Forgiveness

forgiveness                                    What Does the Bible Say About Forgiveness? A Biblical Study

Forgiveness is one of the “key” words of the Christian faith.  If God had not included forgiveness in His plan for humanity, none of us would enjoy life renewed with Him in heaven.  Without forgiveness there would be no hope at all.

God And Forgiveness

So, let us start with Daniel 9:9. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him.  Our awesomeFather in heaven was the creator of forgiveness and so it belongs to Him and He lavishes us with it abundantly every day.  Sometimes I will sit and ponder the unfathomable amount of patience God has for us.  God knew from the beginning of time ALL of the sins that would take place.  Can you imagine the burden He has carried this whole time?  It is a burden of love that only the Father could carry.

Now we know that God forgives freely anyone that comes to Him, but if you are not a Christian or are very new to the faith, you may not know how to receive forgiveness.  1 John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  It really is that simple.  This is not just a confession, though.  We all have confessed things in our lives that we didn’t feel regret for.  The type of confession described here is a confession of heart-felt shame from what we have done.  This is a confession of remorse for what has taken place.  This remorse goes hand-in-hand with repentance.  When you cry out to God for His forgiveness of your sins, you must not forget about your repentant heart.  Without it, you will fall right back into the same sin.  Repentance means to turn away.
Christians And Forgiveness.Forgiveness does not just come from God but also from His flock.  Luke 17:3-4 says, Pay attention to yourselves!  If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, “I repent”, you must forgive him.  This is not always easy.  If repentance is genuine, it must always be forgiven, even if it is the same sin over and over again.  Human nature wants to push us in the direction of giving up on someone who is in perpetual sin because we tend to stop believing in someone who is constantly engaged in sin, but the Bible is clear on this issue.  God NEVER gives up on His children who come in His name to ask for forgiveness, which is why we cannot give up either.

For true forgiveness to take place, one must completely take pride out.  A proud heart will never truly forgive.  Matthew 6:14-15 says,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.  This really does sum up a prideful heart.  You absolutely cannot expect to be forgiven if you are too proud to forgive someone else.  Pride has no place in a Christian’s heart.

Forgiveness can be a real struggle because genuine forgiveness comes even when repentance is not expressed.  Forgiveness is sometimes a daily thing for an event that happened earlier in life.  I had three dear friends of mine taken to be with the Lord when they were killed by a drunk driver.  Just two days before I was playing with my three year old and his best friend who was also three.  We had so much fun playing with the fire trucks and saving people from burning buildings.  Then two days later, out of nowhere, a person well over the legal limit of alcohol struck their vehicle.  That little boy that I had played with was thrown at least 20 to 30 feet out of the car through the window.  He died in the hospital while his daddy held his hand and grieved.  These tragic moments should never happen but when they do, it is most important to remember that they always come from satan.  The woman who killed them fell into the devil’s snare and she deserves forgiveness just as much as anyone else.  I had to forgive her daily for a whole year before I was finally ready to move on.  It was one of the hardest times of my life, but forgiveness allowed me to let go of hatred and bitterness that I could still be holding today.

Ultimate Forgiveness

The ultimate act of forgiveness is when Christ, Himself, was hanging on that cross, bloody and bruised.  The absolute humiliation that was put on Him is unimaginable.  He had already had His flesh ripped open as He was beaten and then He was mocked with the crown of thorns and a robe.  After the soldiers put the robe on Christ, they mocked Him saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.”(Mark 15:18)  They also spit on Him and struck Him on the head.  He also carried His own cross up to Golgotha as far as He could go.  He was completely drained.  Then the sounds of hammer and nails piercing His hands and feet traveled for those to hear nearby.  The excitement of the crowd as they screamed, “crucify Him,” had to be absolutely gut wrenching to His mother, Mary, as she watched not just her savior, but her own son being tortured and ridiculed.  After all of this had taken place, Jesus called out to the Father saying, “Father, forgive them…”(Luke 23:34).  If there was ever a moment in history where someone deserved a “free-pass” on forgiveness, it was at the cross.  Yet, Christ understood the true meaning of forgiveness.  He was the perfect example for all.  May we all strive to forgive everyone as Christ continually forgives us.  Praise be to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior!

Assurance of God’s Deliverance

The Hand of the Lord
comforting-scripture-verses-i-peter-5-7

Chapter 29 of the first book of Chronicles constitutes a prayer of David, a testimony of David, when he was thinking about Solomon’s having the privilege of building the temple to honor God—the temple that David himself had wanted to build, but God had withheld from him the privilege because he had been a bloody man. Notice I Chronicles, chapter 29, verse 10:

I Chronicles 29

10 Wherefore David blessed the LORD before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever.
11 Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.
12 Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.
13 Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.

We are going to stop our reading right there, and we are primarily interested in the truth that is contained in the last part of verse 12. David said, “…and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.” Notice those words again, “…in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.”

