Tag Archives: forgiveness

Unwavering faith that brings results

Experience faith, live in faith, and rejoice in the results of faith. God is the source and giver of faith that permeates our lives and brings results that only God can do.

We cannot create faith. Through God, we can experience it.

‘Believe and receive’ is not ‘name it and claim it.’

“Truly I tell you, whoever says to this mountain, Be lifted up and thrown into the sea! and does not doubt at all in his heart but believes that what he says will take place, it will be done for him.

For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (trust and be confident) that it is granted to you, and you will [get it].

And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop” {Mark 11:23-25, Amplified Bible).

Just believe and you have it? Name it and claim it? No, that is not what this Scripture teaches. The type of faith Christ is talking about was taught in the Old Testament also, long before Christ taught it in the New Testament. Of course Christ, through the Holy Spirit who inspired the Old as well as the New Testaments, is the Author of the the following passage from Proverbs as also.

“Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track” (Proverbs 3:5-6, The MSG).

From Proverbs 3, we get a hint of the source of this faith: God is the author. We cannot muster it up. We cannot earn it. It is a gift from God as we “listen for God’s voice in everything…everywhere.” We cannot create faith. We can only experience it.

Struggling with doubt

So how can I get God to give me this faith that receives answers to its need? One man did it very simply. He just asked for it with a yearning heart, and set the example for us all:

“And it has often thrown him both into fire and into water, intending to kill him. But if You can do anything, do have pity on us and help us.

And Jesus said, [You say to Me], If You can do anything? [Why,] all things can be (are possible) to him who believes!

At once the father of the boy gave [an eager, piercing, inarticulate] cry with tears, and he said, Lord, I believe! [Constantly] help my weakness of faith!” (Mark 9:22-24).

We simply ask God with an “eager, piercing” even an “inarticulate” cry. In other words, we ask him sincerely. We recognize our own inability to believe with this kind of faith (“help my weakness of faith”). We may not even be able to express our need (inarticulate), but God knows our heart.

God responds to the truth in our hearts, not to the words we on our lips. We ask God to give us this faith constantly, as the father in the above Scripture did, and to teach us to live in a way to receive it constantly.

Mark 11:23-25 (first passage in this study) also teaches that we cannot believe with sincere faith if we harbor un-forgiveness. “Let it go” the Bible teaches. When we “leave it, let it go” Christ promises that he will “forgive you your own failings and shortcomings and let them drop.” So the basis of this type of faith is being right with our fellow-man, and right with God — the first two Commandments found in Exodus 20, to love God supremely and to love others as ourselves. Jesus said, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40).

How can we find faith like this?

This leads us straight to the Source, the Author, the Giver of faith that takes over our lives and brings the results that only God can do: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 NKJV)

Yes, faith comes by reading God’s Word. Do you read the Bible, God’s Word, daily? We must live according to God’s principles to experience this unwavering faith. Yet, how can we know God’s principles if we are not reading his Word?

Living by faith

Paul said to the Colossian Christians: “My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7 Amplified Bible).

We cannot have this unwavering faith unless we first have an unwavering life. We cannot believe and receive unless we first commit all situations of our life to the Lord Jesus Christ. So now it is time to go forth and experience faith, live in faith, and rejoice in faith. We can trust God, not because we muster up the faith to believe, but because our God has proven himself faithful!

Live in God’s Word today,
Lois

11. What if we haven’t obeyed God as we should?

Instructing children at mother’s knee or in a Sunday School class. Learning about sin, choosing repentance and forgiveness. We love God, and will obey him.

God is ready to give us another chance.

God will forgive us if we admit we’ve done wrong.

Yesterday we talked about choosing. See if you can remember these things:

  1. When we choose to do wrong, what is that called? (Sin.)
  2. Who are we choosing then? (The devil)
  3. When we choose to live the way the Bible teaches us to live, what is that called? (Obedience or obeying God and Jesus.)
  4. Who are we choosing then? (God and Jesus.)

I’m going to read what Jesus said about obeying, when Jesus was teaching His disciples. (Read John 14:16-26).

  1. What did Jesus say we will do if we love Him? (Obey Him.)
  2. What did Jesus say about anyone who doesn’t obey Him? (They don’t love Him.)
  3. If we say we love Jesus, but do wrong much of the time, do we love Jesus? (No.)
  4. Do we love Jesus if we are trying very hard to please God and Jesus but mess up and do something wrong? (Yes.) Explain your answer.
  5. If we choose to live the way we want to live, is that obeying Jesus? (No.)
  6. What is obeying Jesus? (Choosing to live the way the Bible teaches.)
  7. If we realize that we have not been living the way the Bible teaches because we have been choosing our own way or choosing to do wrong much of the time, what should we do? (Ask Jesus to forgive us.)
  8. How long will we have to wait before Jesus will forgive us? (He forgives the moment we ask.)

