• Tony Birkhead

Are you Thirsty? Week - 2




The thirst quencher of forgiveness!


INTRODUCTION

What are some ways you have observed consistency in yourself or in others?

Does noticing inconsistency bother you? Why or why not?

Consistency is something we expect to see in life. We expect a new car to run smoothly, we expect chickens to lay eggs, and we expect the sun to rise each morning. That is what they are supposed to do, so we expect these things to act according to their nature and purpose. The same principle applies to the Christian life. Gospel consistency is synonymous with faithfulness; when we do not live consistently with the gospel, people take great notice.

This obligation of gospel consistency extends to how we respond to being mistreated, as difficult as that can be. We believe in a God who promises to enact justice in the end, but this same God went about accomplishing justice in His world by becoming a man and suffering injustice Himself. Indeed, Jesus did not judge us according to our sin as He had every right to do; instead, He took the penalty for our sin by going to the cross. As the Master goes, so go the disciples. As Jesus entrusted Himself to the ultimate Judge in the face of persecution, we must do likewise when we encounter injustice committed against us.

KEY SCRIPTURE

John 7:37-39

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Romans 12:17-21

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

READ ROMANS 12:17-18.

How would you re-state verse 17 in your own words? Why do you think Scripture reminds us that “good” ends do not justify evil means?

How does verse 17 reflect the influence of Jesus on Paul (see Matt. 5:39)? How might this verse help us think of Paul as a fellow disciple of Jesus, much like ourselves?

Paul captured the spirit of Jesus’ teaching not to resist the evildoer, but instead to look for ways to bless the evildoer. This shows that Paul was following the same teachings of Jesus that we find in the Gospels, such as Matthew’s presentation of the Sermon on the Mount. Paul appealed to the correctness of a standard of good and evil known to everyone in a general sense. In most cases, people are able to recognize whether something is good or evil, and answering one evil act with another is not something that is “honorable in everyone’s eyes.”

What do you think verse 18 teaches us about personal responsibility and our inability to control other people? Why is peace a fitting characteristic for a Christian to be known for?

The phrase, “as far as it depends on you” acknowledges that we are not responsible for others who resist living at peace with us. The biblical themes of peace (shalom) and the peace that we receive with God by virtue of being reconciled to Him through Christ (see Rom. 5:1-2, 9-11) provide the foundation for our living at peace with others. Because we are at peace with God, we should desire to live at peace with others.

READ ROMANS 12:19-20, DEUTERONOMY 32:35, AND PROVERBS 25:21-22.

What do you think of the phrase, “leave room for God’s wrath” (Rom. 12:19)? Does this strike you as odd or intuitive?

What stands out to you about the Old Testament passages that Paul chose to quote here? What does this suggest about how he as an apostle thought about the Old Testament and its relevance for Christians?

Grounding his instruction in the Old Testament shows that Paul understood it to hold abiding authority over Christians, and that we should look to the Old Testament for wisdom and instruction in doctrine and life (2 Tim. 3:14-17). As Paul wrote elsewhere, “We know that the law is good, provided that one uses it legitimately” (1 Tim. 1:8). Jesus also spoke strongly about the Old Testament’s ongoing authority and relevance (Matt. 5:17-20; Luke 24:24-27,44-47).

How does Proverbs 25:21-22 remind you of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 5:39, 44)?

This portion from Proverbs accords well with Paul’s words and with Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. We should seek to bless our enemies and trust God with the results. In blessing our enemies, we move them toward either shame or repentance—perhaps even both. In addition, God might have a purpose in our enemies becoming more hardened toward the truth as a result of our kind actions.

READ ROMANS 12:21.

How does verse 21 reiterate verse 17, while also expanding it? How do you see the command of verse 21 as an expression of gospel consistency?

Verse 21 summarizes what has been said in the previous verses: “Do not be conquered by evil.” Repaying evil for evil and sorting out vengeance for ourselves are ways of allowing evil to conquer us. This is stated in the affirmative here as well: “Conquer evil with good,” which also succinctly represents what Paul instructed in verses 17-20. We not only avoid being conquered by evil, but we also actively conquer evil through Christ.

Turning away from evil is synonymous with repentance. As those who have repented of their sin and placed their faith in Christ, it would be hypocritical to employ evil methods to achieve “good.” Selfless acts of love and kindness are a fitting application of the gospel because it was in Christ’s selfless act on the cross that good ultimately conquered evil (Col. 2:13-15; 1 Pet. 3:18, 21).

In what ways is Jesus an embodiment of “conquering evil with good” (v. 21)? How did Jesus avoid being conquered by evil?

