What a Gift!
Have you ever forgiven a loved one who wronged you and said they were sorry? It’s difficult, but to save the relationship, often we find it in our heart to forgive – especially if the other person is sincerely sorry. But how about the person who wrongs you and is not sorry? Would they be dead to you? Should that relationship be pursued? Should they be shown forgiveness? Actually, it happened to each of us … about 2,000 years ago.
All of us, at one time or another, chooses wrong over right: to lie, steal, curse, or to be resentful, bitter, or jealous of another person. Because we are made in God’s image and created to be in relationship with Him, when we violate His character, we separate ourselves from Him and sever the relationship. Still, as a loving Father, God wants to restore this relationship and is willing to forgive even when we’re not sorry. Romans 5:8 says:
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (NASB)
God did not wait for us to come to Him; for God knew that left to ourselves, it would never happen:
“The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. They have all turned aside, … There is none who seeks for God.” Psalm 14:2-3; Romans 3:11 (NASB)
And so, before the beginning of time, God arranged a rescue mission to extend forgiveness to those who didn’t know to ask.
Easter is the celebration of this amazing gift. 2,000 years ago, the Son of God willingly left the glory of Heaven and came to earth, wrapped in human flesh, to become the complete sacrifice for sin. Yet, when we look at the Cross, we often forget that Jesus suffered something far greater than physical death: He suffered spiritual separation from God the Father so we wouldn’t have to. Jesus laid bare His greatest agony when He cried out,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
The eternal God-head was torn apart for us. The penalty for sin is not the Cross; that’s the symbol. The penalty for sin is eternal separation from God, and only the eternal God could pay that price.
The greatest gift ever given is not God’s forgiveness that is now available to us, but rather God’s Son through whom forgiveness was made possible.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NASB)
The person who looks upon God’s Son who, as He was being nailed to the Cross, said,
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 (NASB)
… and turns away, will not spend an eternity regretting his sin – that’s done and paid for. Rather, he will be left to agonize over all the ways God tried to reach out to him, reveal Himself to him, and demonstrate His love in an endless pursuit to have a relationship with him — that God even decided he was worth dying for — but he turned away … however:
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, …” John 1:12 (NASB)
On that first glorious Easter morning, the dark tomb was empty. God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, restoring Him to His rightful throne in Heaven, demonstrating God’s complete satisfaction that the penalty for all sin, for all people, for all time, has been paid in full. Easter is resurrection day! The day Christians all over the world celebrate that their relationship to God the Father, once dead, has been restored to life — and not just life, eternal life!
God wants to restore a relationship with you and He is only a prayer away. If you want to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior – God’s greatest gift — you can pray a simple prayer something like this:
Father, thank you for loving me and sending your beloved Son to pay the penalty for my sin. Jesus, thank you for dying for me on the Cross. I am sorry for living my life apart from You and choose today to follow You. Please come into my heart and make me the person You created me to be. Amen.
And one day, when you enter your heavenly Home, you will run to your Father who will scoop you up into His arms saying, “Welcome home, my child!”
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (NASB)
What love! What a gift! What an amazing God!
by Sarah Phillips, crosswalk
But he answered and said to his father, “Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came , who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.” ~ Luke 15:29 – 31
I recently ran across a forum discussion about being single that stuck with me, a fellow single. The original posting went something like this:
“I really want to be married. I’ve waited years and years to be married. I’ve saved myself for my wedding night and lived a life pleasing to God. So it really pains me to see all these people who compromised their purity getting married and having children when I’ve lived chastely but remain single and dateless. They are being rewarded while I stay sad and alone. It’s just not fair.”
Have you ever felt this way? It’s natural to feel frustrated when we make good choices and get burned while those who made poor choices seem to have it easier. Yes, most of us have empathized with the older brother of the prodigal son at some point. After all, he is the son that did everything right. We understand his pain in the opening verse.
But truthfully, the older brother wasn’t much different from the younger. Both brothers believed a fallacy: If I do things my way, I’ll win out. The consequences of a prodigal son’s actions are often obvious – life often crumbles around them as they break away from God’s truth and embrace reckless living. But what exactly happens when we embrace the attitude of the older brother?
We may still attend church, continue to make righteous decisions, and maintain the appearance of wellbeing, but we begin to rot on the inside as we internally pull away from the Father’s life-giving love. As I observed this forum thread unfold and reread the scriptures above, I saw three subtle dangers to the soul who suffers with Older Brother Syndrome:
Loss of spiritual clarity. When we embrace the stance of the older brother, our spiritual vision darkens because we turn our gaze away from Christ to fixate on someone else’s life. The older brother travels down an ungodly path because he fails to see things from his merciful father’s perspective. From his corner, he cannot see that the prodigal brother suffered for his transgressions and repented with sorrow, nor can he see his own blessings clearly. He festers with envy over the celebration, and misinterprets his father’s forgiveness as a personal slight. While the older brother may justify his anger in light of the pain his younger brother inflicted on their father, the oldest son only increases his father’s pain with his bitter, ungrateful heart.
Pride finds a foothold. Let’s face it – comparing our “goodness” to another’s faults can only lead to a full-blown case of spiritual pride. And pride is deadly to the soul. It causes us to lose gratitude towards our Father, obscures our own need for mercy, and misleads us into thinking God owes us something. We may make ineffective — even destructive — attempts to grasp at the blessing we no longer trust God to provide for us.
Misery settles in. “Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.” (Luke 15:31) Unlike the prodigal, the eldest brother had access to his loving father for his entire life. Yet his response to his father’s joy does not reveal a joyful heart. Pride, envy, judgmental attitudes and perfectionism squeeze peace and happiness out of our lives. My sister wisely pointed this out to me recently: there’s no point in comparing your life to another, “unless you are bent on being miserable.”
So what can we do to find peace when we feel life treats us unfairly? When your frugal family reels from job layoffs while the Jones’ still enjoy stable employment? When your godly parenting skills fall on deaf ears while the neighbors boast over their accomplished kids? I think its okay to acknowledge feelings of sadness, frustration, and even confusion. But at the end of the day, it’s best to stop looking at others, and start looking up.
Streams in the Desert – March 26
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
Look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it (Gen. 13:14-15).
No instinct can be put in you by the Holy Ghost but He purposes to fulfill. Let your faith then rise and soar away and claim all the land you can discover.
–S. A. Keen
All you can apprehend in the vision of faith is your own. Look as far as you can, for it is all yours. All that you long to be as a Christian, all that you long to do for God, are within the possibilities of faith. Then come, still closer, and with your Bible before you, and your soul open to all the influences of the Spirit, let your whole being receive the baptism of His presence; and as He opens your understanding to see all His fulness, believe He has it all for you. Accept for yourself all the promises of His word, all the desires He awakens within you, all the possibilities of what you may be as a follower of Jesus. All the land you see is given to you.
The actual provisions of His grace come from the inner vision. He who puts the instinct in the bosom of yonder bird to cross the continent in search of summer sunshine in the Southern clime is too good to deceive it, and just as surely as He has put the instinct in its breast, so has He also put the balmy breezes and the vernal sunshine yonder to meet it when it arrives.
He who breathes into our hearts the heavenly hope, will not deceive or fail us when we press forward to its realization.
“And they found as he had said unto them” (Luke 22:13).