'Cross' has to be an experience to live out every day. It's not some story; it has to be an experience of what Jesus did for us. It is something that should keep us alive as Christians, nothing else. The only thing that keeps us alive as a Christian is that, we are saved. We are Christians only by His grace. Our sins were forgiven when we got baptized.
And the only thing that is going to keep us going for the rest of our life, if God willing, is that experience of forgiving. That experience of God taking away all our sin. He cleansed us, purified us, washed us and renewed us. He put a new spirit in us. He gave us a new purpose. He gave us a new life. He gave us a new hope. He gave us a reason to live, one day to go to heaven, being one with him forever. That is why we all hold on to our faith.
Are we enjoying our Christian life, are we enjoying the fellowship? Why are we not enjoying if we are not enjoying? What is hurting us? What is bothering us? What comes our way to enjoy the relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters? Or do we feel a wall between us and God? We know what a wall is?
Sometimes when you have problem with husband or wife you feel there is a wall between both of you. I am saying something but he/she is rebounding back and he/she is not getting across and you feel there is a wall. And when there is a wall between both of you, you just can't get through. You can't feel close. You can't enjoy your relationship. You can't be united. You can't be happy. Isn't that true, it is still between both of us. When there is a wall the only thing that bonds us is, when you break that wall. So that you can have honest communication, relationship, you can listen to each other so that you can forgive each other.
Is there a wall between us and God? What should be the reason? There are two main reasons.
1. Sometimes it is our sin. Sin creates a wall and Bible says in Isaiah there is a wall between us and God. What is that wall made of - 'sin'?
1 Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.
2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
2. And the other reason there is a wall is, sin of others. When others sin against you, you face a wall between you and the other person and even between you and God.
You got to ask your self what is hindering you? How are you dealing with it? Are you dealing with this wall that you are facing in your life? How serious are you in dealing with this wall? Sometimes we know there is a wall and we keep the wall growing, becoming stronger, putting more bricks, putting more concrete in it so it can never be broken. We just don't take the heart and the seriousness to deal with the wall. We destroy our faith, our precious faith, more precious than the gold. It is much, much precious than all gold put together in the entire world.
Our faith is much more precious than the gold that we all give so much value to. So the good news in the Bible is God always shows a way out whatever trails and struggles we are going through, whatever wall we are facing. The Bible says God will always give you a way out of any struggles, any pain, any wall that you are facing. That's the promise of God.
So when it is our sin that is blocking our relationship with God and holding us in enjoying our Christian life then we have to deal with that sin. We have to confess our sin. We have to repent of our sin before God. We have to ask forgiveness from God and from others and restore our fellowship with God and others that is what we got to do. The beauty of fellowship and our family group that we are part of it helps us to talk and share our heart with one another and disciple each other, teach each other and instruct each other. Why? Because God knows we on our own cannot deal with the mess in our life. We need some body.
God sends some one to guide us that is why it is so important to be part of a small group and fellowship. We call it a family group, house church or even bible talk. Why we need to attend? Not just to come and show our face and go, for us to enjoy the fellowship. And we can share honestly with brothers and sisters in the group and we can take help with the sin in our life that is burdening us, that builds the wall.
Sin of others affects most of the people. When sin of others, what does it do to you? The number one debate of Satan, the trap of Satan, destroys people's faith in the fellowship, in their life is the sin of others. Why do people leave the church? Think about it, the same reason why people walk out of the marriage. Why do people walk out of marriage? Why do children walk out of the house? Why do people resign from work? Why? Somebody hurt them. Isn't it that is the number one reason, even in the church!
And we think it is a normal thing, we think it is an acceptable thing. Okay just like that it happened in the world it happened in the church. No church is the place where we need to deal with it in a godly way. We can deal with it in the world too because this is part of life. Others will sin against us, why? We all fall into sin and we are living together. We are trying to make things work and we are going to hurt one another. We do some thing knowingly or unknowingly, purposely not purposely whatever it may be but we have to face it. We have to learn to deal with it because the number one reason people leave the church, even God because they get offended. To be continued.... 1. Offences Will Come 2. What You Give Is What You Receive.
