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Forgiveness is a Process

CrossSometimes we need to be reminded about the simplest concepts. Something as common as forgiveness should be reviewed again and again so that it stays fresh in our hearts. I want to take a couple of posts to talk about the mechanics of forgiveness.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34a

In the past I’ve shared about what forgiveness is. It started out as God’s idea. In the Old Testament, God is the only one who ever forgave. Forgiveness is the end of the penalty for our actions. It cancels the demand for retribution. It also frees us from the guilt.

If you want to read the original series in more detail, click here.

Today I want to talk about the process involved in forgiveness. If we can understand it, then it will be easier for us to accomplish. Let’s start with King David in 2 Samuel, chapters 11 and 12.

It all began when he stayed home from battle when he should have been with his army. He ended up on his porch watching neighbor’s wife as she bathed. David ended up being involved in adultery, murder, and a cover-up.

God sends the prophet, Nathan, to confront David with these sins. David is convicted, repents, and writes a song about his experience. (Psalm 51)

In the first 4 verses of Psalm 51 he used 5 different words for sin. He wanted to make sure he covered everything. That’s how forgiveness starts.

The first step – Sin is committed. There is a failure, a hurt against someone. But the truth is that no matter who gets hurt, there’s one important truth we need to recognize.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
Psalm 51:4

Think about all that were hurt by David’s actions. There was Bathsheba, Uriah, Joab, Nathan, David’s family, as well as Israel as a whole. In spite of all that hurt, David recognized that the sin was against God only.

This is the key. We have such a high opinion of ourselves. The fact is that we were created to be perfect. Anything less offends God. There is no sin we could possibly commit that’s not against God.

There is good news, however. That’s not the end of the story. The next step is that once sin is committed, forgiveness is purchased.

We know from Scripture that without blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). Under the Old Testament Law there had to be a sacrifice. The Good News is that we live after the cross.

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Matthew 26:27-28

The blood of Christ paid for our forgiveness once and for all. It was the one perfect payment needed.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
Ephesians 1:7

This verse says that we have been loosed off by His blood and our sins are forgiven. Forgiveness is available to all.

But that’s also a problem. It’s available to all, but it’s not yet manifest. That’s what the Good News of Christ is all about.  It’s communicating the forgiveness of God.

In my next post I’ll talk about the last two steps in the process. They change everything.

Question: How has God’s forgiveness changed your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on January 11, 2017 in Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Mercy and Sacrifice

surgeryIn my last post we saw Jesus rebuke the Pharisees for not understanding God’s mercy. The Lord said that God desired mercy and not sacrifice. I want to look at this truth. It’s through the power of God’s mercy that Jesus ministered the way He did.

So I ask you, do you want a higher walk before the Lord? Do you want to live above the promises? Do you want to walk as Jesus walked? If so, then you must learn what God meant when He said, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.”

“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.”
Hosea 6:1-2

At this point in history, Israel was broken. But God was looking forward to the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. They could be healed of their grievous wounds.

Please understand that they had the same problem with God that we have sometimes. It’s all a matter of perspective. From their perspective God was wounding them, cutting them and hurting them. From God’s perspective, He was performing open heart surgery.

Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.
Hosea 6:3

Hosea calls the people to acknowledge God. The literal Hebrew means to know by seeing and experiencing. The phrase press on means to pursue. We pursue God in order to know and experience Him. The object should not be to know about Him, but to know God in person as He truly is.

“What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears. Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.”
Hosea 6:4-5

Here God is showing Israel how they respond to Him. He tells them that their love like the dew or a mist. It’s here for a short time and dissipates in the morning sunlight. Think about the church of today. Sunday mornings we sing and cry out about our undying love for the Lord. We tell Him that we can’t live without Him.

Right after the service, however, that love burns off like the dew. It’s because of this that God said He has to perform the surgery. So the Lord carved His people by the prophets, stabbed them by His Word.

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6

Here is the heart of the matter. This is the desire of God for His people. He desires us to obtain mercy by obeying Him out of a heart of love for Him. Mercy is all about pursuing God simply to be with Him.

Many in our present generation miss this. They pursue God, but it’s for healing, for prosperity, for a better job, or a new car. Many pursue God for the things that He can give us, not because we simply want to know Him more intimately. The walk of mercy is a walk that seeks to know God for who He is in that secret place.

Questions: How is your pursuit of God characterized? Why do you pursue God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2015 in Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Well Pleasing Sacrifice

FireIn my last post I talked about having a faith that’s well pleasing to God. Today I want to continue in that theme of pleasing God.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
Romans 12:1

This is one of those verses that we wished wasn’t in the Bible. But it is, so we have to follow it. It says that there’s something we can do that’s holy and well pleasing to God.

