The Healing Virtue of Forgiveness - From The Family of God
Our Lord is quick to forgive... quick to receive us. He has wept over us, and longed for us... and when He sees true brokenness and repentance He weeps for joy as He beholds the broken and the contrite heart. It is the joy of fellowship restored... the joy of having brothers that are now brothers indeed, and no longer tainted with jealousies and hatred.
Forgiveness comes easy to God's Josephs... because they have partaken of the heart of their Lord. Forgiveness is something they have stored up in readiness to flow. It is not something they hold back until they see repentance. It is there in readiness, as it was with Jesus. He forgave us at the Cross... long, long before we asked Him for it. But we do not know it, and we cannot receive it, until we are humble and contrite enough to ask Him for it.
There is no real forgiving spirit in the man who says... "He has wronged me... if he repents... yes, I guess I will forgive him." Forgiveness must be there in the heart... and it must begin to be stored up the moment you are wronged. He must make it right, I know. But forgiveness is ready to be released. God says "Love never faileth." So you long for him, pray for him, seek God on his behalf... that somehow he might not continue on hurting himself. He cannot hurt you, if you draw nigh to the heart of God. Those original hurts you felt are healed, because you have granted forgiveness in advance of his repentance.
The flow of forgiveness and mercy in your heart and mine, even though not appropriated and received by our brother, will bring us cleansing and freedom. You would like to release it to others... but God must finish the work in them before you can do so. But it has released you already... because it flows through your blood-stream... in cleansing, forgiving, healing power... and all the while you are anticipating the day when it will bring healing to your brother.
And if perchance the prison-house of our experience has not wrought this grace in our lives, then we remain prisoners unto ourselves, and will never be able to set others free.
God grant unto us the spirit of Joseph, the Spirit of Jesus... that we might see the working of God in and through every bitter experience of life, in order that healing streams of life might flow forth from the Family of God to those who languish in captivity and in bondage.
Manasseh And Ephraim
Joseph had two sons born to him after his release from captivity and his exaltation to a place of power in the land.
"And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction" (Gen. 41:51, 52).
This is God's order: Manasseh, then Ephraim. God must cause us to forget, before we can become fruitful. You and I are not going to be fruitful until we can forget our past; and this includes our victories, as well as our defeats. This could be particularly difficult for those who have known a lot of success in the past, and have thoughts of greatness; but if God is gracious toward them, they will find themselves in the King's Prison, and will have the opportunity to know what this is all about. There has to be a FORGETTING of the past before we are going to know true FRUITFULNESS in the Kingdom of God. Consider the achievements of the great apostle Paul, and the mighty ministry that flowed from his life... and hear him saying many years later, because of the Vision he had caught of the high calling of God:
"But this one thing I do, FORGETTING those things which are behind, and REACHING FORTH unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling..." (Phil. 3:13, 14).
You are going to have to forget past achievements if you are going to WIN Christ; but you are also going to have to forget past prisons, past hurts, past difficulties, past defeats. The memories of the past, whether they be of successes or of defeats, can he equally destructive to a fruitful walk with God. But the prison house can erase the memory of it, if we will accept the grace that He has for us in this hour.
You will remember that when Joseph brought his two sons to the bedside of his dying father for the patriarchal blessing, how Joseph brought Ephraim in his RIGHT hand toward Jacob's left, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Jacob's right. In this way he was making it easy for his blind father to stretch forth his hands, and put the right hand of pre-eminence on the head of Manasseh, and his left hand on the head of Ephraim. After all, Manasseh was the firstborn. But Jacob, even on his deathbed was moving in the prophetic anointing, and he deliberately crossed his hands over the heads of the two boys, giving Ephraim the blessing of the right hand, and Manasseh the blessing of the left hand. This displeased Joseph, but Jacob gently reminded him: "I know what I am doing, Joseph... Ephraim must have the pre-eminence.
The past would have its rewards; but the past must give way to "those things which are before." By way of experience we have Manasseh first, and then Ephraim. But God puts the SIGN OF THE CROSS over the heads of Manasseh and Ephraim! Ephraim means double-fruitfulness. There are greater things ahead, a greater measure of fruitfulness for God's people. But the SIGN OF THE CROSS must be applied to our past as well as to our future, if we are truly going to pursue the pathway to the "high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
There Is Therefore No Condemnation
"Be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did SEND ME before you to preserve life" (Gen. 45:5).
Once God has brought His Family to true repentance and brokenness of heart, He wants to remove the sting of condemnation. He does not want us to burden our conscience with the sins and failures of the past; and He has given us in the scriptures a beautiful example of the mercy that He bestowed on the greatest of sinners.
God apprehended and saved the greatest sinner that ever lived! In this way He has given us an example of His great longsuffering and patience and grace. If He was able to save the greatest of sinners, surely He knows how to bestow mercy and grace on the lesser sinners! This man was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, a murderer; but he became a great apostle, and preached Christ in power and anointing and great fruitfulness. And without elaborating in detail on all the sordid things he committed in his past, he said...
"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I AM CHIEF" (1 Tim. 1:15).
