Van Tillians are Chick Magnets

I thought this was pretty funny.

On Sanctification

I made a practical discovery recently which I would like to share with my readers. that discovery is this: it is not my power with which I conquer sin. This probably seems a bit obvious to most of you. However, what I discovered was that, though I would have mentally acknowledged God’s grace to work in me, I still secretly thought it was completely up to me to conquer sin. Now, this is dangerous ground, because we must avoid legalism and antinomianism. I am not in favor of the statement “Let go and let God.” I think that is a thinly veiled cloak of antinomianism. We are to strive and fight. But it must never be in our own strength.

To me a proper analogy would be a car. We are to be the car which God drives. The car obviously is doing something when it hurtles along the road at 70 mph. It is not passive. However, without God to fuel it, take care of the oil, sit in the driver’s seat, repair the flat tires, etc., the car wouldn’t get very far. Of course, this analogy breaks down at some point, since we have a will, and a car does not. Maybe a better analogy would be a horse which God then rides. A horse also needs to be care for, as well as directed. The horse needs to obey the rider if the horse is to go where the rider wants him to go. I’m just feeling my way here. I am trying to do justice to Philippians 2, where it says that we must work out our salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure. If one quotes one half of that statement without the other half, one has completely misquoted the statement. We can work it out, because God works in us.

Where the rubber hits the road is when it comes to temptation: a sin comes along, waiting and tempting us to commit it. What goes on in our minds when that sin comes? Do we say, “I’ve got to resist?” Does God enter the picture right at that moment in time? Wouldn’t it be better to say, “Jesus, resist this sin in me. You do it in me, for if I do it, I will fall.” Remember, Jesus lives in us by the Holy Spirit, just as we live in Christ as believers. What we should do then is ask the Lord to resist that sin in us. I believe this is the way to conquering sin and mortifying our flesh.

Forgiveness

Matthew 6:12

General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, “I never forgive and I never forget.” Upon which John Wesley said to him, “Then, sir, I hope you never sin.”

A childhood accident caused poet Elizabeth Barrett to lead a life of a semi-invalid before she married Robert Browning in 1846. There’s more to the story. In her youth, Elizabeth had been watched over by her tyrannical father. When she and Robert were married, their wedding was held in secret because of her father’s disapproval. After the wedding the Brownings sailed for Italy, where they lived for the rest of their lives. But even though her parents had disowned her, Elizabeth never gave up on the relationship. Almost weekly she wrote them letters. Not once did they reply. After 10 years, she received a large box in the mail. Inside, Elizabeth found all of her letters; not one had been opened! Today those letters are among the most beautiful in classical English literature. Had her parents only read a few of them, their relationship with Elizabeth might have been restored.

In A Forgiving God in an Unforgiving World, Ron Lee Davis retells the true story of a priest in the Philippines, a much- loved man of God who carried the burden of a secret sin he had committed many years before. He had repented but still had no peace, no sense of God’s forgiveness.

In his parish was a woman who deeply loved God and who claimed to have visions in which she spoke with Christ and he with her. The priest, however, was skeptical. To test her he said, “The next time you speak with Christ, I want you to ask him what sin your priest committed while he was in seminary.” The woman agreed. A few days later the priest asked., “Well, did Christ visit you in your dreams?”
“Yes, he did,” she replied. “And did you ask him what sin I committed in seminary?” “Yes.” “Well, what did he say?” “He said, ‘I don’t remember'” What God forgives, He forgets.

Corrie ten Boom told of not being able to forget a wrong that had been done to her. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn’t sleep. Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest. “His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor,” Corrie wrote, “to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks.” “Up in the church tower,” he said, nodding out the window, “is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there’s a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They’re just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down.” “And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force — which was my willingness in the matter — had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but also above our thoughts.”

I start with all these illustrations, because very few of us have a clear picture in our minds what forgiveness is. We think we know what it is. We’ll say, “I forgive you.” But we chew on those wrongs done to us like so much cud that a cow re-eats. We’ll nurse these wrongs done to us. We’ll completely and utterly forget any kindness that that person has ever done to us, and instead we will do nothing but focus on all the wrong that person has done to us. If there are those here who think that way, then this message is for you. We look tonight at perhaps the scariest of all the petitions, and yet at the same time, it can be one of the most encouraging.

Why would it be scary? William Barclay puts it like this: “If we say, ‘I will never forgive so-and-so for what he or she has done to me,’ if we say, ‘I will never forget what so-and-so did to me,’ and then go and take this petition on our lips, we are quite deliberately asking God not to forgive us.” Jesus Himself gives us the best illustration of this principle in 18:21ff: Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

That leads us to a detailed consideration of our text. Notice that the first word of this verse is “and.” That is significant, since none of the other petitions start with the word “and.” Why would this one start with the word “and?” Well, to connect it strongly with the previous petition. The previous petition is that concerning our daily bread. Why would Jesus connect forgiveness with our daily bread? Thomas Manton, a great Puritan, has this to say about it: “without pardon and the forgiveness of sins, all the good things of this life will do us no good.” You see, God must forgive before He can give, in some sense. It is true that our physical needs sometimes take temporal priority over our spiritual needs. You can’t say to someone, “Be well fed,” and expect them to starve while they listen to you preach to them the gospel. It just doesn’t happen that way. However, our spiritual need of forgiveness is much deeper and more important.

