Blake Long

Learning to Forgive

Those who have been forgiven by God of all their sins—past, present, and future—should be the ones most readily to forgive—no matter the severity of the sin. I understand the urge to hold a grudge. We’re all sinners so that is what comes most naturally. But when we remember we’ve been completely forgiven, we should be able to completely forgive others.

“If you truly are sorry,” Brandt Jean said to his brother’s murderer, “I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you.”
Forgiving is incredibly difficult because holding a grudge is far too easy. It’s more natural for us to hold a grudge, to let our anger boil over and become bitter. But God has commanded us to forgive (Matt. 18:21-22).
We learn from this above story how forgiveness is, many times, supernatural. It took the Holy Spirit to let the words, “I forgive you,” leave those young man’s lips. But how? How did this man make it seem so easy to forgive his brother’s murderer?
He learned how to forgive. What are some ways we can learn to forgive?
Forgiven by God
Christians are able to forgive others—even of the most heinous sins—because we’ve been forgiven of our most egregious sins. It’s hard to withhold forgiveness when we’ve been forgiven. It’s difficult to spew our sinful wrath when God has withheld his righteous wrath on us.
We have been forgiven by God through the person and work of Jesus Christ—the gospel.
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A Treasure Trove of Wisdom

In order for us to truly exercise wisdom, we must acknowledge God as God, and give Him the reverence, glory, and honor He rightfully deserves. It can be very easy to go about our everyday lives not acknowledging Him. And the fact that it’s so easy to do is frustrating. This is why it’s imperative to be intentional in our walk with the Lord. Are we acknowledging Him? Are we staying in communion which Him through prayer, reading, and fellowship? If not, wisdom will be hard to come by.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬)
We all search for wisdom. It’s a universal pursuit and, in many cases, we look for it from the wrong source. As Christians, we’ve been bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ—but how do we live wisely? What do we do in day-to-day situations as we seek to glorify God?
We should look no further than Proverbs 3:5-6. Proverbs is a treasure trove for wisdom. We have all this knowledge about God, His Word, and the rest—but how do we use this knowledge in our daily walk with Christ? That is wisdom. And Proverbs is full of it.
I think it’s important to go into detail on each statement in the above passage. First, because it’s used so superficially as a “coffee cup verse” that we forget it’s real meaning. Second, though, is because it’s the pathway to living a life to the glory of God.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. If we are honest, we will admit to dramatically failing at this. Trusting in God—with all our heart, no less—is not a mere suggestion, but a command. It’s not “If you think of it,” but more like, “You must.” Thankfully, the strength of our trust is not the foundation of our salvation—whether it be justification, sanctification, etc.—Jesus is.
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Held Tightly

We are secure in Christ. When we think too highly of ourselves (Rom. 12:3), this is a much-needed reminder that our progression is not due to our abilities, but Christ’s. The times we fall down repeatedly and not sure we will ever advance, we can look to this truth and know he will complete the work he started in us (Phil. 1:6). And, ultimately, we can continue on in sanctification, reminding ourselves of his hold on us, knowing we are secure in him.

We are secure, not because we hold tightly to Jesus, but because he holds tightly to us. (RC Sproul)
Recently my family went to a small boutique in our hometown (where my wife enjoys spending all our money). In order to get there, we had to cross a very busy street. I told Jovi, my oldest daughter, to hold my hand as we walked across the road and into the store.
While holding my hand, she would loosen her grip and act as if she was pulling away, but I tightened my grip all the more to ensure she stayed with me. It didn’t matter how loose her grip was on me since my grip on her was extremely tight. She could try to let go, pull away, or run off—it wasn’t going to happen.
The same is true with us and Jesus. As we hold Jesus’ hands through the trials and temptations of life, it can be easy to become distracted and loosen our grip. But his grip is firm, tight, and never letting up.
If you are in Christ, he is holding onto you and will never let you go. This precious truth should cause three things to happen for Christians.
Christ’s firm grip on you should humble you. It’s hard to be conceited when we know it’s Christ’s hold on us—not our hold on him—that keeps us moving forward.
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Jesus is Here

When we let God be God, our life is better. It’s when we forget his omnipresence—and his other attributes—that we start attempting to control our own lives, and then everything goes to shambles. But here’s the remarkable thing. With Jesus being omnipresent that doesn’t mean he’s only watching you from a distance or just “keeping an eye on you.” No. He is both transcendent and personal to us. He is imminent. He is near.

