Archive for March, 2016

Daily Devotion: Groan, Groans, and Groaning

Daily devotion: Groan, Groans, and Groaning

Message by Wil Pounds

Groan, Groans, and Groaning

Life is full of pain, suffering and death. Each of us has our share of heartaches and hurts. Sometimes we groan under the load of suffering. In my daily ministry I see hundreds of poor people facing pain, poverty and suffering in Latin America.

The word for groaning is found only six times in the New Testament. In Romans 8:22, 23, 26 the word stenazo and its variants refer to three different things: creation groans (vv. 18-22), believers groan (vv. 23-25), and the Holy Spirit groans (vv. 25-30).

The apostle Paul tells us that creation groans (Romans 8:18-22). He is referring to the “non-rational creation, animate and inanimate.” Angels are not included because they were not subjected to the bondage of corruption. Satan and his demons are not included because they will not share in the freedom of glory of the children of God. The children of God are distinguished from the creation in vv. 19-23. The unbelievers are not included because they are not characterized by an earnest expectation of hope in the coming of Christ. Rational creation is excluded in this passage. Paul tells us the “non-rational creation, animate and inanimate” creation “waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (v. 19). It “groans and suffers the pains of childbirth until now” (v. 22).

Why does it groan like a mother dilating at childbirth? Verse 21 tells us it longs to be “set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Creation, the cosmos, is looking beyond itself to the “glorious freedom of the children of God.”

It longs to be liberated from the curse God placed upon it in the garden when Adam sinned (Gen. 3:17-18). “Cursed is the ground because of you.” Creation will one day be delivered by the Redeemer. When the Christians are fully redeemed, resurrected in glory, the cosmos will likewise be fully redeemed.

Creation groans, but one day it will become a glorious creation. Today it groans in pain and suffering, decay and vanity. The pain will end when the child is delivered. This groaning creation looks forward to the day it will be set free. The day is coming when the cosmos will be renewed (Isa. 11:6-9; 2 Pet. 3:13). The promise was given in the garden (Gen. 3:15).

Creation will share in the glory that will be bestowed upon the children of God. “The entire creation, as it were, sets up a grand symphony of sighs” (Phillips).

Not only does the cosmos groan, but also the children of God are described as groaning (vv. 23-25). We have already been adopted, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, are the “sons of God,” have the witness of the Holy Spirit, heirs and co-heirs with Christ, etc. It may seem odd that the believer groans when God has done so much to save us. We groan because we have experienced “the first fruits of the Spirit” which is a foretaste of the glory to come. We have already tasted the blessings of heaven and the age to come so we long for the full manifestation of the kingdom of God. We groan to be under the full control of the Holy Spirit with resurrected bodies. The Holy Spirit anticipates that final salvation. He is the pledge, the guarantee, the down payment that we who have the Spirit shall in the end be saved. We who have Him indwelling anxiously await that glorious day with full expectation. The final delivery is guaranteed by His indwelling presence. When Jesus Christ returns we shall enter into our full inheritance with Christ. We are saved by “that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Romans 8:24; Titus 2:13).

We groan in suffering and pain now, but when Jesus appears we will enjoy eternal glory with Him.

The apostle Paul tells us the Holy Spirit groans, too (vv. 25-30). Jesus groaned when He saw the effect of sin and unbelief on people (John 11:33, 38; Mk. 7:34). Today our Paraclete, Comforter, or divine Helper feels the pain of our sin and groans over us when we sin. He “helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words, and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (vv. 26-27).

The Holy Spirit prays for us in His groanings so that we will please God. We do not know the will of God, but He does because He is God. He prays for us in His groanings interceding so that we will do the will of God in spite of our suffering. He reminds us that regardless of what we experience here temporarily it is nothing in comparison to “the glory that is to be revealed to us” when Christ comes.

God pledges that we will rise from the dead. Our deep sorrow will be turned to great rejoicing. The end will not be the survival of the immortal soul, but the resurrection of the body, equipped for heaven and eternity.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily Devotion: God’s Greatest Gift

Daily Devotion: God’s Greatest Gift

Message by Wil Pounds

God’s Greatest Gift
God has provided salvation for you in Jesus Christ.

