Question: What is my relationship to God?

            When a person trusts in Jesus Christ as his Savior, he becomes a child of God. John wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12 NKJ) What does that mean “become children of God”? Whether you are five or ninety-five, when you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, you become a spiritual child of God. Continue reading

Q & A:Overcoming Difficult Relationships for Him

This contains considerations for suggested answers to the questions for the message given March 3 as titled above.  The full insert is given first and then the questions are repeated with suggested answers so that you can begin to expand how you might give answers to the questions.  Do not be superficial in answering the questions.  Think deeply and you will benefit richly.

Overcoming Difficult Relationships for Him

Romans 12:9-21

 
How do you deal with difficult relationships?

1)      Let Jesus replace pain with blessing Rom. 12:14-21

2)      Let Jesus help you to disciple him/her/them to the truth  2 Tim. 2:24-26
3)      Let Jesus bless through you, whom you can   1 Pet. 3:8-12
      ·         Jesus said it best Luke 6:27-28
      ·         Gen. 50:15-21

Jesus will right every wrong,
so you can choose to be a blessing!

·         God has called us to be a blessing.  Return no evil, give of yourself to bless
·         Trust the authority of the Word by faith to forgive and bless.  If you are struggling with pain over many months, have you forgiven and asked God to use you to bless the offender?

Message Based Discussion Questions

1)      Why does merely talking about Christianity often muster up negative images and angry reactions?

Digging Deeper:

2)      What was David’s response to his soldier who told him the Lord had given his enemy into his hand in 1 Sam. 24:1-10? ____________________.  How is David’s response different than way the world thinks?  What are the circumstances in 1 Sam. 26:7-16? 

3)      With whom did Moses get counsel in the conflict with Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Num. 16:1-33)? _____________ .   How would you classify Moses’ anger (Num. 16:15)?  How does this compare with the principles taught in the message?

Making application of the message to life:

4)      How does God want you to deal with sins against you in the past?

5)      What aspects of forgiveness have you struggled the most in the past?

6)      If you have hindered relationships, what does God want you to do based on the message passages?

Good thought, hurt you not, gossip never, friends forever.

 

Message Based Discussion Questions

1)      Why does merely talking about Christianity often muster up negative images and angry reactions?

a)      We’ve seen bad things happen from Christians in the past.

b)      We’ve seen Christians being judgmental toward others

c)      We’ve seen Christians being good at pointing out sin, but doing the same thing – hypocrisy.

d)     We’ve seen Christians live one way on Sunday, but another during the week.

e)      We’ve grown up under domineering parents that forced Jesus down our throats, and it didn’t seem to make sense.

f)       People don’t like the light of God’s truth. People of the darkness would rather run from the light.

g)      People don’t want to be convicted of their sins.

h)      The hurt or pain caused by people resonates within and our flesh and emotions want to react.

i)        People may be hardened in their sin, so they react at anything related to Christianity.

j)        Crusades and wars in the name of “God.”

Digging Deeper:

2)      What was David’s response to his soldier who told him the Lord had given his enemy into his hand in 1 Sam. 24:1-10?_He wouldn’t kill Saul__.  How is David’s response different than way the world thinks?  What are the circumstances in 1 Sam. 26:7-16? 

a)      David told his men he would not kill Saul, but he did cut off the corner of the robe.  His conscience bothered him and he repented. 

i)        David restrained his men from killing Saul in a vulnerable situation.

ii)      David chose not to get even or strike out.

iii)    David was controlled and trusted in the Lord’s actions.

iv)    David recognized the Lord’s will for Saul’s life.  The Lord did not direct David to kill Saul, even though he could have.

v)      David confronted Saul, but would not take personal vengeance. 

vi)    David ran from trouble as Saul pursued him.  That was a wise move, because Saul was bent on killing him.  David didn’t want to confront the Lord’s anointed.  If Saul was the Lord’s anointed, then the Lord would deal with Saul.  It was not David’s right to touch him.  That’s takes discernment!  That’s how believers should look at those who offend them.  Give a wide berth to let the Lord do His own divine discipline on the offender.

b)      David approaches Saul in the night with Abishai.  Abishai wanted to kill Saul, David said no.  Saul was still God’s anointed.

i)        David had an easy opportunity to kill Saul and leave in the night before the other soldiers found out.

ii)      David took the spear and jug, to let Saul know he could have caused harm, but didn’t, to show Saul he was not the enemy. 

iii)    David rebuked Saul’s chief of staff, because Abishai was a leader.

iv)    David blessed Saul, so Saul could have the opportunity for repentance, but Saul refused to repent.
3)      With whom did Moses get counsel in the conflict with Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Num. 16:1-33)? __God___ .   How would you classify Moses’ anger (Num. 16:15)?  How does this compare with the principles taught in the message?

a)      Moses ‘anger was righteous indignation.  He willingly declared his innocence, by not seeking his personal agenda or revenge.  Moses’ anger was not how they treated him, but how they treated the one God appointed to lead the people.  The rebellion of Dathan and Abiram was really a rebellion against God, so Moses’ anger was appropriate.

b)      There is a time when correction must be made.  God acts in love to correct a rebellious son (Heb. 12:5-6).  Moses went to the Lord, instead of taking matters into his own hand.  He let the Lord take revenge if there was going to be vengeance. 

i)        Blessing from Moses had to include the entire people, because Moses was the leader of the entire people.  It would be wrong for Moses to just be nice to Dathan and Abiram.  Moses was responsible for what happened to all the people.  Dathan and Abiram’s rebellion would bring God’s discipline upon all the people, so Moses, as leader, had to act on behalf of all of them.

ii)      Never confuse a biblical stand against evil with being nice.  The blessing is from God’s perspective, not what an offender may want or desire.  The blessing should be what is best for the person if the person was humble.  The blessing should be love according to what is good for the person as much as possible.  But if the person acts wickedly the blessing may be to step aside so God can impose divine discipline as He did in this case.

 
Making application of the message to life:

4)      How does God want you to deal with sins against you in the past?

a)      He wants me to forgive and send the penalty to Him.  He is just and will deal with it in wisdom.

b)      He wants me to choose to be ready to bless.  I need to let Jesus replace the pain with the action of blessing another. 

c)      He wants me to be His servant and ready to rebuke in humility is necessary. 

d)     He wants me to be ready to reach out to the person in spite of their evil actions.  Those “reach out” actions are to bless the person, not get even or make miserable in any way.

e)      He wants me to not nurture the bad feelings I may have had from the offense.

f)       He wants me to continue to consider how to bless, until the pain goes away and divine enablement becomes supreme 2 Pet. 1:3-4.

