead that they will accept it by humble repentance, just as God pleads with all to accept His forgiveness by repentance. Forgiveness is conditional in that both parties involved must be committed to the new life together. Forgiveness is not possible where humility is not present.
3. Forgiveness is a commitment. When God’s gracious offer of forgiveness (that is motivated by His love and costs the death of His Son) is accepted through repentance and faith, God justifies that person. He commits that He will no longer hold that person’s sin against them. There is a legal transaction that frees that person from the condemnation and punishment that was deserved. When we forgive another individual, we make a similar commitment. We enter into an agreement that, though wrong was done, we will no longer hold that sin against that person. Our forgiveness has freed them from the debt that they had accrued.
And this commitment is not temporary or insignificant. True forgiveness means that we are committing to never bring up the offense again – not to that person, not to another person, not to God, and not to ourselves. This is the commitment that God makes to us in Christ. He commits to remove our sin “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). What tremendous hope is found in this truth! “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness…” (Psalm 130:3,4a)
Of course, forgiveness does not mean that all consequences of wrongdoing are immediately eliminated. Because sin affects others, consequences of sin must sometimes be carried out. And it is in this very process where forgiveness can be most sweetly displayed: Those who are truly repentant and have been forgiven are most ready to accept the consequences of their sin.
Forgiveness frees us from the captivity of revenge. This world tells us that revenge is our right, and that we ought to get even with those who’ve wronged us. But this is in direct contrast to God’s Word. See, in God’s economy, those who forgive others are carrying out the very essence of the gospel. Those who have been forgiven are to be the ones who forgive, and they are to forgive in the very same way they’ve been forgiven. As a result, joy and peace will flood into our lives.
So, what is forgiveness? As author Chris Brauns has said, it is “a commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated.” This Christmas, consider giving that gift to some family members, coworkers, neighbors, and friends. You just might be the greatest benefactor of the gift you give another.
It is here. 2019 is a fresh start. It provides a clean slate to write your story. Here are some biblical ways of doing so to consider as you begin. Of highest importance is knowing for sure you have a vital real relationship with Jesus Christ through the simple plan of the Gospel. If you are unsure of your relationship with God, we would invite you to contact us to talk in person. In the meantime, click here to help understand more about your relationship with God.
Here are 7 practical ways to begin 2019 in a biblical way.
1. Begin With an Over-all Renewed Commitment to the Priority of God in Your Life
Some things to think about as you consider the place of priority God has held in your life and how you might improve.
- What do I spend my time doing each week? Remember, time is life and life is time. How you spend your time is how you are spending your life. Sure there is time to relax, watch the game
- What do I look forward to doing most in a week? Does your answer have much to do with God or your service to him?
- Create and pray for the opportunities to serve in ways you enjoy. The way you serve him will be according to the spiritual gifts and opportunities he has given you.
2. Begin with a Renewed Commitment to the Priority of Prayer
It is interesting how large a portion of Sacred Text of the Bible is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible before we read, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord;” and just as we are about to close the volume, the “Amen” of an earnest supplication meets our ear. Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob-there a Daniel who prayed three times a day-and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elias; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. What does this teach us, but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer? – Charles Spurgeon - 19th Century Preacher.
“God’s acquaintance is not made hurriedly. He does not bestow his gifts on the casual or hasty comer and goer. To be MUCH alone with God is the secret of knowing Him and of having influence with Him.” E.M. Bounds
“We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results. The power of God is lacking in our lives and in our work. We have not because we ask not. It was a master stroke of the Devil when he got the church and the ministry so generally to lay aside the mighty weapon of prayer/ The Devil is not afraid of machinery, he is only afraid of God, and machinery without prayer is machinery without God. When due to lack of teaching or spiritual insight, we trust in our own diligence and effort to influence the world and the flesh, and work more than pray, the presence and power of God are not seen in our work as we wish.” R. A. Torrey
3. Begin with A Renewed Commitment to the Word of God, The Bible.
· Read the Bible – Don’t get discouraged if you miss a day or a week or a month….
· Listen to the Bible preached – take notes, MP3, online sermons…. www.oneplace.com or even on our website. See sermon are in the menu above.
· Memorize the Bible
· Consider it in daily actions – remember that as a Christian it is “written on your heart.” What does that mean to you?
4. Begin Without the Nagging Paralyzing Effect of Fear, Dread and Worry
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (Isa 41:10)
Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ… Peter 1:13
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; (2Co 10:5)
Great Faith is not an irrational leap. It is a reasonable trust in the revealed truth about God. It is a process of thinking. John MacArthur
Faith is primarily thinking. The trouble with a man of “little faith” is that he doesn’t think. He allows circumstances to beat him up. Faith is not purely mystical. Christian faith is essentially thinking (by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit) on the truths of God’s Word. “Look at the bird, the grass, the lilies, –consider them…think about it and draw your deductions based on logic. Faith is a man determined to think on truth when circumstances tell him not to. Martin Lloyd-Jones
The essence of “little faith” is that a man’s thoughts are controlled by circumstance and not by the man girding up the loins of his mind and bringing them captive to the truth. The man of “little faith” is the man who is not allowing the Spirit to fill him with the truth of the Word of God, but is being filled with his own thoughts of fear, worry and suspicion based on circumstances. He then does not think, but goes round and round in circles. Worry is not “thinking too much” it is not thinking enough about the Biblical truth that you know. It is not letting the Word of Christ “dwell in you richly” and being “filled with the Word of God by the Holy Spirit” Faith is not optimism, wishful thinking, or dreaming. It is a reasoned response to the revealed truth of the Bible with or without emotion. Lloyd-Jones
5. Begin Without Conviction from Sins of the Past Which You Have Confessed and Forsaken.
He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. (Pro 28:13)
If you haven’t confessed and forsaken your sin. Do so today. Would you rather have a year of failure or a year of mercy?
6. Begin with A Renewed Commitment to Spiritual Disciplines in the Pursuit of Godliness.
God makes us Godly!!! We “put ourselves in the way.” Remember:
· Discipline brings Freedom to reach your goals
· Discipline is based on principle and commitment -not feeling
· Discipline without direction is drudgery. – Donald Whitney
Examples of areas to develop disciplined routines for godliness.
A great resource for ideas in the book, Spiritual Discipline by Donald Whitney.
· Bible intake
· Confession to God
7. Begin with The End in Mind.
What do you want the end of 2019 to be like? What do you want to have accomplished, how to you want to be better? Different? This means you’ll need to set and accomplish goals. Here are some ideas on how to do so.
Quick steps to getting where you want to go…
· Review your roles (What roles do you play? Mom, Dad, Employee, Christian, Husband, Wife…?
· Realistic reflection in each area of how you can and should improve.
· Righteous reach forward (God ordained Goals). Set goals for each role.
· Reinvented routine. Determine to change your life’s routines in order to reach your goals.
· Revitalized rigor. Get excited and motivated by envisioning how your life and the lives of those around you will improve as you reach your goals.
If you do not have a church you feel at home in or that teaches the Bible in a truthful practical way, we invite you to visit us some Sunday.
Here is more you may find helpful on our site.
Author & Editor
Articles are written or selected by our Pastor Keith Carnahan