Pierced Side

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 

But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

John 19:31-37

So much was happening in the moment the soldier pierced Jesus’s side that we need to slow down to take it all in. There are so many layers of meaning here that are easy to miss.

First, we need to remember that when Jesus had finished all He came to accomplish, “he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30). Jesus gave His life, no one took it from Him. The other two men who had been crucified with Jesus had not died. Their legs had to be broken to speed up the process of suffocation. With broken legs, they couldn’t push up on the spike that went through their feet. Pushing up would have allowed their lungs some space to breathe. With broken legs, their suffocation would begin quickly.

In this way, we see Jesus fulfill Old Testament prophecies about himself. The first prophecy, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” is about how to prepare the Passover lamb without a braking any of its bones (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12). This foreshadowed what would happen to Jesus on the cross. The second word fulfilled, They will look on the one they have pierced,” was from the prophet Zechariah about Jesus’s side being pierced (Zechariah 12:10).

But there is even more happening here than fulfilled prophecy. They pierced Jesus’s side to make sure He was dead. If they saw both blood and water, they knew He had already died. But this blood and water meant so much more than that. Blood and water came from His side. This is important because Jesus had become the second Adam (Romans 5:12-21). When God made Eve, He put Adam to sleep and pulled a rib from his side (Genesis 2:21-22). As the second Adam, Jesus was put to sleep and God birthed the Church, the Bride of Christ, from Jesus’s side. Blood and water is what is released when there is a birth. As Jesus’s side is pierced, we see the blood and water flow from the birthing of the Church.

Blood and water was not only found at a birthing but also in the purification rites of the Temple priests. Priests would enter the Holy Place by first cleansing themselves with the blood of sacrifices and by washing with water in the wash basins. Blood washed them clean from sin. Water washed them clean from “uncleanness.” Sin was a wrong action they had done. Uncleanness/unrighteousness was just the contamination they experienced from living in a broken world. Blood took care of one and water took care of another. Once they were cleansed, they could enter the Holy Place. And the high priest, once a year on the Day of Atonement, could enter the Most Holy Place.

The blood and water from Jesus’s side represented Jesus’s own cleansing as He became our High Priest, entering the Most Holy Place of the tomb on the ultimate Day of Atonement, to take away the sins of the world. Not only that, but this blood and water from Jesus’s side allows us to be forgiven of our sin and cleansed from our unrighteousness. The blood deals with our sin. The water deals with our uncleanness/unrighteousness.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

So there Jesus hung, dead on the cross, blood and water flowing from His side. But as we picture Him hanging there, do we see the fullness of what was happening? Look again. Do you see that this was a new Passover Lamb, His blood on the horizontal and vertical beams of the cross instead of a doorframe, not a single bone broken? Do you see that this was a new Day of Atonement, our new High Priest purified with blood and water, so that we could be purified and cleansed by His blood and water? Do you see that this was a new Garden of Eden with the Second Adam painfully giving birth to the Church, the Bride of Christ?

All of this was happening in a moment. All of these Old Testament promises and types were fulfilled in a moment. Layer upon layer upon layer of meaning, flowing from our Savior’s side! All of this was because of His love for you and me. Thank you Jesus!

Unforgivable

I have found that there are consistently two kinds of people that many Christians either don’t want to forgive or struggle to forgive. It might not be who you think.

We have a prayer ministry at our church, so I have prayed for a number of people. We offer extended, scheduled prayer sessions where we pray through really complex issues. During these sessions we always start with forgiveness. Forgiving those who have failed us and hurt us is the most important step in experiencing spiritual freedom and inner healing. And I have seen people pray and forgive people who have done horrendous things to them. Watching God empower people with His grace to forgive others is so incredible!

I have seen people forgive their abusers, their violent ex-lovers, their neglectful parents, and their selfish friends. I have seen people forgive all manner of harm, both physical and emotional. Especially when the Presence of God fills the room, I have seen people forgive in a moment what might seem impossible to forgive in a lifetime. Yet, there are two moments of forgiveness that tend to be particularly difficult for Christians.