5)      What aspects of forgiveness have you struggled the most in the past?

a)      The feelings of past pain, nurtured to become bigger than the problem.

b)      Desire to seek revenge, rather than giving it to the Lord.

c)      Desire to get even without anyone knowing something was done.

d)     Not trusting God to act against the person to make up for the pain the person has caused.

e)      Not wanting to be available to bless or disciple to the truth.

f)       Not wanting to become united in thinking with one mind.

g)      Taking back the pain and thinking about it, rather than letting it go.

h)      Keeping track of the hurt in some kind of a list.

i)        Comparing the hurt he caused as greater than the hurt I might have caused…..

 

6)      If you have hindered relationships, what does God want you to do based on the message passages?

a)      Forgive and then seek to bless.

b)      As appropriate, to seek restoration of the relationship.

c)      DO actions of blessing, rather than just thinking about it.

d)     Taking action to bless by going out of my way, rather than avoiding the person.

e)      Not turning my eyes away from the person, but going to the person and greeting them and making appropriate concern.

f)       As far as it is possible with me, to be at peace with others Rom. 12:18.

g)      If it is the government who abuses its power over years and years, then stand up to it.  First help it see the wrong it is doing.  Then help it by giving plenty of opportunities to repent, that is, change what it is doing.

 

 

Overcoming Difficult Relationships for Him

This message was presented on March 3 as the sixth part of a study on Relationships from the book of Colossians, concluded in September, 2012.  The purpose of the study in relationships was to show the importance of relationships, which can often be messy, but problems in relationships can be overcome if we understand our expectations, the reason for why we need to restore relationships and how to overcome difficult relationships.  These six messages begin to scratch the surface on dealing with the intimate reality and joy of relationships.

 
Overcoming Difficult Relationships for Him
Romans 12:9-21
How do you deal with difficult relationships?  I’ve heard many people say, “I’ve forgiven him; I don’t have anything against him.” Some will respond, “I’m glad you have forgiven.  That’s wonderful for not holding onto the anger for his mistreatment.  I guess the question is, ‘Why do you still talk about him that way?’”  Many genuinely believe they have forgiven a person and left that conflict in the past.  They hit the delete button, but the emotions are still there.  They feel held back. Sometimes the reality of the hurt and emotional pain remains because the person is still living in close proximity and he doesn’t seem to want to reconcile, change or acknowledge the pain.

Mitsuo Fuchida was the lead bomber pilot for Japan in the Pearl Harbor attack.  Once the planes were off the carriers, he was in charge and he was the one who signaled, “Tora, Tora, Tora!”  He was a proud samurai soldier and Shinto-worshiper.  He said it was his most thrilling exploit of his career.

Fuchida was at Hiroshima the day before the atomic bomb dropped, but he left just in time.  A couple days later, he went back with a team and all the other team members died, but Fuchida was pronounced in good health. He was recuperating from an appendectomy on a ship during the Battle of Midway and his ship was sunk, but he was rescued with only two broken legs.

Fuchida hated MacArthur for his perceived arrogance.  But it was MacArthur who called for American missionaries to evangelize Japan.  Three years after World War II, Fuchida embraced Christianity.  Why?  God was working on his heart.   Fuchida asked questions about life and watched God work in nature.  But he also heard of an 18-year-old volunteer hospital worker and met one of the sergeants in the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo.

At the Japanese surrender on the U.S.S. Missouri, MacArthur spoke of “freedom, tolerance and justice.”  Fuchida thought justice was on Japan’s side, but the USA had greater power.  MacArthur closed his message saying, “Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always.” In Fuchida’s questions about life, he was skeptical.  He doubted his own emperor who spoke of everlasting peace, and he didn’t believe the General now. All Fuchida knew from history was self-serving nations looking out for their own interests. War will always result.

Fuchida also saw God at work in nature.  Because he had no other way of living, he bought a parcel of land and became a farmer.  He watched things grow and looked at the sky and wondered what made it tick.  As he looked into the bright night sky and saw the North Star so steady and useful, he began to see the workings of a supreme intelligence.   He began to see all things were dependent upon a divine Creator.  He became ashamed of his old independence and realized his own existence was from the Creator.  In his writings Fuchida said, “The Creator is wonderful.”  But he did not become a Christian until he met the reality of Christ in a genuine Christian.

Fuchida was prejudiced to believe Japanese prisoners were treated as horribly as American prisoners.  But one by one as he interviewed returning POWs, he discovered he was wrong.  Many returned with tales of kindness and several spoke of one young woman in particular.  Her name was Margaret “Peggy” Covell. She was 18 years old and worked in a POW camp as a volunteer social worker.  A man said, “Something happened at my camp which made it possible for all of us to stop nursing our resentments and to return to Japan with lightened hearts.”

Peggy Covell ministered to POWs with tireless energy and grace.  She would say, “If you’re uncomfortable or need anything, let me know. I’ll do anything I can to help you.”  Three weeks into her work, some of the prisoners asked, “Why are you so kind to us?” They were not prepared for her answer.  “Because Japanese soldiers killed my parents.”

Her parents, Reverend and Mrs. Covell were missionaries at a school in Yokohama. Before the war, all the workers relocated to Manila in the Philippines.  When the Japanese conquered the Philippines, they discovered in the Covell’s belongings a small portable radio which they were convinced was a secret communications device. They were tried as spies and beheaded.

Peggy was in the states and did not learn of their death for quite some time. At first, she was filled with bitter hatred for the Japanese. Then, as she thought of her parents and the sacrificial service they had given to bring the gospel to that nation, she became convinced they would have forgiven their captors before they were executed. She would have to do the same.

Fuchida was greatly affected by her story.  He began talking to every POW who had known “Peggy” Covell. In time, he found the members of the military who had executed her parents. He wanted to know exactly what the Covells had said or prayed before they were beheaded.

The Japanese considered revenge honorable. A man captured and awaiting death never forgave his captors. He prayed to be born again seven times, and to exact revenge in each life. The Japanese word for revenge, ‘katakiuchi,’ means literally ‘attack enemy.’ Fuchida fervently believed in the principle of ‘katakiuchi.’  Now he heard a story of unjust suffering and death, and a daughter left alone, but no vow of vengeance from either the dying or the survivor.

As Fuchida began reading the Bible, he found his answer in Luke’s gospel. Hanging on the cross, as Jesus’ life was ebbing away, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24).

Surely these words were the source of the love Peggy Covell had shown. It came to Fuchida that, as they knelt to die, Peggy’s parents had prayed just such words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Tears sprang to Fuchida’s eyes. By the time he had finished reading Luke, Mitsuo Fuchida took Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.  Why?  Because a young woman, a teenager, was willing to forgive the murders of her parents and she replaced the anger and desire for revenge with forgiveness and blessing. How do you deal with difficult relationships?

            Emotions will certainly be a difficult barrier when choosing to forgive, but that’s why Paul says, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Rom. 8:37)  The first step is to ask Jesus to replace the pain with blessing the offender.

