FORGIVENESS  

Proverbs 4:23 – Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.

The Scriptures teach us that “God is love” (1 John 4:16). Three words for us to consider that relate to the heart of God are covenant, relationship and forgiveness. God’s nature is rooted in covenant. Webster defines “covenant” as “a binding and solemn agreement to do or keep from doing a specified thing” (Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition.) “My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips” (Psalm 89:34). When God forgives, He does so because of His covenant promise. His promises are certain. The Psalmist declares, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

The Holy Trinity is the greatest picture of relationship we can find. There is no contradiction with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God created Adam and Eve because He wanted a relationship with mankind. Even after they sinned and the human race was tossed into darkness, God, out of His loving-kindness made it possible for man to be restored to Himself. This is how we know the love of God. God the Father gave His best for us, His Only Begotten Son.

The forgiveness of our sins takes place through the Son. Forgiveness flows from God’s covenant nature. Forgiveness speaks of God’s great desire for relationship with mankind. Through His desire for relationship with mankind He draws close to His creation, man. Covenant and relationship lay the foundations for forgiveness.

Many Christians have a difficult time forgiving others because they have not connected God’s covenant nature with His desire for relationship. His covenant nature relates to His commitment to His creation man. He committed Himself to humanity and has never turned from that commitment. This requires His forgiveness again and again.

The Lord does not forgive us just because He wants to rescue us from hell and take us to heaven. That would be a very narrow understanding of His purposes. It also reveals how self-focused one might be. He forgives because that is His nature. He forgives because He wants to nurture and increase the relationship He began in the Garden and has restored us to Himself through the Lord Jesus Christ. He has given to us His Nature by giving us His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to forgive. “Let this mind (attitude) be in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

Father, thank You for Your forgiveness, Your covenant love, and Your desire for relationship with Your creation man. I pray that Your covenant nature will grow in me. Help me to forgive others, even as I am forgiven.

DON’T BE BIASED IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS

1 Timothy 5:21 – I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.

The subject of partiality is an important topic in God’s Word. Paul uses very strong language to encourage Timothy to not fall into the trap of bias as it relates to the principles in which he is to instruct God’s people. All the believers are to be treated equally in regard to instruction and discipline.

It is easy to have favorites and to give some individuals special treatment. We are to remember that the Lord is no respecter of persons. Whether a person is rich or poor, a leader, or simply a member of the fellowship, we must not show favoritism. Peter learned about bias the hard way when Paul called him out in a mixed room of Jewish and Gentile believers (Galatians 2:11-14).

Peter was comfortably having fellowship with Gentile believers. Being a Jew, he had been raised with terrible bias against the gentiles. The Jews viewed the Gentiles as dogs.  Peter had come a long way since his dream concerning God’s acceptance of the Gentiles in Acts 10. He preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household, a Gentile in search of truth (Acts 10).   

Peter still had some degree of bias in his heart. When some Jewish believers who were part of James’ team arrived from Jerusalem, Peter broke off fellowship with the Gentile believers and moved toward the Jewish believers. Paul saw this take place and rebuked Peter publicly for his bias.   

Bias and partiality have always have been a large problem in the church. There has been bias against the Jews, believing that it was the Jews that murdered Christ. The Scriptures declare that we are all guilty before God. There has been bias toward various parts of the church. This was especially true between the Western Church and the Eastern Church. It was true between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant churches. It was true among various Protestant churches known as denominations. It is still true today among many believers in regard to other believers.

God sees us through Christ. All bias has been crucified with Christ. This is the basis for God’s view of being impartial toward all peoples. When the gentiles received the Holy Spirit, Peter recognized God’s view and says, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality” (Acts 10:34).

Father, create in me Your heart of impartiality. Help me to see others the way You do, through Christ and His atoning death and resurrection.

THE SIN OF PARTIALITY

James 2:1 – My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

Unfortunately, much of Christianity, as expressed in denominationalism and independence, moved from a particular understanding of a restored truth the Lord was communicating to an attitude of separatism and favoritism by God. Many in the Lord’s church view their expression of faith and doctrinal understanding to be closer to the truth than anyone else’s. This is at the root of denominations and is sectarian in nature, rather than godly.

In the First Century church it was understood through the apostle’s teachings that only one church existed. The church found its expression in each city, such as Corinth or Rome. When the apostles spoke of “churches,” they were speaking of a region which contained more than one city. The early believers had their understanding rooted in the teachings of the apostles. “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). Over the centuries, teachers of Scripture fell away from the teachings of the apostles. Men began to adhere to false doctrine and move the church in a new direction contrary to the apostle’s teachings. The church became divided and wrong attitudes were developed against other believers.

In James 2:1, the apostle is dealing with the attitude of partiality in the early church that set the rich against those who were not rich in worldly possessions. James implies, when we have an attitude of partiality, we dishonor the Lord’s purposes. His purpose is for us to see one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord. This means, rich or poor, bond or free as well as our particular expressions of faith in Christ. The Lord has been reviving His church for centuries and bringing it back to the foundations which the apostles taught: “One Lord, one faith and one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). The entire book of Ephesians supports what I am saying in our devotion today.

