The Bible says that God gives grace to the humble. Sometimes, being humble means saying “I am sorry” first.
Think about it. Don’t you find it relatively easy to apologize if the other person says, “I am sorry,” first? Saying it first is sometimes hard to swallow.
You would never claim perfection in marriage. You just believe your spouse was more wrong; he or she ought to say “I am sorry first.” Maybe you clattered your bowl into the kitchen sink and shut the door with a grumpy bang on your way to work this morning and left the milk out for good measure. What silly games we play.
Remember Proverbs 3:34 says, “God mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.” Let your pride go. God mocks mighty mockers, but blesses the broken.
Do you want a special measure of God’s grace? Here is what you do. Flip open your phone and pound speed dial. Follow this script, “I am sorry, I was wrong, will you please forgive me.” Do not, I repeat, “do not,” find yourself continuing after the apology with a criticism of the other person.
You may or may not get a corresponding apology in response. But, you can be assured of the grace of God at work in your life. God blesses the broken.
If you haven’t done so already, would you take A New Forgiveness Quiz? If you subscribe to my blog, you will be eligible for a book or a Flip Camera!
I have several goals in writing another forgiveness quiz. They are:
To share the Gospel. Teaching about Christian forgiveness is first and foremost to share the Good News (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
To stimulate Cross-centered thinking about interpersonal conflict. As C.J. Mahaney has pointed out, our next conflict is just around the corner (See here). Someone will wound you soon. You will wound someone soon. For God’s glory, and our joy, it is critical that we rinse our minds with biblical truth on a regular basis. The questions are intentionally provocative, because my goal is for you to think carefully and biblically.
To challenge Christians to live out the Gospel within their local churches. Too many conflicts are tearing local churches apart. It is essential that local churches work through conflict biblically, for God’s glory and our joy.
To interact with different Christian authors who are shaping Christian thinking about forgiveness. “Iron sharpens iron . . . (Prov 27:17).” Within the quiz, and the series of posts that follow, I will consider what others are saying about forgiveness.
To listen to a wide range of people. With this quiz I hope to collect data from hundreds and even thousands of people about forgiveness. Before going to seminary, I worked in applied statistics for a research based company. There, I grew in my appreciation for data analysis. It is very helpful for me as a pastor and writer to gain a better sense of where people are at in their beliefs about forgiveness.
To get the word out about my book, Unpacking Forgiveness.
Brief answers will be immediately available. But, on six consecutive Friday’s from October 30 through December 4 I will post on two of the questions each week offering more in depth answers.
As extra incentive, if you subscribe to my blog by RSS feeds or through email (see subscribe by email on the upper right of sidebar of my blog) during the six weeks of the forgiveness quiz, then you will be eligible to win one of 12 copies of my book or a Flip Video recorder. (I gave one to my wife after reading Justin Taylor’s recommendation and we have really enjoyed it.
Two copies of my book will be given away each Friday and I will announce the winner of the Flip Camera on December 4.
Further, if you link to this post from your blog or web site, between now and December 4th, your name will be entered five times in the drawing, thereby putting you at a statistical advantage in the random, albeit providential, drawing. Just email me your link (cdbrauns at gmail.com), and I’ll enter you in the drawing 5 times.
For my self-interested family members, yes, with the exception of my wife and children, you are eligible to win, though I reserve the right to count your win as a Christmas present.
I will announce the winner of the Flip Recorder on December 11. Provided you don’t live in some remote place like Keosauqua, IA, you should have it in time for Christmas.
Among other things, forgiveness is a commitment. Forgiveness is a promise to pardon another. Ken Sande summarizes four promises that Christians make when they forgive another.
“I will not dwell on this incident.”
“I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”
“I will not talk to others about this incident.”
“I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”
By making and keeping these promises, you can tear down the walls that stand between you and your offender. You promise not to dwell on or brood over the problem or to punish by holding the person at a distance. You clear the way for your relationship to develop unhindered by memories of past wrongs. This is exactly what God does for us, and it is what he calls us to do for others.
Think of someone you have recently forgiven. (And, that shouldn’t be hard to do). Have you been keeping each of the above four promises in relation to the person you forgave?
