Always return quickly to God’s forgiveness: our sins separate us from God (Isa. 59:2) and then we are Christians but cut off from our source of life – a terrible place to be, unhappy, powerless, angry, without wisdom, and unprotected. It is impossible to live a successful Christian life unless God’s words contained in the following scripture (or another similar promise of God’s forgiveness) have been taken down into my heart and I am utterly convinced of their truth beyond any shadow of a doubt. If the words are only in my head and not down on the inside of me I will not be able to overcome one or more of the following thoughts:-
(a) I don’t need to be forgiven
(b) I had a right to do what I did
(c) I don’t deserve to be forgiven
Any of these thoughts can act as a stronghold and prevent me from being re-cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ, unless these thoughts are literally pulled down by the more powerful words of God contained in 1 John 1:9 (or similar scripture):
If we confess our sins (to God in prayer) He is faithful (100 times out of 100) and just (because my sin was actually put on Jesus and the claims of justice concerning that sin have already been fully satisfied by Him) to forgive us our sins (takes less than a second, why live one moment longer without forgiveness) and to cleanse us from all (that means all) unrighteousness (which means I am now restored to righteousness again, His righteousness and God can use me right away because there is no such thing as penance in the new covenant).
Running near the top of the sins I can possibly commit is the sin of unforgiveness. There is no other sin with respect to which Jesus said, “IF you do not forgive men their sins, neither will your heavenlyFather forgive your sins” (Mat. 6:15).
I can choose not to forgive someone but I myself will remain unforgiven cut off from God and all my privileges as a child of God. God likens it to my refusing to forgive someone who owes me $20, their debt, when I myself have been forgiven by God of a $10,000,000 debt (Mat. 18:23-34 Amp.).
It actually gets worse than that, for if I do not forgive, Jesus says I will automatically be handed over to the tormentors. Now God is not the tormentor, the tormentors are wicked spirits with the power to inject tormenting thoughts into my mind – thoughts such as, everyone is against me, nobody cares for me, I will become suspicious and cynical, I will find fault with everyone and everything, secretly I will not like myself and will be constantly angry and depressed – I will be tormented and probably not even have a clue as to why I am having these horrible thoughts (Mat. 18:35). It will not stop until I forgive everyone of everything no matter what.
Again, unless the above words of God (Mat. 6:15 or similar) are literally etched into my spirit (which is what the word “believed” really means) as opposed to merely mentally assented to, I will not be able to overcome one or more of the following reasonings and I will be held captive to torment:
(a) The person who wronged me must first be sorry before I can forgive them.
(b) They have done the same thing too many times before .
(c) I don’t feel like forgiving .
(d) You don’t understand just how awful they have been .
(e) I’ll forgive but I can’t forget .
You and I can argue with God out of pride as much as we want but it won’t change the truth in the slightest. If we want to insist that someone else should pay for their sins and deserves the full weight of justice, then we ourselves automatically fall back under the same weight of justice with respect to our sins (not a place to be). But if we want to enjoy the blessing of God’s mercy and not be dealt with according to our sins, then we must ourselves extend the same mercy to others. Amazingly we can forgive someone in faith, in Jesus’ name, even when we least feel like it, because it’s the right thing to do, and the right feelings then seem to follow. When we forgive this way, God’s way, in the name and nature of Jesus Christ, we discover that we are able to forget people’s transgressions against us – just like God forgets our transgressions against Him, as He says “ and their sins and iniquities I will remember no more” Heb. 10:17.
NOTE: Possibly 90% of the cause of our failure to live a successful and happy Christian life is because we stumble in one or both of the above two areas. This is the most basic Christianity, unless I am utterly mastered by and submitted to these two scriptures (1 John 1:9 and Mat. 6:15, or similar) a total of 37 words I will never advance beyond absolute infancy in the Christian life. But if I walk in the light of these foundational truths I will discover I am living in the spirit more than I am living in the flesh – I will maintain contact with God and have a sense of peace in my life. I will start to look for God’s hand in everything because I love Him and am so grateful for all that He has done for me through Jesus Christ.
