Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness



21
Nov
12

Thanksgiving

There are so many things to thank the Lord for!  His blessings truly deserve the description of “innumerable’. They cover every aspect of life – and every moment of life.  They are so plentiful that we often take them for granted.  But every breathe we take is a blessing from God.  Every morsel of food we eat (and we eat more than just morsels!) is a gift from God.  The good weather we experience, the periods of relaxation that we enjoy, the friends and families that mean so much to us – all are blessings from God.  Literally everything we have ultimately comes from our gracious Lord.

And there are so many blessings that we don’t even see: the accident that was averted; the illness that did not touch us; the danger that passed over us.  We are often like little children – going our way blissfully unaware of how the Lord, as our loving Father, is faithfully watching over us and keeping us safe.

But towering over all these blessings is his ultimate blessing, namely, being completely forgiven and totally accepted through Jesus.  This is how the book of Hebrews puts it:  “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.  Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;” (Hebrews 10:14-20)

Just think of it!  The Lord not only forgives all our sins because of Jesus’ one sacrifice, he also forgets them.  He doesn’t ask us to pay him back.  He doesn’t remind us of them whenever we fail.  No, as the prophet Micah said, he drowns them in the depths of the sea.  They are gone!

On this Thanksgiving weekend, show God your thankfulness especially for this.  Show that thankfulness by never doubting your status with him.  See and say that you are worthy before him, not because of what you do, but because of what Jesus has done for you.  Show that thankfulness by giving Jesus every bit of credit for God accepting you.  Be thankful by being confident that you are going to live forever with Heavenly Father because of Jesus’ sacrifice and not because of any ordinances that you have done.

  Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.  (Psalm 103: 1-12)

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09
Nov
12

God is good – life can be hard

Yesterday I shared some of my thoughts on Genesis 20 and how good God is.  Today I would like to share a few thoughts on Genesis 21.  This chapter records the miraculous birth of Isaac – an event that Paul expands on in both Galatians and Romans.  But the thing that struck me as I read it this morning is how there is no escaping the fact that sin often makes life difficult.

Genesis 21 tells us how Sarah laughed in joy and faith at the birth of Isaac.  (Isaac means “he laughs” a name that God gave him because both Abraham and Sarah laughed when God first told them that they would have a son.)  But then in the very next paragraph we hear how Ismael didn’t laugh, he mocked Isaac.  In fact, Paul in Galatians 4 says Ishmael was persecuting Isaac.  This reminds me of the comment made by Luther that the devil is God’s ape.  He apes the ways of God but always with a vicious twist.  Here he causes Ishmael to viciously mimic Sarah’s laughter with mockery.  Sin turns the happy picture sour.

So much so that Sarah demands that Ishmael and his mother be banished. The Bible says this distressed Abraham.  It’s not hard to see why.  After all, Ismael was his only son until Isaac was born about 15 years later.  There is no doubt he loved him.  But he probably also thought if only he wouldn’t have gone down that sinful path and tried to have a son by Hagar none of this would be happening.  He realized that his own actions had brought a lot of this grief upon himself.

This illustrates a truth that is often bitter for us to accept.  And that is that even though God forgives us our sins, he still often makes us suffer some of the earthly consequences of it.  The person who stole turns to God and is forgiven.  But he still might have to serve jail time.  The believer stumbles and gossips about his friend.  He is forgiven but he might suffer a strained or even broken relationship.  God often makes us suffer the consequences of our sins – because he loves us.  He knows that, without suffering those consequences, we might continue in that sinful action.  As Hebrews 12 makes clear, discipline is a sign of God’s love for us.  But that doesn’t make it always easy to bear.  Because of sin, life can be hard.

It was hard for Abraham.  It was hard on Hagar and Ishmael – forcing them to flee. Later in the chapter we see Abimelech coming to make a treaty with Abraham.  After he was deceived by Abraham in chapter 20, he doesn’t trust him.  That had to feel like a knife in Abraham’s chest.  Sin has consequences.  Sin makes life hard.

But throughout, God remains faithful.  He reassures Abraham when he is distressed about sending away his son Ishmael.  He provides for Hagar and Ishmael when they flee and later on as Ishmael grows up.  He is our good shepherd watching over us sheep – sheep who often act dumb and sinfully.

I needed to be reminded of the reality that, because of sin, life can be hard at times.  I needed that reminder so I’m not surprised when that happens.  I needed that reminder so that I don’t entertain any notion that I can keep my life free of problems.  We live in a sinful world.  That means we will have problems.  The worst thing is to have the illusion that God will make all our problems go away. Talk about setting ourselves up for disappointment.

But I also needed the reminder that the Lord is always there for me – even when I don’t see that.  He continues to bless me in spite of my sins.  He continues to provide for me in spite of my ingratitude.  He continues to protect me in spite of my foolishness.  And most importantly of all, he continues to promise me that I will be spending eternity in his presence, as a member of his eternal family, because Jesus has covered every inch of me with his righteousness.  What a wonderful faithful Lord we have. To God be all glory!

