Forgiveness Is Not Saying It Is Okay

One Sabbath afternoon I received a phone call from the mother of a child I had corrected earlier at church. The girl had smarted off to me when I told her to stay out of a room that was off-limits. The mother told me, “My daughter wants to tell you she is sorry, but before she gets on the phone, I wanted to ask you, when she says she is sorry, don’t tell her it is okay. Just tell her she is forgiven.”

Carrying the Cross

Image © Standard Publishing from GoodSalt.com

“Wow!” I thought. This mother gets it! Forgiveness is not saying it is okay. So many are slow to forgive, because what happened to them was so wrong they can’t just sweep it under the rug. The deed deserves to be punished. What they don’t understand is that forgiveness is not sweeping it under the rug and saying it is okay. Then what is it saying?

When I share the gospel presentation, I always share this passage from the Desire of Ages. It is so clear and simple, and to me, sums up the whole plan of salvation.

“Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. “With His stripes we are healed.”  -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 25 

Now I would like to take this passage to the next level – beyond the plan of my personal salvation. I understand that Jesus took the punishment for my sins so that I can now be treated the way He deserves to be treated. Now I need to understand, that the sins my enemy committed have not been swept under the rug. Jesus was also treated the way my enemy deserves to be treated, so that I may now treat my enemy the way Jesus deserves to be treated.

Jesus did not only suffer for my sins, He suffered also for sins committed against me. Why do I need to take it out on my enemy when it has already been taken out on Jesus?

They made fun of me and humiliated me!
Jesus was mocked and humiliated on the cross in their place.

They killed my son! They deserve to die!
Jesus died because they killed your son.

They sexually abused me! They deserve to be sexually abused!
Jesus hung naked on a cross in front of the whole universe, including His own angels!

Earlier this year I was reading through the Old Testament, and when I came to Isaiah 53 something jumped out at me, when I read:

 “With his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

Suddenly I realized something I had never seen before. I realized that retaliation against my enemy will never bring me healing. I am healed by the stripes of Jesus, and not the stripes of my enemy. Jesus suffering for my sins can only bring partial healing and partial reconciliation. I am made whole, and totally reconciled, not just to Jesus but to my brothers, when I realize Jesus suffered for their sins too.

In the story in Matthew 18:21-35 a man is forgiven who did not ask to be forgiven. He only asked for more time to pay the debt. However the master forgave the debt anyway. This is important for us to note, because the master represents God who forgave us without us even asking. In the Lord’s prayer we find we are to forgive as we have been forgiven, meaning that we are to forgive in the same manner. God expects us to forgive without being asked to forgive, just as the man was forgiven while only asking for more time to pay the debt.

After the man was forgiven, he goes out and sees a brother who owes him a much smaller debt. Even after being forgiven he refuses to forgive. In the parable the unforgiving man ends up in prison until his full debt is paid.

Wait a minute! Wasn’t his debt forgiven? Separated as far as the east is from the west and into the depths of the sea? How did it come back? I believe it’s this way: When I refuse to forgive my brother, what I am saying is, “I don’t think Jesus’ death on the cross was enough to pay for what was done to me.” Well guess what? If Jesus’ death is not enough to pay for my enemy’s sin, then it is not enough to pay for my sin either! By not allowing Jesus to pay for my enemy’s sin on the cross, I have just disqualified the cross as a payment for sin and therefore I must still pay for my sins – and the only way I can do that is to die an eternal death.

Forgiveness and reconciliation is not saying “It’s okay.” It is saying, “I realize Jesus suffered for your sins on the cross.” It is realizing I am healed by the stripes Jesus received and not by the stripes my enemy receives. We have to be pretty sick ourselves to think that in order for us to be healed, someone else has to be hurt. Jesus does not have to hurt my enemy in order to heal me.

“Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves.”  Christ was also treated as my enemy deserves, that I may now treat my enemy the way Christ deserves to be treated.

With His stripes we are all healed.

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Is the Church Infallible?

And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” Matthew 16:19 NLT 

Many believe that in Matthew 16, Jesus was setting Peter up as the first pope and



giving the church unconditional authority. This comes from reading more into Jesus’ words than I believe He intended. Instead of giving the church authority over the consciences of individuals in making its own laws Jesus was declaring just the opposite. In Matthew 16:9 Jesus is not giving the church license. To the contrary He is giving it limits in what it can and should teach. 