 

1)      Let Jesus replace pain with blessing Rom. 12:14-21

There are too many examples of difficult relationships that cause pain.  Last week a nine-year-old boy took his life, because of bullying.  There are 4400 cases of suicide reported to Center for Disease Control (CDC) each year and 440,000 attempts. That is a lot of pain.

There is parental abuse from children, which continues at an alarming rate, normally on mom.  It is usually hidden and not discussed. There are about 900,000 cases of child abuse reported to Child Protection Services (CPS) each year. How many go unreported?  Then you add in all the abuse in marriage between spouses and the pain goes off the charts.  David said it so well of his situation, “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?”  (Ps. 56:8) Let’s understand, pain, comes from sin, one way or another. 

How do people often respond to that pain?  There are many human approaches.  Some of them include:

·         Lash out to fix the person

·         Don’t get mad, get even (and there are many ways to do that)

·         Avoid the person, so you don’t let your anger out

·         Avoid the person, so you don’t have to deal with feelings

·         Be silent and avoid the conflict

Man’s ways will not deal with the difficult relationships well. What does God say?  Let’s look at Romans 12:14-21.

Paul writes in Romans 12:14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” The word “persecute” is used in both a positive and negative sense.  Positively, it means “to make run or flee” or “pursue.”  Paul uses it in a positive sense in Phil. 3:12 when he said, “I press on.” In the negative sense, it means “to harass” or “trouble,” hence “persecute.”  Our flesh doesn’t want to bless. Consider Peggy’s loss of parents to Japan.  They were trying to help the Japanese, not hurt. They were killed unjustly. Has injustice ever happened to you?

Then Paul adds, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Rom 12:15)  Paul’s point is to determine what is going on with the other person.  Then join them.  Get your eyes off of yourself and put your eyes on the other person.  If they are rejoicing, then rejoice with them. If they are weeping, then weep in comfort with them.  Peggy Covell looked and asked herself, what do these Japanese prisoners need? She came alongside the prisoners and sought to ease their confinement hardship.  You do this by seeking to be of one mind, “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” (Rom 12:16)  Join with others in unity of the Spirit and don’t set yourself above them.  Seek a humble status.

Then Paul cuts to the chase and says, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.” (Rom 12:17)  Paul is clear. Repay no evil.  How would you respond to those who murdered your parents?  Would you have a little lingering resentment?  At least avoid the group who committed such a vile act?  Peggy Covell, not only forgave, but she replaced the pain with blessing. There is no room for doing wrong to anyone. 

There is no room for reaction.  There is no room for sinning when someone else sins.  Instead, do what is right in the sight of most people.  Don’t do what culture accepts.  Do what is good in the sight of all men. He adds, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. “(Rom 12:18)  If it is possible, live peaceably.  If it is possible, not based on the actions of others, but as it depends on you, live peaceably.  If it is possible, and sometimes it is not possible as it was not possible with the founding fathers and the English crown, live peaceably.  You then mirror God’s desire.

Why does God want us to live at peace with others? We live at peace, because only God knows when it is best to take action and He will lead in the long term if you depend on Him.  Paul clarifies this, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Rom 12:19)  Give place for God’s wrath to act.  If you act, God will step back and let the offender off the hook.  Let God act, because He will exact the right vengeance as required by the holiness of God.  God knows perfectly well what to do.  He is able to exact whatever justice is necessary.  He is able to ensure the offense receives the precise retribution. He knows what is just.  Have you ever wondered if people have felt enough pain in return for the pain they caused?  Sometimes we hurt enough, or we have stewed over the hurt enough and it seems to grow.  Send the pain and penalty up to God through forgiveness.  This is the principle explained in the three slides describing forgiveness. See the link at: http://renewingtruth.blogspot.com/#!/2013/02/forgiveness-restoring-relationships.html

Finally, Paul gives practical application for how to deal with a difficult relationship.  Paul addresses the need of the offender.  If the offender is hungry, feed him, or give him a drink.  Why?  So that you may bless him, “Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” (Rom 12:20)  That’s what Margaret Covell did.  It is a God thing!  Heaping coals is a blessing, because it means you give him coals for a fire pot that he uses to carry back to his home to bake bread – coals of fire is a blessing. Paul summarizes, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:21)  It is easy to be overcome by hurt and pain, so make the choices to do good, to bless.  That’s what Peggy did so that the POWs returned back to Japan lightened from their oppression and not bitter.

            The second miraculous work you can do in a difficult relationship is to let Jesus help you disciple the offender to the truth.

 

2)      Let Jesus help you to disciple him/her/them to the truth 2 Tim. 2:24-26

24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, (2 Tim. 2:24-25)

Is there any Christian who cannot be a servant of the Lord?  No, all Christians can choose to be a servant.  As a servant, the servant can choose to be gentle to all and teach what he knows and be patient.  Each is a choice under the filling of the Holy Spirit.  But the servant is not merely choosing to be nice.  There is also a time to carefront and correct someone in opposition.  The reason is that God may (or may not) grant repentance.  The person may repent, or he may not repent.  Now why would God not grant the person to repent?  God may allow the person to be hardened toward the offendee.  Why?  Because God may have other ways toexalt His glory!

Does God not grant the offender repentance to make you miserable? No, never. But He would allow that, so you could see the miracle of the Holy Spirit working in your heart to deal with the offense and transform you to bless and disciple the person, or at least bless from a distance if you are not able to restore the relationship.  God may want to show the world that His power in you to remain patient or remain unified or remain stable is greater than the offense.  Will you humble yourself to the Holy Spirit?  You may be the demonstration of God’s grace and mercy, “so that they may know the truth.”

The last part of the passage enlightens to the reality of the angelic conflict, that is, the spiritual warfare going on in the human conflict, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Tim. 2:26)  The offender who doesn’t repent is really ensnared by the devil.  Be patient and thank God that you arefree from the wicked one.  Have compassion on the offender, so that you might be able to come to the aid of the offender once he does repent. 

The third action in which you can see the miracle of God’s power through you is to let Jesus bless those whom He can – through you.

 

3)      Let Jesus bless, through you, whom He can   1 Pet. 3:8-12

Jesus may not bless some people, because they remain hardened and will not accept His blessing.  Jesus doesn’t force His blessing on anyone.

The context of the passage in Peter begins in 1 Peter 2:13, where Peter exhorts everyone to be submissive to governing authorities and laws of the land.  In 1 Peter 2:18, Peter exhorts servants to be submissive to their master, just as Jesus was submissive to the Father’s will.  In 1 Peter 3:1, Peter exhorts wives to be submissive to their husbands and then in 1 Peter 3:7, Peter exhorts the husband to be submissive to the Lord in order to live with their wife in an understanding way.  One of the main reasons for this submissiveness is so that there can be order instead of conflict.  When submissiveness is lacking, because humility is lacking, there will be conflict.  So Peter summarizes this in 1 Peter 3:8-12,

8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;

 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

 10 For “He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit.

 11 Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it.

