FORGIVING OTHERS

“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.”
Leviticus 19:18

God’s ways are above our ways, and He wants to teach us godliness. He knows what is best for us and the kind of character He wants to develop in our lives. In doing so, God gives us clear and direct commands about certain responses, that often go against our natural tendencies. He tells us to humble ourselves because our natural inclination is to exalt ourselves. He tells us to give and share because we are selfish by nature. He commands us to serve others because it is normal behavior to want to be served instead.

In God’s Word, there are numerous requirements or commands, forbidding us to take revenge or “bear any grudge” against others. The Lord knows our inclination to hold grudges, harbor ill feelings, or carry resentment toward those who have wronged us or offended us. He also knows how damaging these feelings or attitudes can be to us. Therefore He commands us, with no exceptions, to forgive others.

We are very capable of justifying grudges and making ourselves comfortable with a lack of forgiveness. Unforgiveness, however, is inconsistent with God’s character. It has been said that we are never any more like Christ than when we forgive. God wants to forgive, and He wants us to forgive. Because God, in His wisdom, knows how beneficial it is for us to forgive others and how harmful it is to carry bitterness or unforgiveness in our hearts, He makes this a major issue in our spiritual growth and obedience.

Many of God’s people are troubled with a lack of forgiveness toward those who have offended or wronged them. That lack of forgiveness will prove to be a source of spiritual defeat and an emotional drain until it is resolved. How can we forgive those who have hurt us so deeply? Because God requires it, we know He is available and able to help us forgive those we have not forgiven. We are also taught in the New Testament to forgive others as we have been forgiven. The forgiveness we have experienced becomes the pattern for the forgiveness we offer others. We did not deserve forgiveness, but received it freely through Christ. Because we have been forgiven of so much, we are able, by faith, to forgive others. It may seem impossible for us, but not for God.

HE COMFORTS US, WE COMFORT OTHERS

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
II Corinthians 1:3, 4

One of the most essential lessons in life is how to relate to our problems. So many things in our journey depend upon a growing understanding of how to walk with God and experience His grace in the difficult times of life. A treasure of wisdom concerning that subject is found in the Word of God. What is the source of genuine comfort? God is the “God of all comfort.”

If only the hurting would realize the comfort that can only come from God. He will often use people as His instruments to comfort us, but great comfort comes from God. It is helpful to know that our God knows what we are going through and how it is affecting us, and He stands ready to help us as no one else can.

His comfort knows no limitations, as He comforts us in “all our tribulation.” We learn to appreciate the descriptive word all in the Bible. There are no tribulations or trials in which He is not able to bring us comfort. We may think it is unbearable; and in our own strength, it may be. But the Lord wants, and is able to, comfort us in “all our tribulation.” It is the devil’s lie that tells us we cannot endure a particular trial, or that God has allowed more than grace is able to overcome. There are no trials so devastating that our God is not sufficient to comfort us.

We also know that this is not the end of God’s comfort. It is wonderful that God comforts us in our trials; but He has more in mind. He comforts us “that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” This is why it is so important that we experience God’s comfort in our tribulations. If we do not know His comfort, we will be subject to unnecessary sorrow and possible bitterness. And, if we do not know of His comfort firsthand, we will not be able to comfort others as we should. If you and I do not experience His comforting grace, how will we ever be able to offer it to others? One reason we go through difficult things is for others. It is part of the curriculum that we must learn if we are going to be equipped to help others.

MY PEOPLE HAVE COMMITTED TWO EVILS

“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
Jeremiah 2:13

Wrong choices or bad decisions are usually not done singularly; they have a tendency to add up or even multiply. Sin usually leads to additional sin. When someone is doing something that is wrong, it is obviously sin. But while he is doing that which is wrong, it means at the same time he is not doing something that is right. The tragedy of sin is not only measured in the wrong that is done but also in the right that was left undone.

In the Scripture, God described Israel’s sin in a similar way. They had forsaken Him. God is seen as a “fountain of living waters.” In their sin of turning away from God, the Israelites had created “cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” Their sin was two-fold. They turned from God and the true way; but they also devised their own way which was a way of falsehood.

