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Long-View Living in a Short-View World

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A Hypothetical

Tom and Jack are co-workers on the swing shift at Dirk's Doumafladgie Manufacturing. Two weeks ago, a horrible explosion at the plant left Jack trapped in an interior room with a wall of fire blocking his only exit. Further complicating the matter, the explosion caused sufficient injury to Jack's legs that he was incapable of walking his way out of the plant on his own.

On the other side of the fire, Tom was able to assess the situation, grabbed a blanket for protection and made his way through the wall of fire to rescue his co-worker. Once there, Tom threw Jack over his shoulder, covered both men with the protective blanket, and carried Jack through the fire and out of the plant to safety.

Fast-forward two weeks to today - Tom is visiting Jack in the hospital where Jack is recovering from his injuries. At some point in their conversation, Jack says, "Tom, I owe you my life, man. I really wanna thank you for what you did." In response, Tom says, "Awe, it was nothing you wouldn't have done for me, Jack. Forget about it."

Is Tom daft? How can he possibly tell Jack to forget about what he had done. Tom risked his own life to save the life of a coworker. There is no way someone "forgets" something like that.

What is Tom really saying to Jack when he says, "Forget about it"?

Forget About It

The Bible speaks in several places of God forgiving and forgetting our sin. For example:

I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake,
And I will not remember your sins.
- Isaiah 43.25, NASB

A quote like that tends to launch me into logic hiccup spasms. How can an omniscient God not know something? How can the ultimate, infinite being not remember?

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
'This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days,' declares the Lord:
'I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,'
then he adds,
'I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.'
- Hebrews 10:14-17, ESV

These passages state unequivocally that God does not remember our sins. But God is omniscient. God knows everything and forgets nothing. How do we reconcile God's omniscience with God remembering our sins no more?

Let's return to our hypothetical with Jack and Tom. When Jack thanked Tom for saving his life, and Tom responded by saying "Forget about it," what Tom was telling Jack is, "You don't owe me anything for this. You are not indebted to me."

When God "forgets about it," or "remembers our sins no more," God is choosing to take the same position as Tom - "You are no longer indebted to me." Short of age-related dementia, Jack will never lose the memory of Tom saving his life, but he can "forget about it" in the sense that he is not indebted to Tom for his having done so.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. - Ephesians 4:32, NASB

Our call to forgive others as God has forgiven us demands that we release our offenders with a "forget about it." They owe us nothing. We release them from any indebtedness to us. It's not that we are not able to recall the offenses (though in some cases you'll find that you do forget) but rather that we make the choice to release, to overlook, to cancel any debt toward us.

It's a Done Deal

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. - 1 Peter 3:18a, NIV-1978
All sin, for all people, for all time. This is what the writer of Hebrews referenced when he said, "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14, ESV). It is a one-time sacrifice that completely removes sin.

The apostle Paul tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Absolutely none! My sinfulness, past, present, future, has no condemning impact on my standing before our holy God. I am declared righteous in Christ, by the power of his blood and resurrection.

As Christ-followers, this same principle holds true in our forgiveness of others. We declare them to be "non-offenders" and it is a done deal. We do not hold the offense in reserve just in case we feel the need to pull it out at some future date. Forgiven is forgiven and done is done.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9, ESV

God is faithful to forgive us, and having forgiven us to cleanse us, or purify us. Nothing is held in reserve, or held over our heads. God frees us. In this, we can appropriate the beautiful imagery of King Hezekiah and say, "you have cast all my sins behind your back" (Isaiah 38:17b).

Forgive, brothers and sisters. Forgive and forgive and forgive.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

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There are deceivers, and there are the deceived. I really don't want to be either of those.

I know myself well enough to recognize that I am not immune to being taken in. I want so much to believe the best about people, and part of that inclination is to believe that people are good and honest, rather than corrupt and deceitful.

As Jesus taught and established himself with the people, there were those who were cautious, checking him out, not wanting to be taken in. So Jesus constantly made affirmations of his identity, because the crowds were divided. "Is he the Messiah? Is he who he claims to be? Are the words he speaks from God, or is he a charlatan?"

