Thursday, 30 April 2009

Why don't I understand?

In the book of Isaiah God tells his people that he is about to 'catch their attention'. He will do 'out of the ordinary things'; The poor and needy seek water, but there is none, Their tongues fail for thirst. I, the LORD, will hear them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open rivers in desolate heights, And fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, And the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the acacia tree, The myrtle and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the cypress tree and the pine And the box tree together, That they may see and know, And consider and understand together, That the hand of the LORD has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it. Isaiah 41:17-20 NKJV

He still does 'out of the ordinary' things and for a purpose. They are intended to create a cycle of processes which will bring us to 'understanding'. Notice the sequences. First there is a list of things that God does; I will open rivers... I will make... I will plant... I will set... All these are way beyond our control, only God can initiate this process... but to what purpose? That's the significance of the little word 'that' or 'in order that'. Divine steps are taken first so that human steps can follow.

Man's steps are a interesting cycle too. We are to see and know and consider and understand. I have long been convinced that there is a pattern here. First we 'see'. God captures our attention by something 'out of the ordinary'. It may be a miracle, or a Bible verse or a sermon. But somehow it breaks into our consciousness and we 'see' it. Secondly we 'know' it. The Bible often uses 'know' in the sense of 'recognise'; we see something and we 'know' it is significant. Something within us is bearing witness to the truth of what we have 'seen'. The next step is the most crucial. Many see and know and promptly turn their mind to something else and the moment and the movement is lost. If we pause and 'consider', that is, contemplate or meditate or give thought to the thing where we 'saw God at work' it opens the way to the final step 'understanding'.

In the parable of the Sower, in Matthew 13, Christ held people responsible for 'not understanding'. To many it has seemed grossly unfair, but not if we see the pattern. God does not hold us responsible for getting the revelation but he does hold us responsible for the way in which we respond to the revelation.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Wall-to-wall Salvation

It's the way they describe a carpet that covers the whole room; wall to wall. All encompassing, you can see nothing but carpet. This is not little patches of carpet or carpet with little patches missing but a comprehensive carpet that leaves nothing uncovered.

As Paul warms to his task in Romans he declares his convictions about the gospel; For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Rom 1:16-17 NKJV We sometimes lose the connection in English but 'believe' and 'faith' are essentially the same word in the form of verb and noun. The gospel then is God's power at work in the life of the 'believer' and the kind of 'faith' he is talking about is 'from faith to faith'; wall-to-wall faith. There are no gaps to be filled with anything else this is comprehensive faith. This salvation commences in faith, it is sustained in faith, it progresses in faith... you get the picture? The just shall live by faith. Not just an initial spurt of faith at a well remembered place or time but by an unbroken flow of faith; wall-to-wall.

Romans is the book where Paul explains how faith operates; So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Rom 10:17 NKJV Faith actually begin with God's initiative. God must speak otherwise there can be no 'hearing' and consequently no 'faith'. When we 'hear' God speak is the moment that we must begin to exercise faith and salvation is the experience of those who believe, and of no others.

Why should God have chosen to work this way? We have the answer again here in Romans; it is of faith that it might be according to grace Rom 4:16 NKJV "Salvation", said David in Psalm 3, "belongs to the LORD." No one can achieve or earn salvation, it can only be given and received. The word the scripture uses to describe a free gift which is neither achieved or earned is the word 'grace'. God wants every man and woman to know salvation but it is his alone to give and God gives it because he wants to. There is a modern TV advert which always provokes me. It advertises a beauty product and ends with the line 'because you're worth it'. Well grace is when God gives us something because we are not 'worth it'. We have done nothing to merit it, we are not 'worth-y'; that's grace.

