Forgiven by God

Evening in Jerusalem closed around Jesus as he shared a last meal with his disciples in the Upper Room. When supper was nearly over, he took a cup of wine and announced God’s new covenant to save them–“an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you” (Luke 22:20, New Living Translation).

No longer would sins be forgiven by sacrificing blemish-free lambs, goats, and bulls to God. God’s new covenant would soon be sealed for all time with the blood of his Son–the one Person who (1) was born sinless and (2) lived an entirely sin-free life.

Weeks later, Peter clearly declared to all who would listen the identity of that sinless One–“Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the man you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead. There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all heaven for people to call on to save them” (Acts 4:12).

But why do we need to be saved? What does Jesus’ blood save us from?

From God’s judgment. When we sin–no matter how small, we bring down on our heads the penalty of death. First, spiritual death which makes us slaves to sin here on earth. Later, when our bodies die, the judgment includes another death–eternal separation from our loving God who is  “so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of his son, and our sins are forgiven” (Ephesians 1:7).

Imagine! If we want it, we can have it–our sins forgiven, our slates wiped clean by the blood of Jesus–the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. If we will only accept the precious shed blood of Christ Jesus as payment for our sins (Ephesians 2:13).

Why blood?

God’s Word tells us that “without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). Yet God knew the debt we owed him was far beyond our ability to pay, so he paid that debt himself! He died in our place and rose from the dead. What other response can we give to Jesus our Savior than to shout for joy.

Focus: “All praise to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us” ~ Revelation 1:5, New Living Translation.

How about you? How do you instinctively  respond to the idea of your sins forgiven through Jesus?

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Freedom from Prison

“How can you ask me to do that?” Alison wiped the tears from her face. “You know all the ugly things he’s done.”

Yes, Debra knew what her brother-in-law had done before, during, and since their nasty divorce. She also knew how much it hurt when someone who should love you turned on you in hatred. Hadn’t her own daughter hurt her more than any parent should be asked to endure?

“But that’s not the point–” she began.

“Oh, I get it. You want me to say, ‘I forgive you, Leo. It’s all right. It wasn’t your fault.”

“Not at all.” How could Debra help her dear sister understand? Oh, yes. “Alison, remember the story Jesus told about the king who forgave his manager who embezzled a million dollars from him? Do you remember how that same manager then refused to forgive someone who owed him very little?”

Alison nodded, but from her glowering expression, Debra  had the feeling her sister knew where this was going and didn’t like it. She continued anyway, “Later the king discovered his manger refused to forgive a neighbor’s debt and threw his manager in prison.”

Debra looked into her sister’s red-rimmed eyes. “Alison, unforgiveness is a prison.”

Alison crossed her arms. “So you want me to let him get away with all the terrible things he’s done–all the terrible things he still does every chance he gets.”

“I want you to put all that in God’s hands where it belongs. The important thing is for you–all of us–to trust God to know what is best.” Debra took took her sister’s hands. “Alison, when we choose to forgive, we get our lives back. We are free! No more tormenting prison of self-pity and hatred. You want that, don’t you? Then start right now by forgiving Leo for each thing you remember that still hurts you.”

“Forgiving him won’t stop him.”

“No,” Debra said.”But as long as you keep forgiving, you stay free and give God room to work in your heart and his. Alison, let God handle Leo.”

Debra was right. Forgiving another’s wrongs doesn’t make the person right. It simply says, “I cancel the debt you owe me–love, money, respect, or anything else–and put the matter in God’s hands.” Jesus gave us our one sure way out of the painful prison of unforgiveness.

Focus: “Forgive whatever grievances you may have … forgive as the Lord forgave you” ~ Colossians 3:13, New International Version.

How about you? What do you think of Jesus’ method of freeing yourself from the prison of unforgiveness? How has it worked for you or someone you know?

