Sunday, September 19, 2021

Is Jesus Your Friend? #JesusFollowers

 

All of us on Facebook have had a notification pop up, telling us that someone wishes to be our "Facebook friend."

We might notice that they might be a friend of a mutual friend already, and quickly accept their friend request, honored that they have made the connection with us, or that they like our posts.

We all have seen someone on the street with whom we went to grade school or High School. After speaking with them, we may be asked, "Who was that?" And we might reply, "That was a friend from school."

But by "friend," we likely mean that this is someone we happened to know by face or by reputation when we were in school with them. Or, this might actually have been a friend in the sense that you both were extremely close, and shared a circle of other friends with whom you were very close.

So with these examples, we begin to see very quickly that the word "friend" in the English language can mean different things.

Knowing this, what would it mean for someone to say that Jesus is their friend? On the surface, we knew instinctively that the word "friend" doesn't seem to be a strong enough word in relation to our master, Jesus.

"Of course he is our friend," we might say to ourselves, "and much more." If so, we'd be on the right track.

When Jesus himself used the word "friend," he meant it in an altogether more important and stronger way then we casually use it today.

For example, when Jesus was beginning to speak about how he was going to be put to death by those who were in authority in ancient Judea, he told his disciples:
"Greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

While we all have friends that we care for us, there are very few, maybe even none, for which we would easily and quickly give up our lives.

Jesus, of course gave up his life, not just on the cross, but throughout his ministry, on behalf of all who heard and followed him, and for all who would follow him, both then and now.

Jesus made this crystal clear when he went on to say, "You are my friends IF you do what I command you." (15:14)

Jesus, therefore, puts upon those who claim friendship with him the responsibility to follow what he's saying with action. 

It is at this point, that many modern Christian preachers would take issue with Jesus. They claim instead that mere belief in the "person" of Jesus, not his teachings, is what can grant us eternity with God. They might claim that his teachings cannot be followed, and that we are unable to do any of the things Jesus did, and have no requirement to attempt to follow those teachings.

But Jesus actually says the opposite. In fact, he is very clear and precise in his teachings, noting:
1 - That following him has costs, responsibilities, and requires obedience, and
2 - That he believes we CAN DO all that he commanded us

Indeed, Jesus says, "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you."

And he clearly teaches that we must seek to obey God's moral commandments if we hope to spend eternity with God (Matt. 10:17, 19)

Further, he says we will do even greater things than he did on earth (John 14:12) and,  "I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you." (John 13:15) Does this sound like an impossible mission he's given us?

The example shown by the teachings of Jesus, of course, was Love - pure, unadulterated, uncluttered, unfiltered love. We are called to love one another, love and serve our neighbors, love our enemies, love and have compassion on those in distress, and love God, our Creator, Who is the focus of all our love and gratitude.

This "yoke" - his teachings - he calls for us to learn from him (Matt. 11:29) and he says it would NOT be a burden, as the barren rituals of the Pharisees had been. (Matt. 11:30; 23:4) If his teachings are not even a burden, they are surely not impossible.

The bottom line is that those who claim to love him will seek to obey his teachings and put them into practice daily, as if they were taking up a cross. (Matt. 16:24) When we put all of his sayings together, they form a remarkably clear and consistent message.

We learn that Jesus said that he was dying an example to his friends, just as his life had been such an example, and that he considered his friends those who obeyed his teachings. Finally, he made it clear that his friends would be able to do all he commanded.

The Good News we hear from the lips of Jesus is truly GOOD, in that it tells us that through the life, teachings and example for God's chosen one, GOD BELIEVES IN US and has given us high standards to achieve.

The Creator Who said "be holy, as I am holy," (Lev. 11:45) and the teacher who called us to be complete just as God is complete (Matt. 5:48) both know of what we are capable.

This same Creator endowed us with gifts, abilities and knowledge that allow us to choose the Good, but also to choose what is evil. It is in rejecting what is evil, repenting of it, and actively choosing the Good that we are considered Righteous by God.