I would like for you to turn in your Bibles to the book of Ezra, because we are going to be looking at that in just a moment. You will remember that some time ago I told you that God had given me the verse for the year upon which I was to rest. I told you that verse was found in the first book of Chronicles, chapter 4, verse 10, and I encouraged as many of you as felt led of the Lord to do so, to claim that verse for your own life and to stand with us and claim it for the ministry of the Word of God here at the Bible Center. We tried to keep that verse before you. I Chronicles 4:10:

I Chronicles 4

10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel, and said, Oh that thou wouldest… enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me…

That was the end of the prayer of Jabez, and a postscript is added in the verse:

I Chronicles 4

10 …and God granted him that which he requested.

I told you that when I asked God for that year verse, I also asked Him to teach it to me, as I do every verse that I ask Him for. When I say that I asked God to teach it to me, I don’t mean that I asked God to help me to memorize it. I don’t memorize very well or very easily, and I usually muddle things that I try to quote. I’m not talking about memorizing the Word of God; I’m talking about asking God to teach me that verse that I may know its meaning in its entirety, that I may get all the juice out of it, so to speak.

I have been waiting on the Lord, seeking the meaning of this verse, keeping it constantly before me and asking God to show me new things about it. When He does, I like to pass some of those things on to you. I don’t think we could consider this message today a sermon in the strictest sense of the word. I don’t think we could consider it an exposition of the Word, but just something that I want to give to you out of my heart.

We talked about this basic prayer of Jabez, “Oh God, that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast.” As I have been meditating upon this verse of Scripture, God has been impressing me with the fact that if He is to enlarge our coast, whether it be personally in my own life or in yours, or whether it is in relation to the ministry of the Word here at the Bible Center, if God is to enlarge our coast, then it is absolutely necessary that His hand be with us. It is absolutely necessary that the hand of the Lord be with us. When that fact was impressed very indelibly upon my mind, I began to wonder, “Well, what can it mean? What can it mean for the hand of the Lord to be with us?” What is involved in the hand of the Lord being with us? When Jabez called, “Oh, God, that thine hand might be with me,” exactly what did he have in mind?

Well, of course, we talk about the different books of the Bible, and we say Ezra wrote this and Jeremiah wrote that and Isaiah wrote that. Humanly speaking that is true, but we recognize that the Holy Spirit is the author of the book; and so the answer to the question that Jabez had can very easily be found in the life of Ezra, not because Ezra knew Jabez’s needs, but because the Holy Spirit knows the need of Jabez, and He knows the need of Ezra, and He is able to bring the two together.

God’s Hand Upon Ezra

I’ve asked you to turn to the book of Ezra because I think that the hand of God was upon Ezra as it was on no other person in the Word of God. The amazing thing about it is that Ezra was absolutely conscious of that fact. When you have the time, read the entire book of Ezra. It is not a very long book, just ten chapters in all. Part of it is genealogy, a list of a considerable number of names, so that will cut down somewhat the reading of it for you.

In the last four chapters of the book of Ezra, we find Ezra owning that he is the author of the book, and we find that Ezra lets us know beyond all doubt that the man about whom he is speaking is actually himself, for he mentions himself by name and he quits talking in generalities.

A brief sketch of the book will reveal that Ezra was the leader of the children of Israel when they returned from the Babylonian captivity to the land of Palestine, the city of Jerusalem, for the purposes of rebuilding the temple.

If you take the time to read the book, you will find that this return under the leadership of Ezra was not an easy thing at all. It was a very difficult thing; it wasn’t anything that an ordinary person in his own strength could do. But Ezra, because he felt the burden on his own heart, decided to accept the call. He says over and over again in these last four chapters, “The only reason that I could do what was done was that the hand of my God was with me; the hand of my God was upon me,” and he mentions specific instances.

I believe an examination of those specific instances today will be profitable to us. All we are going to have time to do is to mention them and then leave the application of the truth up to your own hearts, save for a few remarks that we very definitely want to make.

Ezra’s Request of the King

If you have your Bibles open to the book of Ezra, we read in chapter 7, verse 6:

Ezra 7

6 This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.

You have to know something about the background of the book to appreciate that verse of Scripture. Get the picture: Here was Ezra and his people, the captives of Artaxerxes, the king of Persia; and Ezra went right up to the king and said, “King, I’d like to take my people back home.” Now, mind you, they were captives. What an unheard of thing, for a slave in a kingdom to walk boldly up to a king and say, “King, I would like to take my people back home. And when we get back home, I would like to rebuild the walls of the city and I would like to rebuild the temple that has been dedicated to my God.”