Next – Lesson 12: How does God talk to us today?


I chose the Contemporary English Version as the default translation for Lessons from Elijah. Its easy reading and accurate translation make the CEV an ideal version for children. For more information, see A Bible for children.

01. Saving faith: believing, trusting, and surrendering

Faith is believing, trusting, and surrendering. Until I surrender my own will to his, he cannot save me from wrong ways, for I will still be committed to them.

“And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too, for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him” (Colossians 2:6 TLB)

Three categories of faith

Colossians 2:6, as paraphrased above in The Living Bible, is one of the best approaches to living the Christian life that I’ve ever seen. The Living Bible is an out-of-print paraphrased version of the Bible. Here is a literal translation::

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7, NIV)

There are three categories of faith represented in Colossians 2:6 as paraphrased in TLB. We could call them:

  1. Saving faith: “just as you trusted Christ to save you”
  2. Daily faith: “for each day’s problems”
  3. Committed faith: “vital union with him”

What is faith?

The Bible often uses the word “believe” to describe faith. For example:

“They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved — you and your household.'” (Acts 16:31 NIV)

Paul and Silas had been in jail for preaching the Gospel. God sent an earthquake to free them as they sang praises to God. The jailer realized that the God of Paul and Silas was real, and asked “What must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas responded with Acts 16:31.

To publicly acknowledge Christ meant severe punishment, maybe even death, for the jailer. After all, Paul and Silas had been in prison with stocks and chains and heavily guarded because of their faith. Yet the Scripture says: “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God — he and his whole family.” (Acts 16:32-34 NIV)

Did he just believe with the intellect? No, intellect could never be sufficient to cause the jailer to dare to be baptized publicly, bring escaped prisoners to his home and feed them, and lead his family to do this too. Even if he were willing to risk his own life, could he risk subjecting his family to the Gospel message and their subsequent public commitment unless he had more than intellectual knowledge?

Verse 32 says “they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.” Paul and Silas explained that the one who had been born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, ministering in all Judea, and recently crucified between two sinners was truly the Son of God. No doubt they told the jailer that just as faith in Jesus had set Paul and Silas free from the bondage of prison, so could faith in Jesus set men free from the bondage of sin. Faith in the one who died and is alive again could give the jailer hope and peace in this life, and an eternal resurrection with the Lord.

The jailer did more than just believe. He trusted in Jesus Christ. He trusted that Jesus would do for him just what he said he would do:

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” (John 8:12 NIV)

The jailer trusted enough that he was willing to surrender to baptism and public commitment. He was willing to surrender to whatever God asked him to do even if it cost him his life. He dared to believe that as he followed God’s plan for his life, God would take care of him and his family in this life and the next. He surrendered to the Lordship of Christ.

Faith is these three

Faith is these three: believing, trusting, surrendering. It is not enough to simply believe that Jesus is God’s son and that he arose from the dead if I don’t trust him to apply that forgiveness to my life. Until I surrender my own will to his, he cannot save me from wrong ways, for I will still be committed to them.

Questions for thought and discussion

  1. Are we Christians just because we believe facts about Jesus or trust that he can save us from things we have done? Why is the third step of surrender an important step?
  2. If you had to describe faith using one word only, what word would you choose and why?
  3. If you could use one sentence only to define faith, how would you define it?
  4. “And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too, for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him” (Colossians 2:6 TLB). Later in this study, we will get to the “each day’s problems” and “union with him” part. But for now, consider: Why do we need to be saved? What are we trusting him to save us from? to save us to?
  5. To think about: Have you just “always believed” in Jesus. Or can you remember a time when you made a commitment to him and trusted him to the point that you were willing to surrender control of your life to him?

It will be great to get into discussions of growing in faith as Christians. But the first step is saving faith. Before we can grow, we must be saved from our wrong way. If you are struggling and trying to live the Christian life yet are not getting anywhere with it, perhaps you’ve been depending on intellectual believing. Perhaps you’ve been trying to trust Jesus, but you’ve not given your life to him so he can change your life.

I’ll share my own story of surrender to God next.