Simply reading the teachings of Jesus puts friendship with him in an entirely new light. If we claim to be his friend, then we will surely make an effort to seek to follow his teachings, and when we stumble in our efforts, Jesus tells us that when the Righteous repent, we will be forgiven by a just and merciful God. (Matt. 6:12; 18:27)

Indeed, in his Great Commission, Jesus called those who followed him to go out into the world telling people to obey ALL that he taught them. (Matt. 28:20)

It's clear from all of these sayings of Jesus, that he believed friendship with him was intimately tied to following his teachings.

When Jesus says "Take up your cross daily and follow me," (Matt. 16:24) he's calling us to join him on a journey of joyful obedience, love, and service, one just as he embarked upon. That, to Jesus, is true friendship!

But if we do not follow his words, if we claim they are too hard, or not necessary, or not relevant for us today, then we are not really following Jesus, but other men's teachings. In fact, we hate him if we reject, warp or minimize his teachings.

If we make up excuses for not obeying his call for us to love and serve others with our Works, we are not worthy of his name. This fully and completely human Jesus that God chose as our example and Master is meant to be followed, not just admired.

If we are truly to be called his friends, as well as his disciples today, we will seek to put the teachings of Jesus at the center of our Lives every day. We can do no less, if we call ourselves Jesus Followers!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

#Jesus Calls Us To Use Our God-Given Gifts #JesusFollowers

 

With his teachings, #Jesus spoke about the great, powerful gifts given to human beings by God, and how we are to use them ACTIVELY to do Good for others.

Jesus, in his parables and sayings, explains that to us much has been given. Much, also, is required of us in return. By this way, we become the mature and perfect Beings that God wishes us to become.

His Parable of the Talents shows this most clearly. We are given gifts by God and are called to use them. Putting them in the ground, or keeping them unused, isn't profitable to the Kingdom of God, nor does it grow our spirits.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that we have both the ability and duty to act to serve and love others, even strangers.

Jesus says that we, as young children, are pure in spirit, able to love the way God wishes us to love as adults (Matt 19:14)

Jesus called us to bring forth good treasure from our hearts and turn it into Good Works in the world (Matt. 12:35.) God is the Author of our first measure of Goodness in our hearts. He calls on us to nurture and replenish it daily.

Jesus says that we may seek the spiritual completion (perfection) of God (Matt. 5:48), that we may forgive as God forgives, and that we may be as merciful as our Father in Heaven is merciful (Luke 6:36)

Knowing all this, we can't call Jesus our lord ("master") and ignore what he commands us to do. He has made it clear that God has equipped us to do Good Works, and calls us to go serve others to the best of our natural, God-given abilities.

Giving of ourselves is not a zero-sum game. Serving others, as Jesus calls us to do, doesn't empty us, it fills us, with joy. Helping others brings us closer to God and to emulating the example God gave us, Jesus, who he anointed and chose at his Baptism for that purpose. We are likewise chosen and sent out to act, daily building up God's spiritual Kingdom.

Jesus calls us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30.) That’s complete and total love that is demonstrated in our active Good Works, not just lip service or weak emotionalism that fades by Sunday afternoon when the churches are empty again.

Jesus and our Heavenly Father, God, have become for many mere SYMBOLS - psychological crutches on which we throw all our work and give THEM our moral tasks. Millions drive to churches to chant and praise Jesus' name and "finished work", all the while, averting their eyes as they pass the homeless, the sick, the discouraged, the grieving widow, the hungry, and the ill-clothed living among them. And we wonder why most people under 30 view traditional Christians as hypocrites!

"Do less" or "do nothing" are easy to sell to today's pew-dwellers, especially Americans. Jesus, by contrast, said we are capable of doing Great things, and called us to go do them. Jesus Followers who hear his words and obey them will seek to actively serve others, using their God-given gifts.

It is clear from the teachings of Jesus that we were created for a purpose: to do more - to do ALL WE CAN - to serve and love one another. This is the reason why we were saved by Jesus from the ignorance of our true Nature, in order to be the beings that God created us to be.

To deny that Jesus taught a Gospel of Good Works and active service is to deny his Gospel entirely. Doing good on behalf of others stands at the very core of the Gospel Jesus preached.

Our Nature isn't that of creatures so damaged that we cannot turn our face to God and repent of past misdeeds or weaknesses. Our Nature is one of Beings who were created with Free Will, able to know and understand our true mission, outlined clearly in the words and demonstrated perfectly in the life of one of us: Jesus. He says this is the way of God. Why would we second guess him?