Now, mind you, all of this in the face of great opposition; because word got out that Ezra was planning something like this, and a delegation went to the king. They said, “King, you had better not let them do this. If you do, there will be an open rebellion throughout the Persian empire.” They said, “You look up the record, and when you look up the record, you will find that the city of Jerusalem is made up of kings that have deliberately rebelled against all authority from the very time that the Babylonians first made them captive.”

The king did look up the record, and he said, “Well, we can’t let that happen. We can’t let them go back and do that. Tell them to stop. Don’t even begin to do it.”

Granting of the Report

But Ezra, in the face of all that opposition, walked right up and said, “King, I want to take my people back, and I want to do this thing that I have laid out before you.” And wonder of wonders, we read in chapter 7 that the king said, “All right, do it.” He granted him that which he requested.

The thrilling thing to me is not that he just granted Ezra permission to do it, but he did something that even by the farthest stretch of the imagination you could not think, humanly speaking, he would do.

Turn over just a page in chapter 7 and you will find a letter that the king wrote. In this letter, he stated everything that I have suggested to you about their wanting to go up, and he instructed in this letter that they should be allowed to take all the gold and the silver vessels that were in the temple when they were first taken captive to Babylon. They were to be permitted to take all of them back.

This was a tremendous thing, but it is just like our God to give us measure, pressed down and running over and running over again. And so in verse 20, we read:

Ezra 7

20 And whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of thy God, which thou shalt have occasion to bestow, bestow it out of the king’s treasure house.

Think about that. Not only did he say, “Go back; take with you that which I brought away or that which my forebears brought away,” but he added, “If you need anything, just go over to my treasure house and tell the treasurer that I said that you could have whatever you need. I’ll gladly pay the bill for this expedition.” Think about it. This heathen king had no interest in the God of Israel, but because one little man stood in his presence and made this request, he was willing to do it.

The thing that amazes me is what is in verse 21, because it is even more wonderful still:

Ezra 7

21 And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily.

“I don’t want any delay,” he said. “I don’t want any red tape. I don’t want you to keep this man cooling his heels in the outer office before three or four secretaries before the job is done. I want it done, and I want it done just like that.”

King’s Heart In God’s Hand

Someone says, “Ezra, how in the world did the king ever decide to do a thing like that?” And Ezra said, “Well, all I can say is God’s hand was with me. He did it according to the good hand of God upon me.”

Now you may say today, “What has God’s hand being on an individual got to do with a king’s doing a thing like that?” Well, there is something that we are prone to forget. Keep a marker here in the book of Ezra, and turn hurriedly with me to the book of Proverbs, chapter 21, verse 1:

Proverbs 21

1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

Isn’t that a tremendous verse? Do you get the picture? Take any king in the world. God says, “I’ve got his heart right here in the palm of my hand, and I can turn it to the right or I can turn it to the left. I can turn it forward; I can turn it backward. The heart of the king is in my hand, and I can turn it which way I want to turn it.”

Do you see what Ezra did? Oh, it is not here in the text. You can’t read this life of Ezra without being sure that he would act the way a godly man should act. I’m quite sure that even before Ezra went in to see the king, he got alone with God and he said, “Now, God, I’ve got to go up to see the king because he has control of these things, but I want You to go ahead of me, and I want You to turn his heart in the right direction, God. And when I talk with him, I want You to have the whole thing cut and dried so that all I’ll have to do is take the key to the treasury.” And that is exactly what happened, because the king did exactly what Ezra asked, everything that he requested, and even more “according to the good hand of God upon him.”

Journey In God’s Power

Look down at verse 8 of chapter 7 of the book of Ezra with me now:

Ezra 7

8 And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.
9 For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him.
10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

Did you notice what we read there in verse 9? He made a journey according to the good hand of God upon him, and what does all that mean? Well, when you are able to read the background of this story, you will find that Ezra made a ten months’ journey in five months time, all because the hand of God was on him. Now, if he had tried to make that journey all by himself, if he had tried to make that journey all in his own strength, he couldn’t have done any more than ordinary men do. But because the hand of God was on him, he was able to cut the time in half.

My, that is an amazing thing—to be able to conserve through the power of God! It is an amazing thing to be able to make things go twice as far just because God’s hand is with you. You have heard the saying over and over again, and I repeat it because it cannot be better said, “Little is much if God is in it.” All in the world you need to do is to be sure that God’s hand is on you.

Heart Prepared to Seek the Lord

Don’t bypass this verse that we have read. We don’t have time to emphasize it in detail. You know why God’s hand was on Ezra, don’t you? Well, look at verse 10:

Ezra 7

10 For Ezra had prepared his heart, to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

You see, he wasn’t going around looking for a heavenly handout and living his own way. It wasn’t that. He had prepared his heart to seek the Lord, and because his own heart was prepared to put God first no matter what the cost might be, the hand of God was on him, and he was able to stand before a king and the king was putty in his hands. He was able to make a journey in half the time it would have taken anyone else to make it.

