Obedience and Willingness by Pastor Don
Pastor Don opened up Friday’s Bible study by allowing us to ask any questions about any of the teachings in case there was something we did not understand.
One person asked about obedience and willingness, a teaching Pastor Don had done a bit ago. He brought us to the relevant passage, and as with all Bible studies, not only that question was answered but we went on a quest for other answers that this question opened up. It was a wonderful time in the Bible.
Isaiah 1:18-19 “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land;
Pastor Don said, when we sin we usually want to hide. Some people who commit sins drop out of church, hide from God (as if that is possible), stop praying, and stop singing praise and worship songs. That is not God’s best for us. God wants to reason with us. He already knows what we have done, and loves us still. He wants us to come to Him and talk things out, to plead our case.
Usually a sin we have is connected to something we have been hurt by. A wife abused by her husband abuses her child. If someone hurt you, you turn around and hurt someone else.
We have old patterns of dealing with things that produce stress, fear, insecurity. satan longs to bring those patterns back to our memory, trying to convince us that, since things are so bad, we need to do what we used to do.
Pastor Don said, one person he counseled with used to be in bondage to alcohol. After a particularly challenging period of time where work pressures and time of working became so intense, satan convinced him he needed to unwind with alcohol, much to this person’s detriment. The person made two appointments with Pastor Don and canceled them, only when he reached rock bottom did he come and talk with Pastor Don. Had the person gone in at the first sign that things were off-course, a lot of hurt and pain could have been avoided.
Often, when pressure is exerted, we revert back to the crutches we used when we were in the world. God tells us in Isaiah not to do that, but rather to come and reason with Him. State our case. Pastor Don said, for example, tell God that “As a child I was abused, and now my sin is that when these feelings come up I push them down by ……” Tell God what is on your heart, God wants to bless us, but He can’t when we are in open rebellion to Him. Prove your case to God, tell him why, how, what you want God to do. God already knows we are sinners. He has already watched us do what we did. He knows our minds and hearts.
We cannot be victorious over the devil until we know what areas we are weak in, what areas satan is able to tempt us with. When we see where we respond to the bait of satan, we can either continue being baited or put a stop to it by bringing it to God, so God can help us change our behavior and reaction to what satan is tempting us with. God can help us be victorious.
Pastor Don reminded us of the movie scenario – boy meets girl, boy gets girl, either the boy or girl does something that is misconstrued by the other, they do not communicate what is happening between them, boy and girl separate, misunderstanding abounds, and then a friend points out to the “injured” person the real reason the other person did what they did, boy and girl get back together and get married and live happily ever after.
Pastor Don said, “Noooooooooo they don’t live happily ever after.” In reality they never addressed the real problem, their lack of communication. The movie would have been very short if, when there was the initial misconception, the person had gone to their partner and cleared up the misunderstanding immediately. In a real relationship, when something goes wrong, it is important to address the problem immediately.
The same is true in our relationship with God, when we do something displeasing to Him, far better to bring it immediately to His attention, and reason together, so you are brought back into right relationship with God.
There is a problem today with the doctrine of universalism, which states everyone can be reconciled to God. That is not proved in the Bible. If you come to God with your sins, and repent, if you accept the forgiveness given to us by the shed blood of Jesus, you will not be found guilty. No matter if you are unfaithful, God is always faithful. God will pardon us and give us another chance, not because of who we are, but because of Jesus. If you don’t choose to do that, reconciliation is not possible.
In secular terms if you go before the judge and he asks how you plea, he does not look at you, he looks at your lawyer who speaks for you. We too have a Paraclete in Jesus, and Jesus pleads our case before the Judge. He speaks on our behalf. Jesus can only speak on our behalf if we choose to put our lives into His hands. Then we operate within God’s mercy and grace.
Someone then asked about forgiveness, how if someone did something horrific and God forgave them, do we have to forgive, and does forgiveness mean that we have to let the person that hurt us come close to us again? Do we, for example, have to let a thief in our house if we forgive them?
Mark 11:22-24 (Jesus talking) So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
Pastor Don said that most people think this is like a Spiritual Gold American Express card, we ask what we want and God will give it to us, but there is more, we cannot stop with verse 24, because 22-24 are contingent on verses 25-26.
