One area in our lives that God wants to restore and abound or multiply is our Finances.
When you think about money when you hear the word prosperity you are not incorrect but incomplete.
- But first we must renew our thinking that financial prosperity is included in the total life prosperity that Jesus paid for us at the cross of Calvary.
Luke 4:18; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Psalm 5:12; Luke 1:26-35.
- In CHRIST we are already rich!
- What we need is not money, but FAVOR and in Christ we are highly favored, if you believed it, MONEY will follow us or come to us!
Favor will put you in the right place at the right time and it will connect you to right people. It has nothing to do with how poor your family is, your educational background etc…Favor will open doors and opportunity for you. Praise God!!!
- Second we must renew our thinking that money is not evil.
a. 1 Timothy 6:10; Proverbs 1:32
- Third, we must renew our thinking that stewardship over money is also important.
- Matthew 25:21
We need to be faithful in worldly riches or true riches will not be entrusted to us.
Money is a good servant but a bad master. We should master money so it will not master us.
Proverbs 23:5 – Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.
-Do you know that 60% of NBA basketball players after 5 years of retirement by survey go bankrupt? Scottie Pippen is an example. 80% of NFL football players after 2 years of retirement goes bankrupt.
-Boxer Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson became bankrupt and messed up their lives.
– Michael Jackson – who bought a $20 million Neverland Ranch, He spent 25 Million for renovation. But died in a rented apartment, with a $500 million debt.
a) 10-10-10-70 principle: 10% – tithe; 10% – offering/pledges; 10% – savings or investment; 70% – expenses and enjoyment
b) Don’t spend more than you earn.
c) If you don’t have discipline don’t use credit cards.
d) Pay your debts on time.
3 Important things:
- Fourth, we must renew our thinking that we cannot serve God and money at the same time.
Money is important but it is not the answer to everything!
a. Matthew 6:24
We should always elevate JESUS over money.
a. Deut. 8:18; I Timothy 6:17-18; Hebrews 12:2
We shouldn’t be mastered by money, we are supposed to be mastered by Jesus for us to be mastered over money.
- Fifth we are supposed to renew our thinking that our Father God wants us to have a lot of MONEY.
- Matthew 6:33; Romans 8:31-32; I Timothy 6:17-18
God is not against us having money or material things, He is against money and things having us.
God does not want to get money from you, He wants to get money to you!
Who Am I In Christ?
All bible verses (quotes) quoted in NIV
I am accepted…
- John 1:12 I am God’s child.
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
- John 15:15 As a disciple, I am a friend of Jesus Christ.
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
- Romans 5:1 I have been justified.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
- 1 Corinthians 6:17 I am united with the Lord, and I am one with Him in spirit.
But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 I have been bought with a price and I belong to God.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
- 1 Corinthians 12:27 I am a member of Christ’s body.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
- Ephesians 1:3-8 I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
- Colossians 1:13-14 I have been redeemed and forgive of all my sins.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
- Colossians 2:9-10 I am complete in Christ.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
- Hebrews 4:14-16 I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
I am secure...
- Romans 8:1 I am free from condemnation.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
- Romans 8:28 I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
- Romans 8:31-39 I am free from any condemnation brought against me and I cannot be separated from the love of God.
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died more than that, who was raised to life is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:”For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughter”No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 I have been established, anointed and sealed by God.
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
- Colossians 3:1-4 I am hidden with Christ in God.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
- Philippians 1:6 I am confident that God will complete the good work He started in me.
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
- Philippians 3:20 I am a citizen of heaven.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
- 2 Timothy 1:7 I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
- 1 John 5:18 I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me.
We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.
I am significant…
- John 15:5 I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the true vine, and a channel of His life.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
- John 15:16 I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
- 1 Corinthians 3:16 I am God’s temple.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
- 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 I am a minister of reconciliation for God.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
- Ephesians 2:6 I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
- Ephesians 2:10 I am God’s workmanship.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
- Ephesians 3:12 I may approach God with freedom and confidence.
In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
- Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Who Am I in Christ?
- I am a child of God; God is spiritually my Father.
because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
- I am a new creation in Christ; old things have passed away and all things have become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
- I am in Christ.
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- I am an heir with the Father and a joint heir with Christ.
Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, ” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
- I am reconciled to God and am an ambassador of reconciliation for Him.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
- I am a saint.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
1 Corinthians 1:2
to the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ their Lord and ours:
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
- I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ for good works.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
- I am a citizen of heaven.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ
- I am a member of Christ’s body.
1 Corinthians 12:27
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
- I am united to the Lord and am one spirit with Him.
1 Corinthians 6:17
But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
- I am the temple of the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 3:16
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.
- I am a friend of Christ.
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
- I am a slave of righteousness.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God
- I am the righteousness of God in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
- I am enslaved to God.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
- I am chosen and ordained by Christ to bear fruit.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
- I am a prisoner of Christ.
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
- I am righteous and holy.
and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
- I am hidden with Christ in God.
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
- I am the salt of the earth.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness,how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything,except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”
- I am the light of the world.
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”
- I am part of the true vine.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
- I am filled with the divine nature of Christ and escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.
2 Peter 1:4
Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
- I am an expression of the life of Christ.
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
- I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience
1 Thessalonians 1:4
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you
- I am a child of light.
1 Thessalonians 5:5
You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
- I am a partaker of a heavenly calling.
Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.
- I am more than a conqueror though Christ.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
- I am a partaker with Christ and share in His life.
We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first
- I am one of God’s living stones, being built up in Christ as a spiritual house.
1 Peter 2:5
you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
- I am a chosen generation, a royal priest hood, a holy nation.