As we hurry on, look over at chapter 7, verse 27:

Ezra 7

27 Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem:
28 And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellors, and before all the king’s mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.

Notice in verse 28, he said, “I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me” or “as the hand of the LORD God was with me.”

One of the reasons we know the Bible is the inspired Word of God is that it tells the truth about people. No writer of fiction would ever let his hero be presented in a bad light, but God’s Word always tells the truth about people. Much time elapses between these verses that we are thinking about; we are just running through them.

I told you a minute ago that a little fellow stood up before a king and said, “King, I want to take my people back.” And the king said, “All right, take them.” Now, if a fellow could do that, he could do anything! He would never be scared; he would never be weak; nothing would ever happen to him; everything he would do would be just right. But in between that time and this time, Ezra got cold feet. He got scared. He thought maybe he ought not to be doing that thing. He thought maybe he ought to back up. He thought maybe he ought not to go ahead with the thing because there was a lot of opposition. You read this plus the book of Nehemiah and you will find that there was a lot of opposition to what he was doing.

So he wavered a little bit. And just about the time that he wavered, God strengthened him. God strengthened him by putting his hand on him.

I would like to remind you of what we read in Psalm 37, verses 23 and 24:

Psalm 37

23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.
24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.

Isn’t it wonderful to be able to sense the hand of the Lord at your elbow to hold you up when you are about to stumble and when you are about to fall? The hand of God was with Ezra.

Strength and Courage From God

Look at chapter 8 of the book of Ezra and notice verse 21. Ezra says:

Ezra 8

21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.
22 For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.
23 So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was entreated of us.

Do you know what he was talking about? Well, when he was ready to go back and he had all his gold and silver, all the money from the king’s treasury that he needed, someone came along and said, “Ezra, do you mean that you are going to make that long journey with just some men, women, and children? No soldiers? No armor of any kind? Do you mean that you are going to make a long journey like that? Why, some of those highway robbers will come and they will take all the money that you have gathered together. You had better make adequate protection. God doesn’t expect you to be foolish now.It is all right for you to say that God answered your prayers, but don’t do anything foolish. The king said that you could have anything you wanted, so go tell him that you want part of his army to go with you.”

It bothered Ezra. He said, “I’m afraid the king wouldn’t understand a thing like that, because I said that if God’s hand is with a person God takes care of him. And if God’s hand isn’t with a person, that person is in bad shape. I’ve already told the king that God’s hand is with me. Now, I don’t want to have to go back and say, ‘King, I’m not for sure that I want to trust the hand of God’.”

My, that is human, isn’t it? Isn’t that the way most of us do? We tell folk that God answers prayer and the first emergency that we get into, we run to someone for help. We say that we believe that God can do anything, and at the first real crisis that comes into our lives, we get panic-stricken. We are put to shame, and we bring God to shame. Our testimony isn’t as clear as it ought to be.

So Ezra said, “I don’t want to have to tell the king that I’m afraid. I’ll tell you what let’s do. Let’s have a prayer meeting. Let’s ask God to give us the courage to trust in His hand and His hand alone.”

So they knelt down there on a river bank and they fasted, too, and that is a lost art. They fasted and they asked God to give them the strength and the courage to make this journey without depending on the king. And God did. He got them there safely, so you see you never even need to be ashamed if the hand of God is with you. If the hand of God is resting on you, you do things that no one else can do, and you don’t need to have to apologize for doing them.

Assurance of God’s Deliverance

Look with me now at the last verse that I want to leave with you, verse 31 of chapter 8:

Ezra 8

31 Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.

What I referred to a moment ago, if you take the time to read the intervening verses, you will find was accomplished by a handful of priests. A handful of priests took all of this money that they were so concerned about and made an advance journey, but here was Ezra to follow on with the women and the children and the men who were unarmed. They knew that there would be enemies lying in wait; they knew that there would be enemies ready to pounce on them by the way, and they said, “God, you’ll just have to take care of us.”

So they made that journey right through enemy territory with people ready to pounce on them and not a hair of their heads was touched. Why? Because they had an army? Because they had lots of strength? No! Because the hand of God was on them!

I want to remind you today that if the hand of God is on you, you can be absolutely assured that God can deliver you from any kind of evil, that God can deliver you from any kind of enemy that you have. Since all of us come face to face with the arch-enemy of our souls, the Devil, we can rest assured that God is able to deliver us from him.

I ask you, “Is the hand of God on you? Is it?” You say, “Well, I don’t know whether the hand of God could do all of that for me.” Well, listen: Chapter 40 of the book of Isaiah, verse 12, says that God is able to hold in the hollow of His hand all the waters of the world; all the waters of the world God is able to hold in the hollow of His hand. If God is able to do that, what makes you think He would have any trouble putting His hand on you and accomplishing His purpose in the same way?