I highly recommend Ken Sande’s book, The Peacemaker.
 Ken Sande, The Peace Maker (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004; reprint, 3rd), 209.
This is the most critical forgiveness question. Indeed, it is the most critical question, period. Nothing can be more important than knowing that God has forgiven your sins and that you will spend eternity in perfect fellowship with him and his people.
We must be careful that we do not falsely assume we are forgiven by God when, in fact, we are not. As I said in the introduction, Jesus taught that there are a group of people who have a false assurance of salvation. Similarly, James said that there is a kind of faith that is “dead” faith (James 2:14-16).
But don’t be discouraged. Even as the New Testament exhorts us to evaluate our salvation, it also teaches that there is a proper basis for assurance of salvation. You can be sure that you will not be one of the people who hears, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Indeed, God wants his people to have assurance of eternal life. The entire book of 1 John in the New Testament outlines the proper basis for assurance of salvation.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
~ 1 John 5:13 (emphasis added)
So, how can you be sure that are truly a Christian? You can evaluate whether you are forgiven by God by asking yourself three questions. Each of these three questions is of vital importance. Don’t ask yourself just one of them, but all three:
First, do you presently have faith in the Lord Jesus for salvation?
Do you presently trust in Christ, and him alone, for eternal life? You may be able to identify a time when you turned in faith to Christ. Looking back on that point when you put your faith and trust in Jesus ought to be a great blessing. But the more important question is, “Do you trust Jesus today for eternal life?” True, saving faith is not something that comes and goes. If we truly have faith, then we will continue to have faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, Colossians 1:23, Hebrews 3:14). Wayne Grudem writes:
Therefore a person should ask him or herself, “Do I have trust in Christ to forgive my sins and take me without blame into heaven forever? Do I have confidence in my heart that he has saved me? If I were to die tonight and stand before God’s judgment seat, and if he were to ask me why he should let me into heaven, would I begin to think of my good deeds and depend on them, or would I without hesitation say that I am depending on the merits of Christ and am confident that he is a sufficient Savior?”
This emphasis on present faith in Christ stands in contrast to the practice of some church “testimonies” where people repeatedly recite details of a conversion experience that may have happened 20 or 30 years ago. If a testimony of saving faith is genuine, it should be a testimony of faith that is active this very day.
Second, does the Holy Spirit testify with your spirit that you are a Christian?
The Bible says in Romans 8:16:
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
~ Romans 8:16
If you are truly a Christian, then the Holy Spirit will give you an inner confidence that you know Christ.
This question is the most difficult to answer. You could drive yourself crazy asking, “Is that the Spirit testifying with my spirit? Do I truly have a sense of the presence of Christ in my life?”
Yet if you are a Christian, then the Bible says that God has poured out his love into your heart (Romans 5:5). Douglas Moo wrote:
The confidence we have for the day of judgment is not based only on our intellectual recognition of the fact of God’s love, or even only on the demonstration of God’s love on the cross…but on the inner, subjective certainty that God does love us…and it is this internal, subjective, yes, even emotional, sensation within the believer that God does indeed love us—love expressed and made vital in real, concrete actions on our behalf—that gives to us the assurance that ‘hope will no disappoint us.
If you are truly forgiven, then you are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:16-17) and the Spirit will testify with your spirit.
Third, does my conduct give evidence that I am a Christian?
If you are truly a Christian, then you should act like it. John said,
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
~ 1 John 2:3-4
Now, let us be clear. Acting like a Christian does not make you a Christian. However, true Christians do act like Christians. As I said in Chapter 10, Quacking doesn’t make you a duck, but ducks do quack. Holding pears in your hands does not make you a pear tree. But pear trees do hold pears. And acting like a Christian does not make you one. But Christians do act like Christians. “Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright” (Proverbs 20:11).
Whatever you profess to believe, and whatever experience of God you may think you have had, if your conduct is not honoring to Christ, then you should question your salvation. Let’s say you profess to be a Christian, yet you are content to live your life with no consistent local church involvement. Let’s say you are unwilling to identify with Christ in believer’s baptism, or perhaps you persist in habitual sin. If these things characterize you, then you should seriously, seriously question whether you are truly forgiven by God.