The word offer means to stand beside your body. Paul is talking about something that can only be done in the spirit.

The original Greek says that it’s a burnt offering, living, holy, and to God – well pleasing. Wait a minute; we are to be a living burnt offering? There’s really no other way to say it.

Pleasing God requires sacrifice. But what exactly does that mean to us? Most people use the word sacrifice to mean they’ll try harder. They think it tells them to fast on holidays, eat according to the Old Testament food laws, dress like the 1940’s, and talk King James English.

That’s not what God is looking for. If you read the epistle to the Romans, you find that Paul writes about the walk of the spirit. If that’s in place, then you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. How do we get there?

We need the fire of God to consume the sacrifice. In the book of Acts we see tongues of fire on the heads of those praying in the upper room. We are also told (I Thessalonians 5:19) not to quench the Holy Spirit’s fire. Paul told his spiritual son, Timothy, to fan into flame the gift that was within him (II Timothy 1:6).

Paul was a man who had a rich experience of prayer in the spirit. He assumed that those he was writing to also knew how to pray in the spirit. When you pray in the spirit, you’re standing beside your body as a burnt offering.

The last part of the verse in Romans could be modernized as, logically – this is what you signed up for. We are living out a spiritual walk. You can try harder, stumbling around in the flesh without Christ. But if I’m to be well pleasing, it will require a spiritual work.

My last post talked about our faith being tested and approved – that’s the fire. As I pray in the spirit, I stand beside the burnt offering.

Remember, I’m not talking about whether or not you’re saved, or even acceptable to God. You’re all those things, and more, in Christ. I’m talking about going beyond acceptable and into the realm of well-pleasing to God.

This should be our desire if we want to see a move of God in our lifetime.

Question: Why do some believers find this sacrifice so difficult?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
 

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The First Step to Excellence #excellenceinministry

MountainI’ve been posting about the walk of excellence for a few days now.  Hopefully, as a child of God, you desire to walk in excellence before Him.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-2

Where do you start on this road to excellence?  As is the case with many things in Christ, it’s going to start with a choice.

It’s sad to say, but many believers will not be willing to make that choice.  The cost is great.  This is that small gate that leads to the narrow road that Jesus said few would find.

The reason is not that it’s difficult to see or understand, but because it involves sacrifice.  I have to sacrifice my plans, dreams, and hopes to make room for His.

Basically, I have to learn to see myself as lying dead upon the altar of the Lord in order for His resurrection power to raise me to new levels in Him.  That’s why, generally speaking, the body of Christ in this generation is in its present state.

There is a transformation process that I need to undergo in order for His Word, His will, and His Way to become a part of my being.  I must allow the Living Word and the Holy Spirit to renew my heart and mind.  My thought processes and desires must be transformed into that which conforms to His plans.

It’s only when I’m willing to see it through to completion, in God’s way, that He will entrust me with His excellent plan for my life.  So many people have come to me as pastor down through the years asking me how to “find” God’s will for their lives.

The above verse doesn’t say that I need to struggle or search for God’s will.  It says that if I’m willing to lay my life down on His altar and begin the renewal process of my mind, then I will just know it.  When I see His will for my life, I will approve it.  I think you can agree that if something is good, pleasing and perfect – it can also be described as excellent.

It’s only after the decision of excellence is made that God will entrust you with His will.  Too often our attitude is that we want to know His will first so that we can decide whether we want to do it or not.  The Lord requires faith if we’re to please Him.  We must come to Him with the decision to see it through before He’ll give us the glimpse of the road ahead.  If you will not trust God with your future, then He will not trust you with His vision.

Question: Have you chosen the road of excellence?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Spirit of Excellence

 

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Lives Laid Down for the Scripture #Revivals past

MountchurchI’ve been posting about the first great move of God after the Dark Ages.  The Lord was using His people to restore the Bible as the foundation for faith and practice in the church.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Romans 15:4

It’s obvious from the lives of these people, that they were able to endure beyond the normal experience.  It was their reliance on the Scripture that brought them to this level.

Who were these dedicated believers?

There were the Cathari in France.  They believed that tradition, alone, is not a basis for faith.  So they started printing and circulating Scripture.  Pope Innocent III actually called for a crusade against them.  Not only did he wipe them out, but the entire local population as well.

Another name to remember was Peter Waldo.  Around this time he started preaching the Word of God and circulating Scripture.  His followers were called the Waldensians.  They fared a little better.  When the order was given to kill them all, they were able to flee.  This community of Christians escaped to the mountain caves of Northern Italy, where they still exist today.

