Practical Forgiveness

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result–the survival of many people. Therefore, Don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your children.” – Genesis 50:19-21 (Christian Standard Bible)

People use the phrase, “Forgive and forget.” It’s a phrase, though, that we can’t uphold. We might find ourselves being willing to forgive someone who has wronged us or hurt us, but we have a hard time “forgetting.” We can’t even control when a memory decides to pop into our thoughts.

In the life of Joseph, we see a more practical example of forgiveness. Growing up with ten older brothers, he irritated them and made them angry. Some of the brothers had the extreme reaction of wanting to kill Joseph. In the end, though, they sold him to traveling traders who took him to Egypt and sold him as a servant there.

As if this were not enough, Joseph faced false accusation and ended up in prison for several years. When finally released, however, he proved useful to Pharaoh by interpreting a dream and showing wisdom. The result?–though Joseph came to Egypt as a lowly servant, he rose into high ranks of political success.

Then, the day came, where he encountered his brothers again. From the time he first recognized them, he treated them with kindness, and he eventually moved his father, his brothers, and their families to Egypt with him. After their father died, his brothers grew afraid, thinking that Joseph might rise up to harm or kill them and their families in retribution for what they had done to him.

Joseph’s response to his brothers’ concerns shows a heart that had been walking in forgiveness. He still may have hurt because of what they had done to him all those years ago, but bitterness did not rule the day. The way that Joseph came to forgive is a good example for us.

First, he placed ultimate judgment into the hands of God. He assured his brothers that he was not in God’s place. This was his way of saying, “I’ll let God sort out anything that remains between you and me in the end.” Paul said something similar in Romans 12 when he told us to treat even our enemies with kindness and leave vengeance to God. God is the great Judge. Every wrong that we have done and every wrong that others have done, including against us, will either be covered by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross where he bore God’s wrath for us, or it will be penalized by God’s wrath in eternity to come. When we keep this truth in mind, we can offer others forgiveness and not seek our own retribution.

Second, he chose to focus on the good, not the bad. Joseph recognized they had done evil to him, yet he saw God having a greater purpose in the situation to bring about good. Again, in Romans, Paul wrote that God works all things for the good of those who love him (8:28). If another person chooses to harm us and do evil against us, God, by his sovereign grace, can bring good from the situation instead. In Acts 2, Peter spoke about this reality on ultimate display in Jesus’ cross. Jesus suffered and died because of the false accusations and the evil of sinful men. Yet, it was also part of God’s plan to bring salvation to the world. It might take days, weeks, and sometimes even years to see the good; but look for it, resting assured that God is bringing good.

Third, he chose to repay their evil with kindness. Having risen to a position of power, Joseph easily could have imprisoned or executed his brothers. He chose something better; he chose to love them and show them kindness. If we are truly walking in forgiveness, this is the choice we will make. Again, we see this attitude in Christ who extends his grace and love to us, even though our sin is responsible for his cross.

Following these examples, we can practice true forgiveness. It’s not always easy, but it is the best route. It is part of how we overcome evil in the world by doing good.

Good Reads 02.15.18 (on: resolutions, respect, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On the forgiveness of sin: White as Snow, Though My Sins Were as Scarlet! by Tim Counts

In Isaiah chapter 1, the LORD of Israel has just laid out a court case against his people. They are guilty. He does not even want their sacrifices anymore, because going through the motions without hearts that love God–as seen in their actions–is detestable to him (Isaiah 1:11-17). So, what will it cost them to receive forgiveness? If verse 18 which promises purity like snow is not enough, the answer becomes crystal clear near the end of the prophecy: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!…Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food” (Isaiah 55:1-2). The holy God offers sinners a free banquet–and promises to satisfy them in himself. (click here to read more)

On manhood: How to Teach Boys to Respect Women by Russell Moore

First, fathers and male teachers, especially, can highlight the ways they learn from and are sharpened by godly, strong women—from the biblical examples of such leaders as Ruth and Priscilla and Lydia and our Lord’s mother Mary to our more immediate mothers- and sisters-in-Christ. If you are married, men, pay attention and give respect to the counsel of your wife. If you are a pastor, do not patronize women in your sermon illustrations or introductions. Highlight the creation and eschaton callings of women bound up in our common inheritance.