1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen people, a royal priest hood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
- I am the devil’s enemy.
1 Peter 5:8
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
- I am born again by the Spirit of God.
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
- I am an alien and a stranger to this world.
1 Peter 2:11
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
- I am a child of God who always triumphs in Christ and releases His fragrance in every place.
2 Corinthians 2:14
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.
- I am seated in heavenly places in Christ.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus
- I am saved by grace.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God
- I am a recipient of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places
Ephesians 1-6 (The Whole book!)
- I am redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
- I am part of the Bride of Christ and am making myself ready of Him.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
- I am a true worshiper who worships the Father in spirit and in truth.
God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.
IMPORTANCE OF STAYING/ PLANTED IN A LOCAL CHURCH
The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree – That is, the beauty, the erectness, the stateliness, the growth of the palm-tree – all this is an emblem of the condition, the prosperity the happiness of a righteous man. The wicked shall be cut down; but the righteous shall flourish. This image – the comparison of a righteous
The song now contrasts the condition of the righteous with that of the graceless. The wicked “spring as the grass,” but “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree,” whose growth may not be so rapid, but whose endurance for centuries is in fine contrast with the transitory verdure of the meadow. When we see a noble palm standing erect, sending all its strength upward in one bold column, and growing amid the dearth and drought of the desert, we have a fine picture of the godly man, who in his uprightness aims alone at the glory of God; and, independent of outward circumstances, is made by divine grace to live and thrive where all things else perish. The text tells us not only what the righteous is, but what he shall be; come what may, the good man shall flourish, and flourish after the noblest manner. “He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” This is another noble and long-lived tree. “As the days of a tree are the days of my people,” saith the Lord. On the summit of the mountain, unsheltered from the blast, the cedar waves its mighty branches in perpetual verdure, and so the truly godly man under all adversities retains the joy of his soul, and continues to make progress in the divine life. Grass, which makes hay for oxen, is a good enough emblem of the unregenerate; but cedars, which build the temple of the Lord, are none too excellent to set forth the heirs of heaven.
“Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.” In the court-yards of Oriental houses trees were planted, and being thoroughly screened, they would be likely to bring forth their fruit to perfection in trying seasons; even so, those who by grace are brought into communion with the Lord, shall be likened to trees planted in the Lord’s house, and shall find it good to their souls. No heart has so much joy as that which abides in the Lord Jesus. Fellowship with the stem begets fertility in the branches. If a man abides in Christ he brings forth much fruit. Those professors who are rooted to the world do not flourish; those who send forth their roots into the marshes of frivolous pleasure cannot be in a vigorous condition; but those who dwell in habitual fellowship with God shall become men of full growth, rich in grace, happy in experience, mighty in influence, honored and honorable. Much depends upon the soil in which a tree is planted; everything, in our case, depends upon our abiding in the Lord Jesus, and deriving all our supplies from him. If we ever really grow in the courts of the Lord’s house we must be planted there, for no tree grows in God’s garden self-sown; once planted of the Lord, we shall never be rooted up, but in his courts we shall take root downward, and bring forth fruit upward to his glory forever.
“They shall still bring forth fruit in old age.” Nature decays but grace thrives. Fruit, as far as nature is concerned, belongs to days of vigor; but in the garden of grace, when plants are weak in themselves, they become strong in the Lord, and abound in fruit acceptable with God. Happy they who can sing this Sabbath Psalm, enjoying the rest which breathes through every verse of it; no fear as to the future can distress them, for their evil days, when the strong man faileth, are the subject of a gracious promise, and therefore they await them with quiet expectancy. Aged believers possess a ripe experience, and by their mellow tempers and sweet testimonies they feed many. Even if bedridden, they bear the fruit of patience; if poor and obscure, their lowly and contented spirit becomes the admiration of those who know how to appreciate modest worth. Grace does not leave the saint when the keepers of the house do tremble; the promise is still sure though the eyes can no longer read it; the bread of heaven is fed upon when the grinders fail; and the voice of the Spirit in the soul is still melodious when the daughters of music are brought low. Blessed be the Lord for this! Because even to hoar hairs he is the I AM, who made his people, he therefore bears and carries them.
“They shall be fat and flourishing.” They do not drag out a wretched, starveling existence, but are like trees full of sap, which bear luxuriant foliage. God does not pinch his poor servants, and diminish their consolations when their infirmities grow upon them; rather does he see to it that they shall renew their strength, for their mouths shall be satisfied with his own good things. Such a one as Paul the aged would not ask our pity, but invite our sympathetic gratitude; however feeble his outward man may be, his inner man is so renewed day by day that we may well envy his perennial peace.
This mercy to the aged proves the faithfulness of their God, and leads them “to shew that the Lord is upright” by their cheerful testimony to his ceaseless goodness. We do not serve a Master who will run back from his promise. Whoever else may defraud us, he never will. Every aged Christian is a letter of commendation to the immutable fidelity of Jehovah. “He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” Here is the Psalmist’s own seal and sign manual: still was he building upon his God, and still was the Lord a firm foundation for his trust. For shelter, for defense, for indwelling, for foundation, God is our rock; hitherto he has been to us all that he said he would be, and we may be doubly sure that he will abide the same even unto the end. He has tricot us, but he has never allowed us to be tempted above what we are able to bear: he has delayed our reward, but he has never been unrighteous to forget our work of faith and labor of love. He is a friend without fault, a helper without fail. Whatever he may do with us, he is always in the right; his dispensations have no flaw in them, no, not the most minute. He is true and righteous altogether, and so we weave the end of the Psalm with its beginning, and make a coronet of it, for the head of our Beloved. “It is a good thing to sing praises unto the Lord,” for “he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
“The Characteristics of One Who Forgives”
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For our study this morning I draw your attention back to the wonderful little book of Philemon. Turn in your Bible, if you will, to Philemon. It is sandwiched neatly in between Titus and Hebrews, the book of Philemon.