Scripture taken from New International Version unless otherwise noted

In times like these agape love never fails

A commitment to charity and God’s agape love to reach our mate and marriage. Tearing down walls of protection and becoming vulnerable in service, flexibility, courage, forgiveness.

from 1 Corinthians 13, the “Love Chapter.” The Greek word “agape” is translated “love.”

In times like these

I’ve heard that after the wedding bells stop ringing, marriage partners begin to reduce each other to fit their own molds. Ah, but that could never happen to us! Or so I said before we got married.

But now I’m beginning to feel uncomfortably reduced! I thought we knew each other well, but sometimes now I feel I hardly know you at all.

It seems you’re trying to squeeze me into your mold, yet at the same time you’ve smashed all the boundaries which held my cast of an ideal mate.

In times like these, my love can no longer afford to be merely an emotion. In times like these, my love must mature into a ministry, because…

Love is selfish when it swoons, “I love you because of who I am when I am with you.” Love is agape when it declares, “I will serve you regardless of who I am when I am with you.”

There will be times when you will sin against me. During these times I promise to follow the example of our Lord in his relationship with Judas Iscariot. Jesus demonstrated the same love toward Judas that he lavished upon the other apostles. During their three years of companionship, Jesus’ treatment of Judas never gave away the fact that Jesus knew Judas was an impostor (John 13:1-34.)

Forgiveness is not passive.
Forgiveness aggressively makes itself vulnerable.
Forgiveness is turning the other cheek. 70 x 70.

There will be times when we are angry with each other. When I am angry, I promise to abide by this counsel:

Scripture says, “When you are angry, do not sin.”—(Psalm 4:4) Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. Don’t give the devil a chance.

Those who have been stealing must never steal again. Instead, they must work. They must do something useful with their own hands. Then they will have something to give to people in need.

Don’t let any evil talk come out of your mouths. Say only what will help to build others up and meet their needs. Then what you say will help those who listen.

Do not make God’s Holy Spirit sad. He marked you with a seal for the day when God will set you completely free.

Get rid of all hard feelings, anger and rage. Stop all fighting and lying. Put away every form of hatred. 32 Be kind and tender to one another. Forgive each other, just as God forgave you because of what Christ has done.

–Ephesians 4:26-32, New International Readers’ Version (NIRV)

There will be times when I will sin against you. During these times, I promise to say the three hardest words in the English language:

“I am wrong.”

Some of our friends are getting divorced. Others are living together in “emotional divorce.” But our marriage will be different, because…

1. I will honor our wedding vows before God. I promise to abide with you in love until death do us part.

2. I will let nothing you do destroy me, for I will trust in the Lord at all times.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
–Psalm 62:8

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose…to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.
–Romans 8:28-29

3. No matter what you do, I will not protect myself by building a wall between us; for how can I love you through a wall?

4. No, I will not do those things. You see, my love for you is aggressive enough to serve, if need be. It is flexible enough to adjust, if need be. It is brave enough to hurt, if need be. Whatever you do, my love will forgive, because God’s love has been born in me.

Many marriages have failed, but ours will not fail; because I will saturate our marriage with God’s love — agape love — and…

“Agape never fails.”

Definition of “agape”

The Greek word translated “love” in 1 Corinthians 13 and many other passages of Scripture is “agape.” Theologians tell us the Bible speaks of three types of love. “Eros” is sexual, “phileo” is based on friendship, and “agape is the love God has for us and wants to develop in us toward others. Many have tried to define “agape,” but I believe the greatest definition of “agape” is 1 Corinthians 13.

It’s not a failure till it’s finished.

Update April 16, 2009: I wrote this item several years before my husband and I were separated in 1999. Some would say my marriage failed, but I say it is not a failure till it is finished. It is not finished until we kneel before God’s throne. If I never see the answer here, I fully expect that God will show me that agape didn’t fail when he brings me to his throne room. Don’t ask me how that can be — I do not know. Just meet me at the throne, for the answer is in God’s hand.

The truth is that both of us failed our marriage and each other in many ways. There are no perfect marriages. I was not always as consistent with agape as I longed to be. Had I been, would it have made a difference? Only God knows the answer to that question. But I can tell you that God’s Word says “Agape never fails.” My experience does not change God’s promise.

We all fall short of what God calls us to be at times. My goal is to be what he calls me to be today. My part is to be faithful to the wedding vows that I made to my husband in the presence of my God. It is to be kind to my husband and seek his best interest, whatever the state of our marriage, and to pray for him.

God has never promised me he would restore my marriage. It would take a tremendous miracle to restore our union, but I have no doubt that God is capable of doing that if he so chooses. So I cannot give up on the restoration of my marriage as long as my husband is not married to another.

