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Monday, March 8, 2010

Journey to the Cross - Father Forgive Them

If you’ve ever been with someone who was dying, you understand that you will always remember their last words. My grandfather’s last words to me were, “Gal, you’ve got your schoolgirl figure back.” I’d just lost a lot of weight and he was proud. My son David’s last words were, “Mama, I love you.” I’ll treasure them always. As Jesus lay dying on the cross, He gave us seven distinct messages. For the next seven days, we’re going to listen to His words and try to apply them to our lives.

We will begin with forgiveness. Have you ever had to forgive someone for something that seemed unforgivable? “But they don’t deserve it!” we exclaim. Perhaps the fact that they are undeserving is exactly why we must forgive. Only through the act of offering grace can we fully experience receiving it.


Morning Meditation



Read Luke 23:33-34.



Luke 23:33-34

And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. KJV



Imagine your beloved Savior hanging on the cross. How did He feel?

• Look left and right. What was it like to be between common criminals?

• Read His forgiveness prayer above. Could you pray it for people who were torturing you.

• Bask in the knowledge that Jesus was also praying for you.



Morning Prayer



Ask God to reveal any hidden resentments you might have against others.

• If you’re angry with anyone pray, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

• Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise Him in everything.

• Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you today and the power to carry that out.

• Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.



Morning Bible Study



To forgive means to:



Excuse a fault or offense; to pardon or renounce anger or resentment against, or to absolve someone from payment.” (www.dictionary.com)



Without guilt, there’s nothing to forgive. To offer grace is to offer mercy or clemency. Jesus came to offer grace, a grace that began while He was still on the cross. When we accept this grace, we also accept a responsibility. Read part of Jesus’ model prayer - nicknamed the “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:12.



Matt 6:12

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. KJV



What is the prayer?

• By what measure are we forgiven?




Jesus explains further in Matthew 6:14-15.



Matt 6:14-15

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. KJV



What happens if we forgive?

• What is the penalty for not forgiving?




The disciples struggled with the concept of forgiveness. Peter, one of the more feisty disciples, wondered if there was a limit to grace.



Read Matthew 18:21-22.



Matt 18:21-22

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



Jesus saith unto him, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” KJV



What was Peter’s question?

• Have you ever wanted to ask that same question?

• What do you think Jesus’ response meant?




Jesus also warned about the effectiveness of our prayers if we held on to anger towards anyone. Read Mark 11:25-26.



Mark 11:25-26

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions. NASU



What is the mandate if we pray?

• What happens if we don’t forgive.




A frustrated Paul was trying to help a dysfunctional congregation. Read his words of wisdom in 2 Corinthians 2:9-11.



2 Cor 2:9-11

The focus of my letter wasn't on punishing the offender but on getting you to take responsibility for the health of the church. So if you forgive him, I forgive him. Don't think I'm carrying around a list of personal grudges. The fact is that I'm joining in with your forgiveness, as Christ is with us, guiding us. After all, we don't want to unwittingly give Satan an opening for yet more mischief — we're not oblivious to his sly ways! THE MESSAGE



What was he trying to get the people to do?

• Instead of taking responsibility, what were they doing?

• What does Paul warn will happen if we don’t forgive?




To resent means to re-feel. A popular definition of resentment is a re-felt emotion. If, when we talk about forgiveness, an incident immediately comes to mind, chances are, we carry resentment. Other signs of needing to forgive are being uncomfortable around someone or repeating unflattering stories. Give yourself the gift of experiencing grace by giving grace to others.


Application



After I lost my job, I struggled with forgiveness. It seemed unfair. After all, I whined to God. We’d set our goals together and I was meeting them. I was working harder than almost anyone was. I paid my salary for several years with that last contract I closed. The complaints went on and on. When I was being honest with myself, I knew what had put me on the layoff list and knew I would do the exactly same thing again. I shouldn’t have lost my job for doing what I thought was right and best for the company, I cried.



Did you get the mistaken idea that life on earth was fair? I felt God whisper. Remember the cross?



Well, life should be fair! I said indignantly.



Not wanting to give up on fairness, I proceeded to search for reasons this job loss was my fault. With my self-esteem at an all time low, a former employee invited me to spend several days in her home. I was traveling near her area on the first Pocket Full of Quarters journey so I accepted her gracious invitation. I’d never met her but she remembered me. Gently, she helped me realize what a blessing I was to the company. She also helped me face that I would never fit in that environment.



I had a dilemma. In the past, when I’d forgiven, I’d been able to take responsibility for my part. Admitting my mistakes made it easier to understand and forgive others. As silly as it sounds, I’d actually have felt better if I could have let the company off the hook by taking partial blame for the situation.



God wouldn’t let me off that easily. He wanted me to learn about grace. Jesus did nothing wrong and yet was able to forgive those who harmed Him. One night, alone in a tent, I finally prayed with relief, Father forgive them, they know not what they do. All resentment and pain were gone. I prayed for the company and the people involved as I found peace.



One day, about a year later, I shared this experience at a woman’s retreat. At the end of the retreat, a woman came forward sobbing her story. “A doctor’s mistake caused the death of my son. I’ve tried for years to get him to admit his mistake but he wouldn’t. All I wanted was an apology and I thought I couldn’t forgive him unless I got one. I’ve been angry for years, but now I’ve forgiven him. Jesus didn’t wait on an apology before He offered forgiveness from the cross and I don’t need an apology from that doctor.”



If you’re having trouble forgiving someone, I offer you a trick I’ve learned. Pray for your offender every day for 30 days. Ask for them everything you want for yourself. If you want peace, love, and happiness, ask it for them. Be faithful to the prayer. At the end of the 30 days, you’ll be able to pray with Jesus, Father forgive them. They know not what they do.

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