Seventy Times Seven: THE Life Of Power, Part One

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And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, (Exodus 34:6)

mercy = beautiful
mercy = beautiful

One of the biggest questions that I have ever come across in my Christian walk is:

“How on earth can I forgive people that have seriously wronged me?” “Do I Really Have To Forgive, Seventy-Times Seven?”

This week, and next, I’d like to share a few of my thoughts on forgiveness, on the role of forgiveness in the Christian way of life. For me, in my experience, forgiveness has been elusive, and tortuous. There have been some really serious situations where I just thought:

“There is NO WAY I can ever forgive THAT person! Absolutely NO. “

Sometimes, I have been hurt so bad, and I have reacted so wrong, well, I have struggled to see the point of forgiveness at all. What would be the point of such an impossible situation? Maybe all this “Christian” forgiveness stuff is just a very bad, religious pipe dream?

Forgiveness. Even when the other party was supposedly “wrong,” and robbed me of my joy, or my peace, or sometimes even my money. Forgiveness just doesn’t sound like my “cup of tea” at times. Its too hard to do. My heart isn’t into it. And yet, Jesus asks us to forgive. And to make this very clear, so clear that no one should miss it, Jesus has given us some deep insights about how God wants to forgive us, Jesus wrote the following parable:

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Mat 18:21-22)

Now, this guy who had asked Jesus about how many times we should forgive one another seems as though he might have been very proud of himself. He smugly, almost triumphantly asked “shall I forgive seven times?” He presumably was thinking that just seven times would be plenty enough for someone as “righteous” as he thought he was! Why such a small number, like seven? So now we can note how Jesus responded to that man’s challenge:

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Mat 18:22)

Now, are we to presume that Jesus here was saying there is a limit of some kind on forgiveness? Such as 490 times? (seventy times seven).

It is obvious from scripture that Jesus is trying to tell us stubborn humans that He forgives us this much:

“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil 2:8).

I think most people would see that this one text alone indicates that Jesus is telling us there is no limit on forgiveness if we are walking with Him. Now, perhaps, there might be in one sense, a limit of sorts on forgiveness. Jesus spoke about it to us where He was teaching us how to pray by stating “The Lord’s Prayer.”

“and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…” Mat 6:12, Mat 6: 14-15, etc).

I don’t know of anyone who does not have some kind of challenge with forgiveness. All of us have something that we feel very bad about, something that troubles us. Tortures us. Wrecks our life, our homes, our relationships. Right to this very day, we see all kinds of troubles related to forgiveness. Forgiveness has been a hot topic since day one. BUT forgiveness IS what Jesus is all about.

Some days are better than other days. But on the really bad days, there is some dark thing that hovers around in my subconscious, some days being a little closer, and other days being very far away. And yes, there are excruciating challenges for almost everyone, when it comes to forgiveness. Its really challenging to me sometimes to forgive. One of my more typical thoughts on forgiveness goes like this:

“Well NO! So and so doesn’t even come close to deserving it!”

I have been very slowly, sometimes agonizingly learning that true, Biblical forgiveness, is straight from god! In Exodus 34:6, Moses had asked God to show Himself, and then God proclaimed His “name.” (meaning, in this case, His character). Notice now that in part of God’s declaration here, He refers to Himself as “merciful!” MERCIFUL is just what God is like today! It really is that simple! And I grudgingly note that nowhere in Scripture does Jesus give me the option of being “unforgiving.” How about THAT for a bombshell? I have often said to Jesus in reply to this:

“Well Jesus, THAT is just way too hard! It’s not right!”

But Scripture, in His typical fashion, informs and enables us to do His will:

“Well, no David. Its not too hard at all.”

(Is anything too hard for the LORD? Gen 18:14, “There is nothing too hard for You Lord” (Jer 32:17)

I was recently very excited to learn that all of God’s biddings are in fact enablings too! Jesus would never ask me to do anything that I actually could not do. Or, at least thats what some have told me. But is that really true? Would God, for some reason, ask me to do something that He knew I absolutely could not do for myself? I got a really big shocker today when I realized that Jesus always asks us to do things we cannot possibly do on our own! But Jesus would NEVER ask me to do something that He could not, in good conscience do Himself. Through us. And in us. (see John 15:4).

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Now, Jesus spoke to Peter in Mat 18:23 “…the kingdom of heaven is like…” and some might suppose that that description sounds a lot like judgment. And we humans are certainly judgmental when it comes to “forgiveness:”

And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 

But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 

The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ (Mat 18:24-26)

There is no way that this mortal human being, who being in debt to God, could ever hope to repay Him. I am realizing that I have no way to repay Jesus, that huge debt that I owe Him! Even just from this past week, I think how I have fallen woefully short of His ideals, and I could never hope to repay Him for what I owe just for that, let alone what I owe for the rest of my life.

So, OK. Just how much did my personal sin cost, say from this past week? Or past month? Or year? The Bible says that just me alone cost Him, my Saviour and Lord, everything. And how could this mere human being ever hope to even half repay that? I found this to be a very sobering thought. It’s totally impossible to bargain with God for a debt like that. I will never be in a position to repay Him what my sinful ways cost Him on Calvary. According to Gal 6:14 and many other texts, only the Sacrifice of Christ can cover a debt like the one I incurred even just the last few days!

Mat 18 27-29 details what it’s like for the one who has no way to pay their debt:

Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’

So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’

Now, some people, even when they think they are forgiven because they say the right words, do the right things, still ARE NOT.