What God has told me is that the agape we put into our marriage will not fail. It will accomplish whatever God sends it to accomplish. How do I know? “Agape never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8).

In God’s agape,
Lois

Scripture taken from New International Version unless otherwise noted

Forgiveness II: Bringing it home

Forgiveness is vulnerable. It doesn’t just say, “I forgive,” it turns the other cheek. When I parked my mind on the shortcomings of another, I needed forgiveness as much as my offender.

We are on equal footing with those who have wronged us at the foot of the cross.

I parked my mind on the offense of another

There is a sick pleasure in mentally rehearsing the indignities of another toward us. We enjoy it because it paints us as being altogether good in contrast to the offender who becomes increasingly evil in our judgment as we elaborate on the offense. However, Jesus said there is only One who is altogether good. Even Jesus himself refused to attribute goodness to his own humanity. He pointed toward God as the source of all goodness.

“Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’ ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments'” (Matthew 19:16-17 NIV).

When I realized how unforgiving I had been simply because I had parked my mind on the shortcomings of another, I realized how short I had fallen from God’s ideal for me. I was just as much in need of forgiveness as the one who had offended me. I choose to free the offender from my mind and by doing so I am freeing myself.

But sometimes the offense hurts so badly that we can’t get our mind off the pain. All of our emotions join the chorus of hatred toward that which has caused such heartache. It is then that we have to work through forgiveness with God’s help.

Jesus forgives at home with his “family” of apostles

The story of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples has been especially helpful to me as I’ve struggled with forgiveness in home and family. You can read that story in John 13:1-38.

Jesus had earthly parents, siblings, and relatives, but he left home and developed his ministry. The twelve apostles became like an immediate family to him. For three years, they lived and traveled together and shared fellowship.

Jesus knew during this time that Judas would betray him. Yet Jesus always guarded Judas’ dignity and treated him with the same loving kindness that he lavished upon all the disciples. Even in the face of imminent betrayal, Jesus was careful not to publicly disgrace Judas. He very discretely shared with John alone who his betrayer would be. Jesus did this only to provide further proof that Jesus was the Messiah:

“‘I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He'” (John 13:19 NIV)

Jesus also provided for us an example of how to respond to close family members who we know have done or plan to do us wrongly. Jesus knew that his beloved twelve would soon desert him in his hour of need. Peter would deny him three times: “He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know this man you’re talking about.’ Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.’ And he broke down and wept” (Mark 14:71-72 NIV)

The other disciples would watch from a distance: “The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’ When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things” (Luke 23:47-49 NIV)

Judas Iscariot would sell him for thirty silver coins: “Then one of the Twelve — the one called Judas Iscariot — went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.” (Matthew 26:14-16 NIV)

Only the Apostle John stood by him at the cross according to John 19:25-27. Yet at this last supper just prior to his arrest in the garden, his betrayal by Judas whom he knew was an imposter from the beginning, and his desertion by his closest loved ones, the King of Glory did an amazing thing. He took off his outer garment, girded himself with a towel as a servant, knelt down, and lovingly washed the feet of each man whom he knew would shortly reject him.

Jesus said: “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:15 NIV). We won’t get into a discussion of whether or not he was also setting an example of foot-washing. Suffice it to say he was setting an example of forgiveness and servant hood to close family members who do us wrong, in addition to whatever else he may or may not have been indicating here.

Jesus taught the pattern of forgiveness

Jesus gave us the pattern of forgiveness in Matthew 5:38-41: “You have heard that it was said, `Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Matthew 5:38-41 NIV)

He is teaching us that forgiveness is willing to make itself vulnerable. You can’t forgive someone without making yourself vulnerable to be hurt again.

A personal story

She was a sweet Christian friend who ran a home-based business. Her service and skill was exceptional, and I was thankful to be one of her customers. But one day I said something that offended her. I didn’t mean to offend, but I should have been more careful. I realized how my words could have been interpreted to mean something much more harsh than their intent.

Though I apologized quickly, my friend refused to provide service for me via her business after that. I begged her forgiveness, and I will never forget her response: “I forgive you, but I just don’t think I can do this for you anymore. I was just so upset by what you said.”

She verbalized the words, “I forgive you.” She deceived herself into believing them. But I knew I wasn’t forgiven. A year or two later, God intervened in our relationship. My friend truly forgave me, and I was once again able to be one of her customers. Today we rarely have opportunity to see each other, but when we do there is a wonderful bond of Christian love between us.

