Our Lord is teaching that forgiveness is not optional. We should be like our Lord who forgives greatly, forgives deeply, and forgives the inexcusable.
“This is what the ancients were commended for.” – Hebrews 11:2
Many philosphers, christian theologians and prophetic men are speaking of Western civilization entering into a new dark age similar to the medieval dark ages. Human history has been short, fickle and full of uncertainity and the time of darkening upon the world should concern us as christian believers.
Arthur W. Hunt says,
“We cannot ignore the parallels between the Dark Ages and our own time. The great irony of our age is that for all our technological prowess we are remarkably less articulate, less civil, and more irrational than we were 100 or even 200 years ago. The technological shift from the printed word to the visual image is pulling us back into the Dark Ages.”
Morality changes with no girting in reality or reason are just one of the signs of the times. The Church has survived a dark age before and the Lord says that satan will not overthrow the Church, so we are certain to make it through this coming one.
Rod Dreher, the author of Benedict Option says,
“We see ourselves as living in the ruins (though very comfortable ones!) of Christian civilization, and tasked with preserving the living faith through the coming Dark Ages.”
Evangelical Christianity has never had so much knoweldge, resources, programs and helps. Yet never has there been such a lack of godly wisdom being lived out in moral character and godliness. We live in a information knoweldge based age with very little ability to gain wisdom in the midst of it. We know all the facts about faith but need to have a “living faith” that is displayed before the world. One might say, “Why worry about these things and make a big deal about it?” Yet look at our lives, how shallow, plastic, pleasure oriented, materialistic, self-centered. We are living for the present world in many ways in the modern Church and things of eternity are not gripping us. We can test ourselves in one way to ask ourselves the question, “Am I living for the present pleasures and comforts or for a future eternity and eternal purpose of God in my daily actions?”
We can look to Hebrews chapter 11 as a light in the midst of the coming darkness. There are a lineage of men in the history of mankind that walked in the light and left us a path to follow. The ancients were men of faith so their decisions revolved around “what is to come” (Hebrews 11:10). They “longed” (Hebrews 11:16) for something better then the present world. They caught the real reality of God willing to “prepare a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16) and therefore they gladly forfeited what all other men seek after here below. We can see this example of godliness and other-wordliness throughout Church history in especially in godly leaders in the early Church. Yet when the first dark ages consumed upon the Church we see men leaving even society itself to found monasteries where faith and practice was kept with an eternal mindset. It is interesting to note that the Bible itself, literature, school, medicine and many other things we enjoy as the Western culture were preserved through these Christian communities. Many departed to the desert seeking God for Himself, known as the Desert Fathers, when the reality of worship was being lost.
And once we take a large lens view of the Church of 2000 years we can see these communities where faith and practice were preserved, that they themselves were the salt and light to the rest of the Church. Without faith that displays itself with deeds done with an eternal mindset we are just left with formality of a religious kind that ends in a lack of changed lives. How then do we survive a coming dark age of the Church?
In way of application and help, here are some possible helps for you to consider and apply to your Christian walk:
1. “Others” – Remember that Christianity is not a religion about the individual but rather the community. We are called the body of Christ (Romans 12:5) and we always need each other. Many modern believers live as an island to themselves, with every little meaningful relation with believers throughout the week. One of the marks of the dark ages and a coming evil age is people seeking self over others (2 Timothy 3:2). Make priority to practice Christianity community daily with other believers, share your life together.
2. “Living Faith” – How do I live out my faith? It is actually simple, choose to spend time practicing what we believe. Disciplines in the Christian life are what keep us alive and strong in our faith. Early Church believers recited the Lord’s Prayer meaningfully three times a day outloud. It was a practice in christian communities to pray 5 times a day, called the hours of prayer. Daily bible reading and deciding to obey what we read instead of just reading for knowledge. Following the commands of Christ for believers is not burdensome but freeing. Read Hebrews 11 again and note how each believer was commended in their obedience.
