Set free

“He went out and cried and cried and cried”
(Luke 22:62 MSG)

Reflection:
This has to be one of the most heart-rending moments in Scripture.

The big, bold and impulsive Peter had boasted of loving the Lord enough to die for Him. And now merely a few hours later, when Jesus was alone and could have done with a friend, he had denied knowing Him three times. After the third occasion Jesus turned and looked at him and Peter knew that the Lord was aware of what had happened, just as He had foretold it.

In that terrible moment Peter would have felt the full impact of His betrayal. He had broken relationship with his beloved Lord and Master, he had turned away from the Messiah, the Son of God, and therefore from God Himself. He was worse than Adam, worse even than Judas, for he had no excuse to offer. In his mind he would have revealed himself to himself and others as a nothing, a loud-mouthed imposter with whom no one would wish to associate. He had lost his self-respect, dignity and privileged position of leadership – in fact he had lost everything. There was no turning back, so in self-loathing he wept in despairing desolation.

“He went out and cried and cried and cried”

I am reminded of King David’s great cry of anguish to the Lord as he looked into himself and saw the horror of the sin of which he was guilty – and knew that he could not live with it.

  • “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4)
  • “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2)
  • “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7)

And God does. He forgave and cleansed David and still referred to him as a man after His own heart. And although Peter did not then know it Jesus was to forgive and heal him, and was to restore him to his position of leadership in the Church.

God forgives because He loves us enough to want to – not because He is unwilling. Let Him forgive you too.

Response:
No sin is too desperate for Him to forgive and cleanse.

Prayer:

Lord please help me to bring my sin and despair to You and not to hold on to them. Amen.

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(Photo (c) Catherine Bondonno)

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Home Awaits

“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:
We may call Jesus Saviour and Lord but that does not mean that all areas of our lives are in submission to Him. This becomes a process that takes place over time as we journey with Him. We may be aware of some of these areas whilst others may appear on the way and take us by surprise. As long as they remain independent they will hinder our life with the Lord and prevent us from enjoying the fullness of the life that He has for us.

The prodigal son’s whole life had imploded on him and this is what eventually brought him to his senses. In his spiritual shame and isolation he did the only thing left open to him – he went home. There to his astonishment and delight he was welcomed, embraced and celebrated. The healing had begun.

When we realise that there are parts of our own lives that are distant from the Lord the most important response is for us to pick them up and take them back to God. This is where they belong and this is where the healing and restoration can happen. The longer we try and cope or fix them by ourselves the more difficult it may become.  As we take them to God we meet His love, His acceptance of us, His embracing and supporting arms, and His strength and help.

It might happen that in parts of our lives we keep wandering off again – pursuing some pleasure or giving in to some weakness. If this is the case and as soon as we are aware of it we need to go back with it to the Lord and ask Him for His forgiveness, healing and strength. Keep going home until you never leave again. This is not an invitation to become casual in our life with the Lord but an acknowledgement that some battles are harder and longer than others, for a whole variety of reasons.

Your home is in the Lord. Your forgiveness and healing is in the Lord. Your life and fulfilment is in the Lord. Bring all of yourself to Him all of the time – He will never reject you.

And now realise too that you are surrounded by people whose lives, or a part of whose lives, are distant from God. Some of them will feel isolated from Him whilst others will have no sense of Him at all. Inside each one of them somewhere is a lonely son or daughter who also needs love and encouragement as well as help. It might be that you are their only link at this time. Ask God to point out to you the one/s He wishes to reach and start by holding them faithfully in your prayers – asking for God’s light and blessing in their lives.

Response:
Have I any desert areas? Take them to the Lord now.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus I come to You as I am and ask You particularly to forgive, heal and set me free in these  areas of my life ……  Please accept them and bring them under Your Lordship and authority, for Your glory.  Amen.

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Forgiven

“But you were washed, you were sanctified,
you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
and by the Spirit of our God”
(1 Corinthians 6:11)

Reflection:
Paul had just stated that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. He then listed examples of the things that he classified as wicked and sinful – the type of behaviour that had characterised some of them when they lived outside of the kingdom of God. Then came his great acclamation that ‘this is what some of you were.’ In other words they used to be like this but a radical transformation had taken place in their lives – “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God”

In some ways this almost seems to be the answer to the great prayer of David when he was convicted by God of his sin with Bathsheba and for arranging for her husband to be killed.

  • ‘Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.’
  • ‘Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.’
  • ‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.’

Nothing is worse than the awareness that sin has fastened its claws into us in such a way that we cannot get rid of it, we cannot re-write the past and we are forever stained, contaminated and guilty in the most terrible way. And yet here Paul is crying out for us to be aware of the great redemption open to us through the love and grace of God. For each and every one of us – no matter what we have done or failed to do – may be washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit of God.

It is God Himself setting us free from the spiritual consequences of our past, washing us clean from every stain and setting us on our feet again to live a new and different kind of life with Him. We are called to face in a new direction – focussed on the Lord and not on ourselves. We are urged to flee from all sin and to live lives dedicated to the Lord. We are encouraged – if and when we fall – to ask God for forgiveness and help and to get back on our feet for another go at this new life with Him.

Hold on to the unimaginable truth and wonder of what God has achieved for you and which He seeks to make ever more real in your own life – what Barclay calls ‘this radiant power of Christianity which is triumphantly able to  make all things new’ –

“you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God”

Response:
Reflect on these great truths, asking the Holy Spirit to make them live within you

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, please help me to receive Your great truths, make them live within me in such a way that new light shines into my darkness and sets me free to walk in the light, the life and the love of God. Amen.

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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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