Forgiveness doesn’t just say the words, “I forgive you.” Forgiveness makes itself vulnerable to be hurt again. Forgiveness turns the other cheek. This is not to say you should live with physical abuse or continued promiscuity on the part of your mate. But even in these situations, you must come to a place where you are willing to trade your bitterness and hurt for the peace of God that allows you to offer them kindness rather than retaliation.

Forgiveness draws the biggest circle

Jesus is teaching us in this passage to share freely with our enemies and to give more than they ask. How is this done? Edwin Markham’s poem Outwitted has long been a favorite of mine:

He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

What do we do with the pain?

David Augsburger, in The Freedom of Forgiveness says “The man who forgives pays a tremendous price – the price of the evil he forgives!”

Did it hurt God to forgive? You bet it did! God felt the awful cost of forgiveness as he watched his own beloved son hang from the cross that day.

Jesus was willing to go to the cross to forgive our husbands for the wrong they have done. The God of creation was willing to suffer their punishment. Who am I to refuse forgiveness to those for whom Christ died? Our husbands’ shortcomings are no blacker in God’s eyes than our own. All sin put Jesus on the cross. It is all despicable to God. Yet our God willingly took off his royal robes and left heaven to become one of us. He allowed us to strip his human body naked and he hung in shame and disgrace before the world, not only to provide forgiveness to our husbands, but to us as well.

I’ve tried to share forgiveness in our homes here, but each time I keep finding myself back at the cross. Forgiveness starts at the cross, and forgiveness ends at the cross. We are on equal footing with those who have wronged us at the foot of the cross.

Prayer

Lord Jesus,

Thank you for what you have done for us. Thank you for the forgiveness we have found in your cross. Keep us ever near it.

Forgive us for being so unforgiving. Bless our husbands and our families and all those who have hurt us as you have blessed us who have hurt you.

In your precious name we pray, Amen.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How and why is the cross so relevant to forgiveness?
  2. What does our thought life have to do with forgiveness?
  3. What is the relevance of our attitudes toward others in regard to forgiveness?
  4. James 2:10 says “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (NIV) Are there degrees of evil? Are our intolerances and unforgiveness toward another’s mistreatment of us any less evil than what they have done to us? Why or why not?
  5. Since we are not divine, is it possible for us to forgive others with the same completeness with which Jesus forgave his persecutors? Why or why not?
  6. Is vulnerability required to truly forgive someone? Why or why not?
  7. What about physical abuse, or continued fornication from a mate? Should we ever “draw the line”?
  8. How do you think the poet “drew a circle that took him in?”

See also:
Forgiveness I: A look at the cross

Scripture taken from New International Version unless otherwise noted

Forgiveness I: A look at the cross

Until we have received divine forgiveness, made available through the cross, we can’t really offer human forgiveness. Forgiveness is offered to all, but until it is received, it can’t be applied.

“‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing'” (Luke 23:34)

Finding forgiveness

Imagine with me that you are in the midst of a large group of people. You observe a victim being beaten until his face is marred beyond recognition. The crowd jeers and shouts insults at him. You want to tell the crowd to stop, but you are afraid to. You are afraid to get involved, for fear that they will turn on you too. You callous yourself in an effort to justify your refusal to intervene. He must have done something terribly wrong to be treated this way, you decide.

You watch in horror as the victim is nailed to a wooden cross. The thud of the cross being dropped into a hole in the ground initiates a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. You can barely stand to look at this mass of bleeding flesh with a face so marred he doesn’t even look human. “Just as there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:14).

Yet there is something about the compassion in his eyes that hold you spellbound. The sick feeling intensifies, but now it is not due to the awfulness of the sight before you. It is due to the awfulness of the site within you. For the first time, you realize that you are part of the crowd who caused this man to be dying here. Because you refused to take a stand with him, you automatically took a stand against him.

You look steadfast into his eyes full of tenderness and love. You want to turn away. You are ashamed, and you begin to sob with regret that you did not stand with him. But you can’t turn away from his gaze. Neither can you escape the guilt and shame of the way you failed him.

Just as you think you can bear it no longer, you hear a heart felt cry emerge from this mass of torn and hurting flesh. His words you will never forget: “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing'” (Luke 23:34).

You fall on your knees and wrap your arms around the cross. For the first time in your life, you know real peace. You feel a wonderful sense of freedom and release flood over you, though you can’t comprehend what it all means. All you know is that you want to stay here forever.