Mark 11:25-26 And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.
The praying is what you were praying about in verse 24. Notice, in verse 25, it says ANYTHING. Pastor Don said that “that” is rough. ANYTHING includes persecution, family troubles, abuse, the feeling that I don’t like you, ANYTHING AGAINST ANYONE.
Pastor Don gave the example of how he had counseled a person who was a drug addict. The person once broke into Pastor Don’s house after he had invested so much time, effort and money to help rehabilitate the person, and the person stole from him. Pastor Don wanted to take retribution, but this verse stopped him, he prayed instead for the person, and God took care of the problem. (Heather’s note, in past Bible studies Pastor Don has pointed out that when we hold a grudge or unforgiveness it stays God’s hand from correcting the situation, once we can give up our unforgiveness, then God is free to help correct the person in the appropriate way.) The person repented, but also got arrested, and now has a good prison ministry.
Pastor Don also told us when we think we have finally fully forgiven a person or situation, then there is usually a test where, if there is any residual unforgiveness, it is brought to the surface. Often, when that happens, it is because God is getting ready to promote us in an area, and He wants to make sure we do not have any unforgiveness that satan can use to bring us down. God will bring us revelation of those things we need to forgive so we are not bound by the past.
Someone said they could forgive, but not forget. That is okay according to Pastor Don. He gave a visual image by pretending he was angry at a person in the Bible study and came at him with a clenched fist – but after forgiving, the fist became unclenched. The memory is still there, but the reaction to the situation isn’t.
And regarding the question about how close you have to let a person you have forgiven get to you, Pastor Don said, just because you have changed enough to be able to forgive the person, does not mean the person you have forgiven has changed enough not to do the same thing again. Avoiding a person who still can hurt you, who hasn’t changed, hasn’t exhibited Godly repentance is WISDOM. Forgiving does not mean you lay down and get abused again.
If the devil senses something that someone has done to you in the past still has a hold on you, he will use that to distract you from God’s best for your life.
The Holy Spirit tests us as we make spiritual progress, and often that test is attached to something we want or desire. It is like God saying, I really want to give this to you but, just like we deny a child having a temper tantrum the thing they are demanding, God will not give us our wants when we are in direct disobedience to God.
Pastor Don said sometimes when something is irritating us, or has us distracted with unforgiveness, we must make the decision not to let it take up heart and brain space, but to totally release it.
When we make the decision to forgive, and it reaches the secret place in our heart, it is like holding the “hit back” impulse. We no longer feel the desire to even the score.
Pastor Don has realized that HURT PEOPLE HURT PEOPLE. What is necessary is to break the generational curse so we break that cycle of hurting. One of the people Pastor Don counseled was a wife abuser, and as he started looking at the source of this behavior, he realized it stemmed from generational abuse from grandfather and great grandfather. The man had to forgive those who hurt him in the past, and after doing that, he changed and the generational curse was broken.
We need to realize when God asks us to forgive it does not mean the person is not answerable to God for what they did, it isn’t absolution of what the person did. It really is forgiving for our own sake. When we hold on to unforgiveness, we put ourself in the place of God (similar to what satan did). When we hold unforgiveness we are bound to the past, and there is truly only real liberty after we have forgiven.
Then a question was brought up about forgiving our brother before we pray. The person said someone she knew felt all problems with anyone had to be resolved before they approached God in prayer. Pastor Don took us to the passage in question to see what it really said.
Matthew 5:22-24 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Pastor Don pointed out this came after the Sermon on the Mount and this passage involved matters of the heart. That prayer was a gift, as were tithes and offerings, praise and worship. If you read the passage it points out God would cause you to remember your brother had something against you (whether real or imagined)- when that happened then you needed to go and set the matter straight, for God does not want tainted gifts. If we give something to God, He wants it holy and acceptable.
He gave as a pretend example, if he and his brother Jerry, had words, and he wanted to give an offering to God, he would first have to set matters straight with Jerry, apologize and get reconciled with him, then he could offer the gift in a way that was pleasing to God.
