In the news, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his family survived unhurt what was a fiery plane crash in Elizabethton, TN on Thursday. Apparently, (if you’re Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) it is safer to drive a car at 200 miles per hour in a circle (oval) than it is to fly in a private plane with professional pilots.
Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, August 18, 2019
Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|* (Submitted by Raymond Finney),
Rabbi’s note: Thank you Raymond for this excellent RR. We always value what you have to say. And thank you (personally) for my day off.
There are 3 possible titles to this RR. We should put it to a vote.
1. When God Does Not Forgive Sin
2. Refusal to Forgive Others and the Unpardonable Sin
3. A Reminder of Something a Believer Must Always Follow
August 18, 2019
You surely already know everything written in this RR. Consider then that this RR is a reminder because every Believer must know and practice this information. The consequences are eternally important.
We humans have one thing in common. We sin (Romans 3:23): … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, ….
All who struggle with sin should read the Apostle Paul’s confession of Believers’ two natures (Romans 7:15-25). I summarize this lengthy passage: Even Paul, who talked with Yeshua and wrote a major portion of the New Testament, kept sinning, even though he wished not to sin.
We must be forgiven of sin (1 Corinthians 6:9a): Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? The truth is that a sinful person cannot appear before a sinless God in Heaven. This presents us with a dilemma. Since all of us sin but a sinner cannot enter Heaven, how can we hope to be accepted by God?
Is this a dilemma without remedy? Will Heaven be a “ghost town?” No. Yeshua came as our sin sacrifice. Faith– even the faith of a small child– in Yeshua is sufficient to transfer His sacrifice to purify us. Our sins are nailed to His cross, and His blood washes away our sins (Colossians 2:14).
We read eight times in the Book of Revelation that only “overcomers” may enter Heaven. Overcomers of what? I believe we must overcome sin. I repeat: overcoming sin is accomplished by faith in (belief in) Yeshua as Lord and Savior. His blood, shed on Golgotha’s cross, is the only way we can be cleansed of sin (1 John 1:7b): … and the blood of [Yeshua HaMashiach] [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin.
This spiritual cleansing is the basis of the New Covenant (read Hebrews 10:1-18). We commemorate God’s gracious gift of salvation through Yeshua’s sacrifice every time we partake of the fruit of the vine (“wine”) during Communion.
Is God willing to forgive us of sin? Yes. Read 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Even better, God will forget we ever sinned, when we are forgiven. Read Hebrews 8:12, quoting Jeremiah 31:34: [The LORD said] “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds, I will remember no more.”
Simple. Right? Just follow this formula: (1) you sin … (2) you mumble, “Forgive me” … (3) God is obliged to forgive and forget your sin … (4) you get on with your life, ready to sin again.
But, wait. Many of us (you?) have made forgiveness of sin too simple and a foregone conclusion. Read an important clause in Yeshua’s Model Prayer, or Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:12): [Yeshua prayed] “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
Conjunctions– the two- or three-word modifiers in a sentence (if, and, as, but, etc.) – constitute the “fine print” of the Bible. In this verse, the conjunction “as” completely re-focuses Yeshua’s message. God will forgive a person’s sin AS he/she forgives others– no more, no less.
“Debts” in this prayer comes from a Greek word, properly translated “debts” but which is a metaphor for sins. We are forgiven of sin ONLY if we forgive those who sin against us. What a “downer!” When we are wronged, the natural man/woman in us wants to feel aggrieved, garner sympathy, and seek revenge… not to forgive and forget.
Yeshua was serious. He only explained this one clause of His model prayer (Matthew 6:14-15): [Yeshua said] “For if you forgive men their trespasses [their sins against you], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Other Bible verses convey the same message.
Yeshua believed in the “Golden Rule” He taught (Matthew 7:12a): [Yeshua said] “… whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them,….” God will treat you, as you treat others. Read Matthew 18:15-17 (too lengthy to reproduce in this RR in which Yeshua spelled out a formula for resolving a dispute with others). Yeshua also warned us not to judge others (Matthew 7:1-2), and He reminded us to be careful because we may have a plank in our eye while we fret about the speck of sawdust in another’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5).
