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Your IMAGE, A PACT and Finding Your PASSION

Today’s message of January 29, 2017 from Melvin Gaines:

We have been spending time over the past few months in Sunday school studying the act of discipleship.  Discipleship involves the ability to communicate the gospel effectively to those who desire to learn more about a relationship with Jesus Christ, and also to be able to come alongside those who are believers in Jesus with encouragement, instruction and accountability.  Both of these actions are Spirit-driven through both your desire to serve Jesus and through the enabling and guiding power of the Holy Spirit.

Your ability to serve requires preparation, including preparatory study, and this involves the practice of living daily in God’s IMAGE.

Genesis 1:26-27 HCSB

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”

So God created man in His own image;

He created him in the image of God;

He created them male and female.

Being created in the likeness of God is a big deal! We are the highest honor of His creation, and we were created to be in the family of Jesus Christ, who is also in the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4):

Hebrews 1:1-3 HCSB

Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

With this in mind, living in His IMAGE is a great responsibility! To live in His IMAGE is to live in a Christlike manner according to His will, His purpose and His glory!

Romans 12:2 HCSB

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

1 Peter 2:15 ESV

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Romans 8:28-29 HCSB

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.

Galatians 3:26 ESV

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

The word “IMAGE” is an acronym of the characteristics of a believer of Jesus Christ living a Christlike existence:

  • The letter “I” is to investigate Scripture, which is more than just reading the bible. It’s digging deep into the Word.
  • The letter “M” is to meditate on His Word in prayer.
  • The letter “A” is to act on His word in consistency and with obedience.
  • The letter “G” is to grow in your faith and mature as the Holy Spirit continues to impart wisdom and knowledge along with your life experiences.
  • The letter “E” is to endure life’s moments and shine before others to glorify God.

Another aspect of growing as an effective disciple for Jesus Christ incorporates this past year’s introduction of effective decision-making as a believer.  It involves making a PACT with Jesus Christ.  It is a commitment to make the best life choices in obedience to honor God and cherish His Word.

The word “PACT” is an acronym for how to be an effective decision-maker as you live for Jesus Christ:

  • The letter “P” is for prayer (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • The letter “A” is to ask God for wisdom within your decision-making (Matthew 7:7-8).
  • The letter “C” is to consult others who can offer their own good advice or wisdom to you before you make decisions. God puts people in your life for this very purpose.
  • The letter “T” is to trust in Jesus to provide you with the best advice as you make your decisions.

Making the right decisions in life will help you to remain consistently obedient to Jesus Christ, and in this process, the Spirit will help you to conform to living as Jesus desires for you to live.  It helps you to go beyond what only the world, or even the flesh, offers.

Matthew 5:43-48 HCSB

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

These principles are all reinforced with Scripture, and the effort of preparation makes for better practitioners as servants of Jesus Christ.  He provides us with the Holy Spirit to give us the energy and effort that we need to be successful.

Your preparation is very, very important in the process of growth and development in your relationship with Jesus Christ.  In the same way that an athlete has to undergo training in order to participate at a high level in a sport, and just as we need to have a healthy diet and exercise to take care of our own bodies, we must prepare to serve Christ in order to be at our best.  But there is also another important reason why we prepare to be effective practitioners of discipleship…the ongoing preparation should also provide you with a greater insight into the character of God and an even greater desire, as you learn more about Him, to serve Him in everything that you do.

Philippians 4:13 NKJV

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Serving Jesus Christ is not a hobby.  It is a full-time endeavor.

Serving Jesus Christ is a fulfillment of your participation in His Great Commission.

Serving Jesus Christ is an expression of your love for Him and your desire to bring everything you learn about Him into everything that you do.

Your preparation of participation in ministry for Christ should be an ongoing process that reveals to you how you are capable of serving Him.  There is much to learn about Him, and you will find that there is much to learn about yourself, too.  As you get to know more about Jesus Christ, the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit molds and shapes you into a better “you” in Christ.  It is as this occurs that you get to know more of who you really are in Christ.  This is much better than who you are in the flesh, or who you thought you were before and ever after you accepted Christ as your personal Savior.  It is the Spirit’s sanctifying power that reveals His wisdom and knowledge about yourself and who you are in Christ.

Until you learn who you are in Jesus Christ, you will always be searching for something.  But once you learn who you are, you will find your purpose in Jesus Christ.  You will be compelled to live openly and actively for Christ.  You will find your passion in Jesus Christ.

For those listening that are still uncertain about all of this devotion over Jesus Christ, it is important for you to know and understand that Jesus Christ lived on this earth and gave His life for you.  He paid the ultimate price to sacrifice Himself because He loved you.  He demonstrated, through His death on the cross, that He loves you.  He showed that He is passionate about you.

John 3:16-17 ESV

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

So what this is all about is how you, in learning more about Jesus Christ, recognize the passion of living for Jesus Christ that He has for you.