Forgiving Oneself:
There are often moments when I or my prayer partner senses that there is a need for the person to forgive themselves. This kind of person usually does a wonderful job forgiving others. Yet, they carry the weight of shame and guilt around their neck like a heavy yoke. Even after they receive God’s forgiveness, the yoke still seems to be there. It isn’t until they stop condemning themselves that their yoke lightens. Jesus told us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). I have seen people who just forgave a number of people without a tear in their eye completely break down and weep as they try to forgive themselves.

We often have to remind this person that they don’t have to be the Holy Spirit. They don’t have to try to enforce conviction in their own lives. That is the Holy Spirit’s job, and He’s really good at it. The Holy Spirit brings conviction without shame and condemnation. When we try to do it, we easily fall pray to perpetual shame and guilt.

Maybe it’s time you forgave yourself. Maybe it’s time you stop judging yourself so harshly. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation, clothed in righteousness, washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. Take some time to forgive yourself. Pray out loud something like this, “In Jesus’s name, I choose to forgive myself for ___________.”

Forgiving the Church (or Church Leadership)
I was at a large conference and I was serving on the ministry team there. We were the ones praying for people during the conference. I was there a day early with the rest of the team for some training. In a group of nearly 50 people, I was one of only 4 or 5 pastors in the room. In one of the sessions, I could sense that many of these amazing men and women–people who were incredibly gifted–had been ignored or silenced by their church leadership. This was especially true of the women in the room and those with prophetic gifts.

I asked our leader for permission to say something to the group. I stood in the center of the room with everyone encircled around me and I asked them for forgiveness on behalf of all the pastors who hurt them. A few other pastors joined me in the middle and we knelt before the whole room. After I was done repenting and asking for forgiveness, a few of the people who had been hurt declared forgiveness out loud to us pastors. It was an incredible moment! Something unlocked. I received some testimonies later where people said that they never again interacted with their church leadership the same. Their willingness to forgive shifted something.

So many people will forgive anyone and everything but the Church. They walk around daily with resentment and bitterness toward the Church and toward church leadership. These same people who can forgive horrendous abuse sometimes can’t seem to forgive smaller offenses they have experienced in church. Their bitterness and resentment start to paint the church in awful ways. They grow distant from God because they refuse to forgive the church for making mistakes. For these folks, everyone else is allowed to make mistakes, but not the Church and definitely not church leadership. They think they are holding the church accountable, but really they are just holding on to unforgiveness. And it ends up imprisoning the person in a cage of resentments and offenses.

Maybe you need to forgive the Church in general for decisions it has made. Or maybe you need to forgive particular people in the church who have offended you or harmed you. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what they did was okay. It just means you’re acknowledging that you are not their judge and jury. God alone is the Just Judge and you are surrendering everything to Him. You are giving up your right to bring revenge and punishment, and you are laying down your bitterness and resentment. Unforgiveness is so toxic. Forgiveness is when we choose to bless those who have hurt us instead of cursing them. The apostle Paul said to the Galatians, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers“(Galatians 6:10). If there is anyone we should get good at forgiving, it is the “family of believers.”

Who do you need to forgive? Don’t let unforgiveness toward the Church imprison your life with Christ. Don’t allow the enemy to bury you under a pile of anger and resentment. Forgiveness is your way out if you’re willing to take it.

Powerless

Paul told Timothy that in the last days people will be awful and will go from bad to worse (2 Timothy 3:13). He also described these people in this way, “having a form of godliness but denying its power”(2 Timothy 3:5).

Does this not describe much of the Church, especially in America? Powerless. We often look like those big beautiful Texas homes that were hit hard by the winter storm recently. Looking good on the outside…frozen and cold on the inside with either no water or contaminated water flowing internally.

We must operate in the power of the Holy Spirit or we’ll never be able to live this Christian life we are called to. We can’t do it on our own strength. Power is not optional! It’s an absolute essential! We need His power to love our enemy, forgive those who hurt us, and serve the outsider. We need His power to release healing, deliverance, and miracles. We can’t do it in our own strength.

