Jon Moffitt: Welcome to the members’ podcast. We always have like this transition period between when we end the regular podcast and the new, and I’ll admit that I may have got a little excited about what we’re going to talk about. Justin was laughing at my animation.
Before we jump into this conversation, as always, we want to thank you. We are gaining more and more team members. More of you are coming on to our support team and you are getting behind what we’re doing. One of the things that I want to start doing in the members’ podcast is to start sharing with you some of the joys we receive as hosts from reading messages from people around the world who are letting us know how the ministry is impacting them. That is because of you. We would not be able to afford to do everything that we do and provide all that we provide if it wasn’t for your ongoing support. So please know we don’t say that lightly. We are thankful for your support and we are excited about some of the resources coming your way.
Picking up from where we left off, what I don’t want you to hear is once you forgive once, you’ll never need to forgive again; you’ll be over it, it will be a burden that rolls off your back, and you’ll never pick up the bitterness burden again. Even in my marriage, when I’ve offered my wife forgiveness and say I’ll never mention that again, I still end up doing so.
Justin Perdue: Or it immediately comes back into your mind and you realize, “But I want to mention that again. I’m not over it. This is still sticking in my craw.”
Jon Moffitt: So how do we help someone to warn them that if you’re going to offer forgiveness, it is not a one-time offering?
Justin Perdue: It’s just like the rest of the Christian life. When we talk about repentance, repentance is not something you do just one time. Repentance is an ongoing thing in the life of the Christian. Because we’re always sinning, we’re constantly repenting and turning to Christ in faith to receive forgiveness, absolution, mercy, and grace.
For people that are tracking along with us and maybe are attending or are members of churches similar to ours, where there are the word and sacrament realities happening every Sunday – in particular, the sacrament of the Lord’s Table – what is that? That is an ongoing sacrament and ongoing ordinance that God has given us where we come, not as people who are perfect, but as people who are weak and feeble who have blown it. We come each week to receive the merit, the righteousness, the satisfaction, and the absolution of Christ by faith in the bread and the wine.
Forgiveness is like repentance in that it’s something that we’re going to be doing all the time. Like you even said, to really narrow the focus here, we’re going to be forgiving people all the time because different people are going to be sinning against you in different ways. You’re going to be constantly picking up this forgiveness thing even over the same issue with the same person – like we were just illustrating in marriage. You forgive your spouse for this thing they said or did, but then it continues to rear its head because maybe it’s a repeating pattern in your relationship, or maybe because it just sticks in your brain and you can’t forget it so easily. It keeps coming up and you remember how it made you mad or how it offended you.
What do you do every time it pops up in your mind and heart? You have to deal with it and say you have forgiven the person. You have communicated that forgiveness and there really is absolution of guilt there. I’m going to extend that even anew in my own mind and heart toward my sister, toward my brother, toward my spouse, or whoever. It’s an ongoing thing, for sure.
Jon Moffitt: Paul says we walk by the Spirit and we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. We think of lust as typically sexual or greed – things like that. But the lust of the flesh can be unforgiveness, too. Unforgiveness is a self-righteousness position where you are saying that you are not in a position to forgive someone. That’s self-righteousness. It is a desire of the flesh to assume you are better and to assume you have a position that is higher than them.
Unfortunately, a lot of Christianity breeds this in us because we assume ourselves to be a good Christian since we have discipline or moral improvement, or whatever we have done to think we are more spiritual. We can hold this over especially if we think the person that has violated us is not a spiritual person. It’s always easy to look down on them.
When Paul says walk by the Spirit, sometimes we translate that to mean Bible reading and prayer somehow. I’m not sure where that came from. I know there are some popular teachers that have taught that. In context, that is not what Paul means – what he is saying is it’s an identity issue. He is saying you walk within the identity of understanding that the Spirit dwells within you. How did the Spirit come to dwell within you? Did you force Him in there? Did you manipulate Him in there? Did you earn Him into yourself? That’s ridiculous. You walk by the reality of grace, mercy, and forgiveness because that’s the only way in which the Spirit has come and made you alive. That’s the only way in which He comes and empowers you – it is by the mercy and grace of God that were gifted to you. Every single day you walk in mercy and you walk in grace. This is why it says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We walk in the reality that if it were not for the grace of God and the mercy of God, I would be condemned and damned forever. I would follow the way of sinner but for the grace of God, there go I. The gospel humbles us because of the gifts we have received.
If you are living in a moral improvement community, if you’re living in a “do these things and make yourself better” community, you’re always going to feel self-righteous.
Justin Perdue: You quoted Galatians 5:16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Then Paul has a lot of other good things to say, but for the sake of time I’m going to skip down to verse 25 where he says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ, ” etc.
