DAY 16 RED LETTER CHALLENGE

Yesterday we learned that grace is receiving a gift we do not deserve. Today we will look at what it means to give and receive mercy.  By definition, to receive mercy is to NOT receive something you DO deserve. In Matthew 18, Jesus was teaching His disciples how to handle situations where two people had conflict and one sinned against the other. You can read the story in Matthew 18:15-35, but we’ll look closely today at the questions Peter had about forgiving others and the response Jesus gave.  

Matthew 18:15 NLT

If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.

Matthew 18:21-22 NLT

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”

Peter was on the right track by seeking to personalize what Jesus taught, and he wanted to know just how far his responsibility in these matters should go. Peter’s question clearly demonstrated that he understood discipline in the church was to be about loving and forgiving and not about being vindictive in any manner but Peter wanted to know just how far this idea of “restoring his brother” should go.

Peter more than likely thought he was being very generous by suggesting he would forgive his brother up to seven times for the same offense since Jewish law required a person to forgive someone three times. If the person committed a fourth offense, the person didn’t have to forgive them anymore. Peter must have really thought he was going above and beyond since he had doubled the tradition of forgiving three times and even had added another for good measure! Jesus responded by telling a story to further illustrate how we are to forgive others.

Matthew 18:23-35 NLT

Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

Today, Jesus asks us to be merciful just as the Father is merciful towards us! If we have been forgiven millions, how could we not forgive thousands? In the words of Dr. Adrian Rogers, mercy is “Compassion in action!”

During the course of our lives, we are all certain to face small and large offense against us that require us to forgive as Jesus taught. There will be times when we have been wounded by others and hurt so badly that our trust must be earned again. It’s in those times we must release the right to “get even” and forgive.  It’s not easy to forgive but when we give the gift of forgiveness to others, we are the ones who receive the majority of that gift that is given!

Think about it. What hurt from the past still brings you pain? How can forgiveness help you move forward? Pray that God would help you to forgive others just as He has forgiven you.

BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT SHOWING MERCY TO SOMEONE TODAY.

Perhaps you can let someone off the hook if they owe you a favor or even some cash. If you don’t have the opportunity today, be on the lookout for someone you can show mercy to at some point this week.



DAY 15 RED LETTER CHALLENGE

If you ask me to describe God, I think of grace. Grace is a free gift from God. The grace of God comes to us from the cross where Jesus took our sin on Himself. This gift of grace calls us to live a life like Jesus.  Grace by definition is the unmerited favor of God toward man. We didn’t do anything to deserve it, but God offers it freely to all who will believe and receive it. 

Have you ever been around someone that criticized everyone and everything around them? We all have!  I have never met anyone that loves to be around someone who is negative or critical all of the time. Have you ever noticed that a person who is judgmental almost never says anything negative about themselves? I am reminded of the passage in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus was addressing how we are to treat others. Jesus gave a very clear warning about passing judgement on others. 

Matthew 7:3-5 NIV

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Pam and I have been married for 28 years. I would like to say every day of marriage has been pure bliss, but that just would not be true. Early on in our marriage, when the newness had worn off and reality set in, we hit a very rough patch.  I look back on this time in our lives and realize things could have been very different if I had taken seriously Jesus command in Matthew 7. At the time, my pride and judgmental attitude blinded me to my own faults. When something didn’t go my way, it was much easier to think the worst of Pam or question her motives. I found it very difficult to put myself in her shoes and it was much easier to point out her faults rather than my own. Somewhere in the midst of the struggle, God got a hold of my heart and I began to see things differently. I realized I had received God’s grace and mercy when I didn’t deserve it and I needed to extend the same to my wife and everyone else in my life. I began to focus daily on myself and being a better husband and father. It completely changed my marriage and my life! When I treated Pam the way Jesus would, she in turn did the same.  From that point on, our marriage has never been the same. 

I wear contacts to give me clearer physical vision. Without them, I am basically blind to what’s right in front of me. I use wetting solution daily to wash physical debris from my eye. I know how important having clear sight is, I make sure my contacts are clean. The same is true in my spiritual life, when I  become judgmental or critical, I can become easily blinded to the sin in my own life. That sin can be a speck or a plank, in either case, I need to ask Jesus, the Living Water to wash my spiritual eyes clean. So after asking for my own forgiveness, it’s much easier to forgive others. Why? Because “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” And I know I need more mercy than  judgment in every area  of my life.

James 2:13 NIV

Because judgment without mercy will be shown to  anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 

Rather than seeing everything wrong with everyone else, God is giving us an opportunity to love people. He has removed your plank by the precious blood of Jesus and He gives you an opportunity to share that Good News with everyone else. 
 