In closing, turn with me to the first epistle of Peter, chapter 5, as I remind you that God is a spirit. God doesn’t even have any hands; He doesn’t have any feet, but God is infinite, and we are finite. So God has been pleased, in order to bring the revelation of Himself to us, to talk about Himself in words and phrases that we are able to comprehend. Don’t be confused by the hand today. Don’t be confused so much by the picture that you forget the truth.

Conclusion

All I’ve been trying to say to you today is that if it is the desire of your heart for God’s hand to be with you, there is absolutely nothing that you can’t do. Peter said in the first epistle which he wrote, chapter 5, verse 5:

I Peter 5

5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.

Do you see what Peter is saying to you? He is saying that whatever your need is, whatever your problem is, whatever the desire of your heart may be, if you humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, He will exalt you in His own time.

PRAYER~OUR OXYGEN

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Prayer Our Spiritual Oxygen

Prayer is our spiritual oxygen, and just as oxygen is vital to our natural life, so prayer is vital to our spiritual life. We need to pray regularly and continually in order to live as God intended.

Each of us will face trying circumstances in life. We could never win a war without fighting some battles. We’re going to have trials, but in our trials we can build our faith. We do not have to be moved by the circumstances in our life. When we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, He will take us from victory to victory.

We need to pray continually, because prayer changes things!

God has called each and every one of us to pray! Christians are called to have a lifestyle of prayer. In Ephesians 6:18 Paul says, “Pray at all times—on every occasion, in every season—in the Spirit, with all [manner of] prayer and entreaty” (Amplified Bible).

We often think of prayer as a means of calling upon our heavenly butler, saying, “Give me this. I need that. I want this.” Or we think of prayer as calling upon our heavenly lifeguard. “Lord, I’m drowning. Help me! Save me!” But this isn’t how we should pray. Prayer should be something we do on a continual basis, not just when we want something or are in trouble. In fact, it should be as automatic to us as breathing.

PlanTaking in oxygen is vital to our life. If we don’t continually receive oxygen, we will die! Imagine if on each Sunday we said, “Okay, I’m going to take my gulp of oxygen for this week.” It wouldn’t be long before we keeled over! We have to breathe oxygen on a daily basis—every hour, every minute.

Prayer is our spiritual oxygen. We need it continually. But too many times, Christians pray on Sunday and think they don’t need to pray any more that week. Or they will pray before meals and think they are all prayed up. Then they wonder why they aren’t living a victorious life—it’s because they only take one gulp of prayer for the week (or month), and that’s not enough to get by on. To be victorious and spiritually healthy, we must live a life of prayer.

Many Christians have been taught about prayer, and we need to be taught how to pray. But we can be taught and taught and taught, and if we don’t actually pray, we won’t really learn how to pray.

To be successful in prayer, we need to spend more time actually praying than studying the rules of prayer. But so many times, we have it backwards. We spend all our time learning the rules of prayer without actually praying.

Yes, it’s important that we learn how to pray. But it’s even more important that we pray. Prayer is not easy. It takes work, and the enemy tries to keep us from praying. He offers so many distractions, trying to consume our time—even with good things! Why doesn’t the devil want Christians to pray? He knows there is power in prayer.

God has a plan for each of us, and it’s important that we learn to follow the plan of God for our life. How do we follow that plan? We pray out the plan of God!

God knows how important prayer is; that’s why He gave us instructions to pray and instructions on how to pray. Even the devil knows how important prayer is. Now it’s time for Christians to realize its importance and to devote ourselves to a lifestyle of prayer.

Are You Prepared? — Unashamed of Jesus

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15 Are you prepared to tell someone about Christ? If someone asked you a Biblical question, […]

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Walking By Faith

fathersonholyspiritA Follower of Jesus Spreading His Holy Word And The Loving Grace He Has Given Us. Praying For All Human Kind To Have A Compassionate Heart Of The Lord Jesus Christ

 

“We walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

1. How short is this description of real Christians! And yet how exceeding full! It comprehends, it sums up, the whole experience of those that are truly such, from the time they are born of God till they remove into Abraham’s bosom. For, who are the we that are here spoken of? All that are true Christian believers. I say Christian, not Jewish, believers. All that are not only servants, but children, of God. All that have “the Spirit of adoption, crying in their hearts, Abba, Father.” All that have “the Spirit of God witnessing with their spirits, that they are the sons of God.”

2. All these, and these alone, can say, “We walk by faith, and not by sight.” But before we can possibly “walk by faith,” we must live by faith, and not by sight. And to all real Christians our Lord saith, “Because I live, ye live also:” Ye live a life which the world, whether learned or unlearned, “know not of.” “You that,” like the world, “were dead in trespasses and sins, hath he quickened,” and made alive; given you new senses, — spiritual senses, — “senses exercised to discern spiritual good and evil.”

