By Sheldon Smith
We live in a nation of grudges. From the Civil War to the Hatfields and McCoys, in entertainment (Tupac vs. Biggie Smalls followers), to contemporary politics, it seems as though we have lost (or never had) the ability to settle differences in a civil manner.
We see it every day: brawls, street fights, drive-by shootings, mass shootings, etc. At the core is the inability to forgive.
What is Forgiveness?
Forgiveness in the Hebrew language can have multiple meanings. It can mean the act of releasing someone from bondage or from confinement. It can also mean to pardon a person from his or her sins. In the context of this article, both definitions can be applied.
It is possible for us to put ourselves into bondage to sin. 2 Peter 2:19 reads, “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.”
Romans 6:16 tells us, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” From this, we see that people who have become slaves to sin need to be pardoned by God.
As we live our lives, it’s inevitable that someone — even those in our families or our congregations — will knowingly or unknowingly offend us. In such case, the following scriptures apply:
- Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
- Luke 17:3-4 Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
Even worldly institutions recognize the value of forgiveness. The Mayo Clinic suggests that the act that hurt or offended us might always be with us. But working on forgiveness can lessen that act's grip on us. It can help free us from the control (bondage) of the person who harmed us.
Sometimes, forgiveness might even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt us.
Why do people hold on to grudges?
People can do horrible things. I have done terrible things to others in my life. Such acts of offense can lead to negative feelings within the person whom was hurt. Such feelings take hold and leave little room in one’s mind for positivity.
Another reason is that people simply lack humility. It’s our sense of self-importance that makes it hard to forgive others. With that in mind, the Mayo Clinic offers some helpful advice regarding forgiveness. First, forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting or excusing the harm done to us. It also doesn’t necessarily mean making up with the person who caused the harm. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that allows us to focus on ourselves and helps us go on with life.
Fill our minds with positivity
Philippians 4:8 reads, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
Let it go! According to a web publication from the Harvard Medical School, there are two types of forgiveness: decisional and emotional. Decisional forgiveness involves making a conscious choice to supplant animosity with good will. In emotional forgiveness, we drift away from the feelings caused by the offense and, no longer dwell on it.
What are the benefits of forgiving someone?
The Clinic suggests several benefits to forgiving a person who offended or hurt us. Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for improved health and peace of mind. Forgiveness can lead to:
- Healthier relationships.
- Improved mental health.
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility.
- Fewer symptoms of depression.
- Lower blood pressure.
- A stronger immune system.
- Improved heart health.
- Improved self-esteem.
The role of humility
Humility is not thinking about me less; it’s about thinking less about me. There’s a big difference. Humility enables a person to put the interests of others before his or her own. Two people who approach a conflict with humility will always find peaceful resolution. However, those driven by self-interest will live in conflict.
Galatians 5:19-21 reads, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
What the sins mentioned above all have in common is too much focus on self and not enough on others. The following passage, on the other hand, reflects less of a focus on self and more on others.
Galatians 5:22-26 Reads, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
We should all work to humble ourselves and make our bodily temples a place in which the Spirit of God can dwell. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 reads, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”
By Sheldon Smith
When we look at the Lord's Supper in the book of 1 Corinthians, the concept of self-examination comes to mind.
1 Corinthians 11:23-29 reads:
"For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself."
To further examine the concept of self-examination, let’s read Galatians 6:4:
"But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load."
Let us examine ourselves by testing our own works against the scriptures:
- Are we sewing from the Spirit?
- Are we harboring ill feelings for a brother?
- Are we talking to people about Jesus?
- Are we engaging in unfruitful conversations about others?
- Are you doing good works to Christians and neighbors?
- Are we hiding sin?
- Have we even put on Jesus in baptism in the first place?
- Are we worthy of the sacrifice Jesus made for us?
Of course, none of this matters if we are outside the Body of Christ. Through a comprehensive study of the scriptures, we will find that there are five things we must do to be saved:
- Hear the Gospel (Rom 10:17)
- Believe it (Mark 16:16)
- Repent of your sins (Acts 2:38)
- Confess that Jesus is the Christ...the son of God raised from the dead (Rom 10:9, 1 John 4:15)
- Baptism into Christ to wash away your sins (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 18:8, Rom 6:3) and add you to His church (Acts 2:47)
In baptism, we are buried with Christ putting the old person to death. The bible tells us in 2 Timothy 2:11, "If we have died with him, we will also live with him..."
By Sheldon Smith
We often hear people around us say they put God first. It is true that we must seek Him first but many people don’t know how to do that. It takes study, meditation and prayer. That means reading scripture, contemplating who the message is being given to and how it affects you, praying to God for wisdom through the Holy Spirit, and applying what you have learned to your life. It’s more than just an outward expression of faith but rather a true inward transformation.
If we put God first, He will provide. Matthew 6:31-34 reads, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
One cannot seek God without study. Proverbs 1:5 tells us,
“A wise man will hear and increase learning,
And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel…”
The Bible, God’s Word, is the wisest counsel of all and shows us how to put Him first. We cannot go wrong by learning through study and abiding by it.
2 Timothy 2:15 tells us, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 3:14-17 tells us, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Through study, we achieve the level of learning necessary to impact our conduct. Matthew 11:29-30 reads, ”Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Ephesians 5:6-11 tells us, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;”
Are you truly putting God first? If not, would you like to discuss how you can become closer to Him? Feel free to pay us a visit. You can also message us on Facebook or send us an email to email@example.com.
By Sheldon Smith
If we are driven by our desires for worldly gain, stature, and the pleasures of life, we cannot please God because our preoccupation is with pleasing ourselves. If we seek Him, learn about His will, and seek to please Him, only then can we inherit eternal life. What does the Bible say?
"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God."
What is your preoccupation?
By Sheldon Smith
One day while watching television with the kids in the family room, our dog – apparently having eaten something that irritated her stomach threw up on the carpet right in front of one of the sofas. The kids reacted in horror and even my wife was disgusted at the sight. But I decided to use the occasion as a teachable moment. I told the kids to leave the regurgitated dog food right where it was and that the dog would return to it. One of my daughters said, “Daddy that’s gross,” to which I replied, “Dogs return to their vomit – the Bible says so.” (Proverbs 26:11)
However, the more important message the bible is trying to teach us – one I had to take to heart as a young man – is this: Christ did not redeem me from my sin for me to return right back to it.
My Bible tells me to not be in bondage to sin.
2 Peter 2:20-22 reads:
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
Once repenting of our sins and being redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ through baptism, we are freed – no longer in bondage – to that sin as the Israelites were free after fleeing from captivity in Egypt (Exodus 14).
Romans 6:1-14 reads:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
If we have sincerely put on Christ, then we have died to sin. The above scripture paints the picture of a believer – having repented of his or her sins – being buried in water as Christ was buried in the earth and rising up a new creature as Christ was resurrected. In this picture, the old sinful man who was in bondage to sin was put to death and a new, redeemed person rises having fellowship with Jesus through burial in water.
The grace provided to us by our Lord and Savior is part of a New Covenant between God and us. This covenant brought an end to the repetitive animal sacrifices required for sin under the Old Law or Covenant through the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made with His blood as His body hung on the cross. Each Sunday, we remember Christ’s death through communion (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-34) and are reminded by the scriptures that our participation in this Lord’s Supper must be done in a “worthy” manner. To do so requires constant reflection and an understanding of the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf.
One way to make sure we are worthy is to walk vigilantly. Ephesians 5:15-21 tells us:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Are you tired of living in bondage to sin? Do you desire to walk in a newness of life? Are you interested in being baptized into Christ?
We look forward to hearing from you.