DAY 15 CHALLENGE

Ask God to Help you in this area by praying this prayer: 

Jesus, wash the plank of judging others from my spiritual eyes. Please forgive me for being quick to judge others when I carry so many faults myself. Remind me on a daily basis that “Mercy triumphs over judgment” every time. In Your Precious Name, Amen.

Get an index card or piece of note paper and write on the paper, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” Now tape the paper in a prominent spot as a reminder to yourself to show mercy, not judgement, to others. 



DAY 14 RED LETTER CHALLENGE

Have you ever wondered why we need forgiveness?

If we truly understand what sin is, we will understand why we need forgiveness.

We are sinners—by birth, by nature, by choice, by practice. We have morally struck and offended an infinitely holy God. He must punish sin, and we deserve punishment. Yet at the same time God loves us. So if God could have a problem, this would present Him with one: How can He love and forgive the sinner and at the same time punish sin?

The answer is: with a substitutionary sacrifice. Someone who takes that punishment on our behalf. A person who has known no sin Himself, righteous enough, holy enough, good enough, to become our substitute. Someone who can suffer in our stead. The only one who could do that was the Son of God. He is God’s substitutionary sacrifice—and our Savior.

He died not merely for us, He died instead of us. The Bible says that “He who knew no sin, God hath made to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus died for all the sins of every man and woman who has ever lived, is living and will ever live.

John 8:9-11 NIV

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Today we looked at the story of the woman who was caught in adultery. Jesus could have picked up a rock and condemned her for her sin, but instead, offered her mercy, love and a new life. Like the woman, we are all in need of forgiveness. Jesus took our place on the cross so that we too could experience new life.

Sometimes we find it hard to accept God’s forgiveness and we hold on to things in our past. We think our sin is too great for Him to forgive. Are you still holding onto things you’ve done?

 When we think our sin is too great for Jesus to forgive, we are stripping away the power of the cross. Jesus sacrifice on the cross paid for our sins once and for all! If you really understood what you have in the Lord Jesus Christ, your salvation by grace and what Christ did upon that cross, you would never stop praising God for saving you!
 
DAY 14 CHALLENGE

THIS IS THE DAY TO DROP OUR ROCKS! Most of us have certain sins that really bother us. Sins that we hold onto. We’ll learn this week that you can’t forgive others until you have received God’s forgiveness and forgiven yourself. Pray and ask God to reveal to you any sin you are holding onto. Write it down on and ask God to forgive you. Ask God to help you forgive yourself. Ask God for strength to turn from that sin in the future! 



DAY 13 RED LETTER CHALLENGE

Matthew 26:27-29 NIV

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.
 

A reporter once asked the Reverend Billy Graham “How big does a sin have to be before God won’t forgive it? I’m afraid I’ve probably crossed the line (wherever it is), because I’ve done some terrible things and have hurt a lot of people.” Reverend Graham responded that there was only one sin that could not be forgiven, which was “the sin of refusing His forgiveness.” He continued by telling the reporter “No matter who we are or what we’ve done, God still loves us, and He promises to forgive us – totally and completely – if we will only turn to Him in repentance and faith,”

Mark 3:28-29 NIV

Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

Like the reporter, often times we feel our sins are too big for God! But God takes our forgiveness so seriously that He sent His Son into the world to die for our sins.  Why do we need forgiveness? Paul tells us in Romans that “There is no one righteous, not even one.” That means we are all guilty.  Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we were born with sin nature and as a result, our sin separates us from God.  Oswald Chambers put it this way “Forgiveness is the divine miracle of grace. The cost to God was the Cross of Christ. To forgive sin, while remaining a holy God, this price had to be paid. The only ground on which God can forgive our sin and reinstate us to His favor is through the Cross of Christ!”

John 8 tells the story of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery.  The scribes and Pharisees wanted to stone her because of her sin. They brought her before Jesus to see how He would respond and Jesus’ response was not what they expected at all! 

John 8:6

Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

This is a picture of God’s grace for us. In the hands of the religious leaders, the women faced certain condemnation. In the hands of the Savior, she received compassion, grace and forgiveness. Jesus told the woman to “Go, and sin no more.”

DAY 13 CHALLENGE

Mark 1:15 ESV

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  As we start our week of forgiveness we want to follow Jesus’ exact words: Repent and Believe in the Gospel. To repent means we are truly sorry and ready to turn away from our sins. As we repent and acknowledge that we are sinners, we also receive the good news that Jesus Christ has grace for us! Repentance is not a one-time prayer. It’s an every day practice. If you are ready to repent and be forgiven, say this prayer: 

Dear Lord Jesus. I know that I am a sinner, and ask for your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I trust you now and follow you as my Lord and Savior. In your name. Amen. 

If you prayed this prayer first time, it’s important to let someone know. You can email hello@redletterchallenge.com for some free online resources that will help you as you begin your faith journey.