Posted August 27, 2018
Forgiveness: A Message of Hope and Restoration
by Dr. Deborah A. Burd, D.Min.
A couple of years ago I was privileged to deliver a sermon/drash on forgiveness to a Messianic congregation. The following is a modified version of that original message.
In a world where hate and vengeance have escalated to terrifying levels, I feel compelled to write on a topic of tremendous spiritual importance. During the month of Elul on the Jewish calendar, it is a critical time to examine oneself, to repent of sins, to receive and extend forgiveness, to make an effort to restore damaged relationships, and to grow spiritually. Many within the Jewish and Messianic communities are preparing for the High Holy days (Ten Days of Awe, Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur), coming in September, and are now reciting prayers and poems of repentance, selichot (s’lee-KHOHT). So then, a message on forgiveness is fitting during this period of introspection.
To begin to understand the concept of forgiveness, we should first define it. Forgiveness means “letting go” or “pardoning or remitting an offense. It restores a good relationship with God, others, or the self after sin or alienation” (McKim, 1996, p. 107). Paul (Sha’ul) told the early Church, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4: 31-32, NIV).
We as individuals are not permitted to put ourselves in the position of judge. It is God’s place to discipline or punish. So, “do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12: 19-21).
When we follow these instructions, we can rest knowing that God will see that justice is served.
Now let’s take a closer look at forgiveness.
Forgive God. While God does not need forgiveness, because He is perfect and holy and not capable of sin or transgression, we cannot harbor anger against Him when we feel He has let us down or turned His back on us. In our society, there are many injustices. How God deals with those evils is up to Him because He is all knowing. We must let go of our anger and trust Him to handle those situations while continuing to serve Him, even when we do not understand His ways.
Forgive Others. R. T. Kendall states, “Totally forgiving someone doesn’t necessarily mean we will want to spend our vacation with them, but it does mean that we release the bitterness in our hearts concerning what they have done” (2007, p. 20). There are indeed those we can no longer trust or have a relationship with, especially if they continue to abuse us or others, but because Jesus (Yeshua) forgave us, we are obligated to forgive them. Then, if necessary, we can move on in peace without those people in our lives or having a close relationship with them. In other words, we love them from a distance. If, of course, their hearts change, then it is possible to have a new relationship with them.
When forgiving others, we have to keep in mind that forgiveness is not always an immediate feeling or emotion. It is a choice, and often a process that takes time, especially for deep wounds. It also takes prayer and meditating on the Scriptures to take root in our hearts. Jesus (Yeshua) said His words “are full of the Spirit and life” (John 6: 63). Therefore, we must allow God’s word to heal and renew us, through the power of the Holy Spirit. And when we forgive, that space where we once harbored ill feelings, will be filled with love.
Allow Others to Experience Forgiveness. When someone has truly repented of wrongdoing and asked God for forgiveness, we are not allowed to hold that sin or offense against them. By doing so, we are playing God, without the right or authority, and are denying that individual the peace of feeling forgiven. That denial is a perversion of the Gospel message. Jesus (Yeshua) told His disciples, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6: 15).
Forgive Self. While none of us are deserving of the kind of forgiveness Jesus (Yeshua) offers, we are expected to accept it. Denying ourselves forgiveness keeps us in bondage to the past, and impairs what God can do in and through us.
Make Restitution. Whenever we have wronged someone, we should make restitution whenever necessary or possible.
Pray For and Bless Those Who Hurt You. While challenging and often painful, we have been told to pray for those who wound us. There is tremendous power in prayer to change hearts. Jesus (Yeshua) said to “bless those who curse you, pray for the ones who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28). By doing so, we are helping someone escape from their past and dark spiritual strongholds so that they can draw closer to God.
When We Are Hurt By Another Believer. Even though we as followers of Jesus (Yeshua) have been reconciled with God, we are still human and lack perfection, no matter how hard we try to be like Christ (Mashiach). Being hurt by another believer can be particularly devastating because we expect more from them. Believers in conflict bring disharmony to the Body of Christ (Mashiach), and this grieves the Holy Spirit. However, forgiveness restores relationships and strengthens the Church and what God wants to accomplish through it.
