‘Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.’ Psalm 32.2
Being forgiven greatly affects our standing with God; it means there is nothing to separate us from him. There are also other implications as well, such as the way we treat other people.
There is a thought-provoking story in Matthew 18 about a man who owed a fortune, and as an act of mercy his debt was wiped clean by the king and he was allowed to go free. What did this man do with his new freedom? He promptly went out and found someone who owed him the merest fraction of his former debt and demanded that this small sum be repaid immediately. Why he would act in this way, especially after experiencing such mercy, is a mystery – and of course it is only a fictional story that Jesus told – but perhaps one reason behind the man’s inability to forgive was that it had not sunk in just what the merciful king had done for him.
Often it is the fact that we do not appreciate the extent of our forgiveness, and the extent of God’s love for us, that causes us to act harshly towards others. It is when we perceive ourselves unforgiven and do not sense our own value that we can be tempted to seek a sense of worth from others.
The death of Jesus for you stands as the ultimate sign that you are forgiven, and his willingness to give his life for you is a declaration of your value to God. You are forgiven; you are of great value to God – allow that to change how you relate to others.
‘Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.’ Psalm 32.1
When we meet people, one of the most common questions is, “How are you?” Most of the time the answer is a simple, “Fine thank you!” After all, we are hardly likely to entrust our deepest feelings with people we scarcely know! However, this verse gives us a new perspective on that question; the answer is “Blessed!”
On this day we recall the death of Jesus and the events of the cross. We also recall what these events achieved for us; our transgressions – all the things we have done wrong – are forgiven. They have not been filed away to be dealt with later nor swept under the carpet, but they have been totally, utterly and forever forgiven.
The implication of this is that nothing you have ever done, or neglected to do, stands between you and God. He is not withholding anything from you because of your past actions. This is why the next time someone asks, “How are you?”, you can look them in the eye and say – “Blessed!” But you probably won’t!
‘When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.’ Luke 22.14
In the Communion Service, at the point when the bread and wine are to be consecrated as a memorial of what Jesus did at the Last Supper, this powerful phrase is often used: ‘On the night that he was betrayed’.
On that particular night – when his friends would desert him, another friend would hand him over to the authorities and when he would feel desperate darkness – we are told that he gave thanks and entrusted his life entirely to his Father. The point is this – we all have times when we feel let down and betrayed by people (and sometimes we might even feel betrayed by God), so what do we do at these times? Our temptation is often to withdraw and hide away, either physically or emotionally. However, we see a totally different approach with Jesus. His reaction was to surrender more; to look beyond what was happening and to keep alive a belief that despite the present circumstances, the pit was not the end.
There is a lovely detail in one of the healing stories in Mark 7.34, when we are told that Jesus ‘looked up to heaven’. It may be that he simply looked up, but perhaps he was looking at a different place or a different reality – taking his eyes off the situation that was immediately in front of him.
We need to learn that ability: to take our eyes off whatever is causing darkness and instead look to the reality that we are loved by Abba Father, that Jesus gave his life for us and that living within us is the very presence of the Holy Spirit.
“Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” Exodus 15.11
Most of us believe that God works wonders –after all, this must be within his capability or he would not be God! We are surrounded by many of God’s wonders – he sustains us and the world – but could there be more? There were plenty of wonders in the ministry of Jesus, and he foresaw his work carrying on after his death. However, it is these wonders that we are not so certain about, and you may struggle to believe that God will work wonders on your behalf. It may be that you do not consider yourself a worthy recipient of such wonders, or that there are plenty of people in far greater need than you. However, by thinking in this way, you are putting the focus on yourself rather than him. He is the God who works wonders; it is about him and not you.
There is a moment recorded in Matthew 9.27-31 when two blind men approached Jesus. The question he had for them was not about their condition or why they were blind, but rather, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” His question seemed designed to lift their eyes off their condition and on to him – the one who worked wonders and wonderfully met their needs.
In the end it comes down to attitude. Too often we approach God with an unspoken assumption: “I don’t suppose you’ll do anything about this but I’ll mention it anyway!” God is not ashamed to be known as the one who works wonders. This is who he is, so recognise it and turn to him.
“Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory” Exodus 15.11
Awesome has taken on a new meaning in recent years and is commonly understood by many to mean ‘amazing’. However, at the root of the original word is the concept of ‘fear’; the kind of feeling that can root you to the spot and over which you have little control. This is what is being conveyed when God is described as “awesome in glory”. It is more than the fact that simply seeing God would be an amazing sight, but that it would also root us the spot and render us helpless.
When we think of the presence of God within us, we might think of it in terms of a sense of peace or the ability to do something we might otherwise be unable to do. This may well be God’s kindness to us, for if we could sense the ‘awesomeness’ of his glory and presence within us we would probably be unable to move or do anything at all!
When the Bible calls on us to ‘fear’ the Lord, it is this sense that we are encouraged to capture. It is not about fearing to go near him but is recognising the truth of what we do not necessarily experience – just how awesome God really is, whether we feel it or not. Capturing the wonder of how awesome he is – the fear of the Lord – is what will feed your worship, guide your path and give focus to your prayers.
“Who is like you – majestic in holiness” Exodus 15.11
We give holiness a very bad name! We tend to think of it in terms of what we should not do or things we ought to give up. Evidently the Bible describes holiness quite differently – holiness is something majestic.
This only makes sense if we regard holiness in terms of something we gain rather than lose. 1 Peter 1.16 tells us to be holy because God is holy, so surely we can expect to reflect something of that majestic holiness – which has to be more than us looking downcast because of the harsh demands we might feel God puts upon us! Holiness is about the presence of God within us. This is the only way that we are going to be like him; not by trying to act like him but by living with the reality of his presence within us.
The Bible commands us to be holy – not to act in a holy way – and this begins with us taking seriously the truth that the presence of our glorious God dwells within us. Whatever you feel, the majestic presence of God is with you wherever you go.
‘When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”’ Matthew 21.10
Sometimes it is easy to put off approaching Jesus because you are unsure what to expect. What will he say to you? Have you disappointed him by failing in some way? Do you suspect that although you haven’t done anything particularly bad, you haven’t done anything particularly good either? Basically, for whatever reason, you might not feel confident enough to draw close to him. Yet Jesus says: “Come to me”.
As Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, crowds went ahead of him and more crowds followed behind. As if this wasn’t enough, we are also told: ‘…the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”’ There must have been something very compelling about Jesus to draw such crowds and attract such interest.
So this Easter, how will you approach Jesus? The challenge is to come before him with a new openness. It doesn’t matter whether you feel good or bad, whether life is going well or times are hard – he longs to spend time with you anyway. Why not make a start right now? Take a moment to whisper his name – ‘Jesus’. This is all you need do to step closer into his presence. He is right there with you now, so what do you want to say to him – and what do you think he wants to say back to you?
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