1. Offences Will Come
1 Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.
2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
3 So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.
4 If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."
5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"
We are living in a dream world saying no body is going to offend us; nobody is going to hurt us in the church. We are living in a dream world, why? It is impossible. Jesus says we will be offended. Somebody is going to step on our toe someday. If it didn't happen today or yesterday it is going to happen tomorrow. We will be offended. Things like that will come. And the Greek word for offence or things that cause people to sin is the word called 'scandalon', what is scandalon? Scandalon is basically that part of a trap, in the rat trap there is a little part that is very sensitive. The place we tie the food for the rat to come and eat. It has to be kept open. The rat has to simply touch the sensitive place where the food is attached to the little part that is so sensitive. If we touch it the spring will come off. Then immediately it shuts and it traps the rat. That part of the rat trap that is so sensitive, that gives way to trap the rat is called scandalon.
In different version that little word is translated differently. In other words it means 'fall away'. Jesus is saying blessed are those who don't fall away on account of me. The word is 'scandalon'. So here basically we are trapped, the way Satan traps is through this scandalon, he is just waiting for us to get offended, for us to get hurt, for somebody to hurt us. Then what happens, we get hurt? What we are supposed to do when we are hurt? We are supposed to forgive the other person isn't it? So what does Satan say? Don't forgive; it is wrong what the other person has done. Let the other person better repent and say sorry. Ask for forgiveness or pay back for what the other person has done and then we will feel better. That is how we deal with it. We get bitter and we become unforgiving.
When we have this sin of unforgiveness or when we get offended and if we keep that offence in our hearts we develop bad fruits in our Christian life. We are supposed to produce good fruits, the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, etc. But instead of that what becomes our fruit? Anger, rage, malice, jealousy, resentment, bitterness, quarrel and hatred. All these fruit are result of what? Offence, that some body hurt me. And that is the number one trap of Satan.
Sometimes we walk inside the church saying, 'what a loving church'; 'every one is perfect' isn't it? we feel that way in the beginning. It's like our family, initially all the kids in their family thinks that their mother and father are perfect. Then they get little older and become pre- teens age oh! My father is not the way I thought he is. My mom has got some problems here. Isn't it? And that is the truth with every one, any family. We come to Gods family, same thing we think in the beginning. Every thing is perfect! What an incredible leader we have in the church. Look at the brothers and sisters, they are so loving. They call me every day; they always reach out to me.
It is just like dating. We are getting to know about your wife or husband that's how we feel, what a perfect human being. After getting married then we think, oh my God there is some major problems here. That is natural. We are living in a dream world. If we are totally in love with somebody we will think that she or he is totally perfect. The one who is experienced in marriage will think, wait for few more months after marriage then they will figure it out. Why? We think its not going to happen to us and so we are not prepared spiritually as we become Christians and live out a Christian life. How are we going to face this offence? And when offences come people are just blown away and many of them leave.
I can't bare this, I thought all are perfect and you are a perfect church and you all are super loving and kind. Now all of them become very busy and have things to do. Taking care of their family and taking care of their children and don't attend my call and you don't do this and you don't do that, you don't follow up.
We just get all mixed up and we don't realize that we got offended and we think how dare that they offend me. So we feel we have right to do what ever we want, to walk out of the relationship, to walk out of the friend ship, walk out of the marriage and even walk out of the church and even sometimes walk out of God. We think God has offended us. He has not answered our prayers. He has not loved us.
I really prayed to him saying if you are really God give me this job. If you are really God you should pull me out of this sin. If you are really God you have to rescue me from this terrible situation I am in and the terrible storm I am in. God I am sorry to say that you didn't answer my prayers and I don't believe that you are there so I am walking out. This is the number one problem and reason why people leave God and they don't hold on to their faith and they fall. Satan has found a best way to trap us all.
