Last Sunday, we launched our Acts of the Apostles series. Well, I tried to, anyway. With high hopes of setting a tidy pace of one chapter per service, I quickly found that that wasn’t going to happen! Yet, in a strangely comforting way, it seemed appropriate that the Holy Spirit would take over my sincere efforts to present the Word, and, well, just TAKE OVER like He loves to do—and just like He did in the Book of Acts…
Acts begins by Luke referring Theophilus to his first writing to him (i.e., what we know as the Gospel of Luke), “…of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen” (Acts 1:1, 2, NKJV).
This tells me that in order to fully appreciate what Jesus was doing with His disciples through the Holy Spirit, we FIRST have to review the last chapter of all the Gospels (or in John, the last two chapters). Then we can see what was commanded and communicated after the Resurrection, when the disciples awakened to belief and became born again.
Basically, three demonstrations manifested immediately upon Jesus’ Resurrection:
1) The disciple’s understanding was opened to comprehend the scriptures. They could see and hear!
2) Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on them. They experienced being born of the Spirit.
3) Jesus gave them the authority to forgive sins and retain sins.
This third point? This is where I lost control during the services on Sunday…where the Holy Spirit took over for us to establish that FORGIVENESS is the FOUNDATION of all other aspects of the Kingdom and functions within the Kingdom. (But more on that in a moment)!
Holy Spirit “Fountain” or Holy Spirit “River”… What’s the difference?
In the Gospels’ final chapters, we see the wonderful fruit of regeneration, or being born again. In our own individual journeys of regeneration, our understanding is enlightened to see and hear in the scriptures; we experience the voice of God inside encounters; we are born anew as we are quickened to new life in Jesus! Here, we learn to drink of the waters of life freely. We also experience Jesus as the Holy Spirit unlocks our hearts in forgiveness. These fountains of living water are then ours to enjoy and drink from our own personal relationship– think of it as waters drawn with joy inside conversations with God.
In contrast, the Rivers of living waters are for ministry to others– to be enabled with power to witness to the Resurrection of Christ. Fountains? To know and enjoy God. Rivers? To make known and demonstrate God. The disciples were in an amazing learning curve as they drank of the waters of life in their encounters with Christ, His words, and the Holy Spirit. They were growing in knowing and enjoying. The river was coming, but that would be on Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection.
So what’s this got to do with forgiveness?
The new covenant is based on being known in forgiveness. God chose us in Christ to be to be holy and without blame, presented before Him in love. We’ve been adopted as sons, redeemed by His blood in the forgiveness of our sins–all inside the riches of the glory of His grace (see Ephesians 1:4-7). We are not just forgiven of our sins, we are known as “the forgiven”. The greatest of honors has been bestowed upon us: a relationship of life in Christ, sustained by Christ, dependent upon Christ, complete in Christ. We are the forgiven in Christ, made righteous through Christ. Amen!
NOW, as God’s blessed forgiven ones, we must forgive.
This, in my opinion, is the genius of God, to keep us from re-creating inferior and inadequate righteous patterns based on the law. Any law. Law is an observance of values and principles, religious or otherwise. Basically, we establish ourselves “righteous” through our own efforts, measuring ourselves by how well we observe whatever set of rules we believe in. Problem is, we can’t do it. Then again, THANK GOD we can’t do it! We were never created to live apart from God, only to live inside His provision of grace! Observe one law? There are ten more you’re breaking; keep ten, now there are a hundred where you’re failing. The law is the strength of sin.
The Holy Spirit took over our Sunday services, large and in charge, to free us in His River of forgiveness! I was drawn to share my many stories of failure, the ones where I tried so earnestly to be righteous– and the life or death necessity for me to forgive all. When we forgive and let go, release others from their debts, even receive God’s forgiveness for ourselves where needed, then the River of Life flows to us and through us. Without forgiveness, we cannot experience the waters of life. We are left with only a shell of a life, a form of godliness, having denied the power of this new- life forgiveness!
I know it’s crazy that something so simple as forgiveness has now become the door through which all the benefits of God can either be enjoyed or denied. But the Holy Spirit sure thinks so! He made it His point to remind us, return us, and re-focus us to drink freely from the waters of Life, and then to share the same with others. The forgiven disciples in Acts were given commandments through the Holy Spirit by Jesus. We, the forgiven in 2019, were blessed with the same on Sunday—to move forward in the authority to forgive sins. Now, as God’s cherished, forgiven ones, may we release and unleash Jesus’ forgiveness everywhere we go. Forgive everybody of everything! As we forgive and let go, the River will flow…