As God in Christ Forgave You

Ephesians 4:31-32
May 5, 2019
Abraham Hong

 

One of the greatest blessings that God has given you is forgiveness. You are forgiven because the Son of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, took your place. He received what you deserved for your sins. He suffered and died for you. Because of who Jesus was and what Jesus did for you, you are no longer an enemy of God. You are now reconciled to God and at peace with him. You no longer have to receive his righteous justice, his holy anger or his punishment of hell. The Father has shown you his grace. The Son loves you. The Spirit dwells in you. There is no more condemnation for you. There is no more debt to be paid. Your sins are no longer counted against you. You are forgiven. This is the forgiveness of our God.

Dear church, I hope that you know the greatness of God’s forgiveness for us. His forgiveness is so awesome because our sinfulness is so terrible. We were treasonous rebels and idolatrous worshippers. We were savage murderers and depraved adulterers. We were wicked, perverse and corrupted sinners. But how did Jesus treat us? He regarded us with warm kindness. He cared for us with a tender heart. And as his blood flowed from his body under the fullness of suffering and humiliation and wrath and hell, we were the joy of his salvation. We did not deserve a place in Jesus’ heart. But while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Praise God that he does not treat us as our sins deserve. Praise God that he is kind and tenderhearted and forgiving and gracious and loving toward us.

Brothers and sisters, just as the bright morning star melts away all the ice and snow in order to give way to a new spring and a beautiful summer, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Spirit melt away all the callousness and unforgiveness in your hearts as you prepare for the kingdom of God in the new heavens and new earth. If Christ has been kind, tenderhearted and forgiving toward you, then may you also be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving toward others.

This is the key to all of our relationships with others: forgiving others as God in Christ forgave us. This command from our Lord is so important because people sin against each other. Do not be surprised. There is sin in marriages. There is sin in friendships. There is sin in families. There is sin in churches. The question then for all of our relationships is what do we do with all the people who sin against us? How do we react to sin done against us? The answer is not bitterness or wrath or anger. The answer is not clamor or slander or malice. The answer is kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness. The answer is to forgive others as God in Christ forgave us.

Jesus wants us to be good at forgiving. A happy marriage or a solid friendship is made up of two good forgivers. Any fellowship within a family or within a church is made up of two or more people who are good at forgiving. How about you? Would you like to be good at forgiving? If so, let’s look at what Jesus calls us to put off and put on in our lives.

First, bitterness. Brothers and sisters, let us put away bitterness. Bitterness is a persistent feeling of sourness and resentment toward another. When you are bitter, you usually hold a grudge and you’ll never ever budge. A bitter person can’t let go of the past. There’s bad blood and disappointment. There’s loathing and contempt. There’s a critical spirit and a never-ending rewinding and replaying of sin and hurt. When a bitter person sees his or her enemy, there is nothing but a refusal for reconciliation. And for some strange reason, bitter people often like being bitter. That’s bitterness. Do you have bitterness? If so, know that the Lord Jesus Christ commands you to put your bitterness away.

Second, wrath and anger. Brothers and sisters, let us put away wrath and anger. Anger is a feeling of displeasure and hostility toward another. And wrath is basically anger in explosion form. When you are angry, you usually heat up and want to retaliate. An angry person can’t let go of the injustice or humiliation or annoyance received. There’s rage and outrage. There’s sound and fury. There’s aggravation and temper and a ruining of the rest of your day. When an angry person sees his or her enemy, there are usually only two options: fight or flight. And for some strange reason, angry people can get even more angry over the fact that they are already angry. That’s anger and wrath. Are you an angry or wrathful person? If so, know that the Lord Jesus Christ commands you to put your anger and wrath away.

Third, clamor and slander. Brothers and sisters, let us put away clamor and slander. Clamor is the making of noise and commotion. And slander is the making of false statements that damage the reputation of others. When you make clamor or slander, you usually make protest or false accusations. A person of clamor or slander can’t let go of the fight. There’s vehement demands and perhaps even strong shouting. There’s gossip and character assassination. There’s lying and bad-mouthing and mudslinging. When people of clamor or slander see their enemies, they see them as the villain - and they see themselves as the hero. And for some strange reason, clamor and slander can easily happen in church prayer meetings or pastoral counseling moments and are often packaged in innocent conversations or moments of concern. That’s clamor and slander. Are you a person of clamor or slander? If so, know that the Lord Jesus Christ commands you to put your clamor or slander away.

