Forgiven for yesterday, today and tomorrow

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”
(Colossians 2:13-14)

Reflection:
Paul has a way with words! There was a time when we were both dead and dying because of sin and our sins. Like the uncircumcised person we were spiritually unclean and seen to be outside the provisions and scope of the covenant. There was nothing we could do to alter this state – it was as if we carried within us a written conviction and sentence of death. Then God did something – Jesus Christ came and took into Himself our sin, our sins and our conviction and sentence, and went to death on our behalf. The sentence has been paid and, when accepted, our sins can no longer be held against us in God’s judgement court – “He forgave all our sins.”

As believers we no longer live under the law, we live in the grace of God – we live in forgiveness as those who have been forgiven, even in advance. Instead of facing death we have entered into life. That is not a mandate for us to live carelessly or to indulge ourselves in sin – that can never be acceptable when we look at the terrible cost to God of our forgiveness. It does, however, mean that when we do sin we can go to the Father and ask for forgiveness, a forgiveness that has already been achieved for us. But let us never forget that it is ‘the blood of Jesus’ that ‘purifies us from all sin,’

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 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 1:7-9)

Although this amazing grace is extended and available to all people it is not a blanket provision acquired by all. It is a gift to be recognised, accepted, treasured and received. Those who reject the gift, reject God. Those who reject God reject the gift. Those who believe and put their faith and trust in the Saviour enter into the grace and love of God, as His sons and daughters, for eternity.

As believing Christians, no matter how difficult we find it to live pure and holy and faithful lives, the grace of God and the blood of Jesus have purified and continue to purify us. When we live in the grace of God we live in forgiveness, and in the new life and relationship that He has given to us. How wonderful is that! Learn to live in it every day – you are made right with God!

Response:
Acknowledge and accept the truth.

Prayer:

Thank You so much Father for Your wonderful love and grace. Please help me to believe, accept and live in it every day – for Jesus sake, Amen.

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Bless You

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult,
but with blessing,
 because to this you were called
so that you may inherit a blessing.”
(1 Peter 3:9)

Reflection:
There is something in us that wants to rise up and strike back when we are hurt or offended. It can churn within us and stimulate our imaginations and actions. Long after the incident has happened it can still rankle, stirring up visions of retaliation and imaginary conversations in which we are the victors. 

Then Jesus appears with a different model and teaching. He tells us to forgive, not to judge, to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to give. He even sets the standard at the level of God’s forgiveness and indicates that if we set a different level it can act as a barrier to our receiving from God. He takes His own teaching to the cross where He prays repeatedly for those who are crucifying Him, ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk 23:34)

Peter is picking up on that, having himself experienced the fullness of Christ’s forgiveness after the agony of his betrayal. Instead of being castigated, and cast off, he was forgiven and reinstated. Not only was he healed and restored, but he was taken to another level of love and acceptance in the process.

Just as Christ came to reconcile us to the Father, so He has given to us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18). An important aspect of this ministry will be found in our attitude and reaction to other people. We are called to repay insult and evil with a blessing – in fact, in all things to bless and at all times to be a blessing. On occasion it may be extremely difficult – and we may need to own the pain inside us as our pain and not seek to inflict it back onto the other. Vengeance belongs to God not to us.

We are the Good News people, and it is possible because we have been blessed. The more we understand and receive the blessing and love of God, the more we will be free to pass it on to others. Having the security of God’s love and blessing we will not need to seek it from anyone else. This was the security that Jesus had and which was affirmed at His baptism.

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”(Luke 3:22)

It is also the blessing that we have – if we will believe it!

Response:
Ask God to make you aware of His blessing in your life. Look to where you need to bless others, especially those close to you.

Prayer:

Father, Please help me to be a blessing this week – in all that I think and say and do. Amen.

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He is near

“Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear”
(Isaiah 59:1)

Reflection:
The reality of the Easter message is that the Lord is neither too weak nor to deaf to hear and respond to our needs. In fact He has come to us not just with His arm and His hand but with His whole being.