Galatians 2:20 ESV

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, which is your spiritual worship.

What are you passionate about?  What do you really, really care about?

If you are seeking Jesus Christ, you will eventually learn what you are passionate about. You will find that there are things that you like to do, and things that you like to do more than other things, but following Christ will reveal your passion for Christ.

Your passion is rooted by your gifts.  Your gifts consist of your God-given gifted talents and your spiritual gifts if you have declared Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Let’s be clear about something here…you can have all kinds of God-given talent and even spiritual gifts and still not realize your passion.  You have to use these talents and gifts with the understanding that God has given them to you, and that you want to serve Him with all of your heart and soul.  Only then will you get this passion thing down pat.

Without this passion, you’re not really living your life in the way that God would like to see you live it.  Sure, you’re doing more than existing, but not much more than that.  There are people that you love and care for, help and give of yourself, and you can even go your entire life in church serving others; however, you can still be unsatisfied with the direction of your life.  Ask yourself this question:  How can I live the abundant life that God promises for me?

John 10:10 HCSB

A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

You can live the abundant life with passion by “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

You can live the abundant life with passion by “presenting yourself as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).

You can live the abundant life of passion by humbling yourself before God and allowing yourself to be teachable.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 ESV

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

If you make the effort to seek God, He will affirm your efforts.  Sometimes the blessings come when you take the steps to live for Him.

Living in His IMAGE, making a PACT with Jesus, and discovering passion as you live out your life purpose.  There can be nothing more fulfilling than when you learn your passion as you live for Jesus Christ.

In this new year, make it a personal commitment to discover your passion.  Jesus Christ wants to see you live the abundant life!

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

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The “It” Factor

A message text for Sunday, July 31, 2016 from Melvin Gaines:

I have been actively involved in ministry now for over twenty-five years.  This is just a personal observation, but in that time, I have seen the actions and behaviors of many who profess to know Jesus Christ as personal Savior.  I witnessed people who serve with dedication and with the desire to truly see people come to Christ.

You have to get your hands a little dirty to see the first fruits of the power of the Holy Spirit working according to God’s will, which is for every person to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ:

1 Timothy 2:3-4 HCSB

This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.

God desires for everyone He created to be saved.  Not everyone will experience His salvation, but that does not change His will.  You are to live an abundant life for Jesus Christ to help people see the love of Christ, and have the desire to recognize the need for salvation in Christ.

I’ve seen many hardworking people that have found a way to tap into their talents and skills to serve Jesus Christ.  They are on the front lines with their words and actions declaring the gospel message.  They are concerned about the people who do not know Jesus Christ.  They are making themselves available to seek the lost.

Yet, there are many, many more people that I have observed who profess belief in Jesus Christ but are absent from many church activities, such as neighborhood outreach, visitations, or even the customary church gatherings (except for those when free food is being served!).  They may have even seen those that are working in the trenches for Christ, but they are not compelled to get involved.  It has nothing to do with how busy a person’s life is, for even the busiest people still have the desire to jump in somewhere—wherever they are—and work for the Kingdom from time to time.

While it would be wrong to question the motivation of these people, or even give consideration to the authenticity of their faith, it is my conclusion that these people, who can readily watch others working for the gospel, just don’t get it.

They just don’t get it.  They just don’t get “It.”

What is the “It” that they don’t get?

For this discussion, “It” refers to a believer’s progression within their relationship with Jesus Christ—a progression where service is not seen as a duty or as an act of drudgery.  It is when a believer equates service with the love for other people as a reflection of Jesus Christ.  This progression is something that not every believer will attain, or even realize is possible.  It requires a devotion to Jesus Christ that must continue throughout the life of a believer.

When you become a believer, it is done with the immediate acknowledgment of the need for Jesus Christ as a personal Lord and Savior.  It is done with humility, repentance and with the sincere desire for a new life trajectory.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Your new life in Christ now begins, and in the same way a child grows into adolescence, your relationship with Jesus Christ consists of a series of growth spurts.  It is now an ongoing training and life experience progression where you develop a heart of flesh—a sincere concern—for the fate of the lost.  Only Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, can orchestrate such a change.

Why do we need more believers who really “get it”?  It is because of the millions of people throughout the world that are lost.  There are many who are lost because they do not know Jesus Christ as Savior, and the tragedy of this is that many don’t even know that they are lost.  They are in spiritual darkness because of sinful behavior and willful disobedience.  Ravi Zacharias noted in his podcast, The Lostness of Men, “the worst effect of sin is the enslaved spirit” (Zacharias, 2008).  Sinful behavior gives the sinner the illusion that he is free to do whatever he pleases; in fact, he is merely a slave of sin.  When it comes to the heart of the unbeliever, it is a heart of stone that prefers conforming to the world instead of seeking Jesus Christ.  Because of this, Zacharias noted that “man is condemned eternally without Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10) as “sin is not just an act—it is an attitude” (Zacharias, 2008). The failure of the lost to acknowledge Christ as Savior results in dire consequences.  There is eternal condemnation and separation without Christ (Zacharias, 2008).