People are asking those very same questions today!

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" - John 7:37-38, NASB

Jesus had come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, and on the very last day, the seventh day (some say there were eight), Jesus stood amid the crowd and shouted this "living-water" message.

Why this message? And why this day?

Context is Critical

Throughout the Feast of Tabernacles, fathers and mothers built and stayed in tabernacles (tents) constructed of palm and myrtle branches. The families slept in these palm tents, looking at the stars as they explained to their children the way God cared for the Israelites for forty years in the wilderness. The families recounted the promise of God to Abraham, that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars.

Every day, during the feast, the people came up to the temple as one of the priests journeyed down to the pool of Siloam (The Pool of the Sent One) where he drew about three pints of water into a golden pitcher. This water, drawn from Siloam was carried back to the Temple through the Water Gate. As the water approached, the remaining priests surrounded the alter with their palm and myrtle branches, as Isaiah 12:3 was read aloud: "With joy shall we draw water from the wells of salvation."

The crowd, then, joined the celebration, singing sing various Hallel psalms, thousands of voices crying out in celebration. The priests read again, from Isaiah 44:3 "For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants (Isaiah 44:3, ESV).

The priest with the water stood at the west end of the alter while another priest with wine stood at the east end of the alter. They each poured their liquid into silver funnels. The wine and water mixed and ran out onto the ground at the base of the alter, signifying God's blessing, and provision, as seen in the rock that followed the Israelites through the wilderness when they left their enslavement in Egypt.

I know that's a lot to absorb, but I believe it is important to understand what's happening in the temple, day after day, during the Feast of Tabernacles. Now we are on the last day of the feast, the "great day." This feast day was solemn and quiet, unlike the previous celebratory days.

The Thirst

On the last day of the feast, the priest went again to the pool of Siloam, but he returned with an empty pitcher to signify the ongoing thirst of Israel, their longing for the Messiah, the one who would come and pour out his spirit on the nation.

Toward the end of the priestly reading, the crowd heard this: "Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion, For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!" And it is that context in which Jesus made his loud cry.

If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, "From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water." - John 7:37b-38, NASB

Jesus IS the rock that followed the Israelites through the wilderness, providing them an endless stream of water. And now, any who thirst can have that endless flow of living water from their inmost being. If you thirst, come to Jesus and drink.

You know, and I know that Jesus is not talking about physical thirst, because the text tells us he was speaking of the Spirit of God. This is a spiritual craving - a vacuum of the soul. We do thirst. We crave for something to fill our emptiness.

The longing to fill this emptiness is a magnet for inadequate secular solutions - psychotherapy, the drug industry, perverse sexuality, the pursuit of power that causes men to trample one another. Make no mistake, the devil knows we thirst, and that we will bow down to multiple idols promising to fill our void.

Every solution the world offers addresses either the physical body, or the emotional. None of them addresses the spiritual, and as a result, each fails to sate the gnawing emptiness within us. The spiritual man, the spiritual woman - this is where our thirst resides. It is a thirst that can be satisfied with nothing less than the living water Jesus provides.

Neither you nor any human being on earth can offer anything - anything at all - to satisfy the craving in the human spirit. The only thing that can quench that thirst is coming to Jesus as the fountain, and partaking of the water of life.

So in stark contrast to the Dos Equis man, I do not say, "Stay thirsty my friends." No. No, I say let the one who is thirsty come. Come to the fountain and be satisfied.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

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It was a gathering of university students, eager, young followers of Jesus. The leader of the discussion asked what was the most important part of being a Christ-follower.

A flurry of answers engulfed us, answers like, "faith" or "love" or "trust." Each such response elicited a host of "yeah" or "uh-huh" or "amen" statements indicating alignment or agreement.

The answers slowed as the group ran out of standard replies to offer, when the student sitting next to me chimed in with a bold and resolute, "obedience!"

Silence. No one said a word. It was both revealing and slightly unnerving.

