Imitating Forgiveness

Imitating God in Forgiveness

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).


Can We Imitate God in Our Forgiveness

The perfect standard for behavior is God Himself and the gospel exhorts all to be perfect as God is perfect.  This entails that in whatever ways one may possibly imitate God that he so do.  “Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1 ASV).  We would, therefore, do well to imitate God when it comes to forgiveness.

That God places conditions upon forgiveness is necessitated by the fact that God will not forgive some men, though God desires to forgive all (2 Peter 3:9).  Peter says explicitly to Simon the Sorcerer, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:22).  Peter’s words are clear: if Simon wants forgivness, he must meet the condition of prayer to God for the same.  Some, however, will simply not be forgiven.  Those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit, by rejecting His word for their life, will not be forgiven (Matthew 12:32).  God refuses to forgive the individual who does not practice forgiveness himself (Matthew 6:15).  God does not forgive everyone and Christians cannot run beyond God in forgiving such individuals.  Pride and  arrogance alone cause us to think that we can accomplish what God cannot.  However, where God has forgiven and forgives, we need to be keenly responsible to so imitate Him 1) in who he forgives, 2) in how he forgives, and 3) in why he forgives.

Who does God forgive?  God forgives all men potentially and the penitent actually.  Jesus spoke about potential forgiveness in Mark 3:28 “All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme.”  Actual forgiveness, however, comes when an individual repents and turns to God (Mark 4:12).  God forgives private sins that are confessed to Him privately (1 John 1:9).  God, through Christ, forgives public sins when they are confessed publicly as Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave anything, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:10).  Christ considers those sins that are confessed before the church forgiven and if Christ so considers them forgiven, they are truly forgiven.  No individual person or congregation has the right to withhold forgiveness under such circumstances.

How does God forgive?  God forgives generously.  One of the greatest statements in the Bible concerning God’s forgiveness occurs in Psalm 103:10-14.  “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.  For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.  Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.  For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”  The Christian who possesses penitence of heart and who fears God has great consolation knowing that God’s desire and practice is not to deal with us after our sins, but to forgive.  In Christ, forgiveness is actual and God refuses to memorialize our sins (Hebrews 10:16-18).  Would to God that our brethren would be so generous!

Why does God forgive?  God forgives because each person has eternal value worth more than the whole world (Matthew 16:26) and He wants them to be saved.  God so valued each person that he offered His only begotten Son as sacrifice.  Romans 5:6-9 “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”  Each person is at least as precious as the precious blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:19).  And because God has so offered forgiveness to all men, so ought we to have an attitude of forgiveness.  “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph.4:32).  “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col.3:12, 13).

We would do well to imitate God in forgiveness at each moment.  Such does not entail forgiving those who refuse forgiveness or who do not seek it.  However, for the child of God who stands in a relationship with God of having his sins forgiven, the opportunities for forgiveness are rich and deep.  May we be so forgiven and so forgive!

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Does It Say Baptized

What Does It Say?

In the early 1970s, I was part of Camp CACY, Central Alabama Christian Youth camp, for several years. It was there that I became friends with Hudson Nichols, Gus Nichols’ youngest son. He was older than me, but wiser beyond the years he had lived. Hudson and I became close friends during that week, and we worked together every summer. I learned so much about dealing with camp life and young people. He was the best “camper” I have ever known.


Does It Say Baptized?

There was an even greater lesson he taught me in those late night Bible studies (some of which lasted all night), and that is how to look at a verse and see exactly what boundaries are established by that verse. Those who sit in my classes will recognize his influence. After reading a verse, I often ask, “Now what does this verse say?”

Hudson and I would look at a passage, and he would ask me a series of questions. (1) What does it say? (2) What does it not say? (3) What does it imply? (4) What does it not imply? This approach to Bible study helps so much, especially when dealing with a difficult passage.

Let me illustrate how difficult this is. Mark 16:16 says, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” We would read this verse, and Hudson would ask me, “What does it say?” How would you answer that? I would answer various ways. I would say something like, “It says one cannot go to heaven without being baptized.”  Hudson would kindly say, “No, it does not.”  I might try again, saying, “It says baptism is essential for salvation.”  He would reply, “No, it does not.” Frustrated, I might try again, saying, “It says that one is not saved by faith alone.”  Again his reply was, “No, it does not say that.”

I would ask him to help me. He would ask me to read the verse again. Do you know what it says? It says, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” That is what it says! He would then ask me, “What does it not say?” There are several answers to this question, but an obvious one is that it does not say that he who believes and is not baptized will be saved.

What does it imply? It certainly implies many of the answers I gave after his first question. However, to find the implications one must first look carefully at what it actually says. What does it not imply? Among other things, it does not imply that unbaptized infants are lost.

Now, Mark 16:16 is rather easy, but the process is more difficult in other passages. However, the rewards of this approach are so helpful in dealing with very difficult verses. For example, what does Matthew 24:35 say? What does Revelation 1:1 say? What does Acts 8:15 say?  I owe a debt to Hudson and to all those who have helped me learn how to study.

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May God Rejoice

Joy In Heaven

Luke 15, which is often referred to as the “Lost Chapter of the Bible” in that contextually Jesus tells three parables about lost things (i.e. a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son), is one of my favorite sections of Scripture. One of the things we get from this inspired text is the idea of joy in heaven (v 7). A common reference borne from these stories is that “the angels rejoice.” However a close examination of both the context and the original text tells us the focus is on the rejoicing of God. “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).


Cause God to Rejoice with your Life.

We also take notice that in each story the “owner” of the thing lost calls his friends to rejoice with him. In Matthew 18:10 Jesus says the angels of the little ones “do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” This would lead us to believe that the angels do indeed rejoice, but their rejoicing is in response to the rejoicing of God, and that my friends should be our focus. God’s joy in us!

Recently a denominational preacher’s wife publicly stated that everyone just “do good for your own self.” “Do good because God wants you to be happy,” she said. “When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy.” Yet the Bible says, “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). And, “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3).

We need to understand that God does want us to be happy; He wants us to enjoy life (John 10:10), but not on our own terms! God knows what is best for us; He knows what will truly make us happy. What pleases God and causes Him to rejoice before the face of the angels?

Obedience. God wants us to obey His will because it is the source of all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3). God’s love for us (John 3:16) and his desire to have a relationship with us (Ephesians 2:16) caused Him to send His Son to set an example of obedience (John 8:29; Hebrews 5:8–9) and living (1 Peter 2:21). Yes, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels when we obey God.

Repentance. The crux of our text is that God rejoices when even one sinner repents. It is important to note that the sheep that was lost was once safe in the fold. The coin was once a cherished possession of the owner. The son abode in the father’s house. But each ended up lost. God rejoices when the lost child comes back home.

Faithfulness. I have often stated that there is no greater word in the Bible than the word “faithful.” It will be the foundation of the greatest words our ears will ever hear. “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21, 23). As John wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4), even so God rejoices over His faithful children in the presence of the angels.

Have you been obedient to the plan of God that saves men, redeems them, and reconciles them? If not, be sure you have given God no reason to rejoice over you. Are you faithful? Do you need to repent and come back home? If so, why would you do anything other than that which causes God to rejoice and saves you from His wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10)? Do it today! Tomorrow may be too late.

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