LIVING FROM THE HEART
Pastor Harold J. Brokke
Seek Perpetual Forgiveness in Your Heart
From Matthew 18, in the parable of the unforgiving servant, we learn that if we do not forgive our brother from the heart, we likewise will not be forgiven of our heavenly Father. The other person being responsible to clear up everything is not a requirement here. It is possible to forgive someone in your heart even when they are still practicing the sin against you. As Christians, we are to have perpetual forgiveness in our hearts.
The Role of Repentance
In personal relationships, repentance is an important issue. If someone is going to be forgiven, the issues of repentance need to be dealt with. But when you're talking about the heart of a Christian, you're talking about a disposition, which is that of Jesus Christ.
Forgiveness Even When Crucified
Think of Christ dying on the cross at Calvary. If anybody was experiencing violence against his whole being as a person, it was Jesus. He had to face the ridicule, spite, shame, the nails driven into His body. He endured it all as our Savior. There was no way He could go to individuals and say, "You've sinned against me."
But out of the heart of Jesus flowed the spirit and disposition of forgiveness. He made a powerful statement on the cross when He said, "Father, forgive them for they really don't know what they're doing." He knew they were sinners, and that there were many things they were willfully doing wrong; but they did not know the depth of sin in their hearts when they crucified Him.
Is This Only for Jesus?
"That's Jesus," you say. But what about a man like Stephen? Right in the midst of those people to whom Stephen had been speaking the truth, Paul (or Saul) stood consenting to his death. And in the midst of the stones being thrown at him, Stephen cried, "Oh Jesus, lay not this sin to their charge." There was no repentance on the part of his accusers, but the disposition of Stephen's heart was one of forgiveness.
Complementary Roles of Repentance and Forgiveness
There are issues where we must call for repentance, but there are also times when a forgiving attitude is the only solution, and this is maintained out of love for Christ.
Some people are intimidated by this idea. "I don't know if I can do it ... I have all these feelings to deal with."
The Bible refers to the thoughts and intents of the heart. Intent has its source in the heart. Whenever you have a true heart intention, you must do all in your power to act upon it. If you don't, you have only a good intention. A pure intention involves action.
What Do We Mean by Forgiving From the Heart?
To forgive from the heart means: "I will begin to deal with any thoughts contrary to forgiveness. I will deal with intentions, so that whatever I think ought to be done, I will do." It takes things out of the realm of feeling and into the realm of the will.
Both Jesus and Stephen had the heart intention that there would never be an unforgiving spirit operating in them. Even if people had not yet changed, they would forgive. I think that's what Paul meant when he said, "I want to be conformed to the image of His Son in His death." He saw in Jesus and in Stephen a disposition of forgiveness at a crucial time in their lives. Even when they were being killed, they forgave.
Parents to children, wife to husband - and vice versa. We need to release each other to love. Forgiveness truly leads to life.
A Life-Principle in the Life of Joseph
We see a life-principle in the life of Joseph: No circumstance can control the way I'm going to live No matter how drastic or shaking the circumstance may be, it will not destroy me. No matter how good, it will not be the reason for my success. The crucial point is how we relate to circumstances. That's where victory comes.
Joseph was thrown into a pit. He could have stayed in the pit of bitterness and resentment for the rest of his life. Taken out of Egypt, sold to Potiphar as a servant, mistreated, lied about, imprisoned-if ever a man had a chance to be bitter, he did. This man was victorious because he was not being ruled by his circumstances, but rather by the thoughts he allowed into his heart. "In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."
There is not one circumstance that can overcome us if our thoughts and deeds are related to what God's word says. Things can happen to us, but we can handle them if we keep our thoughts and intentions consistent with the Word of God.
Release People in Your Hearts
We can release people in our hearts. It's not that God doesn't hold the other person morally responsible, but we don't have to wait for everything to be perfect-we don't have to wait for their repentance.
As we begin to realize that we can forgive people in our hearts, does it mean we no longer have any impure thoughts, no discontent? No more critical or judgmental thoughts? We would not have a teaching on the difference between sin and temptation if it meant we would no longer have any critical thoughts.
The mind is like a warehouse. Many things come in there but don't belong. Someone puts a wrong address on a carton of whiskey, for instance, not ordered by you or owned by you, but nonetheless delivered to your warehouse. An impure thought, a criticism, a discontentment can enter your mind.
Say, It Doesn't Belong Here!
Adam and Eve were discontented before they even fell into sin. Then they listened to the lie of the Devil. People can get wrong ideas in their head, and still have a clean heart. The foreman sees the carton of whiskey and says, "We don't stock this in our store. Take it back." It got into the warehouse, but was rejected when a moral decision was made about keeping it.
Sometimes that happens to me about 4:00 o'clock in the morning. I have lots of things come into the "warehouse," and I have to make many decisions in regard to my thoughts and intentions. I have a standing agreement with the Holy Spirit that nothing impure, unjust, critical, derisive or scornful will have any place in my mind. I say, "No! I will not have this thought about this person or thing."
Think About Things That Are Lovely, Righteous!
The key then is to put something in the mind that has to do with righteousness, good will. Think about things that are lovely, pure, just, of good report. The battle is in the thoughts. Did you know there can be cleansing and purity in every thought you accept? You don't have to accept everything. "Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought into the obedience of Christ" "2 Corinthians 10:5). If that's not possible, why did Paul say it? There is victory in the thought life.
Build a Co-Operative Heart!
The purification and the renewing of your mind is part of having a heart that is cooperative. God can keep your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus. This is the holiness of god's people. "Let the wicked forsake his way, the unrighteous man his thoughts." Are we ready for that kind of cleansing in our thought life, or are we enjoying things that are derisive, tearing down the body of Christ. Have we purged out the leaven? Be a new lump. God calls us to the renewing of our minds as well as our hearts.
Stephen was dying. Paul was standing on the sidelines, consenting to his death, there in a Pharisaical position. Then he heard the voice of Stephen saying, "Father, forgive them, lay not t his sin to their charge." Paul saw something he had never seen before: Calvary. He realized it was different. Later on the road, God spoke to him. "It's hard for you to kick against the goads." Meaning, "I'm pricking your conscience, and it's hard for you to go against what I'm trying to tell you. You know what you saw in Stephen back there."
Paul understood that he was dealing with Jesus Christ, the one Stephen stood for. As he turned to Jesus as Lord, a sense of forgiveness of sins came to Paul, and the burden of all his past manner of living came to an end. Look at the mountain moving that occurred in the life of Paul through the forgiveness o9f Stephen! There's a tremendous relationship between forgiveness from God and forgiveness to one another, and the matter of faith in the life of the Christian.
Forgiveness and Justification
Receiving forgiveness is justification, but the disposition that forgives others has to do with your sanctification-the life of Jesus Christ flowing through your personality. What the Church needs is the sanctification of the Holy Spirit that makes us like Jesus. Whatever you ask for you can believe that you receive it. You can have that authority. Have faith in your heart. Whenever you stand praying, be sure that you have been forgiven of the Father, and that you have been forgiving each other. That is a part of the very structure of the body of Christ, because of its headship in Jesus Christ.
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Harold J. Brokke