3. “Looking Backward” – In a time of dark ages we must not look forward to try and follow the newest trend in Evangelical Christianity. But rather look backward and find those solid time tested principles, and examples that were shining lights in the darkness. The speaking of a new doctrine, new revelation, new emphasis that appearnetly the entire Church has missed throughout history, will resound but we must not listen to these voices. Find the solid footing of what the Church has always believed, what godly men stood on and passed on to the next generation.
4. “Eternal Thinking” – The ancients were those who put their mind on eternity. In our modern societies Evangelical Christians are caught up in all the rat-race of large homes, latest technology, creature comforts and all the extra pleasures offered. If we are to be a people who will be shining lights in the coming Dark Ages we must say no to ungodliness and wordly passions (Titus 2:11). And choose a simplier way of life. This can mean moving from the city to the country. It can mean to associate in a christian community. Other ways to practice this is to minimize one’s life and say no to all the offers of society to indulge the flesh. For we are looking for a “heavenly country” let us start that journey now or continue on it and look away from all that distracts.
Criticism is a great danger in the Church in our day where many are even thinking they are doing God a favour by being critical against others. K.P. Yohannan shares ways we can overcome criticism that is directed towards us and understand why people do these things so we can have empathy and compassion for them. Currently we are featuring on SermonIndex.net a sermon on Bitterness by K.P. Yohannan which goes into detail of why believers end up acting in these ways. Only with God’s help through forgiveness can we be freed of this sin and start to live in a way where we bless and not condemn others.
Read below what K.P. Yohannan says about Criticism:
In our world, it seems impossible to escape criticism. If we do poorly at school or at work, people will criticize us. Should we do well and excel in business, we still face criticism from people who are jealous of our success. It seems to be a favorite pastime of the human race to take one person after another, good or bad, and “skin them alive” with criticism.
What makes people act this way? Psychologists say one of the underlying reasons people criticize each other is to take revenge for the hurts they once received. Whether deserved or not, criticism is always painful. No one likes it. Yet people seem to enjoy themselves when others are cut down.
Most believers have accepted the fact that the world will criticize us regardless of how saintly we may live or how many charitable contributions we may make. However, I have found that the greatest shock and discouragement for believers come when they realize that they encounter this same heartless criticism from their brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. Of course, God never meant this to happen. But many Christians have never allowed the Lord to cleanse their lives from this destructive behavior. It’s a very serious problem; and if it is not dealt with, it easily can destroy a church.
Imagine this: Jesus, the sinless Son of God, faced His worst criticism—not from the Roman government or from ungodly people—but from the most recognized and pious religious leaders of His nation. Paul experienced the same thing. His worst critics were people inside the Church, not the heathen he tried to win. In fact, he deals very thoroughly with this problem in his second letter to the church in Corinth.
Whether criticism comes from the world or from within the Church, it is important for us to know how we should respond to it.
Here are a few ways to Overcome:
1. Not To Pay Back – The Bible clearly instructs us in Romans 12:17 not to pay back evil for evil, which means we must not lash out and respond in anger in the same manner we were treated.
2. Maintain Love – On the contrary, God wants us to respond differently. We are to maintain our love for the brothers and trust the Lord to handle our defence. Only if we do this will the cycle of destructive criticism be broken.
3. Say No to Discouragement – The feelings of deep hurt and discouragement that follow criticism can easily bring us to a point of despair, giving up our calling or even suicide. In no way must we allow this to happen! If we give in, the enemy has reached his goal of stopping us from building God’s kingdom.
4. Look Objectively – The best we can do when we receive criticism is to look at it objectively. If the accusations are simply empty talk, we should dismiss them and by God’s grace go on with our life.
5. Be Willing to Change – Lastly, On the other hand, if there is any truth in the criticism, let us be willing to change, improve and grow in that area.
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. – Hebrews 2:1
The other day we were driving on a back country road when all of a sudden a huge orange sign appeared with the ominious words, “Attention!” written on it. Right away all of our senses were more alert, our eyes were looking around trying to find the problem of why the sign was there. Danger possibly loomed and we wanted to avoid the problem. We see this exact same warning in the Holy Scriptures when it says that we must “pay the most careful attention” this is a large sign warning us as believers that if we do not heed it we could fall into great danger.
