Which is more important—the gift or the giver? It depends….
Last Christmas Sherrel received a gift—some candy wrapped in a Cellophane sheet and tied off with a piece of ribbon. The gift wasn't all that important, since we rarely eat candy. But the giver was special. The giver was a homeless woman who at that time was sleeping outside in the elements, underneath a storage trailer. Sherrel and the woman are friends. Their relationship is more important to both of them than any gift could ever be.
On the other hand, if a business here in Joplin sent me a gift certificate as some sort of a promotion, I would be more interested in the gift than the giver.
It is so very important to our welfare for us to differentiate between the gift and the Giver that I'm continuing to focus on what we discussed Friday. I want to continue to emphasize just how much “forgive” has to do with your relationship with God.
If you were raised up in church here in America, the words “forgiven” and “saved” are just a part of your church lingo. To ask, “Have you ever been forgiven?” or to ask, “Are you saved?” is to essentially ask the same question: “Are you going to Heaven or hell when you die?” Or asked another way: “When you die, will you experience eternal life or eternal death?”
But the two Greek words translated as “forgiven” in the New Testament, have much more to do with relationship in this life than eternal reward in the next. And the Greek word for “saved” (used 118 times in the New Testament) has a much broader meaning than just having a ticket to Heaven.
If you've not been tainted by religion, what I'm discussing today will be much easier to digest than it will be if you've spent your life associating forgiveness with eternal life. Either way, we have to stop associating forgiveness with the gift and start associating it with the Giver. Let me explain.
If you've ever been to a Christian funeral here in America you've surely heard the following:
- “At least, she's in a better place now.”
- “His suffering is over.”
- “Do you know if he was a Christian?”
I've made these same kinds of comments myself, so I'm as much at fault as anyone else. But what are we saying when we say such things? Aren't we saying that the gift is more important than the giver?
If you don't believe me, consider where your focus is when hearing of someone's death. Is it Who they knew, or where they are going?
And what is your concern about the living—their present relationship with Jesus or their eternal place of residence? I know this is hard to face, but we must begin to face not what we say we believe but how we, in fact, act like we believe. When eternal life in Heaven has priority over this life in Christ, then we have a problem.
If a knot develops in our gut, when we read verses like these:
But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:15 NKJV)
So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses. (Matthew 18:35 NKJV)
Is our first thought anxiousness over our place in Heaven, or grief over our broken relationship with God here on this earth?
Holding on to unforgiveness does not come between us and eternal life. It comes between us and God. Our eternal security does not have a life of its own; it exists in Christ.
I encourage you to please stop asking questions like: “If I can't forgive Sally Sue, can I still get to Heaven?” And start asking questions like: “If I can't forgive Sally Sue, Lord… how is this affecting my relationship with You?”
It is a demonic distraction from developing intimacy with God to focus on forgiveness as if it's some kind of performance issue: “If I want to be forgiven, then I must forgive.” It's not a performance issue; it's a relationship issue. Everything… everything flows out of our relationship with God.
We make receiving forgiveness for ourselves and showing forgiveness toward others difficult because we try to do it outside the context of relationship. It's like avoiding the people we've hurt or who have hurt us, thinking avoidance will somehow fix things. And then we wonder why the guilt and shame don't just disappear over time.
Unforgiveness cannot live in the presence of God. You cannot take unforgiveness (toward yourself or someone else) into the presence of God and expect to come out with it. So, if you're still hanging on to that same old unforgiveness, then you only stuck a foot, or an arm, or a leg into His presence.
His presence burns up unforgiveness. It's simply not in His nature. His presence destroys it. Are you following me?
So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive [them], and you will have [them]. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11:22–26 NKJV)
Do you have a mountain that needs to be thrown into the sea? Look at what Jesus says. You don't just rear back and shout it into the sea with a mighty “In the name of Jesus!” No… first you make all your relationships right so you can step into His presence, and put that mountain directly into the sea.
God has no interest in declaring you guilty. He wants to make you innocent. He wants to give your voice the power to do His will. Get into His presence and let Him show you what forgiveness looks like.
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence [is] fullness of joy; At Your right hand [are] pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11 NKJV)
Have a good day,