The Importance of Forgiving

3147461049_35b009962d_mJesus said in Matthew 6:12, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Forgiveness is what being a Christian is all about. There are basically three types of forgiveness that we need to apply to our lives—and each one is crucial in our walk with God. Continue reading

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You’re Not a Christian Just Because You Do Good Works

2142655281_596427963d_mThere are a lot of very nice people in the world who would not hesitate to help someone if they needed help or give them money or things if they needed it. Their actions are definitely driven by love, but that alone does NOT make them a Christian. Works by itself will NOT get you into Heaven.

People in general have a very poor understanding of what being a Christian means. Webster’s dictionary defines “Christian” as one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ”. And the Bible discusses this very belief in great detail.

To be a Christian, we must be followers of Christ, and to follow Christ we have to know Him, accept Him and love Him. After all, how can we follow a person that we don’t know or haven’t seen? John 3:1-5 Jesus explains how we can belong to the Kingdom of God.

“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

So what does it mean to be born again? How does that happen? Jesus said in Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Why do we need to be saved? And saved from what? To appreciate what salvation means, we need to go back in history and learn why Jesus had to come and die on the cross in the first place.

When God made Adam and Eve, He placed them in the Garden of Eden, 253599_552284874793005_1213668136_na land that was perfect in every way and that even in our most exaggerated thoughts we wouldn’t be able to imagine the beauty of it. It says in Genesis 3:8 that God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening, and He enjoyed their fellowship. It must have been absolutely awesome to have God come into their back yard and talk and laugh with them every day – but then, they were made without sin and so the garden was holy ground and God was able to go there.

God gave Adam one rule in Genesis 2:9 and that was to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil or else he would die. Adam had no intention of disobeying God because he loved Him, but Eve was tempted by the devil (Genesis 3:1-6) that came to her in the form of a serpent. She was convinced that they would become as smart as God and so she ate the fruit. It was delicious and she didn’t die so she  decided to share this with Adam. Unfortunately, Adam took his eyes off of God and put them onto his wife and ate of the fruit.

red guyTheir eyes were opened and they knew what good and evil were. Eve may have been deceived because God didn’t tell her directly, but Adam sinned because he disobeyed God. It’s interesting to note that instead of repenting and pleading with God, he blamed Eve (Genesis 3:12). “It’s all her fault, she made me do it”, and this is an attitude that has been carried down throughout history; mankind has not ceased to blame someone else for what they did.

God was more hurt than angry with them because sin had entered the Garden, His holy ground, and He could no longer visit with His children, and He had to cast Adam and Eve out of the garden. But when He did this He also promised them that He would send someone to redeem them back to Himself; to beat the devil at his own game.

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” … Genesis 3:15

Now Adam faced the consequences of his actions and he and Eve were devastated to have to live in a desolate world without God, but what horrified them even more was that the ruler of the lost world was Satan. Adam had sold his birthright to the devil whose very presence kept him from the only Father he knew, so they clung on to the promise and prayed for the redeemer to come and save their children. And so every child ever born from the very first conceived child, being Able, right down to the last baby that will ever be born on earth, is born in sin and without the presence of God. There is no possibility of a single one of us ever getting back to God on our own. He removed His Spirit and there is only ONE way to get it back.

Jesus!  And so the people throughout the generations waited and looked for His coming.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” … Luke 2: 8-11

Jesus was sent to the cross because Satan knew who Jesus was and thought that if he could persuade the Pharisees to kill Him, then everything would be fine, God’s attempt to regain the world would fail and he would continue to rule the earth forever. The Pharisees also knew that Jesus was God’s Son and they were filled with evil and foolishly thought that if they killed Him on the cross then they wouldn’t have to give up their religious positions and wealth.

