Church (3): Go… and make disciples

What do you think when you’ve got an opportunity to share the gospel?  Do you worry what people will think of you?  Do you worry whether you’ll share it well enough?  Are you concerned about being on your own with such a huge mission in the world?

Don’t worry, God is with you.  It’s a glorious thing we have been called to do, to take the gospel to the world.

People already know right from wrong

Click image for Sunday's service sheet‘Natural revelation’ is found in many things in life, as Paul outlines in Romans 1:19–20:

“They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Romans 1:19–20, NLT)

Also, people know right from wrong, and know what they should do, without ever having come across God’s Word in the Bible:

“All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.” (Romans 2:12–16, NIV-84)

So, everyone knows about God from the world around them, and about sin and right/wrong from God’s moral law which is written within their own hearts.  We don’t need to tell people that they are sinners – we just need to remind them!  We are often not telling them something new, we are just making their consciences more sensitive, we are reminding them of things that they had pushed away at the back of their minds.

But the gospel is only known when the message is told, using words!

Paul argues in Romans 10:9-15 that people cannot be saved unless we go and tell them.  How can they go unless they are sent, Paul continues.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”” (Romans 10:9–15, NLT)

In a recent blog, Ed Stetzer writes:

There’s a popular saying often repeated by Christians. It has found new life on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe you have even uttered these words, commonly attributed to Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary.”

I think we can appreciate what many are getting at when they say something like this. As Christians, we should live in such a way that our lives point to the person and work of Jesus. However, good intentions cannot overcome two basic problems with this quote and its supposed origin. One, Francis never said it, and two, the quote is not biblical.

The gospel requires—demands even—words.

So let’s preach the gospel, and let’s use words, since they’re necessary.

The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 is the Church’s mandate to go and tell the good news about Jesus Christ.

 

Church (2): How can I join?

Whether it is trying to cross a border, or someone claim that they are a child of someone else’s, it is very difficult, although some manage to do it, on occasions.

However, when it comes to entering God’s family, it is impossible to fake it and get away with it.

Click image for Sunday's service sheetIn John’s gospel, he lists different ways which are impossible to become part of God’s family. But he also tells us one way which does allow us to become part of God’s family.

There is only one true Church of God’s people.

Only the Lord knows the heart of each person – only he truly knows who are his children, and who are not. Only God can see into the heart, where we cannot see. That is why the true Church is called the ‘Invisible’ Church. In contrast, the ‘Visible’ Church is what ‘we’ can see. We can see people go to church, attend services, take part, be baptised, take the bread and juice at the Lord’s Table. But no matter how well we can judge people at times, there are sometimes those who we don’t really know whether they are true believers or not. There are many people who go to Church who are not God’s children, not part of God’s family.

“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” (John 1:12–13, NLT)

Jesus did not command us to force people to convert, but to spread the message of the gospel, and let people believe themselves.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”” (Romans 10:9–13, NLT)

John tells us that “to all who believed”…  Entry into God’s family is by faith in Jesus Christ.  It’s as simple as that.  Faith that goes hand in hand with repentance from sin, faith in Jesus’ atoning death on the cross for our sins.

Praise God for such a wonderful gospel message.

Church (1): Who or what is it?

Church - 1 - Who or what is itWe all need community, whether it is a real local neighbourhood community, a work community, or a virtual community via Facebook or TV soaps.

But more than that, we need a loving, caring family or community, not a dysfunctional one where we are afraid, insecure and unloved. We also need community so that we can love others; Jesus reaffirmed the biblical teaching that we ought to not only love God with all our heart, mind soul and strength, but that we ought to love our neighbour as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).

Click image for Sunday's service sheetWe all serve someone or something. We often serve ourselves. Or we may serve some idol such as ambition, relationships, money, peer opinion, etc.

The search for utopia, the perfect society, is as old as mankind. But no matter how much we progress in terms of education, economy, technology, etc., we still struggle with unkindness, selfishness, abuse, jealousy, theft, murder, exploitation, and so on. While there is a lot of good being done by many people, overall we still do not live in a perfect society. The Bible calls the actions and motives which cause this ‘sin’.

