Shun Subsistence Living

I trust you are increasingly experiencing the Lightness of living forgiven (lightness both in terms of freedom from darkness [John 12:46] and release from burdens of religion [Matthew 11:30]). If you are, I need to warn you that it won’t be long before some highly regarded religious folk will come around trying to put you back in bondage and under condemnation!

Allow me to re-cap a few of the issues I have shared with you in the past two weeks: Jesus has, by His death and resurrection, dealt not only with the problem of sins (the acts) but sin itself (our sinfulness); His sacrifice has taken away sin; His sacrifice has “once for all” resulted in our being made clean; when we acknowledge a sin, He immediately restores us to fellowship and continually cleanses us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). But when you start to live this out, people who claim to believe these things (but don’t live them) will confront you, accusing you of being “soft on sin!” They may yell at you in their (sincere but misguided) effort to convince you that you are not taking seriously how pervasive your sinfulness is, nor how frequently you engage in sinful behavior! But their fury betrays them: While claiming to be “Biblical” they don’t really believe the death of Jesus solved the sin problem.

I remember a personal encounter with such folk many years ago. A brother had committed an act of sin (I almost wrote “an egregious sin,” but to view sins in gradation perpetuates a religious approach to sin and sinfulness). Anyway, the brother confessed (acknowledged) his sin to God, and then had the sheer audacity to expect that these other folk would treat him as forgiven! These folk were religious (but would deny it vehemently); they found his approach unacceptable! What? No weeping? No long remorseful speech? No hang-dog look?He’s got a light view of sin!  Their statement (directed at me) begged the question: How could he get such a warped and unbiblical view about the seriousness of sin? I told them, somewhat hesitantly, He learned it from me! As the dialog continued, Jesus (true to His promise) gave me the answer: No! I don’t have a light view of sin! I have a high view of the blood of Jesus! You see, “we don’t believe what we say we believe, we believe what we do.” If we really believe Jesus solved the sin problem, we will live forgiven—focused not on our sin but gazing upon Jesus (II Corinthians 3:18). If we don’t properly value His blood we’ll remain in (or allow ourselves to be subjected again to) bondage and darkness, fixated on our sins and sinfulness, trying harder, still feeling guilty and burdened most of the time (“Out! Out, damn spots!”). I warn you about this, and about religious folk of this kind, because I’m not sure the brother ever really recovered from his exposure to them—I’m not sure he ever again enjoyed living as fully forgiven (a dearly beloved, blood bought, child of the King). I know my words to you are not easy to hear, but they are true: If you still beat up on yourself over your confessed sins (the acts) or your supposed continued sinfulness (or allow others to beat on you concerning such things), you are not “serious about sin;” you have a low view of the blood of Jesus! Jesus has forgiven you even of this, and wants you to forgive yourself, accept His healing, and walk into the light.

Read again God’s words in Hebrews, chapter 10 (please, open your Bible and allow the Spirit to speak to you)—those who pursue religion (even the God-given religion of the Mosaic Law) are constantly reminded of their sins and sinfulness (vs. 1, 3, 4 & 11). They measure themselves by whether their conduct is good or evil (and imagine God as never satisfied with them—hence, they try harder but still feel dirty, so they do more [again and again]). But such a beggarly subsistence is strongly contrasted with God’s provision of life through Jesus—His full and complete (once for all) sacrifice (which took away wrath and brought blessing [propitiation, John 2:2]) actually allows us to have no more consciousness of sins (Hebrews 10:2, 12-18, our focus is moved away from ourselves and on to Him); He purified us and enables us (Therefore at v. 19) to enter boldly into God’s presence and to draw near to Him in constant communion because we are clean (vs. 19-22 ). This is living forgiven, life in the New Covenant established in His blood—old things have vanished, the new has come. God says this is true of everyone in Christ (II Cor. 5:17 [If you are in Christ, you ARE a new creation . . ..]). Yet, tragically, many (dare I say most) who are His don’t live this way. They are forgiven, but they subsist as if they are not yet really clean, not yet new. How this grieves Jesus—that so many who are His do not enjoy the full and complete forgiveness He provides.

May you experience the joys of living in The Light.

John

Live Forgiven!