 12 For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.” (1 Pet. 3:8-12 )

God calls every believer to be united in their thinking and that is only possible with a heart of compassion, with tenderheartedness and with courtesy toward one another.  That is possible only in the filling of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, Peter practically calls the believer to not return evil for evil (1 Pet. 3:9), just as Paul did in Romans 12:17.  Why? Peter spells out that we were called to return a blessing to people, so that we might inherit a greater blessing.

In fact, Peter calls the believer to turn away from evil and seek peace.  That can only be under the power of the Holy Spirit.  Our flesh would much rather fight back or internalize in self-pity. And finally, Peter declares that God is just and He is fully aware of our prayers and His face is against those who do evil.  We don’t have to be concerned that God is unaware.  He will not let the guilty go unpunished.  Let God take care of that.  You walk in peace as far as it depends on you.

Jesus said it best to the disciples.  He said,

27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

 28 “bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. (Luke 6:27-28)

Are you listening to Jesus?  Are you committed to Jesus as your Head?  Are you a committed disciple? Then do these four things: 1) love your enemies; 2) do good to those who hate you; 3) bless those who curse you; 4) pray for those who spitefully use you.

There are going to be relationships that you will not be able to reconcile.  You may have parents who have now died and you are living with the angst of hurt and pain from growing up.  You may have lived with a person who criticized you for years and you know they moved out of country, but you have no idea where.  You may see the person who deeply hurt you at Meijer regularly and they still hate you, passively or actively.  You may see friends who continue in a good relationship with offenders, but you cannot. You may have to deal with your ex-spouse because of sharing time with children.  You may have fellow employees or supervisors who continue to be nasty and you can’t leave the job.  What do you do? Look for opportunities to bless and wait on the Lord.  Do what Joseph did.

Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery, but turned his hardship into blessing.  After he was slandered by Potiphar’s wife, he covered that sin with God’s love.  When Joseph became the prime minister of Egypt, can you imagine the opportunity to go back to Potiphar and set the record straight?  Or when his brothers came down to Egypt to secure grain for the family back in Israel, how he could have thrown his brothers to be tortured and forgotten in prison?  But Joseph recognized and appreciated the love and mercy of God.

After Joseph’ father, Jacob, died, the brothers concocted a phony scheme.  They were still afraid Joseph may have resented them so they sent a messenger to Joseph saying that their father begged for Joseph to forgive them for their sin of selling Joseph into slavery.  Joseph wept. 

Joseph was not like them.  Joseph was compassionate like the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, when his brothers approached Joseph declaring that they would be Joseph’s servants, Joseph responds with the godliness that the Lord has worked in his life,

19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?

 20 “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

 21 “Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.  (Gen 50:19-21)

            Note three things about Joseph’s response that we need to apply to our lives.  First, Joseph would not assume the place of God and take action against his brothers.  When you take revenge, you put yourself in God’s place. Let God be God. Secondly, Joseph understood that God was using the evil of his brother to work a greater good that could not have been done without that evil action.  And thirdly, Joseph promises to provide for them and he comforted and spoke kindly to them.  He wasn’t resentful or bitter.  He wasn’t sarcastic or abusive.  He spoke kindly.  That is what you are called to do toward your offender.

            Now understand this is not pacifism.  This is not being nice and acting like a rug.  This is not saying, “Well, people will be people and I can’t do anything about it.”  It is blessing to preserve holiness. You may need to act to preserve holiness for your family, or your church or even your country.  That’s what our founding fathers did when they wrote up the grievances. After years and years of seeking restoration and just and fair hearings, the founding fathers broke from the English crown and recorded the 27 grievances in the Declaration of Independence.  Our individual responsibility calls us to seek peace, as far as it is possible with us.  Here’s the point:

Jesus will right every wrong, so you can choose to be a blessing!

·         God has called us to be a blessing.  Return no evil; give of yourself to bless.

·         Trust the authority of the Word by faith to forgive and bless.  If you are struggling with pain over many months, have you forgiven and asked God to use you to bless the offender?

If you do, you may impact the person, who will then bless the world around you.  That’s what happened to Mitsuo Fuchida.

Tears sprang to Fuchida’s eyes. By the time he had finished reading Luke, Mitsuo Fuchida took Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. At this time, he had no Christian friends, no one to help him; no one to share his new experience.

God sent Fuchida a messenger, one of the Doolittle Raiders. After the April 18, 1942 bombing of Tokyo, Jacob DeShazer and his crew bailed out over China. There they were captured and sent to Shanghai. Three officers were executed; the others spent the duration of the war in prison camps with beatings and starvations.

DeShazer hated his captors and it almost drove him crazy. But he remembered truths taught by his Christian parents. One day, he was given the use of a Bible. In that prison camp, he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and promised to return to Japan as a missionary.

Sometime in October 1948, in downtown Tokyo, Mitsuo Fuchida was handed a leaflet by an American man titled. “I was a prisoner of Japan.” Eventually, he located a full-length book DeShazer had written and devoured its contents.

DeShazer had concluded that his Japanese ministry had been a failure. In the middle of a fasting and prayer vigil during which he was pleading with God to send some evidence that He was using his work. Fuchida was the answer.

Fuchida was impressed by the force of DeShazer’s testimony. In time, Fuchida and DeShazer became friends and the former Doolittle Raider helped Fuchida learn to stand before crowds and give his story.

Mitsuo Fuchida died in 1976, but for the final 25 years of his life, he told crowds all over the world of Jesus Christ who had protected his life and saved him. Large numbers of people, especially in Japan, turned to Christ as a result.

 

This scratches the surface of dealing with difficult relationships.  Take these principles and they will carry you a great distance to be godly and be united in Spirit in the bond of peace.

A wonderful phrase that we teach children is how to deal with difficult relationships:

Good thought,

hurt you not,

gossip never,

friends forever.

 
Message Based Discussion Questions

1)      Why does merely talking about Christianity often muster up negative images and angry reactions?

Digging Deeper

2)      What was David’s response to his soldier who told him the Lord had given his enemy into his hand in 1 Sam. 24:1-10? ____________________.  How is David’s response different than way the world thinks?  What are the circumstances in 1 Sam. 26:7-16? 

3)      With whom did Moses get counsel in the conflict with Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Num. 16:1-33)? _____________ .   How would you classify Moses’ anger (Num. 16:15)?  How does this compare with the principles taught in the message?

Making application of the message to life:

4)      How does God want you to deal with sins against you in the past?

5)      What aspects of forgiveness have you struggled the most in the past?