This morning our text from Philemon is taken from verses 4 through 7. We are in a four-part series entitled “A lesson in forgiveness.” And this morning is part two. Let me read you verses 4 through 7 as the setting for our message.
“I thank my God always making mention of you in my prayers because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints; and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake; for I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.”
We live obviously in a society that knows little about forgiveness. We live in a society that cares little about forgiveness. In fact I would think that one of the major contributors if not THE major contributor to the destruction of relationships in our culture is the absence of forgiveness. Our culture pushes us to be unforgiving. It celebrates and exalts people who are not willing to forgive. We make heroes out of the Dirty Harrys and the Rambos who murder people out of vengeance.
As a result of the sinfulness, the wickedness and the lack of any kind of Christian social restraint in our culture, we have a society filled with bitterness, filled with vengeance, filled with anger, filled with hate, filled with hostility toward others. This can be seen in the retaliatory kind of crimes that become so commonplace in our day. It can be seen in the suits, law suits against everyone for everything conceivable and inconceivable. In fact, it is frightening to think about the fact there are more people in law schools today than in all other professional graduate schools combined. We are going to proliferate an almost endless number of attorneys to take care of an endless number of law suits as people retaliate back and forth for every minuscule and major issue of life that has been foisted upon them.
Even counselors today are telling us it’s not healthy to forgive. That’s a new one. There is a new popular book written by Susan Forward(?) and it is titled Toxic Parents. The thesis of the book is really the prevailing attitude of our present day culture and that is it has a negative attitude toward forgiveness. There’s one chapter in the book entitled “You don’t have to forgive.” In other words, you are a victim of some toxic parents who poisoned you and until you put them blame on them where it belongs, you’re not going to be a healthy person. We live in a retaliating vengeful hostile angry culture that wants to make everybody else the perpetrator of a crime against us and us frankly responsible for nothing except vengeance. Certainly ours is the most hostile, the most angry, the most unforgiving, the most vengeful culture that I have ever experienced in my brief life time.
Now for a Christian, a failure to forgive is unthinkable. I don’t care what the issue is, I don’t care what the offense is, a failure to forgive is a blatant open act of disobedience. We have been told as explicitly as we could possibly be told that if anybody offends us we are to forgive them. How many times? Seventy times seven, or that is an endless number of times. And that the reason we are to forgive is because our Father in heaven has forgiven us and will continue to forgive us as we are faithful to forgive others.
To look at this issue from the negative side for a moment. If we buy into this culture, a culture that says you don’t have to forgive, you have a right to your pound of flesh, you can sue anybody and everybody for anything and everything, you ought to blame somebody else for your responsibility and make sure they pay painfully for what they’ve done to you, if we buy into that mentality here’s what it will produce. I’ll give you just four things that will happen in a life of a Christian. Number one, it will imprison you in your past. A failure to forgive will imprison you in your past. As long as you fail to forgive an offender, an offense committed against you, you are shackled to the past. Unforgiveness keeps that pain alive. Unforgiveness keeps that sore open. Unforgiveness never lets that wound heal. And you go through life reminding yourself of what was done to you and so you feed that open wound, you feed that open sore, you stir up that pain and you accumatively build up the larger and larger degree of anger. You go through life accumulating bad feelings.
Now think about it. What’s the point of that? What virtue does that give or render? Unforgiveness just imprisons you in the past and for all the time that you go back to the past and regurgitate that unforgiving attitude you will accumulate in your life the tragedy of anger and hostility escalated, built on, accumulated, piled up which will rob you of the joy of living. You will go through life feeling just as bad as you do now or worse with no relief in sight. On the other hand, forgiveness opens the door and lets the prisoner out. Forgiveness sets you free from your past. As soon as you forgive it, it’s gone, you’re free. If you insist on remembering the offense and never forgiving it, then you allow the person to go on offending you the rest of your life and it’s your fault, not theirs.
Secondly, unforgiveness not only makes you a prisoner to your own past but unforgiveness produces bitterness. It produces bitterness. The accumalative effect of remembering without forgiveness some offense done against you no matter how brief the time or long the time is that you become a bitter person. The longer you remember the offense the more data you accumulate on it, the more recited memory you have for it the more it occupies your thinking. And the more it occupies your thinking the more it basically shapes your person. Bitterness is not just a sin, it is an infection. And it will infect your whole life. And bitterness can be directly traced to the failure to forgive. It makes you become caustic, it makes you become sarcastic. It makes you condemning. It gives you a nasty disposition, harassed by the memories of what you can’t forgive, your thoughts become malignant toward others, you get a distorted view of life and you have literally diseased your whole existence. Anger begins to rage in you and it can easily get out of control. Your emotions begin to run wild. Your mind becomes the victim of that. You entertain continuing thoughts of revenge. And what happens? Even casual conversation becomes a forum for slander, a forum for gossip, a forum for innuendo against the offender and your flesh, that horrible remnant of your old self, has gained control.
