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    Not Condemned

    I’ve recently become familiar with the growing popularity of the concept of “self-compassion”—accepting ourselves as we are and giving ourselves the compassion and grace to heal and grow, no matter how long that takes.

    The Evidence of the New Birth

    The answer to Nicodemus’ question, “How can a man be born when he is old?” is: Only when he is willing to die to everything in his life, including his rights, his virtues, and his religion, and becomes willing to receive into himself a new life that he has never before experienced (John 3:4). This new life exhibits itself in our conscious repentance and through our unconscious holiness.

    Repeat or Release?

    It was an uncomfortable confrontation. The kind where you hope the hammering of your heart isn’t visible through your shirt. My friend and I stood face to face, disagreeing about how to handle a situation between our children at school. It had been a fairly serious issue, and I had spoken to a teacher about it before discussing it with my friend. After a second uncomfortable exchange by phone, we both owned up to our part of the dispute and apologized. After that, our friendship began to feel solid again. These days, it’s better than ever.

    The Mystery of Believing

    Through the miracle of redemption, Saul of Tarsus was instantly changed from a strong-willed and forceful Pharisee into a humble and devoted bondservant of the Lord Jesus.

    There is nothing miraculous or mysterious about the things we can explain.

    How We’re Called to Live

    I found myself in a tense, combustible situation—standing between two groups of angry people who were nose to nose, boiling over with rage and hatred. One group spewed vile, dehumanizing words at the other; then that group spewed vile, dehumanizing words back. In that volatile space, both groups completely lost perspective of the other’s humanity. Locked in an intractable posture of opposition, neither side would acknowledge any common ground. Neither side would consider there might be some way to resolve their differences or even begin any kind of constructive conversation. Both sides felt wronged and wanted only to punish their…

    Why Forgive?

    What’s the goal of forgiveness? When we’ve been wounded by another, why should we forgive? It’s often said that we forgive for ourselves, to break out of our prison of bitterness. It’s pointed out that not forgiving is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person dies, that our rage continues to give the offender power over us.

    Sin Always Hurts

    Sin will always hurt. One couple found this to be true in a painfully embarrassing way. The two were arrested after they attempted to sell stolen goods at a pawnshop. The only problem with their plan was that the goods happened to be from the house of the pawnshop owner. The owner recognized the items, went home to find that his house had indeed been broken into, and reported the duo to the police—leading to their arrest.

    Kingdom Life

    When the father of a murdered teen showed a heart of forgiveness to his daughter’s killer, waves of shock rippled through the courtroom. The serial killer, who had sat emotionless while the families of several victims voiced their pain and rage, broke down in tears at this unexpected moment of grace. Though painful, the father chose to show a taste of Christ-like love even in his pain.

    Vicarious Intercession

    Beware of thinking that intercession means bringing our own personal sympathies and concerns into the presence of God, and then demanding that He do whatever we ask. Our ability to approach God is due entirely to the vicarious, or substitutionary, identification of our Lord with sin. We have “boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.”

    Spiritual stubbornness is the most effective hindrance to intercession, because it is based on a sympathetic “understanding” of things we see in ourselves and others that we think needs no atonement.

    Breaking the Chains

    We found our visit to Christ Church Cathedral in Stone Town, Zanzibar, deeply moving, for it sits on the site of what was formerly the largest slave market in East Africa. The designers of this cathedral wanted to show through a physical symbol how the gospel breaks the chains of slavery. No longer would the location be a place of evil deeds and horrible atrocities, but of God’s embodied grace.

    Those who built the cathedral wanted to express how Jesus’s death on the cross provides freedom from sin—that which the apostle Paul speaks of in his letter to the church at…

    The Art of Forgiveness

    One afternoon I spent two hours at an art exhibit—The Father & His Two Sons: The Art of Forgiveness—in which all of the pieces were focused on Jesus’s parable of the prodigal son (see Luke 15:10–31). I found Edward Rojas’s painting The Prodigal Son especially powerful. The painting portrays the once wayward son returning home, wearing rags and walking with his head down. With a land of death behind him, he steps onto a pathway where his father is already running toward him.  At the bottom of the painting are Jesus’s words, “But when he was yet a great way off,…

    His Agony and Our Access

    Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples….”Stay here and watch with Me.” —Matthew 26:36, 38

    We can never fully comprehend Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, but at least we don’t have to misunderstand it. It is the agony of God and man in one Person, coming face to face with sin. We cannot learn about Gethsemane through personal experience. Gethsemane and Calvary represent…

    Despised for All of This

    Susannah Cibber gained fame in the eighteenth-century for her talent as a singer. However, she was equally well known for her scandalous marital problems. That’s why when Handel’s Messiah was first performed in Dublin in April 1742, many in the audience did not approve of her role as a featured soloist.

    During that inaugural performance, Cibber sang of the Messiah: “He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Those words so moved Rev. Patrick Delany that he jumped to his feet and said, “Woman, for this be all thy sins forgiven thee!”

    The connection…

    The King’s Crown

    We sat around the table, each person adding a toothpick to the foam disc before us. At our evening meal in the weeks leading up to Easter we created a crown of thorns—with each toothpick signifying something we had done that day for which we were sorry and for which Christ had paid the penalty. The exercise brought home to us, night after night, how through our wrongdoing we were guilty and how we needed a Savior. And how Jesus freed us through His death on the cross.

    The crown of thorns that Jesus was made to wear was part of…

    Wrestling and Restoration

    Whenever I counsel couples considering divorce, I always start by asking them this question: What kind of relationship did your parents have? Children whose parents divorce are far more likely to do so themselves—in fact, men whose parents are no longer married are 35 percent more likely to divorce, and for women the likelihood is a startling 60 percent. Sometimes in order to heal our broken relationships, we have to look back at the relationships in our past.

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