by Pastor Max Solbrekken, D.D.
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Hanging between two thieves upon a rugged cross, dying for the sins of the world, Jesus set the ultimate example. He prayed for mercy for His enemies!
In their ignorance and spiritual blindness they had crucified their own Messiah. STEPHEN, the first Christian martyr, exhibited the same godly spirit. In his agony and pain, he prayed, “Father, lay not this sin to their charge”. (Acts 7:51)
It has been said: “To err is human and to forgive is divine”. The human family is born in SIN and has a natural inclination toward that which is immoral, illegal and sinful! The easiest thing in the world however, is to criticize, judge and malign another. That trait comes naturally to humans who are arrogant, selfish and proud!
WHAT MAKES PEOPLE SO VENGEFUL?
Assassination of character is also becoming commonplace in our society. What a sin and shame! Where do all these base, carnal and sensual thoughts and actions come from? What makes mortal man so vengeful, deplorable and mean?
Is it not often because of jealousy, envy and a sense of insecurity, rather than a vindication of truth? Dragging a great person into the mud, undoubtedly, makes gossipers and antagonists feel equal or even superior for the moment.
The Bible says, “For he (Pilate) knew that the chief priests had delivered Him for envy” and even though they “found no guilt in Him” yet they crucified Him “without a cause”. (Luke 23:13-16; Matt. 27:24; Acts 13:28)
Joseph’s brothers sold him into ‘Egyptian slavery’, because they were “moved with envy”. (Acts 7: 9). The Bible warns against the sin of envy, together with a list of sins like homosexuality, fornication, wickedness, deceit covetousness and even murder. (
1:29). Sin is sin, and ENVY is sin! Rom.
St. John WARNED about the devastating effects of the lusts of the flesh, and St. Paul spoke of devouring one another through fighting and back - biting (Gal. 5:15) St. James, the pastor of the first Pentecostal Church in Jerusalem, asked: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” In his epistle, Jesus’ half - brother, spoke of lust and hatred as underlying causes of war and strife! (James 5: 1 – 7)
Dr. T.L. Osborn stated: “Don’t let criticism bother you. Criticism is really admiration in reverse. As a rule, your critics admire you, or they wouldn’t talk about you.”
Oh! How difficult for all of us to receive criticism, but how easy to dish it out. And for many, it is even harder to forgive and forget. Bitterness, hatred and jealousy will destroy the one who harbors them. Carrying a grudge can produce insomnia, nervous tension, ulcers and other illnesses.
A FORGIVING SPIRIT is beautiful and Christ-like, while an unforgiving spirit is demanding, cold and uncaring!
Anglican pastor Rev. Dale Lang of
, whose son Jason was shot to death by a fellow student in his high school on April 28, 1999 stated: “Forgiveness is a gift from God.” Taber, Alberta
Despite their terrible grief, the pastor and his wife, Diane, publicly forgave the youth accused of their son’s murder and prayed with the other students. He said: “Without God’s love I couldn’t have forgiven that young man who shot our son. This is too painful a thing to do on your own. With God in my heart He has made it possible. I’ve been set free from bitterness and anger and unforgiveness, and that’s a wonderful gift.”
Pope John Paul 11 was following in Jesus’ footsteps when he visited Mehmet Ali Agea in his prison cell and prayed for the man who had tried to kill him. He stated: “Peace and forgiveness go together as an inseparable pair. One cannot remain a prisoner of the past… Individuals and people need a sort of healing of memories so that past evils will not come back again”.
Dr. Oral Roberts, who had been the subject of harsh ridicule in the press, delivered a powerful sermon on forgiveness to 5,000 ministers at a conference, shortly after being vilified in the media!
The Word of God states, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. (1 John 1:9); “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputes not iniquity”. (Ps. 32:1-2) It is wonderful to know that God has forgiven us, on the merits of Jesus’ death, as our substitute!
