- 2017Mar 24
“Over and over again in the New Testament, Christians are reminded that God has forgiven all their sins through Christ’s death. And time and again, too, Christians are commanded to forgive.” So writes Julia Marsden, author of the little 10 of Those book entitled Forgiveness. As Julia begins her book, she clears up some misunderstandings about forgiveness and then draws five truths from Jesus’ parable at the end of Matthew 18, and then a sixth truth from the overall teaching of the New Testament.
- Forgiveness means it’s over. The debt which is owed is cancelled. “Forgiveness means that you let go of the file of that person’s sin. You stop holding on to it. You stop holding it against them. It’s over.” The book's cover image of a chalkboard that has been erased beautifully portrays this truth.
- Forgiveness is pure grace. It is totally undeserved. “Forgiveness is pure grace. The person doesn’t deserve it. That is the point. And because of this, there are no limits to forgiveness. You never reach a point where you can say, ‘That’s too much, now.’”
- Forgiveness is a two-sided transaction. It take two to complete it. “Forgiveness is like giving someone a gift, or giving someone the hand of friendship. I can offer it. I can put out my hand to you. But if you don’t receive it, if you don’t put out your hand to accept mind, there is a sense in which forgiveness remains only half done.”
- Forgiveness is a decision of the will. You choose to do it. “I think we tend to think of forgiveness as an emotion. But the Bible talks about forgiveness as a decision of the will….Emotional change may follow, but forgiveness itself is a decision.”
- Forgiveness is like a key to a door. Its aim is to open the way to a restored relationship. “The context of Jesus’ story in Matthew 18 is reconciliation within the church family. Forgiveness is never an end in itself….Christ dies to end the divide and restore the relationship. Our forgiveness of others should have the same aim.”
- Forgiveness is possible because sin is fully and finally paid for. “When God forgives me, when He forgives you, He does so because our sin is paid for. Jesus paid for it as He died on the cross. He was paying the price for our sin, bearing the punishment our sin deserved.”
Pass the file to God...
The author wraps up her little book with this admonition:
When God calls on me to forgive, He is not calling on me to rip up the file of that person’s sin. He is asking me to let go of it and give it to Him to deal with. He is saying, “Pass it to Me. Leave it with Me. You can trust Me to deal with it.” You can trust Me to deal with it.” We find it hard to do that. But actually God is inviting us to walk in a pathway of great blessing. He is inviting us to give up carrying around the burden of that file, which pulls us down towards bitterness.”
We must take the matter of an unforgiving spirit seriously, for “refusing to forgive someone is spiritual suicide.”
- 2017Mar 23
Every week, each of us has 168 hours. If we were to try to account for those hours, we may allocate about 56 hours to sleep and 40-60 hours for employment, including commutes. That leaves 50-70 hours/week for shopping, education, family, church, and household responsibilities. Once all of that is factored into the equation, the Wall Street Journal recently concluded the average American still has 5 hours and 13 minutes a day for leisure activities. That should lead us to ask ourselves a few questions.
- What do we usually do with those hours?
- What did we do with them this past week?
- How much time did we spend intentionally heeding the command of Scripture to live the Christ-centered life? If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Col. 3:1-2).
If you and I are honest, we must admit that nothing is so easy to do as waste time, nothing is easier than simply coasting through the Christian life without the intentional pursuit of Christ. And yet, as new creatures in Christ, living for Him is our calling. As 2 Corinthians 5:15 states, Jesus died so that “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
We find the same message in the book of Ephesians. After spending three chapters lifting up the glory of God our Savior, the apostle calls us to walk in manner worthy of our calling in Christ (Eph. 4:1). Ephesians 4 then provides numerous examples of what attitudes and behaviors should characterize this new walk. Then, in the fifth chapter, we are called to walk in love, walk in holiness, walk in light, and walk in wisdom.
But what does it mean to walk in wisdom? In part, it means to use our time wisely (but we’ll get to that in a minute). To walk in wisdom means we must continually walk two ways.
Walk with care (vv. 15-16).
The apostle commands us to look carefully how we walk. The KJV says, “circumspectly.” The word means to walk by a strict standard. Kenneth Wuest, in his Greek Studies in the New Testament, illustrates the word this way: “It is like a motorist accurately following on the right side of the center line dividing traffic." Walking carefully means heeding 1 Thessalonians 5:22, to abstain from every form of evil. Our walk is the conduct of our lives, which should not be unwise like Nabal in the Old Testament, who was known for being a foolish man, or the five foolish virgins who did not prepare for the future, especially eternity.
Instead, we are to walk with wisdom, which refers to applying the knowledge we have acquired. A wise man is one who lives by a strict standard, a standard that is established by his study and understanding of God’s Word. This is what it means to walk carefully. An anonymous author described the circumspect life in his or her poem entitled Be Careful.
Be careful of your thoughts
For your thoughts become your words.
Be careful of your words
For your words become your actions.
Be careful of your actions
For your actions become your habits.
Be careful of your habits
For your habits become your character.
Be careful of your character
For your character becomes your destiny.