In simple, lucid language Jesus sums up the entire Gospel for Nicodemus and us in one beautiful sentence rich in content.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Martin Luther said these “words are able to make the sad happy, the dead alive, if only the heart believes them firmly.”

Jesus revealed what is in the heart of the LORD God. “For God so loved the world.” The very one who came down from heaven reveals the greatest revelation man could ever receive from the Creator.

In these words a holy God is saying to sinful man, “I love you.”

Depraved man could never have conceived how much God loves sinful man. God had to reveal and demonstrate that love to man. The best that man and humanism could come up with was an exaggeration of his own depravity as expressed in world religions.

Jesus uses the word agape denoting the highest type and form of love. It is not a love of mere affection, friendship, or ordinary human relationships, but the very highest type of love that is self-sacrificial for the object loved.

God cleansed the depraved sinner and took him to His bosom. No human intelligence could ever fathom such love. This revelation of God distinguishes Christianity radically from all the world religions.

Such love God has for a sinner is the pinnacle of His glory. It is in fact, the crown of all of His attributes.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son . . .”

God’s own Son sat before Nicodemus and spoke those words to him. This “Son” is above all others who in any sense may be called “sons.” All other “sons” are adopted “sons.” Jesus is “the Only-begotten Son.” He is the “one and only Son of God.”

It is strange, even frightening, how one of the modern pagan cults of our day can claim that Jesus was the brother of Lucifer, Satan. Such a teaching is an abomination to God.

Jesus used a term for Himself “so strange, striking, unique, exalted” and distinctive that no one else could ever be so compared. He is “the only begotten Son of God.” There is none other (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). “The only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” No one else ever could have. He was with the Father in heaven from all eternity. He is the “true God, begotten of the Father from eternity,” writes Luther. God gave the very best—Himself—for us.

God the Father gave His only begotten Son as a gift with the purpose in mind “that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Jesus had already told Nicodemus that the Son of Man must be lifted up (v. 15). That is how much God loves us. He gave His only begotten Son up to death on the cross for sinners.

The object of our faith is “in Him,” the only begotten of the Father. Jesus is the object of saving faith. There is no other name that we can call on for salvation. All other names will send you to hell (Acts 4:12).

Those who believe on Him “shall not perish, but have eternal life.” The word “perish” never means to suffer annihilation as another modern cult teaches. “To perish” denotes total and eternal rejection by God.

On the basis of the gift of God we receive eternal life. God loves you so much “that He gave His one and only Son.” Believe on Him today and you shall receive eternal life.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily Devotion: From Despair to Hope

Daily Devotion: From Despair to Hope

From Despair to Hope

Message by Wil Pounds

It is almost uncanny how the poet describes the abandonment of the sufferer by God to the scorn of evil people who mocked Him. The Hebrew poet-king wrote,

But I am a worm and not a man,
A reproach of men and despised by the people.
All who see me sneer at me;
They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying,
“Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver him;
Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him” (Psalm 22:6-8).

King David writes using gestures of helplessness, frailty, and hopelessness in these verses. It is another vivid picture of the events at Calvary put in writing a thousand years before they actually took place in history (Matt. 27:39-43).

“They open wide their mouth at me, as a ravening and a roaring loin” (v. 13). The crowd at the crucifixion of Jesus did just that in graphic detail. His bones were pulled out of joint at the hands, arms, shoulders and pelvis (v. 14). “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint, my heart is like wax; it is melted within me” (v.14). Perspiration pours profusely from the intense suffering, and the exhaustion and strain affects the functioning of His heart. With His strength exhausted, and dehydration, His tongue clings to His mouth from extreme thirst (v. 15). “My strength is dried up like potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws” (v. 15).

We draw up near the cross in verse sixteen and hear him say, “For dogs [Jewish term for derision for Gentiles] have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet” (cf. Matt. 27:35; Jn. 20:20, 25).

