Daily Scripture ReadingMatthew 6

Verse of the Day – Ephesians 4:31-32
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Devotional Thoughts
In summation of Ephesians 4:17-30 Paul writes by inspiration of the Holy Spirit that we who are saved are duty bound to forgive one another. This is significant. The lost world around us only knows forgiveness in the sense that it is seen as therapeutic for victims. Psychologists tell us that if we are to deal with grief, stress, and victimization and if we are move beyond the hurt and heal then we must learn to forgive. Often the lesson is built around the importance of forgiving ourselves and more often than not the whole motivation for forgiving others is that doing so will bring an immediate and lasting emotional benefit to us.

A simple reading of a few key Scriptures proves rather quickly though that forgiveness is not only necessary for the believer, it is commanded. Before we were saved we did not have proper motives for forgiveness and likely could not understand why we should forgive. Just think about the way forgiveness is perceived and compare that with the culture’s view of revenge and violence. How many television shows and movies have made how many millions of dollars portraying revenge, violence, and outright refusals to forgive wrongdoers? How is it that we in the church turn a blind eye or even actively support such notions as vengeance?

Again, the Bible is clear. Vengeance is not our concern. Vengeance is God’s job (Rom 12:17-19). He is perfectly just and also eternally merciful. We, reacting out of the hurt or the loss are often quick to seek the destruction of our enemies without thought for the consequences of our motives, thoughts, and actions.

As believers we are not told to forgive for the benefit it gives us. We are not told in Scripture that we cannot heal or will not have “closure” if we do not forgive. Instead we are commanded, as new creatures by grace, to live to a higher standard of conduct and thinking. That means we set self aside and forgive others. The standard of forgiveness is to forgive as we have been forgiven. That is incredible isn’t it?

Before we examine the extent of the forgiveness we have been given by grace, let us see how Paul tells us about the way we are expected and empowered to walk, think, live, talk, and act as disciples of Jesus Christ. As we learn the importance of forgiveness and the extent of our showing of mercy to those who sin against us we start by learning that there is a list of things that we must get rid of in our relationships with other people. We also see that there are a few things that we must be and do in order to live in the newness of life we have been given in Christ.

Let us examine these then:

Put Away – Getting Rid of Relationship Ruiners

Bitterness – This is smoldering resentment that usually results from hurt pr-I-de. We are commanded to get rid of it, to put it away. Bitterness, as we have studied, is the result of prolonged anger. It drives us to impure thoughts from wicked motives. We hold a grudge. We may say that we forgive but then we proclaim just as quickly that we will never forget!! (more on that in a moment). By a root of bitterness many are defiled. So beware of bitterness in your relationships.

Wrath – This is rage. It is sinful, selfish anger that is expressed in uncontrolled emotional outbursts, including verbal and physical violence. Wrath certainly does not promote unity in relationships. In fact, it always drives a wedge between people. Once we have blown up on someone it is difficult to regain trust or move to deeper levels of emotional or spiritual intimacy.

Anger – Specifically here this is holding onto internal hurt. It is not just being angry, it is a willful decision to hold on to and nurse hurt. We keep the pot stirred so to speak, just waiting for an opportunity to get back at the one who hurt us.

Clamor – A loss of control or outbursts motivated by hate, that is, thinking of someone as if they were an enemy about to attack and so preempting that by attacking first. Whether our “victim” is an enemy or not, we treat them as such and literally lose control toward them in speech or actions. This is an obsessive kind of hatred.

Slander – From the Greek word blasphemia, this is defamation. We seek to ruin one’s reputation or cause them harm by belittling them. This also refers to using the truth is a way that causes pain. Worse than gossip, the motive here is not sharing private or embarrassing information. It is instead the desire to destroy a person through shame or the exposing of their sins.

Malice – Here a general term for all kinds of evil. Remember that evil is that which causes harm. What kind of relationship do we have with someone when our desire is to harm them in any way possible?

These sinful attitudes and actions are not fitting for a saint. This is not the way we should be thinking, talking, or acting if we are trusting Christ. Yet it is easy to fall into these things when we are hurt. It is only a thought away and we can plunge into the depths of sinful and hateful thoughts, words, and actions. So how do we guard against these things in our relationships and in our daily walk?

