Works by Love
"For in Christ Jesus,
neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but
only faith activated and energized and expressed and working
through love" (Amplified Bible, Galatians 5:6).
God has made numerous promises
regarding the power of faith. Faith can move mountains. Faith can
heal diseases. Faith can receive answers to prayers. Nothing is
impossible with faith. Yet many know the power of faith and still
are not seeing any positive results.
Have you been frustrated with
your faith life? Is your faith not working the way the Bible
promises it should?
The answer to this problem may
be found in the above scripture. Notice that faith is activated
and energized through love. Many people's faith is dead,
inactive. Your faith may be like a dead battery--unable to
produce power. Why? Because faith is energized through love. Love
is what makes faith work! Without love, faith is dormant.
I was thinking about this verse
one Sunday morning, and the famous love chapter (1 Corinthians
13) was brought to my mind: "...if I have a faith that can
move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." This
scripture does not say that you can move mountains without love;
it says that you are nothing without love. Your faith will not
benefit you without love. You can have the faith to move
mountains, but without love you will be nothing--and your faith
will be inactivated, unable to work.
Is your faith activated and
A good battery may not be able
to work because it has been drained. You don't throw away a good
battery; instead, you recharge it. Your faith may be in great
shape, but unable to work. You can recharge it by plugging it
into love. Love energizes faith!
Since love energizes faith, the
opposite must also be true. The opposite of love is hate. Hate
drains faith. Hate will sap the strength out of faith. This is
what Jesus taught in Mark chapter eleven.
This is the story of Jesus
cursing a fig tree. You know the story. He spoke to a fig tree
and told it to die. It did. Then He told his disciples that they
could do the same thing...even move mountains by exercising
faith. What is not usually known about this incident is the last
statement Jesus made about faith and prayer: "And when you
stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him,
so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins" (v.
Jesus was pointing out the need
for forgiveness if faith and prayer are to work. We've heard a
lot about faith, but not enough about forgiveness. Not forgiving
will hinder your faith from working. Unforgiveness is hate in
The way you treat others will
affect your faith. Do you remember what Peter wrote concerning
husband and wife relationships? He wrote, "Husbands...be
considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with
respect...SO THAT NOTHING WILL HINDER YOUR PRAYERS." You
see, if you step out of love with your spouse, then your
prayers-- though they be of faith--will be hindered.
This goes along with what Jesus
taught about faith and forgiveness. Notice Jesus said that God
will not forgive you if you do not forgive others. What did He mean?
FORGIVE SO THAT
YOU WILL BE FORGIVEN
Several years ago, when I was a
new believer, I met a Christian with a strange doctrine. He said
to me, "The gospel which Jesus taught is not the same gospel
that the apostle Paul taught. Jesus was preaching the law but
Paul was preaching grace. We are not to live by the gospel of
Jesus but by the gospel of Paul."
This sounded outlandish. A
scripture he tried to use in order to prove this was Mark 11:25
and 26--about forgiving so that the Father may forgive you.
He tried to trick me by asking,
"Are you forgiven?"
"Of course," I
He continued to question me,
"Why are you forgiven?"
"Because I have accepted
Jesus as my Lord."
"That's right, not because
of your actions, correct?"
"Yes," I answered,
"I'm saved by the work of Christ on the cross, not by my
"You're right. But Jesus
taught that people were forgiven because they forgave others. But
Paul wrote, 'Forgive each other as Christ has forgiven you.' (Eph 4:32). Jesus taught that you had to forgive first, then you will be
forgiven; Paul, on the other hand, taught that you are forgiven
first, then you forgive afterwards. Whose message is for the
Christian, Jesus' or Paul's?"
I answered as any smart
believer would, "Both!"
I must admit that at that time
I did not quite understand how Jesus' and Paul's messages could
both be right, but I knew they were. Apparent contradictions in
the Bible are simply that--apparent contradictions.
It was not until recently that
I fully understood what Jesus meant by forgiving so that you may
be forgiven. This discovery took place while eating dinner at my
mother and stepfather's home. We were discussing the scriptures
when all of a sudden the Lord brought Matthew 12:32 to my
attention: "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man
will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit
will not be forgiven, either in this age or the age to come."
There was the answer!
Forgiveness can be given both in "This age and/or the age to come". My sins are forgiven for the age to come because of
Christ' death on the cross. I am assured of heaven because of the
blood of Jesus. However, this doesn't mean that I don't have to
suffer consequences in this life for my sins.
For example, if a criminal were
found guilty of murder and then gave his life to Jesus, he still
would probably have to serve his sentence. He still would have to
pay the price of his actions in this life, but in the age to come
he would be free of any penalty. Can you see that?
Forgiveness in the age to come
is provided solely on your acceptance of the Substitutionary
sacrifice of Christ on the cross. However, forgiveness in this
age is dependent on your confession of sin and your forgiveness
of others...yet it is still applied because of the blood of
Christ. 1 John 1:9 confirms this: "If we [speaking of the
believer] confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will
forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
Some people think that John was
writing this to sinners. This is not true! Notice 1 John 2:1:
"My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not
sin. But is anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the
Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One."
John was writing to his "dear children"--an obvious
reference to believers.
So you can readily see that the
believer is forgiven of sins committed after salvation when he
confesses his sins. Obviously this forgiveness is related to this
age only, because no Christian could ever remember every sin he
has committed. If he had to remember every sin in order to enter
heaven, then he could never enter it. But unconfessed sins,
especially consequential ones, can definitely impact your life
Forgiveness in this life is
also determined by your forgiveness of others. Jesus gave a
parable to illustrate this paradoxical truth of forgiveness now
and forgiveness later. The parable is about the unmerciful
This man owed about a million
dollars to his king, a debt which he could never repay. This
depicts us as sinners who could never repay God for our sins. But
this man was completely forgiven and released from his debt,
simply because he asked for mercy.
