The Miracle of Yahweh's Forgiveness
Part 3: The Relationship to Truth
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 29 January 2005
Click here for Part 2
Last week we saw how important to eternal life - now and in the eternities - forgiving others is if we desire to be forgiven by Yahweh Himself. But how do we actually go about this? How do we forgive others? Is it simply a mental attitude, or is it something that must penetrate our whole hearts? If so, how? What are we supposed experience? How can we know we have forgiven in the way that Yahweh expects of us? Is saying, "I forgive you" enough? What precisely are the processes involved?
If we believe that forgiveness is one of the cornerstones of the Christian faith then we dare not get it wrong. So I am going to make some far-reaching statements which I hope will give you all much to chew on. You will need to carefully test what I have said against Scripture and make it a matter of earnest prayer. Much of it is common sense and I hope the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) will bear testimony to you as I speak to you now.
The apostle Paul says: "Faith is the substance (assurance) of things hoped for, and the conviction (evidence) of things not seen" (Heb.11:1, NKJV) Since everything we do is by faith, and since forgiveness is by faith in the miraculous life-transforming power of the resurrected Christ, then clearly we need to understand what faith is first of all.
I want you to especially notice that Paul speaks of 'substance' in regard to what we hope for, and 'conviction' in regard to that which we can't see. This word for 'substance', hupostasis, also carries the sense of 'confidence' and 'assurance'. So if I say one thing and feel another, I can truthfully say that I do not have real confidence in what I am saying. And if I do not have confidence, I am not really exercising faith. Paul also talks about 'conviction' - we need to be convinced in heart and mind that we have actually forgiven, and are not simply indulging in wishful thinking or word-play. If our emotions do not agree with thoughts and words, then we do not really believe what we have said. Our emotional state will always reveal the truth of what we believe. If I say that I believe it is safe to ski and yet feel panic as soon as I am on skis and skiing, then I really do not have faith that skiing is safe. It's not enough to put the skis on and claim that I have faith. I have put skis on before but I have never been skiing! My putting on skis was a choice, and had someone ordered me to do it, then my action would have been an act of obedience. But no amount of obedience is going to make me have faith. And if we are honest about this, brethren, much of what we do in our Christian lives is more
a matter of choice and obedience than true faith. I can get on those skis and ski down a slope but so long as I am in panic I am not exhibiting, let along experiencing, true faith.
Don't for one minute think that I am saying obedience is unimportant. You all know what Yah'shua (Jesus) and the apostles taught about obedience. Our obedience is the evidence of our love and trust. But no amount of obedience can ever substitute for faith. I can go up to someone and say, "I forgive you," but if it is apart from faith, it will not be true forgiveness, because I have done so without any real spiritual substance - without assurance or confidence. Faith, on the other hand, is the assurance of the outcome. Obedience is good, but obedience with faith is far, far better. Yes, obedience can establish our faith but it can never complete it. Obedience can show to us that Yahweh is faithful and that can, in its turn, inspire more faith.
How many times did Yah'shua (Jesus) say to His disciples: "O you of little faith!" (e.g. Mt.6:30). Quite a few times, in fact. Why is it we lack faith? Is it because we don't have enough facts at our fingertips? Not at all! Faith is not knowledge! That is a false route to salvation called Gnosis. A lack of faith is a lack of trust - of confidence in what Yah'shua (Jesus) tells us. It is amazing, if you think about it, that the disciples had witnessed so many miracles, and yet when it came to the incident of the storm on the Sea of Galilee, their faith deserted them. And not just then. Our faith is not based on our knowledge. I have met professors of theology at Oxford who knew their Bibles inside out, who know every sentence construction, every nuance, and can recite the original texts in Hebrew to you, and who have no faith. For them it is man-made literature. Faith is a question of attitude and confidence toward Yahweh. We can have our brains jammed full of knowledge, but what makes a man or woman right with Yahweh is whether he has faith or not.
The apostle James said that faith without works or deeds is useless (Jas.2:14ff). True faith always results in genuine obedience, namely, following Torah. There are plenty of Christians who have 'faith', as they suppose, but don't do what Yahweh tells them. Yah'shua (Jesus) says that He disowns such people. But similarly works without faith are dead also, because where there is no faith there is only fear. Fear is the absence of faith. Yahweh wants us to obey in faithful confidence and we can only do that when the grounds for our fears have been healed.
Walking in true faith is not denying or repressing feelings. That is not Christian faith - actually, it is belief in a lie. It is not enough to pray the 'Sinner's Prayer' and walk away. I don't know how many people who have made a profession of faith with their lips and yet their hearts are far removed from any actual meeting with Yah'shua (Jesus). Such is more a vain hope that reciting words will change everything - this, brethren and sisters, is occultism, because it implies that certain words are a magical power of sorts. The Sinner's Prayer only has an effect if it is prayed with real conviction from the heart - otherwise it is vain. That is why so many death-bed confessions are quite useless - they are prompted more by fear and panic than anything else. True conversion must involve the heart and the feelings but the feelings must not be the principle thing. That which liberates the unsaved sinner is always the truth, and the truth - when it is grasped - opens the mind to understanding and releases joy in the heart.