It helps to understand that, the keys of the kingdom Jesus gave the church were not the keys to the “oval office” and special authority and privileges. The keys Jesus gave them were the keys of the knowledge of His own teachings. 

What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering.” (Luke 11:52 NLT, emphasis added) 1

Jesus made it clear that no man is authorized to make ecclesiastical laws that man must submit to, much less that heaven must recognize! 

Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God. For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. Mark 7:7-9 NLT 

Contrary to the idea that Jesus told the church that it could make laws that would be recognized in heaven, Jesus told the church to teach completely those things from heaven alone. 

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 NLT

While I was living in Texas, a police officer in a small town was fired, because he was pulling over young girls who were obeying the laws just so he could flirt with them. The town had given him authority to enforce the laws of the city but not to flirt with young girls! Likewise in the passage just cited, Jesus gives the church authority to teach everything He has commanded but nothing more and nothing less!  Just like a police officer cannot make up his own laws and pull people over who are obeying the laws of the land, so a church leader cannot make up his own laws and meddle in the personal affairs of others. 

A police officer and even lawmakers are sworn in or inaugurated by an oath to protect the laws and constitutions of the land. In Matthew 16:19 Jesus is swearing in the disciples, simply telling them that they are to bind (lock in or require) what is bound in heaven and are to loose (or allow) only what is allowed in heaven. Matthew 16:19 is a command to His disciples and not a license to make their own laws. Jesus told His disciples, what you forbid should be that which is forbidden in heaven and what you allow should be that which is allowed in heaven. As a young boy, when I would get out of line, my teacher would tell me, “you will march right over to the the principal’s office.” That was a command, not a license! By saying “you will” she was commanding me, not licensing me. Likewise when Jesus told them they would be teaching things that would be taught in heaven, He was telling them what to teach and not telling them they could teach anything they wanted and heaven would just go along with it. 

The doctrine that God has committed to the church the right to control the conscience, and to define and punish heresy, is one of the most deeply rooted of papal errors. –Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 293.

I am loyal to my parents without claiming they are infallible. I follow my parents as they follow Jesus. No more no less. I am also loyal to my church without claiming it is infallible. I follow my church as it follows Jesus. No more no less. 

  1. Compare Desire of Ages, by Ellen White, p. 413:

    “The keys of the kingdom of heaven” are the words of Christ. All the words of Holy Scripture are His, and are here included. These words have power to open and to shut heaven. They declare the conditions upon which men are received or rejected. Thus the work of those who preach God’s word is a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. Theirs is a mission weighted with eternal results.
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Was Peter Demon Possessed?

From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary



for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” Matthew 16:21-23 NLT 

Years ago, I was eating at a restaurant with a lady friend. The waitress politely showed the dessert tray to us, when my friend, trying to watch her own figure, put up her hand and said, “Get thee behind me Satan!” The waitress turned red in the face and walked away rather miffed. I did not blame her! I explained to my lady friend that the waitress thought she was calling her Satan. That was very rude, especially when she was only doing her job and being polite. My friend felt terrible and apologized to the waitress, even though the waitress really did not want anything to do with her at this point. Whether the temptation to eat sweets was actually from Satan or not, the waitress was not Satan! 

Jesus realized Peter was not Satan. Jesus was not calling Peter Satan. Jesus was just looking at Peter while He was talking to Satan. Maybe Jesus just wanted Peter to know where that idea that He should not have to die was coming from. 

So if Satan was using Peter to sway Jesus from dying was Peter “demon possessed”? I don’t believe that that’s the intent of Christ’s words. Just because Peter uttered some impulsive words does not mean that he was demon-possessed. Let’s relax a little and give our Christian brothers and sisters some slack when they make bad decisions in the church. Even if a pastor or church leader does make an actual error, it does not mean they are demonic and part of a dark conspiracy to destroy the church. It just means they are human like you and me. Even when Aaron made the golden calf, as stupid as that may have been – and we all agree 4,000 years later it was pretty stupid – neither God or Moses accused him of being demon possessed or intentionally trying to destroy God’s movement. Moses berated Aaron’s actions without ever berating his motives. 