Rabbi’s note: While we are not to judge others, we are to have discernment. We do have a calling to know right from wrong. To not judge others means to not condemn others. That is for God and Him alone. End RN.
It seems clear that Yeshua warns us that God may not forgive and forget a person’s sins unless he/she first forgives the person who sinned against him/her. When sinned against, a human’s response is: “Okay. You just made an enemy. I’ll get even, no matter how long it takes.” Yeshua’s response is: “I love you, my brother/sister. I forgive you.”
And, a major component of sin forgiveness is repentance. Yeshua told us to forgive another person, even if he/she sins against us repeatedly, say, seven times in a day (Luke 17:3-4). To repent is to turn away from sin. Repentance is a major part of a Believer’s testimony and mission (Luke 24:46-48).
“Repentance” translates a Greek word, which means a “change of mind.” Repentance involves a turning away, with contrition, from sin to God so that the repentant sinner is in the proper condition to accept divine forgiveness. (Contrition = deep remorse or sorrow for offending God through sin.)
Repentance should be as permanent as possible. Sinning on Monday, repenting on Tuesday; then, committing the same sin on Wednesday, and repenting on Thursday; etc. makes a mockery of God’s grace and Yeshua’s sacrifice. God is not a fool. He can distinguish genuine repentance from fake repentance.
Consider two instances when God may refuse to forgive and forget sin:
(1) YOU REFUSE TO FORGIVE YOUR BROTHER/ SISTER: It would seem that God forgives sin only if certain conditions are met: (1) the sinner seeks to make amends with others against whom he/she has sinned by asking that person’s forgiveness; (2) then, the sinner asks God for forgiveness, confessing the sin with sorrow and pleading the blood sacrifice of Yeshua as payment for the sinner’s sin; and (3) the sinner makes a good faith effort to repent (turn away from that sin, never again to repeat that particular sin). If you refuse to forgive people who sin against you, can you expect God to forgive you of your sins?
(2) YOU COMMIT THE UNPARDONABLE SIN: Even though I am not completely certain what it is, I should mention one particular sin– the unpardonable sin (Matthew 12:31-32): [Yeshua said] “… every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the [Holy] Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man [Yeshua], it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or the age to come.” See a comparable passage in Mark 3:22-30.
Yeshua did not further define this most important sin. Different interpretations have been offered, but it seems most interpreters believe the unpardonable sin is rejection of the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit, as He invites a person to believe in (have faith in) Yeshua as Lord and Savior. Such rejection would, of course, prevent a person from having his/her name inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life and would result in exclusion from Heaven.
On a personal note, I believe I have answered affirmatively the Holy Spirit’s invitation for me to accept Yeshua as Savior. I have been water and fire baptized. I freely, unashamedly confess Yeshua as my Lord. On the safe side, however, I try to give the Holy Spirit a wide berth and say nothing blasphemous or mocking about Him. (It’s a belt and suspenders safety measure.)
God holds our prayers in great value, as witnessed by the Apostle John in his glimpse of Heaven (Revelation 8:3-4): Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. [Censer = a metal vessel used to house burning incense.] How much must God value the sweet aroma of a prayer, when the prayer is a confession of sin and a plea for forgiveness!
Let me summarize this RR:
** It seems God will not answer prayer for forgiveness of your sin, unless you first forgive those who have sinned against you. Be kind, and treat others as you wish God to treat you. (Forgiving others is not always easy, but no one has ever said that being a Believer must be easy and is free of effort or sacrifice.)
** Answer the Holy Spirit’s call to accept Yeshua as your Savior. Believe in and follow Him with your whole heart, mind, and soul.
** Do not blaspheme or mock the Holy Spirit or the other two Persons of the Godhead– God the Father and Yeshua.