A “fountain of living waters” is a perpetual spring that never ceases to flow, an unending supply of refreshing and nourishing water. A cistern is a reservoir or receptacle for holding water. Several things make a cistern a lesser choice than a spring. A cistern depends upon a supply of water. It must rain for the cistern to be filled, or water must be hauled in from another source. However, a spring of living water is continuous, and not dependent on another source. Also, the waters in the cistern can be contaminated or polluted. On the other hand, the spring of water is pure. In addition, the cistern itself can be damaged and cause the water to escape. This was the way Jeremiah described it: “broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” Being damaged or broken is not a concern when you are talking about the spring of living water because the supply is sustained and plenteous.

God’s people had forsaken the God Who was their continuous supply of all they needed, and built their own mechanism, which was totally inferior and destined to fail. Isn’t that what man tends to do, invent things to trust in rather than to trust in God, and to rely upon other resources rather than rely on Him? God wants to be our source of meaning and purpose. He is the giver and sustainer of life. We need to repent of making cisterns that can hold no water and trust in Him, “the fountain of living waters.”

CONQUERING CRITICISM

“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings.”
I Peter 2:1

Salvation is the greatest gift we can ever receive. The moment one trusts Christ as his Savior, his eternal destination is sealed. However, something else begins the moment he turns to Jesus in repentance and faith. A process of sanctification is initiated which will continue until he is taken to Heaven. As Christians, part of that process is removing from our lives things which are not pleasing to the Lord, and bringing into our lives the kinds of things that He expects.

Examples of the kinds of things which we need to part with are found in this Scripture: “malice . . . guile . . . hypocrisies . . . envies, and all evil speakings.” Things like anger, deception, hypocrisy, jealousy, and evil criticism need to be purged from our lives. Evil speakings would include backbiting, slander, gossip, falsely accusing, murmuring, etc. Most of us are aware of how powerful our words can be. The tongue, according to the Bible, is a great tool for blessing, but also for cursing.

Words can edify or build up others, and words can tear them down. Whoever invented the childhood saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me” did not know what he was talking about. Words can hurt deeply and sometimes bring long-term damage. God wants His children to take control of their words and to be “laying aside all evil speakings.” This is often easier said than done. The Bible, as well as personal experience, teaches us that taming the tongue can be quite difficult.

How can we conquer the tendency to be critical? It would be wise for us to examine our motives in using the words we use. Is it because we are interested in helping someone or harming them? What about the person we are speaking to? Is this person a part of the solution to the problem? Will these words potentially cause further damage to others? How are the words spoken? Are they kind and considerate or harsh and cruel? Finally, are they true? Are we certain they are factual, or is there a possibility the information is not correct? If we plan to lay aside critical and harsh words, we are going to have to get serious about bringing our conversations under control. God wants to help us in our desire to obey Him. If we are sincere and pray for His help, He will enable us to put away evil speaking.

THE MEEK WILL HE TEACH HIS WAY

“The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.”
Psalm 25:9

There are great promises in the Bible to those who demonstrate the attribute of meekness. The word meek is a frequently misunderstood term. Some define meekness as a form or synonym of weakness, but this is certainly not accurate. A better meaning of meekness would be “mild of temper, not easily provoked or irritated, humble, submissive to God’s will.” Jesus was “meek and lowly in heart,” (Matthew 11:29), and He was certainly not weak. Jesus is the Almighty God – the Creator of all that is, and yet He was always submissive to the Father and always under control.

The Scripture teaches that meekness is a prerequisite for learning God’s ways and being led in His judgment. God wants to teach us His ways and impart to us His wisdom. We are invited to learn of Him. Jesus said “learn of me” (Matthew 11:29). A disciple is a learner and the Lord is our instructor. Obviously, He uses others to teach us; and we know the Bible is our textbook. But, He is the One who wants to give us knowledge and wisdom. We need God’s wisdom and we need to know and follow His way. He promises these things to the meek.

Why is meekness a requirement for being taught by God? Without meekness, there can be little learning. Without meekness, there will be no real desire to learn. Without meekness, the student will not be teachable. Some people are not able to learn because they are too prideful; they are unwilling to admit that their way may not be the best way. When someone is not willing to acknowledge his need and confess that he wants a better way, he is not in a position to learn. It is hard to teach someone who thinks he knows everything or is unwilling to change. Without meekness, we are not willing to see where we are wrong. Without meekness, we are not open to instruction or correction.

