"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col 3:1-4).
Last week, we talked about the process of waiting on God, which can be likened to a process of dying to ourselves, which is ultimately the goal. Jesus told us that we ought to deny ourselves, and then to take up our Cross (Matt 16:24). Paul talked about 'dying daily', and declared that "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20).
For you to be risen with Christ, as the quote above says, then you must first have suffered death... The death isn't the trials you've gone through because of your sinful nature. The death is the forsaking of your sinful nature, so that you are no more ruled by it, but can fully live for Christ. Paul taught us to:
"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Rom 6:11-14).
It's funny how many people still live UNDER the dominion of sin, and say it is because they are not under the law but under grace... This is a perversion of Grace and Truth. Here, Paul is telling us the exact opposite. That because we are under grace, sin should no longer have power over us! That is mighty! To fully overcome sin, we need to be fully immersed in grace, and that is being humble and reliant on God.
We cannot receive this wisdom and empowerment without waiting on God, learning from Him and growing in intimacy with Him, which was our focus last week (and shall continue to be). We will continue to do what comes naturally, and what seems like 'wisdom', but is not. But as we abide with and in Christ, we will be pruned of these old ways and traits. We will become like God, through intimacy with Him, and we will begin to exhibit His traits, and show forth the fruits of His Spirit.
We will grow in graciousness. We will be merciful and long-suffering with others. We will be truthful and courageous. We will be compassionate and generous with those less fortunate, as God was and is to us.
We won't do all the right things because they are the right things, but because God's Spirit in us is ALIVE and accomplishing His will through us. If we do not do these things for which we were REDEEMED and ORDAINED, then it can only mean God is not in us...(Eph 2:10). For as John said, "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love" (1 John 4:8). We may not yet be perfected in love, but there should be evident continual maturity in love, witnessed by all who know us.
One of the early and basic traits people ought to witness in us is our readiness, willingness and ability to forgive! Because you are standing on and BY the grace of God yourself, you can't but offer the same grace to others... Denying another forgiveness would be like stripping the ground from below your feet. That is why Jesus promises that if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven ourselves (Matt 6:15)! It is so very basic.
When we refuse to forgive, we have reverted back to being deceived by pride, which is the belief that "we are good enough" and do not need mercy ourselves. And so, we exempt ourselves from being recipients of God's grace. Only when we abide in the knowledge that we NEED God's grace to be good, can we be gracious to others, knowing how much they need His grace too.
Therefore, an unwillingness or inability to forgive another, whatever the offense, is a proclamation that you are NOT in need of grace yourself, as you are GOOD ENOUGH to stand before God on your own merit. And that is what you will have to do. His grace won't cover you anymore, even if it did before, because by denying another grace, you have denied yourself! So, if you want to enjoy the grace of God, you have got to GIVE the grace of God to others...
If you want to enjoy the grace of God, you have got to GIVE the grace of God to others...
Forgiveness is also an act of denying oneself. In fact, a forgiving spirit is evidence of someone who is dead to self. They have FORSAKEN their right to be offended, because it is no longer they who live, but Christ who lives in them. If we are truly living for Christ, then our desire for them will be the same as Christ's, which is ultimately that they will be saved and redeemed as we are, not only forgiven (1 Tim 2:4). So, more than forgiving them, we will pray for them and do good to them. We will be gracious towards them...
So while forgiveness is denying or dying to self, graciousness is living for Christ. Some people forgive simply by letting go of the offence, because it helps them to let go of the pain. But living for Christ calls us to go the extra mile of being gracious and long-suffering, and thinking of the salvation of those who offend us, and seeking their good...their redemption through our loving witness. That is the CROSS part! That is where we pick up our Cross and follow Jesus, allowing ourselves to even be humiliated by those who sin/ned against us.
And it is by God's grace that we can live such surrendered lives, where fighting sin in ourselves is no longer the issue or challenge, but WALKING in the will of God is all our desire and concern. Because it is not about us...it is about HIM.
"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled..." (Heb 12:15).
In the next parts, we will be looking more at these fruit of the Spirit that those who are grafted in Christ will bear.