Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Are We Truly Forgiving?

A Story about Forgiveness

Matthew 18:21-35, the Message Bible:
At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”
Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.
“The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.
“The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.
“The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’
“The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.
“The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.”

Are we truly forgiving? Do we treats others the way God would have us to, or is it just lip service? God has been dealing with me lately about true forgiveness.  So I am going to share with you what He has been showing me.

Now I know some of you, after building your life history, are saying, “What! Me…forgive him?  But, Leigh, you don’t know what I’ve been through.  Why, just yesterday he___________________.  How can I possibly forgive him for all of that!!!” 

And yet this is exactly what we need to do to be healed of the pain we have suffered and released from the bonds of slavery that have chained us in this valley of despair we have resided in for so long.  I long to break free!  Don’t you?  

Also, you need to know the truth of forgiving those who have abused and mistreated you. Forgiveness isn’t for the person, or persons, who have wronged us.  Oh, it is important that they know they are forgivable, by us and by God, but, it is for our spiritual growth that we must learn to forgive.  For we must be willing to drop our baggage at the side of the road before we can begin our journey into the heights.  So have faith in Him, cut your anchor chain and watch where He will lead you as you learn to trust Jesus and follow Him upon the mountains, up to the high places.

Jesus is our example of how we are to forgive.  While He was dying on the Cross He uttered this famous prayer; ‘…Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing…’ Luke 23:34 NIV

By this, He was forgiving the Jewish leaders, the Roman government, soldiers, and the people caught up in the crowd watching. By this, He brought salvation to all men, including those who murdered Him. By this, He also forgave us before we were even a thought in our parent's hearts.  We, too, are sinners guilty of putting Him to death.
If you were the only person created by the Master, He still would have chosen to die in your place on Calvary. To endure every pain He felt in His body and in His spirit as a result of your sin and separation from Him – and in His death, His separation from God.  And He still would have chosen to forgive you all your sins.
Forgiveness, like love, is a choice. It is an action and we have a part in that action. We must lay aside our hurt and pain to allow God to bring us through them.  It can be a very slow process and you won’t “feel” like forgiving at first.  But we have to start with a choice – our own personal choice – to forgive our offenders and abusers.

That all important choice needs to be followed quickly – very quickly – by our words; thought, spoken and written. Yes, ALL Three!

I remember when I was homeschooling my children, my son had the hardest time learning many things.  But we had a county appointed teacher who came to our house once a month to check our progress.  I shared with him the struggles we were having.  He told me something I have never forgotten.  “Learning,” he said, “is done differently by each person.  Some can read a process one time and can do it almost instantly.  Others need to involve more sections of their brain to truly grasp many concepts, even those deemed simple concepts by many educators.  So you should use as many of the five senses as possible to assist them in the learning process.”  As we are “learning” forgiveness we will need to see, speak, hear and feel – by writing – this process of learning to forgive.

While making the choice to forgive, mentally add names and faces to this choice to make it more real in your heart.  Speak your list – OUT LOUD – to Jesus.  Write the details of the hurts and pain you experienced, and that you have made a choice to be forgiving to everyone for ALL the things you have suffered.  And don’t forget to add your name to your list.  Yes, your name. Believe it or not, you are harboring guilt and unforgiveness against yourself for allowing others to hurt you.

Your choices may not make an immediate change within you.  You may have to repeat this task often; sometimes daily, other times moment-by-moment. 
Matt. 6:12-15 in the NIV says…Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, you’re heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins.

God gives us the choice to forgive. But, if we choose not to forgive, He, in turn, chooses not to forgive us. Our unforgiveness comes with a very heavy penalty. We can't scale the heights with Jesus, or enter into His Holiest of Holies – the very throne room of the fullness of God's presence – unless we learn forgiveness.  We would be stagnant in our spiritual lives; not filled with the springs of living water. Totally missing out on the ‘abundant’ life He has promised us.

Matt. 5:23-24 says: ‘Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar. And there rememberest that thy brother has aught against thee; leave thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.’

The Message Bible says it this way: “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.

The Lord says if we think that our brother is holding something against us, we are to go to that brother and work things out before we offer our gift to God. Our gifts to God are our purity of heart and thoughts.