2830009502_d8a6bb320c_tWhat none of them realized is that no one can kill God. Jesus’ human body died on the cross, and because He was without sin He would have risen directly to Heaven at that point. However, that isn’t why He came. He came to take away the sin that we carried – the sin that caused us to be separated from God – and He took that sin upon Himself so that when He died, that sin would drive Him directly to hell. But hell couldn’t hold Him, and so He dropped off the sin and then rose again.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” … John 3:16

When we realize the magnitude of this action by Jesus, and we believe it and receive this truth in our heart, then we receive our salvation. We are saved. We are Christians. We are no longer separated from God. We are given His Spirit and we can walk with God just like Adam did. We are one with God again. Now when we pray God not only hears our prayers, but He answers them. He blesses us. He helps us. He teaches us. He walks with us. He is our Father and our friend.

Christians adopt the heart and mind of Christ so that we want to help others, 3147461049_35b009962d_mshare with others and encourage others to know Him. We do everything to the glory of God and for the furtherance of the ministry of Jesus.  We are not perfect; we are forgiven. Although God will become our purpose for living and the reason for our being, we’ll still fall short and do things wrong or not do things we should. (Romans 3:23) But we can come before God and say sorry and He hears us and smiles at us. He doesn’t have to toss us away like He did with Adam because His Spirit is in us. We are His children and nothing can separate us from Him.

So, good works may be a nice thing to do to help others and share some positive attitude, but they will NOT make us a Christian and they will NOT get us into Heaven. Only a personal relationship with Jesus will make us a Christian, and the good works that we do then are done in love so that others can see the love that God has for us.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” … John 10:27

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What is Included in God’s Grace?

3147461049_35b009962d_mGrace and love work together since it was God’s love for us that sent Jesus to the cross so that we could attain grace and be forgiven for our sins and reunited with God. It is this grace that gives us freedom from the curse, but it is our commitment to God because of this grace that makes us Christians.

I recently read an article on grace written by David Ravenhill, a pastor and author with a vision for God’s people called, Would You Recognize the Deception of Hyper-Grace?”. I was so encouraged with how clearly he explained grace that I realized I could not get his message across nearly as well, so I have copied it in its entirety for you to read. Please read his message and be blessed, and visit David Ravenhill for more inspirational messages.

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Would You Recognize the Deception of Hyper-Grace? by David Ravenhill

Someone wisely stated, “The church has suffered more from her exponents than from her opponents.” This is certainly the case today, as we are seeing an onslaught of dangerous teaching sweeping through the body of Christ like never before. We have the graphic and prophetic picture of the serpent in Revelation pouring water like a river out of his mouth in order to sweep away the woman (Rev. 12:15-16). This, to me, speaks of the false river the enemy is attempting to use to deceive the church in these last days. Thank God that He has promised, “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will raise up a standard against him” (Is. 59:19, NKJV).5578273602_79073a7036_m

One of the enemy’s wiles is to take something that is inherently good and seek to make it appear better. The hyper-grace message is a prime example of this. What is more amazing than grace? Nothing sets Christianity apart more than the message of grace. None of us would ever know our magnificent Savior and Lord without His redeeming, reconciling grace. There is no sect, cult or religion that has any doctrine comparable to it. Grace is found in Christ alone!

Little wonder, then, that the enemy has sought to improve on this glorious message by appearing to make it even more glorious, while at the same time lacing it with his deadly poison of deception and distortion.

Consider how you would respond to a message exhorting you to guard your mind, stay sober, be obedient, don’t be conformed to your former lusts, be holy, conduct yourself in fear, obey the Word and put aside all malice, guile and hypocrisy? What if the message went on to tell you to love and read God’s Word, grow up, tell others about God’s goodness, avoid fleshly lusts, do good deeds, do right, don’t speak about evil, be zealous for what is good and sanctify Christ as Lord?

Many within the body of Christ today would cry out against such a message, claiming it to be nothing more than a religious spirit or legalism or even fleshly works. Grace, we are told, frees you from all these works and liberates you so that you are no longer under any obligation of any kind. Grace, they say, is the gift that comes to us with no strings attached. But is that really the message of grace? Has the enemy blinded our eyes through super-sizing the true message of grace—and thereby distorting it?

It may surprise you to know that all the exhortations I’ve listed above were taken directly from Peter’s first epistle. Now, here is a most amazing truth: Peter tells us in the closing verses of his epistle, “I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!” (1 Pet. 5:12, NASB, emphasis added).

