The habit of forgiveness is the most liberating habit of the effective disciple. All kingdom living is based on the primary reality that, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, our sins and lawless deeds are forgiven. Through faith in this great historical fact we stand in an acquitted relationship with God.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
Jesus’ death totally atoned for all our sins, mistakes, and wrong thinking. When we deliberately and personally appropriate these benefits our sins are forgiven, erased from the record and we receive the gift of eternal life. God has no more charges against us because He has “laid on Jesus the iniquity of all of us”. (Isaiah 53:6) Our part is to believe and receive this shockingly wonderful reality. God paid the penalty of our guilt while we were sinners “For while we were yet weak, in due season Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: for peradventure for the good man some one would even dare to die. But God commends his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him.” (Romans 5:6-9)
Forgiveness is not just that God overlooks our sin and say: “It doesn’t matter’. He did not simply overlook our sin and forgive it – He paid a horrible price to bear our sin.
‘All we like sheep had gone astray had turned every one to his own way, But the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.’ (Isaiah 53: ) The forgiveness available through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus is far greater than simply overlooking offence. God did not simply overlook our offences – He paid for them. The demands of justice were perfectly satisfied when Jesus took the wages of our sin.
The atoning sacrifice creates a new reality. The veil of the Temple is rent. The barrier which sin created between man and God is breached. There is now an open heaven available to all who come through Jesus. With sins forgiven and cleansed we can now approach God without any sense of inferiority and guilt and stand – in spite of our past guilt – in an acquitted relationship with Him. The love of God now comes pouring into our hearts by the Holy Spirit like water through an open tap.
“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” (Rm 5:1-5)
Jesus told a story (Matthew 18) of a man who had amassed an enormous debt to his employer. Being totally unable to pay back the debt he threw himself at the employer’s mercy. The employer then magnanimously forgave the debt and The happy worker went away delighted. Released from his debt he was free to begin life anew.
Later another man incurred a minor debt to this forgiven worker. However though he himself had received enormous mercy he refused to show the same kind of mercy to his debtor. (In today’s terms he was relieved of a 2 million dollars debt and refused to release the man who owed him $3!)
When word went back to the master of how unforgiving his employee was he restored his debt. “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Mt 18:35)
This great story tells us that the primary responsibility of everyone who has received forgiveness is to continue to acknowledge our total dependence on the mercy we have received and to pass that same forgiveness on to everyone. It illustrates that the way to continue to live in the mercy and pardon God is to keep passing it on to others. No matter how much people have hurt us, their offense towards us is nothing compared with the debt God has released us from.
The slightest unforgiveness towards self or others disturbs our peace with God and violates the principle of His mercy. Unforgiveness is like plaque in our arteries which blocks the life flow of God’s love.
We are all infinitely and equally in need of forgiveness. When we embrace the forgiveness that is in Jesus we have a special responsibility to show the same forgiveness to everyone else. A believer who leans on the mercy of God in Jesus and does not show total forgiveness towards other contradicts the principle of mercy on which his life is based. By the life of Christ who lives in us we are empowered to forgive as He did.
Yes there are real things that others have done against us. There are people whose behavior we rightly don’t like or with whose views we rightly disagree with, but we still have an obligation to forgive. We do not have to condone their behavior or point of view – we simply forgive them releasing them from any charge.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither wills your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Mt 6:14-15)
An offense is
an opportunity to forgive or
a temptation to unforgiveness.
Jesus said “One day’s trouble is enough for one day.” (Matthew 6:34) Each day brings along some offense or another. It can be as small as someone taking your parking space, annoying you with the noise of their radio, or as large as someone murdering a family member.
Believers can allow the law to take its course and to do its work to protect society from the evil that works though people. However it is never right to harbor unforgiveness because when we take offence it cuts off the flow of God’s further blessing and redeeming grace.
Forgiveness does not require that we agree with what has happened but that we refuse to let past misfortunes cut us off from present blessings. “These things I have spoken to you,” says Jesus, “that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.” To the degree that we hold no unforgiveness towards self, God or others we can live in the full sunshine of God’s blessing.
The saddest phrase in our language is the phrase ‘if only”. it indicates regret and over the past, and a failure to be released from its sorrow
Unforgiveness is the glue that binds us to the past, and forgiveness is the liberation that enables us to embrace today’s blessings. it is impossible to forgive however when we are bound by those two little words ‘if only”. James says we all make many mistakes. We have all in some way hurt by our own mistakes and by the mistakes and injustices of others.