Yet, there is a perfect society or community being established. It is those who have entered the kingdom of God, having their sins forgiven by faith in Jesus Christ. Each one also receive the Holy Spirit to do what his name suggests, to give us a spirit which is holy and not sinful. While this worldwide community throughout all ages is still imperfect overall, it is nevertheless being transformed. One day, when the Lord returns and establishes his final kingdom, we will see it made perfect, beautiful, and glorious.

Believers in Jesus Christ aren’t just saved for their personal benefit, in isolation from others. There is no such thing as individual salvation which is not part of God’s larger plan of salvation for his people. Believers should therefore also be united as part of a local church here and now, as they look forward to being part of the global people of God in the future.

Praise God for redeeming sinners from a world which is so imperfect, to live in a world where perfection and love will abound.

Listen as we look at the first in this series as to what the Church is, and how it should function, and how we can better fulfill our role as God’s people on earth.

Forgiveness: Conditional on repentance?

11568818_lShould forgiveness be conditional on repentance, or unconditionally given to all?

The article on ‘Healing for victims’ on page 5 of Crosstalk issue 20 answered the question of whether forgiveness should be given to all unconditionally, or only on the condition of repentance.  Space did not allow for a more thorough discussion of that topic, so a link was put in the article to this webpage.

A thorough and relatively academic discussion of the matter is available here: Forgiveness paper (updated 21/10/14)

The summary conclusions at the end of the paper are reproduced below.

Summary of paper

The subject of forgiveness is often debated. In particular, the question as to whether Christians should forgive everyone unconditionally as in Matthew 6:12-15 and Mark 11:25, or should they forgive only under the condition of repentance by the offender, as in Matthew 18:15-20 and Luke 17:3–4. This is not merely an academic theological debate, since lack of forgiveness is well known to affect mental health, and can result in deep-seated bitterness, either through inability to forgive, or under the guise of ‘being biblical’.

The Greek words used which are translated forgive/forgiveness in the passages considered all simply mean to ‘let go’ or ‘release’. Forgiveness is not equivalent to reconciliation, although it is a step in the process that hopefully leads to that reconciliation.

In the debate on whether forgiveness ought to be (i) conditional on repentance, or (ii) unconditional and not requiring repentance, proponents of each view can find Bible verses which support their view on the one hand, and reinterpret verses of the alternate view to suit their own perspective on the other hand. The conditional repentance view reinterprets verses which seem to promote unconditional forgiveness, to understand them to be conditional even when they are clearly not conditional. The view that does not require repentance before forgiving others reinterprets verses which clearly teach that forgiveness should be conditional to mean that they should be understood as being unconditional. Neither view deals with its opposing texts in a satisfactory manner. Neither view is satisfactory on its own.

However, by examining the contexts of both sets of verses, it can be shown that where the New Testament teaches that forgiveness should be conditional on repentance, that this is exclusively within the context of church, and for the good of those within church overall. That is, sin within church ought not to be passed over, or let go. It ought to be challenged and corrected, to maintain the holiness and unity of fellowship in the Lord. If repentance is not forthcoming, such people ought to be excluded from fellowship, until such time as they repent. Believers have a responsibility to bring wandering brothers and sisters back to the flock, just like the shepherd does to his sheep. This is the responsibility of church, corporately. At the same time, within this context, teaching in Matthew 18:15-22 and Luke 17:3–4 on how many times one ought to forgive another tackle the separate and personal response by those offended to the command to forgive others in church. The initial context in Matthew 18:15-22 and Luke 17:3–4 is corporate forgiveness within church; the secondary context is how the individual in that context must be prepared to forgive repeatedly at a personal level, regardless of whether the offender repents or not.

In a different context, passages like Matthew 6:12-15 and Mark 11:25 which promote unconditional forgiveness can be seen to be applicable to believers at a personal level, regardless of whether they relate to those in Christ’s Church or unbelievers in the world at large. Personal forgiveness relates to Christian character, not corporate church discipline. At the same time, unconditional forgiveness at a personal level is compatible with conditional forgiveness at a corporate church level. If believers do not forgive unconditionally at a personal level, this affects their individual relationship with God. If church does not maintain the condition of repentance before forgiving those who sin, this allows sin to grow unchecked within the fellowship of God’s people.