People who are lost need to see the love of Christ as often as possible.  More believers need to see the importance of this.  All of the world’s confusion and unrest today reflects the importance of believers possessing the “It” Factor as being more important than ever before.

The “It” Factor is what needs to be present in the life of a believer in order to effectively proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit is the One who enables this progression to participate in Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

A. B. Simpson refers to this progression as sanctification (Simpson, 1890). Sanctification is the growth of one’s relationship with Jesus Christ that promotes behavioral and relational change in the life of a believer. Jesus is the source of our sanctification (Simpson, 1890). It begins with the desire of a believer to separate from sin.  Simpson noted “the sanctified Christian is separated from sin, from an evil world, even from his own self, and from anything that would be a separating cause between him and Christ in the new life” (Simpson, p. 14, 1890).

Along with separation from sin, there must be a dedication to God and a conformity to the likeness and will of God (Simpson, 1890), which are the critical growth spurts that every believer is to experience as one yields to the Holy Spirit.  Simpson noted, “A sanctified Christian is submissive and obedient. He desires the Divine will above everything else in life as kinder and wiser for him than anything else can be. He is conscious that he misses something if he misses it. He knows it will promote his highest good far more than his own will, crying instinctively, ‘Thy will be done'” (Simpson, p. 14-15, 1890).

It is this progression within sanctification that reflects God’s love to everyone that the believer comes into contact with, especially those who are lost.  It is God’s love, and His desire to fellowship with believers, that turns hearts of stone into hearts of flesh—a greater propensity for humility and obedience in a consistent practice of godliness before others:

Ezekiel 36:25-28 HCSB

I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances.  Then you will live in the land that I gave your fathers; you will be My people, and I will be your God.

In order for people without Christ to be compelled to leave their lost state of being, they need to see the love of God as often as possible.  This is the “It” factor.

It is not a given that a believer grasps this sanctification—the “It” Factor.  Simpson noted, “Many people make a mistake about some of these steps. Some of them are clinging to a little of their old goodness and therefore meet with failures. Others stumble at the second step.  They do not see that Jesus is their complete Sanctifier.  And many cannot take the third step and make a complete surrender of everything to Him.  Multitudes fail even when they have taken these steps in not being able to believe that Jesus receives them” (Simpson, p. 17, 1890).  The flesh, reminders of the past life, or confusion from life’s distractions, can keep a person from making progress.  Satan and his followers desire to wreck the relationship of a believer in Jesus Christ, and only reliance upon God’s strength through the Holy Spirit can overcome them:

Ephesians 6:10-13 HCSB

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.  This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.

The believer who is still trying to “get it” must see the urgency and importance in the progressive development in a relationship with Jesus Christ.  In order to develop that heart of flesh, he must be willing to—and strive to—learn more about Jesus Christ.  He must do the following:

  1. Investigate the Bible. Read the bible daily, and not just read it, but dig deeply into its meaning.    Knowing Jesus means knowing His Word as much as possible.  A believer should not only make a plan to read, but also use study references and commentaries to provoke and compel thought to create a greater understanding of who Jesus Christ is.  A habit of daily Scripture reading is a process of growing to appreciate God’s way of communicating, instructing and teaching a believer.
  1. Meditate on His Word. For a fruitful relationship with Jesus Christ, a believer must communicate with God through active prayer and meditation (Psalm 1:1-3).  The practice of meditation is a way to close any gaps of communication between the Holy Spirit and the believer, and to promote greater instruction and knowledge of the character of Christ.
  1. Act on His Word through obedience. The Spirit compels the person who is faithful to Jesus Christ to go and reflect the love of Christ to everyone the person interacts with each and every day.  A believer who is closely following Jesus Christ impacts the world around him with the presence of Christ in everyday life!
  1. Grow each day in sanctification. The Holy Spirit enables the believer with the capability to progress over time to learn more about Jesus and resist those things that can hamper his relationship with Him (2 Peter 3:18).
  1. Endure each day through any hardship or difficulty as you glorify God. It is through endurance that one develops the character of Christ (Romans 5:3-5).