6)      If you have hindered relationships, what does God want you to do based on the message passages?

 

 

 

 

God’s Way vs. Man’s Way: Relationship Responses

This is an excellent chart prepared by Martha Peace in her book, “The Excellent Wife.”  Much of the wording is from the perspective of a woman, because the book is written for the wife.  The chart comparisons are tremendously applicable in any situation.  If you read down the left column, you’ll recognize many phrases and actions that have been done by people.  The right column provides the biblical approach for responses to offenses.

Sinful Thought Responses
Godly Thought Responses
“How could he do this to me after all I have done for him?”
“He is sinning.  How does God want me to respond to his sin?” 1 Peter. 3:8ff
“This is more than I can stand.”
“This feels like more than I can stand, but God will help me get through it.” 1 Cor. 10:13
“I can’t take the pressure anymore!”
“I can bear up under the pressure for as long as God deems necessary.” 1 Cor. 10:36
“I’ll show him what it is like.”
“I’ll develop a biblical plan to fight back with good.” Rom. 12:21
“I hate him.”
“God hates what he is doing.  God will avenge his sin.  My responsibility is to forgive whether I feel like it not.” Luke 6:27
“I can’t believe what he did to me.  First he did _________ to me, then he…”
“Any person is capable of any sin however gross.” Jer. 17:9
“His sin is against God.  My responsibility is not to compound his sin with my own sin.” 1 Cor. 13:5
“He will never hurt me again.”
“He may hurt me again.  I hope not, but if he does he will just have to hurt me, I am going to glorify God.” 1 Cor. 10:31
“I’m so humiliated. What will others think?”
“I it others’ responsibility to think about this in a Christian manner, not to gossip or slander my husband or me. James 4:1 If they do gossip and I find out about it, God will give me the grace to handle it at that time.”
“How could God let this happen to me?”
“God is good. He, too, wants my husband to repent. I thank God for reminding me how much I need Him.” 1 Thess. 5:18
These charts are from:
“The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace, pp. 239-242
 
Sinful Actions
Godly Actions
Detailed gossiping of his sin to others.
Having the right motives, only giving necessary details to those directly involved in helping her biblically to respond.
Judging her husband’s motives.
Assuming the best about his motives unless he tells her otherwise.
Exaggerating offenses.
Facing the offenses realistically, not exaggerating or minimizing them.
Not giving him a chance to repent and re-earn her trust.
Going against feelings and working towards reconciliation, realizing she must forgive but it may take time for him to re-earn her trust.
Ceasing to attend church because of embarrassment.
Continuing to attend church and to fulfill her responsibility.
Outburst of anger.
Realizing her anger will not achieve God’s purposes.  Thinking long and hard about how to biblically answer.
Seeking solace in another man.
Seeking solace in God and His Word, and perhaps, one or two godly women in the church.
Sharing deep emotional pain with the children in an intimate fashion that only adults are mature enough to handle.
Sharing appropriate factual information with the children and in the process giving them hope that even if their Daddy does not repent, God will take care of them and somehow they will be alright.
Wishing she could purchase a gun and kill her husband.
Realizing vengeance belongs to the Lord.  Praying for and longing for his repentance.
Wishing he were dead.
Instead of longing for vengeance, putting godly pressure on him to repent by overcoming evil with good and praying for his repentance.
Committing suicide. 
Continuing to fulfill her responsibilities whether she feels like it or not.

 

Relationships: The Tates

Sometimes we need a little humor when it comes to relationships.  Hope this will give you a smile.

Puns: The Tates

Do you know how many members of the TATE family belong to our organization?

There is old man DICK TATE who wants to run everything, while Uncle RO TATE tries to change everything.

Their sister, AGI TATE, stirs up plenty of trouble with help from her husband, IRRI TATE.

Whenever new projects are suggested, HESI TATE and his wife, VEGI TATE, want to wait until next year.

Brother FACILI TATE is quite helpful in group matters.

And a happy member is Ms. FELICI TATE.

Cousins COGI TATE and MEDI TATE always think things over and lend a helpful steady hand.

And, of course, there is the bad seed in the family, AMPU TATE, who has cut himself off completely from the rest of the organization.

(From Donna Eaker)

 

Forgiveness: Restoring Relationships God’s Way

Restoring Relationships God’s Way

Beginning in the beginning, there have been problems and conflicts in relationships.  If Adam and Eve had conflicts, and we see it all through Scripture, then it’s pretty likely that even the best relationships will have conflicts.  It all results because of sin in the world. The creature is born centered on self and it takes divine enablement to truly focus and serve others. So the question is not what do I do IF it happens, but what do I do WHEN it happens.

This first slide shows the reality of some problem between two people.  It can be two or a mob.  Whatever the relationship, there is going to be some kind of conflict.  (I know these are in a cartoon form, but let’s try to get the principle)

The human response is often to lash back or internalize and “carry” the pain OR a multitude of options in between those two actions.  Often, our response to someone is sin.  For example if I lash back at someone for sinning against me, I have just sinned.  Yes, even though I didn’t start it, I chose to respond in sin and think that I could solve the problem my way.  Sometimes it’s the sin of reaction and sometimes it’s the sin of internalization.  Both are wrong responses.

Instead I need to choose the biblical approach and forgive.  One of the Hebrew words for forgive is nasah, which means “to lift up.”  A second Hebrew word is salah, which means “ready to pardon.”  Both give a good picture of what we are supposed to do. Lift the sin (the penalty and pain of the sin) to the throne of God for Him to deal with it.  A third forgive word is a Greek word aphia-mi, which literally means “to send away.”  God wants us to send away to Him the sin pain and let Him deal with it.  We are not very judicial with offenses against ourselves.  Our flesh reacts and does all sorts of strange things, like think we are as smart as God.

“Lifting up” and “ready to pardon” demonstrate the ready attitude to lift it up to God.  The phrase “send away” means that I’m not going to deal with it against the offender, because I will trust the Lord to deal with it. 

In the next slide the offended person chooses to forgive, that is lifts up or sends away the penalty to the throne of God.  The black symbol with the yellow burst is supposed to be a  chair or throne as an illustration of the Shekinah Glory described in the Old Testament or the Presence of God in heaven.

Lifting up the conflict to the Lord fits well with 1 Peter 5:7, which says “casting all your cares on the Lord, for He cares for you.”  I first deal vertically with the problem and is the principle taught in Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. (Mar 11:25)  Once you choose to deal with the problem vertically, then you can begin to deal with the horizontal relationship.

