Tag Archives: Jesus

What Forgiveness is NOT…

There are so many misconceptions about what forgiveness is and what forgiveness is not that I thought I would lay it out in this month’s newsletter. A couple of weeks ago in the Adult Sunday School class we had an in depth discussion about forgiveness. We looked at specific Scriptures and then we watched a short 10-minute video clip from Mark Driscoll who is the pastor of Mars Hills Church in Seattle, Washington. (You can view the clip at http://bit.ly/o25BJp)


Mark offered some very insightful teaching about what forgiveness is and several people in the Sunday School class asked me to summarize and republish his teaching.

1. Forgiveness is not approving or diminishing sin. 
It’s not saying, “It’s OK, nobody’s perfect… everybody makes mistakes… its no big deal.” The fact of the matter is that it IS a big deal! It’s SO BIG that God died for it! So don’t dishonor the cross of Jesus and approve or diminish something that required the death of Christ.

2. Forgiveness is not enabling sin. 
You see this sometimes with wives who misunderstand submission. For example, the Bible teaches that the husband is the head of the house and that he is suppose to lead which isn’t a problem if he leads by lovingly following Jesus, but what if he’s not following Jesus? The wife shouldn’t follow him because her ultimate allegiance is to Jesus. The truth is that you can forgive someone without enabling their sin and participating in it. You can have a family or friend that is an addict… you can forgive them without enabling them. Forgiveness is not enabling. Forgiveness can even include confronting and rebuking.

3. Forgiveness is not denying a wrongdoing.
“It didn’t happen… I forgot all about it… I just moved on… I didn’t let it affect me.” That’s not true. Forgiveness is not the denial of a wrongdoing. It’s not denying that you were sinned against.

4. Forgiveness is not waiting for an apology. 
A lot of people won’t forgive till the other person apologizes. “I will forgive them as soon as they say they are sorry.” The fact of the matter is that some people are never going to apologize. Some people will continue in their rebellious and foolish life course. Some people will be stubborn and self-righteous and they will never confess or admit. Some people will move away and you’ll never speak with them again. Some people may even die before they ever articulate repentance. So you what do you do? You forgive them before they apologize.

5. Forgiveness is not forgetting. 
This is one of the great Christian myths. “Were suppose to forgive and forget.” NO YOU DON’T! You can’t forgive and forget! You can’t! If you were raped, molested, abandoned, beaten, abused, cheated on, betrayed, lied about… forget it? You can’t forget it. It’s impossible. Some will appeal to Scriptural passages such as Jeremiah 31:34 that says, “God will remember their sin no more,” and they’ll say, “SEE, God doesn’t remember our sin.” But God DOES remember our sin. He’s omniscient. He’s all knowing. He forgets nothing. He knows everything. So what does it mean when it says, “God will remember their sin no more?” It means that God chooses not to interact with us based upon what we’ve done, but to instead interact with us based on what Christ has done. It means that He chooses to see us as new creations and He chooses to work for a new future. It means that at the forefront of God’s thinking is not all of the sin that we’ve committed, but all the work that Jesus has done. Forgiveness is not a matter of forgetting, but it is a matter of releasing.

6. Forgiveness is not ceasing to feel the pain.
Just because your hurt doesn’t mean that you’ve failed to forgive. It still hurts! Some of you have had horrible things done to you. Horrible things! It would be so cruel for me to say, “Well, if you’ve forgiven them then you shouldn’t hurt anymore.” That simply is not true. Sure it hurts. We don’t hear in the Bible that all the tears are wiped from our eyes until the resurrection of the dead and the final unveiling of the kingdom. It means people are crying all the way to Jesus. It still hurts. It’s OK for it to bother you.

7. Forgiveness is not a one-time event.
Forgiveness is both a one-time event and a process because sometimes they keep sinning so you need to keep forgiving or sometimes you forgive them but there are emotional moments where it feels fresh. For example, a husband commits adultery. The wife can forgive him and the husband can earnestly repent and seek Biblical counseling and they can work things out. But there still could be times that the husband might innocently be talking to another woman at church and just the mere sight of him talking to another woman might trigger her to feel all of that betrayal again. She needs to forgive him again for what he did in the past. Sometimes forgiveness is something that is regularly required.

8. Forgiveness is not neglecting justice.
You can forgive a person and call the police and have them arrested. You can forgive someone and testify against them in court. “Well I thought you forgave me?” “I did, but you’ve committed a crime… you’ve broken the law and so these are the consequences.” You can forgive and pursue justice.

9. Forgiveness is not trusting.
“My dad molested me and he’s sorry… so should I let him babysit my kids?” Answer: NO WAY! “My husband hit me, but he said he’s sorry… should we just pick up where we left off and keep going?” Answer: NO WAY! Trust is built slowly and it’s lost quickly. If someone sins against you grievously then trust has to be rebuilt slowly over time. Some people can be trusted with time. Other people should never be trusted because the risk is simply too high. This is particularly true with children.

