Tag Archive | Christ

Unlimited Forgiveness

 

Matthew 18:21–35 “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (v. 35).

A discussion of church discipline must recognize two errors often made in the interpretation of Matthew 18:15–20. First, we err if we divorce the church’s authority from its biblical basis, since this inevitably exalts church tradition above Scripture and binds people to confess many unbiblical doctrines. Yet as the Westminster Confession of Faith aptly states, church authority is inseparable from the Word of God, which alone binds the conscience absolutely (1.10). Scripture, and the events it records, establishes the church; therefore, Scripture stands in authority over the church. Church decisions bind only when they are biblical; to violate God’s Word for tradition’s sake is evil (Matt. 15:1–9).

The second error thinks 18:20 guarantees Jesus’ approval of anything two or more believers agree upon in prayer. However, the verse’s context refutes this view. Indeed, Jesus is present when believers congregate, but verse 20 promises that He backs up the church’s authority when it makes decisions in accord with the Bible, not that He will do whatever a group of Christians asks of Him.

Forgiveness and the restoration of relationship is the goal of discipline — from the first step to the last step of excommunication. Peter understands this partly; he will forgive a person up to seven times, more than the three times the rabbis prescribe in his day (v. 21). That Peter’s comprehension is incomplete is revealed in the Savior’s command to forgive “seventy times seven” (v. 22). According to some Reformed New Testament scholars Jesus really says, “seventy-seven times,” but the precise number is unimportant. Either way, as seen in the parable that follows, Christ is actually teaching that forgiveness must be unlimited.

Ten thousand talents is upwards of a trillion dollars in modern currency. It is an amount the servant could never repay; only by the king’s grace can this debt be canceled (vv. 23–27). As imitators of the true King, we, the recipients of grace, must show mercy, for Jesus will condemn all who are unmerciful toward their debtors (vv. 28–35). Believers, collectively as the church and individually, must always forgive penitent people. How can we possibly be Christians if we, whose unpayable debt has been erased, refuse to pardon those who have wronged us?

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

It is not as if unforgiving people lose their salvation, Matthew Henry says, for “those who do not forgive their brother’s trespasses, did never truly repent of their own, and therefore that which is taken away is only what they seemed to have.” Henry also gives a great principle for the Christian life: “God multiplies his pardons, and so should we. We should make it our constant practice to forgive injuries, and should accustom ourselves to it until it becomes habitual.”

For further study:  Genesis 45:1–24

The Bible in a year:  Psalms 65–67

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

 

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The Holy Spirit

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. EPHESIANS 5:18, NIV

When I was a little boy growing up, I remember people in our church referring to the Holy Spirit as the “Holy Ghost.” For a long time I had this image in my mind of the Holy Ghost being something like Casper the Friendly Ghost, floating through walls like a puff of smoke.

I was also wrong about something else: I used to refer to the Holy Ghost as an “it”—as if He were some kind of impersonal machine or space alien. But the Holy Ghost that Jesus talked about is a living, active, personal being, sent to glorify Christ as well as to be our Counselor, Advisor, Advocate, Defender, Director, Encourager and Guide.

If you are interested in living life the way Jesus promised—and if you want a marriage where the two of you are growing spiritually—then a good understanding of the Holy Spirit is vital. Being “filled with the Spirit” is not just a suggestion but a clear command of Scripture. What Paul wrote to the Ephesians in the above verse means being controlled by Him in much the same way that alcohol controls a person’s mind and actions.

When we’re angry with each other about something, for instance, being filled with the Spirit enables us to control our tempers and impatience. He keeps us from saying things we’ll later regret. He battles the selfishness within us, bringing our hearts under His authority and bending our wills to God’s.

We don’t always let Him win, of course. We still fail Him far too often. But every time we submit ourselves to His control, He grows in us the character traits that please Him and bless our spouses. “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

DISCUSS

What have you learned about the Holy Spirit? How much of your understanding of Him has been inaccurate over the years?

PRAY

Pray for hearts that are constantly cleaned and confessed, leaving ample room for the Spirit to dwell in.

Verse for July 26

 

Hebrews 11:1

[Great Examples of Faith] Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

 

Creation—an argument for faith

 

‘Ah Lord God, behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee.’ Jeremiah 32:17

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 107:23–32

My brother in Christ, you are greatly troubled are you? It is a common lot with us all. And so, you have nothing on earth to trust to now, and are going to be cast on your God alone? Your vessel is on her beam-ends, and now there is nothing for you but just to be rolled on the providence and care of God. What a blessed place to be rolled on! Happy storm that wrecks a man on such a rock as this! O blessed hurricane that drives the soul to God and God alone! On some few occasions I have had troubles which I could not tell to any but my God, and I thank God that I have, for I learned more of my Lord then than at any other time.