Notice He says that He will teach “his way.” We need to learn His way, not our way. Only the meek will prefer God’s way instead of their own ways. Many will never accept God’s way because they are only interested in their ways. All of us have much to learn, and God wants to teach us. He promised that the Holy Spirit would guide us into truth. If we will be good students and eager learners, “the meek will he teach his way.”

LOVING RIGHT AND HATING WRONG

“But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
Hebrews 1:8, 9

The writer of Hebrews, quoting from the Psalms, gloriously speaks of our Savior, the Messiah, the Anointed One. He was anointed with grace and power, and was clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit without measure. No one before or after ever qualified as Jesus did for the power of God resting upon him and working through him.

In describing our Lord, Emmanuel, it is stated that He “loved righteousness, and hated iniquity.” What a wonderful attribute in Jesus to be praised, and to desire in our own personal walk! He loved what was right and hated what was wrong. This is such a simple formula, but also a searching one. If we want more of God’s blessing and anointing upon our lives, this is one area we must periodically examine. We should honestly ask ourselves: “Do I really hate iniquity?” and “How much do I love righteousness?” It is not just a matter of trying to do right, but of loving what is right. Similarly, it is not only avoiding evil, but also developing a hatred for evil. And of course, evil is not just the evil that is seen in others but also, and more importantly, the evil that is found in us. We must learn to hate our sin, including: pride, laziness, selfishness, gossip, jealousy, pro-crastination, lust, stubbornness, etc.

The Bible says that Jesus had such a love for righteousness and a hatred for iniquity; “therefore”, God anointed Him in an unusual way. He had unusual power from on high. We need God’s power upon our lives and ministries. We need for God to work in us and through us. If we are going to be blessed with a significant measure of God’s power, if the Holy Spirit is going to be comfortable filling our lives and using us as His instruments, we must live holy lives. We must develop and maintain a love for the things that are right and a hatred for sin.

The Bible refers to this anointing as the “oil of gladness.” There is joy that accompanies the Spirit’s empowerment. The times that Christians are truly the happiest or have the most joy are when they are fully surrendered to Christ, loving what He loves, and hating what He hates.

THE PLACE OF GOOD WORKS

“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.”
Titus 3:8

What is the place of good works in our spiritual lives? Do good works have anything to do with our salvation? In speaking of salvation, Titus 3:5 says that it is “not by works of righteousness which we have done.” Good works do not save us. No one ever earned his way to Heaven. Most religions rely upon good works, in some form or another, to try to gain eternal life. However, the Bible is clear that works have nothing to do with our salvation. When good works are mixed with grace for salvation, the message of the gospel is corrupted. We are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ.

Salvation is a gift and has nothing to do with any kind of works or deeds. However, our Bible tells us that those who are saved are to work for the Lord, saying that, “they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.” Good works are deeds of service done for Christ, by Christians, after their conversion.

Who should be careful to maintain good works? The answer is “they which have believed in God.” Every person who has trusted in Christ as Savior, and by faith received His gift of eternal life, should be careful to maintain good works. Serving Christ is not the responsibility of a select few, but it is the duty of all who are saved.

In writing to Timothy, Paul said that these things should be affirmed “constantly.” We need to be reminded often that we have a responsibility to work for the Lord. As a matter of fact, it is doubtful that we could be reminded too often. We are to maintain good works. All of us do not serve the Lord in the identical way, but all are to be working. All do not have the same spiritual gifts or calling, but all have a duty to serve God. We never retire from Christian service. There may be some things we cannot do, but there are plenty of things we can do.

And the reason we serve is not to be saved, but because we are saved. There is a vast difference between someone doing religious deeds to find favor with God and someone serving the Lord because he loves Him and is grateful for His grace and goodness. For those who know Him, it is a delight to serve Him.

WE WILL NOT FORSAKE GOD’S HOUSE

“For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the corn, of the new wine, and the oil, unto the chambers, where are the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests that minister, and the porters, and the singers: and we will not forsake the house of our God.”
Nehemiah 10:39

God’s people had spent many years in Babylonian captivity because of their disobedience, rebellion, and idolatry. Forsaking God’s law, His worship, His day, and His house had cost them dearly. By the grace and power of God, they were returned to Jerusalem. The destroyed city was being restored, the temple rebuilt, and the battered walls of the city repaired. With their past captivity fresh in their minds, they offered this great resolution: a fresh commitment to faithfulness to God’s house. The Bible records their vow of loyalty to the house of God, “we will not forsake the house of our God.”

