Monthly Archives: October 2021

God’s Everlasting Love (Jeremiah 31:3)

“The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness’” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Image created using the YouVersion Bible app.

How would you answer if someone asked, “What is the opposite of love?” You might say “hatred.” Some people will call “anger” the opposite of love.

Anger is not the opposite of love. There is something crueler than that: apathy. Love cares; apathy, by its very definition, does not care and could not care less. Love will inspire deep emotion. When we love somebody and see them destroying themselves, we cannot help but get angry. However, if we do not care, we can simply ignore that person. We might try to ignore the strange person we see wandering down the street, obviously stoned or drunk out of his mind, and hope he does not bother us; however, if he is our son, brother, or someone else we care for, we will not be able to look the other way.

Some people think that the idea of “the wrath of God” contradicts the notion of a loving God. If God is love, how can He get angry? The answer is that, because God is love, He does not ignore sin. He will not mindlessly sit on the sidelines and ignore our antics while we destroy our lives, the lives of other people He loves, or the world He created. He is love. He must care. Because He cares, He has to act, and sometimes it hurts.

The prophet Jeremiah served God during a time of national calamity. The northern kingdom of Israel was already in exile, having been overrun by Assyria around 740-733 BC. About 150 years later, Jeremiah watched as the nation of Judah continued to spiral into idolatry and immorality. The people ignored prophetic warnings of divine judgment even after the Babylonian army laid siege to Jerusalem. Jeremiah would see the nation’s leaders dragged into exile as Jerusalem and the rest of Judah were destroyed.

Stained glass window of Jeremiah the prophet at Cologne Cathedral, Germany. Photo by Gmihail at Serbian Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 RS https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/rs/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons

It would be easy to think that God had given up on His people. The land looked God-forsaken. The people seemed abandoned by God. Some were ready to give up on God, thinking He had given up on them.

Even in that time of judgment, God still loved His people. Many of Jeremiah’s prophecies urged the people to remain faithful to God wherever He placed them, because He had not given up on them. We often think of judgment as being eternal damnation, but often what looks like divine judgment is divine discipline. God was preparing His people for repentance, renewal, and restoration:

“For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart’” (Jeremiah 29:10-13).

God assured His people that He would bless them again. His discipline was an expression of His love for them. His heart has not changed. He will still work the same way in our lives.

“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:7-11).

It is tempting to feel abandoned by God when life seems unfair or painful. However, He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Sometimes, suffering or sorrow is a form of discipline. Instead of asking, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” we should ask the following questions:

  • What can I learn from this?
  • What are You trying to teach me?
  • Have I wandered from Your will?
  • How do I get back into Your will?
  • How can I follow You faithfully during this hard time?

God’s love is eternal. It outlasts hardship. It endures beyond pain and suffering. God remains faithful and continues to love us when we may not be sure we can love ourselves. No matter what you are going through or how far you have wandered from His will, He is still just a prayer away.

I would like to hear from you. How do you seek God when He seems distant or it looks like He is allowing you to suffer? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality, Love of God | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Sin Beyond God’s Grace

“There is no sin, and there can be no sin on all the earth, which the Lord will not forgive to the truly repentant! Man cannot commit a sin so great as to exhaust the infinite love of God. Can there be a sin which could exceed the love of God?” (Fyodor Dostoevsky, quoted in Quotes from Fyodor Dostoyevsky).

“Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”– because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit” (Mark 3:28-30, NASB).

Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1821-1881. Image from Ruthyoel, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, a Facebook friend who lives in an Asian country where Christianity is a minority religion asked me this question: Is there any sin God will not forgive? He was asking this from an evangelistic perspective—he had been sharing the Gospel with somebody who raised this question. However, this question is also important to consider from a personal perspective: Can I commit any sin that God will not forgive? My friend’s acquaintaince or friend gave an example like this: Suppose a man had a car accident and hit a child. Instead of staying around to make certain the child got help, he drove away. As a result, the child died. I believe the legal term for this is “vehicular manslaughter,” but since I am not a lawyer, it might be “vehicular homicide” or murder. Can God forgive such a person?

That is a very different question than “Can the parents of the child forgive the person?” Humans see certain actions and attitudes that we find repugnant. We might call them unforgivable. What we are saying, though, is that we are unable—or perhaps unwilling—to forgive such people. I have addressed this subject in more detail previously.

Scripture is filled with case of people whom Jesus forgave even though others might consider their sins unforgivable:

  • Saul of Tarsus persecuted Christians and was even complicit in the execution of some of them (Acts 7:58-8:1; 9:1-3; 22:1-5; 26:9-12). See this article for a thorough discussion of Saul’s persecution of believers. He was violent and, even though he may not have directly murdered anybody, was an accessory to murder. Nevertheless, Jesus forgave him; we know Saul as St. Paul the apostle, who wrote about one-half of the books in the New Testament.
  • Two men were crucified alongside Jesus. Both are described in the Gospels as “robbers,” and the Roman authorities deemed their crime unforgivable. Both mocked Jesus early into their ordeal (Mark 15:32), but eventually one of them had a change of heart. Jesus forgave him (Luke 23:40-42); He promised that criminal, who perhaps a few minutes earlier may have ridiculed Him, that he would be with Him in paradise.
  • Jesus forgave women who committed adultery.
  • He forgave tax collectors, who usually earned their income by extorting extra money from taxpayers.
  • He forgave others who had willfully and knowingly sinned against the revealed will of God.