The prophet went on to say,

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear”
(Isaiah 59:2)

However he had already revealed that God had Himself arranged a solution to the seemingly insurmountable problem of our sin.

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed”
(Isaiah 53:4-5)

The reality is that we still sin. However that sin has already been dealt with on the cross by the Lord. This is the reason that John can tell us that,

  • “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)
  • “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence -Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2)

Wherever and however we are at this moment the truth is that God is with us. If we feel separated from Him it may be an emotional condition or it may be that there is a sin or sins that are getting in the way. We can ask Him to reveal anything that needs to be confessed or dealt with in our life and then bring it to Him in prayer.

As the cross show clearly shows us, His desire is to forgive and heal us into a new relationship with Him – no matter where we have been in our lives.

Response:
Every day spend a few minutes with the Lord as you ask Him to show you anything that needs to be dealt with from that day. Confess it to Him and allow Him to ‘wash your feet’ of this dirt you have picked up on the day’s journey.

Prayer:

Father as I wash my body of the dirt of the day please help me also to allow You to cleanse me from the spiritual dirt I have picked up as well, in Jesus name, Amen.

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God’s Peace

“On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the disciples were together,
with the doors locked for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood among them and said,
“Peace be with you!”

(John 20:19)

Reflection:
The disciples were afraid and behind locked doors. Having seen Jesus arrested, tortured and crucified, having themselves fled, they had been living with fear and huge uncertainty for days. Now they had heard that Jesus had risen. This might well have added to their torment.  Where was He, and what would His attitude be towards them – especially in view of their actions?

There are few mental torments greater than those that concern our having failed someone important in our lives, and in a major way. The agony of waiting for the impending confrontation, heightened by our racing imaginations, can tear us apart. We cannot bear the thought of being sent away in despair and humiliation – of being not good enough, having failed to live up to expectations, especially when the person concerned is the Messiah! They would have heard the terrifying teaching that one day the Messiah might well say to certain people,

“I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23)

Suddenly Jesus was there standing amongst them – notwithstanding the locked doors. We do not know all that He said to them, or what they said to Him. But the words that are recorded tell us all that we need to know both for that meeting and for our own lives.

“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!”  (John 20:21)

This really was the peace of God that passes all understanding. It is a peace that has absolutely nothing to do with our deserving or earning it, or of the situation in which we find ourselves – but everything to do with the love, grace and power of our great Father and most wonderful Saviour. The text records that they ‘were overjoyed’ to see Him. It shows us that his love for them and acceptance of them was complete.

We all face fears that we have let Jesus down, that we do not live up to the standards that we believe He requires of us, and that we are like timid mice in the face of the increasing darkness of the world. All of that may be true. However, the most important truth for us to grasp and absorb is this – Jesus love for us is total and unconditional. He is completely committed to us and the work to which He has called us. When we fall or fail, or even think that we have, He is there with us to forgive, heal, empower and raise us up so that we can step out again with Him on the The Road of Love – the Way of Christ. He will work in all things for good and will never leave us or let us be taken from Him. Once we are His we are His forever. We do need to believe it.

Response:
Pray for a deeper belief and trust in the love of God for you.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, please continue to pour the love of God into my heart –and help me to know it and trust it above everything else in the world. Amen.

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Love Me?

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
(John 21:15-17)

Reflection:
Jesus never gave up on Peter, even with His foreknowledge of the denial. For Jesus both knew where Peter’s heart was, and also the potential of the man once the Holy Spirit was in his life. Unlike so many humans who judge Jesus did not base His opinion on one moment in time. He took a far longer and deeper view, influenced also by His insights into the heart of the person concerned. Like the potter Jesus knew and accepted that true craftsmanship took time and the preparedness to deal with any faults that might appear in the process. Jesus remained committed to Peter.

With incredible grace and love Jesus is described as raising Peter from the depths of sin and despair and entrusting him with a new life and purpose within His kingdom ministry. Where Peter might not have been surprised to have found himself discarded he instead found himself forgiven, accepted and included. He was not asked to promise any great commitment or results – there was only one question that Jesus wanted him to answer for both of them – “Do you love Me.?” Of all the questions that He might have asked this was the one that Peter could answer honestly and completely – for He knew that Jesus already knew the truth – “Yes Lord, You know that I love You.” It was all that Jesus wanted and needed. And the thrice repeated question and answer dealt with the three earlier denials.

