In yesterday’s Sunday school lesson, we talked about forgiveness, and how important it is in living a peace-filled life. Sometimes, we don’t know we need to forgive someone who has wronged us. And sometimes we know we need to, but we just plain don’t want to.
- The offense was too big
- The offender didn’t ask for forgiveness
- I’m still mad/hurt
- The offender doesn’t care… why should I?
- If I forgive, it will seem to the offender that what he/she did was ok, and it might happen again
At one time or another, I’ve used every one of these reasons. Have you?
As I prepared our SS lesson, I felt the Lord lead me to share some of the same truths with you. There is genuine freedom in forgiveness. The following is something that you can copy and paste onto a word document and work through with the Lord. It came from a magazine put out by LifeAction ministries.
I’m praying for each one who will let the Lord release him/her from the bondage of unforgiveness… I know from experience that once we let go and release that offense to God for His handeling of it, it will feel like 100 pounds have been lifted from our shoulders. I dare you to try it and see for yourself. You’ll be happer and lighter than you have been in a long time.
Much love to you, my friends. I’m praying… (PS: and thank’s for praying for me. The women’s event went well. It is such a privilege to serve the Lord and the women He places in my path. Those of you who prayed had a part in God’s work this weekend, and I’m grateful.) 🙂
Forgiveness: Making it Personal
From – LifeAction.org/revive
If you have truly forgiven every person who has ever sinned against you, then you are able to experience the great freedom, joy, peace, and blessing that result from being a forgiven, forgiving child of God. However, it is possible to live with unforgiveness for so long that we become blinded to its presence in our lives.
Put a check next to any of the following hurts you have experienced:
__ Lied to
__ Rejected by parents
__ Promise(s) broken
__ Stolen from
__ Neglected by grown children
__ Cheated in a business/financial deal
__ Violent crime against self or a loved one
__ Rebellious/wayward son or daughter
__ Treated unfairly by an employer
__ Parents divorced
__ Alcoholic parents or mate
__ Slandered/falsely accused
__ Abandoned by parent or mate
__ Divorced by mate
__ Publicly humiliated
__ Adultery or other sin against you
__ Abused (physically, emotionally, sexually)
As you reflect on the ways you have been sinned against, do you find any of these statements true?
__ I have a subtle, secret desire to see (person) pay for what they did to me.
__ I wouldn’t mind if something bad happened to the person(s) who hurt me.
__ I sometimes find myself telling others how (person) hurt me.
__ If (person’s) name comes up, I am more likely to say something negative about them than something positive.
__ I cannot thank God for (person).
These statements are an indication that we have not fully forgiven all those who have sinned against us.
Remember: Forgiveness means that I fully release the offender from his debt. It means fully clearing his record. It is a promise never to bring up the offense against him again (to God, to others, or to the offender himself).
God’s word says that if we say we have not sinned, even though His Spirit shows us otherwise, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). Have you deceived yourself into believing that you have forgiven everyone who has sinned against you? As God examines your heart, does He find any unforgiveness there?
2. “I could never forgive (person) for (offense). They have hurt me too deeply.”
- What are some of the hurts Jesus suffered from us?
Psalm 22:6-7, 16
- How has God dealt with us who have sinned against Him so greatly?
Isaiah 43:35; Hebrews 10:17
- How did Jesus command us to respond to those who wrong us?
- According to Colossians 3:13, what should be the measure (the standard) of our forgiveness?
- On that basis, what offense is too great to forgive?
- When God commands us to do something, He always enables us to do it. How are we enabled to forgive (Philippians 2:13)?
3. “They don’t deserve to be forgiven.”
- What did we do to deserve God’s forgiveness?
- What are the reasons we should extend forgiveness to those who sin against us?
__ The offender is genuinely sorry for what he has done.
__ I have been forgiven an infinite debt by God, so I forgive as I have been forgiven.
__ God commands me to forgive.
__ The offender promises never to do it again.
__ The offense was an “understandable mistake.”
- Would I be willing for God to deal with me in the same way that I want to see my offender dealt with?
4. “If I forgive them, they’re off the hook!”
- What does Romans 12 :19 have to say about “bill collecting”?
Remember: Letting the offender off of your hook does not mean they are off of God’s hook. Forgiveness involves transferring the prisoner over to the One who is able and responsible to mete out justice. It relieves us of the burden and responsibility to hold them in prison ourselves.
5. “I’ve forgiven them, but I’ll never be able to forget what they did to me.”
- According to the Scriptures, when God forgives us, what does He promise to do?
Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 10:17
Remember: Forgiveness is NOT forgetting. It is a transaction in which I release me debtor from the obligation to repay his debt.
An omniscient God cannot forget, in the sense of being unable to recall something. But He does promise not to remember our sins, not to hold them against us. God does not ask us to forget the wrong that has been done to us, but to forgive it.
6. “I really have forgiven, but I still struggle with feelings of hurt.”
