Forgiveness – 15+ Weekend In

On the Saturday morning of the weekend in we looked at forgiveness, where we heard a story that challenged both young people and leaders on how we deal with past hurts. We saw so many young people take the first step towards forgiving people who had hurt them. It was so encouraging to see.  

The first thing to understand when we are looking at forgiveness, is that we are forgiven. No matter what we have done, or will do in the future, if we bring it to God we will be forgiven. Jesus explained this beautifully in the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-32) We see that as we turn away from God, like the younger son, then realise our mistake and turn back, we can be safe in the knowledge that he is running to welcome us home. We understand that Jesus died for our sins so that we may be forgiven, and be brought back into his family. However, do we sometimes find our selves felling like the things that others do surpass our own sin, so much that they don’t deserve our forgiveness? 

This is where we may become the older son, someone who sees others sins as worse than ours, sin that doesn’t deserve our own, and maybe even God’s, forgiveness. We read in Matthew 6:14 that “if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” This is a verse that we often use to say that because we are forgiven we must forgive others. However, there is a certain amount of condition implied in this verse. That IF we forgive THEN we will be forgiven. So our forgiving others will then cause us to be forgiven our selves. It is the opposite to how we often use the verse. We must forgive to then be forgiven.  

This can put pressure on us, that we have forgive people who have caused us pain in our own strength, which means that what happened to us suddenly becomes okay. But that isn’t what forgiveness is about. Forgiveness should take a huge pressure off us. When we hold a grudge, something is hardened in us. We may hold feeling of dislike against this person, it might cause us to gossip about them, or even not like to hear their name mentioned. These are things that drag us down, and stand in the way of the person that God has created us to be, and that prevent us from living life to the full.  

If we talk to God about these people we find hard to forgive, and submit it to him, he can help us to begin the first steps of forgiving someone. I’m not saying that it always happens over night, or that it is easy. But if we make a choice to, with God, forgive that person each day, over and over again, one day we will wake up and not need to try to forgive them any more, because the weight will be gone, and we will have forgiven them.

Perseverance – 15+ weekend in

The AfterChurch youth group recently had the Weekend In, it was an incredible time; we saw God do some fantastic things in the lives of the young people and leaders. The theme was Hebrews 12 and running the race. We had guest speakers in to share their testimonies. These guys were so inspirational in what they shared, vulnerability can be so powerful.

The first night was a really big night for the young people, as the testimony was about perseverance in faith which really hit home with the vast majority of us. This is a really important aspect of faith, continuing on when the storms hit. Our theme verses for the weekend said this; “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith”. These verses highlight that in order to persevere we must focus on Jesus.

The Christian walk involves work.

It compels us to give up what damages our relationship with God, to go further on our path patiently, and to fight against sin with the Holy Spirit. We will stumble if we don’t keep our eyes on Jesus, or if we stare ourselves or at the circumstances surrounding us. We need to be fixed on Him, because we are running for Him. When we face hardship and discouragement, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture. But we’re not alone; there is help. This means that we have to accept our short comings and allow God to help us. By looking to Jesus in vulnerability and admitting that we need Him we persevere; not for our own gain, but for His glory.

Humility before God is such an important attribute because it allows us to come to God with all the things that separate us from Him and put them to one side as we focus solely on Him. Philippians 4:13 (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me) is one of the most misinterpreted verses of scripture. We often put the emphasis on the ‘I can do all things’ and ‘strengthens me’. This is not the way we should read this, but instead we should be seeing the magnitude of ‘through Christ’. We can do all things when we allow God to equip us and we give God our time to focus on Him and what He wants for us. Like Jesus says in Luke 18 ‘What is impossible with man is possible for God’. We have to humble ourselves before God with all our sins, misplaced priorities and life and offer it all over to Him, change the direction of our gaze, and keep on going.

Mark Wakefield – Create team

Where’s the Father? Mark 3:31-35

However brilliant, broken or non-existent our human families may be, as disciples of Jesus he insists that we should see ourselves as family together. And – just like human families – that remains true despite our foibles & our failures.

But notice that, while identifying all who share his commitment to obey God as his brother, sister or mother, Jesus noticeably avoids suggesting that we should look to any other as our ‘Father’ (in a spiritual sense). As he makes clear elsewhere, in this sense we are to see “only God in heaven as our spiritual Father.” (Mt 23:9)

It is entirely appropriate that we learn to love and lean on each other as members of the same family. We may fall short and let each other down, as families sadly do. But we still belong together, and we always will. And yet, while we rightly rely on each other as family, our first place of reliance needs to be on our true Father.

Maintaining these things in right balance can be hard. The temptation is often to polarize. Sometimes we live in extreme dependency on others when actually we need to look directly to our Father. Conversely at other times we maintain a stubborn independence, insisting it’s just about ‘me & God’, and refuse to allow other members of God’s family to get close enough to support us.

The first requires trust; the second requires humility. And both are ‘family traits’ that the Spirit is determined to develop in us.