Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Luke

Tough Words on Forgiveness

forgivenessIn his excellent commentary on Luke’s Gospel, David Garland spends some time thinking about forgiveness as he reflects on the Lord’s model prayer (Luke 11.1-4). He then cites C.S. Lewis on the topic of forgiveness and what Christians really believe:

We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that He will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us. There is no doubt about the second part of this statement. It is in the Lord’s Prayer, it was emphatically stated by our Lord. If you don’t forgive you will not be forgiven. No exceptions to it. He doesn’t say that we are to forgive other people’s sins, provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don’t we shall be forgiven none our own. 1

Garland then continues: 2

Though most people agree that forgiveness is admirable, it is not easy. Alexander Pope’s adage, “To err is human, to forgive is divine,” may explain why human so often fail to practice this divine trait. It has been said that some bury the hatchet but leave the handle sticking out of the ground so that it is ready to grasp when they want it. Others ask, “Do I have to forgive if the offender does not repent?” It may never occur to them to ask, “Can the offender repent if I do not forgive?”

 

Jesus understands that forgiveness is as important for the one who has been hurt as for the one who caused the hurt. Forgiveness keeps one from being clobbered again and again when the memories resurface. Harboring a grudge opens persons up to the danger of defining their lives by how they have been hurt. Forgiveness provides release. Smedes writes, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” 3

It’s easy to understand forgiveness in theory. It’s another thing to be defined by it and display it. Forgiveness is one of the most costly things anyone can ever do. It always has been; especially at the cross. Forgiveness hurts. But it also heals.

May God give us grace to live this. Only the power of the cross can make it so.

Notes:

  1. “On Forgiveness,” in The Weight of Glory (London: SPCK, 1949; repr. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2001), 178.
  2. From David E. Garland, Luke, ZECNT (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 472.
  3. Garland is quoting from Lewis B. Smedes, Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1984).

Nagging the Judge

Try picturing yourself in a situation where you’re likely to nag. What situation is it for you?

Many wives nag their husbands about conversations they have to have, jobs that need to be done around the house, and decisions that need to be made. Many husbands nag their wives for more physical affection. Fathers are often quick to nag their children about all those ‘annoying habits’ they have.

What’s the thing that seems to make you nag, even when you’ve sworn you won’t? Why is it so hard to not nag in that situation?

Let me suggest a reason. I think it’s hard to not nag in that situation because of three things.

  1. You are experiencing some measure of discomfort in that given moment
  2. You see a way that your discomfort could be alleviated
  3. The power to alleviate your discomfort lies with another person

So the logic seemingly demands that we nag. We need to convince that other person to act so that our problems are resolved. But you know what’s fascinating about that? If we really believed God’s words the way we say we do we would be impulsively and compulsively nagging God in prayer.

And you know what? I think he’d like it.

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Are You Cheerful?

Today in the car I was listening to a message by CJ Mahaney on Luke 17. He made a comment just in passing about this phrase from  James 5.13: ‘Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.’

CJ pointed out that James doesn’t assume that just because we’re cheerful, we’ll allow our cheerfulness to show. What a shame! If we are cheerful, we are actually instructed here to ‘sing praise.’ That is, if you are cheerful, let others know! Let your outer demeanour match your inner joy.

As he went on to note, too often, like the lepers in Luke 17, we simply receive gifts, enjoy them, and move on like a spoiled child at a birthday party. I need to hear this. If God has given me gifts that make me happy, I need to let my happiness show. It will give him glory, and my joy will invite others to participate in my joy with me.

Has God been gracious to you today? Have you received from him better than you deserve? Has his grace cheered you today? Then sing! Let others know! Give him glory. Let your cheerfulness be seen!

Desperate Need of Jesus

This morning I found myself finishing up the last few chapters of Luke and realizing again just how desperately I need Jesus.

I confess that for much of my Christian life I have seen my need of Jesus mainly in a soteriological sense (i.e. I need his vicarious death to accomplish forgiveness of my sins and so that I can be clothed with his righteousness). To be sure, that need is the burden of these chapters in Luke. Jesus himself, we are told, explained to his disciples ‘that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations’. This is why Jesus died, and this is what we need from him, first and foremost. That’s what Scriptures testify, and that’s what I believe.

But there’s more than that, though. I have so much more need of Jesus that I can see even just from these few chapters.

At the beginning of chapter 22 we are told that Satan enters into Judas. Half way through the chapter, Jesus says these words to Peter: ‘Behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.’ Wow. God ordained that Jesus would be betrayed by Judas, who gave himself over to Satan, but when Satan wanted Peter, Jesus said no.

What stands between Satan and me? What stops Satan (or one of his workers) from entering me and working in me to do his bidding? What holds Satan back from causing my faith to fail? The will of God and the prayers of Jesus. I have great need of Jesus to pray for me and be merciful to keep me.

In a similar vein, I need Jesus to remember me. This was the request of the thief on the cross, that when Jesus would come into his kingdom, that he would remember–be favourable to, merciful to–this thief who was guilty of sin and crime and deserved nothing but death and punishment. How am I any different than the thief? I need Jesus to remember me, too.

In these chapters is recounted the literal, historic events of Jesus’ death and resurrection. As Paul would teach later (Rom 6), we have need of Christ’s death becoming our death to sin (and to the law). In this way, we die to sin and to the law, and are no longer held captive by it, to do its will. Rather, all who have baptized into Christ, having been unified with him in his death, have been made alive with him in his resurrection. I have great need of Christ’s resurrection, which makes me alive to God. Though formerly I was dead in transgressions and sins, now through Christ’s resurrection, I have been made alive to God, that I might do his will.

In the last chapter of Luke we read of the two walking to Emmaus, who meet up with Jesus, but can’t figure out that it’s him. Jesus describes himself as the fulfilment of everything that has come before (Moses and the Prophets), but they still don’t get it. It wasn’t until he broke bread with them that their eyes were opened. I have great need of Jesus to open my eyes to see him for who he is. I am foolish and slow of heart to believe the word of God, but his grace is sufficient to enable me to see with the eyes of faith.

The disciples (and the rest of humanity since!) are no different than the two on the road. When Jesus comes to them they don’t know what to make of him. They think all kinds of wrong thoughts about him (like, ‘Maybe he’s just a spirit or something?’). It wasn’t until Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures that they could understand Jesus.

I have great need of Jesus opening my eyes to understand the Bible, in order for me to know him. Unless Jesus grants that my eyes be opened I can read the Bible till I die (or not read the Bible till I die) and I will never know Jesus. The only way to know him is from his word, and the only way to understand his word is if he opens our minds.

Man, am I needy!

And to think, that’s from only a few chapters…

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