All of us will, to a greater or lesser extent, experience failure and unfaithfulness in our lives – to ourselves, to others and especially to the Lord. The wonder of our relationship with our Lord Jesus is that He is always there with us, urging us to get up again, leading and empowering us through the Holy Spirit, and encouraging us to have another go at life. This is the life He has for us, in His way and with the revelation of His truth. He is the God of life, the resurrected life, and it all starts and continues with love – His love for us and ours for Him.

Response:
Today He holds His hand out to each one of us, inviting us to leave the past behind and to enter into a deeper life with Him – the God of the resurrected life.

Prayer:

Thank You Lord Jesus for Your death and resurrection for me. Please help me to love You more and more and in that love to walk with You into the life that You have prepared for me – both here and in eternity – trusting You for all that I need. Amen.

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(Picture: Artist unknown)

Jesus .. remember me

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said,

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth,
today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:39-43)

Reflection:
More abuse was directed at the Lord. This time it came from one of the criminals crucified next to Him. How interesting that he knew enough to refer to Jesus as ‘the Christ’ and to infer that this Christ was to be a Saviour. How tragic that having come so close to Him he was still an eternity away.

In contrast the other man rebuked him, showing that he too knew enough to know that this Jesus ‘has done nothing wrong.’ And, acknowledging his own guilt and the justice of his sentence, he turned to the Lord and said one of the simplest and most profound prayers.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

It is stunning in its truth and beauty. There was no attempt to excuse his past life or deeds – no referral to some good deed – no appeal for mercy because of his extreme suffering – no eloquent or passionate speech or motivation. There was just a very simple request, glorious in hope and faith in view of the fact that it was directed towards a dying man. And Jesus response is also simple, straightforward and breath-takingly wonderful.

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

All this took place above the level of the crowds, the soldiers and the religious leaders. It was above the world that had rejected them both, for different reasons, but its impact was immediate and eternal. Here was a man whose destiny from the beginning of time was to die with the Lord Jesus Christ and then to live with Him forever. And yet if his name had been called out instead of Barabbas he would have at that moment been rejoicing that he was not on the cross next to Jesus the Christ.

How great and mysterious and wonderful is the grace and provision of God.

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(Picture: Artist unknown)

Mocking Jesus

“In the same way the chief priests,
the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.
“He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself!
He’s the King of Israel!
Let him come down now from the cross,
and we will believe in him.
He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him,
 for he said, `I am the Son of God.'”
(Matthew 27:41-43)

Reflection:
Nobody likes being mocked. It is even worse when one is at ones weakest and most vulnerable. And these were terrible taunts.

“He saved others but He can’t save Himself.” Here was an acknowledgement of Jesus great power and authority in healing the sick, casting out demons and even raising the dead. Some of them may have both seen and heard of his raising Lazarus who had already been dead for four days. And they still would not accept the implications of these great acts. And of course Jesus could have saved Himself – but in obedience He chose not to.

“He is the King of Israel.” They knew who He was said to be but they would not look at the possibility of it being true. They just did not want Him or a King like Him. And of course they saw that they had so much to lose in terms of status and privilege and power.

“Let God rescue Him now if He wants Him.” ‘If He wants Him”- This may have been the cruellest barb of them all. It was directed at a pain-wracked man hanging naked and bleeding on the cross – a man who was soon to cry out as He felt Himself forsaken by the very God whom He trusted and served. And of course the religious leaders were trying to justify themselves to each other even then.

Did the religious leaders recognise that they were quoting the prophetic words of Scripture? They should have – which would have made their mockery even more biting and tragic.

“He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
(Psalm 22:8)

How easy it is to mock others and in particular the weak and the helpless – and to twist the knives of our sarcasm and scorn with the intention to cause the most pain and rejection. We imagine that somehow it makes us more important and secure.

May God forgive us too.

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