Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Power Of Forgiveness

One of our frequent commenters (GMpilot) at this blog brought up a good point in the Invincible Before God thread.

GMpilot stated,
"The passage involving the Amish man who said the killer’s family was also victims was very poignant—and absolutely correct. He showed a perspective that more “advanced” Christians, in their zeal to condemn, often overlook. You might do well to consider it."

You are correct GM. I should have mentioned the fact that the Amish people showed amazing strength, compassion and mercy during their time of grief by extending forgiveness towards the perpetrator of this horrendous crime, as well as compassion and grace towards the family of the killer.

At my Bible study class on Tuesday, I did bring that up. We were in a discussion about how hard it would be to lose a child. It is every mother's worst nightmare and fear. When I shared what had happened at the Amish schoolhouse, many of the women were stunned. Several had not even heard about it yet (not avid T.V. watchers). A few women admitted that as strong as their faith in Christ is, they're not sure if they could "take the loss of their child." One woman shared that a friend of hers had just lost her 24-year-old daughter in a plane crash. She was on a Christian missions trip to South America. There were no survivors from that crash.

The Bible is completely honest about what it means to be a Christian. It doesn't mean that we will never have pain and suffering. When we look at the fruit of the Spirit, most experience is good. However, also notice the term "longsuffering."


–adjective 1. enduring injury, trouble, or provocation long and patiently.
–noun 2. long and patient endurance of injury, trouble, or provocation: years of long-suffering and illness.

What the Bible says about the "fruit of the Spirit" -

Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Gal 5:23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Gal 5:24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Gal 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Gal 5:26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

Eph 5:8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now [are ye] light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

Eph 5:9 (For the fruit of the Spirit [is] in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

Eph 5:10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

We may never know the reason why some are taken at young ages while others live to be 100. But God has a plan that is being fulfilled right before our very eyes, each and every day.

Down here and looking up from our vantage point, it looks like the "wrong side of a tapestry" being woven throughout eternity. We can't quite make out the pattern from this side, but we do know, and can absolutely trust in The One Who is involved in weaving it.

We can know that through the good, the bad and the ugly, the consistent goal of such weaving is redemption.

We see "as through a glass darkly" and can get glimpses of the good that results from such redemptive purposes, however, on the other side of heaven, we will see the beauty, greatness, mercy and love that was intricately sown...despite the tragedies we all experienced in life.

The Amish schoolhouse tragedy is yet another terrible consequence of man's desire to know evil. Knowing evil brought sin and death into the picture whereas before, God had said, "it was good" (regarding creation), and when Adam and Eve were created, he said, "it was very good." We were to be the "crowning achievement," so to speak, of His glorious creation! But when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and desired to know evil, paradise was lost and death (physical death, as well as the ultimate state of spiritual death) entered into the lives of us all.

Jesus told us, "in this world you will have trouble; but take heart! I have overcome the world."

He overcame the eternal affect of evil, sin and death at the cross. As born-again believers in the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, we are no longer under condemnation. We are no longer in danger of eternal separation from God. We "cannot be snatched out of his hands." These are the promises of God through the salvation of the cross of Christ.

I have shared the gospel message many times here, so there is no need to go into detail. If this is your first visit to this blog, please see this page for more details.

Suffice it to say that the Amish know, and believe wholeheartedly, that God is ultimately in control. One newscaster stated that the Amish tend to believe, "everything done on this earth is God's will" and they must accept that. I don't think that is accurate. There is a difference between God's permissive will on this earth and God's perfect will in heaven. That is why Jesus prayed, "thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven." [Note: To be truthful, not all Christians may agree with labeling "permissive will" verses "perfect will" of God. I use this descriptively here. It can be regarded as a disagreement that does not negate the gospel message, however.]

God allows evil in the world right now because we are in the process of redemption. Every single one of us needs to know Christ, why he came to this earth over 2,000 years ago, what he achieved for our benefit, what we are rescued from, and where we will thus spend eternity.

There is a popular Christian song that says:

"Not because of who I am, but because of what You've done."

"Not because of what I've done, but because of Who You are."

That is a simply way to sum up the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the truth that he spoke of when he said, "and you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free."

Back to the Amish and their reaction to the tragedy.

They know, with confidence, that their daughters are in heaven with Jesus. That is their ultimate comfort, despite the terrible grief they suffer from right now. The Bible tells us, "we do not grieve as those who have no hope." People who do not believe in God, His Word, or His Son, Jesus Christ, do not have such hope.

Jesus is the only "prophet" who died for the sake of others to be the propitiation for our sins. He is the only Savior who rose from the grave, conquered evil, sin and death and lives forevermore! God the Father allowed the crucifixion of His Son, Jesus Christ, to satisfy the death penalty that a Righteous God had to impose because of bringing evil into the world through disobeying Him. This was the introduction of sin.

God's nature includes justice, and a just God would never allow sin and evil to go unpunished. So, the penalty leveled upon Satan (when iniquity was found in him) and his demons was passed on to man through that terrible choice that Adam and Eve made in the Garden of Eden. Thus, we have the world that we have today...rife with evil, sin and death.
Someone needed to pay the penalty.

