Give Forgiveness at Christmas
- Saturday, December 19, 2009
Christmas is a time of year when we make our list of friends and family to whom we want to give gifts. We usually start with our children and spouse and work our way out to our family, friends and co-workers. As we do this, the list becomes larger and larger. It's no wonder that we can be overwhelmed at the COST of Christmas.
God paid a very dear cost for us to receive the Gift of eternal life through Jesus. He gave His one and only Son so that we could have life. Most of us understand eternal life as being something that we will receive after we die. But that isn't the full meaning. You see ETERNAL means endless, never-ending, everlasting, and timeless. The moment we accept the offer of Jesus' sacrifice of LIFE, we begin our eternal, never ending walk with God. What that means is that God's life, His love, His peace, His joy, His compassion, is NOW part of who we are and as we submit ourselves to Him, the Holy Spirit empowers us to be more and more like Jesus. That's the part of LIVING that I didn't understand for many years of my Christian walk; that I didn't have to survive on my own anymore because the Holy Spirit was IN ME to HELP ME live the Christian life.
One of the things that the Holy Spirit empowers us to do is FORGIVE. To some that sounds like an impossible task that even God would not ask us to do. After all, some of the people we don't want to forgive really did hurt us. But forgiveness is the MAIN thing that Jesus was born to give to us. We are all sinners who fall short of God's glory and without the shed blood of Jesus, we are doomed not just to hell, but to live a life of misery, because separated from God our lives are hopeless. But Jesus offers us forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. Now that is LIFE ETERNAL!
I believe that one of the biggest reasons that people, even Christians, are miserable is because they refuse to let go of the hurts, disappointment, and offenses of others. They justify their pain and keep themselves and others locked in a prison of unforgiveness.
Peter had a problem with unforgiveness too. He wasn't exactly thrilled with one of his fellow disciples. One day (Matthew 18) he asked Jesus a question, "How many times must I forgive? How about 7? That sounds reasonable doesn't it?" Can't you just see Peter beaming with pride after answering his own question? But Jesus went above and beyond Peters expectation and said; "How about 7 times 70?" I can just hear Peter. "You've got to be kidding me? You expect me to forgive this guy John, who by the way keeps bragging about how much you love him 490 times?! Why don't you deal with Him about his pride and give me a BREAK!"
Jesus had a way of getting right to the heart of people's problems. The real issue here is that NO ONE, not even Peter who walked with Jesus every day, could love the unlovely and give forgiveness without the Help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was reminding Peter, and US, that apart from HIM we can't do anything.
Have you ever noticed that right in the middle of the word forgiveness is the word GIVE? Luke 6:38 says that whatever we give will be given back to us. Paul said in Galatians 6:7 that whatever we sowed, which is also a form of giving would be what we harvested. Jesus said that unless we forgive others, God wouldn't forgive us (Matthew 6:15). OUCH! Why do you suppose that we are required to do this?
I believe there are two main reasons that God requires Christians to offer forgiveness to others. First, we have been forgiven. All of our sins, which are many, have been washed away. They haven't just been covered over. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from ALL unrighteousness and sets us free from the power of sin and death. When we refuse to forgive others, WE, not them, are placed into a pit and our hearts become a seed bed for satan's seeds of bitterness, depression, and offense. The longer we go holding onto the unforgiveness, the more the garden of our heart becomes infested with the enemy's seeds! This is NOT the life that Jesus died to give us. This the enemy's plan to kill, steal and destroy the love that God wants to shed abroad in our hearts!
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