The next important thing to notice about this text is the word “debt.” Isn’t that a curious word to use here? Luke 11:4 uses the more familiar word “sins.” We are so used to rattling this prayer off with our minds barely engaged, that we forget to notice this word. What is a debt? Well, it is something you owe. You have either borrowed or stolen something, and you must eventually make restitution. That is what sin is. It takes from God something (namely, His glory), and tries to take it for oneself. The reason sin does that is because sin is a transgression of the law. The law reflects God’s glory. Hence, if we sin, we break the law, and thus when we sin, we are trying to tarnish the law of God, and therefore God Himself. The important thing to realize is that sin is a debt that we cannot pay. Do we think about that when we sin? Be as scared of sin, as you would be of contracting a debt that you would be unable to pay.

Now, then, the most difficult portion of this verse is the second half of the verse. The verse might seem to suggest to us that we will not be forgiven unless we forgive. But I thought that God’s grace was unconditional. How do we explain this passage, then?

The Puritan Thomas Boston comes to our rescue here. He tells us that there are two kinds of guilt. One kind of guilt is the guilt deserving eternal wrath. The other kind of guilt is the kind that deserves God’s fatherly temporary anger. The guilt deserving eternal wrath is completely done away with when we come to faith in Christ. If we are actually in a position to address God as Father through faith in Jesus Christ, then that guilt is completely dealt with and is now gone. That is what Paul is saying when he tells us that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. However, the second kind of guilt, that which involves God’s fatherly anger towards us, that kind of guilt needs daily forgiveness. That is what we are praying for in this petition. So, to make the point clear, our ultimate forgiveness that saves us from the eternal wrath of God has already taken place if we can truly pray this petition. That ultimate forgiveness does not depend in the least on our being able to forgive someone else. This explains what Jesus goes on to say in verses 14-15: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” We are then talking about those everyday things we do that are displeasing to God. We must keep short accounts. And part of the way we do that is to forgive our brothers and sisters, and especially those who are not Christians who do us wrong.

“The man I ate dinner with tonight killed my brother.” The words, spoken by a stylish woman at a PF banquet in Seattle, amazed me. She told how John H. had murdered her brother during a robbery, served 18 years at Walla Walla, then settled into life on a dairy farm, where she had met him in 1983, 20 years after his crime. Compelled by Christ’s command to forgive, Ruth Youngsman had gone to her enemy and pronounced forgiveness. Then she had taken him to her father’s deathbed, prompting reconciliation. Some wouldn’t call this a success story: John didn’t dedicate his life to Christ. But at that PF banquet last fall, his voice cracked as he said, “Christians are the only people I know that you can kill their son, and they’ll make you a part of their family. I don’t know the Man Upstairs, but He sure is hounding me.”

What the text says is that mercy begets mercy. That is the point of the parable that Jesus told that we just read. You cannot be ultimately forgiven by God without your heart being so grateful and full of love and mercy that you immediately go out to forgive all other people their wrongs committed against yourself. You simply cannot help doing that. Jesus’ point is that if you do not feel that way, if you are doing everything you can to remember those sins, every last one of them, then you have not understood the depth of your own sin. You are not grateful enough for what God has done for you. If you cannot forgive and forget, then why should God forgive you and forget your sin? If you are not forgiving other people, then when you pray this petition, you are praying curse down upon yourself. That is why this petition is so scary.

Have you forgiven your brother or sister from the heart? It has nothing to do with saying a few words, and thinking that your job is done. Instead, it has everything to do with never thinking about it again! It has everything to do with never mentioning it again. “Love covers over a multitude of sins.” Love does bring these sins to light. Love does not keep mentioning someone’s sins to that person, and love especially does not mention those sins to anyone else. This is a hard saying. The question then is this: how do we do this? Here are some practical suggestions for how to do this: 1 Begin by assuring yourself that compared to Christ’s suffering you haven’t been seriously wronged at all. 2 Recall the many kind deeds that have been shown to you, perhaps even by the person who has harmed you. 3 List the benefits you have received from the Lord. 4 Thank Him for blessing you with His love and forgiveness each day. 5 Make an honest effort to pray for the one who has injured you. 6 Go even further by looking for an opportunity to help him. 7 If the offense is especially hard to forget, try to erase the memory by thinking gracious and generous thoughts. 8 Finally, before you fall asleep at night, repeat slowly and thoughtfully that phrase from the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

But this passage is also encouraging. Again, Thomas Boston helps us here. He says that only by the grace of God are we enabled to forgive others. So if you are in fact forgiving others (not merely forgiving, but also forgetting), then you can be encouraged that it is God working in you both to will and to do His good pleasure. Forgive others. Keep short accounts with God the Father. You will then be encouraged in the Christian walk, as you know that God is working. But beware of bitterness and resentment against other people. If you hold on to that, then you are here asking God not to forgive you. Remember the parable of the ungrateful servant. Listen and take heed.