So, in order to evaluate whether or not you are truly a Christian, ask yourself those three questions:
(1) Do I have present faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation?
(2) Does the Holy Spirit testify with my spirit than I am a Christian?
(3) Is there evidence in my life that I am different because of my faith?
Now, perhaps at this point, you may be saying, “Well, I’ve tried to evaluate myself in each of those three areas, and yet I’m still unsure. What do I do next?”
First, I would encourage you to talk with someone who is a mature, Bible-believing Christian. Beyond that, the best thing you can do if you are unsure about your salvation is get busy living the Christian life. Don’t sit around thinking yourself in circles. Get involved in a Christ-centered, Bible-believing church. Start reading the Bible. Pray consistently. Ask God to give you confidence in your salvation. Take Jesus’ yoke upon you and learn from him.
 Douglas Moo, Romans 1-8, ed. Kenneth Barker, The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1991), 312-313.
 Jonathan Edwards said, “And although self-examination be a duty of great use and importance, and by no means to be neglected, yet it is not the principal means by which the saints do get satisfaction of their good estate. Assurance of salvation is not to be obtained so much by self-examination as by action.” Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1746; reprint, 1997), 123, emphasis his.
An article I wrote on forgiveness is available on Reformation 21 Magazine today.
I’ve been thinking recently about something television star Kelsey Grammer said. It’s not because I saw a rerun of Cheers. Unfortunately, the context is tragic. Grammer has me thinking about well intentioned people who end up “packing unforgiveness.” Where deep wounds are concerned, there are those who try and do what they believe faith requires. Yet, they end up hurting all the more.
The chance to write a book is not an opportunity to give a definitive and final word. Only one book is a definitive and final word. For those who are “always reforming” / semper reformanda, being an author is an opportunity to enter into a great conversation. In writing, Unpacking Forgiveness, I was given a seat at the table and the chance to make carefully measured statements about a topic that is central in life. It is a joy.
What is a particular blessing with the advent of blogs is that the “table” of those talking and listening is suddenly much larger. Ten years ago, a book like mine would have received only modest interaction. But, now I hear from people around the world.
In the last week, I have heard from two different people sources about Unpacking Forgiveness. In different ways, they both made suggestions for how UF might be improved. One person wrote a thoughtful email about the relationship between reconciliation and forgiveness.
I read a review today from a blog that I think is an excellent contribution to the forgiveness conversation. And, that isn’t because it’s all “blue sky.” In fact, the reviewer makes this point:
Speaking of pain, Brauns is not afraid to bring in examples that are harrowing to read. The nature of the illustrations serves the points that are being made, not least by driving home the gulf that a forgiving spirit is ready and willing to cross. At the same time, certain examples are unpleasant, and some might feel that their use constitutes overkill. The same point could be made with less extreme examples, and perhaps with a little less detail. There is a danger of inviting readers to indulge in “forgiveness voyeurism” where the grossness of the sins forgiven becomes more interesting than the matter of forgiveness itself.
If you click through to the review, you can see the feedback I gave. The bottom line is, he might be right. One of the most difficult aspects of preaching and teaching is drawing the line about how to illustrate points. When I wrote, Unpacking Forgiveness, I was determined to not write a book that deal with the superficial sleights that so many get upset about. But, I may have leaned to far in the direction of talking about the really deep wounds people receive.
What do you think? It’s your chance to sit down at the table and talk forgiveness.
You can find the link to more reviews of Unpacking Forgiveness here.
. . . Two things caused me to give Unpacking Forgivenessa chance. First, I read the book As We Forgive, which chronicles the forgiveness taking place in post-genocide Rwanda. I was deeply moved by the stories of forgiveness in that book. Secondly, I knew from the testimony of others that Chris is a godly man and a biblically-informed thinker. Therefore, I came to realize that Unpacking Forgivenesswould not be like the standard evangelical offerings on this subject.
As I began reading Unpacking Forgiveness, Idiscovered that I needed this book a whole lot more than Chris needed a review. This book radically altered my own understanding of forgiveness. Even though I saw the vaccuous nature of therapeutic forgiveness, I had not yet replaced society’s view with biblically robust teaching on the subject.
I interacted a bit with questions in the comment section.