10
May
12

Covenants

One thing that Lesson 19 of the Gospel Doctrines Class covers is the baptismal covenant described in Mosiah 18 of the Book of Mormon.  In that connection the teacher’s manual contains the following quote from President Joseph Fielding Smith.  “A covenant is a contract and an agreement between at least two parties.  In the case of gospel covenants, the parties are the Lord in heaven and men on earth.  Men agree to keep the commandments and the Lord promises to reward them accordingly.”

Here again is an example of how Mormonism and biblical Christianity not only define words differently, but also view matters differently.  The word gospel literally means good news and in the Bible it refers to the very specific good news that Jesus became our substitute, fulfilled all the commandments for us, died for all our sins so that now eternal life is God’s gift to us.  The Bible, and historic Christianity, has always sharply distinguished between this good news of what God has done for us and his commands telling us what to do.  In short, the biblical gospel has nothing to do with God’s commands.  If it did that would not be good news – in light of verses like James 2:10 that state that even breaking one commandment makes us guilty of all.

Secondly, the way that the Bible describes the gospel covenant is all about what God does.  It describes not an agreement between two parties but rather a unilateral action on the part of God.  For example, Jeremiah 31:33-34 says:  But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.  34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”  There is no mention of keeping the commandments or any other action on the part of man.  God’s gospel covenant is 100% about what God does – especially his forgiving us of our sins.  That deserves the description, “good news”.

Because of that good news I know that I am worthy before God – that I am nothing less than a saint in his eyes.  Because of that good news I am eagerly looking forward to Judgment Day knowing that, solely because of what Jesus did for me, I will be eagerly welcomed by God.  Because of that good news I have no doubts that I will be living in the very presence of Heavenly Father for all eternity.  Thank you, Jesus, for doing everything for me.

03
May
12

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Of all the parables Jesus told, one of the most familiar is the Parable of the Prodigal Son recorded in Luke 15.  It is a wonderful story of God’s forgiveness as the father rushes out and welcomes home his wayward son.

But, as we place it into its context, we see that the point Jesus was really making was the joy we are to experience whenever we see a lost soul saved.  H makes that emphasis in direct response to the Pharisees’ murmuring against him.  “And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” (Luke 15:2).  In response, Jesus tells three parables about the lost – the parable of the Prodigal Son being the last of the three.  And all three emphasize the joy we are to feel when we see the lost saved.  (See Luke 15:5-7, 9-10, 22-24)

In that setting it is obvious that the complaining elder son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son represents the Pharisees.   His anger over his father throwing a feast for his brother mirrors the murmuring of the Pharisees over Jesus eating with the tax collectors and sinners.  I’m sure that the Pharisees listening to Jesus as he unfolded this parable felt as if he had hit them with a two by four over their heads!  In essence, Jesus was telling them that, instead of murmuring, they should be rejoicing that he was reaching the lost.

Therefore I found it interesting to see how Mormonism interprets this parable.  In the New Testament manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles, it talks about the mercy and forgiveness of the Father.  But what I found interesting is that it talks more about the two sons than it does the father.  The point it emphasizes is that the father “did not have the younger son restored to all the privileges he had forfeited.”  He was received back but now “the farm” is gone.  “The ‘father’ himself cannot undo the effect of the foregone choice.”

In striking contrast, the older son becomes the role model.  He is described as the “more dutiful” son.  “The father consoled him with the statement: “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.”   In other words, for him “the farm” was not gone.  Unlike the younger son, he did not forfeit his privileges.  There is not one mention made of the Pharisees and their ungodly murmuring against Jesus.

A beautiful story of forgiveness is turned into a story of making choices.  “Every choice one makes either expands or contracts the area in which he can make and implement future decisions.  When one makes a choice, he irrevocably binds himself to accept the consequences of that choice.”  So much so, that “the ‘father’ cannot undo the effect of the foregone choice.”

The Bible teaches about a Heavenly Father who can undo the effects of foregone choices and has done so in Jesus Christ.  Through the saving work of Christ he has restored all the privileges that we have forfeited through sin.  Because of Jesus I’m looking forward to living eternally with Heavenly Father.

25
Apr
12

What a difference a “not” makes!

One of my favorite Bible passages is Romans 4:5.  “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  The whole context is brimming over with comforting statements reassuring us that God forgives us through faith.  For example, the very next verse says, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.”  It is obvious that righteousness without works is Paul’s theme in this section.

But that is not how Joseph Smith translated it.  His translation, also called the Inspired Version by theLDSChurch, translates verse 5 this way.  “But to him that seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  Besides having no basis for such a translation, it violates Paul’s line of thought.  In the very next chapter, for example, Paul speaks in a similar way about justifying the ungodly when he writes: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”  (Romans 5:6)

This is not the only time Joseph Smith did that either.  Another beautiful example of how quick God is to forgive us is seen when the prophet Nathan comes to King David to confront him about his adultery.  After he laid in on the line and also told David that there would be earthly consequences for his sin, we read:  “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD.  And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”  (2 Samuel 12:13)  It’s striking how quickly Nathan reassures David of forgiveness.

