Forgiveness is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. It’s a word that I’ve heard talked and preached about quite frequently, but it’s actually an act that I feel quite foreign to … Today I listened to a sermon entitled Getting to the Place of Forgiveness (2) by Milton Vincent (a pastor at Cornerstone Fellowship Bible Church in Riverside) and I found it helpful to process through. Here are some thoughts.
Our (subconscious) prideful tendency
What comes very very naturally to all of us in the moments when we’ve been (unjustly) wronged by other people is to focus on and obsess over their sins while at the same time minimizing or excusing our own. Even if we do acknowledge our own sins, we tend to see them as smaller and less significant than the sins of other people against us. But there is a problem with this.
Why this tendency is more hurtful than helpful
When we make a big deal about our sin, we make a big deal about what Jesus died for. However, when we overlook our sin, we minimize what Jesus died for on the cross and additionally we even choke our own ability to give grace to other people.
A very real example
Say there is this scale measuring the severeness of sins that ranges from 1 to 10. As I view another person’s sin on this scale, a level 8, but I talk about my own with softer, more understanding terms, and see my own sin as perhaps a level 2 or 3, then I will only experience God’s grace to the level of a 2 or 3. We can only give to others what we have already received, and if I’m walking around with only level 2 or 3 grace inside of me, then I will never have enough grace to give to this person with a level 8 sin.
Piercing yet Gracious Truths
Tim Keller points to our pride as he writes, “It is impossible to grant forgiveness to those you feel superior to.” & how right he is. But it is the cross that lowers us, beautifully, from the position of self-exaltation and self-centeredness to a place of humility and wonder where the ugliness of our sins but also the beauty of our Savior’s love and grace towards us are revealed. And it is at that lowly point, where we can then freely forgive those who have hurt us.
When I come to a place where I can see myself as the chief sinner of all, then I can have the opportunity to be the chief recipient of God’s grace! “I am the level 10 sinner but I’ve received level 10 grace. Anyone who sins against me will never sin against me in a greater way than I have sinned against God.”
It is at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ that I realize I am far more of a sinner than I knew before, but I am also far more loved, far more forgiven, and far more blessed than I could ever dare imagine. How amazing is this truth? Yet how often we stray from it, longing for voids in our hearts to be filled by everything other than the treasure we have in Jesus Christ.
As Milton Vincent points out, “To be known and not loved is a greatest fear. To be loved but not known means little to us. But to be fully known and yet also fully loved by the one who knows us completely – That is the greatest gift of all.” And we do indeed have that in Jesus Christ.
What amazing grace.
[Romans 1:17] For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
To live by faith is a far surer and happier thing than to live by feelings or by works. The branch by living in the vine, lives a better life than it would live by itself, even if it were possible for it to live at all apart from the stem. To live by clinging to Jesus, by deriving all from Him, is a sweet and sacred thing. If even the most just must live in this fashion, how much more must I who am a poor sinner! Lord, I believe. I must trust You wholly. What else can I do? Trusting You is my life …
"All those who see me laugh me to scorn; they shoot out their lips at me, and wag their heads (with hatred)." —Psalm 22:7
Mockery was a great ingredient in our Lord’s suffering. Judas mocked Him in the garden; the chief priests and scribes laughed Him to scorn; Herod discarded Him; the servants and the soldiers jeered at Him, and brutally insulted Him; Pilate and his guards ridiculed His royalty; and on the tree all sorts of horrid jests and hideous taunts were hurled at Him. Ridicule is always hard to bear, but when we are in intense pain it is so heartless and so cruel that it cuts to the very bone of life itself.
Think of the Savior crucified, racked with anguish far beyond all imagination. And then picture that motley multitude all wagging their heads or thrusting out their lips in bitterest contempt of one poor suffering victim! Their unanimous hatred was a display of the worst evil; and yet in the very moment of its greatest apparent triumph it could do no more than mock at that victorious goodness which was then reigning on the cross.
O Jesus, “despised and rejected of men,” how could You die for men who treated You so poorly? This is an amazing love, love divine, love beyond degree. We, too, have despised You in the days before our rebirth, and even since our new birth we have too often honored the world in our hearts. And yet You bleed to heal our wounds and die to give us life.
O that we could set You on a glorious high throne in all men’s hearts! We would ring out Your praises over land and sea until men should as universally adore you just as they once unanimously rejected you.
To fight hard for joy in Jesus Christ sometimes means fighting to only let go in complete surrender to Him. A surrender that is scary, but one that is sweet and assuring in knowing that in Him, our hope is secured and unfailing.
God’s merciful grip on us will forever be infinitely firmer and stronger that ours will ever be on Him.
It is when we are sufficiently aware and in complete understanding of our deliberate acts of disobedience, yet continue in them that our minds can become the most deceived and the most dangerous.
Something I was made very aware of these past few weeks.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
- 2 Corinthians 1:8-10
Don’t believe a lie that…there’s a verse that says, “God will never give you more than you can handle,” false! Totally false! There is a promise in 1 Corinthians [10:13] that he will always provide a way out of temptation for you; but it is false to say that he will never give you more than you can handle – He will give you more than you can handle. He will make you feel like you are “despairing of life itself,” but he will do that so you will not rely on yourselves but “on Him who raises the dead.”
- Jojo Ma, CrossLife Community Church; Introduction to Ephesians: By His Grace, For His Glory, 9/2/12
…he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
- 2 Corinthians 12:9-10