They stare at Him on the cross. He is so frail from suffering they can count His bones on His naked body. Even the casting of lots for His clothing is literally fulfilled (v. 18; cf. Matt. 27:35; Lk. 23:34; Jn. 19:24; 19:23; Mk. 15:24).

Any unbiased reader of this messianic poem must come to the inescapable conclusion that it finds its historical fulfillment in the crucifixion of Christ.

The death of Jesus Christ made perfect atonement for our sins. He was forsaken of God so we could be forgiven.

This matchless messianic poem also declares that the suffering servant of God died in triumph knowing that His suffering produced perfect atonement for the sinner. He tells how His prayer was heard and affirms that He will praise God before the brethren in the great assembly.

There is an abrupt change in the steady progress of the poem from the despair in suffering to one of renewed trust in God. Verses 22-31 conclude with the results that spring from the resurrection. It closes with a message of thanksgiving and hope in the anticipation of the proclamation of the good news.

“I will tell of Thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise thee” (v. 22). He admonishes others, “You who fear the LORD, praise Him” (v. 23a).

Moreover, the message is not just for the Jewish brethren (vv. 22-24), but also “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will worship before Thee” (v. 27). Is this not the great missionary message preached after the resurrection of Christ? (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:16; Phil. 2:8-11; Rev. 4-5).

The psalmist gives a great invitation for all to humble themselves and trust in the Savior. Salvation is for those who “fear the LORD” (vv. 23, 25), “seek the LORD” (v. 26), “remember and turn to the LORD” (v. 27), and “bow down before Him” (vv. 27, 29). It is for all who will call upon His name and be saved.

People yet to be born in future generations will serve Him (v. 30-31). “It will be told of the Lord to the coming generation. They will come and will declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has performed it.”

You and I are included in this great multitude (Jn. 17:20). The Savior had you and me on His mind while He hung on the tree. Have you responded to Him in faith?

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily devotional: God is an Eyewitness

Daily Devotional: God is an Eyewitness

Message by Wil Pounds

God Is An Eyewitness

The final words of Jesus just before He ascended into heaven are a constant encouragement in my ministry and should be for every Christian.

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

It is great reassurance to remind ourselves, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (v.20).

However, that is not a new promise in the Scriptures. The Psalmist David reflected on that great truth about the LORD God is Psalm 139 when he wrote, “Where can I go from Thy Spirit?” Or where can I flee from The presence?” (v.7). I don’t think at that stage in his life he wanted to escape from God. He was thinking through the implications, and applying the omnipresence of God to His own his own life situations.

We are not alone in our circumstances. The Lord is with us all the time. The reason He sees and knows everything is because He is everywhere all the time. God will forever be with me. He is constantly aware of where I am and what I am doing. I am never out of His sight, and because I am never out of His sight, I am never out of His awareness. I am never “out of sight, out of mind.” Nothing in my life catches Him by surprise.

It is a comfort to know that I can never escape Him. Even if I were so foolish to want to, I could never flee from His presence or His knowledge of my circumstances.

“If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,’ Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You” (Psalm 139:8-12).

Think about it. There is no place to flee from His eyes. But why should I ever want to flee His presence? Knowing that He is aware of my thoughts and actions gives encouragement to keep my mind and heart pure.

“But you are not perfect Wil Pounds.” No, I am not sinless in thought or deed. But knowing that He knows when I sin drives me to the cross, and the fact that if the blood of Jesus does not wash me of all my sins, I can never be saved and glorified.

The fact that He knows when I sin is a humbling truth; however, it is also the greatest incentive to go to Him as David did and confess my sins. “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah” (Psalm 32:5).

The apostle John wrote, “And the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7b). The original language says, the blood of Jesus “continues to cleanse,” keeps on cleansing constantly. All my sins, every sin, are under His cleansing blood. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:9-10).

Yes, He is an eyewitness, so why should I fear His presence? He has made a perfect provision to cover all my sins. I am secure in His all-knowing presence and powerful hands.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily Devotion: God Knows Me

Daily Devotion: God Knows Me

Message by Wil Pounds

God Knows Me

God knows me, and He still wants to pursue a personal relationship with me. That is truly amazing. He knows everything about me, and still wants to enjoy my fellowship with Him.