The Bible says: “…And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous: And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2: 1, 2)
The word propitiation means appeasement; that God is satisfied with Jesus’ death on the cross! His sacrificial, vicarious death for us satisfied the ‘demands of divine justice’, in the courts of Heaven!
Jesus taught His disciples to pray: “And forgive us, our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation. For if we forgive men their trespasses (offences), your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
“But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:12-15)
That is a sobering thought! If I do not forgive those who have wronged me, God will not forgive me! Refusing to forgive is therefore, an unpardonable sin. God cannot forgive the sins of an individual, who refuses to forgive those who have wronged him or her!
BY GOD’S GRACE ALONE!
It took God’s grace through Jesus Christ to forgive us, and it takes His grace for us to forgive one another, as well as to forgive ourselves when we have done wrong!
The Bible says, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” (Col. 3:12-13)
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and evil speaking, be put away from you with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:27-32)
WHAT DOES IT ENTAIL?
In the Hebrew, the word forgiveness has a strong connection with the word ‘kaphar’ (atonement) meaning “to cover”. God instituted the sacrificial system which pointed to the cross where His Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God would shed His blood to wash away the sins of all those who believe on Him!
The Bible says, “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin”. (1 John 1:7)
In the Old Testament system, the blood of the sacrificial animal covered the sin, but through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on
Golgotha, our sins are purged, cleansed and washed away!
REJOICE IN THIS GOOD NEWS!
“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
“For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh:
“How much more shall the blood of Christ, Who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:11-14)
Writing to believers, St. Peter admonished: “And above all things have fervent charity (gr. Agape, love) among yourselves: for charity (love) shall cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Pet. 4:8)
The SECOND meaning of the word forgiveness is conveyed by the Hebrew word ‘nasa’ which was used in the Old Testament to express the carrying away of
’s sins. It means to “lift up or away”, by the scapegoat. Israel
When God forgives unworthy sinners (us all), he lifts from us all the burdens, guilt and condemnation that those sins have created!
The THIRD meaning of forgiveness comes from the Hebrew word ‘salach’, which is “to send away, let go”. Again, this refers to God’s grace in removing the sin from us. It denotes a separation of the sin from the sinner. The sin and its penalty - which is death - is separated from the believing penitent soul, and he is divorced from his carnal, evil and wicked state!
The Bible says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”. (2 Cor. 5:17)
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation (empty lifestyle) received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot...
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever”. (1 Peter 1:18,19,23)
“In Whom, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;” (Eph. 1:7; 2:1)
The FOURTH meaning also comes to us from the Greek language. The word ‘Apoluo’ is “to loose away” and the FIFTH meaning comes from the Greek word ‘charisomai’ means “to be gracious to”.
Jesus Christ has “loosed us away” and separated us from our sins, fear, torment and guilt, because God has been ‘gracious’ toward us. Praise His Holy name for His mercy endures forever!
The Bible states, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
“For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (
Jesus ‘lifted off’ from us the burden of guilt and shame and carried our sins far away. He is our substitute and like the scapegoat, removed our sin and its penalty from us. (Lev. 16:21,22)
Only the blood of Jesus Christ, and the Word of God, has the power and ability to purge our conscience from guilt! No amount of counselling or other form of therapy has that ability!
The Bible says: “There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom.8:1)
THE BASIS OF ALL FORGIVENESS!
The basis of all forgiveness is God’s unfathomable love! Let this great truth resonate in your spirit: It is because of God’s great love, mercy and grace that I have received forgiveness and peace!
Unknowing people often say, “The Old Testament is void of love and compassion. It is about the law and God’s severity and judgment. And the New Testament is about God’s grace, mercy and love”.
They seem to think that our Heavenly Father is severe and delights in punishing people, but Jesus Christ, God’s Son is full of compassion and love!