Walking in the Spirit in that context, amongst some other things that we could say, is, “Don’t be conceited, be humble; don’t provoke each other, and be kind.” It’s very instructive for us. To your point, you don’t hear walking in the Spirit presented that way, but it has everything to do with our posture toward our brothers and sisters, and how we live together.
Along those lines, if I may, this is a public service announcement for all of us; this is not meant to be a slam or an indictment on any one person in particular. Jon and I would count ourselves among the number that I’m speaking to here. Unfortunately, maybe I have a gift of punchiness or sarcasm, and I try to restrain that often, but I’m going to let it go a little bit here. If you are the kind of person who withholds forgiveness from others and demand grace, compassion, and charity for yourself but you are unwilling to give it to other people, you are perhaps the worst kind of human being to live with. That’s true in a marriage. That’s true in the church. If you withhold forgiveness and you do not extend grace and compassion and charity to others yet demand those things for yourself, you are impossible to live with. You will exhaust people.
All of us would do well to consider and contemplate some of the things that we’ve been talking about today: most pointedly, the mercy of God in Jesus. We keep talking about this. How merciful has Christ been to us? Let that soak in and sink in and motivate us to be gracious and charitable to others people. It is a great tragedy that those who claim Christ so often beat each other to death and are so slow to forgive and give grace. It ought not be that way. It’s not that we earn salvation by being really forgiving – that is not at all what we’re saying – but because we have been forgiven and redeemed, and as we contemplate the mercy and forgiveness of God, let us forgive one another and be gracious. It ought to affect our tone, posture, and demeanor toward other people. That’s in our local churches, in our marriages, in our homes, and even on social media. It’s on all kinds of things.
Jon Moffitt: The Law-gospel distinction that is provided for us in Scripture, when appropriately understood, is the understanding that no one has ever kept the Law. It just doesn’t exist. We relativize it and think you are not as bad as other people. God didn’t forgive you because you’re not as bad as other people; God forgave you because you are condemned. It’s not like there’s guilty and somewhat guilty. There are no levels of guilt. Like you have the person who actually shot the guy and then you have the getaway driver who is not as guilty as the person who shot them. God says, “You’re all guilty. Period.” The violation is equal; you’re all the same. When we relativize the Law, we can quickly judge people.
One of the things that has annoyed me recently is people walk up to me and say, “Have you heard that Benny Hinn or Todd White has repented? Or Kanye West?” The meme is always, “Well, we’ll see.” I am so glad that when I was feeling guilty for my sins and I walked up to God and I said, “Father, please forgive me,” I’m so glad His response to me wasn’t, “Well, we’ll see.”
If a man goes on and says that he is seeking forgiveness and repentance, thankfully his forgiveness and repentance doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be accepted as a child, because if it is then poor, dear Peter is in trouble, David is in trouble, the apostle Paul is in trouble – and those are men we look to all the time and have great respect for. We would all be in trouble. I’m not a name-it-claim-it, I’m not saying just say the sinner’s prayer and you’re all good to go, but I think we need to be a little bit more careful, gracious, and merciful for people who are traveling towards the gospel and understanding grace. We need to be not quick to judge in those moments and offer forgiveness if they’re seeking it.
Justin Perdue: That’s a word against judgmentalism. It’s a word against self-righteousness. You are commending the extension of forgiveness, which is all biblical. We’re not saying throw discernment out the window. We’re not saying don’t evaluate anything. That’s not what we’re saying at all. I’m going back to Jesus in Luke 17: if your brother repents, forgive him – no qualifications.
I’ve mentioned this before on Theocast and I’ll say it again right now: that burns me up as much as about anything in the church. We’re dealing with church members here where somebody has committed a sin – and I don’t care how heinous it is. They’ve committed a sin and now they’re repenting – meaning they are acknowledging that it’s wrong and they are saying, “I’m sorry. I did it. I want to be restored. Please forgive me.” Then the response of so many in the Calvingelical world is, “Time will tell if you’re sincere in your repentance, and we need to evaluate the legitimacy of your repentance for a minute.” Some churches go so far as to put people on probation. That is its own kind of absurdity. There are all kinds of informal probationary periods that we put people under so that we can evaluate the sincerity and the genuineness of their repentance.
Again, I’m not saying throw discernment out the window. But if a brother or sister says, “It was wrong. It was sin. I’m sorry. Forgive me,” I think we are called to take them at their word and to restore them. To me, it’s not that complicated in that regard because we’re not God. We don’t know the hearts of men and women.
Jon Moffitt: In some of these circumstances where people come out and they’re seeking forgiveness, the Christian community, with their arms crossed and offering their criticism and judgments, ends up hurting that person’s repentance. We need to continue to administer the gospel, encourage them, and clarify.