What does it mean to know God? How do you come to an intimate personal knowledge of Him?

I am not thinking of intellectual knowledge or facts about Him, but the importance of knowing a close friend.

The apostle Paul prayed that believers would know God the Father who chose us, God the Son who redeemed us, and God the Holy Spirit who applied salvation to us personally through the new birth. Now that He has saved me do I have a growing knowledge of Him? Perhaps in our busy schedule and pressures of modern life we should ask do I even want it? How do I fit a hunger for God into a complex worldview?

In Ephesians 1:17-19 the apostle Paul prayed that God would give believers “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation . . . to know Him better.” Paul wanted them to have a “true knowledge of Him.” But you say, they already knew Him as their Savior, and had obtained eternal life. But what I am asking is has God placed within your heart a hunger to know Him better?

With every relationship in life we make deliberate choices as to whether we want to pursue the relationship. God has invited us to get to know Him better. Have we responded to that invitation to belongingness? Do we have that “we” feeling with Him? Have we taken the first few faltering steps and halted? Have we reached a plateau, and is it now time to respond to further instruction in His Word?

Has the Holy Spirit opened the “enlightened eyes of our hearts” in order that we may know “the hope to which He has called us, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe”?

Paul’s prayer for knowledge of God is based on a plea to have a greater knowledge of God’s saving grace. God takes the initiative and invites us to a personal involvement of our whole person. It is a permanent relationship based on the awesome knowledge that He knows me and desires a personal, abiding relationship with me.

Perhaps Paul had in mind the great prayer of Jesus, “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

Do you know Him? Do you want to know Him better? It is true that we have a great deal more to learn about Him in His Word. Knowing about Him is important, but knowing Him personally is more important. We must act on what we have learned in His Word.

How do I get to know God better in His personal dealings with me? It begins with a hunger or thirsting for the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to our soul and to open the living Word of God to our inner person. Such a knowledge is not found apart from a study of the Scriptures. It is to the person who sits at Jesus’ feet that God opens His heart to reveal Himself. It is time spent with God on our knees with the open Word that issues in an intimate knowledge of Him. You cannot get to know a real person without spending time with him or her. We cannot know God without time in His presence. We know truth about His attributes from His revealed Word as the Spirit applies them to our lives, and as we act upon that knowledge we experience Him personally.

God chose us, and called us “to be holy and blameless in His sight” as His full grown adopted children. We grow in our knowledge of God as we become more like the Lord Jesus Christ in every way, every day. As we grow in the knowledge of His grace we grow in His likeness. One day we will know Him in perfect character. My prayer is that He will hasten that day. Today, we live in the tension of the here and now and that which is yet to be.

Because we are His unique possession, purchased by His blood, “we share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light” (Col. 1:12). God has rich blessings in store for those who get to know Him better. Are we claiming our inheritance now? We can only as we get to know Him intimately. The apostle Paul said, “We know little; and we know imperfectly.” One wonderful day when He comes we will know fully and perfectly.

Do I know Him in the power of His resurrection? This is to know God’s power by personal experience. Do I know the power that God exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead? The knowledge of God is experienced in the power of Christ’s resurrection in our lives today. Oh, God that I may know you today!

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily Devotion: The Model Prayer: Deliver Us From Evil

Daily Devotion: The Model Prayer: Deliver Us From Evil

Message by Wil Pounds

The Model Prayer:
Deliver Us from Evil

The last petition in the Model Prayer looks to the future when we pray, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).

That is a prayer that every believer should pray daily because we are all vulnerable to succumb to temptation. One wag said truthfully, “If a man wakes up and finds his house on fire, he does not sit in a chair and write or read a treatise on the origin of fires in a private house; he sets to try to extinguish the fire and to save his house.”

Where is the fire in your house? Each one of us has a different spot of vulnerability. What is a brutal temptation for one person, may leave another one unmoved, and vice versa. Every person has a weak spot which if he is not careful can ruin his life.