True forgiveness always beings release in mind and heart. However, a false theology has arisen based on a faulty understaning of Paul who said to the Romans: "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus) our Lord" (Rom.6:11, NKJV). Many have assumed that the word 'reckon' here means to 'pretend' or 'act' as though our sin has been washed away. Many believe that by being baptised that their sins are gone even if their hearts are as dead before baptism as afterwards. This is nonsense. You can pretend as much as you like that your sins are gone, or that you have forgiven someone of a tresspass, but if your heart is still dark, cold and bitter, then I guarantee that you remain in your sins. This kind of faith is called 'positive thinking' but I guarantee that it is not saving faith. The faith that saves is the faith that opens the mind and heart to a transformation in Christ. So what did Paul mean to "reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Messiah Yah'shua"? Simply, if you have met the living Christ in your mind and heart - in your whole nefesh or soul - don't go and act as though He hasn't! Believe your original salvation - count yourselves still alive, and continue in such.
It is true, of course, that the heart is terribly deceptive, but that does not mean that Yah'shua (Jesus) cannot transform it and make our feelings pure and holy, stemming from truth. When such feelings are truth-based, they are a part of our spiritual radar-system. Women who are purified in truth are much more feeling-based than men and can often receive revelation in this manner. But if the heart is dirty, then false revelation is bound to follow. Men are much more thought-based but can also learn to listen to their feelings, for Yah'shua (Jesus) speaks through such when they are purified. A heart that is redeemed walks in perfect peace because it is moving along the track of Torah and knows the difference between truth-based and lie-based feelings.
Ed Smith says: "When truth is received in our experiential knowledge and the light drives out the lies which are causing our pain, we claim real faith. Genuine faith is a result of receiving truth in our innermost parts. Paul said it this way: "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!' But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom.10:14-18, NKJV) (Ed M. Smith, Beyond Tolerable Recovery, Alathia Publishing, 1999, p.241).
I want to also suggest to you today that no man is capable of truly forgiving another until he has faced trial, tribulation and pain in his life, and that this is one of the principle reasons Yahweh permits these things - because out of pain is born either hate or compassion. Pain is permitted to us so that we can choose the way of Yahweh or the way of Satan. I realise this may not be a popular thing to say, for by instinct we all want to flee from pain, but I would like to invite everyone to seriously consider the possibility that the reason we have been born into this world of suffering is not because God is capricious and uncaring but because He wants us to become like Him - compassionate! And we become compassionate by learning to choose love rather than hate when adversity comes our way. Both change the heart - one into a seathing mass of demonised, Luciferic energy seeking revenge and self-approbation, and the other into an ocean of holy love that delights to forgive and lead others into the freedom that forgiveness brings. And I want to suggest, moreover, that the Grand Key to the path that leads to love, compassion, and forgiveness is our willingness to embrace Truth. All goodness and love stems from truth. All pain, hurt and anger stems from Lies.
The Bible teaches us that we should pursue peace, but don't be deceived - this is not the counterfeit 'peace' that avoids problems by denying or suppressing them, but the shalom that comes when truth is embraced and loves fills the empty heart. Shalom rarely comes without conflict - the battle between the carnal and the spiritual. And those who truly forgive possess this shalom.
Why do you think that Paul said that as believers we "glory in tribulations" (Rom.3:5; Eph.3:13)? Was it because he loved pain and suffering? Was it because he was a masochist? By no means! Far from it! But he knew that this was Yahweh's refining agent that would allow his love and his faith to grow. Should we go looking for tribulation? No way! Only a lunatic would go courting trouble. But when Yahweh sends or permits trouble, it is always for a purpose, and there is always love behind it - indeed, that trouble has been permitted so that your faith can grow. For faith to grow and to produce the fruits of love and forgiveness, it must be tried in fire. The apostle Peter said:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), whom having not seen you love" (1 Peter 1:3-8, NKJV).
Faith goes through stages of growth. It begins untried, untempered, and untested when we first meet Yah'shua (Jesus). You might call that the 'honeymoon stage' of our relationship with Him. But then comes the reality of daily, practical 'married' life. That 'honeymoon stage' is the baby stage of our Christian life. Babies don't need to understand the purpose of their faith, they are just glad to have it and reap the benefits thereof. But faith was not given so that we could avoid tough times - faith is given to get us through the hard times and in the process bring us to spiritual maturity. And every time we come out on the right end of a trial, what is it that we gain? Faith and forgiveness! We become like gold refined in the fire (Rev.3:18).
