"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matt. 6:14-15).
As the days of 1999 continue to slip away, and we're rushing toward the new millennium, the images found in the book of Revelation come almost unbidden to my mind. In the last journal, "That Beastly Bug," (End Note A) I wrote about the "Beast" of fear rising up out of our sea (unconscious mind) and speaking blasphemy against God by suggesting that He is not able to protect and keep that which we've committed unto Him. Though the title of this journal and the graphic may make you smile, the topic I'm speaking about here is no laughing matter. The Elder Brother of this "Beast" is unforgiveness, which is a byproduct of fear and always leads to judgment. I've had occasion to experience both in my life lately and I can tell you that being on the receiving end of these two horrors is somewhat like having a bucket of ice water thrown on you when you are drowning. No matter how good the intentions were, the action itself can have deadly results. I wrote in an earlier journal, "The Devil's In The Details," (End Note B) about being sent by the Lord on an errand of peace to family members who were hurting and estranged from one another. With my spiritual eyes, I see signs of hope and God's redemption in recent events, nonetheless, in the flesh, there remains much room for improvement. In situations of conflict and discord, the mediator must remain neutral as much as humanly possible, and attempt to establish a dialogue with both warring factions, always avoiding taking sides or passing judgment on either party. This is not an easy matter, and not surprisingly, there are those in my family who look upon my role in this attempt at crisis resolution, as betrayal. They see my efforts to state both sides of the issue as evidence that I have taken sides with the enemy, those they view to be clearly in the wrong. It would also mean that I'm in rebellion against the elders of the tribe. I understand this kind of thinking because I grew up with it, but God always brings us to a higher level of understanding when we begin to see the kingdom of heaven being worked into earthly relationships. In all of this familial pain and anguish, the Father has called me to comfort those in trouble with the same comfort which He gave me when I went through my own veil of tears (II Cor. 1:4).
Because I inadvertently found myself in the middle, and the one present at the time, a family member recently vented her spleen on me, twice in 10 days time. She's not normally an angry person and I suspect that I caught her wrath because I was there and the one she's really angry with was not. That's OK. She's entitled to her feelings, but what she said to me in the process is what's on my heart today, for I believe that it is the essence of what rips families and churches, tribes and nations apart. When I told her that I never meant to hurt her and asked for her forgiveness, she said to me, "I forgive you, but I'll never forget what you did. I'll watch you like a hawk for the rest of your life." She meant it. She's a very religious woman, but though she never misses going to church, nor any other opportunity to do her Christian duty, somehow she has missed what forgiveness is. She's unclear on the concept, as they say, of what it means to forgive and be forgiven. Let me refresh all of us about what the word forgive means. The Thorndike, Barnhart Dictionary defines "forgive" as follows:
"1. Give up the wish to punish or get even with; pardon; excuse, 2. give up all claim to; not demand payment for; forgive a debt." The synonym is absolve. Next, I looked up the word "absolve." It means "1. declare (a person) free from sin, guilt, or blame. 2. set free (from a promise or duty), 3. remit (sin)." It's synonyms are "1. exonerate, acquit. 2. release, exempt. 3. forgive." Clearly, these words describe what God through Christ did for us. Even though we're VERY thankful that God forgave us, nevertheless, mere mental assent to it does not change our lives. Intellectual knowledge of what happened on the hill of Golgotha has no effect on us until we accept it personally and receive it into our spirits to do its redeeming work. It is my personal conviction, based upon my own life's experiences, that only when we have fallen on our faces at the foot of the cross, and received forgiveness for the sins we've committed, do we appreciate this marvelous gift, this acquittal from the death sentence we've been under since the day we were born. Only when we experience full forgiveness for our sins, are we in a position to extend forgiveness to others. The first step in that process is perhaps the hardest one: it is forgiving ourselves. I am convinced that people who are the hardest on others have never forgiven themselves for their own sins, and because they are still roasting on the spit of guilt, they cannot let anyone else off the hook either. They have never felt at a cellular level, what Christ did for us all (Heb. 9:15; I Pet. 3:18).