At the same time, emphasize the horror of a man mistreating women. Do not let the boys and young men around you ever, even for a millisecond, see you waving away or justifying sexual predation, misogynistic comments, or violence against women by a sports figure because he plays for your team or a politician because he belongs to your party or an entertainer because he makes you laugh. Your hypocrisy cannot only point the next generation away from Jesus, but may also point them toward the way of predation. (click here to read more)

On our plans failing: When Your New Year’s Resolutions Have Flown Out the Window by Stacey Reaoch

When our plans go awry it can be easy to spiral into complaining and self-pity. I’ve definitely battled that temptation the past week. But more importantly, God is teaching me to hold my resolutions with an open hand, realizing He is working in the midst of the daily trials that come my way. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. Maybe you feel like you’ve already failed in keeping up with your Bible reading, or had too many cookies at bedtime. Here are a few things I’m learning in the midst of faltering resolutions… (click here to read more)

On God saying “no” to our prayer requests: When God Says ‘No’ by Melissa Kruger

I paused and really considered this verse for perhaps the first time. Jesus—always perfect, always righteous—offered up prayers and supplications. He cried out with tears. He was heard!

And, the answer he was given? No.

It doesn’t seem to make sense. God heard Jesus’s cries and tears. He heard his beloved, perfectly obedient Son. Yet Jesus still suffered and died. He wasn’t rescued from the cross. And God does not always rescue us from the trials we face.

When God says no, we often wonder if we’ve got a bad connection: “Can you hear me?” “Can you hear me now?” This passage reminds us that God hears our prayers. In Christ, we’re heard because we share in his righteousness. God’s not deaf to our cries, pleading, and longing. But, sometimes, for reasons that we may not understand, his good purpose is to say no. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 10.18.17 (on church membership, work, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On perseverance: What Should You Do When You Feel Like Quitting? by Mark Altrogge

Have you ever said something like, “I’m tired of praying and not seeing an answer. I’ve been asking God to change this situation for 15 years and nothing ever changes.” Or, “Why do I keep hoping my son will believe in Jesus? He’s never going to change.” Or, “I’m just so tired of all this conflict. I’m just so tired of trying to be a peacemaker. I’m out of here.” Or, “I’m just tired of living. I wish the Lord would just take me home.”

Like you’re just done with all of it? Like, what’s the point? I have felt like giving up many times. I’ve been discouraged and downcast. I’m sure not to the degree that many of you have been. But I’ve had my share. And the Bible says every believer will be tempted to give up. What can we do when we feel like quitting? (click here to read more)

On work: Idolatry at the Office: Confessions of a Workaholic by Kathryn Butler

More importantly, our work does not please God when we labor for people’s applause. The trappings of worldly accomplishments may swell our pride, but when we pursue them to inflate our own egos, they are like filthy rags to the one who made heaven and earth (Isaiah 64:6). Only when we abide in Christ do we accomplish anything that honors God, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). However noble our efforts may appear to the world, we labor in vain when we strive apart from God (Psalm 127:1–2). (click here to read more)

On Jesus and our sin: Six Things Christ Does With Your Sin by Jared Wilson

He Carries It.

Like the true and better scapegoat, Jesus becomes our sin-bearer.

1 Peter 2:24 – “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (click here to read more)

On being a church member: Seven Things Your Church Needs from You by Tim Challies

There is no character quality more important than humility. While humility does not come naturally to any of us, it can be learned, because here’s the thing: Humility isn’t a feeling or an attitude—it’s action. If you want to learn humility, you need to act humble. Here are 3 quick tips on becoming humble: (click here to read more)

Good Reads 09.06.17 (on: parenting, forgiveness, and doubt)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On sin and forgiveness: If All My Sins Are Forgiven, Why Must I Continue to Repent? by Stephen Wellum

As we live our lives and unfortunately sin, we need to return to God in repentance and faith and seek his forgiveness. Yet we do so on the basis of Christ’s work applied to us in our justification. Such an experience is not a new justification but a renewed application of our justification.