How Often Should We Forgive? Jesus (Yeshua) said, “seventy-seven times seven” (Matthew 18: 21-22). In other words, always.
Jesus Forgives Our Sins/Offenses. When dealing with what might seem to be an insurmountable hurt, we cannot forget that Jesus (Yeshua), God in human flesh, took the weight of the sins of the world upon Himself when He chose Golgotha over freedom. Because He forgave in the midst of agonizing pain and unjust humiliation, we too must accept and extend forgiveness. His costly sacrifice negates any reason we may think we have to hold something against another. And because of that sacrifice, we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4: 16).
So, do you need to be forgiven of something? If you are sincere, know that you have forgiveness. God makes all things new through Christ (Mashiach).
Is there someone who needs your forgiveness? Set them free today from whatever you have against them! Don’t play God!
Is there something you are harboring against God? Let it go! He loves you and wants the best for you!
Have you forgiven yourself? Watch the chains of the past fall from you now as you do.
Are you accepting God’s forgiveness? Open your heart and feel His Shalom.
For a believer in Jesus (Yeshua), every day should be a time of introspection, confession, forgiveness, and restoration, not just during the month of Elul. And in the Shalom that comes with forgiving and receiving forgiveness, may we hear more clearly the Father’s incredible love song He is singing to each one of us, ministering and bringing health and wholeness to every part of our being.
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3: 17).
Bait of Satan: Living Free From the Deadly Trap of Offense by John Bevere (2004). Charisma House.
How to Forgive Ourselves Totally by R. T. Kendall (2007). Charisma House
Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall (2007). Charisma House.
Totally Forgiving God by R.T. Kendall (2012). Charisma House.
Wounded by God’s People by Anne Graham Lotz (2013). Zondervan.
Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms by Donald K. McKim (1996). Westminster John Knox Press.
The Body of Christ (Messiah)/The Church
By Dr. Deborah A. Burd, D.Min.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12: 12-13, New International Version)
When the first-century church began, it was predominately Jewish, but as more Gentiles entered the Kingdom of God, Jewish leadership and influence began to play a lesser role in the Great Commission, placing many more Gentile believers in leadership positions within the Church rather than their Jewish counterparts. This continued on for centuries until much of the Jewish influence and traditions, with some exceptions, had greatly diminished from within the Church as a whole. Today, however, we are witnessing a miraculous turnaround within the Community of Believers. Many Jews are coming to faith in Messiah Jesus (Hebrew: Yeshua), and with that growing Messianic movement both here in the US and overseas, Jewish influence is once again impacting the Church in a big way, drawing many back to the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. As a result of this incredible movement of the Holy Spirit, those who grew up in a traditional Gentile church are seeing Jewish brothers and sisters assuming more and more leadership roles within the Body of Christ (Messiah). So why is this important? Let’s take a quick look at the book of Exodus.
Around the year 1446 B.C. (NIV commentary), God (Elohim, ´elōhîm) directed the Hebrew nation to meet with Him at Mt. Sinai and made an extraordinary covenant with them. He also commissioned those chosen people to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19: 6). In other words, they were to be the first missionaries and apostles to the world to help bring the nations to faith in the one true God. It was always God’s heart for the world to know and be reconciled to Him and for Jews and Gentiles to worship Him together as one body. Led by Moses, the children of Israel spent forty years in the desert, learning God’s laws and preparing for ministry before they were ready and allowed to enter the Promised Land. That land was given to them not only as a possession and an inheritance, but it was to be a place for them to begin sharing a message of hope of a future Messiah for the entire world. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob wanted to be in a relationship with all of humankind. Old Testament history, though, shows that often instead of winning souls to God, many Jews lost sight of their priestly charge and fell to the seductions of other religions. However, the Old Testament (Tanakh) also tells us that there was always a group or remnant of Jewish people (including many noted Jewish leaders) who remained faithful to God and their mission, and because of their devotion and faithfulness, the Messiah was able to enter the world through the Jewish people.
