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It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you to accomplish what He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.[1]

This is just a timely reminder for you and me that it is not because of our righteousness or our works of righteousness that got us here, to be privileged with the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith, and that He would consider us as part of the elect of the Lord. Indeed, the gift of faith mentioned among the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit,[2] is often thought of as faith that the Holy Spirit gives a person to help them believe more. But we rarely see it as a gift of His faith in us, that is, His trust of us to accomplish the work that He has set us aside to do. Indeed, the true way to look at the gift of faith is to view it as the faith that the Holy Spirit has in you, in electing you in the first place… like the faith He had in Paul when He set him aside with Barnabas when He said to the church, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”[3]

Yet, like Barnabas, you and I can sometimes be led astray because of our desire to fellowship and remain in fellowship with those whom we consider to be our brothers in Christ. Such as when he fell into a sharp argument with Paul over the disciple Mark, which caused the first team of the Holy Spirit’s elect to split up.[4] And later Paul mentioned that the other Jews joined him (Peter) in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.[5] Like the first team, we can break the faith the Holy Spirit has placed in us. When we do, and we can and will, we need to understand that the Holy Spirit did not choose us knowing that we would do more righteously than those He did not choose. But rather, because of the wickedness that is the God forsaking behaviour of those He did not choose, it permits the Holy Spirit to accomplish that which has been denied Him to accomplish. “He will bring glory to Me by taking from what is Mine and making it known to you.”[6]

So, understand that the Holy Spirit is not fragile and easily offended as others would have you think, for He knows what we are and why He chose you, not on account of your righteousness or obedience, but on account of the wickedness, the God forsaking behaviour of the others. It is not that we shine bright, but because the darkness makes us shine bright. That is why we are, as written in Scripture: you shine like stars in the universe.[7] Remember then, the darker the sky, the brighter the star shines. So, it is not the star that makes itself shine any brighter, but the darkness that makes the star shine brighter, which is what is now happening ever more, as the thick darkness spoken of becomes ever thicker and darker. “See, darkness covers the Earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but (remember) the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”[8]

Remember this well in the days to come, for as you continue in your practice of the Lord’s word, you will scale even greater heights and plummet to even greater depths; heights of joy, elation and even elevation, and depths of greater despair and darkness. Success in your practice may even put you in the situation that Paul and Barnabas found themselves in Lystra when the Lycaonians wanted to sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas as if they were gods,[9] when Barnabas and Paul caused the cripple to walk. Success that will cause you to think it was your righteousness that got you to the high place.

The false prophet is one who will be sorely tempted by his success so that when the signs, wonders and miracles in his ministry manifest, he will accept the sacrifices of the people who want to anoint him as god. And in the depths of your despair, when you fail in your practice and feel that you are forsaken by God because of your failure, remember again, you were not chosen because of your righteousness. For, if your walk with the Lord draws you ever closer to Him, and His love for you manifests as His trust for you and even faith in you that you will not fail Him, remember that the closer you draw to Him, the easier it is to sin, for the more you draw closer to Perfection, the more your imperfections will be made startling clear.

And in our pursuit of perfection, we can become like Satan and no longer have in mind the things of God, for Satan was the model of Perfection, but in his perfection, he lacked the most important thing that would have made him a model of God… love. For, although God is Perfect, above all else, God is Love, and the pursuit of perfection without a deepening love is to walk the way of Satan. That is why, in his world, everything looks perfect but lacks love, not your erotic love or phileo friendship love, but the agape love, the sacrificial AND inseparable love. The disciples of Satan will sacrifice each other to advance themselves. The disciples of Jesus sacrifice themselves to advance others, just like their Master.

And so, we come to this statement of Jesus: “Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much,”[10] concerning the sinful woman who anointed His feet, whom Simon the Leper judged, “If this Man were a prophet, He would know who is touching Him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”[11] Simon did not know Jesus although he invited Him into his house, for if he did, he would have known that Jesus already knew who this woman was precisely. So, the Holy Spirit knows what we are precisely, and He knows that though He has set you aside like Barnabas and Paul, you can still be led astray, and worse still, lead others astray, for your very power and ministry at full maturity with signs, wonders and miracles, can make your voice like that of the voice of God. He knows above all else, you are in need of forgiveness from Him and from one another. And so our many sins will be forgiven and have been forgiven, just like that sinful woman, not because we are called by Jesus or elected by the Holy Spirit, or because we do what He says, but rather, because we love much.