But I digress. So why was Satan using Peter to sway Jesus from dying? Because Satan knew that if Jesus died, his power would be destroyed. So he used someone close to Jesus to tempt Him.

But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. 1John 3:8 NLT

Jesus destroyed Satan’s works of deception when Jesus showed God’s true character on the cross. If Jesus demonstrated a love for self, then Satan would have had power over Him, but Jesus had no love for self or desire for self-preservation. Therefore Satan had no power over Him. In order for my phone charger to influence my phone with its electricity, my phone must have an input that will allow my charger to connect with it. And in order for Satan to influence us, we too must have a little input avenue where he can connect with us. Our ego and love of self is that avenue that lets Satan connect with us! As long as we are alive to self and self-interest, Satan will have a connection channel through which He can influence us. The way to break  that connection is to die to self! 

For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. Romans 6:7 NLT

Satan wants us to keep ourselves and our selfish ambitions alive, because by doing so he will always have a powerful influence over everything we do – even in the church! But if we die to self, we are free from Satan’s power. Truly this is why Jesus said, 

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Matthew 16:24-26 NLT 

Giving up our own ways is what it means to die to self. We must give up our ways and ask Jesus to give us His mind so we can follow His ways. (See Phil. 2:5-8)

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Loving One Another in Purity

Relationships in the Family of God

The Bible uses several analogies for the church—a body, a building, a flock, and even a brood of chickens. My personal favorite, being somewhat of a human development and relationship expert, is family.

Image © Sally Weimer from GoodSalt.com

Image © Sally Weimer from GoodSalt.com

The Lord tells us, “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters” (2 Cor. 6:18). Jesus said that, “whoever does the will” of His Father is His “mother” and “brothers” (Matt. 12:49-50). Paul called us the “household of God” and the “household of faith” (Eph. 2:19, Gal 6:10). Isn’t it good to know, especially given our often broken and estranged natural family relationships, that we have a spiritual family in the Lord?

Our relational God created the natural family to provide a safe haven from life’s hardships, a place of acceptance, a trust-zone. From the infinite riches of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Creator designed human life to be a school in which we learn to love and be loved. Each phase, from infancy to old age, builds upon the last such that we gradually become love experts, showing even angels what love looks like in action (Eph. 3:10; 1 Cor. 4:9). God purposes that the tapestry of our love-bonds grows throughout life and into eternity.

Even if we come to the family of God relationally bankrupt, we have a chance to build a second family, experiencing pure, godly love. In Christ we love, prefer, edify, receive, serve, forbear and esteem one another (John 13:34, Rom. 12:10, 14:19, 15:7, Gal 5:13, Eph. 4:2, Phil. 2:3). The Sabbath provides a temple in time, an entire day devoted to fellowship with God and one another, furthering our heavenly relationship network.

Lust, the Enemy of Love

But it’s not all good. The devil fumes in disgust when he sees love between members. He mobilizes his minions to disrupt good relationships by leading us into relational sin. One of those sins can destroy healthy bonds more quickly than rain destroys a picnic. Paul zeroed in on this sin when he said, “Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (1 Tim. 5:1, NIV).

Why “with absolute purity”? Because God in His infinite foresight spotted a plague that would corrupt the family of God more insidiously than the worst heresy. When those sacred bonds, designed to reflect brother-sister, parent-child bonds, become sexualized, divine love tumbles down from its lofty heights into the gutter of licentiousness.

“Purity,” hagneia, derives from hagnos, meaning “exciting reverence, sacred, chaste, modest.” The intimacy of the bonds God desires for us requires absolute purity. The holy flame of sexual passion finds its one and only safe enclosure within a marriage. Everywhere it burns outside of that sacred circle, it scorches and devastates. As the world around us sinks into a moral abyss, it trades true love and affection for a sensualized, sentimentalized counterfeit. God desires the church to shine rays of truth on this cancer, offering the world-weary something better. When instead of streams of pure love pouring from the church upon the world, the world’s lust backwashes into the family of God, the enemy has gained a great victory.