Occasionally, we read about someone whom DNA evidence has exonerated from guilt for a crime. We lament for the lost years the person spent languishing in prison for a crime he didn't commit, and we celebrate with this one who regained his freedom prior to the execution date. I never think of that but what I am reminded that this is exactly what we've been given by Christ! We've been handed a reprieve, a full pardon for the crimes we actually did commit, and an invitation to walk through the prison doors of guilt and shame into the sunlight of His glorious love, a free man or woman. The difference here between us and the man released from prison because he was unjustly accused, is that we were guilty. We did the crime. We deserved the time and/or the noose, but we got neither because Christ paid the penalty for us (I Cor. 15:3). He took our stripes upon His own body that we might be healed in every way, freed, and restored to right relationship to God (Is. 53:5; I Pet. 2:24). He took the nails in His hands and feet and He bore the shame of our sins against God and against each other. His groaning upon the cross was more than physical pain. It was the weight of the sins of the whole world (I Jn. 2:2) against His own unblemished soul, which knew no sin. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (II Cor. 5:21). He became sin for us and on that tree, He gathered us together in His bosom and purged our transgressions with His own blood (Matt. 26:28; Rom. 3:25; Eph. 1:7; Rev. 1:5). He then cried out, "It is finished" (Jn. 19:30). The work was done. The price was paid. The debt was obliterated forever more. When we carefully and honestly consider this great gift God gave us, we can not hold anything in our heart against another or against ourselves. We don't dare. To do so is to impugn the integrity of Almighty God.
Here's why I think we fall into the blame game and begin to organize guilt trips and pity parties: there was a time, before the Holy Spirit convicted us personally of sin, that we didn't even know that we were sinners. For those of us who grew up in church and who tried very hard to be good all our lives, we surely didn't feel like sinners. After all, we were living on the "good side" of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We always knew intellectually who Jesus was and what He did for us. When the time came for us to "obey the gospel," we did so because it was the right thing to do. But, the Apostle John says that the sin we (and the world) committed was not believing in Jesus (Jn. 16: 8-9). By that, I think he means not just that we didn't know Jesus personally (which obviously was true), but rather we didn't appreciate what He did for us because we didn't even know we needed Him to do it. Like the first Century Jews, to whom Jesus first revealed Himself, we were lost in the fog of religious dogma and duty, and we hadn't a clue that He was missing in our lives nor what it would take to restore us to fellowship with God. Are you resonating to this? Now that we understand what Christ did for us; now that we have tasted the heavenly gifts of freedom from sin and the infilling of the Holy Ghost, we are called to the higher standard of the kingdom of God. We can no longer operate the way the world does, nor the way the Pharisees and religious leaders in Jesus' time did. Listen carefully to this passage in Matthew, Chapter 5:
"For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca, ' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny'" (Matt. 5:20-26).
Clearly, from this passage, we can see the point the graphic at the beginning of this journal was meant to illustrate: unforgiveness will lead us to judgment every time, and we will not get out of prison until we have paid the last farthing (King James Version). I used to read that verse and tremble because I thought it meant if I didn't forgive someone I would go to hell when I die. The Lord showed me again this week, that what the verse is talking about is not our destiny after we die, but rather it is about the fact that unforgiveness keeps us from seeing the kingdom of heaven now, in this life! Trust me on this: when you hold unforgiveness in your heart against your brother, your parents, your children, your church siblings, or anyone else who has hurt you, you are in hell right now, because your bitterness has separated you from God. I'm not talking about a momentary irritation when some one cuts you off in traffic, or runs ahead of you in line at the super market. I'm talking about those old grudges and resentments, and the longing for revenge and punishment that you have stored in your heart for years. Maybe you don't think about it every day, but occasionally, something sets you off, and you go to the cupboard and get the key to this secret room hidden in the basement of your heart, and you open this door which usually you keep locked. The minute you go in there, that hurt, that anger, that unforgiveness is just waiting to give you a toxic blast in your spirit. It instantly robs you of peace and joy, separates you from the unconditional love of the Father, and puts you right back under law. Dear ones, hate and love cannot dwell in the same heart. One of them must go, and this is why it's time to ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse your spiritual house of old hurts and wounds. Forgive the one who hurt you so long ago. Quit letting him or her stand between you and the Father's bosom.
Now, I'm going to quit preaching and start meddling. Is there someone you hate? Oh, I've heard you say that you don't hate anyone, because that's what good Christians are duty bound to declare, but the expression on your face and the tone of your voice tell the truth about how you really feel about them. Christ died for this one who is troubling you so. Is there someone who has hurt you so badly that you think you will never be able to forgive him or her? Well, I've got news for you, in and of yourself, you won't be able to, which is why we must ask God to show us that it is the life of Christ which overcomes the world, the flesh and the devil in our lives. If He could forgive the ones pounding the nails into his hands and feet, and ask God for their forgiveness, then don't you think He can forgive the horrible wretched person who hurt you as well? Invite Him to flow out through you in His unconditional love. You'll never get victory over your feelings by struggling with them. You'll only get relief by seeing as the old hymn proclaims, "There's victory in Jesus." May God open your eyes to see that the work of forgiveness is finished in the heavenlies and God will perfect it on the earth in His time. It is fear that God is not able to do what He promised that keeps you locked in unforgiveness and the conditional love characteristic of the Old Covenant (law) rather than the unconditional love which flows from grace.
