Fellowship with God Stems from Forgiveness
In the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), we learn an extremely valuable lesson about the importance of forgiveness. The earthly father of the Prodigal Son does everything correct. In each instance leading up the time the Prodigal Son left to the time he returned, the father continued to extend full and complete forgiveness to his son.
In spite of this constantly extended forgiveness, the Prodigal Son was determined to do things his way. He believed the lies that said his father was selfish, dictatorial, and even evil. Yet, he was most certainly willing to take his father’s unearned money (inheritance), wasn’t he? He wanted what he considered to be his and more audaciously, he wasn’t even willing to wait until his father had actually died. He wanted it now, right then.
His father did not balk. He gave his son what his son demanded. He gave the son what was to be his inheritance. The son took it and was gone.
There is absolutely no sense in this story that the father took umbrage or held a grudge. In fact, from the reaction of the father seen in Luke 11:20, we learn that the father was desperate to have his son back. When he saw him still on the horizon, the father ran to his son!
As the son tried to express his practiced speech asking for forgiveness, the father would have none of it. He brushed it off with a “nonsense!” and then instructed his servants to prepare for a celebration because his son who had been “dead” was now alive. The son was dead because he had determined that he was going to have nothing more to do with his father. He wasn’t “dead” because the father had said, “Son, if you leave, you’re dead to me.” That didn’t happen.
The father’s forgiveness is here is almost supernatural, isn’t it? In a way, it is that because the father in the story represents our Heavenly Father, who is also ready to quickly and fully forgive.
The way the father in the narrative treats the Prodigal Son is exactly the way God the Father treats us…if we will only come to Him for His forgiveness. In fact, God’s forgiveness is always available to us until our life ends here. If we have not taken Him up on it and received His forgiveness, we die without His forgiveness. What a terrible tragedy!
When the Prodigal Son returned to his father, he was met with unadulterated and total forgiveness. This had a tremendous effect on the son! He returned thinking that if he apologized from the heart, his father might grant him the ability to be seen as a servant! This would at least give him a bed and three meals a day.
What I think the son was not prepared for is the reception he actually received from his father. He took him completely by surprise as it would any of us. Let’s not forget that the Prodigal Son had – for all intents and purposes – closed the door to his father. He wanted his inheritance right then and there and left. This implied that the father had no reason to believe his son would ever return. Yet, the son did return with fear and trembling. He at least understood at that point that his father did not have to forgive him at all. If his father should forgive him at least partly, he might be gracious enough to be taken back as a servant or slave instead of a son.
The father’s reception of his son totally blew him away! He was not expecting it in his wildest dreams! He was not only fully forgiven but the father treated the son as though he had never left!
This forgiveness the father extended to the son certainly impacted him. I believe he was forever changed. I also believe that because he came to realize how much he had been forgiven, he was able to extend forgiveness to others.
Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little, (Luke 7:47; KJV)
What Jesus says above applies to all of us, but we don’t fully comprehend it. Each person who receives God’s forgiveness and gains salvation has been forgiven much. As I contemplate this, I cannot grasp it. I do not fully understand just how much God has forgiven me. If I could, it would make it that much easier for me to “love others” by forgiving them.
Folks, the level of love we extend to others is seen only in how much we are able to forgive them. It’s not “being nice” to people. It is how much we forgive. This is what Jesus is saying in the above passage. We all have our share of grudges and resentments that we harbor toward others, don’t we? We actually think we have the “right” to hold a grudge. After all we think, it’s just a little grudge and if I can show them my disappointment, then maybe that will help them understand that they’ve hurt me. If they understand that they’ve hurt me, then maybe it’ll open the door to them coming to me to ask for forgiveness one day. When that happens, then we can have honest communication.
The father in the Prodigal Son story was always ready and willing to forgive. We must do the same. The more we forgiven wholeheartedly, from the heart, the more we will actually be loving other people!
How do we get to that place? How do we come to forgive people from our heart of hearts as opposed to simply putting on a brave face while attempting to stifle the feelings of a grudge underneath?
I think it can only be done one way and that is by understanding just exactly how much we have been forgiven! We’re all familiar with John 3:16. Who does not know that verse? However, what that verse does not come out say is that we are forgiven! It implies it, but does not specifically use that word.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
The entirety of this one verse stems from God’s love for us, correct? That is clear. Jesus then goes onto tell Nicodemus (whom He is speaking with at that point) that we must but believe or exercise faith in God the Son’s life, death, and resurrection to receive “everlasting life.”
The verse is built on a question that is also implied. The question is “does God love us?” Jesus points out that God loves us so much that God the Son died for us. Faith in Him grants us salvation.
In essence then, what is the noticeable result of God’s love for us? It is seen in the fact that He created a way to forgive us our sins. When we speak of biblical love, it always includes forgiveness. This is the very root of fellowship, whether it is fellowship with others or God Himself.
If we are unable to forgive, then the love of God is not in us (1 John 4). Depending upon how much you are able to fully forgive is how much you love God. The two are fully connected to one another!
As John tells us in 1 John, you cannot say that you love God while hating (harboring unforgiveness) toward others, especially brothers and sisters in the Lord! You cannot say and be glad that God has forgiven you if you are unable to forgive others. This means that you do not understand the extent of God’s forgiveness toward YOU!
While you might have salvation and with that, your legal standing before God was changed from unrighteous to righteous, if you cannot forgive or have a difficult time forgiving, you do not fully understand what it cost God to be able to forgive you. Moreover, you do not understand how evil and terrible your own sin is before God!
The Bible teaches that people who are able to love much are those who have come to understand how much God has forgiven them. The two go hand-in-hand. To grow in Christ means to understand the depths of our own sin coupled with the fact that God’s great love allows Him to extend forgiveness for all of our sin. His love is that big. It is enough!
As I walk through this life, it is my obligation to ensure that when I sin, I confess it as soon as I realize it. Knowing that He forgives me immediately should cause me to extend full forgiveness to others who also sin against me. It is how I love them because that is how God loves me!
This type of love needs no additional “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” There is no need to speak in other tongues. This type of love comes only to those who would seek to understand just how much trouble their own sin has caused God. This love comes only to people who are interested in learning just how much they sinned and how much forgiveness God has extended.
It is a tendency among Christians today to think we have “made it.” It is also a tendency among Christians to take lightly their sin. Moreover, it is a tendency among Christians to not even be concerned with how much they’ve been forgiven!
Yet, this is not the biblical example we see! Whether it’s Daniel, Ezekiel, the apostle John, Peter, or someone else, the reaction to God’s holiness is always – always – measured by the person’s own lack of holiness! This causes men to proclaim, “Lord, depart from me for I am a man of unclean lips!”
We cannot appreciate God’s forgiveness and love until we grasp just how much forgiveness He has extended to us. It is only in realizing that we will ever be in a position of truly beginning to love people as God loves us!
I know of no other way.
Entry filed under: christianity, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: colossians 3:13, forgive as god forgives us, forgiveness, luke 15 the prodigal son, luke 7:47.