James 1:2-4 HCSB

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

Perhaps you picked up on the fact that the five points of progression and development in your relationship with Jesus Christ make up the acronym IMAGE.  It is fitting that you live out this IMAGE in Christ, for it is His desire for you, as His creation in His image (Genesis 1:26-27):

  • To live a life for Him that becomes more fulfilling and fruitful as you are sanctified in His presence.
  • He desires for you to experience the fulfillment of the love of Christ and share it with others through your powerful words and your actions!
  • This results in a mutual effort, with you and the power of the Holy Spirit, to show the love of Christ to anyone and everyone that you come into contact with!
  • It is the culmination of your obedience to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

The strong believer in Jesus Christ truly gets “It.” He is willing to live openly for Jesus Christ and is compelled to reach the lost because Jesus wants the very same thing—to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  A believer who is still learning about what it means to live a life of totality for Jesus Christ will soon get “It” as long as he seeks the Lord Jesus Christ with all of his heart.

There is a great need for people to join Christ in the Great Commission to seek and reach the lost.  There is a lot at stake, and it is for all eternity:

Matthew 9:35-38 HCSB

Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.  When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.  Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.

If you don’t get it, and you don’t get “It,” I pray that you do, and that you do it very soon.  The body of Christ needs your help to reach the lost.

 

References

Holman Christian Standard Bible (2009). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

Zacharias, R. (2008, June 22). The Lostness of Man [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/let-my-people-think/listen/

Simpson, A. (1890). The Fourfold Gospel. Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications.

 

Developing your IMAGE:

 

Investigate God’s Word

Meditate on His Word

Act and apply His Word

Grow in Jesus Christ

Endure the hardships that will certainly come

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines


Spring Break 2015 Relationship Seminar Text

Text from this year’s Spring Break 2015 Relationship Conference presented at the Hampton Inn, Stow OH, April 17-18, 2015:

 

Thank you for attending this year’s Spring Break 2015 Relationship Conference presented by Akron Alliance Fellowship Church.  We sincerely hope that you have a great time here this weekend, and that you are inspired and encouraged by what God has to say to you!  A special thanks to the staff at the Hampton Inn for hosting this event.

If you were with us last year, the goal of the seminar, Using your IMAGE to Be A Change Agent for Christ, was to help its participants begin and continue the process of developing a closer, healthier and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ.  In order for a believer in Christ to grow in faith, he has to do more than just go beyond the basics.  The seminar provided practical methods for a present believer, and even a potential believer, to reach one’s fullest potential as a child of God living in a manner that brings praise to Jesus Christ!

Our annual Spring Break weekend seminars are devoted to addressing relationships in your life, and this year is no different.  We will take a closer look at an area that is a hindrance to any relationship.  A lack of forgiveness—either for the person who is holding a grudge against someone or for the person who is awaiting some sort of reconciliation that never comes—is a devastating force that destroys relationships.  A lack of forgiveness not only ruins family and interpersonal relationships, but it also hinders, and even damages a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ.

We will be presenting this information this weekend with frequent references to your IMAGE, which we presented last year to the group to show how you can develop as a believer who is consistent in obedience to God’s Word and His will for your life.  In maintaining your true IMAGE in Jesus Christ, this will help a person to overcome the lack of forgiveness in one’s life, and even help others who may struggle with this issue.

A lack of forgiveness or receiving forgiveness, as we noted earlier, destroys relationships.  Can a believer in Jesus Christ be effective in Christ as long as a lack of forgiveness is unresolved?  My emphatic answer is “absolutely not.” Why?  There are several reasons, but the most important one is that if forgiveness is unresolved in any way, shape or form, then that means that Jesus Christ cannot possibly be the primary focus of that person.  You may have heard the lyrics of a song that declare “nobody but Jesus,” but the person who lacks forgiveness might as well sing “anything but Jesus.”

Forgiveness, in itself, is impossible to cover in its entirety over your entire lifetime, let alone within a short weekend seminar.  With that in mind, we will focus on areas of personal development and in how we relate to other individuals to help us discover ways in which we can personally grow in our relationships with others and find ways to experience forgiveness and to forgive others.

Psalm 32

The Joy of Forgiveness

Davidic. A Maskil.

1 How joyful is the one

whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered!

2 How joyful is the man

the Lord does not charge with sin

and in whose spirit is no deceit!

3 When I kept silent, my bones became brittle

from my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night Your hand was heavy on me;

my strength was drained

as in the summer’s heat. Selah

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to You

and did not conceal my iniquity.

I said,

“I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”

and You took away the guilt of my sin. Selah

6 Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to You

at a time that You may be found.

When great floodwaters come,

they will not reach him.

7 You are my hiding place;

You protect me from trouble.

You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance. Selah

8 I will instruct you and show you the way to go;

with My eye on you, I will give counsel.

9 Do not be like a horse or mule,

without understanding,

that must be controlled with bit and bridle

or else it will not come near you.

10 Many pains come to the wicked,

but the one who trusts in the Lord

will have faithful love surrounding him.

11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice,

you righteous ones;

shout for joy,

all you upright in heart.

