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Aug 11, 2008

Messiah Complex

Someone recently asked me if I have a "Messiah Complex."

I've always believed the Christian responsibility of ministry is that we are to find lost people who are buried beneath a mountain of sins and lead them to Jesus, so they can find forgiveness for their sins. In other words, unless they come to Jesus, they cannot find forgiveness for their sins, so it's my job to get them to Christ.

Then one day I came across a Bible verse I've read a thousand times before, but never took the time to contemplate its meaning. It's one of those verses that totally messes with your mind and the implications of what's being said are so enormous that we commonly race to read past it because it makes us nervous. I've never once heard a Pastor preach on this verse and in my entire life, I've never seen anything written on it. It's just one of those passages that's clearly there, but we act like it's not, because accepting what it says could alter the landscape of our entire religion as we know it.

John 20:21
Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

I love this verse for several reasons. First, it completely destroys many Pentecostal doctrines that claim that speaking in tongues is evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit. The disciples clearly received the Holy Spirit long before the upper room experience in the book of Acts.

The greatest revelation found in this verse, however, has to do with our authority as believers and children of God. We would all agree that God's dealings with mankind are always done through people, but when you throw forgiveness into the pot, I wonder how many people are willing to believe that as well. The implications of what is being said through this scripture are astounding.

Remember when the people lowered the paralyzed guy down through a hole in the roof so Jesus could heal him? Jesus looked at the Pharisees and said, "Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home." And the man got up and went home (Matthew 9:6). The claim that Jesus was making was nothing short of spectacular. He was literally telling these people that he had the authority to administer forgiveness to people on God's behalf.

This was hugely significant because the Jewish religion up until that point completely encompassed getting forgiveness. All the rituals, the slaughtering, the blood sacrifices, the burnings and ceremonies were for the purpose of obtaining forgiveness from God for their sins. Now this guy Jesus says that he has the authority to administer that same forgiveness just because he says so. It's a wonder they didn't try to kill him right then and there. Such a claim was so lofty and humongous, that his words surely came across as blasphemous to these teachers of the law.

There are many other times in Scripture where Jesus said, "Take heart; your sins are forgiven." And it seems that this was the thing that freed people up so they could come to God. He took away the very thing that was not only weighing them down but was also blinding them to the Father. He administered forgiveness of sins BEFORE they came to the Father. Think about that. We have been taught that forgiveness only comes AFTER we come to the Father. Consequently, most people avoid ever coming to the Father because their sins are keeping them from Him.

Could it be that we have this same authority to proclaim forgiveness of sins before people even come to God to ask for forgiveness, because of what was accomplished on the cross? Can we speak on God's behalf and declare things from heaven's perspective?

I met a guy once who I could tell was miserable in his life. He was in bondage to about a thousand things and his spirit seemed to be hollow. His eyes conveyed an interest in knowing God like I did, but he told me that couldn't talk to God because his sins were too great. He was terrified of even approaching God. He asked me if I thought God would forgive him and I responded by saying "I forgive you." I explained that the decision to forgive him was also mine because I am now a son of God and a brother to Christ, and I decided YES. This guy's life was turned around and he eventually came to the Lord.

I think that Christianity isn't working in America because we have been given the decision to either forgive or not to forgive and most of us have chosen to withhold forgiveness. Unfortunately, most Christians don't even know that they have this power. They believe it's all up to God and it doesn't matter how they feel. We tell people to go to Jesus and get forgiveness, yet WE are Jesus to this world and we refuse to forgive them. My advice to all Christians: Don't send people to God until YOU have forgiven.

It gives more meaning to Ephesians 4:32 where Paul says: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

It's so sad that today most Christians are more concerned with whether or not they can administer healing than they are about whether or not they can grant forgiveness. Imagine the power of being able to administer forgiveness to hurting people on behalf of God Himself! Just think of the work we could do here on earth. We could literally set people free everywhere we go.

To me, this really comes into true power when you think about how many people refuse to forgive themselves. No amount of forgiveness on God's part will ever matter one iota if you haven't forgiven yourself. Think about it. God knows that it's this way and that is precisely why forgiveness has been placed in our hands. Until you do it, it's NOT done. God and all of heaven wait for you to forgive yourself because then and only then is the power of God's forgiveness released unto you. If you don't forgive yourself, you will remain in bondage, you will remain in death, you will continue to waste away and you will continue to be paralyzed. Though God will have forgiven you totally, you will not be able to reap the benifits of that forgiveness until you've forgiven yourself.

