Elevating Community 4: Christian Fellowship (Luke 7:36-50)
Last post we continued digging into the Bible to understand what God has designed community & fellowship to look like within His Church, within the body of Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 6 we saw that Paul & his companions had opened wide their hearts to the Christians at Corinth, but the Corinthians had not opened wide their hearts to Paul.
11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you.
12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us.
13 As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.
So we began looking at one of the reasons why we keep our hearts closed to deep fellowship—because we have been deeply hurt/wounded in the past—and we began digging into the Bible to learn how we can flush the wounds others give us so we truly can forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ 70 x 7 times, open wide our hearts, and thus have real fellowship as the LORD intends.
This post we will continue to dig into the Bible to learn about forgiving as flushing as it relates to us opening wide our hearts toward other Christians so that we can truly have the Biblical and Holy Spirit-powered community that our Father desires His children to have:
- If you have received Jesus as your Savior & King for the forgiveness of your sins, we must remember that He has graciously flushed our sins down His toilet. We can only love greatly when we realize that we have been forgiven greatly. Jesus hasn’t forgiven us a bunch of parking tickets; He has forgiven our acts of rebellion and treason against God the Father. We must see how terrible our sin is to truly be amazed at the Lord Jesus’ grace to forgive us our sins; then out of our amazement for Jesus’ grace for us, we can give that same grace and forgiveness to other Christians when they sin against us. Our ability to love terrifically is directly tied to seeing our sin as terribly (as terrible), seeing our sin as sin and not just a mistake. This is one of the greatest long-term consequences of our tendency to try to make people feel good or not bad about their sins; we turn sins into “not THAT big of a deal” and without realizing it in the long-term we amputate our ability to love others greatly.
Please click below for the passage in Luke 7 that teaches this precise Truth:
Luke 7:36-50 (please click HERE)
- In order to forgive as flushing, we must realize that what we have done to the Lord Jesus is ultimately worse than what others have done to us. This is hugely important.
David, after committing adultery with Bathsheba and arranging for her husband to be killed, cried out in repentance to God and said, “Against you and you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4). Of course David’s sin had direct and terrible consequences on Bathsheba’s life and the life of her husband Uriah. But that was secondary; the primary terribleness of David’s sin was against God Himself.
Most if not all sin eventually affects other people in our lives, but ALL sin originally is against God, is a direct assault on His sole right to be in charge of us, all sin is us asserting what we believe is our right to be in control of our lives and do what we feel, no matter what God has said. All sin is first and foremost rebellion and treason against God (please click HERE and HERE for more on this).
We see this profound Truth illustrated in Matthew 18:21-35 (please click below):
Matthew 18:21-35 (please click HERE)
- Focusing on being with the Lord Jesus in prayer, Bible reading, and remembering what He suffered on the Cross for His people.
Please read Job 38—42. Powerful. This is what enabled Job to flush the terrible crap that his friends slung all over him. Job was able to forgive his friends because he had just “seen the LORD” and been overcome by God’s power, love, sovereignty, holiness, etc. He was left speechless by the glory of the LORD; OF COURSE Job would pray for God to have mercy on his friends…HE HAD JUST SEEN THE MAJESTY OF ALMIGHTY GOD! This may be what we need more than anything: to repent to God for utterly neglecting Him with our time and crying out to God to ennable us to do whatever it takes to meet with Him daily in quiet, silence, and humility, giving God our undivided attention. The more time we spend at the foot of God’s throne of grace knowing Him and not just knowing stuff about Him, the more power we will have to flush away others’ hurt from our porcelain throne of life.
The Lord Jesus often went to lonely places and prayed; He was so connected with the Father in relationship, so full of the Holy Spirit, and invested so much time in quiet prayer—I believe this gave Jesus power to flush all the insults and irritations of the smelly sheep around Him.
Hebrews 12:3—when we are tired of flushing and flushing and flushing and grow weary and just want to let it pile up in our minds and hearts and memories so we can sling some of it back on to others, the Bible says to remember Him who endured such opposition (crap!) from sinful men so that we won’t grow weary and lose heart/give up, so that we can keep flushing and keep forgiving and keep loving.
Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary & lose heart.
- God will eventually flush the sins of His children from His memory—He will wipe His hard drive, so to speak. Wow. God can do anything…YES! But not really anything. Eventually, He will not be able to remember our sins—He will choose to forget…forever. YES!
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
What if we need His help to do the same? But you might say, “I MUST remember, how can I forget? I CAN’T let others hurt me again, I CAN’T go through that again! I can’t share the depths of my fears and worries and insecurities with others—I can’t confess my sins to other Christians, I can’t let them know the real me—because of what they can do with that info, I CAN’T let them into my heart with their muddy shoes to trample all over me—I will forgive BUT I’LL NEVER FORGET!”
But God will forget our sins against Him, and our sins against Him are much worse than others’ sins against us. Would we ever ask Him to ennable us to do as He will, to literally forget the sins that others have committed against us, the defense mechanisms we have learned over time to seal up our hearts like a bank vault so no one can get too close? To cry out to God to enable us to “keep no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5)? Oh how dangerous it is to pray Biblically…
Another Portrait of Forgiveness As Flushing
Last week we closed by looking at Genesis 45—we saw a beautiful God-powered example of forgiveness as flushing whereby Joseph not only forgave but actively blessed his brothers and their children, his brothers who many years earlier had sold him into slavery and pretended he was dead.
I want to close this post–with another portrait of a heart wide open after deep pain–in Genesis 50:15-21—it’s years after Genesis 45 and now Joseph and his brothers’ father Jacob has died. As soon as Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers were so scared, they thought that Joseph had been pretending to be nice all these years and now would take revenge on them since their father was no longer around. Let’s see how the LORD enabled Joseph to forgive his brothers as as flushing, not just one time but many times over many years—he continually opened his heart to his brothers again and again because it wasn’t a fleeting feeling that he had but a definite decision that he made over and over again:
Genesis 50:15-21 (please click HERE)
Verse 15: Joseph’s brothers thought, “What if Joseph didn’t flush? What if he has been holding on to his wound and hurt for all these years and now that Papa is dead he goes to get revenge on us!?” But by the grace of God, Joseph did flush. He WEPT (verse 17) at the thought that his brothers were terrified of him again (“perfect love casts out fear”). He had been practicing forgiveness for years but they still needed to be reassured and encouraged–and this the LORD enabled Joseph to do patiently and genuinely and cheerfully.
Verse 19: Joseph did not get revenge because he realized that only God is allowed to do that; Joseph already had spent hard time in a prison he did not choose–he did not want to get revenge on his brothers and put himself in a different kind of prison that he did choose (unforgiveness).
Verses 20-21: Not only did Joseph forgive, he also flushed his brothers’ crimes down the toilet! That is, Joseph didn’t just say to them, “Fine. I won’t kill you. Now just go back to Israel and leave me alone.” Rather, Joseph invited them to move to Egypt to be with him on a daily basis! Joseph didn’t avoid and stay away from his brothers for the rest of his life; he invited them INTO his life in a relational way. And he promised not just to care for them but to care for their children. He didn’t just keep to himself but he spoke kindly to his brothers and continued to reassure them. THAT is a portrait of community after much pain–Forgiveness AND flushing! YES!
If we are truly going to be a local church with real Biblical community,
Holy Spirit powered and Bible based fellowship,
we will have to risk opening our hearts to each other…
…and to do that many of us will have to heal from past hurts by forgiving as flushing the ways we have been wronged and let down by other Christians in the past.
The biggest reason to do this is from Colossians 3:12-13:
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
If you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior & King, you are forgiven,
even though hat we have done to Him is worse than what others have done to us.
Thus out of the ocean of His forgiveness to us (which we don’t deserve!),
may we forgive others (which they don’t deserve either!) the cups of cold water they’ve thrown in our face;
Out of the trillions of debt that the LORD has forgiven us,
may we forgive others the hundreds or thousands of debt they have to us.
May the LORD bless this local church—and all His local churches around Mankato and the world—to forgive as flushing so we can open wide our hearts to each other and have the kind of Biblical fellowship and community that shows non-Christians that we truly are Jesus’ disciples…