“Jesus keeps me safe,” Jovi, my oldest daughter, quietly said as I tucked her in the other night.
“Yes, he will always keep you safe,” I said, while hugging her.
“He is not here,” Jovi responded.
It was in that moment I knew I could send a sense of reassurance into Jovi’s toddler-sized heart. She is only 2.5 years old, so I understand she can only process so much. But I knew she remembers things well.
“Oh, sweetie,” I said, “Jesus is here. He is with you, with me. He is everywhere.”
She replied, “Jesus is here.”
To ensure she knew my point even more, I replied, “I know you can’t see Jesus, but I promise He is here. He is always with you.”
The next day my wife told me as she was putting her down for a nap, Jovi randomly said, “Jesus is here.”
Let the heart melting begin.
I knew I didn’t need to explain the mysterious intricacies of the omnipresence of Jesus—how can he be everywhere at once? But I knew the fact that he is with her would calm her for the night and, better yet, she’d remember it. And she did.
Christian, I tell this story to give you—to give me, to give all of us—a reminder. Jesus is here with us. He is not distant, far off, or lost. He is here and cares for us.
Jesus, as the second Person of the Trinity, is not confined to time and space. He is transcendent. He is truly everywhere at once. He is just as much in the future as he is in the present.
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Learning to Live

Christians are ready to die, for we know what awaits us on the other side. We know death is the doorway that leads to true, eternal life. Death is not the end, but only the beginning.

Readiness to die is the first step in learning to live.(J.I. Packer)
Are you ready to die? Perhaps this morbid question haunts you. Maybe it makes you anxious. Either way, it’s one of the most important questions you’ll ever answer; for we cannot truly live until we answer that question. Furthermore, we cannot authentically live until our answer is Yes.
Our culture is terribly afraid of death. We have seen this fear escalated exponentially due to Covid. We do everything within our power to not face death. As a result, what many end up doing is either avoiding the question or answering honestly with a No.
Society, for the most part, avoids the death question.
Millions of people walk through life with apathy regarding the prospect of death. They simply don’t care enough to ponder the question. They are concerned about the here and now—not eternity. It’s foolishness, and they have better things to do with their time. They push it away as much as they can.
What saddens me is the myriad of people who avoid the question because they don’t want to talk about the things in life that matter most. This is partly why it’s taboo to talk religion with people—to many, it’s awkward and uncomfortable. They either squirm or get offended when any disagreement takes place.
More than anything, however, it shows people don’t want to face the reality of death, so they ignore it. They know it‘s coming—as it comes for everybody—but to ponder if they’re ready, that means facing the big things in life head on. And, well, that’s just too serious.
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When We Think on Heaven

Nothing can stop us when our eyes are focused on glory. Fear is vanished, anxiety disappears, and worry exits the door. We become so enraptured with what we will experience in the New Earth that the cares, fears, and temptations of this present Earth quickly fade into the abyss. 