There is no getting at our God sometimes because of the multitude of our friends. But when a man is so poor, so friendless, so helpless that he has nothing, he flies into his Father’s arms, and how blessedly he is clasped there! So that, I say again, happy trouble that drives you to your Father! Blessed storm that wrecks you on the rock of ages! Glorious billow that washes you upon this heavenly shore! And now you have nothing but your God to trust to, what are you going to do? To fret? To whine? O, I pray you, do not thus dishonour your Lord and Master! Now, play the man, play the man of God. Show the world that your God is worth ten thousand worlds to you. Show rich men how rich you are in your poverty when the Lord God is your helper. Show the strong man how strong you are in your weakness when underneath you are the everlasting arms. Now man, now is your time to glorify God.

For meditation: Do you take refuge in the Lord (Psalm 73:25–26; Proverbs 18:10)? When God gets his hands upon them, even bad experiences eventually turn out for the believer’s good (Psalm 119:71; Lamentations 3:27; Romans 8:28) and the blessing overflows to others (Genesis 50:20). That is the story of Good Friday (Isaiah 53:10–11; 1 Peter 2:23–24).

Sermon no. 462
27 July (1862)

 

In His Eyes Part 2

Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:14-15, NIV).

Friend to Friend
God can set you free to be all He created you to be. A healthy self-image is not rooted in pride, and it does not exalt self above others. Success comes when we learn to accept God’s evaluation instead of our own and when we give Him permission to make us what He created us to be. Yesterday, we examined the first two steps we can take to understand who we are in His eyes. Today, we will look at four more steps.

Step three: Be yourself.
We should always be looking for something new to learn, an area where we can grow and changes that need to be made. Sit down with your mate or close friend and ask for a realistic evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses. Constantly search for gifts and abilities on which you can work. Don’t be afraid of change. It is a sign of life and growth. Change what needs to be changed, accept what you cannot change and quit whining about it! Don’t waste another minute trying to be someone you were never created to be. Stop questioning God’s design for your life. When an old man from the mountains of North Carolina was asked how he created such extraordinary wooden carvings of dogs, he replied, “Well, I just take my knife and a piece of wood and carve away everything that doesn’t look like a dog.” Learning to see your-self through the eyes of God is like “carving away” everything that is not part of the original design – God’s plan – and then learning how to accept what remains.

Step four: Guard your mind.
We are bombarded on all sides by the media, family and friends, co-workers and even enemies who have a certain identity they want to assign to us. We have a choice. No one makes us feel inferior without our permission. We will become what we allow our heart and mind to dwell on. An old adage says it well: “You can’t keep a bird from flying over your head but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair.” It is impossible to avoid destructive thinking entirely. We will be tempted. We will have negative thoughts and temptations, but we do not have to allow them to dwell in our minds. God has given us a “garbage disposal” for the mind.

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

We once lived in Miami, Florida, a place where ships come from all over world. However, before a ship is allowed to dock, an inspection team goes aboard with one assignment. Find every bit of contamination on board that ship. If contamination of any kind is found, the ship must be quarantined until it is cleaned up and inspected again. The ship is then allowed to dock. We need to control our thought life in the same way.

Step five: Control your tongue.
Our words either build up or tear down. Scripture tells us not to curse others because they are made in the image of God. So are we. As a mom, I constantly warned our children about the danger of critical words. I wanted them to learn how to encourage others with their words as well as have a healthy picture of who they are. One day, while standing in front my bathroom mirror, I began berating myself for something I had done. I didn’t see our son who was quietly standing in our bedroom door where he could hear every word I said. “Mom, who are you talking to?” he asked. I sheepishly replied, “I was talking to myself.” He thought for a moment and then offered a convicting observation, “Boy, if I talked like that, I’d be in big trouble!” I was immediately reminded of the words in Psalm 141:3: “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

Words are like seeds. What we plant will grow. If we sow destructive, critical words, we will reap a life that is negative and critical, but if we sow words of truth, we will reap a life of peace and purpose, knowing who we are in His eyes.

Step six: Be Patient
Weeds spring up overnight but it takes years for a mighty oak to grow. Today, you can take the first step toward gaining a new perspective of who you are in Christ. Our Father says it this way in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns.”

