True Freedom - The Freedom of Forgiveness
The Freedom of Forgiveness
The Freedom of Forgiveness
Today we wrapping up the River Valley Church study about purpose in the freedom that God gives us. Just as a quick recap, we kicked this series off by looking at the source of our freedom. Without God freedom wouldn’t even exist! By the power of His word, He created us for freedom. With freedom comes responsibility. Freedom in and of itself implies the ability to choose not to be free. Our enemy wants does not want us to be free. The enemy wants us to be captive to sin. The enemy constantly lies to us and tries to separate us from the source of freedom.
The following weeks we talked about ways to seek after God, gain freedom over the enemy, and create a pattern of connecting to the source. We studied our kingdom citizenship. Jesus said that God’s kingdom is here. We don’t have to keep waiting for God to bring His kingdom, He sent Jesus to transfer you from Darkness to Light. Jesus told us to seek God’s kingdom above everything else and present the king’s invitation to other’s.
Then we talked about surrender. True freedom starts when we surrender our wants and desires to God and trust Him to be in control of our lives. Next we talked about God’s Word. God’s Word has the power of life. Jesus is God’s Word. He came down from heaven, just like the manna that the Israelites would eat in the wilderness. In the same way, we are to partake of every word of God. Even Jesus. We take God’s Word and meditate on it, just like cows eat. We chew on it, swallow it and let it sink deep within us, then we call it back up, chew on it again, and repeat the process.
After that we looked at our identity. We like to change who we are and decide what our identity is going to be, but we learned that God is the one who created us and He defines identity and He alone get’s to determine our value. He created us to be something unique and decided that we were worth the life of His only Son.
Then we talked about the fact that we are spiritually minded. We know that because we look in the mirror. In the same way that we look into a mirror to see what we physically look like, the bible is our spiritual mirror and it tells us what our spirit looks like. We must renew our minds to what the Bible says is true about us.
Last week we talked about God’s voice. God is always speaking to us, we just need to learn how to tune it and hear Him. We looked at some practical advice for tuning in to God’s voice. If I want to get better at hearing God when He speaks to me, I need to spend more time with Him. Like a cell phone, the only way to get better at using it is to use it more. Then I should recognize and avoid the things that get in the way of hearing Him. Avoid areas that block signal or cause static on the line.
Next I should get better at following the lead of the Holy Spirit. Pay attention to the prompting of the Spirit throughout the day. It’s also vitally important to pray. Jesus prayed regularly. He would often go to a quiet place where He could be close to God and He would spend lots of time in prayer. Finally, I should recognize God’s consistency. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He doesn’t change His mind like I might. I can trust what He says and verify what He is telling me by looking into His word and getting more familiar with who He is and what He might ask me to do.
As we wrap this series up, let me start by asking you a question to ponder. What was the last thing that someone did that hurt you? Maybe you were offended, hurt, aggravated, disappointed, or something else all together. Maybe it wasn’t the last time that bothered you, but someone did something several years ago that you can’t even think about without getting upset.
You’ve probably all seen a story in the news about someone who lost a family member to a murderer or some other tragic event, but surprisingly the family member stands up in front of the murderer and says, “I forgive you.” Why? How could someone who would never see their loved one again because of that person offer them forgiveness?
I remember being hurt in a big way by someone one time and a friend of mine told me about someone they knew that went through the same thing. He said that everything turned around for that person after he forgave the person who hurt him. The key was that instead of just being forgiving, he told the person that hurt him that he forgave them in Jesus’ name.
It is such a simple little thing, but to me forgiving someone in Jesus’ name greatly amplifies the effect. It forces you to think a little bit more about forgiveness. What is forgiveness? How does Jesus forgive? How can I forgive like Jesus? To understand what true forgiveness is, we must first understand the amazing gift of forgiveness that Jesus provided for us.
We know that sin is what separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). And that everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23). But God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to pay the debt we owed to rescue us from sin so that we could be forgiven and brought back into His presence (Romans 5:8). All we have to do is believe. Give our lives to Him. Confess our weakness and failure to Him and He forgives us and makes us clean (1 John 1:9).
He gives this forgiveness to us freely. It is a priceless gift from God that Jesus paid with His life. Forgiveness is a means by which our relationship with God is restored. The easiest way to forgive someone else is to think about the way the Father forgave me when I didn’t deserve it. To think about all of the ways I failed, yet He still freely restored my relationship with Him at no cost to me. To forgive in Jesus’ name.
It is important to forgive with a heart of true forgiveness. Sometimes we tend to think we are being forgiving when we are actually just avoiding the situation, letting ourselves be taken advantage of, or possibly even demanding something in return or expecting “conditional forgiveness.” Let’s quickly talk about some things that forgiveness is NOT.
FORGIVENESS IS NOT...
Forgiving someone does not mean that we have reconciled with that person. In order to reconcile the relationship, additional things must happen between the two people. These additional steps are:
Repentance, Restitution, & Rebuilding Trust.
That is to turn away from the wrong actions, to make things right, and then to prove it with consistent words and actions. Reconciliation requires two people, but forgiveness only requires one. The trap is that someone may say, “I will forgive them after they apologize.” If you seek reconciliation you will become a hostage to the person who has wronged you. Instead of living in the God’s freedom of forgiveness you are leaving your freedom in the hands of another person. That is why Paul said…
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
FORGIVENESS IS NOT...
The important thing to remember is that God’s sense of justice is better than ours. If we live by the mantra, “It’s not fair! If I forgive, they will just get away with it.” we are failing to understand God’s forgiveness towards us. Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right, it sets us free and places justice in the hands of God.
