03 Sep Quarter Two Lesson Five
Growing in Forgiveness and Reconciliation
Welcome back to the course. Today, we will study an aspect of the gospel that is so shocking and powerful that it has changed thousands of lives and relationships throughout history. Even today, there are millions of miraculously changed lives all around the globe altered by the power of divine love. Perhaps your life will be one of them.
When people are at odds with each other, when there is a barrier between them due to wrongs done, it can be extremely hard or even impossible to reconcile. Anger and bitterness have halted many believers along the path to Christian maturity. But we want you to see today that there is an aspect of the gospel, that when believed and understood can change the heart, humble the soul, and overwhelm us with love so that we overflow with compassion and reconciliation where there used to be only animosity and separation.
And this is what we are all about in this second quarter of lessons: growing in grace and faith. Today we are going to learn about growing in forgiveness and reconciliation.
Question 1. Is there a rift in your life that has never been healed? Are you estranged from your family, friends, or loved ones? Have deep emotional wounds, personal conflicts, or seemingly unforgivable actions fueled division in your life, causing you pain? Or do you know someone who would answer yes to the above? Feel free to share with us here as God leads:
If you answered yes to the above questions, or if you long to know how to help people who would answer yes to the above, then we invite you to study this lesson, and pray to understand what Jesus accomplished for you on the cross. It could change your life or the life of someone you care about forever.
We all have suffered injustice in this life. Injustice, hate, pain, suffering are all part of this fallen world. Sometimes we are the ones treating others badly and sometimes we are the ones who are mistreated. But there is One who suffered beyond our imaginations even though He never once did harm to another person—Jesus Christ.
Jesus lived a sinless life and only did what was good, honest, pure and kind. He forgave sinners, healed the sick, gave food to the hungry, touched the lepers and made them whole, raised people from the dead and so much more. Jesus did so much that was good that the gospel of John says, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25 ESV). Frederick Lehman wrote about it this way in his hymn The Love of God,
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Yes, Jesus only blessed the lives of people, making them better, never harming one single person. And yet He was hung up on a cross right between two criminals as if He were the worst criminal of them all. We would be correct in saying that this was the worst injustice done to any person who has ever lived. Had any of us been treated as He was we likely would have been filled with indignity, anger, rage, bitterness, and would desire to exact revenge.
I remember watching a documentary one time that showed a man imprisoned for a murder he did not commit. Seventeen years of this man’s life passed by before he was vindicated by DNA evidence, and he was finally released. During his time in prison, this man was filled with hatred (his own words) for those who had wrongly imprisoned him. He vowed to prove his own innocence and then exact revenge on the justice system, which he subsequently did through a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit. And there is no denying that what happened to this man was grievous, but as bad as his situation was it cannot compare to what Christ endured on our behalf.
Please read the passage below and answer the questions as able:
And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. Luke 23:33-34 (ESV)
Question 2. What was Jesus’ response to the wrongs that were done to Him?
Humanly speaking the justice system failed Jesus. The accusations against Him were lies and the judge who ordered him crucified had declared three times that He was completely innocent (John 18:38, John 19:4, John 19:6). He was then delivered over to die in a horribly brutal and shameful manner.
And yet Jesus prayed (while hanging on the cross in agony) that God His Father would forgive the very people who were committing these wrongs. His heart was one of forgiveness for those people who were abusing Him. Can you even imagine it?
We likely cannot imagine the horrors of the cross, but when we consider it, we should see ourselves in the crowd of offenders. Friend, the whole world is born in sin and rebellion against God, having received Adam’s sin nature at birth. We are born shaking our fist at God (even if we cannot remember it), refusing to submit to His authority, running from Him. A baby will lash out at its parents if it doesn’t get its own way, or if it is refused some trinket or shiny thing that it wants. They will cry, pout, and even strike out at authority (its parents) who refuse to do what it wants.
In our flesh, we cling to our sin and defend it and even take pride in it, thereby making ourselves the enemies of God. If Jesus were on this earth today, the whole world would still shout “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” (Mark 15:13-14).
Yet notice this amazing passage: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” Romans 5:8-10 (ESV)
Question 3. According to Romans 5:8-10 what were we called at the time Jesus died on the cross?
Question 4. What did Jesus do for us, according to Romans 5:10 above?
Question 5. Dear friend, do you understand the magnitude of these statements? Do you fully understand that your sin made you an enemy of and separated you from God, but that Jesus’ death reconciled you to God by removing your sin? Please share your thoughts:
Jesus died to forgive and reconcile God’s enemies and make them friends. As Jesus hung between two criminals, having been beaten beyond recognition (Isaiah 52:14), He spoke these words as blood flowed down His face: “Father, forgive them…” He was not merely referring to the soldiers and religious leaders, He had you in mind. This is glorious to say the least, and it should cause our hearts to worship Jesus Who has done so much for us.