Let’s Pray
Lord, I want to know You more and learn to see myself as You see me. Please help me recognize and guard against anything or anyone who would chip away at Your truth working in my life. I believe You love me and cherish me as Your daughter. Help me to walk in that value and worth and then lead others to do the same. I praise You for validating my very existence as part of Your heart’s plan. I love You, Father.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn
Here is your assignment for the week. Read Psalm 139 at least one time every day. In your journal, write each verse in your own words. At the end of the week, set aside time to celebrate who you are in Christ. Have a praise party – just you and God – or invite a few girlfriends to join you in celebrating how special you are to Him.

More from the Girlfriends
I pray that these devotions have helped you catch a new glimpse of just how precious you are to God. If you were never wanted or planned by human heart and mind, rest assured that you were wanted and planned by God Himself. He is with you and for you, girlfriend. He believes in you and has a plan that will prosper you and give you hope. Turn to Him. Trust Him. You are special in His eyes.

Church Authority

 

Matthew 18:18–20 “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (v. 18).

In our day, respect for church authority has all but vanished. Many professing Christians think their “private lives” are no business of the church. Excommunication from a local body is hardly ever taken seriously since it rarely prevents someone from joining the church next door with no questions asked.

Several phenomena explain this sad reality. The church’s fragmentation makes it easy to move from one denomination to another. Many church leaders exalt numerical growth and will not ask hard questions of the people in the pews for fear of learning a fact that would bar someone from membership. Furthermore, individualism and the way our culture falsely divides our private and personal lives makes it hard to honor the authority of Christ’s church.

Yet our “private sins” are the church’s business, and her judgments, when they conform to Scripture, are divinely authorized. We see this in today’s passage as Jesus in Matthew 18:18–19 gives to the apostles primarily, and the church derivatively, the keys of the kingdom first given to Peter (see Matt. 16:18–19; John 20:19–23). Matthew Henry writes, “If the censures of the church duly follow the institution of Christ, his judgments will follow the censures of the church, for Christ will not allow his own ordinances to be trampled on.”

Church discipline decides whether or not a person is a member in good standing of Christ’s church, and such decisions have weight only if they agree with God’s Word. The keys belong first to the apostles, making their inspired writings determinative. Moreover, the curse on the self-proclaimed “prophets” who denied the Word (Jer. 23:9–15) teaches the church to make decisions according to Scripture. Augustine warns that unbiblical verdicts are null and void. In discipline, the church must “bind [people] justly. For unjust bonds justice doth burst asunder” (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, first series, vol. 6, p. 359).

Safety resides in an abundance of counselors (Prov. 11:14), and a decision church elders make corporately is more likely to be biblical than if made by one man alone. Thus, Jesus assures us of His approving presence when two or more gather in His name to make decisions according to His will (Matt. 18:19–20).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

The church’s ability to liberate people, says John Calvin, is not limited to the restoration of disciplined members to full participation in the congregation. Such liberation is also discharged when elders, according to Scripture, assure repentant people of pardon after sin is confessed. This “awakens in the godly no ordinary confidence, when they hear that their sins are blotted out before God and angels, as soon as they have obtained forgiveness from the Church.”

For further study:  Numbers 11:16–30

The Bible in a year:  Psalms 62–64

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

 

Are You Really Bible Based?

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. JOHN 15:1

This may seem like a shocking thing to say, but I firmly believe that most Christian marriages are actually patterned after the world, with a few threads of Christianity woven in. Couples know certain Bible verses, but few really practice the Word of God and use it as the defining standard for their lives.

Here is a litmus test: Could you lead a group of couples through a Bible study for several hours on what the Scriptures have to say about marriage and family issues—everything from raising children to God’s blueprints and purposes for marriage? Most churchgoers couldn’t last more than a few minutes.

But the very fact that you’re reading this book today at all is a testimony to your desire to know more of God’s Word and apply it to your lives. If you want your marriage to become all that God intended, then I hope this inspires you to keep digging deeply to His truth and let it become the “source” of your lives together.

Jesus painted the picture when He declared Himself the vine, with us as the branches. He said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). The word “abide” here is used to describe drawing the source of life from Jesus, like a branch draws its life from the vine. It means to make Jesus Christ and His Word the source of your convictions, decisions and mission in life. Just as branches draw their nutrients from the vine, so too we are only able to grow spiritually when we’re firmly attached to Christ, drawing our life from the source of all truth.

DISCUSS

Talk honestly about your values, convictions and mission. How much are these shaped by abiding in Christ and His Word? Talk about how you can help one another do a better job of abiding in the Word.

PRAY

Pray for one another that you will grow spiritually together as a couple by abiding in Christ.