Obedience is a discomforting word. We're much more at ease with words like love, peace, faith, and trust. But obedience . . . that harsh. It's fundamentalist. It's pharisaic.

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." - John 2:1-4, ESV

Jesus had done no miracle to this point, and he had given no indication that he would do one now. There is nothing to suggest that Mary should expect one. John is unmistakably clear that this was the "beginning of his signs" (John 2:11).

The loss of wine at this wedding feast (typically seven days in length) would be a matter of great embarrassment to the wedding family, and, by extension, to the greater community in which the wedding was held. It is not clear if Mary's concern is with the family as close friends, or if it is that the community would be a source of ridicule.

Whatever the case, Mary turned to her eldest son for help. With Joseph no longer around, Jesus would be the head of the household, and as such, in a position to make some decisions. Perhaps Mary expected him to scrape together the funds to buy more wine. Maybe she thought he might organize a quiet collection from trusted friends and neighbors for a wine purchase. Her expectations are not clear, but her direction is unmistakably clear.

Mary said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." - John 2:5, ESV

Mary delivered this abrupt statement, directing the servants to carry out Jesus' instructions without question or objection. If he directed them to buy wine on his credit, they were to do so. If he told them to quietly take up a collection, they were to do so. If he instructed them to take the headwaiter a ladle filled with dirt . . . are you getting the picture?

Taken literally, Jesus told the servants, "Serve the guests water." I do not believe anyone, not Mary, not the servants, not the disciples had any expectation that what actually happened was what would happen. All of them likely had the same reaction. "Well, I guess we're drinking water now."

Even if we don't understand, even if we have no expectations, we, like the servants, are called to "Do whatever he tells [us]." If Jesus tells us to serve our guests water when they are calling for wine, serve them water. If Jesus tells us to feed the multitude with five barley loaves and two small fish, we do so.

We are not called to understand Jesus, but to obey and follow him.

If any one chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. - John 7:17, NIV-1978

The temptation is to say, "Once I have this all figured out, I'll jump on board and follow Jesus." No, that's not how it works. Obedience precedes understanding. We obey, and then these things become clear. We do not wait for clarity before obeying.

When Jesus told Simon to put out into the deep water and let down the nets for a catch, Simon objected briefly, noting a hard night of fishing with no results. Simon was the fisherman here. Simon knew that letting down the nets in the deep water was pointless. But then he said, "But because you say so, I will let down the nets." The nets were so overloaded with fish that they began to tear.

Take a cue from Mary. "Do whatever he tells you."

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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I recently lamented how it has been difficult to find much in the way of truly Christmas-oriented literature and entertainment. For example, just last week I was trying to find a Christmas concert to attend with Alean, and was unable to do so. I found ugly sweater contests, Christmas Bounce-Offs at the local trampoline gym, Christmas beer-fests, and of course, the various retail gimmicks designed to entice me to attend and purchase their store's wares.

To date, I've been unable to find a televised movie depicting the actual birth narrative. I've seen every form of "Santa" movie imaginable (most just silly - some downright offensive), feel-good Hallmarkesque movies wherein some jerk has a traumatic wake-up call and becomes a nice guy, and even the Christmas music has fallen into this downward spiral. "Let's give thanks to the Lord above, 'cause Santa Claus is comin' tonight," or "Simply having a marvelous Christmas time." Give me "O' Holy Night," please!

I have no intention of diving into the various debates that swirl around the origins of Christmas, and whether or not much of the ritual was stolen from paganism (I have little doubt that it was, the same way much of our hymnology was set to the tune of pub songs). I can only say that I want to focus on what is, for me, the true meaning behind was I am celebrating at Christmas.

Though I participate in these traditions, Christmas has little to do with gifts under the tree, or even the tree itself, the lights on the house, though our home is well-decorated, or turkey dinner with the family, even though we have a turkey thawing in the garage as I write this. I'm not worried about whether the Walmart checker greets me with "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays." All of that is nice, but it isn't what captures my attention.