 

Segment 1

Characteristics of Your IMAGE

 

Investigate the Word of God

The development of a believer must begin with the appropriate time and effort devoted to bible reading.  Even as you are developing a routine for bible reading each day, the proper development of the image of the believer must have progression in this process—the progression must continue in the achievement of levels to where you are no longer just reading the bible, but you are investigating what scripture has to say to you.

  • Reading the bible daily
  • Scheduled time
  • Use external biblical resources to complement your study (ex. – Greek and Hebrew references and concordances)

Investigate (v.) – to observe or study by close examination and systematic inquiry

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

 

Meditate on the Word of God

(Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10)

Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to become aware of and reflect upon the revelations of God.[1]  Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (such as a bible passage) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God. [2]

Meditation is reflection, consistent prayer and practice that promotes greater understanding and wisdom in the application of God’s Word.

 

Act (Application of God’s Word)

The act portion of your IMAGE involves taking action upon what you have learned in your investigation and mediation of God’s Word.  Taking action or applying God’s Word involves four key lifestyle elements of your faith in Jesus Christ:

  1. Repentance upon acknowledgment of sin to restore immediate fellowship with Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:8; Acts 3:19)
  2. Compliance with God’s will in your life (John 7:17)
  3. A desire to improve and please God (Colossians 3:15)
  4. Greater consistency in Christlike behaviors (Psalm 119:101-106; Romans 12:1-2)

We act upon God’s Word and His will because we are His specially chosen people, and we desire to maintain a special relationship with Him (Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 37:23-24, 73:23-24)

 

Grow

Growing in Jesus Christ is the natural progression of a healthy, vibrant relationship with Him (Ephesians 3:17-19, 4:11-15)

Growth is measured in the following:

  1. Continuing achievement of maturity in Christ
  2. Hearing and knowing when God is speaking to you
  3. Increased sensitivity to matters of the Holy Spirit
  4. Greater focus and determination

 

Endure

Bearing all things that occur in the faith with an understanding of the big picture–the love of Christ is exhibited for all to see and that Jesus Christ is glorified (Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 13:7; James 1:2-4).

Jesus wants you to not only persevere but to remain steadfast in your faith and retain a boldness in your faith (in words and in your demeanor before others). It is your steadfastness that makes the boldest statements of Jesus Christ’s presence in your life.

2 Timothy 2:8-12a

Keep your attention on Jesus Christ as risen from the dead and descended from David. This is according to my gospel.  I suffer for it to the point of being bound like a criminal, but God’s message is not bound. 10 This is why I endure all things for the elect: so that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.  This saying is trustworthy:

For if we have died with Him,

we will also live with Him;

if we endure, we will also reign with Him.

 

 

1 Christian Meditation for Beginners by Thomas Zanzig, Marilyn Kielbasa 2000, ISBN 0-88489-361-8 page 7

2  An introduction to Christian spirituality by F. Antonisamy, 2000 ISBN 81-7109-429-5 pages 76-77

 

Segment 2

Forgive and Forget?

 

Hardly. It’s difficult to get past the pain and trauma that occurs when someone hurts you. It’s something that each one of us has experienced, and it shapes our view of the world.

When we experience pain, our defense mechanisms kick in.  Everyone responds differently when they have been hurt, but most often the response is proportional to the painful experience.  It is manifested in both emotional and even physical responses, where the physical ailments are often the result of prolonged emotional difficulties.

The response in kind to the stimuli of pain and trauma experienced is similar to that of Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction. [1]  While the response may be equal to what a person has done to you, it is how you respond and manage this pain that is very important as you seek the Lord for ways to cope with your experience.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

 

Pain makes it hard to forget the hurts.  It’s hard to let go of the wrongs that you have experienced.  It makes it difficult to conceive the nature of “forgive and forget.”

First, we need to note that forgive and forget is not found in Scripture.  It is a term that comes out of a world view that proclaims a person can indeed forget the hurt upon forgiveness and move on.  There are many verses that discuss forgiveness, and there is a reference to how God sees our sin once a person repents of it:

Isaiah 43:25 HCSB

It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more.

 

The concept of forgive and forget means to suck it up and move on with your life.  Sure, you got hurt or you’ve been damaged, but now it’s time to let it go and face the next life challenge.  The reality of this is that we never truly forget.  We may indeed forgive, but we never forget.  In fact, remembering the hurts can help you put the healing process into perspective.

With that in mind, does God truly “remember your sins no more,” or “forget” them as if they never happened?  Well, if we consider the passage of Isaiah 43:25, we need to also note that Jesus Christ made a one-time payment that covered all of mankind’s sins–past, present and future.

Hebrews 10:14-18 ESV

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them

after those days, declares the Lord:

I will put my laws on their hearts,

and write them on their minds,”

then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

God does not forget in the same way that we forget—He doesn’t forget anything.  He is omniscient.  He knows everything and forgets nothing, but, in the case of our sin, because of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, He chooses to not remember our sin.  He even provides a visual measuring distance as to how far He removes sin from each of us:

Psalm 103:11-13

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is His faithful love

toward those who fear Him.