JESUS SAID: “…He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father and how sayest thou then show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of Myself: But the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me: or else believe Me for the very works sake.” (John 14: 9 – 11)
Our Lord said: “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do: but what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
“For the Father loveth the Son, and shows Him all things that Himself doeth…because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of Him Who hath sent Me.” (John 5:19,20,30)
“I do nothing of Myself, but as My Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And He that hath sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him.” (John 6:28,38,39)
The Bible states: “God hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, Whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by Whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person…” (Heb.1:1-3)
OLD TESTAMENT PROVES GOD’S MERCY!
A study of the Old Testament proves God’s love and mercy was also evident there. It is true that “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1: 17) It is also true that Jesus would not have come to this ‘sin cursed world’ with the message of grace and truth, if it was not the Father’s will!
1). ADAM AND EVE - God gave them a free will to choose whom they would serve. He strongly warned them about the ‘Sin of Disobedience’!
After ‘The Fall’, He drove them out of the Garden so that they would not be doomed to live in their sin forever by eating of the tree of life. Immediately, God came to their rescue by killing an innocent animal, to atone for (cover) their sins! (Gen.2: 16,17; 3: 21)
2). PROTECTING CAIN - After Cain killed Abel, and was banished from that place, he complained that someone finding him would seek to kill him. The Lord therefore put a mark upon him, so that no one would harm him! (Gen.4: 13-15)
3). GOD SENT THE FLOOD - Why was the flood - that destroyed about 8 million souls - necessary? The people had become corrupted to the point, where the bloodline of the promised Messiah was in danger of being compromised!
On planet earth, there were only 8 souls - Noah and his family - who were not corrupted by the sin and unrighteousness that had swept across the earth.
By sending the flood, God in His mercy guaranteed the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ, through the miracle of the incarnation (God in human flesh), begotten of the Holy Spirit and born of Mary, the virgin!
Satan’s plan was to totally pollute the human race, so that no one would be able to bear the Christ Child, but God saved righteous Noah and his family by sending the flood of judgment upon the earth! The Holy Scripture says: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (Gen. 6: 8)
4). GOD GAVE HIS ONLY SON – Jesus became the burden bearer for the sins of the world! God the Father laid upon His Son the sins, pains, sicknesses, diseases and fears, guilt and torment that Satan – through man’s disobedience - had brought upon the human family!
How could anyone call our Heavenly Father uncaring, when you consider the great sacrifice He made in giving His One and Only Son to this world, to suffer, bleed and to die for our sins on the ‘cursed cross’?
THE BIBLE SAYS: “Surely He hath borne our sicknesses (heb. makob), and carried our pains (heb. nasa): yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.” (Is.53: 4-6)
The Word of God declares: “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)
“He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32)
5). DAVID’S GREAT SIN FORGIVEN – Although David sinned grievously, he was obedient and willing to repent of the sins of adultery and murder. By God’s grace he was forgiven and restored!
Even though David was mighty man of God, he fell into sin repeatedly. David’s heart was pliable and sincere, however, and he sought mercy in repentance and continued to go on with God!
At one point, God sent a prophet to confront him. Judgment was swift. David’s son by Bathsheba took ill and died, and as the prophet declared, “the sword did not depart from his house.” (2 Sam.12: 9,10)
He repented, however, and God forgave and restored him fully. Here is the prayer he cried out to the Lord: “Have mercy upon me, O God…blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.” (Ps. 51:7-12)
OH, THE GRACE OF GOD! To me, this is one of the most remarkable accounts of God’s GRACE in the Old Testament! David had committed adultery, impregnating Bathsheba. In trying to cover his sin, he had her husband Uriah killed! Yet, God’s Holy Spirit had not departed from David. He cried out: “Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.”
David was desperate. He knew that he was close to stepping over the line of God’s grace. It was his last wake-up call to repent and he did. God forgave him and restored him! Praise the Lord!