But not according to Joseph Smith.  He translated it, “hath not put away thy sin that thou shalt not die.”  Once again the little word “not” changes the sense completely.  It drains it of comfort for us.  It robs God of great glory.

A lot of Mormons today shy away from statements like the following what Spencer W. Kimball wrote in his classic book, The Miracle of Forgiveness.  “It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when.  It could be weeks, it could be years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you.  That depends on your humility, your sincerity, your works, your attitudes.”  I don’t know why they shy away from such statements.  To me, such statements are accurately reflecting the way Joseph Smith translated the Bible.

The way Mormonism talks about forgiveness and the way the Bible speaks about it are totally opposite.  I rejoice along withSt. Paulthat God justifies the ungodly, that to the one who doesn’t work, his faith is credited as righteousness.

18
Apr
12

GUILTY

That has to be one of the most earth-shattering words that could ever be directed at a person – especially when it is spoken by a judge.  We can almost see the defendant slump down as his or her family break out in tears.  This is magnified all the more when the guilty verdict results in the death penalty.

“Guilty” is the verdict that rang down on all of mankind from no less a judge than God himself.  “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  (James 2:10)  As the footnote in the LDS edition of the Bible correctly states, “offend” means to stumble or err.  The breaking of the law in consideration is not an intentional, but an unintentional one.  It is a stumble, a mistake.  But that makes no difference.  The verdict is just as devastating.  Guilty!  “Guilty of all”.  You stumble at just one point – you break it all.  God’s commandments are a unified whole.  It only takes one pinprick to burst a balloon.  It only takes one sin to break the whole law.

And it doesn’t make any difference how much good a person did before or after – the verdict “guilty” remains.  He could have been the model citizen before and the model prisoner afterwards but he remains guilty.

But what makes matters even more sobering is the realization that James is talking hypothetically.  There has been no person who just erred once.  Reality is that we stumble and err regularly.  There are so many good things we fail to do – so many sinful thoughts, words, and actions that we end up doing.  No matter how hard we try, all we can do is dig ourselves into a deeper hole. This contrast: “offend in one point – guilty of all” makes for an airtight case.  If a person’s obedience isn’t perfect – if there is just one slip – he is guilty – guilty of all.

That’s why I am so thankful that Jesus took all my guilt and became guilty in my place – and served my sentence.  That is why I am so thankful that Jesus was perfectly obedient and God credited that perfect obedience to me.  That is why, when I think of living eternally with heavenly Father the only work that I base that on is his work for me.  “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”

06
Apr
12

Being Forgiven

Lesson 14 of the Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrines course covers four short books in the Book of Mormon, namely Enos, Jarom, Omni, and Words of Mormon.  I cannot ever remember hearing or seeing anything quoted from these books.  The teacher’s guide is devoted mainly to helping LDS members understand the supposed historical settings of these books.  It also states that these books “emphasize that the scriptures have been prepared and preserved for us.”

The one thing that did catch my eye in the teacher’s manual was the question, “How can we know our sins have been forgiven?”  This was asked in reference to Enos 1:5-6.  The answer is in the form of the following quote from President Harold B. Lee.

“If the time comes when you have done all that you can to repent of your sins … and have made amends and restitution to the best of your ability … , then you will want that confirming answer as to whether or not the Lord has accepted of you. In your soul-searching, if you seek for and you find that peace of conscience, by that token you may know that the Lord has accepted of your repentance” (Stand Ye in Holy Places [1974], 185).”

It’s interesting that he points them to their consciences as the place where they can know that they are forgiven.  As the Bible makes clear, even the consciences of believers are not always trustworthy.  For example in 1 Corinthians Paul talks about believers who consciences are weak.  They felt guilty when they had no need to.

A much better source of reassurance that we are forgiven is the Bible.  Especially pertinent this Easter Sunday is Romans 4:25.  There Paul talking about Jesus says, “Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.”  Many people don’t understand the significance of that last phrase.  The two “for”s in this verse could also be translated because.  He was delivered for, or because of our offenses; he was raised for or because of our justification. Justification is a legal term which describes an acquittal.  In other words, Jesus was raised on Easter because God had justified us, or acquitted us.  Just like a prisoner leaves a prison after serving his sentence, so also, Christ, after serving our sentence for sin, left the prison of the grave.  His resurrection then is dramatic proof that God had accepted his payment for our sin – that our debt to God had been forgiven!

That’s much more solid proof than any proof we can receive from our consciences.  It is my prayer that on this Easter weekend you see the full significance of Christ’s resurrection.  May you see that your debt has been paid for – that you are forgiven on the basis of what Jesus has done.  May you listen to the sure word of Scripture.  “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.  Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”  (Hebrews 10:17-18)

 




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