We were never meant to be a powerless Church. And the global church–especially in places like Brazil, China, Pakistan, Mozambique–seems to understand this truth better than we do. Though they are often persecuted, they operate in tremendous power.

Forgive Again

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 

Colossians 3:13

Sometimes we need to forgive more than once. One act of forgiveness may cover a small offense but a deep hurt will likely require more. Forgiveness can be both an act and a process. We forgive the initial act that cut us so deeply. Then we must continue in the process of forgiveness as we deal with the consequences of that initial act. This requires ongoing forgiveness.

The enemy loves to try to sneak resentment back into our hearts even after we feel like we’ve forgiven. First, he’ll try to get us to believe that we haven’t actually forgiven the initial offense. This is a lie. This is intended to bring shame and condemnation. It is very likely that you have, actually, forgiven. But now it is not about the initial act anymore. It is now about forgiving the fall out from that hurt. This requires an ongoing attitude and posture of forgiveness.

Next, the enemy will try to convince you that because you have forgiven, you don’t need to forgive again. This is a half-truth. Yes, you have forgiven. That much is true. But you must continue in forgiveness. And sometimes this requires praying out loud, again, a declaration that you forgive that person. Yes, you’ve already done that, but you are doing it again so that the little residual resentments have no place to plant their deceptive seeds of bitterness.

Paul tells the Colossians to “forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Did the Lord forgive once and for all at the cross? Yes! Yet, does He continue to forgive each time we confess our sins? Yes! Both are necessary.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

Our initial act of forgiveness is like tilling the garden soil, breaking up the ground of our hearts, so that the Lord can plant things that will bear the good fruit of the Spirit. Our ongoing process of forgiving is like weeding the garden. It is what will prevent any resentment from contaminating our heart and bearing the fruit of bitterness and coldness.

Un-productivity

God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there.

He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.

2 Chronicles 36:17-21

In my daily devotional reading of scripture, I got to the end of 2 Kings with a deep sadness in my heart. God’s people rebelled against Him, and they lost everything as Babylon conquered them and exiled them. Rebellion and sin without repentance always leads to a tragic story. I flipped to the end of 2 Chronicles to read that writer’s version of the same story. That’s when I noticed a line that feels very familiar to what we are living through right now.

In the midst of a horrific moment in history for the people of God–the Temple burned down, the sacred items stolen, the people being enslaved and exiled, Jerusalem destroyed, the leaders killed–God mentions one bright spot, “The land enjoyed its sabbath rests…” Notice it’s plural.

In the covenant that God made with His people, giving work a rest and giving the land a rest was part of the deal. Every seven days the people were to rest from work and every seven years the land was to rest from productivity. Amid all of their rebellion, the people of God certainly weren’t following this command.

‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you…

Leviticus 25:2-6

The Lord was using a tragic situation to catch up on all the rest the land should have had but didn’t. So instead of giving the land rest once every seven years, the land got 70 years of rest all at once. Seventy times seven is 490 years worth of sabbath rests for the land. That many years reaches all the way back to the time of King David.

And what does 70 times 7 remind you of in the New Testament?

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Matthew 18:21-22 NASB

Seventy times seven is all about forgiveness. For the people of God in exile, God was taking a terrible situation and using it to restore the land and bring rest to the productivity of the soil. He was also using the situation to restore the people’s hearts back to faithfulness and bring rest to their wayward souls. Within 70 years, the people would return to the land and return to their covenant with the Lord. The restoration of the land itself was a sign of God’s limitless forgiveness.

So, what is God bringing rest to right now? Is He allowing the earth to rest? Is He challenging our addiction to productivity and using this terrible situation to restore all the sabbath rests we should have been taking? Is He inviting us into His limitless forgiveness?

Maybe hyper-productivity isn’t what God ever wanted for us. Maybe fruitfulness is what He wanted, which includes regular cycles of rest and the embrace of intentionally unproductive days.