Other Bible passages which have been interpreted as promoting that forgiveness should be conditional on repentance, such as Ephesians 4:32, can be seen to be interpreted in ways which are either compatible with, or outside the scope of, the passages of direct concern.

Further, believers can forgive unconditionally, because matters of justice are already in God’s hands – all sin is ultimately transgression of ‘his’ moral law (the Ten Commandments). The condition for mankind to receive forgiveness from God’s eternal judgment is repentance with faith, based on Jesus atoning death on the cross for sin.  There is no such judgment applicable from one person to another, so repentance from one person to another is not a fundamental requirement of forgiveness.

Forgiveness at an individual level, and giving or withholding forgiveness in a church context, are both generally independent of the workings of the law of the land, although there may be occasions where the church discipline process will require matters to be also addressed by the civil authorities.

In terms of healing, then, there is no biblical barrier, such as lack of repentance, to believers experiencing the freedom and release that comes from forgiving others at a personal individual level, regardless of whether the offence was within the context of a church fellowship or not. There are many believers who have accumulated unforgiveness under the assumption that they are doing what is biblical, for whom it is hoped they can experience the release and freedom that forgiveness brings.

For everyone, hopefully forgiving others will result in healing and freedom from additional pain on top of the original offence. For those who can’t forgive naturally, it is hoped that they will be able to find faith in Jesus Christ, so that they will have the power to forgive others.

But most of all, it is hoped that everyone will find the joy and peace which comes from receiving forgiveness from God, through faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning suffering, death and resurrection to life.

Unity (28 September 2014)

Click image for Sunday's service sheetPablo Mandresa (from Hope Fellowship North Belfast) preached to us on the topic of ‘unity’ from John 17.

“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.” (John 17:21–26, NLT)

Developing a servant heart (21 September 2014)

Developing a servant heart

Bob Dylan once wrote these lines in one of his lesser known songs:

You may be a construction worker working on a home,
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome,
You might own guns and you might even own tanks,
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

Click image for Sunday's service sheetWe all serve someone or something. We often serve ourselves. Or we may serve some idol such as ambition, relationships, money, peer opinion, etc.

“When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’ ” (Luke 17:7–10, NLT)

Overall, the Bible teaches that being a servant includes:

  • Action, doing – it is not a philosophical concept, but a role to be lived out
  • Obedience to the master, not disobedience
  • Trust and dependence on the master, not self-reliance
  • Submission to the will of the master, not doing our own thing or rebellion/disobedience

Those who have trusted in Jesus for forgiveness and salvation are not just free from God’s judgment – free to do as they like. They are freed from sin in order to do good, to live righteous lives, to be holy.

“Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.” (Romans 1:5, NIV-84)

“Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.” (Romans 6:15–18, NLT)

Followers of Jesus can find fulfillment and joy in serving God, willingly and from the heart. We should not seek so much for God to serve us, but for us to serve him, which is an inestimable privilege.

A life of service to God, in whatever role, job, or situation we find ourselves in, is a great blessing now and will be even better in eternity to come.

The wonderful love of God (14 September 2014)

The love of God 14 Sept 2014

The only ground of God’s love is his love. The ground of God’s love is only and wholly in himself. There is neither portion nor proportion in us to draw his love. There is no love nor loveliness in us that should cause a beam of his love to shine upon us.

Thomas Brooks (Puritan)[1]

Click image for Sunday's service sheet“The LORD did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the LORD loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the LORD rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8, NLT)

“For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken,” says the LORD, who has mercy on you.” (Isaiah 54:10, NLT)

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.” (1 John 4:9–11, NLT)

“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.” (1 John 3:1, NLT)

“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”” (Zephaniah 3:17, NLT)



[1] The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 2, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 376–77.