In the beginning of John's gospel he gives his and our testimony; And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. John 1:16 NKJV That is an unbroken flow of grace, this day's grace replacing yesterday's grace, like a flowing river. Grace too, is wall-to-wall. Grace has no human percentage in it. It is all God's free gift and to make the point crystal clear to men and women God has determined that no human effort or contribution has any part in it. Paul says it is of faith that it might be according to grace Rom 4:16 NKJV It can only be by grace and so can only ever be received by faith, otherwise in some small corner of our consciousness we would be saying 'I'm worth it'.

To begin this life of faith, dependent only upon God's grace, is to begin to pass from shame to glory. As we rely only upon him and keep him as the object of our faith God works a daily miracle in our lives; Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2Cor 3:17-18 NKJV Is this possible? live a life like this? Yes it is, as we daily rely upon his never failing grace, glory will not be in brief patches but glory too will become wall-to-wall.

Pinning Down the Truth

I am still reading Romans and was struck this morning by the downward spiral of the first chapter. It ends with idolatry and immorality but where did it all start? For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, Rom 1:18 NKJV or as the old KJV puts is 'who hold down the truth'. It is a figure that John uses in his introduction to the gospel; The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it. John 1:5 WEYMTH. I remember my old Greek teacher telling me that the word John uses was used of a cat pinning down a mouse.

There are great dangers in attempting to 'pin down' the truth or of suppressing it. We choose what we do with Truth. It is often said that 'the truth sets us free' but that is a error caused by quoting extracts from Bible verses. What Jesus actually said was more comprehensive; Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32 NKJV The sobering fact is that these 'believers' have stones in their hands by the end of the chapter.

So they 'suppressed' the truth that the Truth was revealing to them and the consequence was disaster. It parallels Paul's words in Romans. Our world is in the state it is because we rejected revelation. We chose the 'truth' that suited us and turned away from the 'truth' that challenged us. It is a very short journey from rejecting the truth to stoning the truth-bringer.

If we follow Paul's reasoning in Romans 1 we see that God's judgment is ultimately to come on those who have rejected the truth; who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; Rom 2:6-9 NKJV

We 'pin down the truth', as the cat did, because we want to be in control. To let this truth go free puts God back in charge of my life and that is seldom comfortable. Jesus, in his conversation with the 'Jews who believed in him', made truth an aspect of relationship. "If you abide in my word..." that is the first condition and its consequence is that you will genuinely be my disciples and the consequence of that is that you'will know the truth...' and is then and only then that we can move on to the next stage. And the truth, the truth that you know because you are living in it, will set you free. That is the climax. The truth only sets us free when we obey it as disciples of Jesus Christ.

If we have been suppressing the truth how do we re-sensitize our conscience? Back to Romans 1, the downward spiral began because 'although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful...' We must glorify God as God; give him his rightful place as the only source of Truth and we must lift our hearts to God in gratitude, even when the Truth disturbs us. It is the only way to reverse the downward spiral.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

judged as a sinner and called as a saint

I am reading, again, Romans. This is one of my favourite books and most of the Bibles I have had open at Romans of their own accord. I have preached on it times without number and conducted several series of Bible studies based on it and yet I still discover things I have never noticed. This is the wonder of the book.

Today I noticed two statements which seem to be contradictory. In Romans 3:7 Paul seems to be saying quite clearly that he is still 'judged as a sinner'. The image is the law court and Paul, and the whole human race as individuals, are on trial. The accusation is that we have broken God's law and if found guilty the sentence will be death. He goes on to show how universal this accusation is and that the evidence against us is overwhelming. It looks like an open and shut case until suddenly the judge declares 'Not Guilty'. That is 'God, him say, me OK" as we saw in the last blog. This is the wonder of Christ's death which enables God to 'overlook' literally to 'see over' "sins previously committed": Rom 3:25.

All who have ever read Romans, including the first recipients, are included in the 'judged as sinners' and yet when Paul writes to them he says that they have been 'called as saints'; Rom 1:7. We can begin to understand what he means if we remind ourselves that earlier in the book Paul describes himself as 'called as an apostle'; Rom 1:1. Although Paul was 'judged as a sinner', and he will remember that verdict as long as he lives, he was chosen with a unique destiny in mind. He was to be a personal emissary of Jesus Christ himself, an apostle. The full quotation is even more amazing; Paul, a bond-slave of Jesus Christ, called as an apostle.