The reason this is so important to understand is because the person who has unforgiveness in his heart is the one in prison. It's not the guy who caused the hurt, but the one who suffered it and who cannot forgive it or forget it who is in torments. He or she is the one who can't sleep at night, who suffers physical ills, and who has no peace. Why? Because that's the price tag for holding on to unforgiveness. When God forgives us, He forgets it. He wipes the slate clean. For us to do otherwise only hurts us. This is why we must leave our gift at the altar, if we have ought against our brother or son or daughter or husband or wife or anyone else, and go make it right with them, or at least, make it right with God. To Jesus, forgiveness was more important than religious practices, which is why He condemned the Pharisees and religious leaders so many times. He scorched them with these words,
"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked" (Luke 6:32-35).
The antidote for those hurt feelings and self righteous indignation is to remember that God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked, and we cannot afford to act otherwise even though the temptation to do so is very strong in some of us. There are serious physical consequences to Christians who hold on to unforgiveness and dish out judgment to others in the body of Christ. In I Cor. 11: 21-32, for example, Paul said that if we eat and drink the communion supper without discerning the Lord's body, we eat and drink damnation to ourselves. Paul reported that some of the Corinthian brethren were sick and some had died because they had failed to judge themselves. This remedy he proposes is simple to say, but difficult to do. Paul observed, "But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment" (I Cor. 11:31). When we judge ourselves, we invite the Holy Spirit to search our hearts, to unlock all those locked rooms where we've hidden bitterness and hatred. I had a vision once of the hand of God holding a fire hose. Using the powerful flow of water from it, He washed away the dead men's bones, the carrion, the birds of prey and their refuse that littered the basement dungeon of my life. We must ask Him to sift our motives, to get that big old ugly beam out of our eye, because only then can we see to help our brother get the speck out of his (Matt. 7: 3-5).
In that earlier journal I mentioned (The Devil's in the Details), I had talked about the Prodigal Son's return, and how the father was standing at the door, waiting for him to come home. (See Luke 15:11-32.) This is such a precious story to me personally. Not once do we even get a hint that the father couldn't wait to get his hands on that rotten kid to lecture him and slap him around as punishment for his sins. He did not look down his nose and sniff, "OK, you can come home, but I'll never turn my back on you again. You did me dirt once, and I'm going to be watching you like a hawk. You can live here, but I'll never trust you again with my money, and the steward has orders to keep the wine cellar under lock and key." Likewise, we don't see a father who grudgingly accepts the prodigal back, but can't resist laying on a load of guilt on his head, "Son, you'll never know how many sleepless nights I've had, how many times I have cried myself to sleep, and how my health has suffered because you have treated me so badly. Why, it's a wonder I didn't die over this. It's a good thing you came home when you did. A few more months of this stress and I would have worried myself to death over you." If you see yourself in either of these two responses, you aren't alone. After all, this younger boy was most likely a problem child from the get-go. I seriously doubt that he was always a model son, who woke up one day and decided to cause trouble. No, I think he probably always was a "wild hair," as they say in these parts. We know that he was overly fond of sex, drugs, and rock and roll; and maybe he gambled on oxcart races or donkey pulling contests. Possibly he ran with the worst kids in the neighborhood, refused to do his homework, and flunked out of school. Whatever it was that kids did to constipate their parents in those days, this boy no doubt did it "in spades." This is why the father's response always brings tears to my eyes. What the father, in fact, said to the servants was, "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry" (Vs. 22-24).
Did you ever wonder what the synagogue of Satan is? (See. Rev. 2:9;3:9). Well, let me give you the Jan's eye view of it. When someone SAYS they forgive you of your sins, but they continue to remind you of them, they are preaching from the pulpit in the synagogue of Satan, because he is the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10)! He is the only one who gets anything out of reminding us of our shortcomings. Jesus is not interested in whipping us with our sins because He paid the price for them with His own blood. He went to the very gates of hell and ripped them off their hinges. Then, He stormed into the strong man's lair, stopped his reign of terror, bound him up in chains and led the captives out and into the heavenly realm (Eph. 4:8-10). Jesus went into hell and preached to the disobedient spirits in prison (I Pet. 3:18-20). This is a great source of comfort to all of us, for it proves that death is not the end of the story of God's redemption, the way the churches claim it is. In His mighty triumph over death, hell and the grave, Jesus fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy that He came, "to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness" (Isa. 42:7). Luke records Jesus' affirmation about Himself: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Lk. 4: 18-19).
