Saturday, July 29, 2006

Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness: Part 2

Living with our own sins

One of the primary areas where we are content to live in harmony with unrighteousness is in the area of our own sins. We are quick to judge the sins of others and are often harsh in our renouncement of our own brethren when they sin, but we are equally quick to excuse our own sins and to rebuff anyone who tries to address areas of sin in our personal life. We are like the man who is skilled at finding the specks in his brother’s eye yet all the time fails to see the log that is in our own eye (Matthew 7:3). Paul, in writing to the Corinthian church, spoke of this same condition that was apparent in the church. “I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced.” (2 Corinthians 12:21)

Jesus invites us to come “just as I am” but He doesn’t want us to stay “just as I am”. When we come to Jesus we all come dirty. We are all filthy with the stain of our own sins. We also come with habits, practices, and ideas that were not formed by the Word of God but rather were formed by our association with the world. We come as sinners and it is sinners that Jesus came to save (1 Timothy 1:15). Once saved, however, Jesus begins to work a work of sanctification in our lives; to clean us up from the inside out. It is this process of sanctification that Jesus asks us to partner with Him in the work. The Holy Spirit does the work, but we must yield to His leading and teaching in our lives. This is why Paul said that we should, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)

We can no longer tolerate sin in our own lives. We must be willing to confront it and repent of our sin that we might find forgiveness and a changed life by the power of the Holy Spirit. “I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you.” (Ex 23:27-28) The Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, exposing areas of sin that we might “drive them out.” He doesn’t ask us to deal with all our issues all at once, but when He does bring an area of sin to the forefront, we must deal with it and drive it from our lives.

More to come… David Robison

Monday, July 24, 2006

Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness: Part 1

“And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” (1 Peter 1:8) This is not the kind of rejoicing that Paul is talking about when he teaches us that love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:6) No one jumps up and down with joy over unrighteousness, and few are every that excited over the truth as well. The type of rejoicing that Paul is referring to in this scripture is a peaceful, happy disposition or a feeling of well being. It is a sense that you are well-off and content with life and its circumstances.

As Christians, we know that we are to denounce unrighteousness, but its presence is all around us. So to live a peaceful and comfortable life, we are often willing to tolerate the unrighteousness around us. We accept a peaceful coexistence with unrighteous and live in a kind of spiritual d├ętente with the forces of darkness. We try to live godly in our own lives, and we love to hear our preachers preach against evil in our churches, but we stop short of actually confronting the evil that is in our world. We live and let live to the point where we are willing to compromise everything so that we might not “rock the boat”.

We have become like Lot who “moved his tents as far as Sodom.” (Genesis 13:12) Sodom was exceeding wicked and Peter tells us that Lot’s soul was oppressed by what he saw around him. “For by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds.” (2 Peter 2:8) Yet Lot, for all his tormented soul suffered, never confronted the wickedness of that city. Lot was righteous, but his righteousness had no effect on the city around him or its inhabitance. In fact, when Lot finally stood up to warn them of the coming judgment from the hand of God, the laughed him to scorn for, “he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting.” (Genesis 19:14)

We have become like the church at Corinth which was rich in the gifts of the Spirit, yet also rich in sin. “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife.” (1 Corinthians 5:1) This sin was a stain upon the church and an offence before God. Such a situation calls for action, yet the spiritual leaders of the church were silent. In fact, they seemed content to let “sleeping dogs lie” as long as they could have their anointed, powerful, Holy Ghost meetings.

Love does not live at peace with unrighteousness. Love cares too much for other people to “wink at sin” or to look the other way when iniquity enters the camp. Love cares enough to confront sin, even to “expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11) It reminds me of the time when President Ronald Regan stood before the Berlin wall and uttered those now famous words, “Mr. Gorbachove, Tear down this wall!” For years, the Soviet Union and the United States eked out a sort of peace between the two countries, neither willing to take a bold move or to “rock the boat”. Yet it was Regan who was willing to take on that “evil empire”, calling on them to dismantle their stronghold on the countries of the Eastern Block, and calling for the repudiation of communism. Regan was willing to take them on and, in the end, saw the demise of communism.

In the same way we too must be bold, not to take on communism, but to stand up against unrighteousness, iniquity, and injustice. To not just believe that unrighteousness is wrong, but to live a life that demonstrates what truth is, to show the world another way of living, and to campaign against wickedness by our own good deeds. Love takes a stand!

In the next few posts we will look at some ways that love can confront unrighteousness and help to establish the truth.