Vengeance

When Shimei son of Gera crossed the Jordan, he fell prostrate before the king and said to him, “May my lord not hold me guilty. Do not remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind. For I your servant know that I have sinned, but today I have come here as the first from the tribes of Joseph to come down and meet my lord the king.”

Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, “Shouldn’t Shimei be put to death for this? He cursed the Lord’s anointed.”

David replied, “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? What right do you have to interfere? Should anyone be put to death in Israel today? Don’t I know that today I am king over Israel?” So the king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king promised him on oath.

2 Samuel 19:18-23

When Absalom, David’s son, was trying to steal the throne and forcing David out of Jerusalem, Shimei was there to “greet” King David as he left. Shimei threw stones at King David as he cursed David and his reign. Scripture says that Shimei was “showering him with dirt” (2 Samuel 16:13) and calling King David a “scoundrel” (2 Samuel 16:7). These were things punishable by death, but David was too ashamed to respond.

This was a classic case of “piling on.” David’s own son was trying to steal the throne and forcing him out of Jerusalem and this man was joining in the fun. But what would happen when King David regains the throne and re-enters Jerusalem? Wouldn’t this man be the first to reap the vengeful wrath and justice of the newly restored King David? Abishai son of Zeruiah thought so.

Yet, we can all learn a lesson from King David’s response. Instead of righteous judgment, David dispenses grace. Instead of revenge, David gives forgiveness. King David had been fully exonerated, fully restored, and fully revealed as the rightful king. This was his moment to exact revenge on all of those people who joined Absalom’s bandwagon–all of those who betrayed him instead of being faithful servants–but instead David showed grace.

It wasn’t only Shimei that David treated with kindness and grace. He did the same to Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son (2 Samuel 19:24-30). He also showed grace to the royal concubines who had slept with Absalom. Though David could have put them out of the royal court to live destitute and in disgrace, instead he never slept with them again and yet provided for them the rest of their lives (2 Samuel 20:3).

How could King David have such a graceful response?

We get a clue from something David said to Abishai. When asked why he wouldn’t put Shimei to death, David said, “Should anyone be put to death in Israel today? Don’t I know that today I am king over Israel?” (2 Samuel 19:22). In other words, David could respond with grace and forgiveness because he knew who he was. It was about his identity. David was secure in his identity as king. He didn’t need to prove it to anyone with vengeance.

What is our response to those who have wronged us after it is revealed that we were in the right and they were in the wrong? When the truth finally catches up to those who’ve spoken lies about us, what do we do? When those who have betrayed us are finally exposed, how do we react?

Is it with grace? Is it with forgiveness? Is it with kindness? Or do we throttle them with revenge, condemnation, and judgment?

We who have been forgiven of so much, we who live by the grace of God, we who have been shown the kindness of God in the face of Jesus, we who had Christ die for us while we were yet sinners, we are called to respond the way King David did. If we are secure in our royal identity as children of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, if we know that we are co-heirs of God’s Kingdom, we will be able to respond in grace. The apostle Paul gave clear instructions to the Roman Christians about what we are supposed to do in these situations.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17

Forgiveness

See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you…

…May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

1 Samuel 24:11-12, 15

David and his men were being chased down by King Saul and his army. David and his men were hiding out in the back of a cave when Saul went into the cave to go to the bathroom. While Saul was relieving himself, David snuck up and cut off a piece of Saul’s robe. All of David’s men wanted him to kill Saul, and David could have easily taken his revenge in that moment for all the ways Saul mistreated him. Instead, David seeks reconciliation and peace.

David comes out of the cave and humbly reveals the situation to Saul, and Saul breaks down at David’s kindness and generosity toward him. But notice David’s words to Saul because they are a perfect description of what happens when we forgive someone.

When someone has wronged us, the Lord commands us to forgive them. For followers of Jesus this is not a suggestion. This is a command. We forgive because we’ve been forgiven of so much. We are the most forgiven people on the planet. Who are we not to forgive? When we lavishly accept mountains of forgiveness from Jesus and yet refuse to squeeze out a handful of forgiveness for the ways other people have wronged us, we are trampling on the cross of Christ.