We will be offended. Jesus is talking to his own disciples; suppose a person offends you seven times in a day and seven times he comes and tells you I repent what you should do? Forgive now in this case the person is repenting seven times. It's good if somebody is repenting seven times, but would we have that much patience to endure seven times offence. Seven times in a day if the person comes and says sorry, would that make us happy? May be not. We will be saying like, you should have repented the first time why you are repeating? But Jesus is making some thing very clear here. So we have to learn to deal with it in a very godly way.
There are two categories of offended people.
1. First category are those have being treated unjustly, truly being treated unjustly.
2. The second categories are the people who believe that they are being treated unjustly they are not being treated unjustly but they just feel they have being treated unjustly, because they judge by assumption and appearance. Did they treat you like that; you are just waiting for some body else to get offended for you to get offended. Somebody is getting offended why are you offended? That's our human sinful nature we just go on with the tide if everybody in the church is offended. I am also offended if every body is hurting and throwing stones on the leaders. I should also throw stones on the leaders, if everybody is accusing, we also should join the party of accusation. No, this is about our heart and these are the two kinds of people.
So what we do when we feel like we are offended? We blame, we point a finger and accuse and then we condemn. Who accuses according to the Bible- Satan. Satan is an accuser and he is the one who condemns. What did Jesus come for, John 3 for God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son to do what? He came to save the world not to condemn the world. Jesus never came to condemn us. He came to save.
How come as Christians we are condemning each other? Some of us we think that's how we are called to do - no, we are called to imitate Jesus. We are called to forgive just like He forgave us. He calls us to forgive. Some of us feel we have the right to condemn because some body offended, somebody hurted us. Some body has to pay the price. No, Jesus paid the price and Jesus came to save the world. He did not come to accuse and point the finger at you. He came to lift that accusing finger and to give you a new life that is why Jesus came.
Church is not perfect. Bible says every church is imperfect that is why letters were written to the churches. If we read the letters what does the letters contain all the problems in the church. Every letter, Corinthian letter, Roman, Ephesians, Galatians, personal letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon all dealing with mess.
Somehow we think our church should be perfect. It will never be perfect. We know who will be perfect only Jesus. The only thing that is going to remain perfect all our life is Jesus, because the Bible says, that Jesus is the same yesterday today and for ever. If our foundation is church then we are going to get offended because that is not going to be stable because we are the church. If we are not stable as Christians, church is not going to be stable, But who is stable, who is the same, Jesus, yesterday today and forever.
Foundation has to be built, our Christian faith has to be built on Christ. No other foundation is going to survive because times are going to come, it is going to beat on our house that we are building on. If we are not going to build on the solid foundation the rock Jesus, we will fall. Guess what foundation is the church built on. If the church foundation is not Christ it is going to fall. If it's built on leader, if it's built on relationship, that's not gong to last long. When one person becomes unloving, that's all finished.
The church is just us not the leadership, we are part of the same church and we have to realize that our foundations has to be Christ, no other foundation we should build it on. If we have built it on any other foundation, if we have become Christian for any other reason, God is going to shake it so that He can test us what we are really built it on. He is going to fire at us. He is going to make us to walk through fire and find out what are we really made of. If we are made of any other material it is going to get burnt and gone. If our foundation is not the truth of Christ, Christ being the center of our faith, life and hope then we are going to fall.
2. What You Give Is What You Recieve
We live in a culture where we don't mean what we say. We say some thing and people take it for granted. Our boss is telling us that we will be fired if we come late tomorrow. And then we say, our boss keeps saying this. But the next day we get a letter that we are fired from the job. And we say what! I thought he was joking, he had a smile on his face when he told me yesterday. That's the problem they just say something they just don't care about it. That is what the world, nobody means what they say. We say, 'We will do this for you' and we make lot of promises and we don't really keep it. We made lot of promise when we got married but we don't keep many of them. We keep breaking the promises.
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."