There is something sanctifying about fixating our eyes on Heaven and the glories to be experienced there. It’s no wonder the Apostle Paul exhorted us to do so in Colossians 3:2, where he wrote, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (‭ESV‬‬).
Setting our minds and hearts on Heaven is not optional for the Christian. Amid the allurements of this world, indwelling sin, and Satan’s influence, it’s all the more imperative that we take heed of Colossians 3:2 by fixing our gaze on glory.
When we consistently obey this exhortation, several things take place, but let’s draw our attention to two.
Sin Becomes Less Appealing
I tweeted recently, “Today, think on the glories that await us in Heaven. I find that the more I think on Heaven, the less appealing sin becomes.” Indeed, it does. The more I stare at the glories of Heaven, the easier it is to ignore the deceptive enticements of sin.
It is when we daydream about the world and get caught up in worldly pursuits that sin is more prevalent in our lives. We give sin—whether intentional or not—a firm grip on our hearts when we take our eyes off the glories of Heaven. We lose the eternal perspective and replace it with the anxieties of this world.

The Imago Dei Under Attack

Tracing our lineage back to Adam gives the racist a proverbial punch in the face because, in a very real sense, we all have the same ancestors. Though we may look different, speak different, and act different, in the end we are no different. We are humans made in the image of God, and that is more than enough.

The doctrine of the imago Dei—the image of God—is foundational to the Christian faith. We believe all people—man, woman, the unborn—have inherent value, worth, and dignity because they’re created by God (Genesis 1:27). Humanity is sacred because of the imago Dei. We have more value and worth than the cockroach because it wasn’t created after God’s likeness—we were (Genesis 1:26).
The imago Dei is one of many doctrines of our faith that is under attack. And one of the more prevalent ways it is under attack is through racism. Racism is the torch that many people use to light the imago Dei on fire.
“To the extent that racism is rooted in the twisted belief that one segment of the population is superior to another,” Don Morgan wrote, “it’s not hard to see how race-based discrimination is a direct assault on the sanctity and dignity of human life.”
Whether you want to use the word race or ethnicity, Morgan is correct. Race- or ethnicity-based discrimination is a direct assault on the sanctity of human life.
What is racism, anyway? The Oxford Dictionary defines racism as “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.” To be racist is to be prejudiced against another person simply because of different skin color. To be racist, in the end, is to blatantly ignore the imago Dei.
With that said, what are some ways in which racism is an attack on the image of God? And, more importantly, how should Christians respond?
Less than Human
We saw it back during the time of slavery, and, to an extent, we see it today. Those who are racist treat others as less than human. They treat them as though they weren’t created by God. This attack on the image of God is prevalent throughout our society in many ways:
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So It Is With Grace

If we are faithful, we should always examine ourselves to see what progress we’re making. If a lack of growth or progress doesn’t concern us, there is a bigger problem at play. But we shouldn’t be distraught over a perceived lack of growth—many times we recognize how much we’ve changed when we look back to who we were before Christ.

The growth of trees and plants takes place so slowly that it is not easily seen. Daily we notice little change. But, in course of time, we see that a great change has taken place. So it is with grace. (John Owen)
I am not where I thought I would be as a Christian today. When God saved me eight years ago, I intended to be more holy, more Christlike, more godly than I am now. But I’m not. Not by a long shot.
Sometimes I get too angry; other times I’m a little too impatient. On many occasions my sarcasm comes too natural and my cynicism springs forth too often. I don’t love my wife as I should and my love for the Lord wanes far too easily. In short, I’m less godly than I planned to be eight years in.
Wherever you are in your walk with Jesus—whether it’s been a month, a couple years, or decades—I imagine you feel the same way. We all do. We all get discouraged with our progress.
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In Word, In Power, With Full Conviction

The gospel comes in power, ultimately, because God is omnipotent. He is all-powerful and has saved us with a powerful gospel. It has the power to transform desires, to change hearts, to bring new life. It has the power to replace old, wicked desires with new, godly affections.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake (1 Thessalonians‬ ‭1:4-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬).
I don’t know about you, but I make the mistake of not reading 1 Thessalonians enough. In doing so, I have deprived myself of theological richness. I just so happened to read the first chapter the other day and was struck by the above two verses, the bold part in particular.
The gospel comes. And it not only comes in word, and not only in power via the Holy Spirit, but with full conviction. Word, power, full conviction. That is weighty language. And it’s important language.
In this post, I want to talk briefly about each of these terms and what they mean together.
In Word
Preach the gospel, some say. Use words if necessary. This popular statement, though well-intentioned, is drastically off base. There is no biblical support for it, since we all know the gospel must be heard before it can be believed (Romans 10:14). Should our lives give evidence to the transformative power of the gospel? By all means! But no person—past, present, or future—will believe in the gospel simply by looking at a Christian’s life. They must hear the gospel to believe. To be sure, they may see your life and wonder, “What’s different about him?” but they still must hear the gospel.
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Total Depravity and Clinical Anxiety