As far as the east is from the west,

so far has He removed

our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children,

so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.

 

Note that God’s choice to not remember our sins reflects His love for each one of us and how he has patience and compassion for His children.  In order to experience true forgiveness, on either side, there are key elements that must be involved; they include love, compassion and humility (more on this later).

So, when we use the words forgive and forget, we must rely upon the power of God to give grace in forgiveness.  True forgiveness is to move past the pain.  While you don’t forget the sin or its behaviors, you have to choose to overlook them and extend the grace of forgiveness to the other person to move through and out of our pain.  Knowing that Christ forgives us and remembers our sins no more is a reminder that grace does not need to stop with Christ.  He gives you the ability to forgive and, not forget, but to choose to remember the other person’s sins no more.

Matthew 6:15

But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.

 

This leads to the discussion about where forgiveness begins.  True forgiveness comes with the understanding that it’s time to get right with God.  It doesn’t matter if you are on the giving or receiving end of forgiveness.  Your relationship with God requires a cleansing.  In order for you to love God with all of your heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37), you need to give all of who you are and what you are to Him.

 

1 Article – Newton’s Law of Motion. (n.d.). From Wikipedia. Retrieved March 25, 2015 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton%27s_laws_of_motion#Newton.27s_3rd_Law

 

Segment 3

He Forgives You

 

For the believer in Jesus Christ, it may seem to be a redundant discussion when considering God’s forgiveness.  I mean, it’s understood that he forgives you, right?  On the surface, yes, but…not so fast.

The moment that you take for granted how God has forgiven you is the very moment that you begin to take your relationship with Jesus Christ for granted, and perhaps even minimize it.  Believers will need to proceed with extreme caution here.  The act of forgiveness was certainly a one-time act when it came to our repentance of sin and acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior (Hebrews 10).  We get that.  What we also need to remember, though, is that we are always in need of His forgiveness.

Why? Even though we have the Holy Spirit as a guide that dwells within us, we still have the flesh present in our hearts and in our thoughts.  Our souls are indeed protected with our eternal salvation, but we still must actively call on the power of God to withstand living in Satan’s domain, and everything that goes with that.

God continues to forgive us if we exhibit the following:

  1. A sincere heart. You can’t fake it with God and expect to make it. Giving Him everything that you’ve got means just that…everything…nothing held back; especially your honest feelings. Come clean the way you know that you should, and don’t pretend to be close to God when you’re not. That’s rooted in the sin of pridefulness.

Matthew 6:5-8 HCSB

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words.  Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.

 

1 John 1:8-10

If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

 

Hebrews 10:22 HCSB

…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.

  1. A willingness to repel sin. Even when you do sin, our desire to have a healthy relationship with God through Jesus Christ will drive you to make things right with Him sooner rather than later. And He absolutely loves receiving you back in fellowship with Him.  Prayer must be at the forefront of your desire to repel sin.

Psalm 119:10-12

I have sought You with all my heart;

don’t let me wander from Your commands.

I have treasured Your word in my heart

so that I may not sin against You.

Lord, may You be praised;

teach me Your statutes.

 

2 Peter 3:9 HCSB

The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.

 

Leviticus 26:11-12 HCSB

I will place My residence among you, and I will not reject you.  I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people.

 

Matthew 26:41 ESV

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 

  1. Give God His due in worship and praise. If we take the time to stop and thank God for all that He has done for us, there is little time for sin to occupy our hearts.

Psalm 33:1-5

Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous ones;

praise from the upright is beautiful.

Praise the Lord with the lyre;

make music to Him with a ten-stringed harp.

Sing a new song to Him;

play skillfully on the strings, with a joyful shout.

For the word of the Lord is right,

and all His work is trustworthy.

He loves righteousness and justice;

the earth is full of the Lord’s unfailing love.

 

A believer who is living for Christ understands the importance of keeping a solid relationship with Him and maintaining a healthy fellowship.

He forgives you as often as you turn to Him asking for forgiveness, and He never refuses you!

We’ll discuss this further as we unpack how you can forgive others and be forgiven because of His loving example of forgiveness within His eternal promise and in how we live each day of our life!

Psalm 73:28 ESV

But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

 

Segment 4

Everyone Makes Mistakes

 

To err is human; to forgive, divine.  –Alexander Pope

We know that everyone makes mistakes.  Each of us has blown it sometime, somewhere, and in some way, shape or form.  Some mistakes are honest ones, while others come from deliberate acts of malice or intent.  That’s all part of our human nature.  We make these mistakes because of who we are.

God reminds of this with His Word…

Romans 3:23 (NIV)

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

 

If we know we make mistakes, and we know that God is aware of this, as well, why is it that we don’t cut other people some slack when things go badly?  We need to understand how a lack of forgiveness is harmful to relationships, and the act of harboring resentment keeps people from moving forward in their lives.