Have you committed murder? Have you committed robbery? Have you mocked God or Jesus? Have you committed adultery? Have you used a position of influence as an opportunity to take advantage of others? Have you willingly committed any other sin, knowing that what you were doing was wrong? If so, your sins are forgivable.

Do you know others who have committed these sins? Can you think of people who committed these sins against you? If so, Jesus says these sins are forgivable, whether you like it or not.

Scripture tells us that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2) and that God wishes that none should perish, but that all would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). His forgiveness is available to all who will repent and turn to Him by faith, no matter how horrible the sin seems to us.

Photo by form PxHere

What if we repent, ask Jesus into our hearts, and then stumble back into that sin? Suppose the guy who killed a child in a car accident does it again? What if the recovered alcoholic slips and goes on a drinking binge after years of sobriety? What if the adulterer or adulteress stumbles into another immoral relationship? God knows your heart. He knows if you are sincerely repentant and have just fallen back into old habits, or if you are just playing church with no change of heart. Repentance is a change of attitude about sin. It comes from a Greek word, metanoia, which means “change of mind.” When we repent, we turn from a life of sin to a life of following (or, at least, trying to follow) God. Sometimes, we make mistakes even after we repent. Some people repeat really bad sins over and over until they finally repent, ask for forgiveness, and receive salvation. God knows our hearts, and He knows if we have sincerely repented, even if we are continuing to mess up at times.

So, if you are sharing the Gospel and someone asks you if God will really forgive a particular sin, the answer is always “yes.” God wishes for none to perish and for all to come to repentance, no matter how horribly they have sinned in the past.

In your own life: Do not fear that you have committed some unpardonable sin that God will never forgive. You should not go looking for clever new ways to sin so that you can test God’s mercy, but if you do sin, return to Jesus in repentance.

Some readers may wonder about the “unpardonable sin” of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is why I included Mark 3:28-30 above. Perhaps you wonder if you have committed it. As I mentioned in the previous post about “unforgivable” sins, there is some debate about what this sin entails. However, one thing seems clear from Scripture: If you are worried or concerned about a particular sin, you have not gone too far. The Holy Spirit is still dealing with you. God has not given up on you. You should not give up on yourself, either. If you have committed this unpardonable sin, you would not know or care about it.

No matter how you have sinned, come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness and a second (or third, or twenty-third, or four-hundred-ninetieth) chance. If someone has hurt you, remember: They are not beyond God’s reach, and He may still forgive them. If someone has committed sins that seem horrendous, bring them to Jesus: He is ready and willing to forgive them and to cleanse them from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

No matter what: Come to Jesus, and invite others to come to Him too.

I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality, Love of God | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Instruments (St. Francis of Assisi)

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life” (a prayer by St. Francis of Assisi, 1182-1226).

Statue of St. Francis of Assisi. Photo courtesy of Pxfuel.com.

Several denominations commemorate St. Francis of Assisi on October 4. He was born to a wealthy family, but soon found that his devotion to Christ put him at odds with his family. On one occasion, he was in church and felt that Jesus was saying to him, “Francis, repair my falling house.” Francis took this literally, sold a bale of silk from his father’s warehouse, and used to proceeds to make repairs to the church building. Maybe Francis should have asked for his father’s permission first. His father was enraged and, after a confrontation, disowned Francis. Francis, in turn, renounced his family’s wealth. Some accounts say that he not only handed any money that he had back to his father, but that he also removed his clothes, gave them to his father, and walked away naked.

He devoted the rest of his life to serving Christ by ministering to the poor. Taking a vow of poverty, he continued to make repairs to the local church building, cared for the sick, and ministered to the poor. Eventually, others joined him in his endeavors. Today, the Franciscan order of monks continues his work, and ministries in other denominations follow in his footsteps as well.

Francis and his brothers/colleagues followed Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 10:7-10:

“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support” (Matthew 10:7-10, NASB).

One important lesson we can learn from Francis’ life is to be God’s instruments. Francis’ famous prayer asks God to “make me an instrument of Your peace,” that we might bring His glory and blessings wherever darkness, evil, sorrow, and suffering dominate. He asked to be used by God to bless others, instead of seeking blessings for himself.

  • When we see something wrong, ask what we can do to change it.
  • Instead of seeking blessings, ask God to show us how to be a blessing to others.
  • Seek joy by making others’ lives better instead of seeking personal comfort.

I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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