Whereas He could have led a supernatural conquest against those who sought to do Him harm, Jesus willingly laid down His life in order to conquer the enemies of sin, death, and Satan (see Matt. 26:53; John 10:17-18). By experiencing the brunt of injustice firsthand, Jesus entrusted Himself to the Father and secured a way for those who were once God’s enemies to become His adopted sons (Rom. 5:6-11; Eph. 2:1-10).

MOVING FORWARD

  • How does Paul’s exhortation for us to treat our enemies with kindness demonstrate the “upside-down” nature of the gospel and the kingdom of God? In what ways does this offer an alternative to the way the world thinks about justice and personal vindication?

  • What practices can we implement in order to guard against a vengeful and spiteful mindset toward others?

PRAY TOGETHER

Thank God for His justice that came at the cross, and for His justice to come on the Day of the Lord. Praise God for sparing us of His judgment through Christ. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with love, understanding, and wisdom in dealing with those who seek our harm.

COMMENTARY

Romans 12:17-21

12:17-21. Finally, Paul concludes the chapter with the most lengthy, and perhaps the most difficult to manifest, evidence of being a living sacrifice: loving when wronged. The clear command is, Do not repay anyone evil for evil— whether a fellow believer or an unbeliever outside the church. There are at least two reasons for not taking revenge into one’s own hand. First, it puts an individual, a part of the creation, in the place of judge over another part of creation. God has made it abundantly clear in Scripture, as Paul attests with his quote of Deuteronomy 32:35, that it is his prerogative and responsibility to avenge sin— and that he will do it: “For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Eccl. 12:14, NASB).

The second reason not to seek revenge is that it could bring disrepute and harm to the cause of the gospel. When Paul told Timothy to lead the church in Ephesus in prayers for “kings and all those in authority,” it was so that those same subjects of prayer would not bring trouble to the church; so that believers could live “peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:2). Since “God. . . wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4), any disruption of a quiet and peaceful society would hinder the spread of the gospel.

To that same end, Paul tells the Roman believers, If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. That would include peace with believers and nonbelievers, those in the church and outside the church. Since it takes two to fight, if the believers do not seek revenge, there will be no long-lasting disruption of peace. Doing what is right in the eyes of everybody includes not only “the eyes of the Lord but also. . . the eyes of men” (2 Cor. 8:21; cf. also 1 Thess. 5:15).

What should they do when persecuted? In essence, the same thing that Paul has already said in verse 14: “Be a blessing.” The lengthy quotation from Proverbs 25:21-22 may represent an Egyptian ritual in which hot coals carried in a basin on the head would cause the guilty to repent. If that is the basis of the Proverbs quote, then the application would be that love—food and drink—will bring about shame and thus repentance in the enemy. But the admonition can be carried out simply as a gesture of kindness, as Elisha requested in the case of the Aramean army which, though trapped and primed for destruction, was given a feast and then sent home (2 Kgs. 6:21-23; cf. 2 Chr. 28:15). Even the law code in Israel commanded that an Israelite return to an enemy an ox or donkey that had wandered off, or give assistance to an enemy’s beast of burden (Exod. 23:4-5).

The point of this last section is to do toward others what God has done toward us: forgive as we have been forgiven (Eph. 4:32). God loved us when we were enemies (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21). Though Israel is an enemy of the gospel still (Rom. 11:28), God loves her. And we are to love those who are our enemies. We are not to be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good.

DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE

HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart: Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God: Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer): After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action: Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?

DAY 1

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:14-15

The question of genuine forgiveness is one of eternal importance. And why is it, you may ask, so crucial that Christians forgive? For starters, Jesus’ statement in today’s text is quite a compelling reason, for “if you do not forgive others…neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Suffice it to say then, we had better make sure we are forgiving “our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

Here’s the bottom line: forgiveness is such a central element to Christianity that it is an indicator of salvation! Not that we are saved by any works of our own, such as forgiving others, but that when we are reconciled to God through Christ, our new life will be marked by grace giving and forgiveness.

Remember, our sin was exchanged for Jesus’ righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), our wrong for His right, our injustice for His justice. God meets our rebellion and pride with grace in and through the person and work of Jesus. Those to whom grace is extended should also extend grace, and those to whom forgiveness is extended should also extend forgiveness.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 2

Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.

Proverbs 20:11

I was reading an article on a “child centered home” and a major problem is that people refuse to see their children as they really are. For example, a rebellious and stubborn child is referred to as “strong willed” and a manipulative and sneaky child is referred to as “creative.” I’m not saying to speak these things over your child, but rather to recognize that nature and pray against it.

We do this in our own lives, don’t we? We deceive ourselves when we will not examine our heart honestly before the Lord. About 7 years ago I had a realization. I was suffering through something for about 4 years and wasn’t getting any relief or deliverance.