3. In order thoroughly to understand this important truth, it may be proper to consider the whole matter. All the children of men that are not born of God “walk by sight,” having no higher principle. By sight, that is, by sense; a part being put for the whole; the sight for all the senses; the rather, because it is more noble and more extensive than any, or all the rest. There are but few objects which we can discern by the three inferior senses of taste, smell, and feeling; and none of these can take any cognizance of its object, unless it be brought into a direct contact with it. Hearing, it is true, has a larger sphere of action, and gives us some knowledge of things that are distant. But how small is that distance, suppose it were fifty or a hundred miles, compared to that between the earth and the sun! And what is even this in comparison of the distance of the sun and moon and the fixed stars! Yet the sight continually takes knowledge of objects even at this amazing distance.

4. By sight we take knowledge of the visible world, from the surface of the earth to the region of the fixed stars. But what is the world visible to us, but “a speck of creation,” compared to the whole universe? To the invisible world? — that part of the creation which we cannot see at all, by reason of its distance; in the place of which, through the imperfection of our senses, we are presented with an universal blank.

5. But beside these innumerable objects which we cannot see by reason of their distance, have we not sufficient ground to believe that there are innumerable others of too delicate a nature to be discerned by any of our senses? Do not all men of unprejudiced reason allow the same thing, (the small number of Materialists, or Atheists, I cannot term men of reason) that there is an invisible world, naturally such, as well as a visible one? But which of our senses is fine enough to take the least knowledge of this? We can no more perceive any part of this by our sight, than by our feeling. Should we allow, with the ancient poet that,

Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep;

should we allow, that the great Spirit, the Father of all, filleth both heaven and earth; yet is the finest of our senses utterly incapable of perceiving either Him or them.

6. All our external senses are evidently adapted to this external, visible world. They are designed to serve us only while we sojourn here, — while we dwell in these houses of clay. They have nothing to do with the invisible world; they are not adapted to it. And they can take no more cognizance of the eternal, than of the invisible world; although we are as fully assured of the existence of this, as of anything in the present world. We cannot think death puts a period to our being. The body indeed returns to dust; but the soul, being of a nobler nature, is not affected thereby. There is, therefore, an eternal world, of what kind soever it be. But how shall we attain the knowledge of this? What will teach us to draw aside the veil “that hangs ‘twixt mortal and immortal being?” We all know, “the vast, the unbounded prospect lies before us;” but we are not constrained to add, “Yet clouds, alas! and darkness rest upon it.”

7. The most excellent of our senses, it is undeniably plain, can give us no assistance herein. And what can our boasted reason do? It is now universally allowed, Nihil est in intellectu quod non fuit prius in sensu: “Nothing is in the understanding, which was not first perceived by some of the senses.” Consequently, the understanding, having here nothing to work upon, can afford us no help at all. So that, in spite of all the information we can gain, either from sense or reason, both the invisible and eternal world are unknown to all that “walk by sight.”

8. But is there no help? Must they remain in total darkness concerning the invisible and the eternal world? We cannot affirm this: Even the Heathens did not all remain in total darkness concerning them. Some few rays of light have, in all ages and nations, gleamed through the shade. Some light they derived from various fountains touching the invisible world. “The heavens declared the glory of God,” though not to their outward sight: “The firmament showed,” to the eyes of their understanding, the existence of their Maker. From the creation they inferred the being of a Creator, powerful and wise, just and merciful. And hence they concluded, there must be an eternal world, a future state, to commence after the present; wherein the justice of God in punishing wicked men, and his mercy in rewarding the righteous, will be openly and undeniably displayed in the sight of all intelligent creatures.

9. We may likewise reasonably suppose, that some traces of knowledge, both with regard to the invisible and the eternal world, were delivered down from Noah and his children, both to their immediate and remote descendants. And however these were obscured or disguised by the addition of numberless fables, yet something of truth was still mingled with them, and these streaks of light prevented utter darkness. Add to this, that God never, in any age or nation, “left himself” quite “without a witness” in the hearts of men; but while he “gave them rain and fruitful seasons,” imparted some imperfect knowledge of the Giver. “He is the true Light that” still, in some degree, “enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world.”

10. But all these lights put together availed no farther than to produce a faint twilight. It gave them, even the most enlightened of them, noelegchos, no demonstration, no demonstrative conviction, either of the invisible or of the eternal world. Our philosophical poet justly terms Socrates, “The wisest of all moral men;” that is, of all that were not favoured with Divine Revelation. Yet what evidence had he of another world, when he addressed those that had condemned him to death? — “And now, O ye judges, ye are going to live, and I am going to die. Which of these is best, God knows; but I suppose no man does.” Alas! What a confession is this! Is this all the evidence that poor dying Socrates had either of an invisible or an eternal world? And yet even this is preferable to the light of the great and good Emperor Adrian. Remember, ye modern Heathens, and copy after his pathetic address to his parting soul. For fear I should puzzle you with Latin, I give it you in Prior’s fine translation: —

Poor, little, pretty, fluttering thing,
Must we no longer live together?
And dost thou prune thy trembling wing,
To take the flight, thou know’st not whither?
Thy pleasing vein, thy humorous folly,
Lies all neglected, all forgot!
And pensive, wavering, melancholy,
Thou hop’st and fear’st, thou know’st not what.