When we sin, we lose our consciousness of forgiveness and our sense of peace with God. So when we confess our sins, by the work of the Spirit, we are reawakened to what Christ has done for us, and God revives our security in him and assurance of our salvation. Believers, then, continue to pray daily for forgiveness—not with the despair of one who thinks he is lost, but in the confidence of justified and adopted children approaching a heavenly Father who has declared them just in Jesus Christ. (click here to read more)

On parenting and our need for God: The Glory of a Father: Parenting on Fumes and Grace by David Mathis

Parenting young kids means running regularly on emotional fumes. My wife and I had our fourth in April. We haven’t yet found that elusive “new normal” that feels sufficiently manageable, and I’m beginning to suspect we won’t for some time. But it seems this is right where God wants us: desperate, exhausted, dependent.

God does not call me as a daddy to have enough strength now for next year, next month, next week, or even tomorrow. Just for today. Be faithful today. Don’t check out today. Ask God to provide the energy needed to finish this day well as the head of this home. Sufficient for each day is trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34). His mercies will be new tomorrow (Lamentations 3:22–23). (click here to read more)

On doubt and insecurity: What To Do When You’re Stuck in Doubt by Michael Kelley

All of us know the feeling of kicking yourself for missing something. Sometimes it’s as simple as going to sleep before the 4th quarter of a football game; other times, it’s that you make the conscious choice to be one place instead of another. Maybe it’s staying at the office instead of being at the ball game or the dance recital – and then knowing immediately that you have missed something big. Something important. It’s that feeling of second guessing yourself, over and over again, knowing you could have made different scheduling choices to be where you ought to have been, but you didn’t.

But this was not missing the opening few minutes of a play or walking in a few minutes late to a party. Thomas missed Jesus. And just as we don’t know why he wasn’t there, we don’t really know what was going on in his mind. We only know what he said: “If I don’t see the mark of his nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe!” (John 20:25) (click here to read more)

Love Covers Sin (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from each chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. ~Proverbs 10:12

You probably heard the quote: “Love covers a multitude of sins.” It’s from the Bible—1 Peter 4:8, to be exact. But the idea originated in the Old Testament, as in the proverb above. Even then, the idea reaches back further.

After they fell into sin, Adam and Eve realized they were naked and shame settled on them. When they heard the sound of God walking through the garden, they sought to hide and cover themselves. In response to their pathetic attempt, God covered them with animal skins after he had rebuked their sinfulness.

God is love and this is what love does.

But what does it mean that “love covers all offenses”? Certainly, this does not mean that we ignore them and sweep them under the rug. When God ultimately covered our sins, he did so via the bloody sacrifice of Jesus who took God’s wrath for us on the cross. The goodness, love, and righteousness of God could not simply ignore sin and turn the other way.

Sin had to be paid for, but love provided a means for this payment. God forgave and wiped our sin clean by giving us the willing sacrifice of Jesus. This is why experiencing forgiveness requires our faith in Jesus. He is the only way.

For us, then, to love others means that we seek to forgive their sins. People wrong us and fail us practically every day, just as we wrong and fail others. A hard heart that has not itself experienced the grace of forgiveness will hold onto bitterness and hold the wrong over the other’s head no matter how much they plead for our forgiveness.

A heart softened by God’s love and knowing his grace, however, will extend forgiveness to others. If we have experienced God’s love in Christ, then we know that the sins someone else commits against us have either been paid for by Jesus just as ours have been, or the person has rejected God’s love and will still face his wrath on sin in the end.

In love, we trust God as the prefect judge and therefore are willing to forgive. We let go of our right to be bitter and we let go of our desire to hold a person’s sin over their head. That doesn’t mean automatic healing in a relationship or an immediate restoration of trust. No, those things can take time. But forgiveness is a necessary first step.