Friday, October 12, 2012

260 in 2012 DEVOS - Day 204 - PHILEMON: Forgiveness & Responsibility

2 Corinthians 5:17 reads “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” As true as this is, it does not take away from our responsibilities as a Christian. Onesimus, a slave in the Roman empire, had stolen from his master Philemon & had run away. Somehow, he crossed the path of Paul who led him to faith in Jesus Christ. Now Onesimus, as a believer, had a duty to go back to his master Philemon. The punishment for what Onesimus had done was death, so Paul writes to Philemon asking for mercy & grace. This is not a letter on guidelines for masters and slaves. It’s not a letter denying Philemon’s rights as a slave owner over Onesimus. It’s not even a letter against the evil slave system. This is a letter of forgiveness, a letter begging for mercy & grace from Philemon toward a new believer who had been freed from sin through Jesus Christ! Paul could have used his position to order Philemon, but instead, “yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my son Onesimus who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.” Faith, not force, is used. “Onesimus” means “useful, beneficial.” By stealing & running away he had ruined his name and dishonored his master. But because we are made new in Christ, Onesimus could live up to his name again. So much so that Paul says “I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel.” Paul knew that Onesimus had a responsibility toward Philemon that needed to be fulfilled, so he sent him back to Philemon with this letter asking that Onesimus be welcomed back as both a slave and a brother in Jesus! Paul includes a touch of God’s sovereignty (God being in control) as well: “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.” How deeply does Paul feel about this? So much so that he offers to pay personally whatever Onesimus owes! And by the way Philemon, you owe me – you came to Christ as a result of my ministry as well! Paul concludes with his confidence that Philemon will do even more that he is asking him to do! SO WHAT?! *What have you (or I) done that deserves punishment? Whatever it is, we always hope for mercy & grace don’t we?!~! YES! Why not take a moment right now and thank God that HE doesn’t give us what we deserve (eternal death & separation from Him forever because of our sin)! *Is there a responsibility that you have not been fulfilling that you need to make right? Do it today, even if it costs you, because as a believer in Jesus, we want to do right. *Often times in the midst of a trial we cannot see the larger picture of what God is trying to accomplish. What are you facing right now that you need God’s perspective on? Is there a relationship? Is there a situation? Ask God today to help you see things the way He does! And lets never stop asking for grace & mercy – God LOVES to give it!

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