10.Forgiveness is not reconciliation.
It’s not that you become friends again and hang out together. It takes one person to repent and it takes one person to forgive; and it takes two people to reconcile. In Romans 12 Paul writes, “In as much as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Here’s what he’s saying… do your best, but you can’t be at peace with everyone.

So what IS forgiveness? A definition for forgiveness could be — giving up my right to hurt you, for hurting me. Gary Smalley writes, “The original definition of forgiveness actually means that you untie or release someone.” As long as you remain bitter and unforgiving, you’re tied to that person with emotional knots. So being untied involves a conscious and deliberate release of the offender through an act of forgiveness… and important though difficult part of releasing someone is giving up the expectation that the person will eventually see the error of his or her ways and take the initiative to make things right with you.”

The bottom line is that we need to forgive. Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. After being forgiven such a great debt, how can we not also forgive?

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“Judge Not Lest You Be Judged?”

plank“Judge Not Lest You Be Judged,” has to be one of the most well known and misquoted verses in the Bible. Somehow we’ve gotten into our heads that it is unchristian to judge others. YES, the phrase “Judge Not Lest You Be Judged,” is in the Bible, but you have to look at it in context. The passage is found in Matthew chapter seven and is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 7:1–5 (NKJV) 1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Notice Jesus’ never says don’t take the speck out of your brother’s eye. He says, “First remove the plank from your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” There’s no way you can remove a speck out of a person’s eye without executing a little judgment. There’s a reason why Jesus uses the illustration of an eye. The eye is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. One of the points Jesus was making is that we need to be careful.

The question we need to wrestle with is what’s the “plank” Jesus is talking about? I believe the plank involves judging a person’s heart. Warren Wiersbe writes…

When Jesus said, “Judge Not Lest You Be Judged,” he was talking about the kind of judging in which you look down on a person and question their motives. A classic example is the time Jesus was walking through a wheat field with His disciples. They got so hungry they plucked off a few heads of wheat. The Pharisees saw it and immediately said, “It is unlawful to harvest on the Sabbath!” (Matthew 12:1-8) Which leads me to ask, What were the Pharisees doing out in the wheat field? I have a feeling they were there trying to catch Him messing up. I can just see them hiding behind the bushes spying on Him hoping to catch Him at something!

It’s THAT type of judging Jesus condemns in Matthew chapter seven. Jesus was speaking to the religious people who were not only looking for sin in people’s lives… they were wanting people to sin! They wanted people to sin so that they could jump out of the bushes and go, “Gotcha!” THAT’S THE PLANK THAT JESUS WAS TALKING ABOUT.

Jesus wasn’t saying don’t judge because just a few verses later in the chapter He says, “Beware of False Prophets who will come to you as lambs but are ravenous as wolves,” and then He tells us, “You will know them by their FRUIT.” How can you beware of false prophets if you don’t exercise a little judgment?

Systematic Theology (big word) is balancing theology with itself. In order to do that you’ve got to use Scripture to interpret Scripture. It’s very dangerous to take a single verse such as Matthew 7:1, “Judge not lest you be judged,” and build a whole theology around it. The question is what does the rest of the Bible say about the subject?

In 1 Corinthians chapter 5 Paul writes to the church in Corinth about a man that was sleeping with his father’s wife. He writes that such a sin was scandalous to even those outside the church. Yet the church in Corinth not only looked the other way, but actually seemed to celebrate its tolerance to such a sin. In verse 3 Paul writes, “For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed.” He then tells them that they are not to judge those outside the church, but they have a responsibility to judge those inside the church. (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)

Remember, we are not to judge wanting or hoping to catch people mess up. Quite frankly, judging ought to be a heart wrenching experience in which we do everything possible to help that other person get back on track. The whole process ought to be bathed with tears. Paul writes in Galatians 6:1 NLT, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.”

The bottom line is that we are called to bring out the best in one another and in order to do that we need to be able to be willing to speak the truth in love.


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“Come, Lord… REVIVE US!”

revivalWhat is a revival?  A revival is when God REVIVES His people.   I say that because sometimes we mistakenly use the word “revival” to mean, “reaching the lost.”  That very well might happen, but that is NOT what true revival is about.  True revival is about allowing God to renew our passion and love for Him.  Reaching the lost involves something a lot more radical.  It involves a Spiritual Awakening.   A Spiritual Awakening is when unbelievers in mass come to Christ and it’s something awesome to behold

If you look at Church history here’s what often happens:

(1) God revives His people.

(2) God then draws the unbelievers to His people in such a way that a Spiritual Awakening takes place.

The progression really makes a lot of sense.  Why would God draw unbelievers to a dead church?    What God loves to do is revive His people in such a way that He can then draw the unbelievers in.  Isn’t that what happened on the Day of Pentecost?  The Holy Spirit came upon those early disciples and they began to witness in the Power of the Holy Spirit and three thousand people came forward and got saved!