I cried out to God, “What’s going on?” He spoke very gently and very clearly, “Crystal, you are not compassionate. I want you to learn compassion.” And I broke down because it was true. I have always been a “just get over it” person, and God wanted me to realize others are not like me. They need more time and patience from me. It was a tough lesson, but that is how you grow and develop godly character.

Your fruit will find you out. If you are bitter, jealous, unforgiving, everyone around you can see it. Stop deluding yourself! The human nature, apart from Jesus, is rebellious. Do the hard work! Examine yourself. Don’t be the person who looks in the mirror, walks away and forgets what you look like. Be honest with yourself and with God. He is trying to produce godly fruit and character in you. Let Him teach you, mold you, shape you. I know it hurts, but it’s good for you!

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 3

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Matthew 18:21-22

How can you lift the debt from your debtors if you don’t comprehend your own indebtedness? How can you offer that freedom if you yourself have never received it? One of the biggest obstacles to forgiving others is our failure to understand the depth of God’s forgiveness for us. Not until you accept that God has paid the penalty on your account will you cease your efforts to collect from others.

When you take God at His word, this glorious freedom can start to sink in. Then you can then begin the process of offering your offenders full forgiveness. You must choose to leave all punishment or retaliation up to the Lord. It is essential that you surrender your so-called “rights,” whether it is your right to get even or to get justice. Remember, we can totally trust God to handle our injustices appropriately because He is the ultimate judge.

It may be helpful to write out a list of all the offenses against you that you can think of. Then bring them one by one before God and leave them at His feet. By doing this—and by asking for His help—you can release your offender to the One who says, “Vengeance is Mine” (Heb. 10:30).

Adapted From: http://intouch.org

DAY 4

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:30-32

It’s a common dilemma: Someone has hurt us, and we know we should forgive but just can’t. Despite all our promises to God about letting go of the offense, we find ourselves mentally rehearsing the event until we’re once again consumed with anger and hurt.

God has not simply called us to relinquish our bitterness; He’s given us the means to do it. The Spirit empowers us to forgive others just as God has forgiven us (Eph. 4:32). However, it’s not always a quick process—especially if the offense is great and the hurt is deep. Sometimes we must work through steps until we can finally release the burden.

First, we must confess to God that we have sinned against Him with our unforgiving attitude and ask Him to help us repent of it.

Next, we should acknowledge that the basis for forgiving others is God’s forgiveness of us. We didn’t deserve to be pardoned, yet Christ’s sacrifice has released us from our guilt. And it’s good to remember that while offenses against us may seem to be the most grievous, we usually underestimate the magnitude of our own sins against God.

Finally, we must let the Bible renew our minds. Instead of allowing ourselves to dwell on the wrong done to us, we can surrender those thoughts to God and replace them with biblical truths about Him, His promises, and His ways.

So how will you know when you have truly forgiven your wrongdoer? The negative emotions that once arose at the thought of the offender will subside, and you’ll be at peace.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org

DAY 5

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

A Sunday school teacher was talking to her class about forgiveness. She asked her students what a person needs to do to receive forgiveness from God. There was a moment of silence, and then a little boy raised his hand and said, “You have to sin.”

That is true. You have to sin. And all of us qualify. We sin more often than we realize. So yes, we have to ask God to forgive us. Most Christians understand that God graciously gives us His forgiveness, though we don’t deserve it. He tells us that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV).

That is amazing. We understand that for the most part. But here is where it gets tricky for some. Forgiven people should be forgiving people. We have received the forgiveness of God, and therefore we should extend that same forgiveness to others—especially to those who have wronged us.

As C. S. Lewis wrote, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” Isn’t that true? Forgiveness is great in theory, but it is much harder in practice. I read about a study that was done on the topic of forgiveness. It revealed that 75 percent of those surveyed believed God had forgiven them for past sins, but only 52 percent had forgiven others. We have a problem. The Scriptures say that if we ask God to forgive us, then we should forgive others. Life is filled with hurt and disappointments. We have people who hurt us. And guess what? There are people we have hurt as well. We need to learn how to apologize, and we need to learn how to forgive.

Some might say, “Wait a second, Greg. You don’t know what people have done to me. You don’t know what I’ve had to face in life. It’s unforgivable.” No, I don’t know. But this is what the Bible says. And here is the most important reason we should forgive people who have hurt us: God commands us to. I don’t think we need any other reason, but there are a few others. The Bible tells us, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,” and “bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13 NIV).

Failure to forgive others also can bring your prayer life to a screeching halt. Jesus said, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25 NIV). The bottom line is that forgiven people should be forgiving people.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Romans 12:20

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