Ed Smith tells the story of a woman who was brutally raped at gunpoint. She was, understandably, emotionally devastated from the experience. Her emotional system was ruined and she could not enjoy life. She reacted to her abuse with rage and bitterness. As she went through the Theophostic process all the hate, anger, rage, fear, shame and abandonment surfaced. After about ½ hour of confronting the lies in her belief system, that perfect shalom of Yah'shua (Jesus) entered her heart and all traces of negative emotions disappeared. Yes, she still retained some sadness but it was not for herself but for her rapist. Having obtained the shalom of Yah'shua (Jesus) she was able to see for the first time the loneliness and woundness in the man's soul that had brought him to such a terrible position that he felt he needed to violently abuse others.
Now what this woman was experiencing was true forgiveness. She needed no 'Sinner's Prayer', she didn't have to 'pretend' everything was fine. She was genuinely freed because she felt compassion for her abuser. She was able to see him as a wounded, damaged, lonely, and desperately hurting human being who did not know what he was doing. She was able to say with Yah'shua (Jesus) as He hung on the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34, NKJV).
Every human being, in his or hear heart of hearts, want to be loved and to love. I guarantee there has not been a living human being who does not, as his or her core, want that. The reason people sin and do dreadful things is because they have become wounded inside and rejected the way of love. They have allowed hate and lawlessness to enter them. They have, in a word, abandoned the truth.
I have stated it a hundred times, and I will probably state it as many times in the future, that the foundation of happiness is not love but truth because it is the truth that defines what true love is. The truth is, just as victims of rape like that woman get delivered by the truth of Yah'shua (Jesus), so too do the rapists themselves when they repent and turn to the same Saviour.
I am sure you all remember the parable that Yah'shua (Jesus) told wherein "the master of (the) servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt" (Matt.18:27, NKJV). Please notice that compassion preceeded forgiveness. It was an act of the heart. We can therefore restate that true forgiveness is a natural result of truth received and the presence of genuine compassion (Ed Smith, Ibid., p.242). These two ingredients are what is required to enable forgiveness to flow freely and effortlessly from the restored heart and mind of those who are wounded. True forgiveness never has to be forced because it comes from the heart where spontaneity dwells. The heart that cannot forgive freely and spontaneously remains wounded and poisoned.
I want to end today by bringing up a typical fruit of unforgiveness. I preached about this a couple of months ago (I Choose to Live - Part 4: Anger as a Tool of Manipulation and Redemption) but it is such an important topic that I am constrained by the Ruach (Spirit) to bring it up again. I speak of our old enemy, anger. As Christians we cannot afford to endulge the self or ego by grumbling and getting angry over an offense. Yahweh has only allowed us the capacity to be angry because it is an invaluable component of the passion that lies within us to do bold and mighty things. Any other anger is devilish. So once again I ask you, what is righteous anger? Righteous anger is holy anger like Yah'shua's (Jesus') that can be converted into spiritual energy to bring justice and deliverance to others. Anger is never an acceptable response to a personal affront. There is not a single example in the Bible where Yah'shua (Jesus) gave way to anger because someone had come against His self-desires or His self-interest. He was only ever angry at those who wished to hinder His Father's will and desecrate His Father's House.
Yah'shua (Jesus) knew that our carnal nature would occasionally surface and that there would be times when we would be angry. But He warned very strictly about giving room to such anger. Paul said: "Therefore, putting away lying, 'Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbour,' for we are members of one another. 'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil" (Eph 4:25-27, NKJV). Rather, He said, "be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph.4:23-24, NKJV). To not deal with anger immediately is to give the devil a foothold in your soul, and the longer he is allowed to stay there, the stronger that foothold will become, growing into a stronghold of anger and rage. There are time-limits in working out anger - until the next sunset! That means always within 24 hours. Remember that. So if you get angry in late afternoon, you'd better resolve it quickly! Just make sure you aren't prideful, indignant, angry, hurt, sullen or upset when night falls. If you do, guess who's coming in? Such feelings have to be loosed in Yah'shua (Jesus), and fast, because if they aren't, they will interfere with our spiritual feelings and corrupt the whole heart. If they are left in the heart, then we have a battle to fight against the devil, and I promise he won't give one inch of territory he has taken until you have repented. Go instead to Scripture, bind it to your heart and loose all your wrong attitudes, patterns of thinking, and any strongholds associated with them.
I like the prayer which Liberty Savard has written which is based on Psalm 119:165 and Proverbs 16:18 which I offer to us all now:
"Lord, Your Word says if I love You and am full of Your words, I will have great peace and nothing shall offend me. Well, we both know that I am pretty offended right now. Either I'm sadly lacking in Your words or my pride is getting mixed up in this. Either way, I'm at fault here. Your Word says pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit goes right before a fall. Father, I'm in enough trouble without destruction and a fall coming into my life. Forgive me for holding on to such feelings. Lord, I surrender this whole thing to You now." (Libery Savard, Shattering Your Strongholds, Bridge-Logos Publishers, Gainsville, FL, 1992, p.107).
Next week we will explore this in even greater depth. In the meantime, may the Lord of Love fill all our hearts and show us the way to perfect shalom. Amen.
Click here for Part 4
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