In my church, I have had people who did not grow up in Christianity and they say all the wrong and heretical things because they have no idea. So what do I say? “Oh, wait a minute. I’m going to remove your assurance. I’m going to remove your position because you have just said something heretical.” The thing with Christianity is it’s not like you all of a sudden know everything. Some people just know the absolute basics. “I am a wretch. He’s a Savior. He saved me and I’m going to accept that.” That’s all they know.
Justin Perdue: I was blind and now I see. I was lost and now I’m found. Christ had saved me. Praise God.
Jon Moffitt: John 9, right? The man born blind. He’s says something like, “I don’t know. This guy saved me. He healed me and I believe in that. Whatever else I know, I don’t know.”
Again, I agree with Justin. We’re not throwing the sermon out the window, but I’m tired of discernment ministries that… I’m thankful that they’re pointing out the error, but at the same time, you need to show grace for the grace you’ve received. There needs to be a healthy balance there. In my opinion, most discernment ministries are critical and judgmental and they aren’t leading people towards grace. They’re just saying, “Wrong, wrong, wrong. At least we got it right.”
Justin Perdue: This is a kind of broad observation about some of the things that we’re pointing out. The hesitancy of Christians and churches in general to extend forgiveness or to welcome people in who are making professions of faith – it ought not be that way. We ought to have a posture as a church like, “Oh, you’re confessing your sin and you’re professing faith in Christ. Praise be to God. Welcome! Come in, lock arms with us, and let’s walk together.” That ought to be our posture. Sadly, I think we often have this posture of really petty kids or teenagers who are up in the little clubhouse on a tree. They’ve gotten up there, and it’s like their little club, so now they pull the ladder up as quickly as they can so that nobody else can get in. It shouldn’t be that way. We’re like our own little clique or our own little club. We are comfortable this way and we don’t want that person over there – who clearly doesn’t understand everything that we do – claiming that they’re like us. How absurd is that posture? It’s very far from the posture of our Lord inviting those who are weary and burdened to come and find rest in Him.
Jon Moffitt: To that point, Justin, the goal is not to be right. Because if that’s the goal, you do not have to show love.
Justin Perdue: And we care about doctrine.
Jon Moffitt: Exactly. Because right doctrine leads to rest.
I say this all the time. People are saying, “Preaching the truth. We need to be about the truth.” Time out. There’s a reason why it says, “in love.” The goal is to lead people to the grace of God to find rest. “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus is battling for truth; he is at war for truth but he does it with kindness and love.
We absolutely need to stand for truth, right doctrine, and we should work for clarity, but it should always come from a place of mercy and kindness. The one time Paul does get pretty angry and says some pretty gnarly things about these guys is because they were false teachers.
Justin Perdue: Someone who has compromised or denied the gospel.
Jon Moffitt: That’s right. I’m all for calling those people out, but we need to be careful that we don’t do it in a self-righteous manner, that we are protecting the gospel and protecting sheep. But even that, our posture should be of one that, “I’m not the apostle Paul, I’m not inspired.” I think you have to be careful on how angry and how judgmental you’re going to get there. Protect the sheep, rebuke and remove them if you need to, but you need to do it in a spirit that is not judgmental or in defense. Which, to be fair, is difficult to do at times.
Justin Perdue: I’m going to circle back to where we started with the members’ podcast, which is the fact that forgiveness is an ongoing thing. God once and for all time has forgiven His people through the sacrifice of Christ. That’s clear. Yet think about many of the epistles in the New Testament where the greetings from the apostles are, “Grace and peace to you from God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Martin Luther said that we need grace because we’re sinners and we need peace because we have troubled consciences. Even though we have been forgiven, we have been counted righteous, we’ve been reconciled to God, and we have peace with Him, we need to be reminded again and again of that reality. In the same way, we need to understand that again and again, we are going to be extending forgiveness to people. It’s not just a one and done. Maybe you might have to remind that person whom you have forgiven at multiple points that you have forgiven him or her, because they’re going to have guilt in their conscience not just over the sin committed against God, but potentially the sins they committed against you. You need to be prepared to love your brother or sister and relieve that burden by reminding them that you’ve forgiven them potentially. So we ought not be bitter, resentful, or exasperated, because we’re called to forgive over and over again.
Jon Moffitt: The church historically has corporately confessed sin because when we confess, we all realize we’re in equal need of grace and forgiveness.
We will close our podcast this morning saying to sinners who are desperately begging God for forgiveness to extend the same forgiveness to you. The only way to survive a broken, filthy, disastrous world is to look to Christ, receive forgiveness, and then extend that same forgiveness without requirement.
Thank you for listening. Please let us know how we’ve encouraged you or how we can encourage you. If you have a topic idea, go over to theocast.org and leave us a request there. We’ll do our best to answer it. We’ll see you next week.