A husband my think his wife is the most beautiful woman in the world, but if she thinks she is ugly; his opinion of her is useless. He can fall all over her and tell her a million times how wonderful he thinks she is, but until she believes it and gives herself permission to believe it's true, it won't make a lick of difference. The power is simply not released until she decides for it to be.

I have discovered, for many, the revelation they are hoping to receive from God in terms of understanding the grace message is completely contingent upon them receiving forgiveness from themselves. When that happens, something clicks in their spirit and they suddenly understand the grace message. I think our unwillingness to administer this forgiveness to ourselves is the biggest roadblock to accepting this revelation of the message. It's that important.

Many Christians will be offended by this post because they'll read it as though I'm saying that all forgiveness comes only through us and unless we forgive people, they won't be forgiven. Nothing could be further from the truth. Others will claim that i'm trying to make us equal with God. Still others, will try an warn everyone against me and the dangers of believing this. How sad. God forbid, that anyone should be led astray by this and accidently become really really forgiving.

People experience every part of God THROUGH HIS PEOPLE. His love which is the very essence of who He is, is experienced through people. God's children are the visible representation of God on this earth. Becoming Christ like and having the mind of Christ means that we can know and speak on behalf of the Father in relation to others. This is essentially what this post is about. Nothing more - nothing less.

Someone recently asked me if I had a "Messiah Complex" and without hesitation, my answer was, "Yes - Absolutely, I do." I honestly believe that until we all develop a Messiah Complex, we will never touch the world.

Darin Hufford

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  1. Gravatar

    Thanks, Darrin! I've never heard that before, but I have wondered about that verse!

  2. Gravatar
    Eric Coleman

    Can I say WOW!!

  3. Gravatar
    Jonathan Brink

    That was awesome. Mind and soul bending may be the word.

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    In Alcoholics Anonymous they have this principle they teach us to live by. The founders of AA knew that we have to forgive others and walk in forgiveness in order to set others free from addiction. It's a beautiful thing to watch people rise from the pit of hell to be touched by forgiveness and are treated as innocent. They have a clean slate. We monitor our resentments and are taught our whole life to walk in forgiveness. We know if we harbor resentments against ourselves and others we are not going to stay well for long. Is this concept perfect? Absolutely yes. Instead of walking around beating ourselves and others up...our energies are spent on forgiveness. Not a bad way to live since addicts are eaten alive by be being unforgiven. Your words have given a new meaning to the way I live.

  5. Gravatar

    Interesting post!

    I have heard a different take on 'Recieve the Holy Spirit' portion of that verse. In greek it is 'He took a deep breath and said recieve the Holy Spirit'.

    Also there is no evidence (changes to their attitude etc) that the disciples received Holy Spirit before the upper room experience.

    About forgiveness, I would prefer to tell people that they are already forgiven at the cross 2000 years ago (before they were even born). Since that is a fact I can tell them their sins are forgiven and they can approach God without guilt.

    Bible says, forgive each other AS God forgave you in Christ Jesus.

  6. Gravatar
    Heart Walker

    This makes the verse "love covers a multitude of sins; really come alive! The bible says "The Kingdom of God is within", it's so easy to forget or not ever really know who we are in Christ. Love ya Darin!

  7. Gravatar

    Wow! Daarrriiinnn! This is profound! Awesome!

  8. Gravatar
    Anthony in Tucson

    don't get excited out there Free Believers about my comment. The Lutheran Missouri Synod has part of thier liturgy called the "absolution". The Lutheran Institution has labeled the "Pastor" in their service called the "Divine Service" the one with the power ot forgive us of our sins as if Christ himself was present in body to forgive. Yes, a very powerful tool to us as well as the "Priesthood of Believers' God Love you all!

  9. Gravatar
    Mike Z,

    Great post (as usual) Darin. I think that granting forgiveness to someone is a form of administering healing. If we can help someone lose the burden of guilt and shame by forgiving them, and they are set free, then to me that is healing.

  10. Gravatar

    Interesting. I heard my Father say about 10 years ago that he thought the one unforgivable sin Jesus talked about (ya know - Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit) was when we do not forgive ourselves.

  11. Gravatar

    One other note. Kind of gives special meaning, new understanding to Christ's commission to forgive others in order that we may be forgiven and of course the forgive as you have been forgiven.

  12. Gravatar

    I am sorry but I am little confused. I think it is NOT the say 'I forgive your sins' what forgives a person. Bible says, 'without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness'. Jesus said, 'I forgive your sins' because He was going to shed blood. Today you and I can tell others, 'your sins are forgiven' because of the cross.