11. “Thou know’st not what!” True, there was no knowledge of what was to be hoped or feared after death, till “the Sun of Righteousness” arose to dispel all their vain conjectures, and “brought life and immortality,” that is, immortal life, “to light, through the Gospel.” Then (and not till then, unless in some rare instances) God revealed, unveiled the invisible world. He then revealed himself to the children of men. “The Father revealed the Son” in their hearts; and the Son revealed the Father. He that of old time “commanded light to shine out of darkness shined in their hearts, and enlightened them with the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.”

12. It is where sense can be of no farther use, that faith comes in to our help; it is the grand desideratum; it does what none of the senses can; no, not with all the helps that art hath invented. All our instruments, however improved by the skill and labour of so many succeeding ages, do not enable us to make the least discovery of these unknown regions. They barely serve the occasions for which they were formed in the present visible world.

13. How different is the case, how vast the pre-eminence, of them that “walk by faith!” God, having “opened the eyes of their understanding,” pours divine light into their soul; whereby they are enabled to “see Him that is invisible,” to see God and the things of God. What their “eye had not seen, nor their ear heard neither had it entered into their heart to conceive,” God from time to time reveals to them, by the “unction of the Holy One, which teacheth them of all things.” Having “entered into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” by that “new and living way,” and being joined unto “the general assembly and church of the first-born, and unto God the Judge of all, and Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant,” — each of these can say, “I live not, but Christ liveth in me;” [Gal. 2:20] I now live that life which “is hid with Christ in God;” “and when Christ, who is my life, shall appear, then I shall likewise appear with him in glory.”

14. They that live by faith, walk by faith. But what is implied in this? They regulate all their judgments concerning good and evil, not with reference to visible and temporal things, but to things invisible and eternal. They think visible things to be of small value, because they pass away like a dream; but, on the contrary, they account invisible things to be of high value, because they will never pass away. Whatever is invisible is eternal; the things that are not seen, do not perish. So the Apostle: “The things that are seen are temporal; but the things that are not seen are eternal.” Therefore, they that “walk by faith” do not desire the “things which are seen;” neither are they the object of their pursuit. They “set their affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” They seek only the things which are “where Jesus sitteth at the right hand of God.” Because they know, “the things that are seen are temporal,” passing away like a shadow, therefore they “look not at them;” they desire them not; they account them as nothing; but “they look at the things which are not seen, that are eternal,” that never pass away. By these they form their judgment of all things. They judge them to be good or evil, as they promote or hinder their welfare, not in time, but in eternity. They weigh whatever occurs in this balance: “What influence has it on my eternal state?” They regulate all their tempers and passions, all their desires, joys, and fears, by this standard. They regulate all their thoughts and designs, all their words and actions, so as to prepare them for that invisible and eternal world to which they are shortly going. They do not dwell, but only sojourn here; not looking upon earth as their home, but only

Travelling through Immanuel’s ground,
To fairer worlds on high.

15. Brethren, are you of this number, who are now here before God? Do you see “Him that is invisible?” Have you faith, living faith, the faith of a child? Can you say, “The life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me”? Do you “walk by faith?” Observe the question. I do not ask, whether you curse, or swear, or profane the Sabbath, or live in any outward sin. I do not ask, whether you do good, more or less; or attend all the ordinances of God. But, suppose you are blameless in all these respects, I ask, in the name of God, by what standard do you judge of the value of things? by the visible or the invisible world? Bring the matter to an issue in a single instance. Which do you judge best, — that your son should be a pious cobbler, or a profane lord? Which appears to you most eligible, — that your daughter should be a child of God, and walk on foot, or a child of the devil, and ride in a coach-and-six? When the question is concerning marrying your daughter, if you consider her body more than her soul, take knowledge of yourself: You are in the way to hell, and not to heaven; for you walk by sight, and not by faith. I do not ask, whether you live in any outward sin or neglect; but, do you seek in the general tenor of your life, “the things that are above,” or the things that are below? Do you “set your affection on things above,” or on “things of the earth?” If on the latter, you are as surely in the way of destruction, as a thief or a common drunkard. My dear friends, let every man, every woman among you, deal honestly with yourselves. Ask your own heart, “What am I seeking day by day? What am I desiring? What am I pursuing? Earth or heaven? The things that are seen, or the things that are not seen?” What is your object, God or the world? As the Lord liveth, if the world is your object, still all your religion is vain.

