Today, I just want to share something that has been on my heart for about a week now. As a husband of one wife and the father of two little ones, a boy of 5 and a girl of 3, my primary concern is my family and their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Our children have really begun to express their individuality in many ways, and at times it can be tough to adjust to their changing attitudes, questions, and responses such that they can continue to grow as individuals while remaining submitted to authority. I fail daily. One thing I’ve tried to model for my family is confession and repentance. I try to make it a point to apologize to my wife and kids when I lose my temper or wrongly dismiss them or their concerns. Over the past weekend, I noticed something about my relationships (particularly with my daughter of), about some of the things we need to hear for comfort, for relief, and for rest. This isn’t a scientific study, nor is it going to be anything deeply theological, these are just my observations.
3 Things We Need to Hear
#3 | I love you
Many will argue that this statement is the most important thing we need to hear. I would have argued the same until recently. If you will bear with me a bit, I hope to make the case for the 2 things we need to hear even more than “I love you”; however, those things will be meaningless outside of the context of love. My wife and I make sure to tell each other “I love you”, and we strive to make it known to our children, “I love you… no matter what”. The other day, after having to discipline my daughter for some bad behavior (time out), I went to my daughter to give her a hug and remind her that I loved her. Her response melted me, “I love you, too, daddy… even when you’re mad at me”. We need to hear “I love you” as a reminder, for encouragement, and for comfort. We need to know that we are loved.
John 3:16-18 (ESV) | For God So Loved the World
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Romans 5:6-8 (ESV)
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
#2 | I Forgive You
Once a loving relationship has been established, the most loving thing you can say to someone you love is, “I forgive you”, when they repent. I believe that this is something we’ve lost sight of here in the West, even in the Church. This past weekend was a long weekend, and my wife and I really wanted to spend the time together, so I got a lot of personal time with my kids. Which means that Daddy had to be the disciplinarian for an extra day. On one occasion, my daughter had done something she knew full well she wasn’t supposed to do, and tried to hide it. When I caught the infraction, I expressed my disappointment, issued a reprimand, and charged her not to repeat the infraction. Well, it happened again a few hours later. I was tired, so I just sat on the couch collecting my thoughts. My daughter came to me… slowly… and said, “daddy, I’m sorry for [doing what was wrong]…” and then the bottom lip started to puff out. I responded with, “thank you for apologizing… I love you honey” and I gave her a hug… but her bottom lip was still out, and it started to shake a bit. I was confused. She was still troubled and looked like she was going to start crying… “are you still mad at me?” That’s when it hit me. “Honey… I forgive you, sweetie… I forgive you”. At the sound of those words, my beautiful little daughter relaxed… shoulders dropped, as did the single tear that had welled up in her eye, and she let out a sigh and smiled. And then Daddy got a big sqeezy hug, which he returned with equal enthusiasm. She didn’t doubt my love, not for a second, but she still needed to hear me say, “I forgive you”.
In less dramatic fashion, I was in a meeting yesterday for a charity organization. Several senior officials were there, and one of them jokingly commented on an odd word I had used. I thought nothing of it but later caught myself using a synonym as a replacement for the initial word and jokingly referred back to the senior official. Several hours later, I got a phone call from that individual, and in that conversation he apologized for poking fun at my word choice, given that we were not close friends and it was in a meeting. I did the typical thing of dismissing the apology by asserting “no harm done, I thought it was funny”. He graciously accepted my explanation, but insisted that what he had done was inappropriate despite my claim of “no harm, no foul”. Again, it hit me, I need to plainly, simply, and humbly accept his apology and tell him, “I forgive you”. So I did, and it lightened up the conversation so much. I was then able to encourage him to be comfortable with me in the future and that such comments would be fine… he was now free to accept such encouragement, because the burden of guilt was lifted. Please, don’t dismiss repentance… don’t bat it away… it isn’t always about YOU. Forgive the one who is repenting, for the sake of his/her conscience.
2 Corinthians 2:5-11 (ESV) | Forgive the Sinner
5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
#3 | You Are Forgiven
If the western Church has lost sight of personal forgiveness… I believe it is largely due to having lost sight of the importance of the Gospel being preached to the Believer. Evangelicalism has allowed the Gospel to become “something that the lost need to hear to be saved”, but for some reason those who are saved are expected to just remember what the Gospel is while they get beaten down by principles to living more holy and acceptable lives (the Law) from week to week, month to month, year to year. We need to change the way we do “altar calls” and get back to preaching the Truth of the Gospel with conviction and regularity. To the unbeliever and believer alike, we preach “repent and be forgiven”… but to the believer, we include “You are Forgiven, in Jesus’ Name” by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the Glory of God alone.
2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (ESV)
14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
1 John 1:5-10 (ESV) | Walking in the Light
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Through Christ’s once-and-for-all finished work on the Cross, this forgiveness, reconciliation, and cleansing is not merely a one-time thing for us… but daily occurrence.
Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)
9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Amen. It is my sincere prayer that you attend a church that preaches Gospel to believers. We need to hear “you are forgiven” often. We need to hear it, even those who are of the faith.
Let us not grow weary in doing good, love the Lord, love your neighbor, repent and be forgiven. In as much as you have been forgiven, forgive others. Let them hear your forgiveness, even if you don’t yet fully understand the sin.
I pray that my children may grow in the knowledge of Christ, assured of their salvation in Christ Jesus. I pray that my wife might find rest and comfort in the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. And I pray that each time I fail, that I remain humble enough to repent and seek forgiveness, as well as to grant forgiveness to others.
Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) | Prayer for Spiritual Strength
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,