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Archive for October, 2014

Where Our Treasure Is

October 31st, 2014

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:21

Whatever we consider to be of value - whether money, friends, possessions, opportunity, abilities, or whatever - commands more than just our interest. Our minds become focused on it and our emotions become attached to it.

Often we realize only too late how precious something was to us - like the death of a close family member, or the loss of a son or daughter, makes us suddenly realize how precious this person was to our hearts, and makes us wish we had spent more time with them.

These words of Christ followed His warnings against hypocritical religious observances of His day, where someone prayed loudly to be heard of men, not of God, or fasted with moanings and groanings, so that others would notice him and say, “Oh, how devout he is!” Or gave in such a way that others would be impressed with him - not because he was moved with pity for the needy or with piety toward God. Such attitudes are common enough in our world as well, and must be constantly guarded against in our hearts.

So, what does the Christian cherish above all other things? The list would be long indeed, but certain things rise to the top.

First, the kingdom of God: His rule and reign in our lives and in the world, His will to be done on this earth as it is in heaven, and this includes that people may know of His love, that the gospel be preached and souls be saved and God be loved and His name be honored.

Second, we should love His Word: We cannot separate these things entirely from one another, for if we desire His kingdom to come, then it must come through the preaching and teaching of His Word. But we can tell if we love His Word by how much we depend on it, how much we read it and meditate on it.

Third, we should love His Church: Christians must love one another, and support one another. We often grow weary of putting up with the weaknesses found in the body of Christ, and we can take offense to criticisms and slights or even insults. But if we can see each believer and each fellowship as the redeemed of God, if we can understand that Christ died for them and loves them, if we will let the Spirit of Christ teach our hearts to love the things He loves, then we will see the treasure God has in each and in every church and Christian.

From these loves comes other loves - loving the world because of God’s love for the world, loving our family dearly because God has given them to us. Some do love pleasure too much, I am afraid. Some do love being the center of attention. Some do love praise and money and power. But we as followers of Christ are not to let these things capture our hearts.

J.P. Morgan was so wealthy that he had twice personally rescued the U.S. government from financial disaster. But he was also a man of faith, and placed in his last will and testament these opening lines that reveal where his treasure really was:

I commit my soul into the hands of my Saviour, in full confidence that having redeemed it in His most precious blood He will present it faultless before the throne of my Heavenly Father; and I entreat my children to maintain and defend, at all hazard, and at any cost of personal sacrifice, the blessed doctrine of complete atonement for sin through the blood of Jesus Christ, once offered, and through that alone.

Someone once said, “I don’t think I love money, but I really, really like it!” I suppose we all “like” money a lot - as well as many other things. But all of these competing “loves” and “likes” must be placed under the Lordship of Christ. He must come first, and He comes first in the sense that nothing else is second.

What about our spouses and our families? Good question. I have found that the more I love God the more love for my wife and children, and grandchildren and family, the Lord gives me. Loving God helps prioritize every other love in our life.

Sermon on the Mount , ,

Forgiveness for Us and for Others

October 27th, 2014

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Matthew 6:12

To forgive others! It is hard to imagine a more difficult standard of spirituality. You cannot live very long in this world without finding people who are against you, who hurt you, and who oppose you. And, being the humans we are, we will also do our own share of hurting others. Our only hope toward God is the grace and forgiveness we find in Christ. But the forgiveness we receive from God means that we may share that grace with one another.

We tend to magnify the offense of others toward us, and minimize our offense toward them. I recall a story I read several years back, of a British newspaper editor who had cruelly criticized a certain politician in an editorial on the front page of his paper. Later the editor ran into the politician in the men’s washroom, and said to him, “Sir, I have had time to think of my words against you in my paper, and they were mean-spirited and cruel, and here and now I apologize and ask your forgiveness.”

The politician replied, “Very well, sir, I accept your apology and you have my forgiveness, but next time I wish you would criticize me in the washroom and apologize on the front page of your paper.” It is a general rule of thumb that apologies should match the circle of knowledge of the offense.

The pledge to forgive others in the original text uses a different verb from the request for God to forgive us. It does not say that that God’s eternal forgiveness hangs upon our forgiveness of others. The prayer requests, Forgive me for my sins once and all - the verb is aorist in Greek emphasizing the “once for all” concept. But the pledge to forgive other is in a different verb form, As I forgive others who come across my paths in the future. That second verb of forgiveness is a continual action verb, present tense. We cannot at our salvation know all of the experiences we will have in the future, how we will hurt others or how they will hurt us. Only God can forgive once for all, because He knows the future as He knows the past, but for us who live one day at a time, forgiving others is a constant challenge set before us. The prayer is a statement of our intention to forgive others, as well as a cry for God’s help to us that we might do so.

As we read through this Matthew 6 passage we see Christ saying, “But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (6:15). The forgiveness spoken of here is not the forgiveness of our eternal salvation, for that matter is settled once we have trusted in Christ and become a new creature, a new member of God’s family. Rather this is the forgiveness of fellowship, and it means that the heavens will be closed off to us as long as we hold on to an unforgiving spirit. Matthew 18:21-35 describes unforgiveness like being in prison ourselves, and call us to forgive from our hearts one another.

If there is nothing so imprisoning to our souls as the spirit of unforgiveness, then there is nothing as liberating to our souls as the spirit of forgiveness. I do not think we can forgive like the Bible is speaking of here without the help of the Holy Spirit. Simple prayers, such as, “Lord, I am willing to be changed in this area - change my heart toward this person,” can be helpful. Or perhaps you are unwilling and can only pray, “Lord, I am willing to be made willing,” but that also gives the Spirit the opportunity to begin His work.

Forgiveness is not the acceptance of the sin of another against you - forgiveness recognizes that a wrong was committed - and forgiveness does not always mean re-instatement to a former position. Often the sin was of such a nature that things cannot go back to the way they were. Forgiveness does not always mean that we can trust the offender again, or that we must lay bear our souls to be hurt again. But forgiveness means that the anger and the hatred, the desire for revenge, has ended, that a second chance is at least possible - perhaps trust needs to be restored, and wounds may need some time to be healed, but forgiveness allows the relationship the possibility to be mended. Until we forgive another we are in a prison in our souls, the heavens are silent to us, but forgiveness liberates us, restores the relationship wiht God, and gives the possibility of restoring it with one another as well.

Sermon on the Mount