Ask our Father in heaven if there is any partiality in your heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any kind of bias against others in the body of Christ. Pray that He would open your heart to receive greater revelation of the apostles’ teachings and a willingness to set aside any teaching of men that God’s Word does not support.  

PURE RELIGION CONSIDERS ORPHANS, WIDOWS AND PURITY

James 1:27 – Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Our great desire should be to have our minds changed from the world’s viewpoints to embracing God’s perspective. Paul exhorted the church, “Put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:10). The “new self” is Christ in us. Again, Paul says to the Philippians, “Have this mind in you that was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). Christ’s mind was one of humility, to do only what the Father willed.

The Lord Jesus Christ was not moved by the religion which had been hijacked through Jewish religious leaders. His was a pure religion, “unstained” by the world’s systems. One of His first sermons made this clear when He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are, oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).

The same Holy Spirit that was in Jesus wants to rest on and be in us to fulfill what Christ came to do. Jesus made it possible for us to participate with Him in the great purposes of God. Pure religion is not legalism, not dogmas, but ministering the life of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit to all those who will receive.

Before ascending to His Father, Jesus instructed His disciples, “Stay in Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Jesus knew that only in the power of the Holy Spirit could His disciples accomplish what He was sending them to do. So it is in our lives as well. We must have the power of the Holy Spirit if we are to accomplish the Father’s purpose in the earth. Only the Father’s “pure religion” can defeat the enemy’s religious systems.

Father, I choose to give myself to pure religion. Holy Spirit, I yield to You to be on me and to be in me for the purpose of fulfilling the anointing that rested on Christ in His human ministry. I choose to put on the “new self” and to be “renewed to the true knowledge according to the image of Christ.”

PURE RELIGION CONSIDERS ORPHANS, WIDOWS AND PURITY

James 1:27 – Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Our great desire should be to have our minds changed from the world’s viewpoints to embracing God’s perspective. Paul exhorted the church, “Put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:10). The “new self” is Christ in us. Again, Paul says to the Philippians, “Have this mind in you that was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). Christ’s mind was one of humility, to do only what the Father willed.

The Lord Jesus Christ was not moved by the religion which had been hijacked through Jewish religious leaders. His was a pure religion, “unstained” by the world’s systems. One of His first sermons made this clear when He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are, oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).

The same Holy Spirit that was in Jesus wants to rest on and be in us to fulfill what Christ came to do. Jesus made it possible for us to participate with Him in the great purposes of God. Pure religion is not legalism, not dogmas, but ministering the life of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit to all those who will receive.

Before ascending to His Father, Jesus instructed His disciples, “Stay in Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Jesus knew that only in the power of the Holy Spirit could His disciples accomplish what He was sending them to do. So it is in our lives as well. We must have the power of the Holy Spirit if we are to accomplish the Father’s purpose in the earth. Only the Father’s “pure religion” can defeat the enemy’s religious systems.

Father, I choose to give myself to pure religion. Holy Spirit, I yield to You to be on me and to be in me for the purpose of fulfilling the anointing that rested on Christ in His human ministry. I choose to put on the “new self” and to be “renewed to the true knowledge according to the image of Christ.”

THE PERFECT LAW OF LIBERTY

This is an interesting scripture. James connects liberty with listening. Our relationship with the Holy Spirit should be more about His speaking to us than our speaking to Him. He has a great deal to say to us in helping to bring our life into the liberty Christ has provided for every believer.

“Anyone who is a hearer of the word and not a doer forgets what kind of person he was” (James 1:23-24). An aspect of our liberty is located in remembering what kind of person I had been. As I read God’s Word, I am always reminded of the true lost condition I was in. Many believers hear the Word, but stop and camp on who they were in their fallen nature. The liberty James is addressing comes not only from hearing, but also by doing God’s Word. The “perfect law of liberty” is located in what Christ has done for us and our response by receiving what He has done. The forgetful hearer is limited in hearing the Holy Spirit. Remembering what I was without Christ should lead to what I am in Christ and the doing of His will.

“It was for freedom that Christ set you free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). What a tremendous declaration of God’s purpose in Christ. Our freedom! Consider a few things He has accomplished: our freedom to obey the Holy Spirit as He reveals God’s Truth to our hearts, our freedom to love others, especially those not so lovely, and our freedom to retain God’s Word, and by His power allow the Word to change us into His likeness and image perfect in me. 

Outside of Christ, this liberty does not exist. The only law we need, is the “law of Christ.” Paul gives us clarity as to what that law is, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 KJV). It is that simple, beloved, learning to bear the burdens of others. This is what the Lord had in mind when He said to His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, so love one another” (John 13:34).

Father, I thank You for the perfect law of liberty. My great desire is for the Holy Spirit to daily empower me to look into “the perfect law” and fulfill its liberty by hearing and doing all You have commanded me to do.