Offering forgiveness

Then you hear a loud voice from behind you. “The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar” (Luke 23:35-36 NIV).

You can’t believe what you are hearing. This man has just offered forgiveness, and you have gratefully received it. Then you remember his words: “…they do not know what they are doing.” You will never be the same. Now your main mission in life is to help the rest of the crowd know the forgiveness you have just discovered.

You boldly stand to your feet and cry, “Stop it!” The guards quickly seize you and shove you to the ground as the crowd laughs and calls you a rebel. Your head spins as you lie on your back and look toward the sky.

You are startled by the words you hear coming from your mouth: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!” You know that those words are really how you feel, and they are coming from a new source deep within your heart.

You have just been forgiven, and you have just learned to forgive. Forgiveness starts with being forgiven. Until we have received divine forgiveness, we can’t really offer human forgiveness. Anything short of divine forgiveness is a counterfeit. Forgiveness is offered to all, but until it is received, it can’t be applied.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

Receiving God’s forgiveness

We can’t offer real forgiveness unless we have accepted forgiveness from God. Yet if we are unwilling to humble ourselves before God and turn from our own unforgiving spirit, we cannot receive divine forgiveness.

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).

At first glance, this passage from Matthew would seem to contradict the Ephesians and Colossians passages. But upon further examination, we see that they compliment one another. God is saying that we can’t know how to truly forgive until we have received forgiveness, and that we cannot be forgiven unless we are willing to turn from our sinfulness and unforgiveness and allow him to create true forgiveness within us.

Have you received God’s forgiveness? This is the first step in knowing how to forgive. We are able to truly love and forgive others only because God first loved and forgave us:

“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:19-21).

If you are not sure if you have experienced this love and forgiveness, check out the resources at The Life. There you will have opportunity to read more, chat, talk to a mentor, or request prayer. [This link will open a new browser, and take you to a different website that is not affiliated with Hope in a House Divided.]

See also:
Forgiveness 2: Bringing it home

Scripture taken from New International Version unless otherwise noted

01. Chosen for God’s best: Chosing to obey

Daughters of Sarah Bible Study session 1 (1 Peter 3:1,1:1-5).

We are chosen for provision, protection, obedience, and forgiveness when we choose to follow Christ. As wives, are we willing to obey what God shows us regarding submission?

Chosen for Provision and Protection

Christ chose to submit to God and death on the cross. This is explained in 1 Peter 2, and we are chosen to follow his example, to submit “in the same way” Christ did: “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands…” (1 Peter 3:1) By following Christ’s example, we receive God’s provision and protection.

As wives, most of us have convinced ourselves that this Scripture does not apply in our own circumstances. It can’t mean we are to submit to our husbands if their decisions are not in line with what we understand God’s will to be. Yet upon closer examination we realize this passage was written especially for us when our husbands are not Christians or fail to make decisions in line with what we understand to be God’s direction. Read the rest of the verse:

“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,” (3:1).

Do you have the courage to look into what God is saying? If so, be prepared to make some changes. 1 Peter 3:1 is a key verse for us. To understand what God means by, “In the same way,” we must start at the beginning:

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance” (1:1-2)

This Scripture is written to those who have accepted Christ as Savior and Lord and thus have become part of God’s elect. He has elected those who accept his Son for special blessing, provision, protection, and honor.

Notice first that we have been “chosen.” From the beginning, the God who had all foreknowledge of the situations we would face in our marriages today chose you and me!.

Chosen for Obedience

What are we chosen for? First we are chosen for obedience. Because we are chosen, we are immediately faced with a choice. Our choice is: “Will I choose to be obedient or disobedient to God’s choices for me?” In the context of being a wife, and the question of submission to our husbands, am I willing to obey what God shows me? That is the only question that matters.

This is not a question of whether our husbands are capable; or whether they are worthy of leadership; or whether we can do a better job. Those areas are for God to decide. The question for me, ultimately is not whether I will submit to my husband. It is whether I will submit to my God. I have been “chosen…for obedience.” Will I choose obedience or disobedience to God? If we are unwilling to submit to God here, at the foundation of his call to us, how do we dare to judge our husbands for their failures in the leadership areas God has called them to?

Chosen for Forgiveness

God knew we would blow the obedience issue before we ever started. We have not always chosen to submit to our husbands. But the real problem is that by choosing not to submit to our husbands in the ways that God has ordained, we have chosen to rebel against God’s design for us. So the second thing that God chose us for is “sprinkling by his blood.” I thank my God that his choices for me have the power to overcome and rescue me from the wrong choices I have made!