Be Kind and Tenderhearted – Living the Fruit of the Spirit

The only way to live as we ought is for Christ to live through us! Let on our own we would always fail because left on our own it is surely easy to become offended or seek revenge when we are sinned against. We do have a new sense of justice since our conversion, but often we forget who the Judge is! We are not responsible for dealing justice out to tares and goats. God will take care of it.

Our responsibility is to walk in the Spirit, to be filled with the Spirit, to not grieve the Spirit, and to bear the fruit of the Spirit. This is summed up for us when we are told in our verse for today that we are to be kind and tenderhearted. Literally we are told to be gentle and compassionate.

This is best understood in the command to love our enemies and to bless those who curse us. This does not seem a natural response, and it is not natural for the lost man. But it should be a trained and practiced reflex for Christians. We will be sinned against just as surely as we will sin against others. And our duty when we sin is to confess and seek reconciliation. Our duty if we have been sinned against is to deal with it Biblically. This does not mean we roll over and invite abuse. But it does mean that when we are hurt we lay self aside and act like what we are – new creatures in Christ.

One of the best illustrations I can use for this is again taken from the life of Corrie Ten Boom. While in a Nazi concentration camp with her sister they saw a guard beating another prisoner. Corrie cried tears of anger and hatred. She wanted to kill the guard and save the fellow prisoner. Her sister also cried, but she cried tears of sorrow. She was grieved that the guard could be so filled with hate and sin and declared that he needed to know the forgiveness of Christ!

Much of how we respond to the world around us depends upon our perspective. Do we see evil doers and sinners as people who need to be punished, or as people who need to be saved? Yes, sin and crime deserves punishment. But it is also evidence of the great need for salvation that fallen men and women have. And our reaction to them when they hurt us with either further the cause of the gospel or it will enslave us in malice and bitterness.

And now we finish where we started:

Forgive – Forget About It

You have heard the phrase “Forgive and Forget.” There is truth there. When God forgives us He forgets our sin! It’s true. God, who knows all and is all powerful purposefully forgets our sin when we confess it and He forgives it! Don’t believe me? Read Psalm 103:12; Jeremiah 31:34; and Heb. 10:17. As a result of understanding this there is no place in the mind or heart of a believer to ever say to someone that we forgive them but will not forget. If we forgive, really and truly forgive, then we will make an effort to forget. We will not harbor the pain or hold on to the hurt. We will let it go and let God comfort us. We leave judgment and vengeance to Him, for we are not capably of meting our justice righteously.

Finally today, Matthew 18:21-35 tells us why we should forgive. It is not so that we can have closure. It is so that we can be obedient to the Word of God and at the same time live out the fruit of the Spirit even in difficult circumstances. This really does not need comment, so let us read the passage together and see what Jesus tells us about the need for forgiveness.

21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 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. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 “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!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 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. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

When we walk in love we walk, think, live, talk, and act like Christ! We have been given a new heart, new mind, and a new way of life. And the root of this new life is found in forgiveness. We have been forgiven so much by Christ that we have no just reason to complain or to act sinfully toward those who sin against us. We could never repay the debt we owe because of our own sinfulness, and yet Christ has paid it all. As a result, we are capable of doing things, thinking things, and saying things that before we trusted Christ were impossible.

We need to remember the price that Jesus paid to redeem us. And out of gratefulness and love we need to obey His Word and forgive those who sin against us, no matter how much that means we must forgive. Because even as a new creation in Christ we will never forgive others as much as we have already been forgiven by Him.

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

Forgiveness by J.C. Ryle
Forgiveness Made Easy by Charles Spurgeon

Bible Reading For Further Study
Ps 85:2; 103:12; Jer 31:34; Heb. 10:17; Daniel 9:9
Rom 12:17-19; Matt 6:12, 14-15; Eph 1:7; Col 2:13; 1 John 1:9; 2:12

Recommended Songs for Worship
O Lord Forgive
Dear Lord and Father of Mankind