You may still feel the pain of the offense.  The relationship may still be struggling.  But you, because you’ve given it to God, you can choose to have a heart of love toward the offender.  That’s the third slide below.  Notice that God will deal with the other person in His way.  Unfortunately, it may not be in your timing.  It may not be in your lifetime.  Yet, God is infinite in wisdom, justice, power and mercy to know how best to deal with the relationship.  His way is far better than anything we can consider (Is. 55:8-9). The key is you now are able to have a heart of love toward the other person.  This is also the principle from 1 Peter 4:8, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”  It’s covered, because you trust in the covering of the blood of Christ on the cross.

 


When a person lifts up the offense to God, he can have a heart of love toward the offender.  The person no longer has to have any kind of revenge desire, because he’s given it to God. It is a choice, to love at this point, but it is what God desires according to Luke 17:3-10; Matthew 18:15-17; Romans 12:14-21; and 1 Peter 3:8-12.

The last slide shows that God may want you to make the decision to reach out to the offender, or even confront the offender.  IF God is working through you to the offender it will be God’s love.  It may be firm and deliberate, because sin may need to be confronted (Luke 17:3-4), but it is done from God’s love, not personal vengeance (Romans 12:15-21)
 

These slides are a simplistic way of looking at forgiveness.  They do not answer all the questions in a relationship.  They begin the process of dealing with forgiveness. 

Do they help you?

Restoring Relationships for Him

Relationships: Restoring Relationships for Him
Matthew 18

This message is on restoring relationships, but the basis for restoring relationships  from man’s perspective begins with forgiveness.  Here’s a skit that explains man’s way of forgiveness. [ the skit actually shows how we often fall short of God’s way of forgiveness and we botch it.]

 Forgiveness is often tried, but often it falls short of what God intends. Relationships will push you beyond you.  They will take you beyond the range of your natural abilities and beyond the borders of your natural and acquired wisdom. That is part of God’s plan.  But also part of God’s plan is to see what can happen from God’s abilities. What would it take on your part for others to see Christ at work in your life? How can others see that you are a disciple of Jesus?  One of the greatest miracles is restoration of relationships, because it doesn’t often happen in everyday life. Why do you need to restore relationships?

            Normally, we think of forgiveness and restoration of relationships as a good thing to do from Scripture, because it helps us get along with people.  It helps in families, at work and at church for us to get along.  Is that why God wants us to forgive and restore relationships?  There is a much higher reason.  The first basis is because that is the pattern God established.  If we want to imitate God, and every believer is commanded to imitate God (Eph. 5:1), then we must mirror His pattern.

1)      God reconciled the world to Himself as our pattern 2 Cor. 5:18-19

 

I’m going to give you a quote that is utterly fantastic.  It’s a little long, but bear with me and you will greatly advance in spiritual understanding. It’s helpful to understand the antimony of God’s sovereignty and Man’s freewill.  An antimony is an apparently unresolvable conflict or contradiction, especially between two true statements.  For example, Scripture declares that God is Sovereign.  Scripture also declares that man has free will.  If one is true, the other cannot be some will say.  It’s like God is one and God is three.  Both are true statements, but man’s finite mind cannot fully understand, except by accepting them both by faith and making our best understanding of both true statements.

This is a quote that helped me greatly understand the antinomy of God’s sovereign work in salvation and man’s non-meritorious choice. It’s a quote from Merrill Unger who wrote Unger’s Bible Dictionary.  He defines what the word “reconcile.” He explains what God did to restore man to Himself.  Read this and I’ll break it down.

“Reconcile comes from a word that means to change thoroughly from one position to another (Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20-21). It means that someone is completely altered and adjusted to a required standard. (Rom. 5:6-11).  By the death of Christ, the world is changed in its relationship to God. Man is reconciled to God, but God is not said to be reconciled to man.  By this change lost humanity is rendered savable.  As a result of the changed position of the world through the death of Christ, the divine attitude toward the human family can no longer be the same.  God is enabled to deal with lost souls in the light of what Christ has accomplished.  Although this seems to be a change in God, it is not a reconciliation; it is rather a ‘propitiation.’ God places full efficacy in the finished work of Christ and accepts it. Through His acceptance of it He remains righteous and the justifier of any sinner who believes in Jesus as his reconciliation.  When an individual heart sees and trusts in the value of Christ’s atoning death, he becomes reconciled to God, hostility is removed, friendship and fellowship eventuate.” 

            Let me break that down for you. 

“Reconcile comes from a word that means to change thoroughly from one position to another (Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20-21). It means that someone is completely altered and adjusted to a required standard. (Rom. 5:6-11). 

He is saying that the word “reconcile” means that by the death of Christ on the cross, God changes a person to a completely altered state related to God and adjusts that person to the required standard of God.  What is God’s standard?  His own righteousness.  Because Jesus died on the cross for the sins of man, paying the penalty of sin, man is altered and adjusted to the righteousness of God.  Listen to what Paul writes in Romans,

10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Rom. 5:10-11)

We were considered as enemies by God, but because of the cross, we were altered and adjusted to the required standard. The sin barrier was removed by Jesus’ death, so that God could now look at man in a different way. Note that last phrase, “we received the reconciliation.” We’ll see that below. It is the part man must do for the fullness of reconciliation. Then Unger says,

By the death of Christ, the world is changed in its relationship to God. Man is reconciled to God, but God is not said to be reconciled to man.  By this change lost humanity is rendered savable.

Here the change is caused by the death of Jesus on the cross, Who died for our sins.  Notice he says that man is reconciled to God, but nowhere does it say in Scripture that God is reconciled to man.  THAT is very significant.  Furthermore, man is then placed in a “savable” condition, whereby man can be saved.  Man has been placed in an altered condition and adjusted to the righteousness of God and rendered savable.  But man is not saved at that point, because there is a second part of the reconciliation that is necessary.

            Unger continues addressing the relationship,

As a result of the changed position of the world through the death of Christ, the divine attitude toward the human family can no longer be the same. 

Because of the death of Jesus, God’s attitude had to change toward mankind.  It couldn’t be the same. Why couldn’t it remain the same, that is, considering man as an enemy (Rom. 5:10)?

God is enabled to deal with lost souls in the light of what Christ has accomplished.  Although this seems to be a change in God, it is not a reconciliation; it is rather a ‘propitiation.’

Because of the death of Jesus, God is enabled to deal with fallen man. How does that work?  Because God’s righteousness was propitiated – satisfied.  Legally, the penalty for sins was paid by Jesus and God was satisfied with His death payment.  However, there hasn’t been a full reconciliation, because a second part is necessary.  God was satisfied with the death of Jesus for the sins of the world, so God could no longer look at man as an enemy, but a soul waiting to accept what God had done for him.   Catch this next section,

God places full efficacy in the finished work of Christ and accepts it. Through His acceptance of it He remains righteous and the justifier of any sinner who believes in Jesus as his reconciliation. 