I am chosen for obedience. Because God knew I would fail in obedience to God, he chose me for forgiveness, for redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you” (1:3-4).

Chosen to Choose

This is a hard choice God has called us to make. It always seems that it would be easier to have someone else’s choice — to be required to make someone else’s commitment. Commitment is never easy. Commitment to God by submission to another human has to be one of the toughest callings God has ever required. But it brings with it the richness of God’s protection and blessing in a way that frees us as nothing else can.

We are “chosen…for obedience” through the “sprinkling by his blood,” into “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1:4-5).

Prayer

Lord, the topic of submission is a place that we don’t want to go. We would like to write something else into what you are saying in your word on this subject. But we cannot. You have told us that our submission is ultimately an act of commitment and submission to you.

Thank you for the privilege of saying “yes” to you, Lord. Thank you that we can give you the gift of our desires and even the security we feel at being in control. We trust in a greater security of your control and your desires for our good, Lord.

We don’t want to go to the topic of submission. But we choose to go there because that is where you have called us, and we go with you, Lord. Thank you for leading us safely through all the troubled waters we must travel as we submit to your plan for us. Amen.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What does it mean to you to be chosen for obedience?
  2. How does being chosen cause us immediately to be confronted with a choice?
  3. If our husbands are not following God in their lives, should we follow their leadership? How does this work?
  4. Why is submitting to our husbands so important?
  5. If God had chosen us for obedience without choosing us for redemption, where would that have left us?

Next

Scripture taken from New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Lois’ story

Separation and divorce have helped me understand more fully why God’s plan is one man for one woman for life.

My Journey of Change

Update 10/7/2015: Our email support group at Yahoo was privileged to help hundreds, if not thousands, of women and their families for well over a decade. That group is no longer active due to the many newer resources that are available online now.

I never expected my marriage to collapse but, after 33 years, it did.

We were married on March 5, 1967. I was a Christian, but I was not as committed to God’s way as I once had been. Six years into the marriage, I recommitted my life to Christ and my husband made a profession of faith in Christ as well. Through the years, my husband struggled with following God’s way, just as I had not always followed.

After my re-commitment to Christ, God began teaching me how to be the wife he wanted me to be. I often drifted from God’s plan, but God always brought me back to this one question: What is God calling me to be and do in my present situation? At first, I thought God wanted me to submit to his changes to improve my marriage. But, while God holds marriage sacred, God’s concern is always for the people in the marriage. God didn’t create the husband and wife for marriage, he instituted marriage to join the husband and wife he created. God is committed to helping people. He is committed to helping me become the woman he created me to be.

Lacking Perseverance and Consistency

I wish I could tell you that my submission to God paid off, and that my marriage blossomed into everything God meant it to be. But it didn’t. We both failed in many ways. My greatest failure was lack of perseverance and consistency while there was still time.

I tried to find ways to show my husband that he was the most important person in my life, but it just didn’t work. Well, actually, the problem is not that it didn’t work. The problem is that I became discouraged too easily. I’d do the things God convicted me to do for a few weeks, then I’d become discouraged when my husband didn’t react to things as I though he should. It was hard to consistently do the right things with the right attitude, and sometimes I failed or even gave up for a time. I’m sure my husband could tell when I tried to hide my wrong attitudes behind right actions.

It’s difficult to admit that, even though it’s been over nine years since our marriage fell apart. The only reason I’m sharing this is that I don’t want you to make the same mistake. God has forgiven me, and he will use even these circumstances in my life for his glory. But that doesn’t put my marriage back together.

Our Separation

In 1999 there were new developments in my marriage that made our remaining together in any type of mutual relationship almost impossible. My husband moved out in November of 1999. I experienced all the emotions of shock, resentment, anger, forgiveness, numbness, intense emotional pain, inability to think, sorrow for him, fear for me, loneliness, and anxiety of indecision.

But I also experienced the undergirding stability of peace, knowing that God would see me through even this. On Christmas Eve, I was able to write the following to a friend:

I have found that our God is able to see us through the most traumatic experiences in life, and not only see us through but give us hope and joy and peace in all the pain and hurt we experience. Though this Christmas will be difficult because of the loss, yet it will in many ways be more meaningful to me than any previous Christmas because of having had God so near me through the most traumatic experience I’ve ever had.

