Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Connection

I was recently reading John 20 where Jesus talks to the disciples after appearing to their company of hiders for fear of the Jews.

They have bona fide fear--the Jews killed their leader and Lord and they had to wonder if they were going to be next. Mixed up with fear must have been hatred, anger and desire for revenge.

He immediately addresses their deepest need with, "peace be with you." Peace annihilates the tensile bonds of our failure to let go of our struggle against anxiety and the fallout of sins others have committed against us or those we love.

He continues,  "As the father has sent me so I am sending you," and he breathed on them.

Of course. They would need His peace first before being sent out by Him. They couldn't go out in His name without true peace. For crying out loud, they were wallowing in turmoil as evident by their inability to even go out, hence their hiding.

They couldn't reveal the truth of who He is in their state--mixed bags of fear, hatred, anger and maybe even a more than healthy desire for revenge. He is none of that nonsense.

And what else did he say was needed?  His Holy Spirit. "Receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven." Surely they cannot move as true disciples of Him, if they attempt to do so without His Spirit.

And what reason does He give here for their need of the Holy Spirit?

To exact forgiveness.

This word, forgiveness--it has been catalyst for many lengthy journal entries, intense prayers and pleadings, watershed moments of surrender to His ways and the sudden rush of release from the chains of trying to play God in other people's lives, while refusing to allow Him to be God of mine. And again today, seeing this word produced another turning point in going deeper still in Him.

My eyes were opened to notice His instruction on forgiveness falling immediately after His directive to receive the Holy Spirit.

This connection powerfully hit me.
I got a clearer understanding as to why Jesus would say in Matthew 6:14-15, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." This has always seemed such a harsh, unbending statement. In context, it is not. It is simply another Kingdom reality. If His spirit lives in me, I must let Him LIVE IN ME! If He forgives, and He most definitely forgives, I MUST forgive.

He has breathed on us His Holy Spirit. God, who loves and is just and therefore, through the genuine justice bought by Jesus' sacrifice, forgives. In order to refuse to forgive we must suppress His Holy Spirit in us. That most certainly must be the perfect definition of grieving the Holy Spirit.

How can his Spirit thrive in us if we continually work to suffocate Him rendering Him without rule?

When I defiantly choose to NOT forgive when His Holy Spirit lives in me, I reveal a self-centered, skewed perspective, not God's perspective, and in doing so I quench His Spirit.

Should I be surprised then at Christ's strong words regarding God's response to our acts of forgiveness or the lack thereof?

What has God Himself done for us? Forgiven.

His Spirit living in us means His ways become our ways. If we do not allow His Spirit to live out His ways in us we are working against Him. "Those not for us are against us."

Who am I that I refuse to forgive others? His very own Holy Spirit lives in me. Yet, I cannot show any evidence of His life in me when I instead foster a fertile environment for the bitterness incurred with the failure to forgive.

Matthew 18 was the pivotal point of my understanding of God's ultimate forgiveness--MANY years after I thought I understood salvation and forgiveness.

In that passage Jesus tells us of a powerful master who forgave the massive debt of one of his servants. It was a debt he would never have been able to pay in his lifetime--never mind how he came by that debt or the incredible stupidity involved in incurring the weight of something beyond repayment, yet forgiven and relieved is how he suddenly found himself.

And what did he do for immediate celebration of his freedom?

He continued in his stupidity.

With the lightness of newfound release still fresh in his being, he picked up his old shackles and threw them, with perfect aim, onto someone who owed him a paltry sum and, amidst angry words and threats, threw him in jail.

All my "valid" reasons for withholding forgiveness from those who deeply hurt me suddenly are without power and my ridiculous pride over thinking I have any justification for withholding forgiveness is exposed. The reality of God forgiving me for my heinous acts drains the power from any reason to not forgive.

Who am I to fail to forgive?

God has forgiven my debt which I could never, ever, ever, ever, repay. I have sinned against the LORD over all, the Creator, the King. Yet, he lovingly holds out His forgiveness as I acknowledge the blood sacrifice of His Son bringing me life amidst justice.

Who am I to grab someone else in a chokehold of unforgiving anger? Stupid, absolutely asinine.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8

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