Jesus did the work.  God makes effective, or considers of great value, the work of Christ. Why?  Because God the Father accepted the work of Jesus on the cross and therefore can place man in a position of being justified, if man makes a non-meritorious decision of faith to accept what Jesus has done, that is believe in Jesus as his reconciliation.  Finally, Unger says,

When an individual heart sees and trusts in the value of Christ’s atoning death, he becomes reconciled to God, hostility is removed, friendship and fellowship eventuate.” 

So God calls you to salvation and waits on you to put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior.  When you do, then the fullness of the hostility is removed and you can grow in fellowship with God.  That is deep, I know, but is utterly important to understand as you grow in your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

       

            Now, you may have been offended, harmed, hurt, or attacked by another Christian, even one in authority, like a husband, elder or pastor.  I don’t know the circumstances of your event, but I know they happen and they can cause great harm and pain.  But let me tell you about the One who has never offended or attacked.  Let me tell you about the One who reconciles, because at the base of reconciliation is forgiveness. Listen to the greatness of my Lord.

            It’s my Lord’s character to forgive,

16 “But they and our fathers acted proudly, Hardened their necks, And did not heed Your commandments. 17 They refused to obey, And they were not mindful of Your wonders That You did among them. But they hardened their necks, And in their rebellion They appointed a leader To return to their bondage. But You are God, Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And did not forsake them. (Neh. 9:16-17)

We get a clear picture of Israel’s hardness and rebellion.  They even wanted to go back to the slave market of Egypt, even though God promised a land full  of milk and honey.  Even though they were stiff-necked, God was ready to pardon and merciful.  It makes a Christian want to sing of the mercy of the Lord forever! 

            When God forgives, it’s complete,

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.  11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; 12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12)

My God hasn’t treated me, or you, the way I deserve.  In fact, He removes my sins an infinite distant, as far as the east is from the west, because of Christ’s sufficient death on the cross. Additionally, there is a great illustration in Isaiah 38 about how God deals with my sin.  God speaks through Isaiah to Hezekiah to get his house in order because Hezekiah is going to die.  Well, Hezekiah is not ready to go and becomes very bitter about it.  He goes into his bedroom and faces the wall and weeps.  But he comes to his senses and he is filled with peace, because he realizes what God has done with his sins.

17 Indeed it was for my own peace that I had great bitterness; But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back. (Is. 38:17)

 The picture Isaiah gives is of God taking my sins and putting them in the small of His back.  That is a place that you know is there, but you can’t see it.  God doesn’t look at my sins after they have been dealt with.  That’s the mercy of my God!  In Hebrews we have another aspect of how God deals with us.

14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.  15 But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, 16“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” 17 then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Heb. 10:14-17)

God doesn’t forget our sins, He chooses not to remember them.  God is all knowing, or omniscient, so He cannot forget our sins.  Fortunately, He chooses not to remember them.  Finally, God’s infinite forgiveness costs me nothing, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)  It was free to me, but cost the death of the Lord Jesus.  That’s what God is like!  He is ready to pardon, therefore we ought to be ready to pardon people also.  IT IS not easy.  It takes God the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts, and the decision of the will to forgive and begin the restoration process.  There is a second reason why Jesus wants you to restore relationships. 

2)      Restoring relationships is more important than worship  Matt. 5:23-24

             Does that make sense?  What could be more important that worship?  Isn’t that what God calls us to do?  Worship Him?  There is something more important according to the Lord Jesus.

23 “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 “leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matt. 5:23-24)

That is what Jesus said.  He said, if you are coming to worship God, and you remember that a brother has something against you, then first go seek to restore the relationship, and then come back and worship.  That means we need to forgive, even when/if the other person hasn’t done what he needs to do.  Paul says it well,

31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph. 4:31-32)

I need to put off any bitterness and anger and put on forgiveness if I’m going to restore a relationship.  I’m going to have to forgive.  What does that mean? 

            Forgiveness is used many ways and this message only begins to address forgiveness.  There are three main words for the word, “forgiveness.”  The first is a Hebrew word, “nasah,” which means to “lift up.” You can remember the word because it sounds like NASA, which lifts rockets to space.  The second Hebrew word is “salah” which means “ready to forgive.”  God is ready and waiting on us and wants us ready and waiting on others to restore the relationship. The third word is a Greek word “aphia-mi,” which means “to send away.”  God wants us to send away the penalty of the offense from someone else away to God. That way we let God deal with the offense of the person toward us and we can trust God to do the right thing.  God is much better at helping people see their wrong, than we are!

            There are four slides at the end of the message that explain this process.  When we send the penalty and pain to God, then we are free to be in a position to love the person.  We are satisfied that God can deal with the person.  In fact, God may lead us to be a part of the restoration process.  We may need to act for the person by expressing love toward him.  That love takes the direction of Jesus and empowerment by the Holy Spirit.

            What does that look like?  Let me use Matthew 18 as the illustration that Jesus wants us to restore relationships more than even approaching Him in worship.

            In Matthew 18, the disciples are discussing with themselves who is the greatest and they approach Jesus and say, “Jesus, who is going to be the greatest in the Kingdom?”  Jesus takes a little child and putting the child in front of them, He says, “Unless you are converted and become like this child, you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”  He added, “And so whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom. And whoever receives this child in My name, receives Me.”  In other words, this is available to all people. All people can be restored, but it takes the humility of a child who trusts in the one in authority.

            Jesus wanted the disciples to understand how serious sin is, so He continues to say that whoever causes one of the little ones to sin, well it would be better to have a millstone put around his neck and be cast into the sea, so you can’t cause anyone else to sin.  It’s a horrible thing to cause another to sin. 

            Then Jesus describes the seriousness of sin with an hyperbole. He says, that if your hand or foot causes you to stumble, cut it off.  It would be better to enter the Kingdom with one hand or foot, than to have two and be cast into the everlasting fire.  Or if your eye causes you to stumble (maybe through pornography or window shopping and lusting after wanting more clothes), to pluck it out, for it would be better to enter into the Kingdom with one eye than to have two eyes and be cast into hell fire.  But Jesus doesn’t just stand there like a stern judge.  No He reveals the compassion we all need to have toward others.

            He continues saying, if a shepherd has 100 sheep and one sheep strays away.  He will leave the 99 to seek the one.  And when he finds the one, he will rejoice more than having the 99.  That’s a big deal!  So we should have that kind of compassion that the Father has toward all people.

            Forgiveness also includes the process of dealing with sin in a gracious and orderly way.  Jesus describes a case where a brother sins against you.  Well, you go to him and tell him his fault in private, alone.  If he listens and repents, then you’ve won your brother and the relationship is restored.  But if he doesn’t listen, then go get one or two witnesses, because Scripture says that the word is established based on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 

            If the brother listens and repents, then you’ve won your brother and restored the relationship.  But if he doesn’t repent, then take it to the church leadership and establish the truth with them.  Let the church know so they will fear God and want to do what is right.  If the brother doesn’t listen or repent, then treat him like a heathen or a tax collector.  He is likely not a believer. You’ll need to lead him to Christ.

