The Door Is Closed to the Unforgiving Spirit

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14,15).

IN ORDER TO SEEK GOD WITH HONESTY AND INTEGRITY, WE MUST REMOVE ANGER AND RESENTMENT FROM OUR HEARTS. There is nothing that will keep us away from God more certainly than a failure to forgive those who have wronged us. Jesus said simply, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15). It is only the merciful who will receive mercy (Matthew 5:7; James 2:13).

A truly merciful spirit involves more than the grudging forgiveness of others when they come to us and beg for grace. Jesus called upon us to be people of such character that we will not rest until broken relationships are mended, even if we have to be the ones who take the initiative. Whether the relationship has been broken by our own sin, the other party has sinned against us, or there are sins on both sides that need to be forgiven, in all cases we are to seek out the other person and do all we can to repair the breach (Matthew 5:23,24; 18:15). Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). And mark it well: “if it is possible, as much as depends on you” requires the doing of much more than we think is “necessary.” If God had thought of nothing more than what He “had” to do, He certainly would not have given His Son’s life to make possible the mending of our relationship with Him. It was, after all, we who had broken the relationship, yet His love did not complain about having to do more than was “necessary” to fix it.

But we should be extremely careful. In our conflicts with others, we may be wrong about who it is who actually needs forgiveness. If we think we’re generous enough to confer forgiveness, we need to beware of pride and faulty judgments. Our view of what needs to be fixed may be seriously out of sync with the way God sees it. So having a forgiving spirit means not only that we’re willing to forgive the other person; it may mean adjusting our concept of what is actually broken about the relationship. Humility may mean reversing the direction of the forgiveness — seeking the forgiveness of the very person that we, at first, thought needed our forgiveness.

“No prayers can be heard which do not come from a forgiving heart” (J. C. Ryle).                                            

––Gary Henry, wordpoints.com

Let Us Run the Race

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

BETWEEN NOW AND THE TIME OF OUR DEPARTURE FROM THIS LIFE, THERE IS A “RACE” THAT HAS TO BE RUN. And frankly, the image of a race is mainly an image of pain. Anyone who has ever run a footrace of any distance knows that before the end finally comes, every muscle in the runner’s body cries out for relief. And the longer the race, the more tempting it is to simply quit running.

A great cloud of witnesses. When we run as God’s people, we are doing something that many, many others have done before us. And the writer of Hebrews describes those who’ve gone before as a “great cloud of witnesses,” a stadium full of supportive spectators cheering us onward with the hearty cry, “You can do it!”

Lay aside every weight. In addition to supporters, we also happen to have a spiritual adversary whose purpose it is to defeat us. We must not let him have his way. The “sin which so easily ensnares us” must be laid aside. It’s a simple matter. Either we decide to lay our sins aside or they will be our undoing.

Run with endurance. We are not in a sprint but a marathon. For all we know, it may be many years before the time comes for us to rest. But remember the “cloud of witnesses”? One of those witnesses is Paul, who wrote toward the end of his life, “I have finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:7). He did it, and we can do it too.

But there’s no chance we’ll do what Paul did if we’re not motivated by what motivated him: the glorious prospect of being with Christ forever. He said he had sacrificed every worldly thing that ever mattered to him: “that I may gain Christ and be found in Him . . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8-11). Any goal less powerful than this will fail to keep us going. We must fix our hearts upon our Lord and determine that we are going to run the race, come whatever may. There can be no question or equivocation about it. So let us not merely study or think about running the race. Let us run the race.

“To believe in heaven is not to run away from life; it is to run toward it”

Joseph D. Blinco

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

Do Not Worry

Many of us find it easy to worry about things in our life. Matters that relate to our jobs, families, finances, and more can cause anxiety. But Jesus told his followers, “Do not be worried about your life” (Matthew 6:25). Sometimes this is easier said than done. But notice what Jesus said about this subject:

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:25-27).

In these verses, Jesus asked three questions. As the master teacher, He was able to ask questions in a way that was more instructive than inquisitive. Notice the three points Jesus made that will help us deal with anxiety.