Walking with care means making the best use of the time. This phrase means to buy up at the market place; i.e. seize the opportunity. Why? Because the days are evil. We live in a day when evil is more than passive, it is active evil; evil in active opposition to good; moral corruption. The world is evil and needs the Lord. We must seize the day, using our time wisely for the advancement of the gospel (Col. 4:5). Our days are limited. We must use them for the sake of Christ.
Walk with understanding (v. 17).
The apostle continues his call to walk in wisdom by saying we should not be foolish; i.e. without understanding, senseless. The word refers to imprudence, folly in action, stupidity. In other words, the apostle is telling us it is senseless to live our lives without conscious thought of the will of God. Instead we are to understand the will of the Lord. This spiritual understanding is something we gain from the Word of God, but also through prayer (see Colossians 1:9-10).
Spiritual understanding begins with a posture of reverence toward God and His Word. Psalm 111:10 says, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. Understanding the will of God comes when we offer our life to him as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2).
Life is short. It is too short to waste in the pursuit of our own will. Therefore, how will we use the hours and years the Lord gives to us? Will we use them carefully and wisely? Or will we spend them foolishly? This poem and prayer by A. B. Simpson has always convicted my own heart. Consider its message.
God has his best things for the few
That dare to stand the test.
He has his second choice for those
Who will not have his best.
It is not always open ill
That risks the promised rest.
The better often is the foe
That keeps us from the best.
Give me, O Lord, thy highest choice;
Let others take the rest.
Their good things have no charm for me
For I have got the best.
[Adapted from last Sunday’s sermon.]
- 2017Mar 21
A strong partnership between the home and the church is essential in helping develop young disciples. Children’s Ministry in general, and especially Sunday School, is one format of discipleship that offers a unique opportunity to bring the joy of the gospel to the younger generation. A strong partnership of parents (and grandparents) and Sunday School staff is essential to the spiritual growth of our children.
If you’re a parent, here are a few practical ways for you to take advantage of the partnership with the church in helping your child grow spiritually:
- Before coming to Sunday School, pray together for their time in Sunday School. Taking time to pray builds a bond between your child, their teachers, and other children in their classroom. It helps prepare their heart to receive biblical instruction. And these prayers will also help strengthen their faith in God as they see God answer their prayers.
- Pray for the Children’s Ministry, and specifically your child’s Sunday School teachers. Perhaps you could even ask the teacher if there are specific ways you can pray for him/her and for the class. Make this a part of your family prayer time or your own personal prayer time. Pray for the teachers as they prepare during the week and for their teaching on Sunday morning. Pray that the children’s hearts will be soft, will respond at a young age to the gospel, and will grow and wisdom and Christ-likeness.
- Get to know your child’s teachers and help them get to know your child. Share with them about your child (e.g. their spiritual condition, their struggles, what helps them focus, any disabilities, medication, allergies). It can also be helpful to share any pertinent family information such as a death in the family, chronic illnesses, or other difficult trials. These bits of information will help the teachers not only minister most effectively to your child, but will also help them know how to pray for your child.
- Bring your child to class on time. Sunday School starts at the same time as the worship service. Arriving late means everyone loses out on an important part of the morning and to some extent disrupts others. Before dropping off your child be sure to take them to the restroom.
- During the week review the GIFT Workbook (Growing in Faith Together workbook that your child brought home in September). These pages (which correspond with the lesson taught the previous Sunday) will help you partner with the church in teaching your child sound doctrine and Scripture. Going over these pages together will help your child put into practice the truths they learned in Sunday School.
- During the week learn and review the church-wide Scripture Memory Verse with your child. Memorizing can be done through repetition, games, competition, or activities. Make sure to include ample discussion and application regarding the verse.
- Offer to help. Ask the Children’s Ministry Director if there are ways you can help the Children’s Ministry. This might include teaching or helping in a classroom, providing snacks, decorating the rooms, preparing materials, or planning events. Children love to see parents involved in their activities.
- Let your child’s Sunday School teacher know you’re grateful for their ministry and sacrifice. Teachers spend hours of their own time preparing the curriculum and sacrifice their own time in the worship service to teach each month. Encourage your child to also express their gratitude to their teachers.
- Reinforce with your child what kind of behavior will honor God and their teachers. Teaching a room full of children can be a challenge on many levels. Dealing with disrespectful or uncooperative children disrupts the entire class. Talk to your child about their behavior and participation in the Sunday School classroom. For young children it will be helpful to remind them of this each week before they go to class. If the teacher shares a concern about your child’s behavior, take time to understand the situation, talk with your child in a loving, but firm way, and let the teacher know you want to help make their job easier. It might be helpful to talk to your child along with the teacher so that the child cannot make excuses and knows that both sets of adults are on the same page.
- Make Sunday worship and Sunday School a priority. Many things today compete for our time and attention. Missing church not only means missing important teaching, worship and fellowship, it also conveys to children what is or isn’t most important in life. Keep the Lord’s Day the Lord’s Day!
God has given us a wonderful plan for partnership between parents and the church by which we can implant the Word of God into children’s heart. What a unique blessing for children to grow up with their parents and their church working together to show them Jesus!
[Today's guest post is written by Bobette Hatteberg, Children's Ministry Director at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.]