After a quarter-century of discipleship in leading people to freedom in Christ, one of the most common hindrances to people's freedom is their choice to trust their unbelief more than their belief. I have never seen God’s work shut down because of the size or strength of someone’s bondage, but I have seen God’s work resisted to the point that people have grieved the Holy Spirit, persisting in their resistance until they have quenched his work.
In this message, we attempt to sift through some of the differences between those who pursue their desire for Jesus to set them free no matter how much their unbelief tries to stop them, and those who give in to their unbelief no matter how much Jesus promises to do for them.
The aim is to help us deal with our own journey to freedom in Christ where we distinguish between what is a genuine struggle and hindrance that needs ministry, and what is a stubborn refusal to do what God's word tells us that needs repentance. If we treat our stubbornness as a bondage issue rather than an obedience issue, we will be deceived into sitting back and waiting for God to do something when he is working to get us to do something.
At the same time, this exploration of God’s word guides us in considering how to discern between those who are unable to take the next step because of a genuine bondage issue that requires ministry from the church, and those who simply do not want Jesus to set them free because they are not willing to pay the cost of giving up the deceptive “perks” that their bondage has given them.
What kind of benefits do people get from hanging on to their genuine bondage issues? Things like avoiding responsibility to engage with the church in using their spiritual gifts since they are always struggling with something that won’t let them do so. Or a wife who has decided she does not want freedom because her unresolved hurts towards her husband immobilize her from wanting to be a wife to him ever again. Or a husband who does not want freedom because becoming the head of his home and learning to love his wife as Christ loved the church seems so outrageously scary and impossible to him that he does not want to be put in such a position.
Join our exploration of the freedom issues involved in a dad bringing his demonized son to Jesus after Jesus’ disciples were unable to provide the freedom he was seeking. How Jesus engages everyone involved so they are all invited to join him in his work is a remarkably gracious expression of how he will do the same today in any church that hears what the Spirit is saying to the churches, and responds to God’s work by working out these aspects of salvation with fear and trembling.
 Although we are warned against resisting the Spirit (Acts 7:51), grieving the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30-31), and quenching the Spirit (I Thessalonians 5:19), it has been all too common to see people resist the Spirit’s work to apply the freedom of Christ to their lives, and to take down people who were devoted to helping them find that freedom.
 By “bondage issues” I mean things that have happened to us that have created such consistent patterns and habits of fear and self-protection that a person us unable to freely join God in his work because of the things that keep stopping them. This often involves deeper things that have been hidden away because, at the time they happened, we were unable to bring them to God for healing. Because we couldn’t handle them, we created various systems of denial and dissociation to minimize how much they appeared to control our lives. However, whenever we want to step out to trust and obey God in something we are learning in his word, we find that we just can’t get over something that consistently gets in the way.
 Here I am differentiating between the real things that have hindered a person’s relationship with God and their choice whether to bring that to Jesus for healing and freedom, or continue looking after it in their own strength.
 Except that the truth is that they could bring their bondage issues to the church for freedom so they could also engage with the church in doing ministry to others.
 While this may look justified in a surface, sarky way, the real issue is still between the woman and Jesus, not the woman and her husband. Yes, the journey to freedom will require resolving inter-personal problems as well, but once the deeper issue of trusting Jesus for freedom is resolved, women will want to see him heal everything that is broken, including what is broken in both her and her husband, and in their marriage.
 Again, while surface issues and childhood trauma may explain where a man is starting from in his journey to freedom, none of those things justify the outright refusal to follow Jesus in the next step of that journey. It is still an issue of whether a man will trust Jesus one step at a time rather than giving in to all the reasons for unbelief promoted by the world, the sark (flesh), and the devil.