            So Peter hears all this and asks Jesus, “Jesus, if my brother sins against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Do I have to forgive him up to seven times?”  Jesus said, “Not up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven”  And Jesus continued the explanation by describing a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.  So he brought the servants in and one servant owed him ten thousand talents (that’s about 12 million ounces of gold).  The servant didn’t have the resources to pay, so the king commanded that he be sold along with his wife and children and all that he had. The servant fell down before the king and begged, “Master, be patient with me and I will pay you all.” The king was moved with compassion, released him and forgave him the debt completely.

            Then the servant went out and found another servant who owed him 100 days wages.  He went to the servant and choking him said, “Repay me what you owe!”  But the servant said, “Be patient with me and I’ll repay you all.”  But the first servant would not listen and threw the servant in prison.  There were fellow servants who saw what happened and reported to the king who called for the first servant.  The king said, “You wicked servant, I forgave you all the debt because you begged me.  Shouldn’t you have compassion on your fellow servant as I had pity on you?”  Then the king said, “Deliver this one to the torturer, until he has repaid every last cent. 

            And Jesus succinctly said, “So My heavenly Father will do to you, if you do not from your heart forgive your brother his sins.”

Consider that forgiveness is an event and a process.  How many times do you forgive? It’s a process because you’ll be tempted to think about the sin when you see the person.

Forgiveness is canceling a debt.  You promise to leave it behind and not keep track of wrongs suffered. (1 Cor. 13:5) You are not to bring up the offense to others or slander the person who sinned against you.  You also promise not to dwell on the offense yourself or replay the offense over and over.

Forgiveness is costly, but lack of forgiveness is more costly.  You may not choke anyone, but you may shut them out of your life.  When you don’t forgive, you do at least three things.  First, you don’t imitate God. (Eph. 5:1)   Second, you show ingratitude to God. (1 Thes. 5:18)  And thirdly, you sin (Jam. 4:17).  Like Jesus said regarding the people while He hung on the cross, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

Why do you need to restore relationships?  First, because God is our pattern of restoring relationships.  Secondly, because it is more important than worship to Him.  And thirdly, because restoring relationships is your responsibility to Him.

3)      Restoring relationships is my responsibility to Him  Luke 17:1-10

The first part of the passage is a parallel to Matthew 18.  Let’s start in Luke 17:3,

3 “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.

 4 “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, `I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

 5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”

 6 So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, `Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

 7 “And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, `Come at once and sit down to eat ‘?

 8 “But will he not rather say to him, `Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink ‘?

 9 “Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.

 10 “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, `We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” (Luke 17:3-10)

So if your brother sins, then you go graciously rebuke him.  Yes, he sinned against you, but he’s not responding or interested in restoring the relationship.  God gives you the opportunity to practice grace. Will you be like Jesus and initiate restoration?  If he repents, then forgive and if you have to do that seven times in a day (quite a few times), then forgive and restore the relationship.   Well the disciples are overwhelmed by the thought and ask Jesus for more faith.  Jesus doesn’t give them more faith, because the issue is not greater faith, but rather humility and trusting God to work through the relationship.  Just a little faith can uproot the mulberry tree and cast it into the sea, IF that is God’s will.  Restoration is God’s will is most circumstances.

            Then Jesus describes the kind of humility that is necessary in verses 7-10.  This is difficult to understand and very few pastors ever do a message on this paragraph. 

            Jesus describes a servant who has worked hard all day plowing or tending sheep and then comes in to eat.  But the servant doesn’t come in to receive a meal, but is expected to serve the master after which he is then allowed to eat.  The master isn’t even expected to say thanks to the servant for making the meal.  Why?  The master has the right to tell the servant what to do and the purpose of the servant is to serve the master.

When it comes to people who sin against you, God gives you no right to withhold forgiveness or harbor bitterness. When I withhold God’s love toward another, I set myself up as a judge and arbiter to others, rather than be a servant of the Lord.  I decide whether someone else is worthy of my love and relationship.  I deny God’s glory from flowing through me.  I become a spigot of God’s love, rather than a hose. Restoring relationships is my duty, because it is what He did for me.

Restore relationships for Jesus’ sake,
 because He has restored you!

·         Forgiveness is a vertical choice Mark 11:25 release it to God, so that you can unconditionally love as He does. In any situation.

·         Forgiveness starts vertically, the horizontal depends upon the offender admitting guilt and asking for forgiveness Luke 17:1-4.

·         Forgiveness is not forgetting. Jer. 31:34.  I will not treat you as your sins deserve.  I will instead forgive you.  When you don’t forget, you’ll think you haven’t forgiven and filled with doubts. Or you’ll give in to bitterness without realizing it, because you think that forgiving equals forgetting.

·         How do I know when I’ve forgiven?  I love God, I just can’t deal with a few of His people.  I’m better off without them. What about 1 John 4:20-21?

·         When you forgive, do not demand restitution (sometimes it cannot be retrieved or repaid), but instead demonstrate mercy and love toward him with a goal of reconciliation.   Restitution is part of the process of restoration and should lovingly be pointed out to the offender. God’s world has many other things to say about that.

At this point a second skit was done in the message to show God’s way of restoring a relationship.  God’s way takes the process of forgiveness and restoration seriously and seeks to make sure the people are actually walking in unity of the Spirit again and working together.  We restore relationships, not because it helps us, but because it’s what God’s pattern is, it is more important that worship and it is simply put – your duty. 

There are some times when you cannot restore relationships. A girl who has been violated, ought not seek restoration with her abuser.  There are cases where the person continues in sinful behavior and restoration is not possible.  You are required to forgive, but restoration of relational fellowship may not be possible and could be harmful. 

What do you do when you have to continue in a relationship that is not just hard, but very difficult?  What about a marriage that sets you off?  What about a relationship at work, or even church?  How do you continue walking in the Lord if that relationship is not restored? That message will follow in the message, “Overcoming Difficult Relationships for Him.”

 

Message Based Discussion Questions

1)      What bothers you most about religious fanatics?

Digging Deeper:

2)      How many steps does Jesus give in Matthew 18 for restoration? ___________ How would you describe the restoration process to a child?  What are danger points in the process? 

3)      What are at least five description of love in 1 Cor. 13.?  _______; __________; ___________; ____________; _______________. How does 1 Corinthians 13 influence the practical aspect of forgiveness?

4)      To Whom are you to offer your body a living sacrifice in Romans 12:1? ______________   What are other principles regarding forgiveness can we learn from Romans 12?

 

Implementing the message to your life:

5)      In what relationship situations is restoration difficult?  What do you do?  What counsel would you give another on what to do?