Friday, June 24, 2016

P2 The freeing benefits of forgiveness - Freedom to enjoy God's forgiveness

Philemon 1:8-9 "Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, 9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus."

For the last two days we have been considering the freeing benefits of forgiveness. We noted how forgiveness frees one from walking in offense or bitterness. When we walk in offense, we grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30-31) and operate under a closed heaven. We find ourselves walking around with the feeling of rejection and increasing levels of never being satisfied. Only forgiving as the Lord forgave us can free us from such a prison. In today's post I wanted to deal with how forgiveness frees us to enjoy God's forgiveness.

Freedom to enjoy God's forgiveness. Philemon 1:16-19
Often times I think Christians forget how awesome God's forgiveness truly is in their lives. I say this a matter of experience. It takes episodes in my life of having to exercise forgiveness whereby I'm caused to once again see God's forgiveness in a fresh way. Paul notes to Philemon in 1:15-16 "For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord." God's providence was clearly at work in Philemon's life and Onesimus. 

Onesimus' freely ran away from his master, having stolen from him. He then ended up in prison, only to come across Paul, whom God used to lead Onesimus to saving faith. Meanwhile Philemon has space and time to deal with what was going on in his heart toward Onesimus. Whatever exactly Paul meant by these remarks, it is clear that the time was ripe for Paul to make the appeal for forgiveness. It is assumed that Philemon himself might had been converted under Paul's ministry. Taking him back to those tender days would cause him to see God's forgiveness anew.

Then we read this comment in Philemon 1:17-18 "If then you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me. 18 But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account." The precious doctrine of justification by faith is illustrated in this passage, namely the teaching that in saving faith, God no-longer credits us with the guilt and just-punishment due to our sins, but rather credits us with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. God's forgiveness orbits around justification. Jesus Christ, on the cross, was credited with my sin, guilt and shame and treated as if He had been me, so that I at saving faith could be credited with His innocence, perfect obedience and righteousness (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). To realize that as a Christian, I stand relationally and legally in the right with God is truly comforting. Paul's allusion to these truths is especially seen wherein he tells Philemon that he can "charge him" with the cost of whatever former debts Onesimus may had accrued. 

So forgiveness frees me to put down offenses (Philemon 1:10-14) and to enjoy anew God's forgiveness (Philemon 1:15-19). Tomorrow we will consider how forgiveness enables one to have the freedom to pray.