God, however is our great redeemer. He can take all the negatives in our lives and make them work for our good. When we give Him all our regrets and receive His forgiveness for our sins, mistakes and failures we are loosed from our past.
As God begins to work in our lives, we no longer need to remain victims of our past. He has the ability to make all things work for our good. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) When we release the pains, sorrows, disadvantages injustices of our lives to Him in forgiveness and trust He by His redemptive touch can make it better that the bad things happened than if they had never happened. Adversity can be our prison house that locks us to the past or it can be our stepping-stones to destiny. when we turn it over to the Lord our Redeemer.
Most of the greatest leaders of history from Joseph to Martin Luther King have been schooled in the college of injustice and adversity. Those hardships handled with grace became the springboard to their destiny and influence.
Richard Wurmbrand, the writer of the autobiographic book “Tortured for Christ” was imprisoned in Romania first by the Nazis for being a Jew and then by communists for being a believer. In prison, he learnt through the strengthening power of the Holy Spirit to endure, to forgive and to overcome. These experiences of persecution equipped him to become one of the most inspirational leaders of his time and the founder of the “The Voice Of The Martyrs’ the leading ministry to the persecuted church
Forgiveness Is Not Denial
Forgiveness is not denial or brushing something under the carpet. True forgiveness faces the hurt and pain without diminishing its evil. Forgiveness is never a cover-up or hiding of problems from the light. On the contrary it requires bringing everything into the light of truth and then covering it with love and forgiveness.
When we receive forgiveness from God we acknowledge our offence and (realizing that Jesus took the blame for that offence) receive pardon and restoration from God. Similarly when we forgive others we do not diminish the offence but acknowledging the seriousness of the offence we forgive as we ourselves have been forgiven. The victim of rape for example should never be required to diminish or make little of the offense that has been perpetrated against her. On the contrary only when she fully faces the depth of the violation can she fully forgive in a way that releases her from the offense and opens the door for healing and enlargement.
Four Steps To Total Forgiveness
Acknowledge the reality of the pain and suffering the offense of others has caused us.
Forgive others of any real or imagined offense.
Release them from any sense of obligation to us arising from the offense just as Jesus has justified us and treats us as if we have never sinned.
Bless them. Just as God is never going to get back at you because He already ‘got back’ at Jesus for all our sins and trespasses, so we forgive others we do not desire to “get back” at them but pray that they will be blessed.
The Physical Effects Of Unforgiveness
“Follow peace with all, and holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord; looking diligently lest any fail of the grace of God, or lest any root of bitterness springing up disturb you, and by it many are defiled.” (Hebrews 12:14-15)
A root of bitterness is literally a poisonous root. Medical science recognizes that emotions such as anger, guilt, sadness and resentment, can damage our bodies and our mind. When negative emotions become chronic, they become literally poisonous, as they cause the body to produce excess doses of cortisol, histamines and other chemicals.
In addition to the obvious damage unforgiveness does to relationships, it can have a devastating effect on our physical health. According to Judith Perlman of the cancer Wellness Center of Suburban Chicago “lack of forgiveness can create an avalanche of stress hormones.
It increases production of cortisol and epinephrine, which leads
to changes in heart rate and blood pressure.
It raises levels of catecholamine and CD8, which suppresses the immune system thus increasing the risk of viral infection.
Leads to the release of histamines, which can trigger severe bronchoconstriction in people with asthma.
Alters insulin levels.
Alters the acid concentration in the stomach.
Causes plaque buildup in the arteries.
Causes or intensifies aches and pains.
Raises anxiety levels.
Interferes with intimate and social relationships.
Affects sleep and appetite.
It is no wonder that Jesus said that we must forgive before we get on with any spiritual or any other life activity.
“And when you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive it so that also your Father in Heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25)
Who To Forgive
Unforgiveness is not only physically poisonous it is also spiritually poisonous because it destroys relationships. In this way it undermines the basic fabric of life. Since we are created to receive and give love, unforgiveness destroys the most essential element of life.
Many find it hard to forgive because they have never received it. they still believe that forgiveness has to be earned because of a false theology that God’s mercy must be earned. However the basis of Christian belief is that God loved us and provided atonement for our sins ‘when we were still sinners’ .