I suppose this happens most notably and most frequently in marriages. Two Christians married to one another should never be divorced. They should never be separated and they should enjoy a happy relationship. That’s by God’s design. Now when I got married I married a sinner. What is even more unthinkable is so did my wife. And the fact of the matter is that it is an utter impossibility for us not to offend each other. It doesn’t just happen now and then through the year, it happens quite regularly. But where forgiveness operates an offense is one moment in time come and gone. Where there is no forgiveness for that there is the accumulated bitterness that begins to turn you against your own partner, that makes you caustic and sarcastic. You shut off your affection, you shut off your kindness. You look for ways to get back and the bitterness results in the devastation of the relationship. Forgiveness, on the other hand, dispels bitterness and replaces it with love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control. Why would anybody want to live in the prison of their past? Why would anybody want to live with accumulated bitterness that makes them violate every relationship?
There’s a third thing that unforgiveness does. Unforgiveness gives Satan an open door. Unforgiveness throws the welcome mat out and invites the demons in. Where you have unresolved anger, where you have unresolved bitterness, where you have an unforgiving spirit, you have given place to the devil. Ephesians 4:26 and 27 says, “In your anger do not sin, do not let the sun go down while you’re still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.” The point is if you go to bed at night and you haven’t fully forgiven so that your anger is gone, you will give Satan a foothold. In 2 Corinthians chapter 2 there is a very direct statement made by the Apostle Paul. In chapter 2 verse 10 he says, “I forgive, I forgive…in verse 11…in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” The devil moves in to an unforgiving heart, to an unforgiving life. It is no exaggeration to say, listen carefully, it is no exaggeration to say that most…most of the ground that Satan gains in our lives is due to unforgiveness. We’re not ignorant of his scheme to move in on an unforgiving attitude and destroy relationships. And frankly, you can evict all the demonic trespassers by an act of forgiveness. Why would anybody want to be in prison to their past? Why would anybody want to have the disease of bitterness to skew and discolor their life? And why would anybody want to throw the door and put out the welcome mat for demons?
Fourthly, unforgiveness hinders your fellowship with God. Unforgiveness hinders your fellowship with God. Jesus said if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. In the ongoing relationship with God if we don’t forgive others He doesn’t forgive us. So if I’m not right with you then I’m not right with Him. Why would I sentence myself to being anything less than in the place of maximum blessing from God? Right? What kind of foolishness is that? How idiotic can I be? Do I find some value in having God angry with me? Is there some virtue in cutting off the purity and the joy of my fellowship with God?
You see the idiocy, don’t you, of an unforgiving attitude? It makes you a prisoner of your past. It gives you the all pervasive disease of bitterness. It opens the door for demons and it alienates you from the full rich fellowship that God desires to have with you. There is plenty of good reason then to be a forgiving person. If you refuse to forgive others, you forfeit fellowship with God. You open yourself to Satanic involvement. You pollute your life and steal its joy and you make yourself a victim of your own past.
This matter of forgiveness because of its significance and importance then is dealt with at great length in Scripture. There are, in fact, at least seventy-five different word pictures in the Bible about forgiveness. There are at least 75 word pictures about forgiveness in the Bible. And they’re all there to help us grasp the importance or the character, the nature, the effect, something about forgiveness. Let me just give you a few of the biblical word pictures about forgiveness.
To forgive is to turn the key, open the cell door and let the prisoner out. To forgive is to write in large letters across a debt “nothing owed.” To forgive is to pound the gavel in a courtroom and say “not guilty.” To forgive is to shoot an arrow so high and so far that it can never be found again. To forgive is to bundle up all the garbage and all the trash and dispose of it, leaving the house clean and fresh. To forgive is to loose the moorings of a ship and release it to the open sea. To forgive is to grant a full pardon to a condemned criminal. To forgive is to relax a strangle hold on a wrestling opponent and give him his life. To forgive is to sandblast a wall of graffiti, leaving it looking like new. To forgive is to smash a clay pot into a thousand pieces so that it can never be put together again. This matter of forgiveness is very important and it’s right at the very crux of your spiritual health and mine.
Now because it is so essential the Holy Spirit has devoted one entire book of the Bible to forgiveness. Not a very long book, but one book, the book of Philemon. Here in this little book of just 25 verses is the spiritual duty to forgive emphasized, not in principle form, not in parable form, not in word picture form but in a personal true story.
Now you remember the story, don’t you? A man named Philemon lived in Colossae. He was married to a lady named Apphia and they had a son, Archippus, who was in the Christian ministry. They had a house. He must have been a fairly wealthy man. And in his house the church met. They had a slave. The slave was named Onesimus. Even though Philemon was a good master Onesimus wanted his freedom so one day he ran away. His master had paid a very high price for him. This was fraud. Not only that, he stole some things from his master and took them with him. And so he had committed a felony criminal offense for which imprisonment or even death could be the just sentence.
Onesimus ran from the little tiny town of Colossae to get lost in the massive humanity in the city of Rome. Thinking he could hide in the underground of Rome as another of the faceless runaways, the homeless street people who occupied the back alleys of that great city, but it wasn’t long, we don’t know exactly how long until this runaway slave came face to face with the very formidable man by the name of Paul. So here is the runaway slave Onesimus, he is confronted by Paul. Paul has the privilege of leading him to Jesus Christ. He becomes a Christian. Paul, of course, then finds out that Onesimus is from his friend Philemon, that he belongs there, that he is runaway. And even though Onesimus is a Christian and helpful to Paul, Paul knows he has to send him back. And so he sends Onesimus back to Philemon with this letter explaining what has happened. And in the letter he is saying I want you to forgive this runaway slave. Society says don’t forgive him, society says press charges against him and imprison him, society says make him pay back every dime he stole and then waste it in Rome, society says put on him the stigma of fugitivus, the runaway slave, and brand his forehead with a big “F” so the rest of his life he is scarred as a runaway slave, not trustworthy. But Paul says just forgive him…just forgive him. No matter how much it costs you, you forgive him.