1. There are more important things to consider (Matthew 6:25) – Yes, food and clothing are important. But a few verses later Jesus explained how we should order our priorities: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). We need to put a priority on spiritual things. We must recognize that the physical things we worry about are only temporal.

2. We are valuable in the sight of God (Matthew 6:26) – God provides for the birds of the air. Jesus said that in God’s eyes we are worth much more than birds. If God will provide for the needs of animals, He will provide for our needs.

3. It does no good to worry (Matthew 6:27) – We cannot prolong our lives by worrying. Another translation mentioned one adding height to his physical body. No good is accomplished by worrying. Good will be accomplished when we consider the situation and act appropriately. Anxiety hinders us from doing this.

When you are tempted to worry, remember what Jesus taught. Make sure you have your priorities in the proper order. Know that you are valuable in the sight of God. Recognize that worrying will do no good to help the situation that is causing you the anxiety.

Remember also the benefit of prayer. Paul wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Let us keep all of these things in mind. Do not let anxiety hinder you from serving God. Put your faith and trust in Him that He will take care of you, as long as you “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

–by Andy Sochor, Eastside church of Christ in Morgantown, KY.

Center

“. . . and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6).

GOD WILL NEVER DISAPPOINT US. He is the only secure, unchanging center around which we can order our lives, and in which we can ground our peace. He is an infallible point of reference.

To say that God will never disappoint us is not to say that we will never be disappointed. We may sometimes be disappointed that God does not do as we wish. But this is not because of any objective failure of faithfulness on His part. It comes rather from a subjective failure on our part to understand God’s wisdom, His methods, and even His love.

God is often described in the Scriptures in terms of things that are solid and immovable. One figure is that of a rock. David, for example, said, “Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved” (Psalm 62:1,2).

But another interesting figure is that of an anchor. In the New Testament, Christians with a wavering faith were urged to hold on to their hope: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19). And they were reminded that God’s promise is backed up by His oath, “that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:17,18).

Our frequent frustrations in life result, more often than not, from having an unstable center. In selecting our end-all-and-be-all, we select some fairly shaky things, often with tragic results. And even when we suppose that God is our center, our faith often turns out to be not in God Himself but in certain earthly blessings that He’s allowed us to have temporarily. But like Job, we need to love God for His own sake, even when His wisdom withdraws particular blessings from us. And like Paul, we need to be grounded in God and able to say, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).

“Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me” (Henry F. Lyte).

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

The Set of Our Sails

“And Elijah came to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people answered him not a word” (1 Kings 18:21).

WHEN IT COMES TO GOD, WE WON’T MAKE MUCH PROGRESS IF WE “FALTER BETWEEN TWO OPINIONS.” There is a certain amount of difficulty that has to be overcome in the course of our journey toward God, and that difficulty won’t be overcome if we haven’t made up our minds and committed ourselves to making the journey. The roadside will be littered with the bleached bones of those who wavered — those who weren’t sure what their opinion was as to the importance of God and weren’t sure whether devoting themselves to Him was something they wanted to do.

Less important excursions in life often don’t require any definite goal or decisiveness on our part. For me, one of life’s great joys is the joy of walking, and there are some times when I set out on a walk without any notion of where I want to go. It’s enjoyable just to walk. The destination might change during the walk, and side trips can easily be taken. On such a walk, a little haphazardness doesn’t hurt; it may even enhance the pleasure of the trek.

But haphazard progress won’t get us to heaven. We won’t reach God by casually strolling through life admiring the scenery. God is the God of those who “diligently seeking Him” (Hebrews 11:6), and that implies the necessity of conscious decision. If God is our goal, we won’t move toward Him if we don’t reach for Him.

In the end, there’ll only be two groups of people. The dividing line won’t be between the fortunate and the unfortunate, or between those who had it easy and those who had it hard; it will be between those who decided to go to heaven and those who didn’t. When “every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14) is gusting every which way, it’s the set of our sails that will get us home.

One ship drives east and another west, 
with the self-same winds that blow; 
’tis the set of the sails and not the gales 
that determines where they go. 
Like the winds of the sea are the ways 
of fate, as we voyage along through life; 
’tis the set of a soul that decides its goal 
— and not the calm or the strife. 
(Ella Wheeler Wilcox)

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com