Why am I still in this world?
The reason for me being here is you! I cannot get into Christ’s Kingdom without making things right with you. God made us “keepers of each other” and we are responsible for each other’s salvation (Genesis 4:9-11; Ezekiel 3:17-21; John 20:22-23;Matthew 6:14-15; James 5:19-20). All these references have one thing to stress and that is that you and I can ascertain our redemption together — but not alone. So, here I am ninety plus years later, with experience and insight that is out of the ordinary, for those who want God to do everything. To give us more confidence in ourselves, I have chosen some encounters Jesus had with his disciples, which have been helpful to me on my “Journey of Grace.” It is the Spirit of the Lord that has partnered with my spirit to fill my heart with “grace” that enables me to love and forgive. And this is my prayer and wish for everyone.
Man is God’s Instrument of Saving Man
God in Christ became a man to work in and through His Son to save and lead man back to Himself. Just as God, the Father, sent His Son Jesus into the world, so the Son sent his followers into the world to continue His “Redemptive Work,” until Jesus, the Son, returns to finish His Mission. This was and this is the way the Holy Spirit manifested Himself in Jesus, in Paul, and in all of those who believe that Jesus was the Son of God in the flesh (I John 4:1-6).
I do not pray that Thou shouldst take them away from the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; they word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, soI have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.
I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one;even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them,that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and though in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that thou hast sent me. I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:15-26).
But how are men to call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? ANd how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ (Romans 10:14-17).
Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ,be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (II Coprinthians 5:17-21).
Man, and Not God, Forgives Sins on Earth
I was born into a family that believed God was the only One who could forgive sins. Yet, when something happened, which made people angry and hurt, they made every effort to restore their relationships. As a pastor, and for a long time, I too held that man was saved by “grace alone,” and then I went on to tell the people what they had to do to maintain a godly relationships. That view still is heard from pulpits today, and so it was in Jesus’ Day in their synagogues. One day Jesus showed up in Capernaum, and while He was healing and teaching, four men brought in a paralytic on a stretcher, throught the roof. In addition to Mark 2:1-12, the incident was also reproduced in Matthew 8:1-8, and in Luke 5:17-26. The man on the stretcher reminded me when I was on a stretcher on a train, which took me five hundred miles to Toronto General Hospital, where I was healed and where I decided to become a “servant of redemption” to myself and to others. It took six people to get me transferred. Now, what did Jesus teach by doing? Before Jesus returned to the Father, He delegated “Forgiveness” to his disciples and “His Leadership” to Peter (John 20:19-23; 21:15-17).
And when Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take your pallet and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” And he rose immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:1-12).
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send them.” And when he had said this,he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:19-23).
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me? Peter replied, “Yes Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Then, Jesus said to Peter the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he answered him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).
Man can Earn his Forgiveness
Jesus was a guest at a Pharisee’s home and a sinful woman bowed at Jesus’ feet, she wetted His feet with her tears, dried His feet with her hair, and anointed His feet with her costly oil. While the Pharisee mused, Jesus gave an example how a disgraced person can find forgiveness for a gracious act of kindness. Forgiveness is not an option! Forgiveness is a necessity among men and women to gain favor with God. Another example that earned forgiveness was Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).
“If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it Teacher?” Jesus put forth and example, “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “Theone, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:39-50).
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for Jesus was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So Zacchaeus made haste and came down, and received Jesus joyfully. And when the Pharisees saw it they all murmured, “He has gone in to be a guest who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:1-10).
“You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to Judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:21-26).
Man can Save Himself by Saving Others
The sin against God (Spirit) is unforgivable because there is no one who can forgive the “sin against God” (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:8-10). The sin against men is being committed against each other and therefore, it must be released by us. Jesus was very outspoken about human transgressions in His Words and His Parables.
“Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in a day, and turns to you seven times, andsays, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4).
And Peter came up and said to Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22).
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life mamed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. For every one will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:42-50).
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, the lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him the lord of that servat released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and besought him ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:23-35).