But all is not without a hovering cloud of selfishness. This “selfishness” is like a ghost in the closet that needs to be addressed. Sure, it can be ignored, even glazed over by this idea that we are “good enough” or that God will swoop down one day and take us all to glory, but the reality is that it is not a minor matter, it is life or death. Blessings or sufferings, light or darkness.
One day Jesus said something that many in this congregation have struggled with for decades. The conversation was recorded by one of the most unusual converts Jesus had, Matthew the tax collector. It contains demands on our human nature that are impossible to conquer without God’s intervention, but as always, “we” must “choose” to overcome our nature for God’s nature.
Matthew 5:23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
Are you kidding me? Basically, Jesus is reminding us that if our hearts hold bitterness, envy, anger and unforgiveness, then how will we ever be able to offer God our “best” with a heart that is impure? Jesus is reminding us that we have been forgiven of so much more by God than any human could ever offer to us because of an offense. We need to empty ourselves of our spiritual pride and arrogance before we approach the Throne of God’s Grace, a throne that has forgiven us of so much more than anyone could ever ask.
So, what to do with those stubborn hearts that refuse to release others of their so-called debts? How do I get the horse to drink once I have led them to the water? The point is that I can’t! I can’t make a person sense the tremendous weight that was removed from their life by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. I can tell them about it, show them examples, explain how it dishonors God when they refuse to let go of those offenses, but I can’t make them forgive others from their hearts. They have to choose to do it.
I was asked the other day buy a new believer a very basic yet all-encompassing question, “Why am I here?” He was asking me what the point of this life was all about. After pondering his question for a moment, I felt that a simple and direct question deserved the same in a response. “To choose. Choose God and relinquish your human nature, or, choose yourself as you are.” Simple!
Simple, yet all-encompassing! As a pastor I have had the privilege of being present with individuals as they die. That’s when faith becomes real, very real for all people! Jesus is reminding us in this scripture that God will forgive us under two conditions: first, that we trust in Jesus and His sacrifice on our behalf. Secondly, that we have forgiven those that have offended us in any way.
How can the human heart be filled with light, when it refuses to give up the dark?