6). SAMSON GOT A SECOND CHANCE – Samson broke his covenant with God when he divulged the secret of his great power to Delilah, the enemy of his people. When the Spirit of God departed from His great champion, who had ruled
for twenty years, he lost his power and was taken into captivity. Israel
The Philistines put out his eyes and turned him into a spectacle of derision and a visible sign of their triumph over
and the living God, Whom they served! He was made to grind at the mill, like an ox, while people came to view his humiliation and to praise their god, Dagon! Israel
In those painful, desperate and shameful hours, he began to call upon God afresh and the Lord heard his cry and gave him another chance. Here is the account right out of the Holy Bible:
“But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to
, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house. Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven.” (Judges 16: 21-22) Gaza
On a given day the Philistines were planning to sacrifice to their god Dagon for their victory in capturing their greatest enemy. Samson was brought to make sport for them: “And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I might feel the pillars whereupon the house stands, that I may lean upon them.
“Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women that beheld Samson make sport; And Samson called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray Thee, and strengthen me, I pray Thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.
“And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.” (Judges 16: 27-30)
7). ISRAEL SINNED: GOD WANTED TO DESTROY THEM – Moses had just come down from Mount Sinai with the two tables of stone on which God had written with His own finger, the Ten Commandments.
What was going on in the camp was horrible. During Moses’ forty day absence, the children of
had abandoned the Lord and His laws. They had already broken the first commandment and made themselves a god out of gold in the form of a calf. Israel
The Bible says: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou brought out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation.
“And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth Thy wrath wax hot against Thy people, which Thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
“Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did He bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from Thy fierce wrath, and repent (change Your mind) of this evil against Thy people.
“Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Thy servants, to whom Thou swore by Thine own Self, and said unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit forever.
“And the Lord repented (changed His mind) of the evil which He thought to do unto His people” (Ex. 32: 9-14)
NOBLEMAN SAVED FROM DEATH!
More than a hundred years ago, a Russian Nobleman and his servant left
by dog team to purchase a large supply of goods and provender. The five-day journey across the rugged, frozen tundra was easily accomplished without incident. And on their return journey, all went well for the first four days. St. Petersburg
On the morning of the fifth day, however, they noticed something like a grey wall began appearing to their rear. Any apprehensions they had earlier, now turned into reality as they realized that a large pack of timber wolves had picked up their scent and was gaining on them. They urged the dogs on, but they were tired and the load was heavy. And the wolf pack, spurred on by their hunger for blood and flesh were zeroing in for the attack.
They were ten miles from home. The sun had just set in the western sky and the lights had come on in
. The wolf pack was on their heels and getting ready for the kill! They could smell their foul breath, see their yellow fangs and hear their blood curdling yelps. As they neared their victims, the weary travellers knew that it was too late. They were not going to make it! They were about to die! St. Petersburg
The trusted servant, who had served the Nobleman’s father earlier, moved to the back of the sled. With a shout, he threw himself backwards into the path of the blood thirsty pack. As the wolves begin tearing him into pieces, the smell of blood filled the air and they began to fight one another as they tore his body.
And as servant lay dying, the dog team and the Nobleman continued unharmed toward
! You may ask: “Why would you share with us the account of that terrible event?” The servant offered himself to save the Nobleman and that is what Jesus did for us. He threw Himself to the wolves when He offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice to save a lost world! St. Petersburg
JESUS CHRIST IS THE LAMB OF GOD!
Seven hundred years before Jesus came to this earth to die for our sins, Isaiah foretold His virgin birth, sufferings and death on the cross, as well as His resurrection from the dead and Everlasting Kingdom! (Is.7:14; 9:6; 53: 4-11)
When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he stated: “Behold the Lamb of God, Who taketh away the sins of the world.” (John 1: 29) And St. Peter said: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold… But with the precious BLOOD of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Peter 1: 18, 19)
The Bible says: “For He hath made Him to be sin for us Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor.5: 21); “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.” (2 Cor.8: 9); “Who His own Self Himself bear our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by Whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2: 24)