Acts 3:21 – Whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.
The Father’s aim is the “restoration of all things.” In the Garden, the Lord looked down the annals of time and said, “The seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent” (Genesis 3:15). God was laying the foundation for the “restoration” of His intended purpose to restore mankind. Repentance is the beginning point of this process.
Forgiveness is the result of repentance. Repentance essentially means to see things from a higher perspective (God’s vantage point). It requires us to change our minds and behavior accordingly. Peter’s strong message in Acts 3 was, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
True restoration takes time to allow God’s truth to filter past layers of guilt and shame, to bring about deep down change at the root level. It takes time to rebuild equity and trust. It takes time because the heart of man is deceitful. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). Jesus knew the heart and thoughts of men. “Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?” (Matthew 9:4).
Forgiveness and trust are not one in the same thing. Believers can be confused over these two areas. Forgiveness is when your heart is free to love a person that hurt you, to have the mind of Christ towards them. Trust is built upon proven character. Paul instructs us with a word of wisdom. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:5-6). One who walks in this word has a clean heart.
Father, I pray that restoration would become an important goal for me. I pray for wisdom in my inner actions and relationship with others. Give me speech that is filled with grace and seasoned with salt. Help me to know how to respond to each individual with whom I connect.
Matthew 18:35 – My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.
Forgiveness keeps one out of prison. In the spiritual realm, the tormentors are demonic entities that bind up lives from living freely, as God intended. Unforgiveness is one of the strongest “control mechanisms” the enemy has in his arsenal. The seeds of unforgiveness will produce roots that begin to go deep into one’s heart. These become known as roots of bitterness.
Acts 8:19-24 tells the story of a man, Simon, who had bitterness in his heart, yet he wanted the power of God, but with a wrong motive. He offered them money, saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” But Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”
Before Peter and John had arrived, Simon had repented; he had been baptized and continued in the faith because of the miracles he saw Philip performing. Like Simon, we can desire the authority, but fail to deal with our heart condition. God’s power and a troubled heart are a dangerous combination.
There are times in my life when I have had to ask others, including my wife and my children, to forgive me for a word or a wrong action. This was necessary for their heart and mine. Conversely, there have been times when I have been deeply hurt by another. I had to choose to forgive them from my heart so I would not be brought into bondage to their action or words toward me.
Forgiveness is the releasing of another person from the debt they owe. This means not holding any remnants of the past in your heart. This is what the Father has done for us through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is able to freely deal with the nations and their peoples because “He so loved the world” (John 3:16).
Father, I pray for Your heart of forgiveness to be given to me. Help me to forgive others in the same manner that You have forgiven me. I choose to walk in the glorious liberty and freedom that Jesus has made possible for all believers. Keep my heart free from any unforgiveness and open for Your great love to fill me.
Proverbs 4:23 – Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.
The Scriptures teach us that “God is love” (1 John 4:16). Three words for us to consider that relate to the heart of God are covenant, relationship and forgiveness. God’s nature is rooted in covenant. Webster defines “covenant” as “a binding and solemn agreement to do or keep from doing a specified thing” (Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition.) “My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips” (Psalm 89:34). When God forgives, He does so because of His covenant promise. His promises are certain. The Psalmist declares, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).
The Holy Trinity is the greatest picture of relationship we can find. There is no contradiction with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God created Adam and Eve because He wanted a relationship with mankind. Even after they sinned and the human race was tossed into darkness, God, out of His loving-kindness made it possible for man to be restored to Himself. This is how we know the love of God. God the Father gave His best for us, His Only Begotten Son.
The forgiveness of our sins takes place through the Son. Forgiveness flows from God’s covenant nature. Forgiveness speaks of God’s great desire for relationship with mankind. Through His desire for relationship with mankind He draws close to His creation, man. Covenant and relationship lay the foundations for forgiveness.
Many Christians have a difficult time forgiving others because they have not connected God’s covenant nature with His desire for relationship. His covenant nature relates to His commitment to His creation man. He committed Himself to humanity and has never turned from that commitment. This requires His forgiveness again and again.
The Lord does not forgive us just because He wants to rescue us from hell and take us to heaven. That would be a very narrow understanding of His purposes. It also reveals how self-focused one might be. He forgives because that is His nature. He forgives because He wants to nurture and increase the relationship He began in the Garden and has restored us to Himself through the Lord Jesus Christ. He has given to us His Nature by giving us His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to forgive. “Let this mind (attitude) be in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
Father, thank You for Your forgiveness, Your covenant love, and Your desire for relationship with Your creation man. I pray that Your covenant nature will grow in me. Help me to forgive others, even as I am forgiven.