We got a bit sidetracked when someone asked who was one’s brother, weren’t we supposed to love everyone, wasn’t everyone our brother? And so we looked at that answer.
Everyone is not our brother in Christ – not all choose to be a child of God. For example, Anton LeVey chose to honor satan, not God, and thus he chose not to be a brother in Christ in this life.
God is willing to accept anyone who wants to accept Him as Lord but, if a person chooses not to accept God, God will not force Himself upon that person.
A neighbor is someone who lives in close proximity to you, but the neighbor may or may not be a believer. We are to help our neighbors and love our neighbors. But just like we care about family, we also give priority to those in the family of God.
We are to love our neighbor as ourselves, but a brother in Christ is a person in covenant agreement with you. While we are to show all the love of Christ, family comes first at times.
Then Pastor Don returned to the subject of reconciling and pointed out that there is more than one definition of reconcile. When we read this passage it seems to imply restoring what was once there, but not always is reconciliation restoration. He used me as an example. When I first met Pastor Don I had NO relationship with God, I never had had one when I reached the age of accountability I chose ungodly relationships with idols and other gods. So Pastor Don could not help me restore a relationship with God (that had never existed) instead he helped me to clear the way so that I could come into agreement with God and accept God into my life. That is a restoration, but it is not restoring the to the old situation, just coming in agreement.
2 Corinthians 7 calls us to repent, to come back into a relationship. Verse 10 For Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Pastor Don gave a few examples of situations where people may not be in agreement, but can choose to be at peace with each other and at peace with God. Then there is the chance for sweet communion, sweet communication and peace. People can agree to disagree, then the disagreement does not tear apart a relationship.
So, the question was asked what if you ask a person to forgive you and they refuse to forgive you? You have obeyed God in the situation to the best of your ability, and now the choice rests with the other person, you can offer your gift.
And Pastor Don also said, if you do not reconcile with your brother, and if your brother is in Christ, that Christ has told us that what we bind on earth is bound in Heaven, our brother in Christ could bind up our blessing because of the unforgiveness.
The main reason to set matters right is obedience to God, for God wants the best for us, and the best is to walk in love, in forgiveness and in peace.
Pastor Don continued by pointing out,not only can we hold unforgiveness for others, but we can also hold ourselves in unforgiveness, never accepting that God has truly forgiven us for our sins.
That is a message to us from satan, who wants to keep us from knowing in our hearts the complete forgiveness of God. We use our unforgiveness to say we are unclean, unworthy of God, and that we can’t be used by Him. But the truth is:
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
When you realize that you are not forgiving yourself, it is important to bring that to the altar.
Pastor Don went back to the verse Matthew 5:23-24 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.
In response to the question about the person who believed that any unreconciled sin prevented one from bringing a gift to the altar, the verse clearly states it is your brother (brother in life, sister in life, brother in Christ), but if you are harboring unforgiveness for things you have done, unforgiveness for yourself, you can still bring your gifts to the altar. For self unforgiveness is your problem, something you and God need to work out. (Heather’s note, Pastor Don used to use 1 John 1:9 with me lots, because I really went through angst not believing that God could really forgive different sins that I had committed -but now I know God is true to His Word, and when He says, “FORGIVEN” we are forgiven, no matter what our minds try to tell us.)
Also when we come to the altar and praise and worship God, we get the joy of the Lord, and the Joy of the Lord is our strength.
We went back to the original question about willingness and obedience. (I love it that the Bible study is this flexible to go where people need to go to gain understanding of principles of God).
Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “Though our sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson they shall be as wool.”
Pastor Don said God wants us to come to Him with our challenges and reason. He will not hate us if we bring our sins to Him, He will not condemn us. He wants us to talk, to reason, to hear what God says about the situation, so we can come to a point of change.
