By Lynn Metier
“Bless the LORD, O my soul…who forgives all your iniquities… The LORD is merciful and gracious… He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. As far as the east is from the west, so far He has removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:2-3,8,10,12)
It is not only true that God loved the world enough to give His only Son to redeem it, but He also loves mankind enough to forgive us so that we could be reconciled to Him. “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ ” (Luke 23:34) Yes, God is both gracious and merciful. He is magnanimous to the extreme in all that He gives us, and His greatness is equally manifested by what He does NOT give us, which is the wrath, punishment, and death we each deserve. Thus, the one side of the coin is grace, and the other side is mercy. But our righteous and holy God had to make a way to be able to extend His grace and mercy to fallen and fatally flawed humanity, and that way is through His Son Jesus.
In order to even begin to adequately appreciate God’s forgiveness, we must first have some understanding of how desperately we need it. Like David we must recognize the total incompatibility of God’s holiness and our sinfulness. “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” (Psalm 5:4-6) But God says that He forgives “wickedness, rebellion, and sin” (Exodus 34:7). This doesn’t mean that He forgives some people who are wicked, and some who are rebellious, and others who are sinful. No, each and every person is all three! Our natural bent is toward evil instead of good. The core of our being is morally wrong and depraved, not basically good, as many falsely believe. “To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. We have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets.” (Daniel 9:9,10) Rebellion is our willful insistence on doing things our way instead of God’s way. God holds a very dim view of disobedience, but who has not gone there? Furthermore, we are born defective; we ‘miss the mark’ of God’s perfection. Because of the sin of Adam, the forefather of every human being, we are by our very nature sinners and condemned to death (Romans 5:12). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23); “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). But God is willing and, because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, He is able to forgive all our vices, insubordination, and imperfections. In Jesus “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) HALLELUJAH!!!
But what does it mean that God “forgives” us?Read more ...
By Pat Tharp
In February, I wrote an article called “Singing in Uncertainty.” How we can sing by faith even when we don’t “feel like it.” A bookend to that thought would be this thought… “Singing while Suffering.” I vividly remember walking into the hospital room of a man stricken by cancer, getting my guitar out, closing my eyes and just worshipping Jesus with him. As he raised his hands in the midst of great physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual duress, he would later tell me it was the most powerful time of worship he ever experienced. It was for me too. But the worship that was offered was not just to minister to the hurting, but it was meant as a testimony for those looking on. What we didn’t know was that many nurses had walked into the room as we worshipped. They saw hands being raised, praise being offered, and joy being expressed on our faces. There is the “evangelism of suffering” that Jesus will use to testify of His goodness, grace, and glory to those who are looking on.
David wrote in Psalm 40:3, “He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the LORD.” What will they see? They will have seen our “horrible pit and miry clay,” V3. When life is rolling along with little resistance, bills are paid, family is healthy, and life is good, we can look not much different than others around us who are not Christians and are experiencing the same life circumstances that we are currently experiencing. Jesus is not magnified in our blessing primarily; He is most magnified in our sufferings. “The Lord be magnified,” Psalm 40:16
Will we sing in our suffering or will we sulk? Will we trust or will we turn away? Will we magnify Him or blame Him? We will evangelize by our response. A familiar section of Scripture in Acts 16 gives us a picture of this. Paul and Silas get into trouble for cutting into the profits of the local idol manufacturing union by setting a possessed girl free from her divination. Paul and Silas get a beat down and are thrown into the worst part of the prison. While being locked in torturous stocks, V25 says, “…at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” As prayers and praise ascended, “the prisoners were listening to them.” And through the intervention of God, an earthquake occurs and sets all the prisoners free. While the jailer was ready to kill himself for this, Paul intervenes and this man and his family come to trust in Christ. The evangelism of suffering and the song of the sufferers may lead to salvation. What if they complained and kept their mouths shut? The story may have ended differently.
Our greatest example is Jesus. After the last supper we read in Matthew 26:30 that they “sung a hymn” and went to pray at the Mount of Olives. Jesus sang before His suffering to save us from our suffering.
When we sing in and through our suffering, the worship we raise is first for our Lord. He may choose to use it to touch the heart of a person who is not a Christian. He may be using it so that you can minister to those who are also hurting. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says that Jesus, “…comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Pray and praise even when it seems you can’t go on. Don’t waste the suffering; let it be an opportunity to testify so that, “Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the LORD.” His grace is sufficient for you and me.