More to come… David Robison

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Love does not keep a record of wrongs: Part 3

Walking in forgiveness

Some have asked me, “How can I forgive and forget?” Well, for starters, it is a blessed thing that God commands us to do only one of the two. God never commands us to forget but He does command us to forgive. Forgiveness has little to do with forgetting. Forgiveness is the releasing of a debt. Whether or not you choose to remember that debt is up to you, but either way we are still commanded to forgive. Yet, because we are made in God’s image, it is possible to forget a forgiven debt. God has promised not only to forgive us but to also remove and forget our sins. “‘They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.’” (Jeremiah 31:34)

The reason we have so much trouble forgetting is that we are often not ready to let go of our hurts. We tend our hurts with such care that we actually keep them alive much longer then God would have. God is waiting and ready to heal our hurts but we are not ready or willing to give them over to Him. Far too often we allow ourselves the luxury of replaying our hurts over and over in our minds. Every time we see the person who hurt us, or whenever something triggers the remembrance of a hurt, we remember in full the entire situation. We replay the entire event in our mind, complete with the emotions, hurt, and anger we felt. We remind ourselves of how unjustly we were treated and of the judgment that the other person deserves because of their ill treatment of us. With each rehearsal of the hurt, its influences over us become stronger and it becomes more ingrained within our soul. With each rehearsal it becomes harder and harder to let go.

What we need to understand is that, while forgiving is a decision, forgetting is a process. Forgetting does not happen all at once, it is a process that we walk out with God. The key to forgetting is found in one of the definitions of the Hebrew word for “forget”. To “forget” is to “neglect”. When we are drawn back to remember a past hurt, a hurt for which we have already forgiven the other person, we must choose not to entertain the remembrance. We must remind ourselves, and God, that we have already forgiven the other persons; that we have already released them from their debt they owed us because of their sin against us. We must not allow ourselves the “pleasure” of rehearsing the hurt, but rather we should replace a pattern of rehearsal with a new godly pattern. “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28) Instead of replaying in our mind how the other person hurt us, we need to develop a new habit of blessing, praying, and doing good to the other person.

Here is the plan for forgetting. The next time you remember how someone hurt you, pray for them and ask God to blessing them. When you have an opportunity, do something good for them. In this way you will be neglecting the memory and, over time, it and its hurt will begin to fade. King Solomon reminds us that “whether a tree falls toward the south or toward the north, wherever the tree falls, there it lies.” (Ecclesiastes 11:3) If you have ever seen a freshly fallen tree, it still looks very much alive, albeit in a horizontal position. Its leaves are still green and you can still smell its fragrance, but overtime death takes hold. Its leaves brown and its branches become brittle. When we forgive, it is like falling the tree of offence committed by another. If we keep watering the fallen tree, it will live on longer, but if we simple neglect the fallen tree, it will wither and eventually decay to nothing. The same is true of our hurts. Immediately after forgiving, the hurts still seem very much alive, but if we commit to neglecting them, overtime, they will fade and their hurt will lesson until it is entirely forgotten.

David Robison

Monday, July 17, 2006

Love does not keep a record of wrongs: Part 2

Kingdom Economics:

Forgiveness, in its most foundational meaning, is a financial term. Forgiveness simply means the removing of a debt. Even today, when a financial institution reduces or cancels a debt, they refer to it as the forgiveness of the debt. To help us understand the forgiveness of sins, Jesus drew a parallel to the forgiveness of a financial debt. Jesus tells the story of a poor man who was hopefully in debt to the king. “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.” (Matthew 18:23-24) Exactly how much ten thousand talents would be today is unclear, but Bible teacher J Vernon McGee estimated that it would be about twelve million dollars in today’s currency. Unable to pay, the king sentenced the man to be sold. “But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.” (Matthew 18:25) Pleasing for his life, the man begs for more time. “So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’” (Matthew 18:26) Having pity on the man, the king responds with mercy and canceled the entire debt that the man owed. “And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.” (Matthew 18:27)

When we sin against God or against our fellow man, because of our sin, we own them a debt. The price for our sin against God is our life. “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) Because of our sins against God, we bear the sentence of death. Where there is sin, there must also be the shedding of blood. To satisfy the righteous judgment of God toward us, Jesus died in our place. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) And because of His substitutionary death on our behalf, God is able to extend to us His complete and unconditional forgiveness. The debt we owed God due to our sin has been completely wiped away. We who were sinners have been made right before God.

In the same way that our heavenly Father forgives us, so we too must forgive those who sin against us. We must be willing to cancel their debt, to release them, and to set them free. The sum of what they own us because of their sins against us may be great, but it still pales in comparison to the debt we owned God. As we have been forgiven, so we must for them.

When we understand forgiveness from a financial aspect, one thing become immediately apparent. Forgiveness has nothing to do with our emotions. Forgiveness is a decision of our will. We may still be hurting or even angry over their sin, but we can still choose to forgive then. We may not even “feel” like forgiving, but feelings have little to do with forgiveness, we can still forgive regardless of how we feel.

Someone once said that “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” While it may be good poetry, it’s bad theology. In every relationship there will always be things that we must ask forgiveness for. Love means never having to hold on to a sin or a hurt. Love allows us to release one another for the hurtful things we have done. Love allows us to keep short accounts of others’ sins. When things come between us, love forgives, releases, and moves on.