According to the following passages, what must we be willing to do, in addition to forgiving those who sin against us?
Remember: The act of forgiveness is only the starting place for dealing with those who wrong us. The initial act of releasing the offender must be followed by a commitment to invest positively in their life. This investment is the key to experiencing emotional healing and wholeness.
Whenever possible, we should seek to rebuild the relationship between ourselves and the offender. In situations where this is not possible or appropriate, we can still invest in their lives through prayer.
What are several practical ways that you could return good for evil, or invest in the life o someone who has wronged you?
7. “I won’t forgive!”
Ultimately, forgiveness comes down to a choice. It is a choice that God both commands and enables. But some simply refuse to make that choice.
- According to the following Scriptures, what can we expect if we refuse to forgive those who sin against, us and what does a bitter spirit reveal about our spiritual condition?
2 Corinthians 2:10-11
Choosing to ForgiveIf God has revealed any lack of forgiveness in your heart, move on to this next section: “Moving from Bitterness to Forgiveness” and prayerfully complete the five steps to freedom.
Moving from Bitterness to Forgiveness by Steve Cranfield
1. Make a list – make a list of the people who have wronged you.If you’ve been harboring bitterness, this list won’t be difficult to generate. Family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, former employers, pastors, ministry leaders… list whoever has caused you pain or grief.
Be honest with God and with yourself. You can’t take the steps of forgiveness if you haven’t acknowledged the need.
2. Clear your conscience – Confess to God, and then the offender, any wrong responses you may have had (e.g. hatred, bitterness, gossip). (Acts 24:16)
Jesus taught that we should deal with offenses quickly and personally. While we cannot control what happens to us, we are responsible for our responses.
In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus lays out a simple plan to resolve conflicts with other Christians. When someone sins against you, first go and lovingly confront the guilty individual. If that meeting goes nowhere, have another one, this time with two witnesses. Finally, if the person refuses to repent, bring the issue to leaders of your church. (Notice that Jesus doesn’t say: share the issue as a prayer request with your small group, ask three friends for counsel, call the pastor and express concern, or vent to your spouse and kids.)
When we fail to walk through the process Jesus outlined, we disobey His direct command. If that’s the situation you find yourself in, confess your wrongdoing to God and to others necessary. Then go back and start at step one.
3. Thank God – Thank God for each person who has wounded you. (1 Thess. 5:18)
Like it or not, God has used the people on your list to humble you and to mold you to the image of Jesus. The Bible says, “In everything give thanks,” not just, “In the good times,” or , “When you feel thankful.” You might pray, “God, I don’t fully understand why I was hurt, but I trust You. As an act of my will, I thank You for these people and for whatever You can teach me through them as I work through this list.”
I’m not asking you to give thanks for sins that were committed against you. I’m asking you to give thanks for the fact that God is bigger than everyone eels and their sin, and that He can take what others meant for evil and use it for good.
4. Choose to forgive – As Christ has forgiven you, fully forgive each offender. (Eph. 4:32)
Make a commitment to clear the other person’s record – forever. Whenever your mind brings up the offense, renew your forgiveness. Choose to never mention it again, just as we trust God to fully forgive the sins we have committed against Him.
After Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18, Peter asked the question that all of us wonder about: “How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Wouldn’t that be pretty gracious, Lord?
Jesus answers, “Peter, I’m not asking you to forgive seven times. I’m commanding you to forgive seventy times seven times.”
What? So, every time someone hurts us, we get out a little book and say, “Okay, that’s the 432nd time, buddy; when we hit 491, you’ve got it coming!”? Obviously, Jesus is illustrating that there is no limit to the breadth of our forgiveness.
Most of us aren’t wronged 490 times by the same person, but we do think about the wrong that was done that many times. We see reminders all around us; and every time, we have to choose between bitterness and forgiveness.
That’s why I teach that forgiveness is not a one-time act. It’s not that you just forgive somebody one time, and you say, “That takes care of that.” It requires forgiving them every time you think about it- 490 times. Or more.
5. Rebuild relationships – Confirm your Christian love to the people on your list. (2 Cor. 2:8)
Look for ways to return good for evil. We do this by investing positively in the lives of those who have wronged us. You repay the damage they have caused, just as God sent His Son “while we were yet sinners” (Rom. 5:8). He came looking for us when we should have come looking for Him.
One more thing, friends. This is one of the most beautiful examples of forgiveness, and something that God has used for many years to convict me about His power in helping me to forgive~
Corrie Ten Boom’s Story on Forgiving
“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.
“It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’
“The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.
“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!
[Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.]
“Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’
“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?
“But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
“ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.
“ ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’
“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’
“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.
“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’
“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’
“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”
(excerpted from “I’m Still Learning to Forgive” by Corrie ten Boom. Reprinted by permission from Guideposts Magazine. Copyright © 1972 by Guideposts Associates, Inc., Carmel, New York 10512>).