“For we yet being without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will with difficulty die for a righteous one, yet perhaps one would even dare to die for a good one. But God commends His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” (Romans 5:6-9)
If you believe you must somehow earn your forgiveness you will make other people earn their forgiveness also. Forgiveness is not earned it is received. “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)
The three great relationships for all of us are
our relationship with God,
our relationship with ourselves
and our relationship with others.
Since forgiveness means we forgive the person of any real or imagined offense, we therefore forgive extend forgiveness into those three great areas of relationship. We forgive
ourselves, for past failures and missed opportunities.
others, for all real and imagined offences)
and God (for imagined offences and for disappointments that we may have attributed to Him)
How Often To Forgive.
‘Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus answered “Not seventy times but seventy times seven times”’ (Mt 18:21)
Forgiveness is not something we occasionally do – a valve we sometimes turn on. It is a continuous flow towards everyone and every situation we meet. It is a lifestyle of mercy from ones who have received mercy. It is a habit of the most effective believers that keeps them connected with the love and joy of the Lord.
Jesus said “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Lu 6:37)
“For what is it to me to also judge those who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But God judges those who are outside. Therefore put out from you the evil one. (1 Cor. 5:12-13)
At first sight these scriptures seem contradictory. Though we are warned not to judge, we also have the responsibility to discern and to take protective action in many situations to maintain good order. This kind of judgment and discernment is necessary.
What the Lord forbids is to “write someone off”, despise them or esteem them as less than valuable because of their behavior or views. The only inhabitants of God’s kingdom are pardoned sinners and some of the greatest saints are those who have had the worst past. We may judge behavior but we may never judge people. Sometimes we have a responsibility to Judge behavior in situations to set things in order. This kind of judging is strictly limited to situations over which we have personal jurisdiction.
We have a responsibility to deal with Wrong and illegal behavior. It must be recognized and corrected for good order within society – in the home, in the congregations, and in public life. This is why we have a police and a court system. Imagine the chaos if we all ignored the traffic laws or if these laws were never enforced. So this kind of judging is absolutely necessary and the scriptures frequently sanction this good order. What they forbid is unforgiveness, bitterness and vengeance because of their toxic effect on us and on hrs. The exercise of forgiveness should therefore not be taken as an excuse for keeping good order.
Forgiveness & Accusation
Behind all unforgiveness is the spirit of the Accuser – the Devil. Accusation is his greatest strategy against believers. Accusation consists of thoughts bombarded into our consciousness from the realm of the spirit by evil spirits. These thoughts are designed to make us doubt
God’s love for us,
Accusation is often directed at our own self-worth and provokes us to despise and hate ourselves and others. This can generate depression, despair discouragement self-loathing and even suicide. When accusation is directed towards others it produces envy jealousy, bitterness and hatred.
Behind accusation are evil spirits whose master plan is to falsely accuse us. Therefore accusing thoughts have to be dealt with not just with positive psychology but by taking authority over lying thoughts and spirits. Since believers base their faith on the blood of Jesus and the atoning sacrifice, we know we are acceptable to God – not on the basis of our own performance – but on the basis of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus we can therefore answer all accusations of the devil by agreeing with the testimony of the blood of Jesus. We can cancel all agreement with the accuser and come into agreement with the testimony of the Blood of Jesus. The testimony of the accuser is always: “You are guilty! “You are not good enough” The testimony of the blood of Jesus is on the other hand “You are forgiven.” Your sins are paid for.” “You are acceptable in the Beloved.”
In the light of this truth
we can refuse to agree with the negative thoughts of the accuse and
we can command the lying spirits behind those negative thoughts towards God, ourselves and others to flee in Jesus’ name.
As we continue in this supernatural habit, Holy Spirit will show us more areas where we can apply forgiveness to our selves and others so that we can be released from every trace of guilt and bitterness. Many accusing thoughts are trapped in our consciousness for years, but once we recognize these thoughts are not in harmony with God and do not have their origin in Him, we can reject them from our consciousness and command the illegal spirits that have planted these thoughts to leave us.
Revelation 12:10 says that God’s kingdom comes as the accuser is thrown down. “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:10-11) The accuser has lost his legal right to accuse. When we forgive we continue in the realm of God’s kingdom of love and mercy but when we fail to forgive others we restore in part the realm of the accuser. The most effective believers know how to silence the voice of the accuser ‘by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony”.
Forgiveness of self and others keeps the accuser dethroned and the wonderful realm of God’s love mercy and joy in the ascendancy in our lives every day.