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Too often people say that the evidence of having truly forgiven someone is to forget what he has done to you. The passage that is often quoted is Jeremiah 31:34, where God says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more,” This verse, some say, is how we should forgive.
There are at least two problems with this understanding of forgiveness. First it is not realistic. Our minds don’t function this way, and our ability to remember is powerful. Trying to forget a sin someone has committed against you will only encourage you to remember it. It’s like being told not to think about a pink elephant. What did you do the moment you read that sentence? Completely erasing an offense from your memory is not realistic. Second, it is not biblical. The passage in Jeremiah does not say that God has amnesia when He looks at you. Our omniscient God does not forget anything! The word “remember” is not a “memory” word, but a “promise” word, a covenant word. God is promising that when we confess our sins, “I will not treat you as your sins deserve. Instead, I will forgive you.”
This is why forgiveness is both a past event and an ongoing process into the future. It is a past promise you keep in the future. When this is done, the memory of small offenses usually dissipates. Larger offenses probably will not…..But each individual can still practice Biblical forgiveness. They can make a promise and remain faithful to that promise over time. P. 97Tripp and Lane suggest that the failure to understand forgiveness as a past event and a promise for the future results in 1) doubts about whether we have actually forgiven someone because we erroneously think forgiving equals forgetting; and 2) we allow bitterness to creep in because we are unguarded about it since we think our forgiveness is over and done with. P.98
Mark 11:25 is talking about forgiveness as a heart attitude before God. The context is worship. When I consider someone’s sin as I stand before the Lord, I am called to have an attitude of forgiveness towards that person who sinned against me. This is non-negotiable. I do not have the right to withhold forgiveness and harbor bitterness in my heart. Luke 17:3, on the other hand, is talking about forgiveness as a horizontal transaction between me and the offender. This is often referred to as reconciliation. The point Luke 17:3 makes is that, while I am to have an attitude of forgiveness before the Lord, I can only grant forgiveness to the other person if he repents and admits he has sinned against me. Even if he never does this, I am called to maintain an attitude of forgiveness toward the offender. The vertical aspect of forgiveness is unconditional, but the horizontal aspect depends upon the offender admitting guilt and asking for forgiveness. P. 98-99This explanation was so helpful to me and helped me see the connection between these two passages of Scripture.
“Lord, how could you possibly be glorified in this?!”In one of the most painful of these conflict situations, God recently brought sweet and humbling reconciliation. What a tremendous gift that was. The other party repented, and we were reconciled to one another. We embraced with tears of deep emotion. The situation is never to be brought up again. God is now re-building trust and relationship between us. What an amazing gift! It truly is the gospel at work among us! I can even see the ways that God taught each one of us lessons that could only have been learned in the trenches of conflict. He exposed sin in all of our hearts, and He gave us a deeper glimpse into the power of the gospel—into what He has done on our behalf! He taught us about His Sovereignty and Goodness in ALL things. He taught us that He is always at work and that He is ALWAYS worthy of our trust, even when situations hurt and do not make sense to us. He has caused thanksgiving and worship to well up in our hearts, as we have seen the miracle He has brought about. He has become bigger to us.
“Lord, isn’t Biblical community supposed to be different than this?”
“Father, aren’t we as Christians supposed to be all about reconciliation—didn’t Jesus reconcile us to you and aren’t you in the process of uniting your people?”
"Father, doesn't it grieve your heart to see disunity among your people?"
"Father, aren't you grieved by the injustices still unexposed and unresolved in this mess?"
Thirdly, All may hence be exhorted earnestly to seek this spiritual light. To influence and move to it, the following things may be considered.
1. This is the most excellent and divine wisdom that any creature is capable of. It is more excellent than any human learning; it is far more excellent than all the knowledge of the greatest philosophers or statesmen. Yea, the least glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Christ doth more exalt and ennoble the soul, than all the knowledge of those that have the greatest speculative understanding in divinity without grace. This knowledge has the most noble object that is or can be, viz., the divine glory or excellency of God and Christ. The knowledge of these objects is that wherein consists the most excellent knowledge of the angels, yea, of God himself.
2. This knowledge is that which is above all others sweet and joyful. Men have a great deal of pleasure in human knowledge, in studies of natural things; but this is nothing to that joy which arises from this divine light shining into the soul. This light gives a view of those things that are immensely the most exquisitely beautiful, and capable of delighting the eye of the understanding. This spiritual light is the dawning of the light of glory in the heart. There is nothing so powerful as this to support persons in affliction, and to give the mind peace and brightness in this stormy and dark world.
3. This light is such as effectually influences the inclination, and changes the nature of the soul. It assimilates the nature to the divine nature, and changes the soul into an image of the same glory that is beheld. 2 Cor. 3:18, "But we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." This knowledge will wean from the world, and raise the inclination to heavenly things. It will turn the heart to God as the fountain of good, and to choose him for the only portion. This light, and this only, will bring the soul to a saving close with Christ. It conforms the heart to the gospel, mortifies its enmity and opposition against the scheme of salvation therein revealed: it causes the heart to embrace the joyful tidings, and entirely to adhere to, and acquiesce in the revelation of Christ as our Saviour: it causes the whole soul to accord and symphonize with it, admitting it with entire credit and respect cleaving to it with full inclination and affection; and it effectually disposes the soul to give up itself entirely to Christ.
