Friday, March 03, 2006

Forgiveness -- New Beginning

One of the things I don't like about many video games - besides the fact that they can be a total waste of time, is that every time you lose, you very likely have to start all over again. You can't just start at the place where you began doing badly, no, you have to start from zero. No matter how many points you've made or how many levels you've conquered, once the words "game over" scroll across your screen, you have to press play and start from the very first level all over again. Somehow this can be an advantage if a person wants to become an expert in the game (I know I don't, but someone out there might). The logic behind starting over from zero is supposedly -- the more you play the game, the better you become at playing. Of course this logic assumes that you are willing to learn from your mistakes, that you want to become better but just need experience. What if in real life we had a similar system, where the third time you messed up doing anything, a message would flash by saying, "Game over. Press here to start playing again." Wow, what would that be like (I don't know, but it sounds terribly frustrating to me). Imagine if this system applied to our relationships, where after every third mess up or offense, a message would flash out to let us know we went too far, and must now start from zero. I don't know, but I wonder if starting from zero would really be so great. Well fortunately or not, real life is not like this.

When Adam sinned it was "Game over." But, he could not play again, not in Eden anyway. Another player -- another Adam, had to be sent, for the first Adam would have continued to lose after he fell that first time. The next player had to win or humanity would never play again.

The Word says that Christ is the last Adam, who became the 1st Man, and provided us with our new beginning. He was the next player who won. It is 'in Him' that we are forgiven. And since He was the lamb slain from the foundation of the world, God forgave us -- provided us a new beginning -- from the foundation of the world. This great, divine act of God allows Him to see us as if we had never sinned, for we are seen 'in Christ,' our new beginning. And because Christ as the last Adam in whom we were put, never sinned, we have descended from an Adam who never sinned. Friends, Christ reversed our history. From this one act we can see not only the depth of God's forgiveness, but why He does not refer to us as the forgiven, but as the righteous. This being 'in Christ' is the basis of all justification; we were justified 'in Christ' (in the past) and become justified in the present as by Faith we accept His presence (direction and guidance) in us. Folks, justification and therefore sanctification (cleansing) become real in us as we accept the working of the Holy Spirit in our minds and hearts. If by Faith we accept this forgiveness -- this legal justification, it enables us to forgive others as our Father in Heaven has forgiven and forgives us even now. If we wonder how we can forgive someone, we only have to look at God's forgiveness through Christ, for Christ is our model.

Isn't this amazing, through the Cross of Christ, forgiveness is granted even before we the offenders ask for it. Wow. Christ forgave us while we were still sinners. His loving act did not depend on our repenting from our sins. Yet we as human beings think of forgiveness as the decision to let go of destructive, malicious revengeful feelings, desires and intents if the person asks, and only then. As Christians, we often choose to forgive by reminding ourselves that Christ has died for our sins, then we think that if we don't forgive others, He won't forgive us. So that we can be forgiven, we then pass forgiveness on to the one that has hurt us -- often begrudgingly. Nevertheless, forgiveness is a principle which works, and thus if we really listen to the Holy Spirit, we truly let go, and free both ourselves, and the offender.
The story of Joseph provides a good example of forgiveness. Joseph's trials can all be traced back to that fateful moment when his older brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites. Sold into slavery and brought into a foreign land, he was later falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned. Still, Joseph endured, as he allowed God to maintain His hold on him. You see, although Joseph may not have understood the negative turn of events, he understood that God was in control. Thus later on when he saw his siblings who'd sold him into slavery, he could say, "what you (his brothers) have intended for evil, God intended for good." Joseph loved and forgave his brothers, and this can be seen in his protection of them. Because of the abhorrence that the Egyptians had for shepherds, Joseph apportioned to his brothers land, which would act as a boundary between the Egyptians, himself and them. His brothers were given the land of Goshen in which to live. Genesis 46:33 reads --

Genesis 46: 33 And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation?
Genesis 46: 34 That ye shall say, Thy servants' trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians.

Joseph, now an Egyptian head of state, respected (not accepted) not only the cultural beliefs of the Egyptians, but the occupation of his family; in demonstration of this, he set new boundaries for his brothers' habitation. Grateful for provision, sustenance, and Joseph's refusal to humiliate and take revenge upon them, Joseph's brothers' hearts were as last released from the guilt, which had haunted them. Their hearts softened, they were led to respect and love him. Through forgiveness, and the setting of boundaries in their relationship -- the starting from zero if you will, Joseph participated in helping to soften his brothers' hard hearts, and thus they did not abuse him again.

We have all been hurt in this life. However, since God has forgiven us 'in Christ', we have no right to hold on to anger, grudges, pain or hatred against those who've abused us. Nothing that anyone can do to us will ever compare to what we have done, and even continue to do to God. Even so, God still forgives us, even before we ask. True we don't receive that forgiveness until we ask, but it's been given already. When we give to Christ our desire to get even with those who hurt us, in exchange, He gives us both His peace, and a new beginning. And while this sounds like an unfair exchange, it's the only way we can receive life.

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