The plea of this letter then is a plea for forgiveness. Now as the letter unfolds it becomes apparent that Paul is asking Philemon to forgive a man who is repentant. Onesimus has done his part, he is repentant. He is coming back, as it were, hat in hand asking for forgiveness. God has done the right work in his heart and now it is the turn of Philemon.
Now last week we looked at the first three verses which was the introduction and I kind of laid out the importance of the story. This morning we’re looking at verses 4 to 7, the second section in these four sections, and this section deals with one of the three main thrusts. Verses 4 to 7 give the spiritual character of one who forgives. Verses 8 to 18, the spiritual action of one who forgives. Verses 19 to 25, the spiritual motivation of one who forgives. So we learn a lot about a forgiver here. We learn how to be a forgiver. We learn the principles of forgiveness and that is the intention of the Holy Spirit in writing this wonderful letter.
Now for this morning we’re looking at verses 4 to 7, the spiritual character of one who forgives. I don’t want you to get lost so I want you to listen to what I say. If you read verses 4 to 7 you’re not going to necessarily see Paul identify 1-2-3-4-5- 6, the principles of a forgiving person, but you’re going to see them come out in what he says. They’re not what we say explicit but they are implicit…they’re implied here, very very clearly. In this section Paul refers to Philemon in very very glowing terms. He commends him from verse 4 through 7 on his Christian character. And as he does that he is describing the kind of man who will be a forgiver. This is the spiritual character of a man who will be a forgiver. So in effect he’s saying…Philemon, I know you’re the kind of man that I can trust to forgive Onesimus. He’s really setting him up by reminding him of his own character. I mean, it’s part of wisdom, isn’t it, to deal out praise whenever and wherever it is possible for praise itself becomes a nourishing food for virtue. Did you understand that? Praise itself, legitimate praise, becomes a nourishing food for virtue and a strong antidote against sin. If someone comes to you and says, “I want to tell you, I look at your life and I just thank God that you’re a godly, virtuous, holy Christian.” Believe me, that’s food that nurtures virtue. And at the same time, that’s an antidote against sin, isn’t it? Cause if you know people see you that way and believe you’re that way, that accelerates your desire for virtue and your desire to stay away from vice.
And so, Paul speaks of the great virtue of the character of Philemon as the foundation for his appeal to forgive. I know you have the kind of character that will forgive. Now what kind of character is this? Well we see it in verses 4 through 7. Here as Paul gives this wonderful warm kind of exposure to the character of Philemon, we see the kind of person who forgives. Now he says so many good things about him you have to ask the question…how did he know all this? One, they were acquainted personally. They knew each other. In fact, in verse 1 he calls Philemon “our beloved,” our agapetos, our loved one and our sunergos our fellow worker. So they worked together. They loved each other. I told you last week Paul had led Philemon to Christ. He knew about the man. Furthermore, the church at Colossae met in his house so a lot of Christians knew about him. One of those Christians was the leader of the church at Colossae, a man by the name of Epaphras and Epaphras, according to verse 23 of Philemon, was with Paul in Rome. So whatever Paul knew about him, Epaphras could have enhanced because Epaphras was the leader of the church in Philemon’s house. And then there was Onesimus, the runaway slave, he must have affirmed all of this. He didn’t run away because Philemon was a bad man, an evil master, a hard driving forceful kind of taskmaster. Not at all. Everybody would have affirmed the character of the man. And so Paul had good knowledge of the man’s virtue.
Now as we look at these verses, verses 4 and following, we’re going to see the kind of person who forgives. What kind of person has the capacity to forgive? Let’s look at verse 4 and start there. “I thank my God always making mention of you in my prayers.” Now we’ll just comment on that very briefly. He says, in effect what he’s saying is, every time I pray about you it is with thanksgiving, that’s what he’s saying. Always in my making mention of you in my prayers, I thank my God…that would be another way to frame it up. Always when you come up in my prayers I express my thanks, always. I mean, I don’t have anything other to say to God than thank You for Philemon. I don’t know any negatives about you. Everything I’ve ever heard about you and everything I’ve ever experienced with you is good.
Furthermore, verse 5, “Because I hear…” Literally, I continue to hear. The word keeps coming to me, Philemon, about you that makes me pray for you and in my prayers I just say thanks. Paul is saying I pray and in my prayers you come up and every time you come up I thank God for you because every time I hear something it’s positive. What a wonderful statement. All the news about you, Philemon, is good. There’s nothing in this letter to correct Philemon. There’s nothing in this letter to suggest that he was out of line. There’s nothing to suggest that he had an error in his theology, that something wasn’t right in his home, something wasn’t right in his marriage. I mean, everything just was as it should be in this man’s life. So he says everything I know about you makes me say thanks to God for you.
And what did he hear? And what did he know about him? Several things, number one, he had a concern for the Lord…he had a concern for the Lord. Please note the first thing is in verse 5. He says, “Because I hear…follow me now…of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus.” That’s the phrase I want you to grab first. The first thing I hear about you is that you have a true faith in the Lord Jesus, you have a concern for the Lord. I know I can come to you, Philemon, and ask you to forgive because you are concerned about the Lord, you have a true saving faith, you’re a genuine real Christian and therefore you have the ability to forgive. You have been forgiven so you can forgive. You have the impulses of the new life. You have the prompting of the indwelling Holy Spirit. You experience the conviction of the Word of God. You are a true believer and a true believer desires to do what is right and what honors the Lord and so I can appeal to you to forgive because you’re concerned about the Lord.
By the way, that verb “you have”, present tense, you continue to have. An ongoing continuous nature of concern toward the Lord. You have continuing trust toward the Lord Jesus. You have unwavering faith. You are a faithful true genuine believer.