One of the more famous names of this move was John Wycliffe, from England.  Again, his goal was to preach the Word and get the Scripture into the hands of God’s people.  His followers were called the Lollards.  Unfortunately, they had to give up their lives for the faith.  They were martyred by Kings Henry the IV and V.

In many cases, the problem with our humanity is that we don’t want to know that we’re wrong.  The fact is that I need Scripture to correct me and then show me how to get back on solid ground again.  Many don’t want to admit their need for change.  Especially when there’s political power involved.  That was a big reason that they crucified the Lord.

The list goes on and on of those who started preaching a new way of following Christ – using the Scripture as the standard of their lives.  It includes such men as St. Jerome, John Huss, John Calvin, and Martin Luther.  Many people don’t know that Luther was actually working on a German translation for the common people to read.  Most of these saints of God were persecuted and killed.

Their commitment is summed up pretty well in a line from the dedication page of the KJV Bible: “So that if, on the one side, we shall be traduced by…persons at home or abroad, who therefore will malign us, because we are poor instruments to make God’s holy Truth to be yet more and more known unto the people, whom they desire still to keep in ignorance and darkness;”

I am eternally grateful for their sacrifice so that I could have a foundation for my faith.  And, so that you could know the truth of God for yourself.

Question: What’s the best way to show our gratefulness to God for our unlimited access to the Scripture?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2013 in Revival, The Church

 

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Is Your Tongue Your Problem?

DogI’ve been talking about Abraham’s example to us in receiving God’s blessing and provision.  In my last post I said that we needed to speak what we believe from our heart.  This is important because it’s usually our speaking that gets us in the most trouble.

Listen to the exchange that took place as Abraham was taking Isaac up the mountain.  All Abraham knew at this point was that God was asking him to offer Isaac up as a sacrifice.

Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”  And the two of them went on together.
Genesis 22:7-8

I can only imagine how much pain this question caused Abraham.  I believe that there was a long pause while Abraham thought about how he could answer the boy.  It amazes me how simply the answer was formed.

In spite of his confusion, and without anger or bitterness toward God, he spoke the truth in faith and love.  This is a lesson we need to take to heart.

So many times we speak without thinking.  We especially run into trouble when we talk from the hurt and anguish we’re experiencing.  We say many things that we wish we could take back.

That’s why one of the secrets to positioning ourselves to receive God’s blessing is to watch what we say when we’re hurting.  James understood this truth.

Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
James 3:5-6

James is looking at this from a negative perspective.  Controlled by the spirit, the tongue can set your life on course for God’s blessing.  Controlling the tongue is one of the hardest things we’re called to do, yet it’s one of the most important.  What we say can set the emotional foundation for our eventual success or failure.

How we speak, especially in times of confusion and pain, will have a lasting effect on both us and those around us.  Is what you’re saying building up or tearing down God’s work?

We must choose to keep a watch over our tongues.  If needed, we can go to the Lord in repentance for things that may have been said in hurt or anger.  We can ask for His strength to take control of this unruly member of our body.

If we will spend time in the Lord’s presence and meditate upon His Word, then there will be a greater chance that truth and love will come out during stressful times.

Question: When have your words either helped or hurt the situation you were in?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2013 in Faith, God's Provision

 

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Obedience – the Highest Call

1 Samuel 15:22
But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

In this passage, the prophet Samuel is rebuking King Saul.  He had disobeyed a direct command of God for “religious” reasons.  Saul said that he was going to give God a sacrifice instead.  In his rebuke, Samuel gives us a principle that we would do well to remember.

Obedience to God is always better than any sacrifice we can make.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re putting money in an offering plate or offering up a “sacrifice of praise.”  Obedience trumps sacrifice every time.

The reason is that sacrifice can be manipulated.  It can be motivated by self-will or arrogance.  Obedience, on the other hand, honors God by putting Him directly in the center of what we’re doing.  Usually, total obedience to God can only be accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit in us.  Not only is God the focus, but He is also the One who strengthens us.

A good example of this is Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.  As He cried out to God He said, “If it is Your will, take this cup [dying on the cross] from me.”  Then He told the Father that it was not His own will that was important, but the Father’s.  The Lord’s prayer that day was in accordance with the principle of Samuel.  What Jesus wanted didn’t matter – it was the Father’s will that was supreme.

Our “cup” and God’s will are two totally different things until we allow the Lord to merge them.  Our highest goal should be to know God’s will and obey it.  More than any other part of our lives, this is our highest call.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2012 in Daily Thoughts

 

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