More to come… David Robison

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Love does not keep a record of wrongs: Part 1

Love may not keep a record of wrongs but God’s accounts are always accurate, up to date, and in great detail. God sees everything we do, and all our words and deeds are recorded in books before the living God. Everything we do and say is recorded, and one day, we will be called to give an account for everything that is written in those books. Paul reminds us that, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) If God is love then how can we reconcile His detailed accounting of our lives with the truth that love does not keep a record of wrongs? The answer is that God keeps two sets of books.
And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:12-15)
Notice that there are the “books” and there is also another “book”. In the “books” are written an accounting of our words and deeds, but in the “book”, is written the names of those have been forgiven by the Lamb of God. In the end, it only matters what is written in the one “book”. We have all sinned; we all have plenty written about us in the “books” that we are ashamed of. If we were to be judged by the “books” we would all be damned to hell and to an eternity apart from the presence of God, but our eternal state is not determined by the “books”. Whether we receive eternal judgment or eternal life is determined solely by whether our names have been entered into the one “book”, the Lamb’s book of life. This is why the scriptures say, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” (Romans 4:7-8)

We too have two sets of books. One is a compilation of everything others have said about us and done to us. We also have a second book, a book that lists those whom we have freely chosen to forgive. When others sin against us, love chooses to write their name in our book of the forgiven. We cannot erase what they have done but we can choose to forgive them. I have had some say, “I’m not ready to forgive,” but most often what they are really saying is that they are not ready to give up their claim on the other person. They were wronged and the one who wronged them owes them. Their anger and their desire for vengeance are greater than their willingness to forgive. Unfortunately, the anger they choose to hold on to ends up only hurting themselves, and their unforgiveness towards them only serves to build a wall between themselves and God. If we are not ready to forgive, it is because we have chosen not to forgive. Love chooses to forgive. Love chooses to close the book in which we have written all their misdeeds against us and to forgive them and write their name in the book of our forgiveness. God has done this for us; we can do it for others.

More to come… David Robison

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Love is not Provoked: Part 3

Heresy and Heretics

Many of the people who risked the dangerous journey from England to the New World did so for the hope of securing religious freedom. Many who had been persecuted by the state church in England fled to the new colonies in search of a freedom to worship as they believed. Many of these people had been branded as heretics in England, but in America, they could worship in peace and according to their faith. Ironically, however, many of the early colonies, formed by those who had been heretics in England, passed their own laws to punish those they judged as heretics. In many colonies, heresy was punishable by death. It is ironic that those who came seeking religious freedom ended up denying that same freedom to those who worshiped differently from themselves. It was Virginia that was the first colony to enact laws guaranteeing the freedom of religion for all its citizens.

No one likes a heretic. However, we often think of heresy as being limited to issues of religion, yet the definition of a heretic is simply one who dissents. A heretic is simply one who dissents or disagrees with our “doctrine” or our beliefs concerning what is right and true. Often our love is challenged by those who disagree with us. When faced with dissention, it is easy for us to repay with anger. We can be easily provoked by those who challenge and disagree with us. This happened in the father/son relationship between King Saul and his son Jonathan. Jonathan had formed a friendship with David, whom his father saw as a challenger and an enemy. It was during a festival of the new moon. David was absent and when asked, Jonathan made an excuse for him to his father. King Saul reacted with anger. “Then Saul's anger burned against Jonathan and he said to him, ‘You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you are choosing the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother's nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Therefore now, send and bring him to me, for he must surely die.’” (1 Samuel 20:30-31) Jonathan sought to further defend David, causing his father to increase in his anger. “Then Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him down; so Jonathan knew that his father had decided to put David to death.” (1 Samuel 20:33)

What had caused King Saul to become so angry, even to the point of trying to take the life of his own son? It was because Saul had become so convinced that he was justified in his judgment of David that it was an affront to him personally that his son would disagree with him. When we are passionate about something it is easy to get offended when someone disagrees with us. They are as heretics to us; dissenters from what we “know” to be true. Sometimes our passions are for noble things, like the Word of God, other times our passions are the result of a more base desire, such as revenge for an offence. I have known people who are so angry, and self-justified in their anger, with someone who wronged them that they also became equally angry with anyone who challenges the justification for their anger. We are angry with someone and cannot accept anyone else who is not. This was King Saul’s problem. He distrusted David, he considered him his enemy, and he could not tolerate anyone, even his own son, who disagreed with him.

Love is willing to let others have their own opinions and feelings. Love does not insist that others feel the same way about certain people as we do. Love is willing to consider that maybe we are wrong, maybe others have a different perspective that we can benefit from. Love is willing to put anger on hold and to give others a hearing, to consider what they have to say, and to value them as a person.

David Robison