He says, “Philemon, you walk by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You exhibit trust in Him in everything. You seek His will. I know you can forgive.” You see, we are those for whom much has been forgiven and we can forgive much. We are those, you remember, of whom Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13 that we are to forgive one another because God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us. We are those, like the parable of Matthew 18, who have been forgiven an unpayable debt and should go out and forgive others. Philemon, you have a real faith, you’re a true believer, you can forgive. And what he’s really saying here is that the first characteristic of a forgiver is he’s a Christian. He has a concern for the Lord.
The contrast for that is back in Romans 3. Just very briefly I call your attention to Romans 3:10. Here the Apostle Paul describes a non-Christian, an unbeliever. In verse 10 he says here is the basic description of the nature, the character, the disposition of a non-believer. “There is none righteous, not even one. There is none who understands. There is none who seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have become useless, there is none who does good, there is not even one.” So the first thing he says about an unbeliever is they’re just not good, they’re bad, wicked, sinful, unrighteous, can’t do anything good. Even their good is bad-good because even what they do that may be humanly good is motivated by their own pride not the glory of God so it’s bad-good. So I have told you in the past, unbelievers can only do bad-bad, or bad-good. It’s all bad.
Then in verse 13 he talks about relationships. “Their throat is an open grave.” In other words, when they open their mouth, out comes filth and stench and rottenness. “Their tongues are used to deceive. Their lips are filled with the poison of asps. Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood.” Now there’s a description of unregenerate people. You open their mouth and out comes filth. On their tongue, deception. On their lips…moving from the inside to the out…on their lips the poison of a snake. Out of their mouth cursing and bitterness. And you give them a chance, if they catch you they’ll kill you. There’s no forgiveness there. That’s the bitterness and the vengeance and the anger and the hate and the hostility of unregenerate people. They are driven by hate. They are driven by bitterness. They’ll curse you out of their bitterness. They’ll kill you if they get a chance.
On the other hand, those who have been reconciled to God and those who as Paul says of Philemon have faith toward the Lord Jesus are prepared to forgive, and only those. It doesn’t surprise me that our society is so litigious that we sue each other. It doesn’t surprise me that people kill each other. It doesn’t surprise me that if you pull in front of somebody on the freeway they’ll pull alongside of you and make obscene gestures at you, if not shoot you. It doesn’t surprise me that the hostility and anger of our culture is what is is because that’s in the human heart and we have moved so far away from any kind of Christian aura of Christian social restraint that that now is tolerated, more than tolerated, advocated. That’s because that’s the way unbelievers should be expected to act. That isn’t surprising. Sometimes what does surprise me is when somebody pulls up beside me and does that and then speeds on by and I notice a fish sticker on the back bumper…and I figure it’s a Christian car but not a Christian driver. Those who are reconciled to the Lord Jesus Christ, however, forgive because we have the capacity to forgive. This world is ripped to shreds everywhere from marriages to nations because people can’t forgive. Only Christians can really forgive from the heart, as Jesus said it. Only Christians can really forgive from the heart.
So, a forgiving person has a concern for the Lord. He is very concerned for the Lord. He loves the Lord, wants to honor the Lord, is desirous of that which expresses his faith in the Lord. And because his faith is real he has the capacity to forgive. He has a new nature, a new creation, the indwelling Spirit…gives him that ability.
Second, a forgiving person also has a concern for people…a concern for people. Verse 5, Paul says, “I hear also of your love which you have toward all the saints.” Now you’ll notice that I’ve kind of explained that verse and it’s a little bit jumbled up. This is in the Greek language what we call a chiastic arrangement. In other words, the words and the thoughts in the verse are arranged in a crisscross fashion. And the first expression…I hear of your love…goes with the last expression. And the second expression of faith goes with the first expression toward our Lord Jesus. So you have to look at it as a crisscross, that’s chiastic in the Greek language. So when he says faith, he’s talking about the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus. When he says love he says the love which you have toward all the saints. That’s the second characteristic. You love the saints. This is agape love, this is love of choice, love of the will, love of self-sacrifice, love of humility, this is the love that says I don’t care about myself, I care about you. This is the love that says I’ll make any sacrifice to meet your need. This is the love that says it’s not emotion with me, it’s obedience. I’m not compelled to serve you because there’s something about you that’s attractive, I’m compelled to serve you because there’s something about the power of God within me that moves me that way. This is what Paul said in Galatians 5:6 as faith working through love. You remember 1 Thessalonians 4:9? Paul says I don’t have to teach you how to love, you’re taught by God to love. Romans 5:2, the love of Christ is shed abroad in your heart. First John 3:14, he simply says if you’re born again you love the brothers. If you don’t love the brothers you’re not born again. In other words, you’re a Christian, you have a capacity to love. You have the love of God shed abroad in your heart. You’ve been taught by God to love. You’ve been given the capacity. It’s there. It’s the love of the Spirit that’s in you.
And so, he says to Philemon, I know you can be a forgiver. Why? Your faith is real so you have a concern for the Lord. Your love is real so you have a concern for the people. You cannot ask an unbeliever to forgive. They don’t have any love toward people. They don’t have any passion, self-sacrificing, love of will to do what is right toward someone as something innate within them. If it’s self- serving they’ll do it. And the love they know about is the love of feeling and the love of emotion, not the love of choice and the love of commitment. So he says…Philemon, you’re a forgiver because you have a concern for the Lord, you know God, you walk with Christ, your faith is toward Him and it’s continuing and you have a love for the people.