God saved the Chief! O I know, we may all feel that way, when God comes to us with that penetrating, convicting Sword of His Spirit. But Paul meant what he said; he was the CHIEF OF SINNERS. And then he tells us why God chose the CHIEF. It was that God might present a true picture of His mercy and longsuffering, that all lesser sinners might have hope:
"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I AM CHIEF. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first (or literally, 'that in me as THE CHIEF') Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting" (1 Tim. 1:15, 16).
But isn't it strange... though we know these things, and are aware that our Lord loves us with an everlasting love.., that He gave His life for us, and suffered the agonies of the Cross... that we can continue on in self-condemnation, accusing ourselves where God has justified... condemning ourselves when God has pardoned... blaming ourselves, when Christ has taken all the blame?
O how we need to acquaint ourselves more and more with the great heart of God! For though He has declared Himself openly on the Cross, and by the Spirit, to be the "Just, and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus"... we still battle with thoughts, condemning thoughts, that do not glorify God. "God is angry with me, God is after me, God is displeased with me..." Let us be quick to recognize the grief of His Spirit when we indulge in our carnal ways. May we never have a heart that is so callous that we feel not the pangs of an act of disobedience, the sorrow for sins and shortcomings that God would make us aware of. But let us hear what He says when forgiveness flows from His heart:
"Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves..." (Gen. 45:5). Come to Him with a broken and a contrite heart, and then know for sure that He broke that heart of yours only that He might pour in the oil of mercy and grace, and the wine of gladness. Do not indulge in self-condemnation and accusation. For if you do, you are not accusing yourself... you are accusing Him who took your place! Luther said something like this one time (and I can't quote it exactly) ...but when the Tempter came to him and sought to remind him of his former transgressions, he said, "Satan, you think you are going to torment me with my sins? I want you to know that when you bring my former sins to mind, you comfort me with great comfort! For Christ died for sinners! And therefore rather than tormenting me, you give me great comfort and hope!"
Even after this marvelous unveiling of the heart of Joseph, the brethren still had thoughts of accusation coming to them: "I wonder if he really meant it... I wonder if he will take advantage of us now that father has passed away..." And so they sent a message to Joseph, telling him that their father Jacob told them to tell Joseph, that he hoped Joseph would show his brothers mercy, and hold nothing against them. When Joseph got the message, he wept again. There was no such thought in his heart. He longed to forgive and forget. It was a joy for him to forgive. It was healing to his own soul to forgive.
All this clearly reveals that in spite of the marvelous revelation of Joseph's love and mercy for them, they still did not know his heart.
Do you find it difficult to receive forgiveness, and to know that you stand perfectly forgiven, and righteous before the throne of Grace? If so, it is because you do not really know His heart.
Do you find it difficult to bestow forgiveness upon others, to genuinely and truly forgive another from your heart? If so, it is because you really have not seen the heart of God.
Furthermore, we are going to discover that as we find grace to let forgiveness FLOW unto others... so in like manner and in like measure will we know the healing of our own hearts, and the cleansing of our own lives. For the cleansing stream of Mercy that we are enabled to minister unto others WILL CLEANSE OUR OWN HEARTS even as it is flowing forth unto others!
I see the New Creation rise,
I hear the speaking blood,
It speaks... polluted nature dies,
Sinks 'neath the cleansing flood...
The cleansing stream, I see, I see,
I plunge, and O it cleanseth me,
O praise the Lord, it cleanseth me,
It cleanseth me, yes cleanseth me.
It is the stream of life that flows from Calvary, But just as the blood of a slain bird was mingled with pure flowing water, before it could become a water of cleansing, so the efficacy of the blood of Christ has been absorbed into the Spirit of Truth. (See Lev. 14:5; l Jn. 5:6). Do we understand, then, why it seems so difficult to walk day by day with pure hearts and pure minds? It is simply because we have not made way for the Lordship of the Spirit in our lives, and in our gathering together unto Him! It is going to take a breaking and a melting of God's people, for this mighty stream of life to be released in the midst of God's people.
Do we wonder why it seems so difficult to minister real repentance to the people of God? Many are crying, "Repent! Repent!" And this we must do. But beloved it is going to take a prophetic anointing such as Joseph had, and such as John the Baptist had, if the hearts of God's erring ones are going to be unveiled. And it is going to take the Lordship of God's Spirit in our midst, if the cleansing Stream of repentance is going to be released.
How shall we minister repentance, and brokenness of heart to others, if we have not experienced it in our own lives? How helpless we are, Lord, unless you continue to search us out, and gaze upon us with those penetrating, searching eyes of your Spirit! Look upon us, we pray, as You looked at Peter, as You looked at Moses, as You looked at John on Patmos, as You looked at Isaiah, as You looked at Saul of Tarsus... that we too might know the transforming work of the Spirit of God in our lives!
I do not know who composed the following lines, but may it be the longing and the prayer of us all:
What has stripped the seeming beauty
From these idols of the earth?
Not the sense of right or duty,
But the sight of nobler birth.
Not the crushing of those idols,
With its bitter pain and smart,
But the beaming of His beauty,
The unveiling of His heart.
'Tis the look that melted Peter,
'Tis the face that Stephen saw,
'Tis the heart that wept with Mary,
Can alone from idols draw.
Draw, and win, and fill completely,
Till the cup o'erflow the brim;
What have we to do with idols,
Who have companied with Him? &