One may well ask how could I possibly be so deceived as to try and live the Christian life without constantly receiving forgiveness and constantly giving forgiveness (often many times a day)?
A principal reason lurking behind almost everything that hinders my growth in God and His Kingdom – is pride. Oswald Chambers said, “Pride is the deification of self”. In other words when pride still exists it reveals that in some measure self is still god in my life and consequently, to that same measure Jesus Christ is not Lord. Pride may be defined as “conceit, arrogance, self-praise, boasting or high-mindedness over (a) who I am (physically, intellectually or spiritually) or (b) what I’ve achieved or (c) what I possess. In response God asks these questions:
“What are you so puffed up about? What do you have thatGod hasn’t given you? And if all you have is fromGod, why actas though you are so great, and as though you have accomplished something on your own?” (1 Cor. 4:7 Living Bible)
Pride is the voice of the god called self, and is the nature of the god called Satan and was responsible for his fall from heaven. Pride always argues with and challenges the one true God. The devil challenged God’s words to Adam and Eve in the garden, he argued with God over Job’s likely reaction to loss and he challenged the Son of God in the wilderness.
While the world we live in frequently encourages us to be proud, God says most emphatically “Do not be proud” (Jer. 13:15). He alerts us to the fact that pride is the sole cause of contention with others (Prov.13:10) and that sooner or later it will always result in a fall (Prov. 16:18). God says he hates pride ((Prov. 6:17) and He wants us to hate it too (Prov. 8:13) because among other things it prevents us from seeking Him (Psalms 10:4) and destroys our ability to believe Him (John 5:44).
Choose the right set of rights
Self, encouraged by both the world and the unseen realm of dark spirits insists on certain rights among which are:
The right to be offended * The right to be vengeful * The right to be proud * The right to be greedy * The right to be angry * The right to be lazy * The right to be unforgiving * The right to be respected * The right to be bitter * The right to be critical * The right to be envious * The right to self-pity * The right to be jealous
In the kingdom of God there are no such rights. The citizens of this kingdom have given up these rights. In exchange they have received another and totally different set of rights among which are:
The right to be clean from sin * The right to be happy * The right to have peace of heart and mind * The right to know and be friends with God * The right to have God’s power for living * The right to be fulfilled and to have purpose * The right to be constantly changed for the better * The right to health, safety and provision * The right to love the way God loves * The right to win others for Christ and for eternity
Self always clings to its perceived set of rights. God will not force self to surrender them, but He asks us to choose which set of rights do we really want, adding that we can only choose one.
Receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit
It seems there are many Christians who acknowledge that the truths outlined above are good and right, but then qualify this with the “yes, but” “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” – “God understands that I am only human and that I do the best I can” – “I’m just a Romans chapter 7 type of person, sort of like Paul, the things that I should do I don’t do and the things that I shouldn’t do I do (Rom. 7:19 paraphrase).
Happily the book of Romans has a chapter 8 (and beyond) in which Paul says “Thank God … the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 7:25 & 8:2). The Spirit of lifehas set me free. God’s word asks this question in Acts chapter 19 “have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?”. Someone may quickly say I thought I had the Spirit when I was saved. Yes, we had the Spirit when we were saved, however some would observe that our condition was reflected by Jesus’ words “the Spirit… you know Him, for He lives with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17). The question however of whether He is in us or with us at salvation is really secondary to the real question which is “does the Holy Spirit have me?” Does He lead me, empower me and bear witness with my spirit? Am I continually under His sway and influence? Have I been baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit?
In order to answer this question F.B. Meyer offers these three tests to determine if I have been baptized with the Holy Spirit:
(i) Do I have power to bear witness for Jesus?
(ii) Do I have victory over sin?
(iii) Is Jesus Christ a living inward reality to me?