And did you know that this tremendous act of reconciliation by Christ was not plan B; nor was it coerced or done out of obligation? In fact, the magnificent restorative work of Christ was all foretold in the Old Testament hundreds of years before Christ was even born. A man by the name of Daniel had a vision where God gave him the exact time that Jesus would come, and what Jesus would do when He came:
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Daniel 9:24 (KJV)
Question 6. Please list everything that Daniel 9:24 shows that Jesus would accomplish at the cross:
The Jewish nation (Daniel’s people) did not accomplish all the things that are listed above, but a thorough study of the Book of Daniel shows us that the timing of “70 weeks” works out to the very time when Jesus would come (as a Jew, as part of Daniel’s people) and die on the cross. Through his work on the cross, Jesus finished transgression (Jesus paid the debt for all transgressions), made an end of sin, made reconciliation for iniquity, brought in everlasting righteousness by removing the sin of His people, and sealed up vision and prophecy (see Hebrews 1:1-3) by being God’s final Word to His people.
Today, we are most interested in seeing that Jesus “made reconciliation for iniquity.” The above passage in Daniel finds its New Testament fulfillment in Hebrews 2:17:
Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17 (KJV)
Oh this is magnificent and wonderful news! You see, this “reconciliation” that Jesus made presupposes a broken relationship between God and man. It implies separation (Isaiah 59:2, Ephesians 2:12), alienation and estrangement (Ephesians 2:12, Colossians 1:21), isolation and exclusion (Ephesians 4:18), hostility and wrath (Romans 1:18, 5:9, 8:7; Ephesians 5:6, Colossians 1:21), and relational obstacles and barriers (Ephesians 2:14).
The world innately knows of this estrangement, as all world religions seek to bridge this gap between humanity and God by their own efforts. I once read about a religious group that walks on their hands and knees many miles, literally cutting their flesh and tearing it to shreds, all to appease their god and be reconciled to it.
But the Christian message is entirely different. It shows that God took the initiative to reconcile man, not the other way around. You’ll remember that God came to Adam and Eve in the garden, in the cool of the day, and put to death an animal and clothed them with the sacrifice. He took the initiative that pointed forward to the cross, when God would judge His innocent Son as guilty so that guilty man could be declared innocent, so we could be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and so the relationship could be restored. This is how God took the initiative to forgive and reconcile our relationship.
Now, through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross God’s justice is satisfied and God’s wrath is removed. Now we can have a personal relationship and spiritual union with God. Now we can have loving fellowship, delightful communion with Him. Now, by faith we have “peace with God” (Romans 5:1, Colossians 1:20) and “access to God” (Ephesians 2:18). Now we have “justification” (Romans 5:19), “adoption” (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5), “restoration” (Acts 3:21), “times of refreshing” (Acts 3:19), identity as a “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17), “unspeakable joy” (1 Peter 1:18), and indescribable love (Ephesians 3:14-19).
Oh, friend, what an amazing thing to consider, that God sent His Son to reconcile the world of His enemies, and bring us into wonderful relationship with Him. That Jesus would endure such suffering caused by such sinful men and then say “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
Question 7. Does the contemplation of what Jesus has done for you cause you to worship Him just now? Does it seem as amazing to you as it really is? Please describe:
As we glory in and relish the peace we have with God the Father through Jesus Christ, it will only seem reasonable that this spirit of reconciliation should flow out of us as well. Indeed, all Christians are given this message of reconciliation, the gospel, to take and share with a splintered and fractured world. Please read the following passage and answer the questions below:
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (ESV)
Question 8. According to 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, what has God done for us?
Question 9. What does God call us? And what exactly is “the message of reconciliation” that is spoken of in verse 19 above?
Yes, we are ambassadors for Christ. That means we represent God to others. We do this by taking the “message of reconciliation”, the gospel, and giving it out and/or living it out, to others. We bring our acquaintances, friends and loved ones to the foot of the cross and invite them to look up and listen up. We ask them to hear Jesus’ words of forgiveness given to those who were wronging Him, and we explain that those words were spoken for them as well (John 20:29).
Sometimes the very best way that we can win someone to Christ is by forgiving them of their wrongs done against us. The love of Christ enables us to be like God and take the initiative, go to them and seek to restore the relationship.
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?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22
And if we are the ones who have offended, then secure in the love of God, we can humble ourselves and approach those we have sinned against, admit our wrong and ask for their forgiveness.
How do we truly grow in our Christian life? We come to understand and thoroughly appreciate the forgiveness we have received at the foot of the cross of our Savior Jesus Christ. We worship God through the contemplation of how much He loved us, so as to forgive us right when we were sinning, and to die for us when we were enemies.
Then, out of the overflow of His love in our hearts, we seek to reveal that same kind of forgiveness and reconciliation to others. It is hard; it can be frightening to receive someone who has sinned against us repeatedly or to go to people we’ve wronged and seek forgiveness. And the situation may not always resolve in a way that is satisfactory to us; but the heart of the Christian should be for forgiveness at all times and for reconciliation with anyone and everyone whenever possible.
Question 10. Can you think of someone with whom you need to go to and try to reconcile? Please share the circumstances and we will pray with you as you go. Would you please remember to come and share the results with us as well?
In finishing up this lesson today, we wanted to encourage you to check out a clip from a talk given by a lady named Corrie Ten Boom. We believe it will both amaze and inspire you to hear her recount her story of forgiveness and reconciliation as you grow in the gospel. There is the video clip here, which we encourage you to watch, and then there is a written transcript of it here.
Finally, for further inspiration read this heart-warming story of forgiveness and reconciliation. Please view it here.