“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive”(Col.3:12-13). Paul teaches that Christians are to forgive as God forgives. God forgives us every time we fall short. So, the Christian’s responsibility is to forgive others, even the repeat offenders. This is tough at times, depending on the severity of the offense. No matter how hurt I am or how personal the offense is, my role as a Christian is to forgive.
True forgiveness is as much for the one giving forgiveness as it is for the one needing forgiveness. When you truly forgive someone, you free yourself from holding on to negative feelings and a potential grudge. Forgiveness is about letting go of the past and moving forward. Part of letting go and forgiving is also forgetting. If you can’t forget about it, whatever it is, then you aren’t willing to forgive. When God forgives, He forgets.(Heb.8:12) That painful experience may be locked in your mind from now on, but when you forgive, you choose to forget by not bringing it up again.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”(Mt.6:14-15).
We’ve all done things we regret. In fact, some live with guilt every day because of a sin they committed. The positive aspect of guilt is that it lets us know we did wrong. But, unresolved guilt is never a positive thing. To live in guilt on a daily basis will hinder one’s spiritual growth. King David lived in guilt over his sin with Bathsheba until he acknowledged his sin to God. “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin”(Psalm 32:5).
The best news of all is that God forgives. No matter where you’ve been and what you’ve done, God forgives. I know you and I know our sins better than anyone and that’s why we struggle with guilt. We overcome guilt by knowing and believing that God forgives. The interesting thing is that God so desperately wants to forgive us that He shed the blood of His Son on the cross for our redemption. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”(Eph.1:7).
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you”(Eph.4:32).
I love the highlights. Doesn’t matter if it’s golf, football, baseball or basketball, I just enjoy seeing the highlights of the previous night’s games. The highlights represent the best plays and shots of the game. Typically, the highlights are the most exciting parts of the game. The highlights are what everyone talks about the next few days.
Life has its highlights, but life is not just a highlight reel. In fact, life is full of difficult and discouraging times. Jesus even said, “in the world you will have tribulation”(Jno.16:33). But, today’s social media sure makes life seem like one highlight after another. People are literally a few clicks away from viewing any and everything that’s going on in a friend’s life. And, most people only post the highlights. So, Facebook becomes for some a modern highlight reel of their life. This leads to discouragement and even depression for the active Facebook junkie who views all the highlights of a friend’s life on a daily basis.
I’m not trying to be critical or judgmental. I’m not even encouraging people to stop posting life highlights or to start posting the bad with the good. My point is this, social media doesn’t reveal the whole story. When you view someone’s life highlights, understand that they have endured difficult times too that they didn’t include in their posts. Don’t feel bad about yourself or your life because of the posted highlights of others. At the end of the day, none of us are perfect so none of us have the perfect life, at least not this side of heaven.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”(Rom.3:23)
“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death”(Jas.1:13-15). No matter the situation or circumstances, it seems we always want to blame someone else. Has our culture conditioned us over the years to believe that it’s always somebody else’s fault? It’s not my child’s fault, it’s the teachers. My child wouldn’t dare do that, it must have been one of the other kids.
James says, if you’re talking about being tempted and sinning, don’t blame God. In fact, don’t blame anyone but yourself. That’s right, when it comes to yielding to temptations, you and I must take ownership. There’s no one for us to blame for our own personal temptations and sin struggles, but ourselves. It’s when we stop passing the blame and take ownership for our actions that we begin to see growth and change in ourselves. Reality is, if one never takes responsibility for his own actions, then he’ll never see the need to change his behavior. As Christians we should live every day with an attitude of repentance and a willingness to change whatever behavior is not pleasing to God.
What if we made 2019 the year for spiritual growth? Many of us set goals and plans for the new year, but how many have anything to do with spiritual growth? For Christians today, it’s too easy to become lethargic in our faith. After all, we’ve been doing the same thing week after week and year after year for what seems like forever. Don’t allow the repetition of your faith practices to lull you into a spiritual coma. We need growth, spiritual growth. If we’re not growing, we’re dying.
Here’s the harsh reality about making 2019 a year for spiritual growth. Growing spiritually in 2019 will require effort. You can’t just sit and do nothing and expect to grow. You will grow spiritually if you will constantly gather with God’s people for worship and Bible study. And if you really want to see some growth, step out of your comfort zone and find a ministry in the church and get involved. Involvement in the church leads to deeper relationships with other Christians and more time spent in good Christian fellowship. It requires effort to find your ministry and your place to make a difference for the kingdom.
Finally, if your plan is to grow spiritually this year, then you need to be serious about studying the Bible and prayer. We hear a lot about Bible study and prayer but do we practice those spiritual necessities away from the church building in our personal lives? You don’t have to be a Bible scholar but you do need to be a Bible student. Pick a Bible book you’re interested in and commit to reading through it a few times and then move on to the next. Make it a practice to begin and end your day with prayer. You’ll be shocked at how your time reading and praying will become habits that you feel must be done daily. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen, it requires effort.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen”(II Peter 3:18).