Thirdly, one who is a forgiver has a concern for fellowship…a concern for fellowship. He says, “I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus Christ and toward all the saints that the fellowship of your faith may become effective.” Now here he adds another concept. He is saying you have true saving faith, you have true spiritual love and you have a desire for fellowship. Your faith pursues fellowship. He calls it the fellowship of your faith. And he says I’m hoping that the fellowship of your faith may become effective. That’s the word powerful…powerful. I know you care about the fellowship. Now that’s true of Christians. If you’re a Christian you care about the fellowship. You care about the body of Christ…is what he’s saying. You’re concerned about others. You say, “Look, I want to forgive you because I don’t want chaos in the fellowship, I want harmony, I want peace, I want unity.” There’s no individualism that says I really don’t care about you, I’m going to take what I want and I’m going to ask what I want and I’m going to give only what I want and I’ll do things my way because I’m the one that I care about. You know, a Christian doesn’t say that. A Christian says I care about the fellowship, I care about you, I care about our unity, I care about our ministry, I care about our mutual sharing. The word fellowship, koinonia is a hard word to translate, actually. It most often is translated fellowship but when we talk about fellowship we usually mean enjoying somebody’s company, we say we had fellowship together, we mean we just had fun or we talked, or we had a little bit of time together, a sort of shared a little bit of kibitzing or a little bit of food or refreshment. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. What we’re talking about here is belonging, that’s the word that I like best, belonging. You belong to somebody else and somebody else belongs to you in a mutual partnership. So he says I know that your faith is concerned with how important is this mutual belonging.
And what’s his implication here? Well, Onesimus is coming back. You know now that Onesimus from reading this letter is a Christian. And that makes him in the fellowship and he belongs to you now not only as a slave but as a brother in Christ and you belong to him not only as a master but as a brother in Christ and I know you care about the belonging. That’s the idea. I know that’s important to you. And then he says, I want your fellowship, the fellowship of your faith to become effective, to have a powerful impact. And what he’s saying is if you forgive this guy it’s going to have a powerful impact because this was a serious felony for which the slave could lose his life and if you just flat forgive the guy that’s going to send a strong message to the church about the priority of belonging. This man now belongs to me not as my slave but as my brother and my brother needs forgiveness. That’s going to be a powerful statement of fellowship. It doesn’t matter what a man does to you or what a woman does to you, if you can take that person back and embrace that person in love, you have made a strong statement about your concern for fellowship, have you not, for the mutual belonging. You’re not concerned about you and your isolation and your individualism, you’re concerned about the partnership, the mutual participation.
So, a person with true saving faith is concerned about the Lord. A person who has had the love of God shed abroad in his heart is concerned about other people. And a person who cares about the fellowship and has the priority of the mutual belonging of believers in his mind is going to be the kind of person eager to forgive. If you love the Lord, if you love people, if you love the fellowship, you’ll be a forgiver.
There’s a fourth…a fourth concern and that is this, he had a concern for knowledge. Paul wanted him to be reminded of this so Paul says in verse 6, “I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become powerful through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you,” stop at that point. Through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you. Now let me ask you a question. When you became a Christian did God put good things in you? Yes, you’ve been blessed with…what?…all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. Do you know you have a new creation in you? Do you know there are a lot of good things in you? Many good things. And he says to Philemon, “Philemon, I want you to have the knowledge of every good thing in you.” So how do I learn them? How do I know about the good things that are in me? Do I read about them in a book? No. The word for knowledge is epignosis, not just knowing, gnosis, but epignosis, deep knowledge, rich knowledge, full knowledge, listen to this, experiential knowledge. It’s the knowledge through personal acquaintance with truth. It’s the knowledge that comes through experience.
Now listen to what he’s saying to him. He’s saying, “Philemon, if you forgive this guy, listen now, if you forgive this guy you’re going to immediately experience the good thing in you called forgiveness. You could read about forgiveness in a book, but you wouldn’t really know it because you haven’t experienced it. You could hear somebody preach about forgiveness and how wonderful it is and how blessed it is, but you really wouldn’t know it until you did it. You know how to get the knowledge of the good things that are in you? Exercise them. You find out the tremendous goodness of what God has placed within you when you walk in obedience to the will of God and you do things and you see and experience those things in your own life. God has given you the capacity to forgive. Forgive somebody and experience it.” That’s what he’s saying. Once you do it, Philemon, you’re going to experience the forgiveness.
I mean, we’ve all sat down and read the books that showed some guy skiing down the Swiss Alps on a sunny day and the snow flying by and the beauty and wonder of all of that and the thrill and exhilaration. But I’ll tell you, there is a lot of difference between looking at the picture in the book and coming down the mountain. There’s a certain one-dimensional flat knowledge that you get out of the book that cannot even be related to what you experience when you’re flying down the mountain on the skis. And the same thing is true in the spiritual realm. I can read the flat words on the pages of the Bible that define forgiveness but I will never have the epignosis or the deep knowledge of forgiveness until I…what?…forgive and experience it. And that’s how I learn to know every good thing that God has put in me.
So, the person who can forgive is concerned about the Lord. He’s concerned about people. He’s concerned about fellowship and he’s concerned about knowledge. He wants the full rich deep knowledge of every good thing that’s in him. You know, just follow that through. I want to do what God wants me to do because I want to experience the power of the goodness that is in me through Him. It’s not my own goodness, but it’s the goodness that He’s put in me. Don’t you get a joy out of that? Sometimes when we have the opportunity to give, for example, and to give generously and to give sacrificially, we feel this thrill, this exhilaration, this joy, this exuberance because we have experienced the deep rich goodness that God has put in us that causes us to be able to give sacrificially. And so he is reminding Philemon and us of the priority of being concerned about knowledge.
