Free from me

“I will set out and go back to my father
and say to him:
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you”
(Luke 15:18)

Reflection:
Again and again I return to this amazing illustration of the love of God – painted for us by Jesus Himself. This time God surprised me by drawing my attention to the faith of the lost son.

He had done everything possible to alienate himself from his father. He had demanded his inheritance early, thereby indicating that his father was living too long. He had walked away from his father, his family and his home. He had ‘squandered his wealth on wild living’ and ‘with prostitutes’ and had ended up a ragged beggar in the gutter, with nothing to call his own and with no means of supporting himself. Everything had been lost including his social status and self-respect.

 However, there was one precious item that remained – one that only surfaced right at the end. That was his knowledge of his father’s character. And, Jesus tells us, it was ‘when he came to his senses’ that he found it and knew that there was in fact one place to which he could go. He could go home to his father. He believed that his father would not turn him away.

This is the blinding truth that the Lord Jesus holds out to us. Whatever we  have done, wherever we have been, and wherever we find ourselves to be – when the truth hits us that we have got it all so wrong –  there  remains for us always one safe place to which we can turn – we can go home to God our Father. We can return – not to the servant’s quarters – but into the arms that have never been closed to us.

Finally we look away from ourselves and we look at God – and we see – and we find all that we have longed for ….

Response:
Do I need to go home from anywhere?

Prayer:

Help me come Lord Jesus, dare I stay away!

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Come Home

“I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to Me for I have redeemed you”
(Isaiah 44:22)

Reflection:
The wonder of the love and the grace and the glory of God is revealed in many small Scripture verses like this one – and can be so easily missed in our reading.

Here He tells us that His forgiveness – and therefore the complete and absolute forgiveness of our sins – is so certain a reality that He can present it to His people prior to their repentance. Indeed He is presenting it as an inducement for us to repent.

The truth is that God has been seeking after us long before we have sought after Him or even thought of doing so. And whereas our sins hang over us and separate us from Him, His love and power are such that they are no more challenging to Him than a cloud or a morning mist. And like the rising sun He is able to quickly and quietly sweep them away.  We can imagine Him doing so with a wave of His hand or the breath of His mouth.

God had already provided for –and in reality therefore accomplished – the work of redemption before creation. He can now call all His people – including each one of us – to appropriate that redemption for our own lives, and to keep on doing so as the need arises. We do so initially in our turning to the Lord and accepting His offer of salvation as we commit ourselves to Him. We continue to do so as sin arises and troubles us.

  • “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7)
  • “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)

Note John’s use of the word ‘will.’ Confession is our agreeing with God that we have sinned and, at the same time, agreeing that our forgiveness and salvation lie only in Jesus Christ and what He has already accomplished on our behalf. True confession is therefore a statement of faith.

The truth is that God loves us – and wants us – and wants therefore to forgive us. The cost to Him was terrible but the reality of its effectiveness is unlimited and unending. So when we fall and fail God’s invitation to us rings out . And where sin has distracted us from Him He calls us back, and keeps calling us, until we never leave again.

“I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to Me for I have redeemed you”

Response:
Humanly speaking it makes no sense. Spiritually it can be the best news in the world

Prayer:

Thank You my Father – thank You so very much – that indeed nothing can now separate me from You. Help me to believe and to keep on believing. Amen

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Don’t Poison Yourself

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you”
(Matthew 6:14)

Reflection:
Jesus made it quite clear here and in other places that we are to forgive the sins of others. He taught also that if we do not forgive others then the forgiveness of God will not reach us. The reasoning is quite clear – If God has forgiven us everything there is absolutely no justification for us refusing to forgive others – for withholding from them the grace that we have received. To withhold forgiveness is to place a barrier between the Lord and us.

There is also a another very practical reason involved, and that is the consequence of an unforgiving attitude in our own lives. Marianne Williamson has expressed it very clearly,

Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself
and waiting for the other person to die.

