Monthly Archives: March, 2019

Real Forgiveness?

Confession • Devotion #6: Real Forgiveness?
Kenny Hovis | Prison Ministry Director

We need to face it. We all do stupid things, which in hindsight, we would do everything in our power to go back in time to change history. It is instances like this that we truly test the limits and willingness of others to forgive us for our terrible decisions in life.

I grew up on a farm, the only boy in our family for most of my childhood. Unless I wanted to play games with my sisters, I had to be creative when it came to occupying my idle time. I started my first business, selling night crawlers to local fisherman. I built a two-story tree house. I made a pile of cinder blocks into a make-believe tank. It was fun boy stuff.

On one of my make-believe military excursions, I was armed with my Daisy BB gun. I was rolling around shooting trees, ant hills, or anything that was supposedly attacking me. I looked at our barn and saw my enemy’s stronghold. I started laying down suppressive fire. One of my shots found a window, and the new glass that my dad had just put in throughout the barn, just shattered.  It was so cool! So much so that I proceeded to shoot out every window in the entire barn. My dad would not even talk to me for three days. I had done something that drove a wedge between my father and me, and he was struggling to forgive me.

Much like the strain that my actions put on mine and my father’s relationship, sin drives a wedge between our Heavenly Father and us. When we are truly repentant and turn from our sin, He forgives us. Being forgiven is a phenomenal feeling, but how quick are we to follow the example when a person sins against us? We tend to hold a grudge and always bring up the past. That is not the model Jesus shared.

Peter brings up the topic to Jesus in Matthew 18:21, “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?’” Peter thought he was giving the “churchy” answer saying we should be willing to forgive someone up to seven times. Jesus, being the All-Knowing God put Peter in his place in verse 22, “Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” Put simply, without ceasing. It is just as many times as God will forgive us, thankfully!

In Matthew 6:12, right in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer He says, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” We are supposed to forgive just as God forgives us: without ceasing, without holding a grudge, and without bringing up the past. We have experienced the freedom that comes from forgiveness, and we are supposed to take that model and apply it to our lives. So much so, Jesus gives a warning in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

How many times are you willing to forgive someone? Before you answer that, maybe you should remember all the things you have been forgiven.

The Qualifiers

Confession • Devotion #5: The Qualifiers
Jen Combs | Wife of Lead Pastor Joshua Combs

“And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

Anytime the word forgiveness comes up, I think we all bristle a little bit. Some of us do this more than others. I am one that tends to bristle a lot. I would say I lean more towards the resentful side of things, so forgiveness does not come very easy for me. I jokingly say that I live by the feud. What does that mean exactly? You cross me; you are dead to me. It seems easier to never speak to you again than forgive. But as many of you know, this is the flesh that we battle and that kind of thinking, living, and attitude cannot be a part of us if we are a Christ follower. Charles Spurgeon puts it this way, “Unless you have forgiven others, you read your own death warrant when you repeat the Lords’ prayer.” I am not one to use quotes, but I thought that this was so poignant. If we say that we are a believer, we are doing two things when we read Matthew 6:12.

  1. We are acknowledging to the Lord that we are sinners (If we were sinless, there would be no debt to address or forgiveness needed).
  2. We are saying that we have received the forgiveness of Christ, so we want to extend that forgiveness to others.

Have you ever had to forgive someone? How many times have we had to forgive others? How many times have others had to forgive us? (Eh…not one I like to think about.)

Notice in the verse there are no qualifiers. It does not say if someone has wronged you sixty times you do not have to forgive them. Nor does it say if someone hurts you in a specific way, you do not have to forgive. There are no qualifiers. However, I am so thankful for that. Do you want to know why? If the Lord had qualifiers on His forgiveness, I would be up a creek without a paddle. Therefore, how can I put qualifiers on my forgiveness to others if I have received His qualifier of free and unlimited forgiveness?

Now there is a flip side to this. If you are not extending your forgiveness to others, have you experienced the Lord’s forgiveness? I am not saying that it is easy. I describe forgiveness like this, every day I have to choose to forgive. It is not just a one and done; I forgive you, and we can move on as if nothing ever happened. It is daily choosing to forgive someone. Some days I do great, and other days, I am a resentful, bitter, vengeful, jerk. Onto which side do you fall? Are you extending forgiveness because you have been forgiven? Or are you not?


Paid in Full

Confession • Devotion #4: Paid in Full
Carole Combs | Wife of Lead Pastor Jim Combs

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

I do not like any debts at all. I do not like to borrow anything or even owe one dollar to anyone. If the Lord shared with His disciples that there was a debt and they needed to pray about this, we must sit up and learn what that debt is.

Do I have this same debt? Do you? The debt is our sin, yours, mine, and the whole world, too. There is nothing we can do to pay off our debt of sin toward God. But God sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty of our debt.

There is a heart attitude that Jesus is teaching here as well. It is a heart of humility. You and I have a debt that needs to be settled. We cannot give enough money or do enough good deeds to nullify the debt. We must humbly approach an Almighty God and ask and receive the forgiveness of sins He so graciously lavishes upon those who have repented. It is like God was going through the grocery store of life. He saw you and picked you up off the shelf and placed you in His shopping cart. He went to the checkout and placed you on the conveyor belt. When the cashier scanned you, buzzers sounded and lights flashed. The cashier’s screen read, “Do not scan, already purchased.” God said, “I know. This is my child.” Are they already covered? Yes.