He was not just called 'to be' an apostle as most of our versions translate it but 'as an apostle'. When did he become an apostle? When God called him or when God sent him? Did he become an apostle because he was sent, or was he sent because he was an apostle? From the moment of his meeting with Christ he was a marked man. Apostle was his calling and it became his character; it was in his blood from the first moments of his encounter with Christ and God engineered the circumstances to release him into his calling.

So if we are called as saints, and the word means 'holy one', do we become a saint because we become holy, or do we become holy because we are saints?

God put a seed into Paul that could grow into nothing else other than 'apostleship'. It might be hindered but it could never become anything else. So in genuine regeneration God puts a seed of a new, and holy, nature into those he has called, and although it may be hindered, it can never grow into anything else other than a 'saint'. It is our nature, our calling, and our destiny; And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Rom 8:28-29 NKJV. We judged as sinners but called as saints.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

God, him say, 'me OK'.

I am preparing for a week-end in Norfolk at a beautiful country house. It is a very pleasant setting and is the venue for a church weekend. The church, not the one of which I am part, gathers there every second year and last time in 2007 I was invited to be the speaker. These patient folk have repeated the invitation and this year our topic is 'justification by faith'. It is a great topic and one of the foundation stones of New Testament truth. The Reformation began as a protest but it was this truth that changed the direction of church history from that point.

The topic is one of those phrases much loved by Bible believers but completely incomprehensible to everyone else. What is justification? When we use the word in everyday speech we usually mean that someone is defending an action that someone has challenged. In everyday language it means I am trying to put myself 'in the right' over some disputed issue. How would you begin to put yourself 'in the right' in a disagreement with God?!?

If I stand in the court of God's justice and God accuses me of having broken his law, how would I begin to 'justify' myself? How would I 'plead' in such a court? Guilty or Not-Guilty? If I have any sense of sin I am clearly going to plead 'guilty'. What would you say if I said I have stood in such a court and pleaded 'guilty' and yet the judgement of the court was that I was 'not guilty'?

'Guilt' in Bible language doesn't mean a bad feeling, it means 'blame-worthiness'. So how can I go into court knowing that I am 'blame-worthy' and then entering my plea of 'guilty' and then walk from the court not only a free man but one with no criminal record. The court found me 'not guilty' even though I pleaded 'guilty'.

If I were 'guilty' a sentence or condemnation would follow, but if I am pronounced 'not guilty' the court's authority over me has ended, and there is, literally, no condemnation. No sentence, no punishment. In ancient Roman law a man found 'not guilty' in court was said to be 'in the right'. The verdict of the judge was 'This man is in the right' or to use the Bible language, 'justified'. Paul says when a man or woman put all their trust, of faith, in Christ and his death in our place, God declares that person to be 'just with him'... justified. Hence the theological phrase 'justified by faith'. 'Guilty' but pronounced 'not guilty' by the judge. Christ's death was the penalty for our crime and hence as the sentence has been carried out already, the law has no more power over me.

In Papua New Guinea some years ago the Bible was being translated into a language which is sometimes called 'pigeon English'; English words but used in a very non-English way. When they came to translate the concept of 'justification by faith' it was a struggle. They came up with a quaint phrase which is not good English but is crystal clear theology 'God, him say, me OK'. As the judge his opinion is the only one that really matters. Accusations may come thick and fast but if 'God, him say, me OK' who is going to argue?

Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Rom 8:33-34 World English Bible.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Commissioning of the Apostles

Bible students find the words of Jesus "Receive the Spirit" something of a puzzle. John's gospel seems, at first sight, to have a different time line to the others. When did they receive the Spirit? In John 20 or Acts 2?