“Do not lead us into temptation.” The word for “temptation” has the basic meaning, “to test.” When it is used of Satan testing us it is with the view of causing us to fail the test.

Are we honest enough with God to ask Him to keep us out of circumstances and tempting situations because we know from experience our faith could not endure them? Do we play with temptations instead of praying that God will keep us away from them?

The Bible tells us God tempts no one (Jas. 1:13). But we have an old nature that is always capable of sinning, and it is at war against the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:17 explains that both the Holy Spirit and the flesh are in constant active unceasing conflict. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”

“But deliver us from evil.” The word “deliver” (ruomai) means “to rescue, save, deliver, or preserve someone from someone or something.” When the believer is walking in dependence upon the Spirit he is delivered from the lust of the flesh. Whatever is undertaken in the energy of the flesh will fail, because it is not in the power of God. The only way we can possibly be delivered over our old nature is by the Spirit working in us (Rom. 6:14; 8:2). The most spiritual Christians are warned to pray daily, “and do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” If we do not we are courting failure in living the Christian life.

It is our responsibility to walk in the Spirit, reckon on the indwelling power of Christ living in us, putting off the old man, mortifying the flesh and abiding in Christ.

The deliverance from the power of sin is through Jesus Christ (Rom. 7:25). Romans 6:1-10 teaches us that the believer’s fallen nature has been judged by co-crucifixion, co-death, and co-burial with Christ, therefore making it possible for the indwelling Holy Spirit to answer this petition of the believer.

“Evil” can be translated “the evil one” meaning the devil, or it can mean evil in the ethical sense. Here it is probably the evil element in life.

The Holy Spirit delivers us from the power of sin in our daily life. We have been delivered from the penalty of sin by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The moment we put our faith in Christ as our Savior we were forgiven of our sins and the assurance that our debt has been paid in full.

This prayer deals with the power of sin in our daily life. From the human side it depends upon our attitude of faith in the death of Christ and the action of faith taking God at His word and depending on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to over come temptation. There will never be a time in the Christian’s life when he will not need to depend on the Holy Spirit. The just one shall live by faith—faith which depends on the power of the indwelling Spirit. This is what it means to abide in the Spirit or abide in Christ.

The doxology, “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” (v. 13b) was added in later manuscripts as a fitting liturgical closing to the prayer. All power, honor and glory belong to the LORD God.

Our greatest defense against falling into sin is the presence of Jesus Christ living in us, and our dependence upon Him. “What would you do, if you suddenly found Christ standing beside you?” is a good question to ask ourselves often. How would you then live? It is His “inescapable presence” that keeps us from yielding to temptation.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily devotional: the model prayer: forgive our debts

Message by Wil Pounds

The Model Prayer: Forgive Our Debts

Why is it so hard to forgive?

Only a person committed to Christ dare pray this prayer. “Forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12 NET).

These are the most frightening words in Christianity.

This part of the prayer wakes us up spiritually and make us think about what we are saying.

Do we have an unforgiving spirit? If things are not right with other people, how can they be right with a holy God?

Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Forgive our debts, as we also forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

“Our debts” is a common word for legal debts, but here it is used of moral and spiritual debts to God. We are sinners who have wronged God. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). “If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. . . If we say we have not sinned, we make him a lair and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10 NET).

We are sinners who are constantly in the need of forgiveness. We have obligations to God. We owe God a debt. We need Him to cancel our debt because as sinners we can never repay it. We are spiritual debtors in the need of God’s saving grace.

“Forgive our debts,” means, “to send away, to dismiss, to wipe off, put away” (cf. 1 Jn. 1:7-9; Eph. 1:7; Matt. 26:28). From other Scriptures we learn that God provides forgiveness on the basis of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. Nothing can be added to that. Our forgiving disposition does not earn God’s pardon. Our forgiveness is based entirely on God’s unmerited favor and grace, and not on any merits on our part. It is the divine grace of God in Christ that saves us (Eph. 1:7; 2:8-10).

