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Refreshment in Refuge

    by Gina Burgess

Take Heed to Yourselves
Date Posted: July 19, 2015

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, "Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?" Matthew 18:21

This is the kind of offense like the in the sense that somebody has done you wrong. It won’t take you long for one of those things to pop into your mind. There it is. What was it about the dirty deed that really hurt you? Betrayal of trust? Lied about you? Bullied you? Cruelly joked about you to others? Misused authority over you? Led you astray? Seduced you and left you cold-heartedly?

Everyone has a broken heart because someone did something to them, or to a loved ones.

A similar account is in Luke 17. Jesus emphasizes in this account that if a fellow believer sins against you seven times in one day you are to forgive him or her each time the believer asks for forgiveness and repents. Take a hard look at verse four.

“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him.” Luke 17:3-4

Last week I asked if you had ever taken Matthew 18:15-17 literally and treated a person who had wronged you the way Jesus says to. Luke uses the word rebuke, while Matthew is a bit softer. The action is the same, however, toward your sibling in Christ.

The words “take heed to yourselves” should give us great pause. There is always great danger when someone hurts us because anger can creep into our minds and explode with the power of dynamite. Thank goodness we have the fruit of the Spirit. There is a part of it called self control. Sometimes it is the hardest thing to do especially when our sense of justice has been bruised.

Because we are humans and fallible, something goes wrong, tension rises, anger flares, feelings are hurt and we suddenly withdraw our trust of the other believer. We steer clear of him or her. We hold grudges. We might hold back gossiping about it, and feel very pious about it.

We block out that still small voice that is saying, “Forgive, love, because that is the only way the world knows Who I AM!”

But just for a moment, let’s put this in reality…Where is your goat tied up? Do you walk around with it tied to your belt so that anyone can come along and get your goat? Does it parade behind you or does it lead the way for you? Do you feed it and nurture it day in and day out? Or do you hide your goat, and never tell anyone where you’ve tied it up?

For some reason, there is some erroneous thinking that we Christians are supposed to be these suffering martyrs, accepting everything thrown at us without a peep of aggravation or complaint. Of course in a perfect world, we do accept it and we try to be content in whatever condition we find ourselves, just as Paul teaches. But, seriously…

The man after God’s own heart was quite vocal with his indignation.

Look at some of the things he said:

For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is engulfing ruin; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. 10 O God, hold them guilty; let them fall from their own counsels. Drive them away in the multitude of their transgressions, for they have rebelled against You. Psalm 5:9

Admittedly, those who had transgressed against David had done so robustly against God as well. Anyone who messes with God’s children, messes with God. He gets perturbed at those who attack His children who are going about His business. We see this clearly in

For You are not a God enjoying wickedness; nor shall evil live with You. 5 The boasters shall not set themselves before Your eyes. You hate all workers of iniquity. 6 You shall destroy those speaking lies; Jehovah will despise the man of blood and deceit. Psalm 5:-6

David pleads with God because of my enemies, make straight Your way before me and lead me in Your righteousness. David was wary of his enemies getting his goat. He looked to the One who could keep things in perspective, and guide him through the dark valley into the sunshine. Perhaps, goat protecting is not just God’s job, though. It should be a joint venture between God and us. We must make the deliberate decision to keep our goat and not to handily display it for all to see and covet and take away.

It is okay to raise your complaint to God. He knows your heart anyway. David did it frequently and, it is supposed, that he recognized the good that came from it. Pouring out all that ire, hurt, despair, doubt, unforgiveness, stubbornness, bitterness, and confusion will do several things for you.

You will be able to articulate exactly what has got you so upset. Then you can consider whether it is crucially important to do something about it, or whether it is something that you can set behind you just as God puts our sins behind His back never to be thought of again. After the outburst is over, and the tears have been wiped away, you can then consider the next step in a more calm state of mind. This is critical because all that bad stuff blows toward God rather than on your loved ones. This is a major achievement because God can actually do something about the trouble in your heart, whereas, your loved ones don’t have that kind of power.

It is so easy to get on that anger and bitterness train without realizing that we are the ones shoveling fuel to the fire. We often get too close to the flames, and suddenly we’re burned by our own anger fire. Anger and bitterness are energy wasters. Self-pity is a time waster. Who has the time and energy to spend on anything that isn’t productive?

Therefore, we are to work in concert with the Holy Spirit when a sibling in Christ hurts us. You know the Holy Spirit is convicting that person in his or her conscience. We just add a bit of fuel to that blaze by looking that person in the eye and saying, “Hey! What you did really hurt me!”

How often have you thought today: "Jesus really, truly, and deeply loves me! Little ole, human me!"

Have you recently thought about the depth and breadth of mercy that Jesus poured over us dirty, filthy sinners by loving us so much He went to the cross? He loved us first, even the stubborn ones who hang on to the mistaken belief that trusting God is like facing a raging grizzly—a life full of unpredictable danger and strife.