16. See then, my dear brethren, that from this time, at least, ye choose the better part. Let your judgment of all the things round about you be according to the real value of things, with a reference to the invisible and eternal world. See that ye judge everything fit to be pursued or shunned, according to the influence it will have on your eternal state. See that your affections, your desire, your joy, your hope, be set, not on transient objects, not on things that fly as a shadow, that pass away like a dream; but on those that are incapable of change, that are incorruptible and fade not away; those that remain the same, when heaven and earth “flee away, and there is no place found for them.” See that in all you think, speak, or do, the eye of your soul be single, fixed on “Him that is invisible,” and “the glories that shall be revealed.” Then shall “your whole body be full of light:” Your whole soul shall enjoy the light of God’s countenance; and you shall continually see the light of the glorious love of God “in the face of Jesus Christ.”

17. See, in particular, that all your “desire be unto him, and unto the remembrance of his name.” Beware of “foolish and hurtful desires;” such as arise from any visible or temporal thing. All these St. John warns us of, under that general term “love of the world.” [1 John 2:15] It is not so much to men of the world, as to the children of God, he gives that important direction: “Love not the world, neither the things of the world.” Give no place to “the desire of the flesh,” — the gratification of the outward senses, whether of the taste, or any other. Give no place to “the desire of the eye,” — the internal sense, or imagination, — by gratifying it, either by grand things, or beautiful, or uncommon. Give no place to “the pride of life,” — the desire of wealth, of pomp, or of the honour that cometh of men. St. John confirms this advice by a consideration parallel to that observation which St. Paul had made to the Corinthians: “For the world and the fashion of it passeth away.” [1 John 2:16, 17] “The fashion of it” — all worldly objects, business, pleasures, cares, whatever now attracts our regard or attention — “passeth away,” — is in the very act of passing, and will return no more. Therefore desire none of these fleeting things, but that glory which “abideth for ever.”

18. Observe well: This is religion, and this alone; this alone is true Christian religion; not this or that opinion, or system of opinions, be they ever so true, ever so scriptural. It is true, this is commonly called faith. But those who suppose it to be religion are given up to a strong delusion to believe a lie, and if they suppose it to be a sure passport to heaven are in the high road to hell. Observe well: Religion is not harmlessness; which a careful observer of mankind properly terms hellish harmlessness, as it sends thousands to the bottomless pit. It is notmorality; excellent as that is, when it is built on a right foundation, — loving faith; but when otherwise, it is of no value in the sight of God. It is not formality, — the most exact observance of all the ordinances of God. This, too, unless it be built on the right foundation, is no more pleasing to God, than “the cutting off a dog’s neck.” No: Religion is no less than living in eternity, and walking in eternity; and hereby walking in the love of God and man, in lowliness, meekness, and resignation. This, and this alone, is that “life which is hid with Christ in God.” He alone who experiences this “dwells in God, and God in him.” This alone is setting the crown upon Christ’s head, and doing his “will on earth as it is done in heaven.”

19. It will easily be observed, that this is the very thing that men of the world call enthusiasm, — a word just fit for their purpose, because no man can tell either the meaning or even the derivation of it. If it has any determinate sense, it means a species of religious madness. Hence, when you speak your experience, they immediately cry out, “Much religion hath made thee mad.” And all that you experience, either of the invisible or of the eternal world, they suppose to be only the waking dreams of a heated imagination. It cannot be otherwise, when men born blind take upon them to reason concerning light and colours. They will readily pronounce those to be insane who affirm the existence of those things whereof they have no conception.

20. From all that has been said, it may be seen, with the utmost clearness, what is the nature of that fashionable thing called dissipation. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear! It is the very quintessence of Atheism; it is artificial, added to natural, ungodliness. It is the art of forgetting God, of being altogether “without God in the world;” the art of excluding him, if not out of the world he has created, yet out of the minds of all his intelligent creatures. It is a total studied inattention to the whole invisible and eternal world; more especially to death, the gate of eternity, and to the important consequences of death, — heaven and hell!

21. This is the real nature of dissipation. And is it so harmless a thing as it is usually thought? It is one of the choicest instruments of destroying immortal spirits that was ever forged in the magazines of hell. It has been the means of plunging myriads of souls, that might have enjoyed the glory of God, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. It blots out all religion at one stroke, and levels man with the beasts that perish. All ye that fear God, flee from dissipation! Dread and abhor the very name of it! Labour to have God in all your thoughts, to have eternity ever in your eye! “Look” continually, “not at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” Let your hearts be fixed there, where “Christ sitteth at the right hand of God!” that whensoever he calleth you, “an entrance may be ministered unto you abundantly into his everlasting kingdom!”

London, December 30, 1788   by: John Wesley