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Service: The Secret of Success in Life, and The Church #JesusFollowers



“Whoever would be first among you, let him be your servant.” (Matt. 20:27)

As the great fountain of beneficence, we see God with lavish hand pouring forth bounty and blessing upon His creatures and children, ruling the universe with the divine principle of service. As a loving Father, He seeks His children, ever ready to bless. We learn to love Him because He first loves us, as forever our best Friend.

By this principle Jesus rises to the throne of a true lordship, becomes leader and prince in the realm of religion, his church supreme and enduring amid the religions of the world. In darker days, worshiped as Deity, far away and above human experience, the example of Jesus was lost from sight, his mission deemed a sacrifice to pay the penalty of human guilt. 

Later days begin to see him more truly as the Gospels portray him, loving Friend and Helper. Because by life and word he served humanity, he is lovingly enshrined in millions of hearts. Our practical world and time are fast coming to care little for dogmatic opinions and dead debates of his nature. That Jesus brings a power of blessing for today welcomes and enthrones him in high place as divine example and best spiritual leader.

Walking in his footsteps and cherishing his spirit, our lives become unselfish and helpful with a loving service that renders the humblest Christ-like and God-like.

All legitimate business is a mutual service, with both parties benefited. As commerce runs its lines around the globe, civilization is tending to bind into one brotherhood the whole human family, fulfilling the sentiment of the fine Swiss motto, "Each for all, and all for each."

Everywhere and forever genuine service is the supreme secret of true success. Whatever best serves human need will win the glad homage of the human heart, will go to the front, will conquer and command. This is true alike for persons and peoples, nations and churches.

June days of every year are sending forth from academies, seminaries, and colleges a great host of young men and women, graduated to start upon their life career. As they enter upon the busy arena of practical affairs, comes to each the sharp summons: Do some good work or get out of the way!

By this ruling life principle, each speedily becomes weighed and measured, tested and judged. Does one ask supremely for some soft place of easiest work and largest pay, to settle down in selfish indulgence, ignoble comfort and content? He is speedily ignored and forgotten.

Whomever asks supremely for the greatest opportunity, open field for best work for which their ability is adequate, nobly consecrates themselves, unselfishly does their best, doors speedily open to them. Higher opportunities seek them. People love and honor them. Living or dying, they go in, on, and up to heights of usefulness and renown.

The law of service applies equally to institutions. It is true of the Church.

Soon after the death of Jesus and his apostles, the pure, simple, practical gospel they preached became obscured by heathen traditions that still linger in popular theology. The flowing stream has gathered sediment.

We seek to filter it, and get the pure, living water, to restore and apply to life the original gospel preached by Jesus.

We seek to welcome and keep pace with advancing intelligence. It offers no mystical or miraculous plan of salvation, but by practical righteousness would turn the wilderness into a garden.

But the better day among us is dawning, the missionary spirit awakening, and pushing its way into every open door of opportunity for service. Primarily we come hither for worship, for inspiration and guidance, for friendly fellowship, for comfort in sorrow and good cheer in daily living.

 The church’s larger purpose is not only for worship, but for work; not only to get good, but to do good. While old dogmas and forms are passing away, the ideal church of the future we hope here to realize.

The true church is not a concert or lecture hall of luxurious surroundings, with an audience of passive hearers to be entertained with sweet music and eloquent preaching. 

It is a congregation, a coming together, a union of souls joining hearts and hands for good work. 

The true church is not an aristocratic club, composed of a few select, superior saints, but, as in Galilee, a company of the common people who heard Jesus gladly.

We here today start afresh to work for and realize the ideal coming church. Every blessing to our own souls we would send out as blessing to others in life's sore struggle. Personal consecration crowned by zealous purpose to bless the world would make ours the church of the helping hand. Only by practical service can we hope to win.

Without this, the Master does not need us, and the world has no place for us. The logic of events issues the edict, "Do some good work, or better close the doors and disband."

Only as practically we serve this community can our church live or hope to win success.