1 Timothy 5:21 – I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.
The subject of partiality is an important topic in God’s Word. Paul uses very strong language to encourage Timothy to not fall into the trap of bias as it relates to the principles in which he is to instruct God’s people. All the believers are to be treated equally in regard to instruction and discipline.
It is easy to have favorites and to give some individuals special treatment. We are to remember that the Lord is no respecter of persons. Whether a person is rich or poor, a leader, or simply a member of the fellowship, we must not show favoritism. Peter learned about bias the hard way when Paul called him out in a mixed room of Jewish and Gentile believers (Galatians 2:11-14).
Peter was comfortably having fellowship with Gentile believers. Being a Jew, he had been raised with terrible bias against the gentiles. The Jews viewed the Gentiles as dogs. Peter had come a long way since his dream concerning God’s acceptance of the Gentiles in Acts 10. He preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household, a Gentile in search of truth (Acts 10).
Peter still had some degree of bias in his heart. When some Jewish believers who were part of James’ team arrived from Jerusalem, Peter broke off fellowship with the Gentile believers and moved toward the Jewish believers. Paul saw this take place and rebuked Peter publicly for his bias.
Bias and partiality have always have been a large problem in the church. There has been bias against the Jews, believing that it was the Jews that murdered Christ. The Scriptures declare that we are all guilty before God. There has been bias toward various parts of the church. This was especially true between the Western Church and the Eastern Church. It was true between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant churches. It was true among various Protestant churches known as denominations. It is still true today among many believers in regard to other believers.
God sees us through Christ. All bias has been crucified with Christ. This is the basis for God’s view of being impartial toward all peoples. When the gentiles received the Holy Spirit, Peter recognized God’s view and says, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality” (Acts 10:34).
Father, create in me Your heart of impartiality. Help me to see others the way You do, through Christ and His atoning death and resurrection.
James 2:1 – My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.
Unfortunately, much of Christianity, as expressed in denominationalism and independence, moved from a particular understanding of a restored truth the Lord was communicating to an attitude of separatism and favoritism by God. Many in the Lord’s church view their expression of faith and doctrinal understanding to be closer to the truth than anyone else’s. This is at the root of denominations and is sectarian in nature, rather than godly.
In the First Century church it was understood through the apostle’s teachings that only one church existed. The church found its expression in each city, such as Corinth or Rome. When the apostles spoke of “churches,” they were speaking of a region which contained more than one city. The early believers had their understanding rooted in the teachings of the apostles. “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). Over the centuries, teachers of Scripture fell away from the teachings of the apostles. Men began to adhere to false doctrine and move the church in a new direction contrary to the apostle’s teachings. The church became divided and wrong attitudes were developed against other believers.
In James 2:1, the apostle is dealing with the attitude of partiality in the early church that set the rich against those who were not rich in worldly possessions. James implies, when we have an attitude of partiality, we dishonor the Lord’s purposes. His purpose is for us to see one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord. This means, rich or poor, bond or free as well as our particular expressions of faith in Christ. The Lord has been reviving His church for centuries and bringing it back to the foundations which the apostles taught: “One Lord, one faith and one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). The entire book of Ephesians supports what I am saying in our devotion today.
Ask our Father in heaven if there is any partiality in your heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any kind of bias against others in the body of Christ. Pray that He would open your heart to receive greater revelation of the apostles’ teachings and a willingness to set aside any teaching of men that God’s Word does not support.
James 1:27 – Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Our great desire should be to have our minds changed from the world’s viewpoints to embracing God’s perspective. Paul exhorted the church, “Put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:10). The “new self” is Christ in us. Again, Paul says to the Philippians, “Have this mind in you that was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). Christ’s mind was one of humility, to do only what the Father willed.
The Lord Jesus Christ was not moved by the religion which had been hijacked through Jewish religious leaders. His was a pure religion, “unstained” by the world’s systems. One of His first sermons made this clear when He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are, oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).
The same Holy Spirit that was in Jesus wants to rest on and be in us to fulfill what Christ came to do. Jesus made it possible for us to participate with Him in the great purposes of God. Pure religion is not legalism, not dogmas, but ministering the life of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit to all those who will receive.
Before ascending to His Father, Jesus instructed His disciples, “Stay in Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Jesus knew that only in the power of the Holy Spirit could His disciples accomplish what He was sending them to do. So it is in our lives as well. We must have the power of the Holy Spirit if we are to accomplish the Father’s purpose in the earth. Only the Father’s “pure religion” can defeat the enemy’s religious systems.
Father, I choose to give myself to pure religion. Holy Spirit, I yield to You to be on me and to be in me for the purpose of fulfilling the anointing that rested on Christ in His human ministry. I choose to put on the “new self” and to be “renewed to the true knowledge according to the image of Christ.”