Within days of sharing with our home church how the only specific references to forgiveness are in relation to forgiving repentant people, another article extolling the virtues of forgiving everyone of everything all the time landed on my little corner of cyberspace. I did a quick survey to see how the author used Scripture to support his point and was, once again, disappointed to see so many assumptions treated as if they were coming out of God's word when the article showed nothing of the sort. This made me all the more thankful to share this video with anyone out there who would like to explore what Scripture "really says" about this. I assure you that we are not in the camp of those who twist Scripture to support sinful lifestyles, or write off clear teachings of New Testament Scripture as if they no longer apply. Rather, I contend that it is the people claiming we are to forgive everyone of everything all the time who are reading things into God's word that are never stated, and that contradict other things that are stated. This may be difficult for people to appreciate, but there are ZERO passages of God's Book telling his people to forgive unrepentant people.
On the other hand, there are MANY passages telling us that we must NOT forgive unrepentant people because they need help, and, in some cases, church discipline.
I go so far as to say that teaching people to forgive everyone of everything all the time is a false teaching because it is not only not what God's word teaches, but is contrary to what he teaches.
The conclusion is that interpreting all the exhortations to forgive as meaning forgive people who have repented, does line up with God's word all the way around. And, it just happens to have LOTS of Scriptures telling us to do just that.
So, with that in mind, here is a thorough look at Scriptures that teach us the freedom to forgive repentant people. Many of these also confirm that forgiveness does not apply to unrepentant people. Our next study will consider many of the Scriptures that tell us how to walk in freedom in relation to unrepentant people. We just need to understand that forgiving them is neither required nor desirable. God has something better, and that is what we seek.
I often tackle dialogues with evolutionists who believe that I have no basis for my faith in Jesus Christ as Creator and Redeemer. At the same time, they imagine that their side has irrefutable scientific proof that everything we see in our universe came through an ancient explosion of dense matter that eventually became life as we know it today.
In a recent dialogue, my opponent was in the stage of resorting to name calling, so I left the conversation open with these seven questions. Since his belief is that the supposed natural processes that created life can be tested and verified by scientific measurements, I want someone to show me the scientifically repeatable and observable tests of natural things that prove nothing-to-matter-to-life evolution.
Question one: what is your scientific evidence for the origin of space, time, and matter?
Question two: what processes would we need to use to assess what came before space, time, and matter, since science is limited to what can be measured within the material realm?
Question three: how could all the matter in the universe be compressed into a lump of dense matter as you claim?
Question four: what scientific evidence do you have that a lump of dense matter containing all the matter in the universe had the energy and force to break the gravitational confines of such a mass and explode across the distances we now see in the universe?
Question five: what scientific evidence explains why the universe is filled with orderly systems, both in the expansive reaches of the universe itself, and across our whole planet, and within the inner workings of the human body, rather than the chaos that results with every explosion that can be tested by science?
Question six: what is your scientific explanation for how non-living matter turned into living matter to begin the journey towards all the life we see on our planet today, including all that is evidenced in the fossil record?
Question seven: what is your scientific explanation for the origin of DNA, RNA, and proteins, and how they organized into a symbiotic relationship that absolutely requires them to exist in this relationship in order for them to maintain, repair, and reproduce, what is contained within their library of information?
I share this in the hope of finding people honest enough to admit that neither science itself, nor the evolutionary religion, can answer these questions with any kind of repeatable, testable, observable, scientific experiments (hence the name calling).
I hope you will consider where these questions lead us in our discovery of the person outside space, time, and matter, who has the creative genius, power, and authority to create what we see in our universe, and the unfailing love that would offer us a perfect solution to the mess we have made of his creation.
For in him (Jesus) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
These questions summarize decades of listening to evolutionary arguments for origins without God that never explain our origin, and listening to unsubstantiated attacks on the evidence for God, his creative genius in what he has made, and the incredible validations of the Bible as his Book. Neither their claims nor their attacks ever answer the biggest questions.
Just to clarify, I don’t need scientific measurements of natural processes to explain where space, time, and matter came from since whatever, and whoever, existed prior to the creation of space, time, and matter could not be made of space, time, or matter. The very fact that people are still looking for the origin of space, time, and matter through the boxed-in limitations of naturalism is because they cannot find the answers in naturalism since naturalism is already, and can only, deal with space, time, and matter. Wherever space, time, and matter came from cannot be anything that is space, time, and matter, therefore we need something other than scientific tests to give us our answers.