An ancient Christian writing called, “The Ladder of Divine Ascent” speaks of the Christian journey as climbing a ladder to heaven, it is full of godly examples of how Christ is formed in us and how we grow in fruitfulness during our Christian walks. Some have made a picture to illustrate this book, it shows believers walking up the ladder and certain demons luring or pulling believers off the ladder. Perhaps some falling so far they will never return to the ladder itself. George Whitefield stated in one of his sermons that we can lose years of spiritual maturity in a matter of minutes in a fall from grace. He pictured this to a climbing of a mountain and falling many feet down. The Scriptures clearly teach it is possible to drift away (Hebrews 2:1), falling short of the rest (Hebrews 4:1) Turning away from the Living God (Hebrews 3:12). Many other warnings are given in the Scriptures. The doctrine of Perserverance is that those who have started well, will finish well in the end. Perserving to the end is the mark of true faith in a believers heart.
Robertson McQuilkin wrote a poem about finishing well, here is part of his writing:
“It’s sundown, Lord. The shadows of my life stretch back into the dimness of years long spent. I fear not death, for the grim foe betrays himself at last, thrusting me forever into life: Life with You, unsoiled and free. But I do fear I fear that dark spectre may come too soon – or do I mean too late? That I should end before I finish or finish but not too well. That I should stain Your honour, shame Your Name, Grieve Your loving heart. Few, they tell me, finish well… Lord, let me get home before dark.”
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). That Scripture has been a continual warning and encouragement to me, though we are greatly secure in Christ we are still warned not to fall. So how do we finish well? What are some things we can do to ensure we end our Christian walk well.
1 – Knowing God. “They have not known my ways” (Hebrews 3:10). We are prone to know many things about God but do we intimately know Him? Do we know “his ways” in our life, do we hear “his voice” (Hebrews 3:15).
2 – Unbelief. “Unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). This is a heart that starts to distrust God. The deception of sin is that we can trust ourselves and not what God says. We must say “no” to this and revere God’s Word constantly as our rule and to be obeyed.
3 – Hold Firmly to Hope – “If we hold firmly to our.. hope” (Hebrews 3:6). Our hope in the resurrection from the dead, is a sure hope in Christ. This hope when firmly held will help us to not cling to this present world. We will say “no” to ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:12).
4 – Not Drift Away – “careful attention to what we have heard” (Hebrews 2:1). Heresies, false teachers abound. We must hold firmly to the faith once delivered to the saints. Many deny the incarnation of the Son of God, the resurrection, many deny the trinity. We must hold fast to what the original Apostles recieved from the Lord. Such beliefs are codified in the Nicene and Apostles creed and other early statements of faith of the Church.
Lord, it has been some time in this walk with you. I have made my stumbles and falls but I am still climbing closer to You. Please let me not drift again or fall from the place I am. Let me daily grow closer to you, Knowing your ways and Yourself. Keep me from staining your Name. Let me get home before dark. Amen.
“For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made human. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried. The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.”
But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:15
Lesson of Forgiveness
Sometimes the lesson of forgiveness can only be obtained through being the recipient of someone not being willing to forgive you. If we have been hurt in our past by someone we can be those who will not forgive others who hurt us.
When we do not release others we end up not releasing ourselves. Even physical ailments can be a result of this pent up hurt and unforgiveness that manifests itself in bitterness, envy, resentment and even anger. For a Christian to hold onto any grudge or anger towards someone in the body of Christ affects not just themselves but others are defiled by their sin. It is not only a sin to not forgive but as we do this we enter into the strategy of satan because the demonic world is a world of unforgiveness. Not offering forgiveness is to not offer the love of Christ to another believer.
We have received unmerited grace and forgiveness but then we say to someone “I will not forgive you,” we are doing what is opposite than Christ. When we do not forgive we show that we do not love Jesus because if we love him we will obey his commands. And his command is to forgive all.