Later, he grabbed the throat of
a man who owed him a few dollars and threatened his life if he
didn't repay. The poor man didn't have the money, so he was
thrown into prison until he could pay him back. The king found
out about this man's ungratefulness and cruelty, so he ordered
the ungrateful servant to be brought inside his castle.
"You wicked servant,"
the king said, "I canceled all that debt of yours because
you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow
servant just as I had on you?" In anger he turned him over
to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he
Jesus concluded this parable
with a sobering warning: "This is how my heavenly Father
will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your
heart" (Matthew 18:35).
This unforgiving man was first
forgiven, just as we are forgiven in Christ. Later, though,
because he would not forgive another, he lost his own
forgiveness. We also can lose the forgiveness in this life if we
do not forgive others.
KILLED MY GRANDMOTHER
Hebrews 12:15 says, "See
to it...that no root of bitterness grows up to cause trouble and
defile many." Bitterness is the emotion caused by not
forgiving. The writer calls bitterness a "root". A root
develops strength through time. The longer it grows the stronger
it becomes. Bitterness is like a root. The longer you leave it
there the harder it will be to pull it out.
This truth was demonstrated in
my grandmother's life. I was raised by my grandparents, and
although they raised me in a admirable way, I was saddened by the
fact that my grandparents could not get along. Through the years
they hurt one another, and as a result they treated each other
very badly, though they continued to live under the same roof.
Thankfully my grandmother accepted Jesus during a miracle meeting
conducted by a famous evangelist. Yet she did not want to let go
of her bitterness toward her husband.
Sometime after my grandmother's
conversion, my grandfather seemed to suffer a major heart attack.
He was taken to the hospital for tests. That night I opened my
heart to my grandmother. I pleaded with her to forgive him.
She broke down and cried,
"I know I ought to forgive!"
My sister became upset with me.
"Tom, why do you have to make Grandma feel guilty? Grandpa
may die tonight, and that would really make Grandma feel bad. How
would you feel then?"
Into my bedroom I went--with a
heavy heart. "Lord," on my knees I prayed, "I'm so
sorry for what I said to my grandma. I didn't mean to hurt her,
but you know I'm right. She must forgive him." And with
tears streaming down my cheeks, I prayed, "Lord, please show
me if I was right in saying these things to my grandmother, or if
I should have shut my mouth and minded my own business."
After praying I went to take a
shower. And while taking a shower I heard the audible voice of
God. His voice seemed to thunder. I said it was audible, but only
God knows. I do know this--the voice I heard was as clear as if a
man spoke to me face to face.
God said, "Son, you've
done right." I fell to my knees, weeping uncontrollably. He
continued, "Your grandfather will be out of the hospital in
one week, and then I'll give your grandmother a chance to forgive
him." I came out of the shower singing praises to God. After
getting dressed, I said to my sister and grandmother,
"Grandpa will not die. He will be out of the hospital in one
week." Looking into my grandmother's eyes, I said,
"Grandma, God told me that He will give you a chance to
With joy in her eyes, she said,
"I believe you. I'll forgive him and show it by treating him
And she did. During that time
everyone was shocked. "What has happened to Grandma?"
my relatives began to ask. My grandmother had forgiven Charlie,
her husband. But it was not to last. Soon she began to allow the
root of bitterness to grow again.
Not long afterwards, she took
ill. The doctors discovered inoperable cancer. No prayer I
offered seemed to avail. She grew worse and was confined to the
hospital for many months. In desperation I cried out to God,
"Lord, what is wrong with my faith? Up to now, you have
always answered my prayers. Why isn't my grandma getting
The Lord answered, "Do you
remember the night I spoke to you in the shower? I said that I
would give your grandmother a chance to forgive your grandfather.
But she hasn't. And if she does not forgive him, she will
die." Immediately, I sped to the hospital and shared with my
grandmother the message God gave me.
"I know," she said.
"I did so well, but something happened to me, and the
bitterness came back." She promised to forgive, and we
prayed. Later that evening, my mother came back with a sad
"Tom," she said,
"I talked with your grandmother about the message you gave
her about forgiving Charlie. She agreed you were right, but I
don't think she has forgiven. She keeps talking about the
terrible things Charlie supposedly has done to her." My
heart saddened when I heard this. I knew she would not recover.
The next day she went into a coma.
I knew my grandmother's time
was up, so I gave my grandfather a stern rebuke: "Grandpa,
it's not right that you haven't visited Grandma for the entire
time she has been in the hospital. You should visit her before
she dies." He became sad and went to his bedroom. A few
minutes later, I felt a tap on my right shoulder. There was my
grandfather, putting his favorite hat on. "Take me to the
hospital, I want to see Rosery," he said.
Happily, I drove him to the
hospital. I stayed for a little while and then went to work,
leaving my grandfather with his beloved wife. Grandpa related to
me the story of this hospital visit, a visit that would prove to
be his last: "I held Rosery's hand, and she grabbed mine.
She opened her eyes and stared into mine. I felt like she was
trying to tell me something. Then she died. Her hand slowly let
go of mine." Tears still well up in my eyes as I recall this
Please, don't misunderstand the
point I am trying to make. I do not condemn my grandmother; I
only want to show you what bitterness can do. Bitterness stayed a
long time in my grandmother, and it grew till it became too
strong for her to get rid of. Please...don't let the same thing
happen to you!
Forgive from your heart.
Because forgiveness--which is love in action--makes your faith
work. And it makes life worth living.
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