I shared that before I got saved I hated God, I would fume at Him, rage at Him and sometimes Bible studies would get me to see red. Before that I never talked to God at all, and then my first talking was raging at God, angry at Him for what I perceived as His abandonment of me in the midst of the abuse I had received, of His seeming lack of concern about me and my life. If someone said, “God is love,” I would almost spit out that if He is love, He sure has a funny way of showing it. When I finally came (after 2 years of talking and sorting things out with God through Pastor Don) to accept God into my life, I apologized to God for my angry words, and I clearly heard Him say, “That’s ok, Heather. At least you were talking to me after 40 years of silence.” God really can take our anger, our hurts, and our pains, and transform them. Do not be afraid to bring ANYTHING to God.
Remember, John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Jesus came to offer salvation to the World, but all the World does not accept salvation. There are poeple who hate God and are willing to let you know it in no uncertain terms. Some are very blatant when they point out their hatred to God.
Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to bless them that curse us.
We don’t always love Jesus with the AGAPE love that He has for us. Pastor Don reminded us of Peter who, when Jesus said, “Do you AGAPE me” Peter would answer I “Phileo” (friend type of love) you. When Jesus says the He loves (Agape) us, it is unconditional.
We need to keep giving the love of Jesus to a world that is bent on destruction, whose response at some point may be to kill the Christian.
The world points to the intolerance of the Church for certain acts, for things God has deemed sinful – sexual immorality (adultery, sex outside of marriage, homosexuality) for murder, for gossip, etc. What the World does not understand is that we can hate the sin, but still AGAPE the sinner.
We love the sinner so much we want God’s best for them, and God’s best involves avoiding sin and its repercussions.
While we will give aid and help for unbelievers, as brethren (those in the family of God) we will give our lives to protect. Jesus said, John 15:13-14 Greater love has no one than this than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”
Jesus was talking to believers (past and future) at this point, and those who believe in Him are His friends. We too lay down our lives (our selves – time, energy, aid, assistance, getting outside our comfort zone) for our friends.
How much love we give is an indication of how effective Jesus is in our lives. We need to be quick to respond to another person’s needs and even quicker to respond to a brethren’s need. For the brethren we need to put ourselves out even if it causes discomfort.
We need to show all people the love of Christ. But the World will not always love us when we show the love of Christ.
Pastor Don said Isaiah 1:19 is a response to verse 18. Isaiah 1:19 If you are willing and obedient you shall eat the good of the land.
When we reason and talk with God, and bring our issues to God, He washes them clean. When we are washed and clean then we can enjoy the good of the land.
God handles our sins and problems, but He asks us, “Are you willing and obedient?”
To qualify we have to be willing (open to accepting what God has to give us) and obedient (doing what we are supposed to do, obeying God’s orders.
Someone asked for a word picture to describe this, and Pastor Don gave us the parable that Jesus shared, Matthew 21:28-33 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ “He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them,”Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.
Pastor Don said the difference is in the heart. The one who initially said, “no” had a change of heart and then went and willingly did what his Father asked.
We often ask God for something and when He tells us what we need to do, we are not willing to do what He tells us. For example, some ask God for prosperity, and God tells them to get a job. They are not willing – they want prosperity to drop in their laps. God does not function that way. He wants us to be obedient to what He wants us to do.
Also, Pastor Don said sometimes, when we ask someone to help, and they sort of say in a moan, “Ooooh, if you want me to,” our instant response is to say “don’t bother.”
It is the same with God. He wants us to willingly obey Him, to obey Him from our hearts. If we are giving grudgingly it is not pleasing to Him. We need to make a willful decision from our hearts. If we are not willing, we need to pray to God to make us willing.
Isaiah 1:20 “But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword;” for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Unwillingness is a form of rebellion. It is better to yield and say, I choose to be willing to help out.
Kenneth Hagin, at one point in his ministry, wondered why he was not prospering. God gave him Isaiah 1:18-19, and God told him that he was not willing to prosper, not willing to agree with God. Once he got into agreement with God, Kenneth Hagin’s ministry prospered.
Some say that we are not to have money, but Jesus never said that money was bad. He said the LOVE OF MONEY is bad. Does money have you or do you have money?
In order for God to prosper us (not just with money, but love, family, friends, ministry, etc.) we need to be willing to work, to be obedient to the law.
If we give grudgingly, God will take our money, but He loves a cheerful giver.
Time ran out, but this was a great Bible study.
Have a blessed day!
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