I use “space, time, and matter” to summarize the components of our material world. These three components are absolutely required for material existence, so we must be able to explain where they came from in order to understand how they supposedly produced what we can observe and test in our world today.
This morning, my time with God confronted me with this simple challenge: “whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
Okay, I said simple; I did not say easy.
By “brother,” it doesn’t seem to limit our thoughts to siblings alone, or even to the church brotherhood alone, but to relationships with our fellow-man in which we share life as brothers. At the very least, I think there is substantial reason to believe that God wants his children to love everyone that we can apply this to whoever is in our lives.
My journey this morning was to consider what the context of this verse tells us that would call for such a conclusion of loving our brothers as an expression of loving God. Join me in working through these verses.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
Everything begins with us abiding in Jesus and Jesus abiding in us, which means that our ability to love our brothers comes from this relationship, not from our relationship to our brothers, or sisters, or anyone we ought to love who may not make it easy to do so.
As we abide in Jesus, and Jesus in us, we experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit at work within us, which means we are able to love to the degree of our fellowship with the Holy Spirit, not the degree of our fellowship with our brothers. However we say it, the primary factor in our ability to love others is our love-relationship with God. That gives us everything we need to love others.
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
The call to love overs is all founded upon the work of God in which he has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world, which means we are able to love as saved people in a way we could not love when we were not saved.
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
Our lives are now based on our confession that Jesus is the Son of God, not on our rehearsing whatever our brothers have done to us. This means that it is what we confess about Jesus that determines our freedom to love our brothers. Our abiding relationship with God cannot be affected by what our brothers do to us, which means that we are always free to love as God loves, no matter who we are to love, or how they have treated us. God-sized love comes from God-trusting children.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
It is on the basis of our experience of salvation that we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us, which means that the way we are able to love our brothers also comes from our experience of salvation, not our experience of them.
Since God is love, and abiding in God means abiding in love, we are able to love our brothers because of our experience of God’s love. There is nothing our brothers can do to us to diminish our love because our love comes from God who is love, not from them who may be rather unloving.
By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
It is through this abiding relationship with God and his love that love is perfected in us. No amount of unloving treatment from others can force us to be unloving towards them since they are not the measure of how much we love.
In this abiding relationship with God, we are like him in this world. We are not like the world in the world, and we do not act like our unloving brothers in the world, but we express what our God is like. No amount of worldly treatment from our brothers can affect the maturity of our love, but loving our brothers when they are unloving towards us is one more expression of loving as God loves us.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Since there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, we do not relate to our brothers in any kind of fear-based responses, but relate always in love-based responses because God’s relationship with us is love-based.
Since the measure of our love is that “we love because he first loved us”, the reality that God is love is what enables us to love, meaning, once again, that we could never hate our brothers because of sinful things they have done to us since our love for them comes from God’s love for us.
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
When we hate our brother, we cannot say we love God, since a love-relationship with God would make us loving towards the undeserving, which means that anyone who claims to love God while hating his brother is a liar. If we do love God, we will mature in his love.
And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Jesus told us that if we love him we will keep his commandments, and since his commandment is, “whoever loves God must also love his brother”, any denial of love to a brother is a denial of Jesus’ authority over our love, and a denial of his abiding effect on our love.
Conclusion: Everything about loving our brothers, no matter what they have done to us, is based on our experience of love-relationship with God and what he has done for us. This is the freedom; that God has so loved us that we are able to so love others, even when they are just as sinful towards us as we have been towards God.
Application: to relate to others out of a conscious hunger and thirst for the deepest possible experience of love-relationship with God so that everything expressed from my life is the love of God in me.
Yes, I deliberately begin with this consideration that there is something extremely distinctive of knowing we are loved by a father, and I do this because the satisfaction of our Father-love need is so overflowingly provided to us by the living God that facing our need and the invitation at the same time is the best thing we could ever do.