Sin has affected all of us. Not one person has escaped it—even the Son of God, who took on the sin of those who would believe in Him. Jesus didn’t have sin, of course, but was made to be sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21). Our minds, our bodies, our souls have been wholly effected by original sin. Let us not look past what it can do to any part of us, including our brains.

During my senior year of college, I was lying down on my bed one evening reading some tweets from a Christian theologian. As I continued scrolling, suddenly I began to feel extremely cold. As the coldness set in, my heart—from out of nowhere—started to pound like I had just run a mile. As it pounded harder and harder, I began experiencing heart palpitations (where your heart skips beats). Then my breathing got quicker and tighter. I finally set up and vividly remember thinking, “Am I having a heart attack? Am I dying?”
After about five minutes, I walked out of my room and told my roommate what had just happened. Unsure of what really happened, I described how I felt. His girlfriend was there and said, “That’s exactly how anxiety attacks feel.”
Up to that point in my life, I had never experienced something like that before. It was dark, fear-inducing, and left me feeling vulnerable. Let me put this in perspective from my vantage point. I absolutely hate vomiting—with every fiber of my being. When I get nauseous, I get so afraid that I’m getting sick. I do everything I can to not vomit. And yet, when the anxiety attacked ceased, I remember walking to my car thinking, “I would rather throw up a hundred times than do that again.”
Millions upon millions of people suffer from anxiety attacks, panic attacks, clinical anxiety, etc. just like my story above. Many much worse than what I went through—even Christians.
Anxiety and the Church
There is a stigma within the evangelical church around the topic of clinical anxiety. Many Christians—a lot of whom I respect and admire—simply do not believe it exists. They see no evidence for chemical imbalances. I know of many close to me who would have a totally different opinion on this. And that’s okay.
However, many Christians have done damage to other Christians who suffer in this way because they don’t believe chemical anxiety, depression, etc. are real. In turn, they say the problem is not the brain malfunctioning, but their own sin. They send Philippians 4:6 to suffering Christians and say, “Just believe this more.” But this isn’t a Philippians 4:6 issue, but an issue that has its roots in total depravity.
What Does Total Depravity Have to Do with This?
As one who believes in the doctrine of total depravity, I think it’s sensible to believe in clinical anxiety (or other mental health issues). I think it’s difficult not to because of total depravity.
At its foundation, total depravity explains that sin isn’t a mere hiccup in our spiritual makeup or that, deep down, we’re good people who do bad things. No, sin affects our whole being—mind, soul, body. Ephesians 2:1 says, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” We weren’t sick people, but dead people. We didn’t need to “turn over a new leaf,” but become a new person altogether.
And that was the effect of original sin. Just as original sin made us spiritually dead—incapable of obtaining salvation on our own—it also affected our whole being—including our brain.
Furthermore, total depravity doesn’t mean we are as bad as we could be, but that sin has permeated our entire self.
RC Sproul explains:
…it means that the fall [of man] is so serious that it affects the whole person. Our fallenness captures and grips our human nature and affects our bodies—that’s why we become ill and die. It affects our minds and our thinking (brackets and italics mine).
It affects our mind and the way we think. It impacts every part of us. And because of that is why I believe the Bible gives room for clinical anxiety. Our brains have malfunctioned because of sin. The human mind is not what it ought to be. Sin came into the world (Gen. 3) and caused catastrophic damage—to say the very least.
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