John's gospel is complementary. He was aware of the synoptic gospels and was consciously filling in gaps at times. When we put together the account in Luke's gospel and that of John things become a little clearer. This resurrection appearance of Christ is recorded in both. In John's gospel it says that he commissioned them as apostles; So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:21-23 NKJV In Luke's gospel it says that he opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Luke 24:45 NKJV; Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” Luke 24:46-49 NKJV

This 'Receive the Spirit' has to do with the unique role of the apostles. The word used in 'as the Father has sent me' is the verb 'to apostle'. Christ is the Apostle and High Priest of our Confession (Heb 3:1) The Father sent him as the Messenger of the Covenant. In the John and Luke passages The New Covenant has now been inaugurated and the 'ministers of the New Covenant' are to be sent into all the world. As part of their equipping for this new role they receive a unique endowment of the Spirit and their minds are opened to comprehend the Scriptures.

This event is a vital link. There are some in our day who claim that they are just as inspired as the first Christians who did not have a Bible. They are sometimes known as 'post evangelicals' but they have missed this vital link. The early Christians certainly did not have a Bible but they had uniquely prepared men who were in a sense a living Bible. Their understanding of the fulfilment of the Old Testament in Christ's death and resurrection did not come about as a result of years of Bible study or natural gifting; it came as a result of a unique work of the Spirit who made the words of these men as authoritative as the words that came from Christ's own lips.

So authoritative in fact, that Christ prayed specifically for only two groups of people; those whom he had physically chosen in the days of his flesh AND those who come to faith as a result of their words; “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word John 17:20-21 NKJV

If you have ever wondered where Peter got the sermon that he preached on the day of Pentecost, he got it here when the Spirit was breathed upon him and his mind was opened.

Monday, 13 April 2009

The things that make God smile

Yes, I know there is an old joke along these lines which says if you want to make God smile tell him your plans, but what really makes God smile?

Piecing together the resurrection appearances is not easy but it seems that Mary was the first to witness his life after death and that the angel's messages sent a small group of women scampering back to find the apostles. Their journey was interrupted by a meeting with the risen Christ; And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” Matt 28:9 NKJV. I have a theory that you can't really tell someone to rejoice without smiling.

The lives of these early disciples had been turned upside down. Their hopes and aspirations lay in ruins, and now, to top it all, someone had stolen the body... or so it had appeared. The angel told them that Christ was risen but we can imagine the mixture of their excitement and fear as they ran to tell the others. How simply the gospel tells this story... Jesus met them, saying "Rejoice". No doubt they were shaken at the meeting, wondering what it could all mean. He smiled... I am sure he smiled... a smile of reassurance and a single word of greeting; "Rejoice".

"Rejoice", why? Because he had survived death? Certainly, but much more. He had not merely survived, he had triumphed over death. He had turned the tables on death and 'by death, had rendered powerless him who had the power of death, that is the devil'. His appearance, alive and well, was the sure proof that his sacrifice had been accepted and that death could not hold him. He had died under the weight of a world's sin but the sin could not hold him either.

That poignant psalm, Psalm 22, focuses on the sin-bearing and the forsakenness for the first half but then abruptly changes the mood; ...You have answered Me. I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You. Psa 22:21-22 NKJV From then on the psalm is a rapture of victory and hope. ending with the words...'he has done it!' "It is finished". The sin-bearing was over and would never need to be repeated. Every impediment to God's perfect will for the human race had been dealt with. A new day had dawned and God was smiling.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

I will strike the Shepherd

Immediately before starting the journey to Gethesemene Jesus quoted a verse from the ancient prophecy of Zechariah; “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered; Then I will turn My hand against the little ones. And it shall come to pass in all the land,” Zech 13:7-8 NKJV It was this prophecy that set the tone for Gethsemene. The Speaker is Jehovah; God himself would 'strike the shepherd'.

