Jesus 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
There 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, a 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.
Their 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.
What 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, share 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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Many 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.
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.
We 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 for 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.
“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.
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.
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