Jesus Suffered On the Cross
Jesus on the cross suffered for your sins and he forgave you, he offered you this forgiveness and when we accept it, we become Christians. Jesus the Son of God on the cross was mocked, ridiculed and given a sponge with vinegar that some argue was used for cleaning in the washroom of Romans. If anyone had the right to be unforgiving, vengeful, angry and seek justice it would have been Jesus. But what is the reaction, he says “Forgive them.”
He says to God the Father please do not hold these things against those who have hurt me so much. Please not only that please put their punishment on me so that they can be set free. We can share in the heart of Jesus that through our pains and hurts we can be able to help set others free through bearing the hurt with the love of Jesus Christ. Does this excuse sin? No, but it does allow healing and help for those who sin and we become more like the character of God towards others. In the light of sins against Jesus Christ, the sins others do to us are very little.
The teaching of Jesus even goes further that if we do not release and forgive others, God will not forgive our sins or hold some of them against us. Lord, help me to forgive and fully release others as we all stand by your grace. Amen.
Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? – Matthew 15:3
Traditions! Some hate them and some love them, what when we come to the New Testament scriptures and the Church what are we to do with them? Are they good, bad or neutral? The Scripture passage shared above is one of the first bible verses we think right away on the position of our Lord on human religious traditions. It seems on the outset that all traditions are against the commands of God and therefore we have to disregard them. But let us take a closer look this passage and others. The pharisees were coming to Jesus stating that his disciples were breaking their traditions, “the tradition of the elders” (Mark 7:3). The pharisees believed they were keeping the passed on traditions of moses and elders in hand washing. But what they missed was the inner reality of why the hand washing was done. God was desiring inward purity and they lost the inner meaning and simply focused on the outward.
The Pharisees Traditions Wrong?
Jesus did not say that all the traditions of the pharisees were wrong, he actually at one point told his disciples to keep the pharisees ways but not to follow the actual example of the pharisees as they did “not practice what they preach” (Matthew 23:3). We know that Jesus did put great emphasis on the Word of God, he quoted it against satan (Luke 4:4), quoted it to the pharisees (Matthew 21:13), He spoke it to the crowds (Matthew 11:10). Our Lord actually quoted the Scriptures all throughout his ministry and life, including his death on the cross possibly reciting the entirety of Psalm 22.
Yet it is interesting to note that Jesus went to the The Feast of Dedication (John 10:22–23) which was not a biblical feast but one through tradition of the Jewish people. Jesus though putting great emphasis on the Word of God did not leave us a Bible upon his death. But rather he left a Church, leaders who would perpetuate and share His kingdom. It seems our Lord’s importance was on the Church he was establishing and not a canon of Scripture. Of course the Scriptures are of great importance but the emphasis seemed to be on “living epistles” (2 Corinthians 3:2) who would be walking Bibles sharing the message of God.
Inner Spiritual Reality of Traditions
Traditions do not need to be in opposition to the word of God. Traditions are things that are passed on that give us signifigance and meaning to a spiritual reality. But when the symbol becomes only just that, then we lose the reason for doing the practice and then it becomes a dead tradition and can even oppose the words of God in the end. In many cases the Scripture themselves state traditions early believers kept (1 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Thessalonians 3:6). The Apostle Paul encouraged believers to: “hold fast to the teachings (traditions) we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
Matthew Poole a minister in the reformation said,
“The apostle delivered many things to the primitive church only by word of mouth, which have since that time been imparted to succeeding churches, to the observation of which Christians are as much obliged as to the written word.”
Godly Traditions, Memorials for Us
Clearly from the New Testament writings we see godly traditions that were passed on and that the next generation of leaders held to. These traditions are there so we can not forget what God did in the generation past just as the 12 stones were a memorial to Israel (Joshua 4:6-7). But when we forget the reason for the memorial that is when everything becomes lost. For any godly tradition of the Church if we cannot find the inner spiritual reason for it or if it does not originate in the apostolic first generations of the Church it should probably be held lightly or disregarded.
We must never hold such a tradition higher then the Word of God, they are simply symbols and memorials pointing to the spiritual realities the very Scriptures speak of. Perhaps these thoughts will help you next time you hear the word Church tradition.