When a person drives a car into a large muddy area, it can get stuck.  Unless the car can get traction, it’s not going anywhere.

Relationships can get stuck altogether because of our behavioral responses when there is a lack of forgiveness, and it will stop any progress or can even permanently damage a relationship.

What stops a healthy relationship?

 

STOP

  • Stubbornness
  • Tension
  • Obstinance
  • Pride

What will a person see in you when you are stuck in unforgiveness:

 

STUCK

  • sluggishness (unforgiveness has a debilitating effect on your mind and spirit)
  • turbulence (drama is a by-product of an unforgiving spirit–it follows you everywhere)
  • unchangeable (no one can give you any advice, let alone good advice)
  • confusion (where there is no peace, there is confusion and bewilderment)
  • killjoy (a person who deliberately spoils the enjoyment of others through resentfulness)

Hopefully you can see that you can’t keep an unforgiving spirit to yourself.  It won’t be a secret, because, sooner or later, everyone you know will see signs of it in your behavior at one time or another.  It definitely has a negative effect on others, and it certainly will have a negative effect on you.  One day, you may even find yourself all alone because no one will want to be around you.  Stubbornness, tension, obstinance and pride are all relationship-killers.  They kill human relationships, and they are absolute hindrances to any relationship that you will have with God.

 

Segment 5

The Road to Complete Forgiveness

A direct flight from Akron-Canton Regional Airport to Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport takes 1 hour and 45 minutes.

If I were to drive from my house in northern Summit County to the Savannah airport, it would take just a few minutes under 11 hours.

If I wanted to take transit, I would have to walk 48 minutes to the bus stop on Highland Road and catch the 102 bus to downtown Akron, transfer to three other buses that will take me to the Alliance Amtrak station, catch the Capitol Limited to Washington DC and transfer to either the Silver Meteor or Silver Star to downtown Savannah GA.  The total time for the trip–1 day and 16 hours.

If I wanted to travel by bicycle via the Great Allegheny Passage to Savannah, which loops through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas, it would consist of 969 miles of biking through elevations as high as 2,359 feet above sea level.  If I keep going without food or water or without losing consciousness, it would take me 84 hours.  I could shave six hours off of that with a trip through the New River Trail State Park and US Route 321, but the mountains near Roanoke, Virginia cap off at 3,753 feet above sea level, and I would also have to take a ferry boat.  If I want to walk the entire distance, I would only need to walk 767 miles, but it would take 254 hours, or the equivalent of just over 10 1/2 days. Of course, it would take longer than that if you decide to eat something or get some sleep every now and then.

The same starting point and destination can take one hour and 45 minutes, 11 hours or 10 1/2 days.  The method of travel is different, and the roads are different, but they lead to the same place.  The healing process within forgiveness is much the same as this travel scenario.  Different people may have different paths to get to the same place, which is a place of rest through the healing.  The differences will lie in the amount of time it takes to heal.  Just as no persons are alike, people will heal and respond differently based upon where they have come from and where they have traveled on the journey.  It’s also important to note that healing in the process of forgiveness is seldom accomplished in the same way one can get on a plane from one place to the other.  If you were to take a poll, I’m confident that the majority of people would say it takes a long, long time.

The road to complete forgiveness is paved with opportunities for healing.  God grants us immunity when we ask for His forgiveness, and He does it right away.  Our greatest challenge is to recognize that we are guiltless before Him.  Many people struggle with this issue in that there is still a form of guilt over what has happened.  This is why people must heal from the wounds of their transgressions.  God is aware that people suffer from these feelings and emotions (Psalm 147:3), and He is aware of them because He bore all of our sins on the cross.  He relates to each and every one of us.  He is a God who is relational and wants us to cast our cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7; Matthew 11:28-30).

In the same way that God gives us grace in forgiveness, He desires that we treat others in kind with grace and mercy in forgiving others.  Easier said than done?  Most certainly, but that doesn’t change God’s will for us.  It remains the same as it always has been—to forgive others and show mercy to them.  That is the best (and only real way) for the light of Christ to shine before others.  Anything else is nothing more than a worldly approach of forgiveness with man-made conditions behind it.

The road to complete forgiveness is a message of hope.  In order to make the journey, it requires these attributes in order to experience the power of God’s healing:

H – Humility

Note that humility is acquired as we grow in God’s wisdom and understanding.  We develop humble hearts as we become Christlike in our actions.  Humility does not come naturally.  It comes from a series of learning experiences that God orchestrates in our lives.  Humility is what allows us to draw nearer to God.

2 Chronicles 7:14

…and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.

 

James 4:8 HCSB

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!