The act of forgiving others does not merit an eternal reward or gain for us salvation or eternal life. However, when we forgive others it is evidence that the grace of God is at work in our hearts. That which is impossible for us to accomplish in our own strength God enables us to do by the power of His indwelling in our hearts. If we hold on to our bitterness and grudges and unforgiveness, we need to examine ourselves. The apostle Paul admonishes us, “Put yourselves to the test to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize regarding yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you–unless, indeed, you fail the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5 NET).

The grace of God in the believer’s heart keeps bringing him back to the sanctifying truths of God’s word. “But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleaning us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NET).

In the most hurtful experiences of life we forgive, and we to choose forgive again. It is a process whereby we confess our sins and choose to forgive the person who has offended us. It is a choice we make once and for all to let it go and trust God with the consequences. And everytime the “old man” brings it back up we choose to forgive again. Our old sinful nature will remind us of the hurts of life.

When we choose to forgive we demonstrate that we are children of God and we have experienced His saving grace. By nature this is not something we do on our own. Human nature says take charge, get revenge, get even, don’t let them do this to you. However, we have become new persons, a radical change has taken place in our hearts and we cannot live in the character of the person we were before we came to Christ. The power to forgive comes from the new life in Christ.

Salvation always begins with God’s electing grace and never with us (1 Jn. 4:19; Jn. 13:15; Eph. 4:32; 1 Pet. 2:21). The evidence of that saving grace is how we respond to the circumstances of life.

Jesus taught the disciples to pray, “Forgive our debt as we forgive our debtors.” The idea can be paraphrased: “Forgive us our sins in proportion as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” Jesus says with powerful words in verses 14-15 that if we forgive others, God will forgive us; but if we refuse to forgive others, God will refuse to forgive us.

“For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15, The NET Bible).

No amount of trying to make excuses, or interpret the words in a way that caters to our sinful human nature won’t work. Human forgiveness and divine forgiveness are relational. Jesus says our forgiveness of others and God’s forgiveness of us cannot be separated. The are related to one another.

This prayer forces us to our knees in humble confession and repentance.

Do you remember Peter’s question about forgiveness? “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus’ response was unnerving, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21-22). Then Jesus told a parable on forgiveness and concluded, “‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart” (vv. 23-35).

Jesus said forgiveness must be present in us if we are to receive the Father’s forgiveness. We must be willing to forgive others if we have experienced His forgiveness. The person seeking forgiveness must have first taken forgiving action with respect to those who have sinned against him.

Jesus keeps bringing us back to a spiritual birth, a radical change in us, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away, what is new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NET). Forgiveness is evidence of that radical change in our hearts.

Has anyone in this earthly life arrived at this perfect state of forgiving? Let’s face the reality that only Jesus Christ has been able to forgive perfectly (Luke 23:34). Our forgiveness is so imperfect.

All excuses laid aside, we are forced to come to God and deal with these issues of forgiveness and receiving forgiveness daily. This prayer for forgiveness should be a daily priority in our lives.

Jesus expected His people to forgive others, and He gives assurance that the forgiveness of God is certain. In order for us to enjoy God’s forgiveness of our sins we must forgive our debtors. We get back what we give. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.”

What we are humanly unable to accomplish, God enables us to do by His power working within us. It is His grace within us that gives us the desire and ability to forgive our neighbor. When we do take action to forgive we have a credible witness to our lost neighbor. He can see the grace of God at work in our lives. He will see the change and ask, “What makes you different?”

Vengeance belongs only to the Lord (Rom. 12:19). We are to hand every situation over to the Lord and trust it to Him. We can find no greater example of this action than in Christ Himself while hanging on the cross. He prayed, “Father forgive them, for they now not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34; Jn. 13:12-15; Eph. 4:32; 5:1-2; Col. 3:13). The forgiveness of Christ must have startled those who were hurling insults, curses and abuses on Him in the hour of His death. One of the criminals saw the difference in Christ and responded to His love.

There is a tremendous sense of inner peace of mind and heart when we choose to forgive. God’s name is glorified because we have been obedient to His command.

Only the power of Christ living in us can empower us to forgive. “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8).

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

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