14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
There is a conditional statement. Only if we forgive other peoples offence then our heavenly father will forgive us. Jesus means what He says, we are the one who take it lightly. We think He keeps saying many things. No Jesus is not another human being. Jesus is Lord. That is why we worship him. He means what He says. If we don't forgive men when they hurt us He will not forgive us.
What did Jesus teach us to pray? Mathew 6:12 forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. The way we should pray is, as we forgive our sinners we are also going to be forgiven, we also need your forgiveness that is the prayer Jesus did. There is no other option. Jesus is not saying, its okay even if we don't forgive. Its true some may really hurt us, they really abused us, tortured us, they didn't care for us. They promised us many things but they didn't keep up to it. So we have every right to keep up that offence against them. Jesus is not going to say it's been really hard for you, keep that offence in your heart its okay. No, Jesus is not going to say that. Jesus is saying, "what you give is what you are going to receive if you are not going to be forgiving somebody else you don't expect that from God".
How many of us want God to forgive us the same way we have forgiven those who have offended us. Would you like that to happen? No. We don't want God to treat us the way we treat other people. We give all excuses saying you don't understand how this person behaved with me it's terrible and we have all records of wrong against the person who hurt us. But God, I need your forgiveness, God, I am a terrible person I need your forgiveness. How dare we ask God?
God is willing to clear all our offences and many more to come in future. Jesus cleared them all, billions of offences what you have done against God. Jesus is willing to clear. But we hold on to some little thing that others do against us and we expect God to forgive us even though we don't want to forgive. Do not expect that from God what we give is what we will receive.
Mathew 18 the parable of unmerciful servant. V. 21 Peter came to Jesus and asked God how many times I should forgive my brother? Peter remembered Jesus telling if some body sins against you seven times forgive him seven times. Peter must have thought, Jesus must have got impressed with me. I remember the scriptures He taught me. Jesus said no, not seven times brother but seventy-seven times or seventy times seven. So Peter must have been shocked. To explain about forgiveness Jesus tells a story of an unmerciful servant. Here was a master, he had two servants and one of the servant owed the other person lot of money, approximately five billion dollars worth today. Imagine we owing five billion dollar that's a lot of money. Now master is expecting to pay back. That's what God expects. God will judge us and He wants us to pay back. But we go to him and say God we cannot pay back there is so much of debts. There is no way I can pay back, please have mercy on me.
V.27 the master had pity on him and cancelled the debt, that is forgiveness. Forgiveness is canceling all the debt. What is debt means? You owe me something back, you owe an apology, you owe an understanding of my pain, and you owe an acknowledgment of what you have done to me. That is pay back. That is the debt we expect somebody to owe. Till this we expect sorry from the person who treated us bad. When God cleared our debt he expected nothing from us - no pay back. When we expect pay back in any form even an acknowledgment of somebody else coming and asking apology - that is not forgiveness. Forgiveness is we cancel all debts just like Jesus did for us. He cancelled every debt. Do we expect any pay back from them, any acknowledgment, any sorry, any way, that they had to clear their debt any way they need to come back and acknowledge and say I realize now. Or we expect them to go through some suffering then we feel better. If that's how our heart is then you haven't understood forgiveness. That's what I realized, I did not understand forgiveness till I got to understand this parable.
This parable explained what true forgiveness is - canceling of all debts. Can we look at our brother and a sister in our church, in our fellowship, family group, our husband or wife and say I cancelled all debt? You owe me a lot but I cancelled - can we release them, can we release them from the prison of our heart. Forgiveness is nothing we have to pay back, every thing is cancelled, all debts are canceled and that is how we can truly enjoy our Christian life. We may struggle to forgive. That's why we have fellowship. We can talk to brothers and sisters. We can talk to the leaders who can guide us through the process of forgiveness. People would have hurt, we don't know how to forgive, and we don't know how to handle it. That is where through the power of prayer and fellowship we can guide and help each other. That is the Bible and church is all about, to guide and help out each other to make it to heaven one day. We all need to go to heaven but this is where the process helps, we need each other to get there. May God help us to forgive others as God himself has forgiven us!