Thus it is VERY clear from scripture that Satan is the only one who wants to keep us so beaten down and guilty that we fear to approach the throne of grace. Our God is faithful to forgive us our sins. When we sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (I Jn. 2:1). Do you know what that means? Does Jesus go before the Father and tell Him what a rotten puke we are, how mean we've been, how faithless and wretched, judgmental and unkind? No, indeed. When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, we don't stand alone. We have with us the best defense lawyer in the Universe, the one who is Himself the door to the throne room (Jn. 10:7). I love this imagery. He is judge, jury, and defendant, all at once. Because He "got us off" by paying the debt we owed, and He lives His life through us, we can BOLDLY approach the throne of grace, "so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Heb. 4:16). Jesus NEVER accuses us of our sins. It is Satan who does that! Jeremiah declared that God would remember our sins no more (Jer. 31:34). This glorious promise is repeated by the Hebrew writer, "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (Heb. 8:12). The essence of the New Covenant of grace is that, "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more" (Heb. 10:17). Though our sins be as scarlet, Isaiah declared, "they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Is. 1:18). If God has forgotten our sins and other people's sins against us, how can we hang on to them?
In Jesus' story about the Prodigal Son, the one who asked for forgiveness, received it, but the one who judged his brother and held unforgiveness in his heart, did not. As you may recall, the Elder Brother had been out in the fields when he heard the sound of music and merriment, and smelled the aroma of veal roasting on the spit. He asked what was going on. When the servants told him that the father had declared a feast in honor of his brother who had returned home, "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' " 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found'" (Luke 15:28-32). Like a lot of us who have been guilty of judging others, the elder brother had the "I've worked my fingers to the bone for you," type of mentality, but clearly his hardness of heart shows that for the most part, his labor was done out of duty and not out of love. Unfortunately, one can still find some "Cranky Old Things" (End Note C) today who have worked their fingers to the bone for the church, but their judgmental, critical attitude shows that it was probably more out of duty than love. When these religious paragons of virtue see someone who has lived a sinful life, one who never "toed the mark," or obeyed the rules, finally come sailing into the kingdom to receive forgiveness, they may spit up over it. I have observed over the years, that though the angels in heaven rejoice when one lost sinner comes home (Lk. 15:10), it's not uncommon for some of these "Elder Brothers" to feel resentment at the hoopla because after all they've been good their whole lives and no one made a fuss over them. It reminds me of the little boy who complained because his dad wouldn't give him a reward for his good behavior, "You mean to tell me that I've been good for nothing?" he whined. This was the Elder Brother's attitude in a nutshell. If you find yourself feeling just the tiniest bit of resentment that God loves wretched sinners who did all the things you have never allowed yourself to do, and/or if you are compelled to blame someone else in an attempt to exonerate yourself, then it's possible that the Elder Brother complex has a home in your heart. It's a wake up call to repent of self righteousness and the Pharisee syndrome. As our dear friend Harry Fox has pointed out, the Prodigal Son got redemption and restitution with the father, but Jesus does not tell us that this is so for the Elder Brother in the story because he wanted no part of unconditional love. And as a matter of fact, it is the Elder Brother type who most vocally resists God's reconciliation of all. He paid his dues and he wants to be sure everyone else does as well. This hardness of heart will surely be melted away when he experiences God's unconditional love in his life, and so we must be patient with him until God's perfect work is done. Jesus showed a lot more kindness to sinners than He did to Pharisees, which only demonstrates how serious the sin of self-righteousness is. As an aside here, I started out in life as an Elder Brother, but along the way, I slipped my leash and acted like a Prodigal. God dealt with me in both instances, but I can tell you that it takes longer for the Elder Brother to repent and come home to the Father, because he doesn't think he needs to. This is why Jesus said to this type of person, "The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you" (Matt. 21:31). To put it another way, it's easier to go to church and do your duty, than it is to forgive someone who has wounded you.
Unforgiveness is the cancer of the soul. It eats away our peace, robs us of our mental and emotional well being, and causes us to be cast into the dungeon of fear and anxiety, where we will languish until we pay the last farthing. One of the worst side effects of unforgiveness is the root of bitterness which the Hebrew writer says may spring up when we miss the grace of God (Heb. 12:15). How do we miss the grace of God? By trying to live by law, of course. Remember when Peter asked the Lord, how many times he had to forgive someone? I presume that he was trying to justify himself, thinking as many of us have, that if someone is truly obnoxious and continues in reprehensible behavior, then we are justified in not forgiving them. Been there. Done that. In answer to his question, Jesus told him this story:
"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart" (Matt. 18:21-35).