The debt of your sin has been paid in full by Jesus if you have put your faith and trust in God’s Son as your Lord and Redeemer! Jesus continues with His instruction to the disciples. They were to pray for forgiveness and forgive those who had wronged them. It involves forgiving those, if you may, that are in debt to them. We then are to forgive maybe someone in a broken relationship. It may be someone who has hurt you in your childhood. Is it someone who has committed crimes against you? Whatever debts they may be, people hurt people. Do you realize that if we can somewhat fathom what Jesus did for you and I on the cross, forgiveness would come much easier?

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” Colossians 3:12,13.

Because we have been forgiven, we must forgive. I had a wonderful woman ask me to pray for her struggling heart. She went on to give me the details of her struggle. The next day she would be at the trial of the man who had killed her sister. She told me that she knew that she had been forgiven by God and that her debt had been paid in full. She wanted to forgive this man who had stolen her sister’s life. I wish we all could be like this woman who had the realization of God’s forgiveness in her life and she wanted forgiveness to transcend to those that had a debt against her. Jesus is our best example of forgiveness as He hung innocently on the cross for you and I. Jesus even said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). I still do not like to be in any debt, but I am thankful beyond words that I am not in debt to God! My debt has been paid in full! Are you in debt to God?

Grace Received and Given

Confession • Devotion #3: Grace Received and Given
Richie Henson | Production Director

I love when things go my way. It makes my life so easy. For instance, when I catch all the green lights on my way to work or when a new checkout stand opens at the store and they call me over. However, I was confronted with a reality that does not sit well with me. For every green light I catch, there is another sitting at a red light, and for every check stand to which I get called, there is another who continues to wait in a long line. It dawned on me that I am way more self-absorbed than I care to admit.

Although the examples I gave may seem trivial, I think the way we think and respond in the mundane is a great indicator of what is in our hearts. For example, looking deeper into my life, I realized that I love for God to give grace to me. I love it when I mess up, and I run to God asking for Him to forgive me, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am forgiven by the blood of Jesus. On the other hand, I struggle to give grace to those who offend me. I much prefer to hold grudges and withhold trust from individuals who have sinned against me.

This way of living is challenged in Matthew 6:12 where Jesus says, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Jesus makes it abundantly clear that just as we are forgiven our debt of sin by the grace of God through salvation in the sacrifice of Jesus, we must also make room for grace in forgiving those who owe us a “debt” as they have wronged us. It must be our intention every day to show the love of God to the world. A big part of that is to live a life full of grace. That is, grace received from Heaven and grace distributed on Earth are equally important.

My prayer is that we would not think too highly of ourselves, but we would live in awareness of the grace given us and in turn, would spread that grace throughout our world. I know that if we commit ourselves to this prayer each day, the Holy Spirit will guide us to live in grace from God and it will be easier for grace to be given to others.

A Win-Win Situation

Confession • Devotion #2: A Win-Win Situation
Holly Boston | Women’s Ministry Director

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

I am so glad that Jesus does not forgive me the way I forgive others. When I read Matthew 6:12, the saying “Do as I say not as I do” comes to mind. I am good at quoting Scripture and claiming God’s promises as it applies to me. I believe in the complete forgiveness of my sins from my Savior and that He remembers my sin “no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). But when it comes to the sins of others, forgiveness is often conditional, and I have a memory like an elephant.

My daughter is studying to be a social worker and is finishing an internship at a juvenile detention center. She struggles because she faces youth every day who are in desperate need of a Savior but she is not allowed to speak of Jesus or the things of God. A young girl wrote a response to a question, “I don’t have to forgive. My Jesus does it for me.”  Mackenzie called me and wanted advice on how to talk about forgiveness without mentioning Jesus. This great, timely question got me thinking (God was already working upstream to help me prepare to write this).

I began to put myself in this young girl’s place. I wondered who she was having trouble forgiving: an absent parent, an abusive parent, perhaps a family member or friend who abused her. It is hard to imagine the “unforgivable” person or circumstances that led to her being detained. What I do know is there have been people and circumstances in my life that I viewed as unforgivable. As believers, we are called to forgive as Jesus forgives, “Forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).

God’s Word does not say Jesus will do the forgiving for us, but it does say He will help us. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” On our own, forgiveness can be impossible, but with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

Then I began to imagine the reasons this young girl might not want to forgive: they do not deserve forgiveness, they did not apologize and ask for forgiveness, or she wants them to hurt the way they have hurt her. Sound familiar? I have found I have much more in common with her than I realize. Whenever I find myself considering what others deserve, I remember what I deserved. But by the grace of God and the shed blood of Christ, I will not get what I deserve – an eternity separated from God. Often, I think that I do not need to forgive because they have not even apologized. But then I am reminded that Jesus died for me when I was “yet a sinner” (Romans 5:8).

Yes, I believe we have much more in common with this troubled youth than we think. But there is one profound difference: we have people who can and will tell us about Jesus if we choose to listen. Most of what I just shared with you, Mackenzie is unable to share with this lost little girl. What can she say? There is one truth we all seem to miss: our unforgiveness hurts us more than it hurts others. If you read the story of the prodigal son in Matthew chapter 15, you will see the effects of unforgiveness and the fruit of forgiveness.  We see the bitterness and anger of an unforgiving brother and the joy of a forgiving father.

Forgiveness is a “Win-win situation.” When you show forgiveness, especially to the undeserving, they see Christ in action, and you experience the joy and freedom you are meant to experience.

Office: 8393 E. Holly Rd. Holly, MI 48442 | 248.328.0490 |

Copyright © 2016 The River Church. All Rights Reserved.