It was devastating to have my marriage torn from me. But from the beginning God gave me assurance. That assurance was not that my marriage would be reunited. What God showed me was that he would meet my need and use this terrible situation for good as I looked to him. That I could trust him to deal with my husband in response to my prayers. That I could trust him to work in my own heart as I looked to him. That I could love my husband and do all I could to help them find his way. But that even if my marriage was never put back together, I could still trust whatever God brought forth in my life. That God would still bless my home because of my faith and trust in him.

The Birth of ‘Hope in a House Divided’

My friends were all married. They cared, but they couldn’t understand the pain I felt. My grown children understood to a degree, but they suffered a different type of pain than mine. It was a lonely journey that no one but God could comprehend. I found almost no resources on the internet to help. In January of the year 2000, Hope in a House Divided was born out of that need. God planted a tiny dream in my heart to make a place where hurting women who experience such loss, or live in homes tottering on the brink of disaster, can find help and hope. God has multiplied this dream beyond anything I could have imagined, reaching countless women and families for almost a decade through our Hope in a House Divided website and our email support group.

Legal Separation: Bed and Board Divorce

In December of 1999, seeing that my marriage had crumbled and I could not piece it back together, I filed for a legal separation to prevent financial destitution. Even then, I was willing to face destitution if I could have redeemed my marriage, but I could not. Our separation, also known as a “bed and board divorce,” was granted in March of the year 2000. It was the same as a regular divorce in that we were legally single, not living together, and not sharing a home or any property together. The difference is that neither of us could remarry.

Is Divorce Stronger Than Marriage?

My husband filed for and was granted a full divorce on August 5, 2009.  I won’t debate with those who say this does or does not grant me the right to remarry by Biblical standards, because that is not a an issue for me.  Though it’s been almost ten years since we were separated, I understand more fully now than ever why God’s plan is one man for one woman for life.  I feel a stronger commitment than ever to the vow I made when I accepted this man for better or for worse till death do us part, and divorce certainly qualifies for “worse.”  Death has not parted us.  As long as he is alive, I cannot imagine any other man fulfilling the role of husband that he filled for me so long.  Marriage is a commitment that no divorce decree can break.  Legally I am divorced, but spiritually I am committed to being true to the sanctity of God’s creation of marriage.

How does this commitment play out in light of our divorce? We’ve maintained a friendship through all these years we’ve been apart. Divorce has not changed that. I am committed to honor his legal right to remarry, to continue to pray for him and be a friend to him, and to keep his best interest at heart. I cannot say that this is God’s plan for every divorced woman, for I do not know how God deals with others on this matter. Others’ circumstances may be different. I only know that this is how God is leading me at this time. I am content to leave the answers with God.

Tools to Help

I first realized the strength and value of perseverance as I watched some of the women in our email support group relate to their husbands with consistency of care. But I didn’t really see how short I came of what God wanted me to be until I read Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ 30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge last September. Whatever the state of your marriage, if you husband is living in your home, I encourage you to click this link and print the challenge, then commit to do it daily.

I watched the movie Fireproof (Click to watch the trailer) with my nine-year-old grandson a few weeks ago. Tears came to my eyes as I realized how I might have thwarted the situation that broke my marriage if I had been more consistent in my efforts to make my marriage work before it reached its fateful collapse.

I purchased The Love Dare (the “Fireproof” companion book) a few months ago. I don’t have the opportunity to physically do these things. But I can pray. I am praying God will accomplish his desires for me, and that God will also accomplish what he desires for my husband. I’ve also asked my husband to forgive me for my inconsistencies, and he has done that. We’ve remained friends through the years. But there are complicated situations and our paths have twisted during the past nine years.

Final Recommendations and Encouragement

Ripping apart a marriage leaves a wound that never completely heals. In the last years my husband and I lived together, I read many books on how to have a healthy marriage. But a lot more help is available now. Take advantage of Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ 30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge, the movie Fireproof, and The Love Dare book. Do all you can to make it work, so you don’t have to look back and wish you’d tried just a little harder.

One caution though: If you are living in an abusive situation, this may not apply to you at this time. If you need help in an abusive situation, please click National Domestic Violence Hotline. Help is available to callers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

You never get over the loss of a marriage but, if you are in the position that I’m in, there is still forgiveness and hope. God understands that our humanity is not perfect, and we can learn and grow from our mistakes. We can still find purpose as we ask ourselves, “What is God calling me to be and do in my present situation?”

God bless you as you seek his will for your marriage and your life.

Lois
[Update: My husband was granted a divorce in August of 2009, and has since remarried. I wish the best for them. We continue to be friends. My prayer is that God will work in his life and marriage, as well as in my life, to help us all be what he desires us to be during this new phase of our lives.]