Matt 5:8 says; ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’

It is our worship and praise that draws us into the very presence of God.  I feel this place of praise and worship allows us to “see God” here on earth before we get to see Him face to face.  But, if we can’t give Him our gifts, how can He dwell fully in our beings ... in our very hearts? For God inhabits, He lives within, the praises of His people.

Forgiveness is the very basis of our salvation. Without God's forgiveness, we would also be outside of His Kingdom.  Zechariah prophesied of John the Baptist in Luke 1:76, 77. In the NIV it reads:  ‘And you, my child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.’

Zechariah was telling his family and friends that salvation would come through God's forgiveness and that John the Baptist would lead the way to Jesus, who would bring that forgiveness to us all. So if salvation is through forgiveness, and we are to follow Christ's example, how can we not forgive? It is a must!

Now that we have made the choice to forgive and used most of our senses to confirm our choice, it is time to put actions to our choice, and to our words.  Saying "I forgive you, '' isn't enough. We must follow through with the actions and attitudes of heart that agree with our words.  We must act toward that person – or persons – as if forgiveness is in full bloom in our hearts. Our feelings may be calling us “liar” or “hypocrite.”  But our feelings are wrong.  They are Satan’s tools to sabotage our choice to forgive, to keep us distracted and in bondage to our fear, hurts, and pain. Our actions will show that we are serious in our forgiveness, even if our "feelings'' aren't in agreement. If we trust God and walk out our acts of forgiveness, our feelings will follow. Then we will be in complete agreement – body, soul, and spirit - in our forgiveness.

This is a time of solidifying the forgiveness that started in our hearts as a choice.  Forgiveness and the subsequent reconciliation are designed to give us freedom to worship God in wholeness, causing us to grow in our faith toward Him.  And to be released from the baggage we have carried around with us for so long; cuddling, and hugging them because they were so familiar and “felt safe.”

Forgiveness doesn't mean everything that has been done to us is OK and can be done to us all over again. Nor are we to put ourselves back into bondage to the person or persons who have hurt us. We are called to reconciliation, not to a revolving door to the abuses of others.  It is time to lighten our load and allow us to leave our burdens at Jesus' feet.  That is where they belong, anyway. Picking up that hurt and pain day after day is not only choosing to hurt ourselves again and again; it is hindering our walk with God. We can't grow in our faith if we are all filled up with unforgiveness, hurt, and pain; for there is no room left in our hearts for more of the Holy Spirit.

I've been working on letting go of the unforgiveness, hurt, and pain in my life.  I’ve been praying for the people in my past who have been a part of causing it. Asking God to teach them the truth and the way of salvation, and praying for blessings on them and their families. This has released me from the bondage of carrying around all that hate and bitterness I had been storing up inside. Now, I actually feel a lot lighter of spirit, clearer of mind and not so tied up in knots throughout my body.

This isn’t easy and doesn’t happen overnight.  Satan will be standing right around the corner waiting to trip us up in this new choice we have made.  We will need landmarks, tangible mile markers as evidence to hold onto and be able to look back at, to remember the promises of God and the progress we have made.  Keeping a journal is one way to mark our progress.  Jotting down your thoughts and prayers, or a bit of poetry & verse given by God’s inspiration.  Or writing in the margins of your Bible beside verses He gives to encourage and lift you up.

Isa 53:5, 6 says; But, He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and by His stripes we are healed…and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquities of us all.

If He has done this for us, He has done the same for them, too.

At the onset of this chapter, I quoted a passage from Matt 18 where Peter asks our Lord how many times we are to forgive.  In verse 22 he answered, “…I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven.”  Sometimes it will take seventy times seven.  But, if we can learn to forgive 70x7 – 490 times – then why not 491, or 492, or even 1000.  This is the whole point Jesus was making.

Satan will try to goad us into renouncing our new commitment to learning true forgiveness.  Be strong!  Stand by your choice to learn forgiveness.  Pray often calling upon the name of Jesus in the tough times.  Psalm 118:14 says; ‘The Lord is my strength and my song, and is become my salvation.’

Forgiveness is more than a feeling, it is a choice we must make before the feeling can start to form within us.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15 “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive men not their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Since forgiveness starts with a choice, now is a good time - and your journal a great place - to record your choice to forgive and to receive the forgiveness of others; God's and your offenders/abusers. 

Father, I choose to forgive: 

Help me forgive myself for: 

Lord, if there be anything I can learn from these feelings of pain and suffering ... teach me now.

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