Anyone who has read even a few of our writings know that Lenny and I decry legalism in all its forms. Grace is the passion of our hearts, the drumbeat of our ministry. So, I really do hesitate to say that if we don't forgive someone, our Father will not forgive us, and yet that's exactly what Jesus said. "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matt. 6:12), and "Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation' " (Luke 11:4). And even though it does seem legalistic to me, yet Jesus was very stern about judgment. He warned, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Matt. 7:1-2). I have recently witnessed that terrible things do happen in Christian's lives today when they judge others, and often the very thing they have judged another for comes upon them or their family. When I asked Him why this is so, the Lord showed me that to judge another takes us out of grace and puts us back under law, and that is not a place I want to live, or even visit. No one can live by works of the law (Rom. 4:13; Gal. 2:16; 3:23-25). If you are "wearing God out with your prayers," as one woman put it, and not getting the results you want, perhaps you should ask God to cleanse your heart of unforgiveness and judgment. Perhaps you should ask Him to bring His will to pass in the situation, rather than your own.
This ministry that God has called Lenny and me to is one of reconciliation. There are those who fuss and fume about this thinking it refers only to our eternal destination. It does, but more importantly, I have come to realize that reconciliation has everything to do with the operation of God's kingdom in our lives today, right here and right now. God has called us not to look after the flesh of any man or woman, but rather to look to the New Creation within. This is the only way that we can live our lives without judgment, and why Paul said that he was no longer going to look to any man after the flesh. The reason is because "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, (Can you believe that?) who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation" (II Cor. 5:17-18). Can you rejoice with me that God is in everything? Even our petty jealousies and sibling rivalries, Paul? Even our rotten puke sons and daughters who have betrayed us and disobeyed us and dishonored us? Even our parents or church members who don't understand us, and who have rejected us because they think we've gone wide of the mark? Yes, dear ones, even all of those things and everything else is of God. "He works ALL THINGS after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. 1:11), which is why Paul could declare, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body" (II Cor. 4:9-10). This is the pay off to living in the kingdom of heaven today; can you hear it? God is not out to kill us to depress us or destroy us. His eternal purpose is that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in our bodies. Some of us on the wrong side of 50 have a hard time getting behind that verse, but it's true. He is living His life through us. He is purging us of the dross, the hay, wood, and stubble that clog up our spiritual pipes and prevent us from beholding His glory, and He is in the process of shining in our hearts, "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (II Cor. 4:6).
When you feel under the pile of judgment from someone else, or when the light in your soul is almost snuffed out because of your judgment of another for whom Christ died, don't despair. Remember that God is teaching you eternal truths through this often painful process. His grace is sufficient for all these earthly things. Let us quit looking to the flesh, to the temporal, to the outward man which perishes, and ask the Father to show us the inward man who is renewed day by day. Let us not be discouraged by these "light afflictions," which are fleeting, but rather let us see them as they work in our lives a "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Cor. 4:16-18).
When He opens our eyes to behold Him in His glory, the King of kings and Lord of lords on His throne even now, we will rejoice with John the beloved, who saw that the beast, the dragon, the devil and the flesh have all been overcome by the blood of the Lamb. For us, "Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (Rev. 12:10-11, KJ). When God has made this verse true in our lives, then we will see that "The kingdoms of this (our) world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 11:15, KJ). If we continue to live after the flesh with the passions, hurt feelings, unforgiveness, conditional love, and bitterness, we resemble Isaiah's description of the lost:
"Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away" (Isa. 59:10-11). When we are led by the Spirit, we are sons of our Father (Rom. 8:14), and as the Spirit controls us and lives through us (Rom. 8: 9), the world will see Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). For those of us who have been caught up in judging and unforgiveness, which I freely admit has been a big problem for me in the flesh, the first step is to follow Peter's advice on the Day of Pentecost, "Repent, then, (change your mind) and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you, even Jesus. He must remain in heaven (in the Spirit) until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets" (Acts 3:19-21). When we do repent of our hardness of heart and unforgiveness, God's reconciliation will bring joy to our hearts and peace to our spirits as He mends broken relationships and heals wounded friendships. I think Isaiah captured reconciliation in this word picture:
"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn" (Isa. 60:1-3). As it is written, so let it be done.
Post Script: After I had posted this journal, the Lord gave me a poem which really fits in here.
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Nosh, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
End Note A: "That Beastly Bug"
End Note B: "The Devil's in the Details"
End Note C: "Why Works Don't Work"
The Glory Road
We would enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web in Oct. 1999,
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on Nov. 56 2008.