Thus, the ability to forgive and to be forgiven, depends on the depth of your love, the depth of your love for God, and the depth of that love is shown by the depth to which you hold to the commands of Jesus, for Jesus said, “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me.”[12] The depth to which you seek to practise and obey the commands of Jesus will show the depth of your love, and the depth to which you are prepared to forgive is the litmus test of that depth.

You may practise raising the dead and multiplying food, controlling the weather, doing everything that Jesus has been doing and even the greater things, but unless you learn to forgive deeply, then the love we have has no depth, then the more we draw closer to God, the less we will find that we are forgiven of.

For Moses spoke to God face to face, and was enabled by God to do signs, wonders and miracles unequalled by any other prophet. He obeyed God in every detail of the instructions given him for the Tabernacle and the ordinances of worship. Indeed, he, as far as obedience is concerned, is matched by no man of God, given the enormity of the task and the multitude of instructions God gave him, which he obeyed to the letter, except for one. You know which one, when he struck the rock twice instead of speaking to the rock as commanded, and for that God spoke to him and Aaron, saying, “Because you did not trust in Me enough to honour Me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”[13]

For the one offence, he missed out on the Promised Land. Did he not love God? Yes he did. Was he not obedient beyond all our standards? Yes he was. Did he not have faith? Yes, and much more. So, what was in him that he would miss out on entering the Promised Land? Deuteronomy 3:18–26 gives the clue, when Moses said, “But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me.”[14] This streak of Adam was in Moses: “The woman You put with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it,”[15] the Adamic habit of casting blame on someone else for your failings. Moses was not excluded from the Promised Land because the Israelites did not go into the land at the first generation. It was because he did not obey God when they needed water the second time and did not do exactly as he was told. Moses carried within him a streak of laying blame, as humble as he was, a streak of unforgiveness of the Adamic trait. It should have been, “Forgive me, for I struck the rock, not Aaron.” Likewise, if we carry within us the Adamic image, the image of Adam and not of God, which is that we seek to cast blame on others, like Moses did, we can still miss out, especially when what you will be called to do will be greater than what Moses did.

The depth of love, that Peter wrote of: Love covers over a multitude of sins,[16] depends on your forgiveness. If the sin is covered by superficial love, a little heat will evaporate that love and the sin is brought to memory again. The depth of your love must grow for the Lord, and to acquire that depth, the practice of the forgiveness of sins is what is needed, not superficially, but with such fervency and determination, it is as if you have erased it from your own memory by your will, for that is what the Lord does.

“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”[17] And this depth of love begins when you can say, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[18] But, in your heart you say this because you know what you are doing, as Jesus said to Pilate, “You would have no power over Me if it were not given to you from above,”[19] knowing that He alone knew what was happening. The Jews outrage at Him and crucifixion of Him was because He was obeying the Father exactly… telling them He is the Son of God, and to shut out Pilate’s intervention of mercy. So likewise, we must come to that place where we say, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” yet in our hearts and even through our lips, we say, “But we did, we knew what we were doing, so then we are guilty of a greater sin.” For Jesus said this verse that is still shrouded in mystery as to who He was really referring to: “Therefore the one who handed Me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”[20]

The world does not know what it is doing, even on the day they fight the Lord Jesus on His return—but we do, so when we sin, we always commit the greater sin than the world. As such, our forgiveness must always be given to others on the basis and attitude that we do commit the greater sin than those who sin against us at all times. When we learn to have this attitude towards each other, then the love for each other can grow deeper, and sacrificial love is not first blood that is poured out on an altar top, but is like Jesus’ blood that is soaked deep into the ground, which is what inseparable love is. The blood of the sacrifice that is spilt on an altar is a shallow sacrifice of love, but blood soaked into the ground, running deeper because it has been penetrated by the vertical beam of the cross, is the deep inseparable love of Christ’s sacrifice that sealed forgiveness, perfect forgiveness, into the nature of God.