Here we have one of the most complete and comprehensive revelations on true grace to be found in the New Testament. Yes, grace is totally and irrevocably free, and it provides us with God’s power to change us. That was its original intent. Paul, in his letter to Titus, explains it this way: “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12, emphasis added).

Peter and Paul saw the Lord, who is the only true embodiment of grace and truth. If anyone had a correct revelation and understanding of grace, these two men certainly did.

Paul, you recall, had to correct the Romans on their tendency to abuse grace by continuing in sin. This abuse of grace has now raised its head again and is being taught in ever-widening circles within the church. Those proponents of the hyper-grace message will tell you that since your sins past, present and future have all been forgiven, there is no longer any need of repentance for the believer. Repentance, they claim, is the acknowledgment of a sin that has already been forgiven. Why put back in the ledger what has already been erased? So the reasoning goes.

But is this really sound biblical doctrine? Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, scolded them for not dealing with the blatant sin of a brother who was sexually involved with his father’s wife. The Corinthians took to heart what Paul wrote. Then in his second letter, he commended them for their godly sorrow that brought them to a place of repentance (2 Cor. 7:9-10). He mentions repentance twice within two verses. If we did follow this erroneous concept of grace, then why was this sexual pervert disciplined in the first place, if his sin was already forgiven? Why punish him for something that is already under the blood? Jesus obviously didn’t consider this to be the case when He admonished five out of the seven churches in Revelation to repent.

2643148122_ae6721809e_mFinally, as I have said many times, if we say that repentance is no longer necessary because all sin has already been forgiven, then why do we need to repent the first time in order to be saved? There is the belief by some that since all sin has been atoned for, all are saved but just don’t know it. This is the old but still very much alive false doctrine of universalism or ultimate reconciliation.

Jude was greatly disturbed by these errors in his day and tells us, “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Why? Because there were those within the church who were distorting the grace of God and turning it into licentiousness. This, I believe, was also the subtle teaching of Jezebel in the church of Thyatira. I don’t personally believe she was openly teaching that it was OK to engage in sexual immorality, but rather that the fruit of her distorted message led to this type of activity.

This is also my great fear regarding the hyper-grace message. While I sincerely believe that many advocates of the hyper-grace message firmly believe they are proclaiming a fresh revelation of grace, I truly believe the fruit of their teaching will instead bring disgrace to the very God of grace they seek to magnify.

I can only plead with those who are caught up in this false teaching to re-examine their beliefs in the light of God’s Word rather than get carried along by the latest trend being taught by a few popular and flamboyant pied pipers. If the fruit of this teaching does not produce a longing after God and a desire to be like Him, then we should avoid it like the plague. Grace enables us to live and walk in victory over sin, the flesh and the devil. Anything less is not the true grace of God.

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untitledDavid and Nancy Ravenhill have a rich history in ministry. David worked with David Wilkerson’s first Teen Challenge Center in New York City, Youth With a Mission, and pastored one of the largest churches in New Zealand. He is now a full-time itinerant minister and author of five books, including Blood Bought.

 

Can We Earn God’s Forgiveness?

6145488503_a72223f8d7_mMany religions will have us believe that we can “earn” God’s forgiveness through works – give financial aid, support those who come to us for help, and pray for those in need. And these good deeds for this purpose should stay with that religion because it is NOT a prerequisite from the Lord for forgiveness, and nowhere in the Bible will you ever read that you have to earn His forgiveness or that it’s even possible to try.

We cannot “earn” forgiveness from God because He is Holy and perfect and there is no one equal to Him. We are filled with sin from conception and were separated from God because of that sin. If we could earn forgiveness then that would make us par with God without a clean heart, and Christ’s mission to the cross would be for nothing.

Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.8125649464_d312d25326_m

What does that mean? It means that no matter how much He loves us, we will NEVER be holy enough on our own merits to come into His presence. Why? Because we are filled with sin – a sin that was inherited to us by our earthy parents that started with Adam and Eve. God will not allow sin to come into his presence and that’s why He had to evict Adam and Eve from the Garden when they sinned.