There’s a fifth component, I think, in the character of someone who forgives and that is a concern for glory…a concern for glory. At the end of verse 6 is this little phrase, “For Christ’s sake.” Actually in the Greek it says, “Unto Christ…unto Christ.” In other words, he is saying, “Philemon, I know you have fellowship as a priority, I want it to be powerful. I know you’re concerned about knowledge and I want it to be the knowledge of every good thing that is in you and I know you want all of this for Christ’s sake,” that’s implied. In other words, you’re concerned about the glory of Christ. You do it unto Him, as unto Him. The Christian life with all its deeds, with all its joys, with all its works, with all its responsibilities is for the glory of Christ, it’s for Christ’s sake, it’s for Christ’s name, it’s for Christ’s praise, Christ’s glory. And frankly, if you’re devoted to that you’re going to forgive, right? I can’t say in one moment I want to do all to the glory of Christ but don’t think I’ll forgive you. You can’t say that. Be honest. What you have to say is I’m not going to forgive you so, Christ, I’m not interested in Your glory, I’m interested in my vengeance. That’s what you’re saying. But if you want to honor Christ then you’ll forgive as He forgave you, right? If you want to honor Christ you’ll obey what He told you to do. Surely Philemon was concerned to glorify Christ. Surely he would do it unto Christ or for Christ’s sake. The one who forgives then is marked by a concern for the Lord, a concern for people, a concern for fellowship, a concern for deep experiential knowledge and a concern for the glory of his Lord.
There’s one last note. The person who forgives is characterized by a concern to be a blessing. He’s characterized by a concern to be a blessing. And this again is implied, verse 7, Paul says, “I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love.” Stop there at this point.
This man had a reputation for love. And Paul says your love has brought me joy and comfort. That’s what he says. Not just joy and comfort, much joy and comfort. I have come to the point where you have given me reason to rejoice. I have come to the point where you have encouraged my heart by your love. In what way? Verse 7, again the middle of the verse, “Because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.” What a statement. The hearts…he uses the word splanchna, actually the bowels, the feelings, the seat of emotion and feeling. He says people in trouble, people with feelings, people suffering and hurting and struggling have found you to be a blessing, you refreshed them. It’s a military term used for an army that takes a march, stops and rests. You bring people rest. You’re a peacemaker. You renew people. Your care and your service and your refreshing heart brings solace to troubled folks.
Nothing indicates that he was an elder in the church. Nothing indicates that he was a deacon in the church. Nothing indicates that he was a teacher in the church. Obviously he was some kind of business man. He was not a calculated diplomat. He was just a man of instinctive kindness. He was a blessing to everybody. That kind of person will forgive, the person who is concerned to be a refreshing person. I don’t want to bring trouble in your life, I don’t want to make unrest, I don’t want to bring disturbance, I want to bring rest. Listen, those are the kind of people that bring me joy. There are people in my world, believe me, there are people, more than I would like to think about who bring me trouble. And it’s usually fairly constant. And you look long and hard to find those who just refresh you all the time because they resolve everything, because they bring peace to everything, because they exercise wise direction and leadership, because they serve and care and minister and because they just bless everybody. Those are the kind of people who are going to forgive because all they want to be is a blessing.
Well, Philemon by now is got to be saying to himself, “Boy, I’m quite something. Wow.” And that’s exactly what Paul hopes he’s saying because in verse 8 he’s going to hit him between the eyes with what he needs to do. And now he’s going to feel so good about what a wonderful man he is he’s going to have to do or he won’t live up to his press releases.
Anybody who loves the Lord Jesus Christ, anybody who loves the saints, anybody who loves the fellowship, anybody who loves true knowledge, anybody who loves the glory of Christ, anybody who loves to be a blessing is going to be a forgiver. That’s the character of the kind of people who forgive. And so Paul establishes that character as the character of Philemon. And then as we shall see next Sunday, asks him to forgive.
I was reading through an old poetry book that’s a favorite of mine. And I came across a poem and I don’t know if it will affect you the way it did me, maybe because I’m a father of four children and have such wonderful and cherished memories about my children, it struck me and even made me very emotional and every time I’ve read it I’ve had the same kind of response. But it’s just a little reminder of the simple qualities of forgiveness. See if you can follow what the poet says.
“My little son who looked from thoughtful eyes and moved and spoke in quite grown-up wise, having my law the seventh time disobeyed, I struck him and dismissed with hard words and unkissed. His mother who was patient, being dead, then fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep, I visited his bed but found him slumbering deep with darkened eyelids and their lashes yet from his late sobbing wet. And I with moan kissing away his tears left others of my own, for on a table drawn beside his head he had put within his reach a box of colors and a red veined stone, a piece of glass abraded by the beach and six or seven shells, a bottle of bluebells and two French copper coins to comfort his sad heart. So when that night I prayed to God I wept and said, Ah, when at last we lie with tranquil breath, now seeing thee in death and rememberist of what toys we made our simple joys, how weakly understood Thy great commanded good, then fatherly not less than I whom thou hast molded from the clay thou leave thy wrath and say, I forgive thy childishness.”
If God can do that for us, can’t we do that for each other?
Father, thank You for this reminder this morning of the kind of person who forgives. We want to be that kind of person. We long to be that kind of person. We find no virtue in being any less than that. And so we ask that Your Spirit would make us like dear Philemon, those who have the character of a forgiver. If there’s anything we have yet unforgiven in our lives, resolve it this moment and free us from the bondage of the past, the disease of bitterness, the open door to Satan, and the forfeiture of sweet fellowship with you, for only forgiveness can do that, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.