I will go so far as to say that our satisfaction in the love of God is able to reach such a point of saturation that we then become the vessels through which our heavenly Father continues to pour his love out into the lives of broken and hurting and sinful people all around us. No matter how distant such an experience may seem to be, it is still what is offered to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.
This present journey through these vibrant truths began when I noticed a phrase in Father’s word that stood out like a glaring neon sign on a dark highway.
17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. (I John 4)
How is “love perfected with us”?
It is all about, “we know that we abide in him and he in us”. The reason so many church-folk do NOT have Father’s love maturing to perfection is that they do not know the abiding relationship with Jesus Christ that flows from his words.
This is what we need, the abiding relationship with God that gives us full satisfaction that we are his and he is ours. We NEED this. The letter we call I John is saturated with this message that God wants us to KNOW that we abide in him and he abides in us. He wants us to KNOW that we have eternal life, and that we are children of the Living (and Loving) God.
What keeps standing out is that this knowing is what God has in himself. The Triune God has knowingness, the conscious experience and enjoyment of knowing one another, and knowing that they know one another.
The wonder of Paul’s words come back to help us along on our journey, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
We cannot escape that the very best we can see now is as in a mirror dimly. Paul wasn’t thinking of a glass mirror as we have them today, but the very best of polished metals as they had then. Mirrors were a dim reflection of what people looked like, and so our life-experience on this earth at the present time can give us nothing better than that. We are hindered in so many ways, and so we live with that, that our knowing will always be dim.
We also must accept that what we know in this lifetime is only “in part”. It can never get better than a partial experience of knowing while we are in the flesh in this earthly existence.
However, what stands out is that when we are with God in paradise, we will see “face to face”. We will see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord as we have never fully seen it. We will not look into the glorious face of our Savior and wish there was a sun shining, or stars in the sky, or a sea reverberating with the powerful love of God. We will see face to face, and nothing could be better!
Also, we “shall know fully, even as we have been fully known.” I believe that this “know fully” is in reference to perfection of relationship rather than completeness of informational knowledge. There is something about someone knowing us that resonates within our souls.
The quest of social media is that we want to be known. Even without the God-rebellion version of pride, we have this innate sense that we should be known. It is part of us. It is part of God. It is why they created us, so they could have a creature who could enjoy what it is like to both be known, and to know. Within God’s Triunity he both knows and is known. It is a wonderful perfection of eternal joy in one another that we can only imagine since it is impossible to experience to perfection in this world.
However, to grow in these things we must consider all the encouragements in First John to “know” things, and thank the Triune that they make this so important to them. It is not like he has had some merciful consideration about us so that he somehow includes concern for our knowing just for us while it isn’t a personal interest of them. This is not like a parent who has no real interest in colouring books lovingly looking through a child’s colouring pages just because he wants his little one to know what it feels like to have someone show such interest.
No, when God addresses our desperate need to know them, it is because knowing is so foundational to being like them. God who is all-knowing wants us to know. God’s all-knowingness is not mere informational knowing, as if they are some kind of cosmic know-it-all who can’t be beaten in any kind of competition. Rather, their knowingness is as one in the constant expression of relationship who knows intimately and perfectly every one of his children.
What strikes me is the degree to which this love-relationship of knowingness is to affect us so that, “as he is so also are we in this world.” What does this mean?!
First, it sounds like, since we are the children of God, which doesn’t just mean offspring, but those who express sameness to the Father, we are the same as God in the world. Whatever he is like in the spiritual realm, that is what we are like in the world.
Second, a significant component of this has to do with love. We must know that we abide in love-relationship with God. We know that “he has given us of his Spirit,” which, as Paul says, “God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” We cannot ask for anything better in this earthly lifetime than the Holy Spirit as the personal expression of the love of God poured into our hearts. It is interesting that the Holy Spirit is not the love of God, but the person by whom the love of God is poured into our hearts. Wonderful!