The only way to receive God’s forgiveness – aka God’s grace, God’s inheritance, God’s blessings – is through repentance. We must come to God with a heart that cries out for Him; with a heart that wants to be like His; with a heart that wants to be able to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength (Mark 12:30).

We need to have a humble heart that repents for the sin that’s in us. But it’s not our fault we have sin, so why do we need to repent of it? Because with a humble heart comes the ability to know that we have to get the sin off of us in order to come into God’s presence. We realize that this inherited sin will keep us away from God and will eventually send us right to hell – where all sin has to go in the end.

5708023188_571740d2e4_mWe must come to the cross and accept the sacrifice that Jesus gave when He was crucified on that cross. Jesus was perfect and without sin because His father was God, not man. He went to the cross and died even though there was no sin in Him, and even though there was no legal reason for Him to be crucified. So why did He die on the cross then? So that He could take on ALL of OUR SIN, and with that sin He was sent down into the pits of hell where all sin goes. But, Jesus didn’t stay there. He dropped that sin there and once He was free of it He rose again, Holy and pure because He was once again filled with God’s spirit. And we were freed of that inherited sin.

When we accept this sacrifice that He made for us, then we will be able to accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. We can ask Him to wash us and cleanse us and make us whole as our hearts desire to be with Him, and in doing this God will look at each of us and forgive us or pardon us. And we will no longer belong to the world that is yet to be judged. We will belong to Him.

When Jesus rose He went to Heaven to be with God our Father. He is our example, our leader, and if we accept what He did for2245700673_f8643977ee_m us, we too will rise to be with God our Father when we leave this world. But while we’re here, we are free of the inherited sin and Jesus gives us HIS spirit so that we can talk to God, praise God, worship God, walk with God and become His faithful child.

We have done nothing to earn His forgiveness and we can never ever do anything to even think that we could come close to earning it. The salvation that Jesus gave us is the ONLY way to get God’s forgiveness. Jesus says in John 10:9, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” That pasture is Heaven and Jesus is the ONLY way to get there.

We are not perfect and we are not better than anyone else. We are forgiven through God’s grace – and that grace is His Son, Jesus. And we must never think that there is any other way to get God’s forgiveness except through the cross.

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“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”… John 3:16

Praise the Lord that through Him and the sacrifice He gave on the cross, we are forgiven. 

Love and Forgiveness

Many Christians think that we only need to forgive the people we love and that it’s not necessary to forgive the ones who have offended us that are just acquaintances or people we really don’t like anyway. Or we think that because we’re King’s kids we don’t have to lower ourselves to forgive the people of world, after all, they’re all going to hell anyway and we can’t be expected to forgive people that we don’t love. And the truth is that we can’t forgive people we don’t love, because love and forgiveness go together.

Jesus is the epitome of love and forgiveness. John 3:16 says that God gave His only Son as a sacrifice for the whole world so that whoever believes and accepts this sacrifice would be saved. This was done in love. Jesus didn’t pick and choose who’d He die for because He loved everyone. And we know from those who forced His crucifixion and from the persecution of the Christians throughout history that not everyone loves Him.

And the significance of the cross is that Jesus bore our sins upon Himself so that we would be forgiven … WE ARE FORGIVEN!  We didn’t ask Him to do this and we didn’t deserve this grace but His love for us was so great, even while we were deep in sin, that He gave His life for us anyway. We were all sinners destined for hell but now we are forgiven and we’re part of the family of God.

We study the Bible and we praise and worship the Lord, and we become more like Him and less selective of who we’ll forgive and more gracious to forgive all those who offend us. We begin to see beyond the fabrication of the person and see them as a precious child who Christ died for. And when we treat them as Jesus would, then they see past our physical person and they see Jesus.

It’s safe to assume that most of us love ourselves and even though we do things at times that make us angry, we soon forget it and move on – an admirable attitude that God expects us to have towards other people. In Matthew 22:37-39 we learn that Jesus gave us two commandments. The first is to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and body, and the second is to love our neighbor as much as we love ourself.