But notice David’s words. Forgiveness is not saying that what the other person did was okay. Forgiveness is not making excuses for other people’s wrongdoing. Forgiveness is not making light of the ways people have hurt us. Forgiveness is not a declaration that what they did was fine. It’s not an invitation for them to do it again and for us to be a doormat.

Instead, forgiveness is declaring that we will not be the one to bring justice and fairness into the situation. Forgiveness is giving up the right to seek revenge. I like the way David said it to Saul, “May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you…” And then he reaffirms this idea when he said, “May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

When we forgive we are not saying there shouldn’t be justice. What we are saying is that we are not the Judge. God is. When we forgive we are putting the situation in God’s hands and declaring that He is the one who will bring justice. We are trusting Him to be the Just Judge. And in so doing we are also saying, “My hand will not touch you.” But this doesn’t just mean avoiding physical violence against the person who wronged us. It also means, “My heart will not resent you” and “My mind will not harbor bitterness toward you.” There are many kinds of revenge–many that originate in the heart and mind–and forgiveness is giving up our supposed “right” to all forms of revenge.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we instantly rebuild trust with the person. Rebuilding trust is the process of reconciliation and is step number two. Reconciliation requires two people willing to work to rebuild the relationship. Forgiveness does not. Forgiveness does not require that you trust the person, but it does require that you trust God. We must trust God enough to release the situation into His hands and trust Him with the outcome. Forgiveness is something that we work through between us and God. The third party is not required in this process. We can forgive family members who have long since passed away. We can forgive people who are no longer in our life. It doesn’t require their participation.

Reconciliation does require the other person’s participation and, if it is possible, we should pursue it. But it is not always possible, nor recommended, that we reconcile with some people. There are situations that are just too toxic for reconciliation. But no situation is beyond forgiveness. Forgiveness sets us free from the damage that resentment and bitterness does to our own heart. Forgiveness is a gift to us, made possible by Jesus’s death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to forgive when it seems impossible. Jesus gives us the grace to forgive when we don’t want to.

Below is a great prayer of forgiveness by Rodney Hogue. Who do you need to forgive today?

PRAYER OF FORGIVENESS:

In the name of Jesus, I choose to forgive as I have been forgiven. I now choose to forgive _____________. I release any right I have retained to bring revenge. I release them from my hands and place them into Your hands, Jesus, my Just Judge. I break every curse I have sent to them and call forth a blessing to them instead. Thank you for the grace to forgive and the power to live in freedom.

Sins of the father

That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”

Judges 6:25-26

Notice what the Lord asks of Gideon before He sends Gideon on his mission to fight the Midianites. Earlier, Gideon had encountered the presence of the Lord and first offered Him a personal offering. This offering functioned as a burnt offering as it was totally consumed when the “fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread” (Judges 6:21). Burnt offerings were about atonement and consecration of the person offering it.

If personal cleansing and atonement were enough, this first offering would have been sufficient. But the also Lord asks Gideon to address the sin in his family line. He was commanded to do a three-fold action to address the generational sin in his family.

First, he was to tear down the altars to the false gods. Then, he was to build a proper altar to the Lord. Finally, he was to offer a burnt offering for the generational sin of his family line.

We can’t miss this truth. I have seen this reality over and over in the people to whom I minister. We must first seek forgiveness for our own sin. That is essential. But too much of evangelical and progressive Christianity stops there. We have little understanding of how generational sin effects our lives.

In the spirit realm, everything operates by authority. Parents have authority over their children and function as a kind of umbrella of protection over them. When parents and grandparents sin and never get forgiveness and freedom from that sin, there is created a hole in the umbrella. The enemy can gain access to the family line through this open door.

God is a God of the generations, not just the individual person. We Americans struggle with this concept because of our hyper-individualism. The bible tells us that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The generations are intentionally connected (that’s why you see those long genealogies in scripture listing the ancestors) as a means to pass blessing. The whole point of connecting the generations was so that blessing could flow from one generation to the next and increase with each generation. Satan finds ways to hijack the family line so that he can pass down cursing and sin instead of blessing and favor.