So, the question is not whether we sin less as we grow closer to the Lord, for though we desire to not sin, I fear not one of us escapes Paul’s dilemma of Romans 7:7 in his struggle with sin if we are focussed on sinning less only. But rather, we should be focussed more, without ignoring the former, on forgiving more and more deeply. For Paul found and gave us his answer to his struggle against sin when he wrote: Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what the nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.[21] And we know that the Spirit desires to give God His desire, for God desires mercy, not sacrifice.[22] Mercy is made manifest after the fullness of judgement is given and the gravity of the crime revealed, yet the sin is forgiven to start anew. Without forgiveness, even mercy cannot reach the zenith of its existence. As such, the focus should be more on the forgiveness of sins than on the struggle with sin, and the practice of the words of Jesus, which are without sin.

It would have been better if Moses was able to say, “Had I gone into the Promised Land ahead of you to scout out the land for myself to then came back to lead you in, we would not have wasted forty years in the desert, and I would not have missed out on the Promised Land!” But praise be to God, we are not led by Moses but by Jesus who has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us. And He will come back for us as He promised: “In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”[23] Jesus went ahead of us on the ‘road of unforgiveness’ by placing Himself in a position where He could rightly justify not forgiving any of those who insulted Him, hurt Him, harmed him and even killed Him. And when nailed to the road sign of the Way of Unforgiveness, He turned it into the Way of Forgiveness when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” and having said that, He hung on the cross until He perfected the forgiveness of God, once and for all, by His suffering.

That is the place He has prepared for us in the House of God, the place for the forgiveness of sins so that we may live in the Ark of the Covenant for the Forgiveness of Sins, and not in the Ark of Noah or the Ark of the Law that brought judgement without mercy and punishment for disobedience. And when He promised to come back to take us to be with Him where He is, you should be clear now that He was not speaking of His Millennial Reign as such, for He had come back to His disciples already after His resurrection and remained with them the forty days before His ascension. And though they did not meet Him in Galilee as He commanded at first, Jesus went back to them, not where He told them to meet Him, but where they were hiding. And in that locked room, He took them, took us, to where He is saying, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”[24]

Jesus has come back already as He promised the eleven and took them to where He is… the place of Forgiveness, perfected by suffering. And that is the place we must first go to in our hearts before we can join with Him in the clouds above Jerusalem. For when forgiveness is formed perfectly in our hearts through suffering, then nothing, not even death or the Law has power over us, for death is merely a wage of sin and the Law is the source of the power of sin.

Even though the apostle Peter mentioned, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that Name,[25] then I say to you that to suffer as a Christian is to suffer for the Name of the One who made forgiveness perfect by His suffering. So the ‘proof of life’ of a Christian that Christ is indeed in you is not only the power of God, but the forgiveness of God. To forgive as God forgave you, is to love as God loved you.

So, do not shrug away suffering or complain about it, but let it embrace you like a Roman cross, for it leads to the perfection that Christ alone has wrought. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the Author of their salvation perfect through suffering.[26] Amen


 

[1] Deuteronomy 9:5-6

[2] 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

[3] Acts 13:2

[4] Acts 15:36-41

[5] Galatians 2:13

[6] John 16:14

[7] Philippians 2:15

[8] Isaiah 60:2

[9] Acts 14:11-13

[10] Luke 7:47

[11] Luke 7:39

[12] John 14:21

[13] Numbers 20:11-12

[14] Deuteronomy 3:26

[15] Genesis 3:12

[16] 1 Peter 4:8

[17] Isaiah 43:25

[18] Luke 23:34

[19] John 19:11a

[20] John 19:11b

[21] Romans 8:5

[22] Hosea 6:6

[23] John 14:2-4

[24] John 20:21-23

[25] 1 Peter 4:16

[26] Hebrews 2:10

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