(Adapted from a 1910 sermon by Rev. Russ R. Shippen)

Sunday, August 29, 2021

A Doer Who Works Is Blessed by Doing


"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." (James 1:22, 25)

God created us not to contemplate but to act. He created us in His own image, and in Him there is no Thought without simultaneous Action.

True action is born of contemplation. True contemplation, as a means to an end, always begets action. In nothing is the power of sin more clearly seen than this, that even in the believer there is such a gap between intellect and conduct. It is possible to delight in hearing, to be diligent in increasing our knowledge of God’s word, to admire and approve the truth, even to be willing to do it, and yet to fail entirely in the actual performance. Hence the warning of James, not to delude ourselves with being hearers and not doers. Hence his pronouncing the doer who works blessed in his doing.

Blessed in doing. - The words are a summary of the teaching of our Lord Jesus at the close of the Sermon the Mount: ‘He who does the will of My Father shall enter the kingdom of heaven.’ 

‘Everyone who hears My words, and does them, shall be like a wise man.’ To the woman who spoke of the blessedness of her who was his mother: ‘Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.’ To the disciples in the last night: ‘If you know these things, happy are you if ye do them.’ It is one of the greatest dangers in religion that we rest content with the pleasure and approval which a beautiful representation of a truth calls forth, without the immediate performance of what it demands. It is only when conviction has been translated into conduct that we have proof that the truth is mastering us.

A doer that works shall be blessed in doing. - The doer is blessed. The doing is the victory that overcomes every obstacle it brings out and confirms the very image of God, the Great Worker; it removes every barrier to the enjoyment of all the blessing God has prepared. We are ever inclined to seek our blessedness in what God gives, in privilege and enjoyment. Christ placed it in what we do, because it is only in doing that we really prove and know and possess the life God has bestowed.

When one said, ‘Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God,’ our Lord answered with the parable of the supper, ‘Blessed is he that forsakes all to come to the supper.’ The doer is blessed. As surely as it is only in doing that the painter or musician, the man of science or commerce, the discoverer or the conqueror find their blessedness, so, and much more, is it only in keeping the commandments and in doing the will of God that the believer enters fully into the truth and blessedness of deliverance from sin and fellowship with God.

Doing is the very essence of blessedness, the highest manifestation, and therefore the fullest enjoyment of the life of God.

A doer who works shall be blessed in doing. - This was the blessedness of Abraham, of whom we read (James 2:22): "You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was make perfect by his works" He had no works without faith; there was faith working with them and in them all. And he had no faith without works: through them his faith was exercised and strengthened and perfected. As his faith, so his blessedness was perfected in doing. 

It is in doing that the doer who works is blessed. The true insight into this, as a Divine revelation of the true nature of good works, in perfect harmony with all our experience in the world, will make us take every command, and every truth, and every opportunity to abound in good works as an integral part of the blessedness of the salvation Christ has brought us. Joy and work, work and joy, will become synonymous: we shall no longer be hearers, but doers.

Let us put this truth into immediate practice. Let us live for others, to love and serve them. Let not the fact of our being unused to labors of love, or the sense of ignorance and unfitness, keep us back. 

Only begin. If you think you are not able to labor for souls, begin with the bodies. Only begin, and go on, and abound. Believe the word, It is more blessed to give than to receive. 

Pray for and depend on the promised grace. Give yourself to a ministry of love; in the very nature of things, in the example of Christ, in the promise of God you have the assurance: If you know these things, happy are you if you do them. Blessed is the doer!

Adapted from "Working for God!" by Rev. Andrew Murray, 1901 (chapter 27)

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Jesus' Gospel Frees Us To Do Good More Perfectly! #JesusFollowers


We are born with the Natural, God-given ability to do Good. But it is only when we encounter and follow Jesus, the man who perfectly demonstrates for us what is Good in the eyes of God, that we can know and fully understand the perfect Good we are called to do.

Jesus taught that when we follow him, we are free, indeed (John 8:38). This freedom is not a call to pursue lawlessness, and does not mean that we may be released from any future accountability to God, Who remains our Father and Creator, as well as our Judge (Ps. 96:10; Prov. 24:12; Matt. 7:2; 12:36; 16:27). Instead, the opposite is true. Learning at the feet of our Master, we quickly learn that we are called to an even greater obedience.

