Wednesday, August 19

Apostles' Creed Focus

“the forgiveness of sins”


Reflection Verse

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” - 1 Corinthians 10:13


Reflection

Do you ever find your mind replaying old tapes of wrongs done to you? Have you walked into a room, spotted someone who has hurt you in some way, and wanted to walk the other direction and hope the person didn’t see you? Maybe your pain runs deep from fresh wounds, or perhaps your scars leave a daily reminder of discomfort from the past. 

All of us know what it’s like to feel betrayed by someone we trusted. Often it’s a small breach such as being overlooked, having a demeaning comment made about you in front of others, or being neglected in a time of need. Other times we’ve experienced lies, gossip, or harsh words that cut us to the core. Some of us have endured unspeakable pain through abuse, adultery, or abandonment.  

Someone in your life has hurt you, whether he or she meant to or not. When someone says words that can’t be taken back, behaves badly in moments of anger, and hurts us through action or inaction, we can find ourselves reeling from the blows. God knows the pain we cause each other and longs to help us learn to practice forgiveness. Forgiven people forgive others.

He never said it will be easy, but He teaches us through His Word the dangers of unforgiveness. In Hebrews 12:15 we read, “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” Bitterness becomes a poisonous cup that cripples us when we continue to drink from it, paralyzing our relationships, our thought life, and even our faith. The consequences of holding onto the hurt inflicted by others can ruin the way we view God, ourselves, and other relationships. The stakes of forgiveness are high, and when betrayal gets personal in our lives, it certainly isn’t easy.

So what can we do when we want to nurse our pain just a little bit longer or we feel like forgiving that person will excuse the wrong things they’ve done? The good news is that we don’t have to try to conjure up forgiveness in our own strength. Forgiveness is supernatural and requires dependence on a supernatural God who said He will provide a “a way out”! 

Our key verse today (1 Corinthians 10:13) applies to forgiveness as well as any other temptation we might experience. I love this insight from William Barclay related to this verse: “The word that Paul uses is vivid (ekbasis). It means a way out of a mountain pass. The idea is of an army apparently surrounded and then suddenly seeing an escape route to safety.” God promises that in those situations when we feel we are about to give in to temptation (like unforgiveness), He will always provide an escape route. 

I’ve often heard people misquote this verse by saying, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” That is not what this verse says. I don’t know about you, but God constantly gives me more than I can handle - including forgiving difficult people. 

I often feel stretched by much more than I can handle emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally. But when I recognize that my life is more than I can handle, that’s when God shows up in the biggest ways! The sin struggles of the Israelites in the wilderness that Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians 10 remind us of our need to stay dependent on the Lord. We can’t handle it all, but He can. God often gives us more than we can manage, but He never tempts us to sin. In fact, He shows us an escape route so that we do not have to fall into “the sin that so easily entangles” us (Hebrews 12:1 NIV). 

Whether unforgiveness, bitterness, or contempt crouches at our door, God can give us power over it. First Corinthians 10:13 reminds us that we are not alone in our temptations. Others experience them too. And God will faithfully provide a way out for us. We do not have to stay in the defeating cycle of sin!


Prayer

“Lord, thank you not only for forgiving me, but helping me forgive others. You know that person I’m struggling to love unconditionally right now. Help me. I can’t forgive without you. Give me eyes to see the way of escape that you promised to provide when unforgiveness threatens to overtake me. In Jesus name, Amen.” 


Verses for Further Reflection

Isaiah 1:18; John 15:1-5; Ephesians 4:31-32; Colossians 3:13; 1 John 1:9


Family Focus

Unfortunately sin (including unforgiveness) is part of our human experience, even if we don’t want it to be. As long as we are living on this earth we will be tempted to sin. Big bummer, right?

But, there is good news. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that God will always provide a way of escape. He will provide us a way out of the temptation so that we do not have to sin.

It’s important to remember that being tempted is not sin. When we are tempted we can say yes (hold on to the bitterness), give into the temptation and sin, or we can say no and walk away without sinning (forgive the person who wronged us). Read Proverbs 14:12.

See, this is kind of like the way people used to trap raccoons. They would make a box with one small opening in one side. Inside the box, they would put some kind of food that would attract a raccoon. The raccoon comes along and sticks his little paw in the hole and grabs the food, but now, since his paw is in a fist holding the piece of food, it will not fit back through the hole. All he has to do is let go of the food and he will be able to get out of the trap, but he chooses not to and he remains there caught in the trap until the hunter who set the trap comes along and before long, the raccoon then has given his life because he wouldn’t give up that little piece of food.

It is exactly like that with bitterness - and all sin. If we are tempted to hold a grudge/not forgive and we use the escape God gives us then we don’t have a problem, but if we give into the temptation and choose to stay angry, then it will have us in its trap. In the end sin will lead to death. It always does. We have to say no to every bit of temptation that comes our way and we know that we can do that, because “God is faithful, and He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.”