I have been bombarding you for two weeks about forgiveness, and with this one I will stop. I plan to resume my “regular” every other week or so “schedule” (around Thanksgiving). As you may recall, this current barrage was begun by a disturbing dream and has focused primarily on the reality of our full and complete forgiveness in Christ. In this, as in all of life, it matters what we believe! God brought this home to me about 20 years ago as we were teaching through the book of Ephesians and came to chapter 4, verse 32:

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

In this particular passage, as in a similar instruction in Colossians, the word translated “forgiven” is not the Greek word most commonly translated “forgiven.” It is the word more commonly translated “grace” (but it is in a form hard to translate into English [we don’t often say “gracing”]). Yet, it was this verse that God used to transform my understanding of “grace” as a way of life, not just a way to life (and it is the origin of our “tagline”—. . . gracing one another as God in Christ has graced you). In addition to the tie to forgiveness in this verse, you may also see a connection to my e-mail of over a month ago—because this verse, like so many others, includes a “just as” statement. Just as . . .. Our beliefs about how God forgives, when God forgives, who He forgives, what conditions (if any) He places on His forgiveness are crucial to “living out” this instruction. Just as . . ..

In this “concluding” (at least for now) post on forgiveness, I want to focus on the instruction (command) in Ephesians 4:32: Forgive one another just as God in Christ has forgiven you. You see, as with much of our life in Christ, all the great benefits we receive from Papa are not given so we will hoard them! We should enjoy them fully, for sure. But as we enjoy His benefits, He wants us to share those benefits with others. As to forgiveness: You have been forgiven of God through Christ because Jesus bled and died to pay-in-full all the penalty for your sin. I have been encouraging you to recognize and revel in His provision: Live forgiven! In Ephesians we are told that to live forgiven results not only in gratitude, but should also manifest itself in our forgiveness of others just as God in Christ has forgiven us.

It was about 10 years ago that a dear brother, Steve Diehl (www.forgivenessministries.com), shared with a group of us about a study he was doing on forgiveness. Of particular note was the considerable focus on the “physical and psychological benefits” of forgiveness relied upon by Christian authors in explaining why we should forgive. It may be undeniable that such benefits flow from forgiveness, but to make those the basis for forgiveness by believers makes forgiveness primarily about me, something which promotes my well-being—forgiveness of others becomes a “self-centered” act! My own reading on the subject confirms the prevalence of this focus (I just saw another article to that effect the other day). What Steve then shared is a further development of a concept I opened to you a few days back—involving the value we give to the blood of Jesus. If you recall, I told you that your efforts to “make up for” your confessed sins revealed an attitude like, “Jesus, Your blood may have satisfied the Father, but it’s not good enough for me!” Steve pointed out that when we fail to forgive others, we are saying the same thing! If Jesus died to “take away sin” and if His sacrifice truly “took away wrath and brought blessing” (not only on our behalf, but on behalf of the whole world [I John 2:2]), how arrogant of us to not give full weight to the effectiveness of His sacrifice in how we relate to those who sin against us! (Prayerfully reconsider Matthew 18:21-35). Again, in the context of interpersonal relationships, our un-forgiveness of others shouts: “God, the blood of Jesus may have satisfied You, but it’s not good enough for me!”

Forgive . . . just as God in Christ has forgiven you.

“You don’t know what they did to me!” You are right, I don’t. But Jesus knows: He died to pay-in-full the debt their wrong incurred. Is His “currency” good at your bank? “That’s not fair!” God’s forgiveness of you isn’t “fair” either—but it is right, because your debt has been paid in full. “But they aren’t even sorry for what they did!” (“I want them to grovel!”) He didn’t say “trust” them, He says forgive them—for God was in Christ [asking forgiveness on behalf of those pounding the nails, even as the hammer stuck], completely changing the way the world relates to Him, not counting their “in your face” attitude against them (II Corinthians 5:19).

 Forgive . . . just as God in Christ has forgiven you.

“What you’re asking is impossible!” Good call, . . . if you were merely human! But, you are not merely human—you are no longer in Adam, you are in Christ. You are a dearly beloved, blood bought & fully forgiven, child of the King. But it is still beyond your ability. And, uh . . . I’m not the one asking . . .

Our Risen Redeemer is calling us to live in a way which can only be accomplished through absolute dependence upon His indwelling Spirit—like sailboats depend upon the wind.  . . .  He never asks us to live any other way.  . . .  Why would you want to?

Live forgiven. Pass it on!