Fourth, malice. Brothers and sisters, let us put away malice. Malice is the desire or intent to do evil. When you have malice in your heart, you usually plan and premeditate bad things for others. A person of malice can’t let go of the thought of payback and revenge and putting people in their place. There’s ill will. There’s happiness when bad things happen to the enemy. There’s sadness when good things happen to them. When people of malice see their enemies, they get more motivated. And for some strange reason, malice can often feel like a game or a quest or even a calling for malicious people. That’s malice. Do you have malice in your heart? If so, know that the Lord Jesus Christ commands you to put your malice away.

Believers in Christ often struggle with these things. And they often wonder why. Perhaps you’ve asked yourself, “Why am I so bitter? Why am I a wrathful or angry person toward so and so? Why is it so hard for me to put away clamor and slander? Why is there so much malice in my heart?” And many believers in Christ don’t know what to do. They don’t know where to start.

This topic is complex, and I do not mean to offer a simple solution that fits every person or every occasion. But consider this. Could your bitterness and anger and bad words and evil intent all be rooted in how your heart is toward God? Could it be that you are bitter toward or angry at God? This is definitely possible. How you relate to God is profoundly connected to how you relate to others. It is not an accident or a coincidence that the first four commandments of the Ten Commandments are about our stance toward God and the rest of the commandments are about our stance toward people. If you struggle with the list of things to put off here, maybe your problem is not first about the person that you have something against. Maybe your problem is first about the fact that you actually have something against God. Our hearts are deceitful. We might think that God is not fair to us or good to us. That will get us bitter or angry for sure. We shake our heads at the Israelites of old in the Bible who grumbled against God. But are you sure their story is not yours? I really want all of us to consider this carefully. Because how you view God affects everything in your life, especially your relationships and how you deal with conflict and problems and enemies and sin. Because your attitude toward God profoundly manifests itself in your relationships. It’s all connected. What is your general outlook on life? Are you overall a rather negative or discontent or ungrateful or complaining person? Could it be that you actually have an issue with God?

But for the believer in Christ, there is good and encouraging news. We can get real down on ourselves when we have moments of bitterness or wrath and anger. We can become very discouraged when we catch ourselves engaging in clamor or slander. We can fall into despair when we know all the malice that is in our hearts. But do not be discouraged. And do not be afraid. Because God’s people change. We are being sanctified by God. And by his grace, we are being conformed to the image of Christ. You are God’s workmanship, and you are becoming more and more like Jesus in godly character and holiness and wisdom and good works. You are growing. And you will grow in kindness and tenderheartedness and forgiveness. This is God’s goal for your life. This is one of the fundamental reasons why Jesus saved you. You are a new creation. And so is your spouse who confesses the name of Christ. So are your college friends who believe in Jesus. So are all of your fellow church members who trust in the Lord. We are all in this together. So don’t worry too much about what kind of person you are right now. Instead, look forward to what kind of person you are going to be in the future. This is one of the most exciting things about the Christian life. Just as it is exciting to see a baby start to crawl and then walk or babble and then talk, it is exciting to see fellow brothers and sisters in Christ put off the old and put on the new because God moves their hearts and minds to trust and obey. It is exciting to see God graciously change you. So do not be discouraged. Be encouraged. The Lord loves you.

With this good and encouraging news, let us move forward with eagerness and be a church that is kind and tenderhearted and forgiving. It would be great if our church was filled with warmth and care as people thoughtfully consider one another in kindness. Can you imagine a church where we are all compassionate and understanding toward one another in tenderheartedness? God would be pleased if we are a church that forgives one another as God in Christ forgave us. We have a lot to work on, but let us sincerely desire to work on these things because of the greatness of God’s salvation.

End