Unforgiveness is a poison that seeps into our lives and brings with it bitterness, unhealthiness and anger that can end up destroying both us and our lives – and which may have no effect whatsoever upon the person whose actions have given rise to our feelings. To change the picture, a spirit of unforgiveness is like a hook within us which jerks every time we are reminded of the person concerned. Healing will only take place when the hook is removed – and we need to remove it.
To forgive another is not to say that their actions do not matter – sometimes they matter very much indeed. It states instead that we refuse to be their victims as well and to live in suffering. Instead we hand them over to the Lord to Whom they will in due course need to give an account.

It is not always easy, and it may involve prayer, practice and even the counsel of a wise person. It is however a journey to freedom and worth taking.

Response:
Choose to forgive – say it aloud – ask God to make it real within you. If necessary keep doing so until it is complete.

Prayer:

Lord God, You have forgiven me for everything in my life – please help me to forgive those who have offended me, and enable me to live in Your freedom of spirit. Amen.

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New Life

“I tell you the truth,
no one can enter the kingdom of God
unless he is born of water and the Spirit”
(John 3:5)

Reflection:
Water may cleanse – but it is the Spirit who gives life. The baptism by water was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a spiritual separation from sin and death into new life and living.  New life is about both forgiveness and transformation. They cannot be separated. It is the Holy Spirit who is at work in both.

The Good News is not that we have been forgiven and then left to sin again. We have been forgiven and blessed with the Holy Spirit of God who has taken up residence within us. He brings into reality our union with and in Jesus Christ and our adoption as the eternal children of God.

This union with Christ is both imperative and humbling. He paints the picture of a branch being grafted into the Vine – from Whom all the life and goodness and strength and fruit will flow and transform it. We will receive the life that is in Him.

 Before the creation God.

  • “has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3)
  • “chose us in Him .. to be holy and blameless in His sight” (Ephesians 1:4)
  • “predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:5)

Everything that God desires and purposes for us is in the Lord Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit who works to make it a reality in each of us, giving effect to God’s will and provision for you and for me so that,

  • “you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” ( Romans 8:15-16)

Response:
Own your identity and live it

Prayer:

Lord God, I believe – help me to live as Your beloved and holy child through the Holy Spirit who is in me – ‘because the one who is in (me) is greater than the one who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4)

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Entering Forgiveness

“For what I received I passed on to you
as of first importance:
that Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures”
(1 Corinthians 15:3)

 

Reflection:
Another message from the empty tomb is this one. Jesus Christ died for our sins. He died for all of our sins. He died for all of the sins of all of the people. And He died for all of the sins of all of the people for all time – past, present and future.

There is no sin or accumulation of sins left over in the tomb in a box marked unresolved – not one. There is no container marked with your name and the narration ‘not this one.’  As the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29) He duly took away the sin of the world fully and completely.

The absolute wonder of it all is that when we recognise our sin and turn towards Him in grief-stricken repentance He leads us to the cross on which He died and the tomb in which He lay. There He tells us that He has already dealt with the sin that is causing us such pain. He shows us that it is gone, and that the tomb that wanted to claim us is not closed and dark but light-filled and empty. Then He takes us through into the life that lies beyond it, starting here and now.  And He does this every time.

John tells us very clearly that,

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)

He does not say that Christ may forgive us but that He will. This is because that sin has already been dealt with. Our confession is the first step in our entering into the forgiveness that has already been provided and which awaits us. That’s why the full meaning of confession is to agree with God that we have sinned and to also agree with Him that forgiveness is already available to us through faith in Jesus Christ. 

We may well weep our shame and grief before Him but we do not need to beg Him to forgive us –as if we were trying to persuade Him. If anything our plea should be for His help, for us to believe and receive His grace and loved-filled forgiveness and cleansing.