Jesus calls out to us to hear his teachings, to understand his life as one we should emulate, and seek out others who will follow his example, also.  This, and no other message, is properly called The Gospel.

In this Gospel, Jesus plainly teaches that if we claim to love him, we will do all that he taught us (John 14:21; 15:10) and that we will teach others to do the same. (Matt. 28:20)

When we come to know and understand the Gospel of Jesus, we are "free, indeed" - not freed from the duty to do Good, because this is the core of his teaching - but freed from an ignorance and imperfect knowledge of God's holiness, and freed to do Good more completely, the way God intends.

And what is this perfect Way Jesus beckons us to follow? It is to love God, our Creator, in gratitude with all of the strength our souls can muster, and to love our fellow human beings with every fiber of our own Being. (Matt. 22:37)

The Gospel of Jesus is a call to love more fully; a love that completes and perfects us, because when we take up his Gospel's challenge, we deny all selfishness to totally seek God's path of Righteousness. (Matt. 16:24-25)

This is what Jesus meant when he called for us to be perfect, saying for us to, "be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48.) 

This perfection does not refer to some form of physical beauty, or even flawlessly performing our daily tasks. This is shown clearly when he calls for us to forgive as God forgives, and love as God loves (Matt. 6:14-15)

The Gospel presented by Jesus, therefore, recognizes the God-given abilities of all human beings to do great Good. And the life Jesus led in perfect obedience to God (Matt. 12:36; John 8:29) gives us a template of how we, also may perfect ourselves by pursuing this perfect Way.

We begin the process of becoming morally perfect servants of God and our fellow Human beings by first recognizing and repenting of our past imperfection, and then dedicating ourselves to seeking to follow his teachings.

These teachings of Jesus alone guide us directly to the holiness God knows we are capable of demonstrating in our own lives, just as Jesus perfectly demonstrated them in his.

It is in this sense that we can fully understand the otherwise difficult teaching that it is only through Jesus that we may reach our heavenly Father. (John 14:6)

In our ignorance of what is perfectly Good, we cannot have knowledge of the path God sets out for us. Jesus, by revealing to us through his life and teachings and even in his death, shows us clearly the perfect path of active obedience and self-denial we are called to follow.

Jesus and the message he left for us continues to guide us towards the Light of God's Righteousness. We are, he taught, to become lights to the world, just as he was the light of the world (Matt. 5:14; John 8:12)

Obtaining the knowledge of this message, and acting upon it, shows us God's Righteous Light, and allows us to share it with others by our deeds. God's spirit is an ever-present help to us on this journey towards holiness.

Let us become more like Jesus daily as we deny ourselves, serve others, and seek to follow his path of Righteousness, becoming the Light in the world that Jesus calls us to become.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

12 Ways #Jesus Challenges Us to Be Better! #JesusFollowers

Jesus' ministry was a call to humanity to come back to God, our Creator. That’s not a minor thing, nor is it a call that can leave us unchanged.

In fact, while we may come to God “as we are,” we cannot remain unchanged after approaching our Heavenly Father, Who is our God and the Creator of the universe.

God chose Jesus, anointed him, and sent him out to preach His Truth.

Jesus’ ministry calls us to make changes to our life, as well as to humbly approach God in repentance. Without action on our part, starting with our repentance, we aren’t truly returning to God, but simply SAYING we are.

Jesus calls us to be better people; to become the human beings God knows we can become. Mere belief is not enough, that is only the start of our Faith. If we say we love Jesus, we will actively seek to keep his commands (John 14:15.)

Those who claim to know him, but don’t believe his commands are worth following, or are “irrelevant” or are superseded by another person’s teachings, are liars, and don’t really know Jesus at all (1 John 2:4.)

Here, then, are a few (not all) of the commands Jesus gives those who say they follow him:

1. Jesus calls us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30.) That’s complete and total love, not just lip service or emotionalism.

2. Jesus calls us to love each other, our neighbors, with the same zeal with which we love God – complete and total love (Mark 12:31.) And all people are our neighbors.

3. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves take up our cross and follow him. (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23.) We are to be “other-centered,” not focused on Self.

4. Jesus calls on us to do the will of the Father – His God and our God, the Creator of all that is (Matt. 12:50; John 5:30.) Mere words and vain professions are NOT enough to ensure eternity with God (Matt. 7:21.)