Our country has had two Great Awakenings in our history:

The first Great Awakening was in the 1700’s and God used preachers like John Wesley and George Whitfield to help revive to the people of God.  It’s interesting that at the same time that this revival as taking place, God was orchestrating a massive spiritual awakening that spread across the nation.

The Second Great Awakening was in the 1800’s and began as a lay movement when a group of Christian Business men got together on their lunch hour to pray.  I don’t think you can find a record of any significant revival or spiritual awakening occurring without believers praying.  Prayer Meetings began to break out all over the country.  I love the fact that at one point, God empowered a lay person to be (in my opinion) one of the greatest preachers of all time… Dwight L. Moody.

Both these Great Awakenings reached untold thousands of people and literally changed the spiritual climate of this country. If you ask me…we’re way overdue for another one.    People are hungry for it and here’s the thing…they don’t even know it yet.  People walk around with a big gaping hole in their souls and they don’t have any clue how to fill it.  There is so much uncertainty in the world and people are desperately looking for something stable that will truly satisfy them.  The harvest is indeed plentiful, but if God’s people are not revived… the workers will indeed be few.

Let’s get excited about  revival and pray that God will revive and empowers us to be ready for the harvest He wants to send our way.  Wouldn’t it be just like God to start something HUGE in a little place called Medina?


REVIVAL will begin at 7:00 PM at the Old Apple Festival Grounds on May 15, 16, 17, 18 (Youth Night)



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I Still DO!

Bill and Anna StegemuellerNineteen years ago I married my BEST FRIEND… Annie (I’m the only one allowed to call her that). Funny, I thought it was just eighteen years till I pulled out the calendar and did the math. Chuck Swindoll once said, “Marriage is like a screen door… those on the outside want to get in and those on the inside want to get out.” I’m the exception to that rule. I’m very content in being inside the confines of marriage. Is my marriage perfect? No, because people aren’t perfect. But one thing is for sure: I’m glad I married her and I definitely got the better deal in the arrangement. I can think of very few women who would put up with being a Pastor’s wife (In our 19 years of marriage we’ve moved to 5 different congregations!)

What has been the secret of almost 20 years of marriage? Two things:

(1) FAITH in Jesus Christ.
1 John 4:19 says that we love because Christ first loved us. Warren Wiersbe writes in his commentary, “By nature, we know little about love (Titus 3:3–6); God had to show it to us on the cross (Rom. 5:8) and plant it in our hearts (Rom. 5:5).”

(2) A proper understanding of what LOVE is.
When I think of Love, I think of Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

NASB: Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

There is nothing in those verses that describe LOVE as a feeling. Yet too often that’s what we’ve restricted love to being. Love isn’t so much something you feel as much as it is something you DO. Love is a VERB! Everything in those verses describe something you DO whether you FEEL like it or not.

Someone once said that FEELINGS often follow ACTIONS. In other words, if you act like you LOVE someone, the FEELINGS will eventually follow. I think too many people check out of a relationship when the feeling are gone. Love is a COMMITMENT.

I don’t always “feel” in love with Anna (I’m sure she could say the same thing about me) but that’s where FAITH both in Christ and in His ability to enable me to LOVE comes into play. The beautiful thing I’ve found in my faith… is that my relationship with Christ has deepened my love for my wife and vise versa. Imagine LOVE being a triangle with Christ at the apex and the Husband and Wife at each corner of the base. As the husband and wife grow closer and closer to Christ they in the process become closer and closer to one another.

Happy Anniversary, ANNIE… I would do it all over again!

Other Related Articles:
Lover’s and Their Loving God
Focus on the Family: Falling In and Out of Love
Have You Lost That Loving Feeling?
Stegemueller Wedding Album

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Some Things Are Just Not Worth Fighting Over!

Christian Fighting

I shared the following from Max Lucado’s book GENTLE THUNDER last Sunday.  Some of you asked for a copy so here it is…

“Some time ago I came upon a fellow on a trip who was carrying a Bible. “Are you a believer?” I asked him. “Yes,” he said excitedly. Continue reading

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“How Good is Good Enough?”

How Good Is Good EnoughAndy Stanley’s, “How Good is Good Enough?” is a short book that addresses the common misconceptions people have about what it takes to make it into Heaven. The mistaken logic flows like this:  “There is a good God who lives in a good place reserved for good people. This God goes by many names and is behind all major religions… therefore, all religions provide a legitimate path to God.”  It’s a tragedy that so many people bank their entire eternal future on what really doesn’t make sense.

The book does a great job describing the conscience as something that condemns you and reminds you that you are not perfect.  Yet the conscience doesn’t assure you when you’re doing well.  That’s where RELIGION takes over.  All religions of this world share one common denominator: How you live your life on this side of the grave determines what happens next.   The problem is that all these religions disagree as to what you need to do. Continue reading

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Medina United Methodist Church
Advent 2010

Isaiah 7:14 (NKJV)

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