For the Christ-follower, Christmas is an acknowledgment of that moment God entered the human experience, taking on literal flesh, experiencing a human birth complete with every authentic human emotion and experience common to us all, and going beyond that to the endurance of the most horrific human death available at that time.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
- Luke 2:1-20, ESV

What we just read is the story of the ultimate expression of love. Jesus came with a purpose, and he never lost sight of that purpose. We read in the letter to Hebrews:

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

"Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, 'Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'"
- Hebrews 10:5-7

Jesus was born with the purpose of reconciling us, in our sin, to a sinless God. Everything carries a price-tag, and that reality includes our sin. Jesus redeemed us from that price-tag debt, that curse. Jesus made it possible for the sinful and the sinless to be reconciled and to co-exist. Not only that, we are adopted into a royal family, a family of deity. We become sons and daughters of God (1 John 3:2, Isaiah 56:5, Romans 8:14-17, Galatians 3:26).

As cliché as it is, Jesus truly is the reason for the season. Thank God in heaven for taking the initiative and paying the price to reconcile us to himself.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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This week is our final look at the advent of Jesus and how he ushered in an era of forgiveness. Today, we will look at the idea of mandating bilateral activity for forgiveness to occur. There is a concept which holds that for person A to forgive person B, person B must repent, and perhaps even ask person A to grant that forgiveness.

You Can Go It Alone

I understand the bilateral argument well because it is an argument I used to make in my discussions of forgiveness with others. As I wrestle with forgiveness in my own walk with Christ, I have come to understand it as something I can offer unilaterally, regardless of the actions and attitudes of my offenders.

Nothing is required of my offenders for me to be able to pray for them, to work for good in their lives, to release them from any obligation toward me. It is not a requirement that my offender ask for my forgiveness for me to speak well of him or her. It is not a prerequisite that my offender repent for me to petition God to pour blessings upon him.

Conversely, an offender can repent while I stew in the morass of my anger and bitterness. My refusal to forgive does not trap the offender in their sin. He or she can carry that directly to God as I scowl and lick my wounds.

My refusal to forgive because my offender hasn't asked or repented, ties me to them with an umbilical that nourishes my bitterness and misery. The ultimate tragedy in this is that the offender may never repent. They may even die leaving me with a gaping wound that cannot be healed, because I have tied my healing to their coming on their knees begging my forgiveness.

It's Better Not to Go It Alone

Even though forgiveness and repentance can occur unilaterally, we do well to bear in mind that reconciliation is always preferred. Consider Jesus' comments here:

Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. - Matthew 5:23-24, NASB

In context, bringing one's gift to the alter is the equivalent of saying "When you come to worship..." We cannot come to God in a posture of worship when we carry a briefcase of injustices against our fellow man. We have a God-mandated duty to pursue reconciliation with others when we have caused them injury.

So strong is this truth that Jesus says, "Don't even come to me with worship while you have these issues unresolved." Reconciliation trumps worship. This may help explain the sensation of emptiness we sometimes carry away from our devotions. We are attempting to worship while refusing to repent and reconcile.

It is worth noting that the charge is not to ask God to forgive me, but instead to go to the one against whom I have sinned and do whatever I have to do to be reconciled. This reconciliation will almost certainly require me to swallow my pride, to humble myself before one against whom I have sinned, to ask for their forgiveness, and possibly to make restitution if there has been some loss. It may even be that the other party is unjustifiably sore with me. Go anyway. Be reconciled. Engage in what David Dockory calls "a greater righteousness."

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. - Matthew 18:15, ESV

Just as Jesus taught that I am to go be reconciled to my brother when I have sinned against him, Jesus also taught that I go to be reconciled when I have been sinned against. In each case, the onus is upon me to initiate the reconciliation, what Lange calls "an assault of love" upon the heart of this brother or sister in Christ.

As we continue through Advent, embrace these concepts of forgiveness and reconciliation. Practice them. It is then that we can pray with confidence, "Father, forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us" (Matthew 6:12).

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray
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Please note: Long-View Living Administration reserves the right to delete any and all comments that are deemed to be snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read our Comments Policy here.

        




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Acts 17:28 - ἐν αὐτῷ γὰρ ζῶμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν