By Roland W. Keith
In today’s world Christianity is under attack around the globe. Even here in the U.S., where religious beliefs are supposed to be protected by separation of church and state ( ), opposing forces are applying ever-increasing pressure to drive the church out of existence, by questioning its relevance and validity, or by simply rejecting it as incompatible with the growth of liberalism and the secularization of western culture. For Christians here in America we must come to terms with the possibility that what is social and political pressure today may become full-blown persecution tomorrow. In light of that probability today’s focus will be on this question: “Are Biblical claims of the life and death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ fact or fiction?
If our faith is based on a myth or fable what is the world to think of us? As Paul wrote:
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied (I Corinthians 15:14-19).
If Christ is not the Son of God then those of us who make such claims are out-and-out liars, or delusional fools. In turn, the writings in the New Testament, in which we base our hopes, are the words of false teachers cunningly devised to mislead man. Were the writers of these 27 works themselves self-deluded or deceived into believing a lie? Just a little over a month after Jesus’ crucifixion Peter proclaimed:
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it… This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses… And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out (Acts 2:22-24, 32; 3:17-19).
According to Luke’s account of this sermon Peter was stating a truth that was obvious, not just to the apostles, but to all in the audience. Those in Jerusalem had been witness to Jesus’ life, His works, and His death. Most importantly, over 500 of them had witnessed Jesus walking among them after His resurrection. This blunt reminder of what they themselves had seen and done compelled more than 3,000 of them to become Christians that day. On another occasion Peter would tell those in the house of Cornelius:
And we are witnesses of all that He did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised Him on the third day and made Him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (Acts 10:39-43).
Many years later Peter would write to those who had never seen Jesus, but had believed the testimony about Him:
Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look (I Peter 1:8-12).
To their generation things prophesied in the past, things previous generations had longed to see, had been revealed. Things such as what was written hundreds of years before by Isaiah:
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of My people? (Isaiah 53:1-8).
King David would also prophesy of his descendent: “For dogs encompass Me; a company of evildoers encircles Me; they have pierced My hands and feet— I can count all My bones— they stare and gloat over Me; they divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots” (Psalm 22:16-18). Jesus, Himself, would speak of His own death, saying, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:46-48), and again, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).
In his gospel account Matthew would remember Jesus’ ministry, writing, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised (Matthew 16:21). For today’s scoffers who see many tele-evangelists making millions of dollars proclaiming their version of Christianity, they should understand this of the apostles, and other first century Christians— They had nothing to gain from their claims. There was no fame and fortune waiting for them. In fact, they were putting their lives on the line in teaching the messiahship of Jesus (Acts 4:1-22; 17:1-9), and eventually many of them would be put to death for their beliefs.
The early Christians were true believers, and based their hope not on a lie they were persuaded to believe, but on what they themselves had seen with their own eyes, or based on trusted eyewitness accounts. According to Peter:
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:16-21, see also John 12:27-32).
The first century Christians trusted their own senses and the word of men and women who were putting their lives in jeopardy for their faith, with the hope of an eternal reward for themselves and all who would accept the word they were teaching (II Peter 1:3-4), based again on what they knew to be fact, as John wrote:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (I John 1:1-3).
Their testimonies of the life of Christ and all that they had seen reflected Christ’s own claims: “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20; see also John 12:46-48; 5:26-29).
According to these witnesses the followers of Christ are to proclaim Him as the world’s savior. A savior who is willing to forgive the sins of all who will come to Him and submit to His commands until the end of the age, when the universe as we know it will be destroyed and a day of judgment will come, after which new heavens, and a new earth will be established for His followers, and a place of punishment reserved for those who deny Him (II Peter 3:10-13; II Corinthians 5:10; Matthew 25:31-34, 46).
Even with death staring them in the face many of these saints refused to relent and deny the Lord. As Paul noted, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered" (Romans 8:36). They were martyred by the sword, by the cross, and by lions in the coliseum. But they are not to be pitied. The writings passed down by many of them demonstrate men of sound mind and clear vision. They were not deluded or deceived. Rather they observed and weighed the evidence and came to a reasoned conclusion, and passed their knowledge on to us. And what they have given us is the truth. Moreover, that truth is worth all that we have to possess it, even our lives.
By Roland W. Keith
According to the Oxford dictionary a blessing is “God’s favor and protection.” For those of us well-versed in the Bible that understanding probably seems rather narrow and inadequate. In the Old Testament the Lord told Abram: "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:1-3). Blessings from the Lord go far beyond mere favor and protection. God’s blessing of Abraham encompassed not only one man’s life, but ultimately all of mankind throughout history. Those blessings rest upon me even as I sit here and write. So, the first thing to note about God’s blessings is how great they are. The second thing to note is that they are often accompanied with a curse or down-side.
When we read of God’s promised blessings in the Bible we learn of the conditional nature of God’s promises. Abram had to leave his country and kindred and travel to an unknown land to receive his blessing. Later God would tell Abraham’s descendants: "See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28; see also 28:1-2). For the nation of Israel God’s blessings required obedience to His commands; failure to obey resulted in forfeiture of the blessings and a curse.
In his gospel account John wrote, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). No blessing that God bestows is greater than this. The Holy Father sent His Son to earth to live in the squalor of life that man had created in order to lead him out of that life into one holy and everlasting. However, with the blessing came a curse: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16; see also John 3:18). As Paul explained this reconciliation to the Ephesians:
For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:14-19).
Through the blood of Jesus all men, both Jew and Gentile, have been brought together in one body, out from under the burdensome “law of commandments expressed by ordinances” and placed within the law of grace. Yet, as with those bound by the old covenant those under the new testament are still under a requirement to obey God’s commands. We have come out from under the Law of Moses to live under the law of the Spirit of life to our everlasting advantage, nonetheless, we must still act in obedience to our Lord (I John 2: 3-4; 5:2-3). To submit our will to God’s is no more than God is due, and the benefits of His grace and our obedience are beyond measure. As Paul wrote, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace,” and “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will”
(Ephesians 1:7, 11).
God has opened the gates of heaven to all who will come to Him through His Son Jesus Christ, but for those who refuse that offer there is a cost to pay, as Jesus proclaimed, “So everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33). How do we compare the blessings God is offering to the curse of denying Him? As someone once said, “when we put our faith in God we have everything to gain and nothing to lose, but if we deny God we have nothing to gain and everything to lose.” Each of us is being offered a priceless and eternal gift, but it is a blessing we cannot receive unless we come to Jesus, as Luke wrote, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). As Ananias asked Paul, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). Won’t you accept God’s blessings?
by Roland W. Keith
Are you a moral person? Most of us certainly think of ourselves as such. But on what do we base that opinion? Various nations, cultures, religious groups, and social organizations throughout history have had quite different ideas on what a moral person looks like. Principles of right and wrong have varied widely, and standards of right behavior seem to shift as often as the wind. On what is your doctrine or basic law of moral conduct, that is acceptable behavior, based? Is it the writings of an elitist eighteenth-century philosopher? The latest and greatest self-help guru? The present day what-ever-makes-me-feel-good, what-ever-appeals-to-me philosophy? Or is it something more substantial? More stable, time tested and true?
For the Christian morality is based on sound doctrine. And, sound doctrine is the immutable word of God. As the apostle Paul wrote his young protégé, Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16, 17). Our morality, properly understood, is based on the righteousness of God, to be clearly distinguished from the self-righteousness often exhibited by those who try to persuade us to compromise our values to accommodate their behavior. To them we are wise to reply according to the words of Solomon: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
This understanding, then, requires the one who would follow Christ to turn away from previous held philosophies and behaviors in order to conform to the will of God, as Paul wrote the Ephesians:
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:17-32).
According to Paul this sound doctrine requires us to be sober-minded, self-controlled, sound in faith, love, and steadfastness. Additionally, Christians are to be reverent, truthful, kind, and pure. Moreover, we are to be involved in the proper instruction of our young, modeling good works, integrity and dignity (Titus 2:1-7). Not only are we to model right behavior among one another, but we are to be an example to all around us (Matthew 5:16). We must also practice what we preach in truth and fairness, not unduly burdening those who are subject to our authority (Matthew 23:2-4). And, always we are to be not only fair in authority, but honest when we are in subjection to another (Titus 2:9, 10).
For the Christian a moral life, based on the Bible, is an imperative driven by the promises God has made to man by His grace (Ephesians 2:8, 10), and made sure through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. As Paul stated:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).
Through the teaching of, and adherence to, the doctrine of God we are taught to: “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age (Titus 2:12, 14). Jesus warned:
Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, “My master is delayed,” and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 24:42-51).
By comprehending God’s truth, we come to a state of vigilance in which we are determined to obey the commands of our King in upright living, always prepared for and awaiting His return (Matthew 25:1-13). Unlike that of the world’s, the moral base for the Christian is certain, immutable, established in perfect equality, reason, justice, and truth. And that truth is established in this one fact: “that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (I John 5:20).
By Roland W. Keith
What is God’s plan to save man? And, why bother saving him at all, considering his attitude and actions? The answer to the second question is answered by Jesus in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (also, Romans 5:8, ESV). The Father sent His Son to earth to redeem mankind, and the Son came to do His Fathers bidding, of His Own free will. He came to earth to fulfill the Law and Prophets, to live a life of perfect obedience to His Father and then at the appropriate time to lay His perfect life down in propitiation for the sins of imperfect man.
When Christ rose from the grave in victory He made it possible for man to be reconciled to God through His blood. As Paul told the Colossians, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His Beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14; also, Acts 20:28). His victory over death made it possible for God to put into action the rest of His plan to save man. A plan that is based on the gospel.
Paul told the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16; also, James 1:21). The power of God’s plan is based on the truth of the gospel, which is the story of Jesus— Who He is, what He accomplished, and what must be done for man to find reconciliation with God. In the gospel accounts Jesus made it clear that the offer of salvation has been extended to all men, saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30; also Romans 1:16; Revelation 22:17). To be saved we must believe the gospel and come to Christ.
As Paul explained to the Romans:
For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10: 13-15, 17).
To ensure that men everywhere would hear the gospel and be given a chance to accept Christ Jesus gave His followers directions that have become known as the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-16). We, as Christians, have been tasked with carrying God’s word out into the world and giving our fellow man the opportunity of knowing Jesus Christ. Those who hear the word and accept it are likened to a wise man, those who reject God’s word are likened to a foolish man (Matthew 7:24-27). When we hear the word of God each of us must decide for ourselves what we will do with it.
Many will believe, but many others will reject the truth. However, even among those who believe, not all will have the faith they need to do the will of God. Under Moses the Israelites knew God existed, but demonstrated unbelief in not trusting Him to fulfill His promises (Hebrews 3:7-15). To receive the reward of heaven we must trust God. As Paul wrote, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6; also, John 20:30-31). Once we have determined that the gospel is true we must be willing to confess Christ as Savior: “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10; also Matthew 10:32-33).
After we have confessed Christ we must also repent of, or turn away from, our sins, as Jesus said, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:3; also Acts 3:19; 17:30). Upon confession we must then submit to baptism. This step is a point of contention for many who seek God, however, in response to the crowd’s question on the Day of Pentecost: “Brothers what shall we do?” Peter response is definitive: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). This is the same instruction that Ananias gave to Paul, who had sat and prayed for three days without having his sins forgiven or being saved: “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16; also Mark 16:16; I Peter 3:21). So, what is the result of both believing and being baptized? Luke wrote, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41, also 2:47).
To be saved we must hear the word of God. We must believe it and respond to it by coming forward to confess Christ before man (Matthew 10:32-33). We must repent of our sins and turn from our sinful lives. We must submit to baptism to have our sins forgiven. At this point we are added to the body of Christ (Acts 2:41; Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27; I Corinthians 12:13). After all this there is something more we must do— we must remain faithful to the end (Matthew 10:22; also, Revelation 2:10). For those who are faithful throughout life there is the reward of a place in heaven (Colossians 3:24; Hebrews 10:35; II Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10).
By Roland W. Keith
Have you ever had a hard time of letting go of something negative someone said about you, or did to you? Holding a grudge seems to be a natural reaction to being wronged (or in some cases simply having the perception we were wronged). What is the benefit of bearing a grudge? Its aggravating, time-consuming, distracting, and the longer we let it fester the worse it gets. Like a virus that left untreated will spread through the body, anger and grudge-bearing left unchecked will spread through our hearts and minds until it has control of our thoughts and actions. In both fiction and real-life we can find stories of how anger that is allowed to run out of control can affect an individual and then spread to others. Everybody knows the story of the Montagues and Capulets (as in Romeo and Juliet). Or, for real-life drama, how about the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s? As these stories illustrate allowing anger to control us only leads to divisiveness, hatred, and disaster.
It is possible to be justified in our anger, but even then we must keep it under good regulation. As Paul wrote, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27). One of the best ways to maintain control over anger is learning how to exercise the virtue of forgiveness. Forgiving doesn’t mean we can forget what made us angry, it means we don’t hold the other person to account, we let it go, we don’t exact some form of personal punishment or revenge for what was done. It is a good thing to learn and do, for if we refuse to forgive others we cannot expect forgiveness for our wrongs either. As Jesus taught, “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” (Matthew 6:14-15).
It is a good thing for us to remember that while only some of us are saints (by virtue of Jesus’ blood), we are all sinners. As Paul told the Romans, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That means that without forgiveness we are all in a rather precarious position, for as Paul also informed the Romans, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Thankfully, if we will turn back and repent of our sins (Acts 3:19), we will receive “the free gift of God [which] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
God’s willingness to forgive is not only something for us to seek and be thankful for, it is something we should also emulate in our interactions with others (sometimes even ourselves). Because of the covenant God has made with man, if a lost sinner is willing to repent of his sins God will forgive him, as Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Afterwards, as His children we can continue to find forgiveness when we fail, as noted by John: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
Knowing that we can find redemption even with all our shortcomings should be a great joy (and relief) for all of us. It should also compel us to develop a forgiving spirit within ourselves. Consider the example that Jesus set as He hung in pain on the cross. Luke recorded Jesus prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). How easy would it be for one of us to forgive another guilty of wrongfully taking our life, as they did it? This would be, I think for most of us, a hard thing to do. However, Stephen did emulate his Master as he was being stoned (Acts 7:59-60). Both the examples of Jesus and Stephen teach just how far we are to go in forgiving others. Moreover, these are not just accounts to marvel at, but exemplars to live by. Peter wrote: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps” (I Peter 2:21).
How can we cultivate a forgiving mindset? One way is by studying the Bible and all its examples and teachings regarding forgiveness. Then we must determine to make only necessary judgments according to the word, and its directions for our lives. Then we must follow the words of Jesus, Who said: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:36). The measure we use will be used for or against us. Do you want your actions judged fairly? To be treated with due respect? To have your life’s achievements and failures accounted honestly? If that is what we want for ourselves, it is what we must do for others (Matthew 7:12).
James taught that we must be willing to confess our sins to one another, and to pray for each other (James 5:16). It is not always easy to do either of these things. Therefore, to achieve a forgiving heart we must develop certain attitudes and attributes, such as Paul listed for the Colossians: “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:12-13). We can add to this these additional words from Paul: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). In the end, as Christians, we forgive because it is the right thing to do. We forgive because God has forgiven us, and for us to do any less would be to fail in our efforts to live a Christ-like life.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.