If we find patterns of sin cycling in our families down through the generations, we need to address it. We need to apply the blood of Jesus to that cycle and that sin so that we and our children can experience freedom from it. Like the doorposts on the first night of Passover in Egypt, it’s not enough just to have the blood of the lamb, we must apply the blood of the lamb. We must renounce the generational sin, break the generational curse that sin has created, and cancel any assignment of the enemy against us.

We must do what the Lord commanded Gideon to do. We must tear down the false gods, worship the true God–Jesus Christ–and submit that part of our life to Him as a living sacrifice. Because sin of the 4th generation back can still affect us, it’s helpful to start back at the 4th generation and work your way forward to the 3rd generation, your grandparents and your parents. Below is a prayer adapted from a minister named Rodney Hogue that you can pray to help with this.

BREAKING GENERATIONAL CURSES

In the name of Jesus, I declare the blood of Jesus to stand between me and the 4th generation, the 3rd generation, my grandparents, and my parents generation as a wall of separation. I cancel every assignment of darkness and remove every right of the demonic to afflict me because of the sins of those generations. I call to me my righteous inheritance and the blessings of those generations. Amen!

Rodney Hogue, Empowered Workbook

Repeat

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land…

So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night with these orders: “Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don’t go very far from it. All of you be on the alert. I and all those with me will advance on the city, and when the men come out against us, as they did before, we will flee from them. They will pursue us until we have lured them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are running away from us as they did before.’ So when we flee from them, you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The Lord your God will give it into your hand.

Joshua 8:1, 3-7

If you’ve been defeated or damaged in one area of your life, God’s strategy for healing is often to allow you to enter into an identical replication of the scenario that was hurtful. For Israel, they were defeated by Ai the first time because of their own sin. Now that the sin was dealt with, God’s strategy for their victory was to have the second attack look identical to the first.

Joshua will advance against the city, then when the armies of Ai come out to meet them, they will flee just as they did the first time. Only this time, Israel has an ambush waiting west of the city. When the men of Ai pursue part of Israel’s army, the other part will sweep into the unprotected city and the Lord will give them the victory.

God often sets us up with identical scenarios as a way to bring freedom and healing to our hearts. If we hold on to unforgiveness, judgment, and bitterness toward those who have hurt us, we should expect to find ourselves cycling through situations over and over again that resemble the situation that was so hurtful. Forgiveness and releasing judgment is the only way to break the cycle.

For example, if your father hurt you by being domineering and angry, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in job situations where your male boss is that way. If you are a woman, don’t be surprised if you marry someone that eventually starts acting that way. And if you’re a man, don’t be surprised if you have moments where you notice that you’re just like your dad.

Or, if your mother hurt you by being manipulative and controlling, don’t be surprised if friendships are damaged later in life because of control and manipulation. If you are a man, don’t be surprised if you notice similarities between your wife and your mother. And if you’re a woman, don’t be surprised if you have moments where you noticed that you’re acting just like your mom.

The point is that the enemy wants these cycles to continue as a way to perpetuate the hurt and damage. But God allows these cycles to continue until you get your heart healed through forgiveness and by releasing the judgments that you’ve made against the person who hurt you. This biblical principle is a combination of (1) the measure we use being used against us and (2) reaping what we sow.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Luke 6:37-38

When we judge people who’ve sinned against us, we don’t allow God to be the Just Judge. And so, in many ways, we are the one trying to punish the person through our resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness. And unless we release that and forgive, the measure we have been using against them will be used against us.

If we measure with grace and forgiveness, that’s what we’ll receive. The cycle will be broken. But if we measure with judgment and resentment, we’ll find ourselves caught in cycle that we can’t seem to get out of. The apostle Paul references this cycle this way:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 

Galatians 6:7-9

If we sow forgiveness, we’ll reap a life of grace. If we sow bitterness, judgment and unforgiveness, we should expect to encounter the situation that hurt us over and over again in different people and in different spheres of our life.