Our generation of Christians would do well to make a similar commitment. It is not an exaggeration to say that the house of God is too often being forsaken. One example of this is the great neglect of the place of the New Testament church in the work of God. The extremely popular, yet false belief in a universal and invisible church has caused many professing Christians to forsake the true house of God, which is the local church. I Timothy 3:15 says, “the house of God, which is the church of the living God.” The house of God is being forsaken because of the neglect of Bible doctrine concerning the church.

Multitudes of those who claim membership in local congregations are also forsaking God’s house. They are forsaking God’s house by their lack of faithful attendance to the assembly of the saints. Church attendance by some is looked at as a suggestion rather than the command of God. Others are forsaking God’s house by their lack of financial support through consistent tithes and offerings. God gave His churches the responsibility to carry out His work in the world, and that work should be financed through the generous and consistent giving of the members. The house of God is being forsaken through the failure of members to use their gifts and abilities to serve in the ministries of the local church. The laborers are few because of those who are forsaking God’s house. For the sake of our Savior and His great work, “we will not forsake the house of God.”

BEWITCHED

“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?”
Galatians 3:1

Every Christian should be aware of the power and danger of deception. Paul was greatly disturbed by the fact that the Galatians had been influenced to turn from the truth. He referred to them as “foolish Galatians.” They were unwise, not using discernment, and not walking in wisdom. Paul said they had been “bewitched.” False teachers had deceived them. These believers had been corrupted by error.

Error can have a powerful influence, even upon believers. It is very foolish for God’s people to take error lightly. The pattern that is seen in the churches of Galatia is being repeated today. Paul had been instrumental in winning these people to Christ. His message was salvation by grace, through faith in Christ, with no mixture of works. These people had believed his message and had trusted in the Savior for their salvation. Then along came these false teachers who began to confuse the new converts. These heretics told the Galatian believers that salvation, to be complete, required obedience to the law and works such as circumcision. This is a total corruption of the message of salvation.

This is precisely the way modern heretics bewitch others. They do not concentrate on winning others to Christ. For one thing, they do not have the truth. Their strategy is to prey on those who have been won to Christ and try to bewitch them with heresy. Because false teachers have the appearance of believers, because they teach from the Bible, because they claim to be saved – their danger is not readily seen.

To avoid the bewitching power of false doctrine, God’s people must take the Bible seriously and make it the final authority for faith and practice. Bewitching doctrine can be detected by comparing it to the Word of God. So many are being bewitched today because they believe some powerful or persuasive personality, or accept some traditions of men, when there is no Bible to base that teaching upon. Christians need to make sure they are growing in Christ and judging what they hear by the Word of God. As we study and rightly divide the Scripture, we will see that many false teachings, even those that are quite popular and well accepted, are not found in the Bible.

GOD WILL USE IT

“But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
Job 23:10

Job discovered one of the great truths about God, concerning our trials. He will use our difficulties and hardships, and “when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” This is such an absolutely essential principle for understanding and enduring the circumstances of life. Why do Christians have trials? Why is the enemy allowed to attack believers? Can any good come out of the tragedies or disappointments of life? All these questions and others like them find answers in this verse and others like it.

The Bible emphatically states that in the life of the Christian, God is working everything together for good. This is a great testimony to the wisdom and sovereignty of God. Even spiritual attacks from the enemy, God will use to serve His purpose. What about the wicked persecutions from those who resent us, and what we stand for? God will use it. We remember Joseph who was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and was deprived of thirteen years of family and friends. His words were, “ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good” (Genesis 50:20). What a mighty God we serve! God used the exile of John on Patmos to give us the Revelation. He used the mistreatment of Jesus to provide our salvation. The Lord used Paul’s imprisonment to give us much of the New Testament. He used Job’s circumstances to purify him. Whatever it is that comes our way, as painful or disturbing as it may appear, God can use it.

Our Scripture also gives us insight into the specific purpose that can be accomplished through all that life brings; this purpose is to develop character in our lives. The Scripture tells us that God is using situations to further the process of conforming us to what He wants us to be. God uses circumstances to help produce Christ-likeness in His children. Job said concerning the almost unprecedented difficulties he was enduring, “when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

As we find ourselves in situations beyond our control, and wonder the reasons why, it is comforting to be able to say with confidence that God is going to use it for our good and for His glory. Our sorrows will not be wasted. They will only continue the refining process in our lives.