But who was worthy?

None of us!

Only one man, the Messiah Jesus Christ could pay the penalty for all of us and with simple faith and belief in what he did for us, we can be set free from the eternal penalty of spiritual death, which is eternal separation from God in hell.

I once heard a commentary that went something like this:

Remember when satan tempted Jesus in the desert and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread."
The lecturer then said, "I always wondered why Jesus didn't just go ahead and turn satan into a loaf of bread!"

If a good God allows satan to exist, then He can bring a greater good out of his existence than his non-existence.

Charles Williams says, "satan is a son of mystery and since God suffers him to be, he too is God's minister and labors for some good by us not understood."

I thought that was a deep and profound insight! What do you think?

Taking that idea a step further, we see that God took the most heinous act in human history...the crucifixion of His Son, and turned it on itself...making it the greatest demonstration of His love and grace to us.

Satan's initial, perceived "victory" turned into an eternal crushing defeat!
Christ's victorious defeat of satan's affects on sin, evil and death were forever destroyed. Every soul who comes to Christ enjoys that victory with Him!

If you personally don't get anything else out of this post, please recognize this! God took the worst and most heinous act in history, the brutal beating, scourging, crucifixion, and death on the cross of Jesus Christ, and turned it on it's head. Jesus Christ's resurrection to life showed the power he alone had to defeat evil, sin and death's eternal consequence upon our souls. Christ's resurrection (a fact of history which Simon Greenleaf showed was defendable beyond a reasonable doubt in any courtroom today), and subsequent ascension to the Father did several things in one full swoop. Christ defeated evil, sin and death, satisfied the death penalty (spiritual) that we all would deserve if not for Christ, demonstrated that physical death is not the end of us, showed us that the soul and spirit live on in eternity, and proved who He is through the miracles, fulfillment of Biblical prophecies (over 300 of them!), and the ultimate act for our salvation, the cross and the resurrection to life eternal.

All of this is why the Amish can forgive the perpetrator (they were imitating Jesus when he said while dying on the cross, "forgive them Father, they do not know what they do") and extend grace, mercy, hope and comfort to the people in the killer's family who are suffering just as much as they are.

You see, believers in Jesus Christ is an "everybody wins" scenario. I know many who visit and read here do not agree. Some have expressed anger at God many times. I'm sure that the loss of loved ones, the suffering of certain afflictions, the sadness of addiction, the awful treatment from others in our lives is all terribly painful. Sometimes, when our prayers are not answered in the manner we want them to be, we blame God and call Him a monster. The real monster is the reality of evil, sin, and death in this world that we brought upon ourselves.

But we all must someday realize that this world is not all there is! We get a "do over" during the 1,000 year reign of Christ on the earth (many people don't know this because they don't read the book of Revelation!) We then live for eternity in heaven with God! Heaven is described as a beautiful place where there are no tears, no evil, no sin, no death! The "old earth and heaven" will pass away, but God's Word will never pass away!

This is why we need to study God's Word. It is a miraculous book that we will never finish reading. We will never arrive at completely knowing all that we can learn from it. That fact, in and of itself makes it truly and amazing Book.

We will continue studying it until that day when each and everyone of us physically dies and enters into eternity.

I don't think I've ever heard any pastor or evangelist say, "I've mastered all the information in the entire Bible." or "I know all that there is to know about the God of the Bible." (If someone does claim that, then they are a liar.)

We cannot know all that there is to know about God, but we can learn just enough of what we need to learn through knowing Jesus Christ. That's the crux of the matter.

People who claim that they have "read the whole Bible" yet they remain in the state of being where they are non-believers and refuse to recognize Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, have entirely missed the point of God's Word.

Jesus asks each of us, "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus gives us the answer in his question! He is the Son of the Living God, the great "I AM" of the Old Testament who came to save us from our sin.

But each of us must choose to recognize him for who he is! We must ask for forgiveness for our sins, repent of them, invite Jesus into our hearts as Lord and Savior which is what it means to be born again.

John 3:5 - Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. you hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

We Receive Christ By Personal Invitation - [Christ speaking] "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him" (Revelation 3:20).

Receiving Christ involves turning to God from self (repentance) and trusting Christ to come into our lives to forgive us of our sins and to make us what He wants us to be. Just to agree intellectually that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for our sins is not enough. Nor is it enough to have an emotional experience. We receive Jesus Christ by faith, as an act of our will.

You Can Receive Christ Right Now By Faith Through Prayer (Prayer is talking with God) - God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. The following is a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to know You personally. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. Please forgive me. I open the door of my life and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving me of my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. Amen.

Does this prayer express the desire of your heart?

If it does, pray this prayer right now, and Christ will come into your life, as He promised.

1 comment:

Christinewjc said...

Mark Daniels, of Better Living Thoughts has a great post on this subject.

How Can the Amish Forgive?