 

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 HCSB

Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

 

God humbles us in order for each of us to see the Lord as we need to see Him.  With this realization, we understand the importance of humbling ourselves before Him and, as a result, reflecting this same grace before others.

A humble approach involves using a kinder, gentler approach when dealing with others.

Philippians 2:3 ESV

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

 

O – Overlook shortcomings

Because we reside in the flesh, we often encounter people when they are at their best, but sometimes when they are not at their best.  In the spirit of recognizing that we are all in the human race and that everyone does fall short at one time or another (see Romans 3:23), then there are times when a person who falls short needs to be cut a break.  It is prudent to address issues as they come up, but sometimes we need to take the humble approach and overlook some transgressions for the sake of keeping the peace.  If we are being honest with ourselves, other people we have dealt with have cut us some slack even when it was undeserved.  God has cut each of us some slack–not because he is letting you off the hook for your sin, but because of His love for us.  He extends His grace to you.

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 

Titus 3:5-7 ESV

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

 

P – Patience

Humility and overlooking one’s shortcomings is an exercise in patience.  You will do none of this, including forgive someone, without patience.  Patience is indeed an act of love.

Romans 12:12 ESV

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

 

Ecclesiastes 7:9 ESV

Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.

 

1 Corinthians 13:4 ESV

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

 

In order for you to exercise patience, it requires the assistance of the Holy Spirit, at times, to give you more than you believe you have the capability of doing.  How patient was Jesus Christ when He suffered on the cross for each of us?  Just when we think we’re going to lose our patience, take the time to remove the flesh from your thought process and rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit to move you beyond mere fleshly responses.

 

E – Empathy

The road to forgiveness also needs a strong dose of empathy.  Empathy allows you to see people in the same way that God sees those same people.  It may well be the most challenging element of a person’s Christlike development.  Empathy allows you to go deeper than the surface elements of one’s personality and, through the Holy Spirit, gain insight into what a person is experiencing from within.  Jesus Christ shows empathy for each of us.

Ephesians 4:32 ESV

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

 

Empathy allows you to be human before other people.

Romans 12:15 ESV

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

 

Matthew 7:12 ESV

So  whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

 

Love is the root of empathy, and Christ is the example.

John 15:12 ESV

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

 

The acronym HOPE is exactly what a person needs to see from a person who is sincere in forgiveness:  Humility, overlooking shortcomings, patience and empathy.  A person should experience relief because of these steps that are being taken in forgiveness.

Now, for one to truly forgive someone there must be an attitude that what happened in the past must remain in the past.

When a governor or a head of state gives a prisoner a “full, complete and absolute pardon,” it means that the person is released from any and all previous transgressions.

Forgiveness requires extending a pardon to another individual, and that means a full, complete and absolute pardon–without conditions.

 

PARDON

pray

absolve (free from guilt)

release (free from debt)

deliver (free from captivity)

optimize (enhance, improve relationship)

no memory of wrong (nomow)

 

NOMOW

No memory of wrong is the Christlike example as God has declared He would remember your sins no more (Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12).

There is hope for the recipient of complete forgiveness.  It restores relationships and moves the person to a place to begin to move forward in life.  Hope conveys to the other person that it is time to live in freedom, and Christ is where that freedom comes from.  A person who forgives is also free to move on from the past, get on with life and focus on what is important—obedience to Jesus Christ and a desire to live according to His will.

Is there someone in your life that needs your hope and a pardon?

  • Read, study and meditate on God’s Word
  • Get some quiet time
  • Get right before God (in order to hear Him speak to you)
  • List who you need to forgive
  • List why you need to forgive
  • Bring it all before God and let Him do the rest

He is the Savior, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King.  If you ask for His help, He is faithful to provide it to you.

God forgives you and provides the example for you to forgive someone else.

 

 

All seminar content written and presented by Melvin Gaines.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.


Spring Break 2015 Relationship Conference a Week Away!

Our annual Spring Break Relationship Conference is next Friday!

There’s no need to avoid dealing with forgiveness any longer! If you are harboring animosity, resentment or dread over past hurts or injustices, then this two-day seminar is for you! We will discuss and share how forgiveness, with the healing power and grace of God, is the best way to conquer the past, free your mind and soul and experience true rest in Jesus Christ! Join us on Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18 for lively conversation, prayer time and fellowship! The seminar is free! Hotel rooms, if you choose to stay overnight on the 17th, are based upon availability.

Our program starts next Friday at the Hampton Inn in Stow OH at 5:00 PM. We will break for dinner and resume at 7:45 PM and continue until 8:30 PM, where we will break for the evening. The program resumes Saturday morning after breakfast (hotel guests only) at 9:00 AM, and we will continue through the morning and conclude at about 12 noon.

For more information, call Melvin Gaines at 234.206.0345 or visit our Spring Break 2015 tab at akronalliance.org.Spring Break 2015 Flyer Quick Text