Jesus died on the cross to take all of the consequences of sowing sin upon Himself. But we must apply the forgiveness He’s given us to the people who’ve sinned against us. We must abandon the role of judge and jury, handing out judgment to those who’ve hurt us, and instead let Jesus be our Just Judge and theirs.

When we do this, we ambush the hurtful scenario with love, grace and forgiveness. This is how the Lord heals our hearts and brings us victory. We don’t have to live in these perpetual cycles. What Jesus did on the cross is more than sufficient to break these patterns in our life.

Is there an area of your life where you are reaping the consequences of your own judgments against people? Is there a cycle that keeps repeating itself, especially in regard to cycles you saw in your family growing up? It might be time to ambush that cycle with forgiveness and grace, releasing the judgment and receiving God’s grace. You were meant to live in freedom!

Here is a prayer you can pray to get free:

Father, forgive me for the judgments that I’ve made against ____________. In the name of Jesus, I now release the following judgments that I made against _________.  (List the judgements that you made).  I choose to forgive as I have been forgiven. I now choose to forgive _____________. I break the curses that have been released against me as a result of my judging. I bring the power of the Cross to bear upon these bitter root judgments that I have made. I pray that their power will be broken today in my life. I cancel the effect of sowing and reaping judgement in my life. I choose now to measure by grace and have grace return to me, in Jesus’s name. Amen!

Open Doors

But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them.

…So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai…

…Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? 

…The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies

Joshua 7:1, 4, 6-7, 10-12

This is a truth that still applies today but so few understand. Sin in our lives is an open door for the enemy to attack us. If we choose to live in sin, we choose to be a piñata for Satan as he steals, kills and destroys (John 10:10).

One person in Israel’s army kept treasures for themselves. Then Israel went up against an enemy that should have been no match for them, and yet they lost. The Lord was not with them. The sin had separated the people from God.

In response to their defeat, they cried out to the Lord as if to say, “Why did this happen to us? How could you let this happen to us God?” Sound familiar?

God immediately corrects their assumption. The people were grieving and mourning as if they were victims. God tells Joshua, “Stand up!” They were not victims. They invited this defeat because of their own sin. God did not do this to them. Their enemy did this to them because they hadn’t yet dealt with the sin in their camp. While they were on their face grieving as victims they should have been on their face repenting of their own sin.

This applies to our lives in so many ways. We often think that if there is sin in one part of our lives, it will only affect that part of our life. Wrong. Sin in one part of our life gives the enemy access to other parts of our life, and He may bring destruction in other parts of our life that have little to do with our sin (just as the men in Israel’s army who died had little to do with Achan’s sin).

We also tend to blame God when bad things happen instead of recognizing that it was the enemy at work. God did not defeat Israel’s army, their enemy did. And the distance created between Israel and God was not something God created. It was the sin of Israel that separated the people from God’s presence.

So often we grieve as victims when we should be on our face in repentance. Self-pity has become a national past-time in America, but self-pity is demonic. It turns the focus and the blame on others and on God instead of allowing the light of conviction to shine on our own hearts.

Once we repent of our sin, the door to the enemy is shut. But so long as we pridefully refuse to admit our sin, that door is wide open. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to shine the spotlight of conviction on our hearts. And when sin is exposed, we need to be ruthless about eliminating it from our life. We need to ask for forgiveness, from God and others, and we need to eradicate that sin in all its forms.

Jesus is the one who recommended a ruthless approach to sin in our life. He said:

If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Matthew 5:29-30

The apostle Paul said, “do not give the devil a foothold“(Ephesians 4:27).

To be sure, not every hardship we face in life is a result of sin. But we’ll never know the open doors to the enemy in our own life unless we allow the Holy Spirit to show us. Too many Christians walk around looking like Swiss cheese in the spirit rather than a fortress. Too many followers of Jesus are play toys of the enemy because their chronic unrepented sin leaves them open to all manner of attack.

Pray this simple prayer below from Psalm 139 and ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you might be unnecessarily vulnerable to the enemy’s attack. And if He shows you something, repent, ask for forgiveness and eradicated it from your life.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24