Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Matthew 18 Forgiveness - Guest Post by Daniel Demars

Most people who have been following the Lord for a reasonable amount of time recognize the importance practicing forgiveness and mercy. They grasp the concept that in light of both the holiness and mercy of God, holding onto grudges or desiring vengeance is neither Christ-like or healthy. They understand that harboring bitterness towards anyone is not evidence of spiritual regeneration. We know all of this. Yet I’ve spoken with people who confided that although they believe they’d forgiven, still find themselves upset about a situation to the point that it affects their lives. It’s entirely possible to make an intellectual decision to forgive, and to no longer wish for “karma” to fall on someone we are angry with, yet fail to cast the hurt brought on by the offense. 
Forgiveness is not always a one and done, quick release formula. The Lord gives us an image of a continuous approach. (Mat 18:21-22) The God who created us calls us to love people in response to His kindness, with reconciliation and humility. I can attest that at times I truly believed I had forgiven someone, only to find that the bitterness from a particular past situation was still on my heart. I found this hurt manifesting itself in other areas of my life. This greatly impeded my walk, emotional and spiritual well-being, and attitude towards life. When the Lord opened my eyes through His word it brought a new sense of liberation that changed the way I approach EVERYTHING. 
We must remember that forgiveness is NOT pretending it never happened. It is acknowledging real hurt before Holy God, and finding comfort His goodness. Knowing that He hates whatever wrong has been done to us, and that it has been paid for, along with every sin we have committed, based solely on the blood of Christ. Our immediate concern shouldn’t be gaining peace, but being obedient to God and bringing Him glory. We will come out the other side of the experience with Godly peace, but the process may be a refining process requiring sacrifice and submission. 
We might need to repent for assuming we are entitled to convenience in life, and instead embrace longsuffering and denial. We should reach out and make peace with whomever we feel has wronged us. (Mark 11:25) This may involve some uncomfortable conversations, which the Holy Spirit can adequately handle. We should lift the other party up in prayer and recognize that the Lord went to the cross for them with the same passion He has for us.
When we are actively involved in praying for someone, it is tremendously difficult to harbor anger towards them. We also identify areas in our own lives where we have fallen short in living a life of sacrifice. If we feel insulted, we need to remember God sees us as redeemed. If we feel we’ve been robbed, we need to remember God provides all our needs and ask for a generous spirit. If we feel betrayed, we should proclaim that God will never leave us, and ask for a spirit of commitment to others. This is yet another process of being conformed to the image of Christ.
And in it all, we must give glory to God. 

Daniel Demars lives in central Massachusetts. He is in the food distribution business and in his spare time enjoys driving for Uber where he says he is “cruising for cash and making friends along the way.”

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Freedom Isn't Free - Guest Post by Jim Fontaine

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Galatians 5: 13)

     On Independence Day, we always celebrate the freedom that came hundreds of years ago to this country. Freedom was bought through the blood and sacrifices of many…and we owe those brave men and women a great debt of thanks. It is a reminder that freedom is not free, either for the one who buys it or the one who receives it.

     The same is true of the freedom Jesus bought for us 2000 years ago on Mount Calvary. The freedom Christians enjoy came at a very great cost since Jesus gave His life to make us free from sin. Through accepting the Name of Jesus in faith and receiving what He did on the Cross for our salvation, we have eternal life, full and free. Our behavior, therefore, should always reflect who we are, not who we were. Our behavior should reflect how grateful we are to God for His precious and undeserved gift.

     But, there are many who abuse their freedom as Christians, claiming that the freedom they have in Christ now allows them to live any way they want, even if that means living in sin, living the same way as they did before they were saved. They say things like, “I believe in Jesus! And since I do, I can live however I want because He’ll forgive me of all my sins!” The problem with that kind of thinking is that Jesus calls us to be more like Him (Romans 8: 29); to become holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1: 16); to put on the new self, which has been created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4: 24).

     How can we say we are Christ-like when we are living in sin? Is that the kind of freedom Jesus has called us to? Can Christians sin as much as they want now that their sins are all covered by the blood of Jesus? The answer is an emphatic NO! Yes, we are called to be free! But, we are also called to be more Christ-like every day. We are not to live in sin anymore. Freedom in Christ is NOT the freedom to do what we want when we want; it is the freedom to do what God wants and to please Him because we love Him.

     After the evacuation of troops from Richmond, Virginia on April 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln walked the streets of the city with his son Tad. Former slaves gathered to meet the President, thanking the man who had set them free. President Lincoln stopped at one point to address former slaves. In his book, Life of Abraham Lincoln, author Clifton Nichols wrote down the President’s challenge:

My poor friends, you are free – as free as air. You can cast off the name of slave and trample upon it; it will come to you no more. Liberty is your birthright. God gave it to you as he gave it to others, and it is a sin that you have been deprived of it for so many years. But you must try to deserve this priceless boon. Let the world see that you merit it, and are able to maintain it by your good works. Don’t let your joy carry you into excesses; learn the laws, and obey them. Obey God’s commandments, and thank him for giving you liberty, for to him you owe all things.” [1]

Much of what Lincoln said to former slaves, Paul said to the Galatians and to us. If you have professed faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, you ARE free! God has given it to you as a precious, undeserved gift of His grace. Freedom is your Christian birthright!

     But do not use or abuse your freedom in Christ by continuing to live in sin. Do not dishonor the Savior who died for your sins by thinking that it is OK to sin. Freedom in Christ is NOT freedom to sin. Instead, show that you are free in Christ by living the way God wants us to live, in obedience to His commands; by loving and serving one another in the body of Christ; by loving and serving our neighbors as an outflow of the love of God that is in our hearts. Contrary to what the world would tell us, freedom is not the ability to do what you want, when you want to do it. Freedom in Christ is a gift from God…and there are boundaries to that freedom. Let us always glorify the Savior who freed us by living lives that truly honor the sacrifice He made on our behalf.

[1] Clifton Melvin Nichols, Life of Abraham Lincoln (Springfield, OH: Mast, Crowell & Kirkpatrick, 1896), page 232.


Jim Fontaine became the pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Brimfield, MA in July 2016 after completing a 13-year pastorate at Burncoat Baptist Church in Worcester, MA. Jim has been married to his wife, Paula, for 24 years and has four children.