 

Joy in heaven over those who do a U-turn (7 September 2014)

Joy over one who repents - Luke_15-7

God cares not just for those who already follow him, but also those who don’t yet have a restored relationship with him:

““For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NLT)

God rejoices when just one person turns to him. God and the angels are overjoyed when people turn to God through faith in Jesus. They are overjoyed not just when many people turn, but when each individual turns to God.

Click image for Sunday's service sheet“Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” (Luke 15:1–7, NLT)

God doesn’t just call you to turn from sin to do good. That’s what the morally superior group of people had done in Romans 2:1-16. And judgment was still on them because they were not perfect. Turning away from sin is not enough. We need to turn away from self-reliance too, and rely on God’s grace and mercy, not our own self-righteousness. We need to trust in Jesus Christ, and be accepted by the Father through faith in him.

“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” (Romans 3:21–24, NLT)

Dealing with depression (31 August 2014)

Dealing with depression

Depression is a terrible thing. Just like a physical illness can cripple a person, so too depression can affect people’s live greatly, even to the point of not wanting to keep on living.

Yet, the Bible teaches a lot that is relevant to depression and mental illness, even if it is not packaged with a chapter titled ‘Depression’!

Click image for Sunday's service sheetThere are many Bible verses which encourage us.  Here are some:

Romans 8:1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Deuteronomy 31:8 Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Joshua 1:9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Psalm 3:3 But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.

Psalm 40:1–3 1 I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. 3 He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.

Psalm 42:5 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.

Isaiah 40:28–31 28 Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. 29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 30 Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. 31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Jeremiah 29:11–12 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen.

Matthew 28:20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.

John 16:33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

2 Corinthians 1:3–4 3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

2 Corinthians 4:8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.

2 Corinthians 4:16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.

2 Corinthians 5:7 For we live by believing and not by seeing.

Philippians 4:6–7 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Philippians 4:13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Isaiah 1:18–20 18 “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. 19 If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. 20 But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

1 Peter 4:12–13 12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

1 Peter 5:6–7 6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

Romans 8:5–6 5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Nehemiah 8:10 And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

 

Karl Menninger, the famous psychiatrist, says that if he could convince the patients in his psychiatric hospitals that their sins are forgiven, 75 percent of them could walk out the next day. So often we do not take God at his word![1]



[1] Michael P. Green, ed., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file.; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989).

Forgive (24 August 2014)

Forgive - Luke 17_1-10

UPDATE (8/10/2014): Following on from this sermon, a more detailed study on forgiveness to support an article in our outreach literature (Crosstalk) has resulted in a better understanding of the matter of whether Christ’s followers ought to forgive conditionally or unconditionally.  See here for a summary and more information.

Forgiveness is not primarily a self-centred activity for our own psychological well-being.  It is so that we can be reconciled with others, and so that we can be obedient to God.  The fact that being obedient to God, and loving to others has a beneficial impact on how we think and on our outlook on life, is really a secondary matter.  The fact that we are blessed when we forgive should not be the primary reason to forgive.  It is not meant to be a self-centred activity, but one that is focused on the other person.

We should be forgiving people

Click image for Sunday's service sheet“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:37–38, NIV-84)

“Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9–13, NLT)

“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”” (Mark 11:25, NLT)

The NT Greek word most often translated ‘forgive’ means more literally ‘to let go’ or ‘to leave behind’. Forgiveness is ‘letting go’ of something.

There is something about having a forgiving heart which resonates with the heart of God. He so loved the world that he did all that it took to forgive people – Jesus death on the cross…

““For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NLT)

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us.” (1 John 3:16, NLT)

We ought to forgive others, at a personal level. We can do so without worrying that truth and justice will be compromised, because these are the proper responsibilities of the civil authorities, church leadership, and ultimately God on the judgment day. Those authorities have the responsibility to ensure that truth is uncovered and justice is applied, with church discipline being a special case where fellowship is based on Jesus having taken the sinner’s punishment – if they are repentant, they can be reconciled to the fellowship of God’s people. Individuals don’t have the proper responsibility to seek justice on their own, and are therefore free to forgive personally, to let matters go, and trust that civil or church authorities will deal with them appropriately, and that ultimately God will provide eternal justice – or forgiveness, if people accept that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, meeting the demands of justice there.