Lust does the most damage when indulged by spiritual leaders. The tone-setting, influence-wielding ones among us can lead entire flocks into confusion. Recall the events at Baal-Peor, just before Israel crossed into Canaan. The beautiful vale held many idols whose names suggested the vile practices of paganism. Constant exposure unconsciously tainted the minds of God’s people, making them vulnerable to the conniving women who wanted to lead them into idolatry. Under a guise of friendship, these women groomed the noble princes of Israel, finally succeeding at dragging them into an all-out orgy. The people followed suit. A plague broke out, stopped only by the spear of Phinehas as he slew an Israelite prince and his Midianite whore (See Numbers 25 and “Apostasy at the Jordan” in Patriarchs and Prophets).

Love, the Best Defense

What a sobering story! We might assume that the best way to prevent such disasters is to adopt a stiff, cold reserve around the opposite sex. But isolating sexes from one another would be an insufficient solution, given that even same-sexed sexual attraction is possible. So perhaps we should avoid intimacy entirely, keeping at a safe distance, distrusting the very notion of close, bonded relationships. The problem with this approach is that it is true intimacy that weans us from false intimacy. The reason people eat so much sugar is that they don’t eat enough fruit. The reason we hunger for sensualized love is because we don’t have enough pure love. The best defense is a good offense!

How can we keep our relationships pure? Jesus promised, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit put within you” (Ez. 36:26). I don’t want to give a list of proper behaviors without emphasizing this. Well-trained dogs are still dogs! To resist the lust that calls to us from within and without, we need complete moral and spiritual overhaul. As the enemy concocts more and more cleverly disguised temptations, and as the spirit of the age takes over society, we must be fortified to resist intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. God designed the three angels’ message to prepare a people to withstand the most insidious deception ever brought upon the human soul—the mark of the beast. The heart of that message is justification by faith in the merits of Jesus—the most life-transforming good news ever preached. Those who embrace it, “keep the commandments of God” which Paul distills down to “love your neighbor as yourself.” God wants to reveal an unprecedentedly pure and holy love through His people in these last days. As we stand on the borders of the heavenly Canaan, may there be an outbreak of love, rather than the outbreak of lust we saw at Baal-Peor.

Purity requires both individual and corporate conversion, and that conversion comes when we immerse ourselves in the gospel. I have observed that episodes of sexual sin occur in even the most conservative congregations. The enemy loves to trick the most consecrated believers into focusing on their own religiosity such that Jesus and his heart-changing love is pushed out of their field of vision. Worshipping on the Sabbath will not change our hearts if we have no living connection to the Lord of the Sabbath. Our conference president has called us to revival and reformation, echoing the prophet, who said, “A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs.” 1 True godliness means to “love one another, from a pure heart, fervently” (1 Pet. 1:22). There’s that pure love again!

Here’s how pure love looks in action:

1. Pure love starts with pure thoughts- if we allow our minds to run in the gutter, our feelings and behaviors will follow close behind. Modern technology has put almost infinite media choices at our fingertips. We can watch everything from sermons to pornography on phones that fit in our pockets. By beholding we become changed. Choose media that you’d watch if Jesus was watching with you.

2. Pure love respects self and others- our sexuality must be held sacred and not made a matter of public discussion. If a brother or sister makes an inappropriate comment or gesture, the most loving thing to do is reject that advance with such firmness it will never have to be repeated. Don’t be afraid to “hurt their feelings” when hurt feelings might actually help them snap out of their improper behavior.

3. Pure love appreciates modesty- sensible dress and deportment will “shield from a thousand perils.”2 Much of fashion is designed to seduce, but there are always styles that can be worn in good conscience. Choose to dress the way you would if Jesus were coming over.

Don’t Miss Out

The gathering together of people in what we know as the church gives us a golden opportunity to love and be loved. Let’s make the most of his opportunity by cultivating a connection with Jesus and His people. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1). Don’t get mired in the false intimacy the world offers, but press on to experience the true, rich, and deep bonds of love God has for us in His family. These bonds will truly satisfy, will acclimate us to heaven, and will help prepare us for our Savior’s soon return.

  1. Selected Messages 1, 121
  2. Education, 248
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