But then comes the question, who is our neighbor? Jesus was asked that very question and His response to the lawyer in Luke 10:30:36 was to tell the story of the good Samaritan. At the end, He asked the man who he thought the “neighbor” was, and the lawyer replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

So our neighbors are not just the families in our immediate vicinity; it’s the people who we deal with every day, the people who we work with, who we sit with on the bus, who we stand in line with at the coffee shop and who sit at the street corner begging for money.

As our relationship with the Lord grows, we realize that everything He has ever done has been done in love. We become more like Him in our thoughts and in our actions, and everything we do is also done in love. We forgive others because Jesus forgave us. He forgave everyone and so we, too, should forgive everyone. Not because we like them, but because the love of God is in us. And if we can’t forgive those who offend us, regardless of who they are, then we need to get the love of God in our own hearts.

Matthew 6:14,15 says that if we forgive men their trespasses, our heavenly Father will also forgive us, but if we do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will our Father forgive our trespasses . We can only hold fast to our own forgiveness if we, through love, can forgive others.

“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” …  1 John 4:8

Michael English pours his heart out in a song called, Please Forgive Me. Watch it and be blessed.

 

Hate the sin…hate the sinner?

It seems that lately the news is filled with horrendous crime stories and the detailed exploits of serial killers, and they remind us just how far humanity has drifted from God. Some of  these crimes are so heinous that our stomachs churn just thinking about them. But when the offender is caught and justice is served, even Christians tend to accept that this person now has what he or she deserves and they can rot in Hell for their actions.

But is that a Godly attitude? Is that how Jesus looks at sinners?

The Bible says that “we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God“…(Romans 3:23) and that “Jesus died for our sins …(1 Cor:15:3)

What is sin? It’s rebellion against God and God’s commandments. So, what is worse – stealing something small and insignificant from work or embezzling company money? Stealing one cookie from the cookie jar or robbing the entire store? One of things that people want to do is “assume” that God has separated small sins from big sins and overlooks the small ones. But He’s laid it out very clear in the Bible – DO NOT STEAL.

And if we were totally honest, we would all admit that every day we sin and need to repent for something. Did we play a game on the company computer for a few minutes or send a personal email to someone? If we did, then we stole time because we were paid to work during that time. Did we include every single financial detail on our income tax or did we think that it was okay to leave out some things because we need the money more than the government? If we did, then we stole money that wasn’t ours. Did our thoughts wander off into an area where we shouldn’t be thinking? Then we stole glory from God and let the devil overtake our minds, if for even just that minute.

We don’t relate our simple actions to those who commit really big crimes because we feel that we aren’t that bad…..just like the Pharisee who prayed loudly and thanked God that he wasn’t like the humble sinner next to him.

When we realize that sin is wrong no matter how great it is, we can easily repent and ask God to help us change. But there are many people who either don’t know God or have let the enemy in to take over their minds and it’s not easy for them. Some criminals come to the realization of their sin while serving their sentence, and God forgives them even though the world doesn’t.

It’s very normal for people to pour their compassion and prayers on to the victims – and as Christians we need to do that. But God also tells us to pray for our enemies and that means opening our hearts of compassion to the sinner – to the criminal – as well, and praying for their salvation. Why? Because if that person were not oppressed with the devil and if his or her mind was not overtaken with evil, they would never have even thought about doing any evil to anyone. 

We need to look at each person as an individual, as someone who needs prayer and God’s help. We need to hate the sin, but love the sinner. Prayer changes everything. It sets people free. Every person on the earth deserves to be free and deserves the chance to repent no matter what they’ve done. Their acts may have been despicable and people may even have suffered and died because of them, but IF these people had known God and IF they had been filled with the Spirit of God instead of the devil’s, they would not have done these crimes. The devil truly made them do it, and as Christians we need to pray for people – not just for the ones we love, but for those who come against us.  

Not everyone we pray for will receive God, but everyone we pray for will be given the opportunity to repent and know Him.

And when you stand praying, forgive if you have ought against any, that your Father also, which is in Heaven, may forgive you your trespasses.”  …Mark 11:25