It is a remarkable prophecy. It speaks of one who is 'a companion' of the God who says he has 'no companions'. It touches on the nature of the Triune God. This is the mystery that John declared when he said; In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1-2 NKJV. Father, Word and Spirit had enjoyed an eternal and unbroken fellowship. 'Daily' delighting in each other's company. Even the incarnation, when the Word became flesh, did not interrupt that delightful fellowship.

But as events move towards their climax the shadow of an impenetrable interruption now falls upon Christ. This was the cause of the agony and the blood sweat. The physical tortures of crucifixion would pale almost into insignificance in comparison to this. In fulfilling his mission he would become the Sin-bearer and as the sin-bearing goat of the Day of Atonement he would not only carry it, but carry it away from the presence of God.

Three times in Gethesemene he came to this same place of submission to the unthinkable. Three times he was offered the cup of God's righteous wrath against sin. Three times he faced the prospect of the Father unsheathing the sword of judgement against the sin-bearer. Three times he set his heart to go through. The calm of the trials is a witness to the fact that the matter was settled. He had accepted the cup, all that remained now was that he should drink it.

This is the explanation to that terrible cry of abandonment; And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Matt 27:46 NKJV The phrase is from Psalm 19 which describes the agonies of the cross in language far more gripping than a physical description of the physical suffering. This was the Passion, not the nails or the thorns but this moment of dereliction.

Some theories of the Atonement, held even among evangelicals, refuse to believe that Christ received the penalty for our sin. The modern publishing phenomena "The Shack" teaches that Christ was mistaken when he 'felt himself forsaken'. But Christ was neither mistaken nor deluded. He had been baptised into our condition of separation from God and nature itself drew the curtain of darkness over the scene. It was not visible to human eyes and not understandable to human comprehension, but it is an eternal fact for all that. If God has not 'struck the shepherd' then his sword remains unsheathed. The blow must surely fall. It has either fallen upon the Sin-bearer or it must fall upon me.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

So says Paul when he writes to the Corinthians as he urges the need to be diligent in removing polluting sins from the local church. It is one of the clearest statements in the New Testament that the early Christians saw Christ as the fulfilment of the ancient laws of Moses and Sinai. The Passover sacrifice had commemorated the first moments of the Exodus; Israel's deliverance from bondage in Egypt.

They had been the bond-slaves of the Pharaohs for many a generation but God had heard their prayer and sent them a deliverer and a mediator. Moses instructed that each family was required to measure the potential appetites of its members so that all could have a adequate meal of roast lamb. If the family was too small to warrant a whole lamb then two or more families were to join together. It was an intimate family affair. They were to eat it already prepared for the Exodus, the departure from Egypt; their robes tucked into their belts, their few belongings on their backs, their staffs in their hands and their sandals on their feet. They were to eat it in haste and standing up. They had to be ready to move out at a moment's notice.

It was not just a meal however. The lamb was a sacrifice and died as a substitute for the eldest son of each family. Judgement was on its way to Egypt and all the eldest sons were on a death list; Israelites and Egyptians alike. The Israelite families sheltered in their homes and ate the meal that the lamb had provided by its death. The only difference between their homes and those of the Egyptians was that they daubed the blood of their lamb on the doorposts and lintels of their homes. It was a sign to God's avenging messenger of death; "When I see the blood", said God, "I will pass over you." Hence the name of the annual commemoration, Pass-over.

The Last Supper was a Passover meal and elements of the different parts of the ceremony can be traced in the gospel accounts. As far as we know this is the only 'sacrifice' that Christ ever made. As leader of the feast, it would have been his responsibility to provide the lamb and order the ceremony. He paused during the meal to declare that he had had a passion to share this Passover with his disciples before he suffered. He would not, he said, drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes. In the next moments he transposed the Old Covenant ceremony into a New Covenant one. "This cup" he said " is the New Covenant in my blood which is shed for you." He mingled together pictures of sacrificial lambs and the words of Moses when the Old Sinai Covenant had been inaugurated.