5. Jesus calls on us to forgive others, and makes this duty a condition of being forgiven by God (Matt. 6:15-16.)

6. Jesus tells us we must repent of our sins. “Repent,” he says, “for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17.) Repent means to feel sorry about our sins, and work to stop sinning.

7. Jesus calls on us to “go the second mile” (Matthew 5:38–42) which is not a challenge to be lukewarm or partially committed to serving others.

8. Jesus says we must lay up heavenly treasures, not earthly ones that don’t last (Matthew 5:44–46.) The race for wealth doesn’t last, but our rewards in Heaven do.

9. Jesus tells us to be a “light to the world” and that we must let our Good Works “shine” so that others may see God’s righteousness manifest in us (Matt. 5:14-16.)

10. Jesus calls on us to choose the “narrow gate” that leads to God and salvation, rather than the “wide gate” that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14.) The popular way, the easy way of “faith alone” and the way that requires the least work isn’t the way Jesus calls us to approach God.

11. Jesus calls us to “do to others that which you would have done unto you” (Matt 7:12.) This “Golden Rule” has been ignored, demeaned and ridiculed by modern Christendom, but it’s at the core of Jesus’ preaching.

12. Jesus calls on us to follow him (Matt. 4:19.) Jesus sets for us a perfect example of how to live our lives (John 13:15.) We have the ability to serve God through Jesus’ moral commands (Matt. 5:48) strengthened always through God’s spirit and Jesus’ holy example.

Let us take up the challenge Jesus puts before us!

Sunday, August 8, 2021

#Jesus Says: We Must Forgive Others [#JesusFollowers]

"Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." (Matt. 13:21-22) 

Our Master, Jesus, told the disciples the Parable of the Wicked (or "ungrateful") Servant to teach them, and us, how God forgives and how we must also forgive others. In the Book of Matthew, it follows the "seven times seventy" verse above, and both the verse and the parable are related to one another.

The Parable goes like this: A king had a servant, who owed him a vast sum of money. And because he couldn't pay, he begged the king to forgive the debt. And the king forgave the entire debt.

But as this servant went out of the king's court, he met a fellow servant, who owed him only a small amount; and he took him by the throat, choked him, and said, “Pay me all you owe me!" The fellow servant said, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all of it.” But he wouldn't listen, and had him thrown into jail.
 
When the king got wind of how his servant had acted, having had the lesser servant thrown into prison after getting mercy for himself, he was angry.

Jesus finishes the parable in this way, "'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master [the king] delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

The lesson of the parable (coming after the "seventy times seven" lesson as it does) is clear: that we are bound, every one of us, to forgive any wrong that our brothers and sisters do to us, if we expect God to forgive us.

In fact, if we expect to be forgiven by God, we must first freely offer forgiveness to others, and do so continually, as a condition of our forgiveness. Or so teaches Jesus. (Mark 11:25) Forgiveness is given to us by God freely when we ask for it, but we must in turn give forgiveness freely to others, not as a grudging act (or just when we feel like it) but willingly, and from our hearts.

As we saw, Peter asked how many times we must forgive others, and Jesus replied, “Seventy times seven” times. In other words, continually and without end. This must have shocked Peter, and it comes as a great shock today to those who believe they need “do” nothing in this life to achieve communion with God eternally in Heaven in the next. But they have been greatly misled.

And when the Scribes tried to tell Jesus that only God can forgive sins, Jesus corrected them, and by example, taught that all those who follow him should forgive others’ sins and trespasses. (Mark 2:7, John 20:23) 

In opposing the Scribes, Jesus said we must be as forgiving as God is. "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful." (Luke 6:36) There are some Scribes today who doubt we have the ability to do what Jesus calls us to do.

But forgiveness, more than almost any other doctrine, is at the core of the Gospel that Jesus preached. And if Jesus can, in his dying breath, forgive those who murdered him, we can certainly forgive those who offend us with their gossip and other petty offenses. Our God, revealed to us by the teachings of Jesus, is a God of high expectations, and believes that we are able to meet and exceed them.  We should believe Jesus and the God that he preaches, then act accordingly.