Third, the greatest expression of love ever known is that, “the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” Again, the apostle Paul wrote, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” John said that the apostles had both “seen and testify” that the Father sent his Son into the world as the propitiation for our sins. The whole description is in accord with what John had already written, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Although I wish I could continue on into a fuller meditation on the whole paragraph John had written, part of my ongoing encouragement to all of us is to have a daily time with God in which we listen to his words, pray about whatever he is doing, and prepare our hearts to join him in his work.
In that sense, we do not need to finish a page of the Bible, or a chapter, or a paragraph, or even a verse. As long as we know what has stood out to us the most, and have had a conversation with God in prayer about knowing and doing his will, and can head into the day watchful for how he will work out the things he has spoken, the Holy Spirit will teach and remind of whatever is required for each day.
For me, that means considering what God is doing in my life to mature my experience of his love, and watching for who he brings into my life who needs the love of Jesus through my distinctive place in the body of Christ. If I will work out these aspects of my salvation with fear and trembling, I will join God in whatever he is working in me to will and to work for his good pleasure. And that is good.
 Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; I John 2:2; 4:10 ~ Propitiation refers to the way Jesus satisfied the demands of God’s justice against our sins by bearing on himself the outpouring of his Father’s wrath until it was so completely expended that he could say, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). This means that God is both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). He is just in that sin is fully punished, and he is justifier in that he can now give us justification by grace through faith, not through anything we need to do to face the condemnation of our sin.
The most common thing I have heard about forgiveness is the teaching that freedom from bitterness and justice-issues requires us to forgive everyone of everything all the time. In this study, we look at the Scriptures very closely to see if this is what God's word describes.
What we discover is that our freedom in Christ cannot include forgiving unrepentant people since that would be contrary to what God teaches us in his word. He has a very clear plan for our freedom from bitterness and justice issues, but it never requires forgiving people who continue to do wrong, or have never repented of the wrongs they have done. There is something better.
In this message, we only got as far as showing that Scripture clearly speaks against the idea of forgiving everyone of everything all the time, and in our next study, we will look at how clearly it teaches us to forgive repentant people every time anyone repents to us about anything.
This is not speaking against all the Scriptures that tell us to forgive, but clarifies that this never refers to forgiving unrepentant people. All the Scriptures exhorting us to forgive one another are in reference to the necessity of responding to anyone who has repented.
This may be new to many who have heard only the popular teaching, but I hope that our journey through the Scriptures shows that the Scriptures teach something that is really opposite to what we’ve been told, and there is a distinctive freedom in discovering this truth.
For as long as I have heard about Freedom in Christ, one of the key steps has been a focus on bitterness vs forgiveness. The philosophy is that the cure to bitterness is forgiveness, and if we are not forgiving we must be in bondage to bitterness.
At the beginning of the journey, I thought that’s what the Bible taught. However, this far along, including our home church journey into questioning what the Bible “really” says on so many things we grew up with, I now realize that bitterness and forgiveness are separate issues.
By that, I mean that the Bible teaches us how to be free of bitterness by turning from depending on our flesh (our “sarky” self-dependence) and turning to faith in God-centered on setting our minds on his Holy Spirit.
One thing to clarify is that people sometimes have difficulty separating the hurts and injustices they have experienced from the sarky (self-centered) ways they have handled those hurts and injustices. Since bitterness is one of the fruits of a sarky focus, people think they have to stop feeling hurt in order to stop feeling bitter.
However, when we realize that our hurts are one part of the story, and our sarky-bitterness is a different part of the story, we can let God lead us to freedom from the sarky-bitterness as our modus-operandi in handling such things, and learn to depend on him for the healing of our brokenheartedness and the binding up of our wounds.
Join our home church in exploring how we can be free from bitterness by changing our minds from sarky self-dependence to Spirit-filled God-dependence. In our next study, we will begin showing what God’s word “really” says about forgiveness, and how to apply this distinctive facet of Freedom in Christ to our lives. We will also begin looking at other aspects of our freedom that cover all the areas where forgiveness is not required.