This was a new beginning and a new Exodus. From this time onwards his new family would look backwards to a human Passover lamb who had carried their sins and paid the price of their judgement. The Old Covenant had had its own Passover Lamb and now, so did the New. As Paul expressed it so profoundly; Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us. God has seen the blood and we are spared. Are we feeding on the Lamb?

Saturday, 4 April 2009


The word comes from the story of Hezekiah one of the best kings of Judah. He launched far-reaching reforms to remove idolatry from the land. Some, no doubt, thought them 'too far-reaching'.

He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan. 2Kings 18:4 NKJV

The old bronze snake which was such a thrilling relic of God's provision had become a snare and people offered incense to it in worship. Hezekiah broke in it pieces and called it Nehushtan; that bronze thing! That is the equivalent of saying 'that lump of bronze'.

I was talking to a friend today about the snares that often entrap the people of God. The history of a work of God may include some wonderful evidences of God's special provisions; real miracles. It may be in the provision of a building, or in a vision, or even a doctrine. It was achieved by prayer and sacrifice and tears and it stands as a symbol of God's approval. What do we do when the blessing becomes a snare?

It takes enormous courage to take the kind of action that Hezekiah took. The asset had become a liability and the man had the vision to see it and the courage to do something about it. He took this precious memory of the 'old days' and destroyed it, calling it a lump of bronze. This is true radicalism. A willingness to get the root of the thing (radical means 'from the root) and remove the distraction so that we can get back to the original task in hand.

Sometimes these old miracles are really part of the way that God facilitates his purposes, but later they become a burden which can only be carried at great cost. Sometimes the cost for the maintenance of last year's miracle is just too high and we need to find the courage to break it in pieces and put it all back into the 'melting pot'. After all, the real miracle was the way that God was at work... not that Nehushtan!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Please forgive me.

The words are used so easily and usually without even waiting for a response. Forgiveness has become a notional thing, just another way of saying 'I got it wrong'. The Bible concept of forgiveness has little resemblance to current day ideas of forgiveness.

First a question; what is forgiven the sin or the sinner? Our Bible versions frequently speak of 'the forgiveness of sins' but the word is much stronger than 'please forgive me'. It would be, and has been, better translated as remission. Ah, you say, but 'forgiveness' is a much easier word. Well it may be but does it mean the same thing? To 'remit' something, a letter, a disease, a sin... is to let it go. That would make the 'please forgive me' a little longer, 'please let my sin go'. The Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement, symbolised the sin of the nation being placed on the 'scapegoat' which was then 'let go' into the wilderness. If I sin against you will you 'let it go' or will you hang on to it? To say "I will forgive but I will never forget" only shows that the speaker has little idea of the Bible truth of remission of sins. You cannot 'remit' and 'hold on' at the same time; the actions are mutually exclusive.

So if sins are remitted what about the sinner? The Bible word here is 'mercy'. The publican who prayed in the Temple used this word; And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; Luke 18:13-14 What the offender needs is 'mercy' not a gesture. He needs to know that you are being merciful to him even if he doesn't deserve it. In fact, if he does deserve it he doesn't need mercy!

To say 'sorry' or 'please forgive me' simply shuffles off the responsibility onto another person whether they are willing to take it or not. To ask for 'mercy' and to request that the sin be 'remitted' is the beginning of a relationship.

Paget Wilkes, the missionary to Japan, used to say that a perfect character consisted of three elements. Gratitude to God, humility towards yourself, and generosity to all others. Then he would add this statement; "all three depend upon a deep personal experience of forgiveness". He was right. Think it through. If I know God has been merciful to me and remitted my sin, I am not going to be proud of anything. If I know God has been merciful to me and remitted my sin then I am going to live my life in gratitude to him. If I know God has been merciful to me and remitted my sin, there is only one way I can behave towards someone who has sinned against me.

So the next time sometime someone steps on your toe, literally, spiritually, emotionally... and says 'please forgive me' just say 'sure' but in your heart be sure you are merciful to them and let that offence go.