When the Messiah did come, He spent much of His time and energy reaching out to His Jewish brethren. Some might be puzzled as to why Jesus wanted his Kingdom message to be shared with the Jews first (Matthew 15: 21-28, Matthew 10: 5-8), but if you think about it, that makes sense because the Jews were the ones originally called to be ministers and evangelists to the nations. Their calling, according to Romans 11: 28-29 was still in effect, so Jesus had to reach out to them first in order to get them back on course. However, it needs to be pointed out that even though the Jewish nation was Jesus’ first order of business, He also reached out (Mark 8: 1-13, John 4: 1-26) and responded to the needs of Gentiles (Matthew 8: 5-13, Matthew 15: 21-28) when He was here on earth. They were not overlooked or excluded. Going further, if you review the genealogy of Jesus found in both Matthew and Luke, you will find that Jesus, though Jewish, had some Gentile ancestors (Matthew 1: 5, Luke. 3: 32). I believe that is significant. In addition, when all had been accomplished through His suffering, death, and resurrection, Jesus told his disciples (talmidim) to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28: 19). Matthew 12: 21 also tells us, “In his name the nations will put their hope” (also see Isaiah 42: 1-4). That sounds pretty inclusive to me.
Like the Israelites, Jesus’ disciples had been prepared for ministry and were now being sent out to every part of the globe to bring others into the Kingdom of God, both Jew and Gentile. Yes, Jesus’ kingdom message was delivered first to the Jews, but He died and rose again for everyone. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3: 16). In addition, anyone who accepts Christ receives the Holy Spirit (Romans 8: 1-17) and is given spiritual gifts for ministry (1 Corinthians 12: 1-11). All believers (Jew and Gentile) share the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2: 9) and are ministers of Christ (1 Timothy 4: 6). Gentile believers are grafted into the nation of Israel (Romans 11: 11-24, Ephesians 2: 11-13) as sons and daughters of Abraham by faith (Romans 4: 1-25) in Jesus Christ, and all believers (Jew or Gentile) are members of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12: 12-13).
In spite of the many terrible and tragic conflicts that have occurred between Jews and Gentiles over the centuries, through Jesus, Jewish and Gentile believers become knitted together as one body and find forgiveness, reconciliation, and perfect shalom. The Apostle Paul referred to this union as the one new man. “ For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility” (Ephesians 2: 14-16).
With the current Messianic movement gaining considerable momentum in the world, Jewish believers are not only fulfilling their original calling as priests but find themselves sharing a divinely ordained mission with their Gentile counterparts. In God’s Kingdom, then, Jew and Gentile followers of Jesus bring valuable contributions to the table. Bound in love, they become a beautiful symphony of instruments of God’s will as they work side-by-side in His harvest field to bring the world hope and truth and the message of salvation. Together they are the Community of Believers, the Body of Christ (Messiah), a Royal Priesthood, a Kingdom, a Holy Nation, the Church.
Brown, M. L. (1992). Our Hands Are Stained With Blood: The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers.
Dobson, K. (2014). NIV First Century Study Bible: Explore Scripture In Its Jewish and Early Christian Context. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Juster, D. C. (2007). The Irrevocable Calling: Israel’s Role as a Light to the Nations. Clarksville, MD: Lederer Books/Messianic Jewish Publishers.
Moseley, R. (1996). Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. Clarksville, MD: Lederer Books/Messianic Jewish Publishers.
Seif, J. L. (2012). To the Ends of the Earth: How the First Jewish Followers of Yeshua Transformed the Ancient World. Clarksville, MD: Lederer Books/Messianic Jewish Publishers.
Spangler, A., & Tverberg, L. (2009). Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Wilson, M. R. (1989). Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. and Dayton, OH: Center for Judaic-Christian Studies.
From Zola Levitt Ministries – A DVD series titled, “Called Together: Jew and Gentile One in Messiah.” It can be viewed via their TV archives on their website or purchased in DVD format from their online ministry store.
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