 

 

God’s Care in Frightening Circumstances

As soon as my husband left for his out-of-town seminar, I hopped in my car to shop for Mom’s birthday gift. Five miles up the road, my little red Saab accelerated on its own. I pressed the brakes. It slowed, but the moment I let up, my car shot ahead with a vengeance!

All thoughts of shopping fled as I headed straight for the garage that serviced our cars. Closed.

“What now, Lord?”

A desire to head home gripped me. I wrestled  with my runaway car for two miles before pulling into a Volvo sales lot. Turning off the ignition, I rested my head against the steering wheel and wept. Safe for the moment, I was still three miles from home and no closer to solving my problem. “What should I do, Lord?”

A tall man in a spotless white jumpsuit appeared at the passenger side door. “Can I help you?”

He listened to my story. “Bring it into the garage. I’ll take a look.”

I glanced at my purse, sure that what little money I had with me was about to disappear.

He looked under the hood and sprayed a “sticky valve.” With a smile, he told me the trouble would disappear by the time I reached home. “No charge,” he insisted.

My nerves had begun to settle as I arrived at the next intersection. Two cars pulled up behind me while I waited for a white semi with “Student Driver” splashed in red along its side. It turned onto our road. Too late I saw the danger!

Amid a series of deafening hisses, its back tires rolled toward my front bumper. Frantic, I fumbled to jam my car in reverse–without success. As the huge tires pressed against my bumper, I screamed for God’s help. “Jesus!” The truck stopped and fell silent.

I reached home in a sorry state of nerves. Collapsing  on the living room floor, I wept. “Lord, why did you let this happen to me? Why didn’t you take care of me?”

I did, child. You’re home and you’re safe. His gentle words soothed my heart.

God doesn’t always spare us life’s frightening circumstances. But whatever we face, if we trust and obey him, we come to know the blessing of his shield of love.

Focus: “You bless the godly man, O Lord; you protect him with your shield of love” ~ Psalm 5:12, New Living Translation.

How about you? Can you recall a time when God saved you in the midst of a frightening circumstance? Please share.

Appropriately Clothed for the Wedding

I held up the soft velvet slacks that matched my black suede heels and set off the sparkling sapphire earrings and necklace my husband had given me. Perfect for my nephew’s wedding–except for one thing. “Lord, where do I find the right black velvet top?”

The name of a store came to mind. As unlikely as it seemed to me, I went.

Up and down the aisles of thrift store clothing, I checked one possibility after another. Too big. Too small. Too revealing. Material too different. Ugly buttons. Hopeless!

On the way out, my gaze skimmed absently over a rack of items to be re-hung. Wait!

I snatched a black velvet top from the rack. Right size. Right neckline. Right sleeve length. A perfect match for the slacks. Thanking the Lord, I headed for the checkout.

Most of us try to select the right clothing to attend a wedding celebration, but Jesus told the story of one who did not.

It seems a king held a great wedding feast. When the banquet was ready and the hall filled, he came to greet his guests and noticed one who was not appropriately clothed. “Why?” the king asked.

The man didn’t answer. He had no excuse. Because the king had provided wedding garments for those who didn’t have them, the man’s lack of proper clothing was nothing but outright rebellion. He wanted to be included, but on his own terms.

The king wasted no time. He had the man thrown out (Matthew 22:1-14).

One day God will call us to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. We each are to arrive appropriately clothed in the beautiful garment Jesus purchased for us by his death on the cross. His Word says Jesus gives this spotless garment of his righteousness to all who meet certain requirements–believe he is God, admit they are sinners, and accept his blood-bought forgiveness.

While many believe in more than one way to heaven, the truth is that, like the king is Jesus’ story, only God can say what he requires. Do we want to  enjoy eternity in heaven? Then it must be on his terms–which he makes lovingly clear in his Word.

Focus: (Jesus speaking) I am the way … no one can come to the Father except through me” ~ John 14:6, New Living Translation.

What do you think about God’s requirements for enjoying eternity in heaven, and why?