Refreshment in Refuge
by Gina Burgess
(John 20:22 NKJV) And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
These verses read like we have the power to withhold forgiveness for sins here on earth. It's why these two verses are in the group of Scriptures that are difficult to understand.
Here is something to ponder.
Christians' mission is to make disciples, teach them Jesus' commands, and do this throughout the world as we live our daily lives. We are to make sure the Gospel is on our lips and in our lives. Speaking God's Word is our priority so that the lost can hear that Jesus took God's wrath upon Himself. If the lost believe the truth and repent, they will go to Heaven instead of going to Hell. If they do not believe, they are condemned already (John 3:18). The key factor here is human nature.
Jesus tells us that everyone who practices evil hates the truth and does not come to the light because their deeds will be exposed (John 3:20). Jesus also explains in the parable of the Sower, that these humans are so far gone that any nugget of the Word they hear, Satan snatches away like birds eating the seed that falls on hard ground (Matthew 13:19). They are completely deceived and are satisfied in their unbelief.
As possessors of the Holy Spirit, we have discernment that is supernatural. We can see these wicked ones for what and who they are. When the Holy Spirit urges us not to pour out pearls before swine, we should heed that, and thus we speak the Gospel no more to the stubborn who live in darkness of their own choice. This is withholding forgiveness. Not by our own choice, but at the bidding of the Holy Spirit.
This does not mean they are lost forever. God is the one who draws the lost to Jesus by many different means. He uses His children and He uses circumstances to open the eyes of the spiritually blind and the ears of the spiritually deaf so they can slough off the deception and embrace the Gospel with supernatural joy. Imparting forgiveness is speaking the Gospel to those drawn to Jesus by God Himself.
It's this discernment that is gifted by the Holy Spirit that helps us to know the Holy Spirit that dwells in another's heart. Even though we may not talk about Jesus or the Bible with a person we meet for the first time, we can know what's in their heart because the Holy Spirit reacts with joy when He sees himself in another. That's a supernatural reaction.
You may remember be telling you of a time more than a decade ago when I decided to go back to college and finish my degree. I had to go to my alma mater and get my transcriptions to send to different colleges. Walking across the green I saw a lovely young lady come out of a door. Her clothing had the flair and pattern of Africa, and her skin was a rich dark chocolate. I had a rush of joy fill my heart as we drew closer to each other. We were smiling and our pace quickened. We reached for each other just a couple of feet apart and clasped hands. At the same time, we began quoting the Old Testament verse, If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14) At the same time. Astonishing!
The Holy Spirit in me recognized with joy the Holy Spirit in her from fifty yards away. I don't know her name, have never seen her again, but I so look forward to seeing her in Heaven.
The living Word explains the sacrifice of Jesus' death and resurrection that imparts forgiveness of sins and, at the same time, withholds forgiveness according to belief (John 3:17-18). How blessed are the feet of him who brings good news. Whether the hearer is blessed with peace beyond understanding or gnashing of teeth resides in the choice of that person to receive or reject the Gospel. Our authority comes from the Holy Spirit to share the Good News about Jesus. If we withhold the truth from a lost person, then we are responsible, in part, for keeping that person in the dark. That is incredible responsibility.
Immediately after Jesus teaches about how offenses should be handled within the Body of Christ in Matthew 18:15-17, He tells them (Matthew 18:18 NKJV) Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
We have the authority to forgive offenses (sins) against us. We are commanded to forgive our siblings in Christ, which Jesus goes on to give in Matthew 18:22. Not just seven times, but seventy times seven forgiving the same offense. He commands, but we have the choice to obey or disobey. What powerful authority and responsibility we've been given.
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She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.
If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection
Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and eBookChristian.com
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