Response:
Don’t hold on to your sin and shame – take them to Him

Prayer:

Lord God please help me not to wallow in shame and grief.  Draw me to You so that I may be set free to have another go at the life You have been pleased to grant me. Amen.

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Purified

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves
and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just
and will forgive us our sins
and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
(1 John 1:8-9)

 

Reflection:
Sin separates. It separates us from God, it separates us from others, it separates us from ourselves, and it separates us from who we could be. Sin destroys peace.

Most importantly sin is an offence against God. It needs, firstly, to be acknowledged and dealt with at that level. Until it is there will be no peace or sense of intimacy with Him. He is the only one who is able to forgive, cleanse and heal our spirits in a way that makes a difference and sets us free.

Jesus cried out upon the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing

He did not wish His crucifiers to be condemned to bear the burden of sin and guilt forever. In fact, the purpose of God is to forgive and to set us free so that we might live life to the full. Sin is indeed terrible, none more so than this, but Jesus came to set us free, not to enslave us.

God is both willing and able to forgive us – and that means He will remove the guilty stain from our spirits completely, whatever the worldly consequences might be or have been. He can do this, not because sin does not matter, but because Jesus stood in for us, and has carried these sins, your sins and mine, with Him to the cross. What is required is a sincere repentance, acknowledgement of Jesus death for my sins, and a prayerful resolve to turn away from such sins in the future. Whilst there may be a number of failures along the way God will be there with us to help us up again and to carry on with Him. With the knowledge of God’s forgiveness we may also forgive ourselves.

He has given us an awesome and life-changing gift. We need to accept it and the new life that it brings. Why not?

Response:
Be still for a moment – allow God to bring to mind areas in your life that need forgiveness and liberation. Then ask Him. Start the new year free from the stains of the past.

Prayer:

Father, I confess that I have sinned in these ways…….. please forgive me. I acknowledge that I battle in the following areas….. please forgive and strengthen me. Please help me to accept your forgiveness and cleansing and, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to walk with You, and to know that You walk with me. And no matter how many times I fall please help me to always get up again and go on with You. Thank You so much for giving me this wonderful gift of new life.Amen.

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He’s Coming

“I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say: My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.”
 (Isaiah 46:10)

 

Reflection:
We can so quickly forget what our life and our salvation is all about. So we need to be reminded, to celebrate the wonder of it all, and to honour the God at it centre. This is why the Church has certain seasons and festivals.

The season of Advent is a time of preparation to commemorate the coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ whose birth will be celebrated at Christmas. It is also a time to reflect on why we need a Saviour, to prepare ourselves for His second coming, and for the moment when we will see Him face to face. It is a period within which to focus on reality – our reality, the reality of the world around us, the reality of sin and the reality of the awesome love and power of God. It is to acknowledge that in our present personal, local, national and international situations we really, really need a Saviour.

The world has trivialised God in turning these great celebration into commercial carnivals from which it is slowly removing the name of the Lord. On the other hand we, to whom the Lord has given the grace of faith, need to pause, to look at the true reality of what has taken place and to acknowledge with deep humility and gratitude that it has been done for us. The darkness, strife, violence and abuse that clouds the world and shatters the lives of so many will not prevail. The Light of God is already in the world and will indeed overcome and banish this darkness and all who live by it.

The true wonder of the season is not that a virgin should bear a child. It is that the Lord God Almighty, the Holy, Majestic and Everlasting One, should come amongst us in human form – to live as we live and to suffer and die in our place and for our sins.  Each celebration of this season is a reminder of the great love that God has for each one of us – and how He came to seek and to find us.

Question:
Is my life aimless or a journey with a purpose and destination?

Response:
Thank God that you do not walk this life alone, that you have a mighty God to guide, lead and watch over you –God whose purpose and plan will be fulfilled in every way.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I thank and praise You for Your great love, Your mighty power and Your wonderful promises that have and will be fulfilled in Jesus – the one true Light of the world. Amen.

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