If an honest answer to any of these three questions is no, even if in times past the answer may have been yes, I need to be filled or refilled with (continually be under the influence and control of) the Holy Spirit as prescribed in Ephesians 5:18.
So many Christians today lead defeated, unhappy, frustratingly powerless lives because they are not baptized with and filled with the Holy Spirit of God. He is the greatest need in the church today and without Him in fullness it is impossible to live the Christian life. A crucial distinction between the Old Covenant of law (which nobody save Jesus could keep) and the New Covenant of Grace is God’s promise that under the New Covenant “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and you shall keep My judgments and do them”(Eze. 36:27). Without God’s Spirit causing us to live right, the Christian is effectively back under the law trying to keep an outward set of rules in his own carnal strength (and always falling and becoming disillusioned), instead of enjoying a lifetime of God writing His words in his heart and then causing him to keep them in this new dispensation of the Holy Spirit. That’s why God calls this New covenant “a better covenant based on better promises” (Heb. 8:6).
While God’s love is unconditional – which means that because He is love, we the object of His love will always be loved regardless of our conduct (as evidenced by the fact that “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” Rom. 5:8) – the promises of God however are always conditional. His promise of the baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5) has the following conditions:
I. I must be born again (John 14:17)
II. I must have a love of the truth (2 Thes. 2:10). God is truth, His word is truth and in order to receive the Spirit of truth I must have a love of the truth.
III. I must be willing to deny myself, that is to deny self-will, selfpleasing, self-confidence, self-justification and self-praising. (Luke 9:23).
IV. I must be willing to follow and obey Jesus (Luke 9:23 and Acts 5:32).
V. I must ask the Father for the Holy Spirit in faith believing (Luke 11:13 and James 1:6).
Even if I am not yet completely willing to submit to God in one or more respects our merciful heavenly Father simply asks “are you at least willing to be made willing?” (John 7:17 and Phil. 2:13), if we are at least that willing, then it is sufficient, God will do the rest. God is so good isn’t He?
When I submit to the authority of God’s Spirit in my life and remain daily under His control a number of wonderful things begin to happen:
* My appetite for the Bible (the food for my spirit) strongly increases as the Spirit leads me into the book of truth (John 16:13)
* My understanding of the word of God grows as the Spirit causes scriptures to come alive to me and He reveals to me their meaning as they are planted in my heart (2 Cor. 3:6, 1 Cor. 2:10, Mar. 4:3-20).
* As my faith in God grows (as I hear His voice, the Spirit breathed word) so does my passion for seeing others come to Christ and be reconciled to God (Rom. 10:17, 2 Cor. 5:19, Jam. 5:20).
* I begin to understand the absolute necessity, in order for God’s will to be done, for Spirit led, truth based, believing and persevering prayer for others. And that the whole of spiritual warfare comes down to whether I continue to believe with all my heart what God has said to me personally, or whether I surrender God’s words in favor of some opposing thought, words or circumstance (Eph. 6:18, 1 Tim. 2: 1-5, Mat. 21:22, 2 Cor. 10:4-5)
* I become bolder and more fearless in my witness for Jesus (Acts 1:8, Acts 4:29, 2 Tim. 1:7).
* Through the Spirit I start to gain genuine victory over the sins of the flesh – and the lie, that my tendencies and habits are inseparably part of me, is exposed – what a revelation and freedom this is (Rom. 8:13, Gal. 5:16, John 8:32, Rom. 6:11).
* I begin to see that God really is my Father, and that Jesus Christ, His son and word, literally lives in my heart. If I learn to live in my heart, where He is, I am then learning how to live in His presence (Gal. 4:6, Col. 1:27, Psa. 139:7).
* As God’s living words remain in my heart and I continue to submit to the leading of His spirit it begins to dawn on me that God is taking care of every detail in my life. All things really are now working together for my good (Psa. 23:1, Luk. 12:30-31, Rom. 8:28).
And this is just the beginning !
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, And the love of God,And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you … (2 Cor. 13:14)