  13. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    exactly Bino.

  14. Gravatar
    Eric Coleman

    2 Corinthians 5:18 "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

  15. Gravatar
    Keith Giles

    Am I allowed to respond? I know this isn't a chat room.

    Yes, we are commanded to forgive those who sin against us.
    Yes, we are told that we are forgiven if we forgive, and not forgiven if we don't forgive.
    Yes, we are told to forgive those who sin against us.

    But we are not told to forgive the sins of those who do not come to Christ, as Darin suggests.

    I want to know why Darin didn't simply tell his friend who asked if God would forgive him or not to just pray and ask God to forgive him on the spot?

    Why was Darin so intent on being the one to forgive those sins instead of saying, "I know God will forgive your sins. Let's ask him right now, together."

    What would have been so wrong with that?

  16. Gravatar
    Eric Coleman

    Because Darin was demonstrating that WE are now God's hands in this world. A fact that you don't seem to understand. This site is full of people who have been told one thing and shown another in the IC. You are a perfect example of this. You believe in forgiveness yet you spew hate. What is terrifying is that you don't think it matters.

  17. Gravatar

    I agree that we in our modern society and churches too often refuse to forgive people their sins. We "retain" them as if we should somehow use them to accuse that person later on. (And we all know who the real Accuser is, right?) I think Bino's clarification that everyone who seeks forgiveness can find it in the blood of Christ is right on the money. While you and I can say, "Your sins are forgiven," too often we leave off the coda, "through the Blood of Christ Jesus who loves you." Through the power of the Spirit we receive when we accept Christ, we are empowered to do more than Jesus did, to reach more people, to catch more "fish." But the power still always and ever comes from God, whose Holy Spirit indwells us. It really is not MINE to forgive, it is HIS to forgive.

  18. Gravatar
    Dave in Wichita


    You said:
    "The disciples clearly received the Holy Spirit long before the upper room experience in the book of Acts."

    Another verse that supports your contention is this one:
    Joh 7:38 let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, 'From within him will flow rivers of living water.' "
    Joh 7:39 (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.)

    When Jesus breathed on them and said "Receive the Holy Ghost," he had just risen from the dead and was in his glorified body!


  19. Gravatar

    Thanks Darin, so very true. The part about not receiving grace till you've forgiven yourself is right on the spot. In counselling others I find this a big blockage when people won't forgive themselves - grace seems very far away to them. When I tell them they ARE forgiven whether they believe it or not, it's a struggle. I'll print this article out and use it. Great.

  20. Gravatar

    Didn't Jesus also say, Unless you forgive others their sins, neither can your Father in heaven forgive you yours? I have found that to be one of those stop-you-in-your-tracks verses, Darrin. Isn't there something profound about forgiveness in the spiritual reality in which we live, without being aware of it much of the time? If we don't forgive others God CANNOT forgive us? Hhhmm. Comment?

  21. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    You know Wendy, forgiveness is the key to pretty much everything. It’s not by accident that the word “give” is tucked in that word. I do want you to see the difference with the verse you quoted because many Christians get condemned when they read that one. Remember that when Jesus said that, it was still Old Testament times, or in other words it was before the cross. After the cross however, in the New Testament we are told that BECAUSE we have been forgiven, we now forgive others. Can you see the difference? Before it was based on works, but now it’s based on heart.

  22. Gravatar

    Is forgiveness really a continual soul searching for every bit of negative feeling about an incident or situation, that can last forever (and you just think you've got it right and some unwanted memory about it pops into your head again - or you come up against some new consequence in your life of what the person did - and you start all over again), or is it simply a willingness to resume relationship with that person, should they be willing, as if the incident never happened. Then there are times when there has to be modifications in the relationship for your own or others' protection (eg forgiveness in domestic violence situations). Or is it just genuinely wanting good in that person's life? This might not be the place to discuss this.

  23. Gravatar

    Jesus breathed on them and said receive the spirit... that might have just been an instruction to receive it when it comes (at Pentecost), or it could have been the start of something that continued on at Pentecost (what i believe). Random question for you Darren, have you ever thought of gender when it comes to the Holy Spirit? We have an obvious male Father, a male Son and a ??? Holy Spirit. Yes modern translations say "HE" but original wording is gender neutral?
    About the forgiveness thing, yah, can we really take forgiveness too far???? like God won't forgive them because i said it first. "your sins are forgiven" isn't implying we did the forgiving, or when the forgiving was done, just that they are forgiven!!!! oh that forgiveness would be as popular as "God loves you"

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