And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.

So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.

Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.

Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 

And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Mat 18:30-35)

And this brings us to the question:

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If we do not appreciate our forgiveness, if we do not appropriate His marvellous grace through His forgiveness, how then can we possibly forgive others, in the way that Jesus describes? In Heaven, people who do not appreciate being forgiven would never be happy. There is no place for people in heaven who are not forgiven, or who do not appreciate being forgiven. How desperately then do I myself need forgiveness! A person like me, for example, who does not appreciate forgiveness of Christ unless there is a change of heart, a true transformational experience because too often, my heart is filled with thoughts of malice, hatred, or just plain old being unforgiving. I often have not liked forgiveness because it was too hard and I have been cherishing these things in my heart.

So, now, where do I get the kind of forgiveness that Jesus is talking about? I mean, its not like just going to the store or to a buffet all you can eat, and selecting only the tidbits I want, or that agree with me somehow. I recall screaming at God with painful tears this week:

where on earth do You think I am going to find the kind of forgiveness I need for what I have done? For what I have not done?” “HOW could it ever be possible for me?”

IF I had THAT kind of heart, I reasoned, then the experiences I am having now should be a major transformation, rather than the usual, superficial forgive me incantations. And that kind of transformation should manifest to others in my life, forgiveness both now, and from the past.

I have been talking about forgiveness in this article. Yet, forgiveness is far more than just mental assent to ideas, far more than just words in my head. Forgiveness in a literal sense, is not just something that I can write about, because in my experience, true forgiveness has to be something where I experience a transformational change of heart so that

a) forgiveness can even take place

b) and so it can be made manifest to others the kind of change they can expect too when they are forgiven because it is the transformation IN Christ that will be my expression to others of who I really am inside.

I don’t think that I am actually what I do wrong. That does not really define me. But I am always whatever I refused to do right. THAT does define me! People will know by my “fruits.” (Mat 7:16, 20). So now, I guess I have just described fakers in the Church! People who won’t forgive. People who pretend to forgive. And by this sad definition; it is sometimes very apparent that I might be the biggest faker in the sanctuary on Sabbath. I am whatever I refuse to do right.

The faker can be seen in churches saying things like “bless you,” or “yes, it is well with my soul,” and then I am sure, that this problem with forgiveness, will always play out in my life, especially in Church! Imagine, me going to church, and not even being a Christian. Desperately having to fake it, because I do not want that transformed heart ( Prov 3:3, Prov 7:3, Ezekiel 11:19) and I don’t want anyone to know it! All kinds of people do this! But Jesus does not want any of us to fake it anymore! He knows all too well that we cannot just be a Christian for two or three hours a week in church and then going home to act like the devil for the next week.

Scripture records only one way that we can have this “new heart” and it is found here:

…But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.(2 Cor 3:18, KJV)

And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit.  (2 Cor 3:18, AMPC).

The Bible pictures me, beholding the glory of Jesus, and THAT alone will change my heart! So just how much time did I personally spend, in beholding Jesus this week, as opposed to just “being good?” (or trying to be good!). Friends, how much time did you spend this week, beholding Jesus? Like me too many times, has your Bible been relegated to a very distant second place; was something else where you spent the most time and energy, sitting in first place in your life and heart?

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If there is one thing that this covid19 pandemic can teach us, it is that the world can close down very fast! As in overnight! Final events, according to scripture will be rapid ones so we can be busy “getting ready,” we have to simply, always, BE READY. And Jesus says to me this week: “I want your heart. I want to see it entirely changed. So that I can make you David, into the man I know you can be. And friends, I pray tonight that your hearts can be ready too and that we can all next week begin practicing forgiveness and/or being forgiven that you may all be there with me, when Jesus comes in the clouds of heaven to take us Home.

To conclude for this week, may I just briefly share one sure way to “behold His glory,” and know His Name, is found in the following Scripture:

Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—

who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

(Psalms 103:1-5)

THIS is THE passage that tells me God is a forgiving God who redeems my life from certain destruction. Destruction of my heart. Destruction of my relationships. Complete destruction of anything that I hold dear:

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever;

he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalms 103:8-10)

Psalms 103:10 is very powerful to me! I am totally awed by WHO Jesus is to me in this text! As tonight’s sun sets, I praise Jesus that I am not going to be treated as I really deserve. Id sure be in hot water if I was! All of us would be! Can you imagine just how you would feel if Jesus were to treat you exactly how you deserve? According to all your wrongs? According to your refusal of that transformation that Jesus seeks to plant in our hearts?

“…account the long suffering of the Lord to be [your] redemption; as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom conferred on him, wrote to you; (2 Pet 3:15).

When I see the damage I have done by not accepting the transformation of heart The Great Physician prescribes; I am comforted by these words:

“weeping may endure for the night; but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalms 30:5)

I will expect on that special morning…the morning of THE resurrection, to see that Light In The Clouds. When Jesus gathers us all together, unto Himself on the resurrection morning. As long as the darkness lasts; I will expect that Light. (Micah 7:8). I will wake up every day, expecting the light of Christ in the dark clouds. (1 Thes 4: 13-18) In the thick darkness, (Job 38:9) Jesus is there. Jesus comes near “in the thick darkness…”

I expect it. (Deut 4:11)

But tonight I cry…

Abba. Father….

Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. “With His stripes we are healed.” {DA 25.2}

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