4. This light, and this only, has its fruit in a universal holiness of life. No merely notional or speculative understanding of the doctrines of religion will ever bring to this. But this light, as it reaches the bottom of the heart, and changes the nature, so it will effectually dispose to a universal obedience. It shows God's worthiness to be obeyed and served. It draws forth the heart in a sincere love to God, which is the only principle of a true, gracious, and universal obedience; and it convinces of the reality of those glorious rewards that God has promised to them that obey him.
As we attempt to specify the motivation that should characterize our interactions with our mates, we should remember that we will fail to see the point clearly and to make needed personal application without the Holy Spirit’s help. The deceitfulness of our hearts renders us incapable of accurately identifying our real goals without supernatural help. In its fallen state the human consciousness is a marvelous instrument of self deception. It is capable of selectively attending to only those motives that preserve our cherished image of ourselves as good and kind and of disowning or at least disguising the ugly, self-centered objectives to which we are really committed. Only the Spirit of God unfolding His truth as revealed in Scripture can cut through our lying hearts to expose our selfish motivation. P. 52I love this observation of what marriage ought to be:
Husbands and wives are to regard marriage as an opportunity to minister in a unique and special way to another human being, to be used of God to bring their spouses into a more satisfying appreciation of their worth as persons who are secure and significant in Jesus Christ. P. 55He goes on to further explain:
Notice an essential point in this principle: It is Christ who provides us with security and significance. My love for my wife does not in the slightest degree add to the reality that she is thoroughly and eternally secure in Christ’s love. Nor does my failure to love her as I should diminish the fact of her security. But my tangible, touchable, physically present love can bring to my wife a deeper experienced awareness of what it means to be loved. I cannot add to the fact of her security, but I can add to her feelings of security. P.55On page 60, Crabb lays out three important elements to help us turn from manipulating our spouses for ourselves to ministering to our spouse out of love and concern for his welfare:
All of us face various character-molding decisions every day. To speak with my spouse, I must consciously and deliberately think: “My purpose right now must be to help my wife realize her value as a person. What can I do that will accomplish this?” My insides may urgently scream with a compelling desire to defend myself, criticize her, or make a decision to do what will help her feel loved. As I make the choice, the Spirit of God provides the power to make it real—but I must make the choice. The natural resistance to truly giving ourselves to the other is rooted in our stubborn fear that if we really give, with no manipulative purpose, we will be shortchanged. Our needs will nto be met. At best we’ll be disappointed; at worst, we’ll be destroyed. P. 60And yet, Crabb reminds us of this essential point:
But God is faithful. We are to trust His perfect love to cast out fear, believing that as we give to our spouses in His name, He will supernaturally bless us with an awareness of His presence. And He will. But it may take time—perhaps months—before we sense His work in us. The willingness to give unconditionally does not come by simply deciding to be selfless. The stain of self-centeredness requires many washings before it no longer controls our motivation. Many commitments to minister and much time spent with God will transpire before we know what it means to give. Our job is to learn faithfulness and to press on in obedience, not giving into discouragement or weariness, believing that God will always honor the conscious and persevering motivation to serve Him. When a spouse becomes more critical, drinks more heavily, or rejects efforts of ministry, we are to continue in our obedience, believing that our responsibility before God is to obey and to trust Him for the outcome. P. 61In addressing the awareness of our partner’s needs, Crabb actually calls us to vulnerability. This might sound counter-intuitive. Why would we be called to vulnerability regarding our own self while our focus is ministering to our spouse’s needs? Perhaps this is because one of the goals of marriage and one of the ways that we minister to our spouse’s needs is by fostering real intimacy and oneness.
I am convinced that most husbands and wives have little awareness of the intense yearnings crying from their partners’ hearts. Too often, one of the protective layers people hide behind is the layer of “apparent togetherness” of “I can handle things” or “I’m OK and I assume you’re OK.” Confident smiles coupled with spiritual platitudes about “all things working for good” often mask a deep longing to be accepted. We fervently desire someone to know us as we are—worried, shattered, scared, angry, lustful—and to accept us anyway. Therefore I regard an honest sharing of who I am with my spouse as consistent with the principle of ministry. I am not to complain about how bad I feel; rather I am to remind myself that my needs are met in Christ and to share with my spouse how I feel in our relationship. My goal in sharing is to vulnerably reveal myself, legitimately desiring, but never demanding, a loving response. P. 61Crabb points out that we frequently avoid being vulnerable and drawing our spouses out because we either try to protect ourselves or we think our spouse is fine:
Because many husbands and wives see no evidence that their ministry can be meaningful to their partners, it is essential that they develop an awareness of their spouse’s deepest needs. We can create a climate of non-critical acceptance to encourage our spouses to risk becoming vulnerable. If our partners will no open up, we must realize that because they are made in God’s image, deep needs do exist, even if they are well hidden. We must pray for wisdom to know what to do to touch those needs. P. 62Crabb’s point here is that just as God is a God of intimate community—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God has created us in His image to experience community with Him and with each other. God wants us to experience oneness with Him firstly. He also wants us to experience oneness with His people—especially and uniquely with our spouse. As we experience oneness with our spouse, we in turn reflect God’s image to others and we glorify God. This cannot be experienced with out vulnerability so that we can know and be known. Even the most seemingly self sufficient person is designed in this way.
….the condition for effective ministry is utter reliance on God that grows out of a sense of our inadequacy for the task. Admitted weakness makes it possible for us to abide in Christ, trusting Him for fruit (John 15:1-8). P. 63John 15:1-8 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.