That is exactly what their life is like without God's mercy and grace. They don’t know how dangerous and how heavy their load really is because they are used to lugging around this millstone on their back fighting their battles all alone.

We like to watch a show called Forensic Files. The other day I was very surprised that a fellow who had killed a woman's daughter was spared the death sentence because the mother had pleaded for his life. She said that as long as there was life there was hope for him to repent. That kind of mercy is rare between and among humans.

Often times the victim's family cries out for vengeance not mercy.

What about a sacrifice? What good does a sacrifice do? Not one slender whit, which happens to be much smaller than a splinter, by the way. Sacrifices were important for Old Testament saints, but Jesus did it once and for all.

Mercy and forgiveness is valued by God much greater than sacrifice is. If the Hebrews had learned this, if the Jews had learned this, then they would never have turned away from Jesus. But, they never understood that Jesus, a completely sinless person, had to take all the sin of the world upon Himself so that we humans could be free of sin. Well, at least those humans that believe Him. Jesus said from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!”

Mercy is that thing that God gave us while we were still sinners. Forgiveness is what He gave us as He watched His Son go to the cross. According to the worldly thinking, that is impossible. I look around and see so much hate and so much unforgiveness and bitterness. What is so sad is that most people cannot see unforgiveness for the cancer it is. How much energy is wasted by harboring hatred and unforgiveness? It does not mean that we have to fraternize with those who have hurt us, nor do we have to allow them the opportunity to do it to us again. Jesus said to be wise as serpents but harmless as doves (Matthew href="">Matthew 10:16).

We've been taught that we must do this, but just how do we do that? The steps listed below are deliberate decisions that one must make in order to be free of the chains of unforgi

1. Be willing to let go of the hurt. If we keep rolling that hurt around in our minds, nurturing the anger, nursing the hurt, reveling in the injustice of it all, we are merely playing into Satan's hands and opening our armor for the fiery dart of bitterness. Make no mistake, we can hide our feelings from friends and loved ones, but we cannot hide them from Satan. He knows our weakness and exploits it to the hilt of that dart. There is the sting. It is not the hurt from the betrayal or the hurtful words or the lack of support which deeply hurts. Of course it does. But time does heal wounds from the outside. Those self-inflicted wounds of heaping fuel on the anger keeping it alive, and bitterness which we keep open and bleeding by continuous poking and prodding turns our self-inflicted pain to stinging cancer.

Examine that and see if it is really as bad as it feels. Sometimes, we blow things out of proportion and add importance to nit-picky things. Oh, come on, you can think of at least one time when you did that. I can think of a dozen. I am not belittling any huge thing like infidelity. Been there, too. That kind of anger takes several years to work through. But, oh how great freedom felt when I finally let that last bit of anger go.

2. Decide to give mercy and to forgive. It absolutely is a decision. Just like deciding to lose weight or quit smoking or deciding on a worship lifestyle instead of a worldly lifestyle.

3. Understand it will take lots of time. We have the Holy Spirit inside us and we have the mind of Christ, but we are not God. It takes a lot longer for us because we've got so much more to influence us: The world, our friends and acquaintances who, sad to say, "egg" us on. Satan certainly plays a huge part in affecting our thought processes. Remember the closer you are to God, the less influence Satan has. Getting close to Him and staying close to Him are deliberate decisions as well.

4. Set the thoughts of anger aside. Paul said to get angry but do not sin. That kind of anger is over some injustice. God does not hurt us. Nothing hurts a child of God that is just. He may discipline us and chastise us justly for our unruly behavior, but He will never harm us or hurt us. It is our pride that gets hurt so often, and when it is bruised, it is painful. So setting aside the thoughts also includes setting aside pride. It only gets in the way of forgiveness and gives fuel to the flame to anger. Lean on the fact that God does not like it when someone messes with His kid. His vengeance is so much wiser and so much better than ours could ever be.

5. Obey God’s command. It is commanded that we forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ anything. That hard verse comes to mind. Forgive or your Father in Heaven will not forgive you. However, giving mercy truly expresses God's heart. Doing that we begin to truly look like Him. The question here is how can we expect mercy and forgiveness from God when we harbor unforgiveness toward a brother or sister in Christ?

Luke href="">Luke 6:37 Judge not, and in no way be judged. Do not condemn, and in no way you will be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and good measure will be given to you, pressed down and shaken together, and running over, they will give into your bosom. For the same measure which you measure, it will be measured back to you.

Truly as we pour out blessings on others, God pours more and more blessings on us. We cannot out give God.

“But what about unbelievers?” Good, no, excellent question. Have you ever noticed how Jesus so often answered a question with a question?

Can a believer nurture anger and bitterness toward someone not a believer and still have room in his heart for God? How does that draw more lost to God?

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Biography Information:
Gina Burgess has taught Sunday School and Discipleship Training for almost three decades. (Don't tell her that makes her old.) She earned her Master's in Communication in 2013.

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
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