19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.
Forgiveness is not reconciliation, it’s not justice, it’s also not...
FORGIVENESS IS NOT...
Burying the hurt doesn’t make the pain go away. It just goes somewhere else within your mind and will show up again later. You may not expect it or even recognize it when it comes back around. Just like a gremlin, you try to hide it in the dark, but somewhere along the way it got into some junk food and became a monster you didn’t recognize. Similar to repression, forgiveness is also not...
FORGIVENESS IS NOT...
Denial is saying, “It’s no big deal. It didn’t really hurt.” Anytime someone hurts you it is a big deal. That is why forgiveness is so important. Brushing it off and pretending like it is okay is not going to do you any good. When I pretend or lie to myself, I am in denial. Just remember the acronym for DENIAL...
Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying
Forgiveness is not reconciliation, justice, repression, denial, or forgetting…
FORGIVENESS IS NOT...
Once in their marriage, Sam did something really stupid. It really upset Ethel and she chewed him out for it. He felt bad, apologized, and they made up. However, from time to time, Ethel would mention what he had done. One day Sam finally asked, “Honey, why do you keep bringing that up? I thought your policy was ‘forgive and forget.’”
“It is,” she said. “I just don’t want you to forget that I’ve forgiven and forgotten.”
The reality is, we may never forget what has happened to us. Some things don’t go away and in truth they aren’t supposed to. God wants to do something extraordinary in our lives. He wants to bring healing to our hearts. Then when we remember these experiences, we can do so without reliving the pain. We can help the next person who is going through what we experienced. Forgiveness is not forgetting, but it is refusing to allow these experiences to dominate our lives.
FORGIVENESS IS NOT...
BECOMING A DOORMAT
Forgive, but don’t allow someone to continually walk all over you. Setting boundaries can be an important tool to protect and care for yourself. Sometimes setting boundaries can be the best thing you can do for another person. If you allow yourself to be a doormat, you will become hard hearted. Cultivate a heart of love and mercy. No matter how someone else treats you, don’t let them change who you are or affect your character. Always remember who God has created you to be.
Have you ever experienced any of these myths of forgiveness? You were trying to be forgiving, but got caught up seeking reconciliation, needing justice? Or you tried to bury the problem, deny it’s affect on you, or just wanted to forget. Maybe you were doing your best but didn’t realize you had become a doormat?
Today I want to share two key thoughts that are important to remember about forgiveness. First, forgiveness will set you free...
FORGIVENESS WILL SET YOU FREE
FORGIVENESS WILL SET YOU FREE
Maybe you simply didn’t want to forgive someone. Someone wronged you in some way and so you went into lock down mode. Proverbs 18:19 calls it barring the gates of the citadel. Fortifying the city! When we react without forgiveness we are putting ourselves into bondage. We are locking ourselves inside of our own city. Sure, when we put up walls we may be able to protect ourselves from being hurt again, but walls keep out more than just the bad stuff. We are locking the gates and keeping out the good stuff too.
19 An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.
Walls protect us from pain and rejection, but also keep us from experiencing love and life-giving relationships. Put simply, choosing not to forgive makes us a slave to offenses, hurt, and pain. God’s desire is for us to live a life full of freedom and love, and the only way to do that is through forgiveness.
13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
God’s way is to forgive, but the enemy wants us to harbor bitterness and resentment and let our hearts become hard. He isn’t just waiting either. You are his game. He is hunting you. The enemy isn’t going to just wait around for you to have a falling out with your family or for someone to offend you. He is hunting you. God painted a very clear and telling picture of this for Cain, but he let his hurt control him and captivate him. Instead of living in the freedom of forgiveness, Cain was the slave of is anger.
When Cain and his brother, Abel, brought gifts to God, the LORD did not accept Cain and his gift. This upset Cain so God spoke to him...
6 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
Cain refused to have a heart of forgiveness and it caused him to be a slave to his anger. He was so angry that he went out and killed Abel. Without forgiveness, Cain took the life of his brother, lost his own freedom, and his relationship with God was severed.
Peter once asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone. Seven? Jesus said, “No… Seventy times Seven!” Then He told a parable of a man who was called to the king to settle his debt of 10,000 talents, which would be millions of dollars. He begged for the king to be patient with him and in turn the king forgave all of his debt! After he left the king he chased down someone who owed him 100 denarii, which would be a few thousand dollars. He slapped the guy around a little and threw him in jail after the man begged for more time. Someone happened to see this so they told the king…
32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. 35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
God LOVES forgiveness. He LOVES generosity. He forgives us and loves us and loves it when we go with that same heart of forgiveness and pay it forward to someone else. When we accept His grace and don’t live full of grace and forgiveness with others it prevents us from experiencing the freedom of forgiveness. This parable teaches us three important truths about forgiveness...
Forgiveness affects our relationship with God.
We reap and experience difficult and challenging circumstances as a direct result of our choice not to forgive.
Forgiveness is God’s tool to deal with the offenses that happen to all of us.
I love the way Jesus taught people how to pray. He tells us to pray for forgiveness in a way that requires you to evaluate your relationships. He said to pray, “God, forgive us our sins, as we have FORGIVEN those who sin against us.” Pray for forgiveness after you have forgiven others. How could you pray that line of the prayer if you harbor resentment and bitterness for someone in your heart. Then He explains forgiveness in a more straight-forward way…
14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
When I point Jesus’ words at the offenses that hold a place in my heart I find it much easier to say, “You know what… I can forgive you.” I like the question these verses inspire River Valley to ask… Would I trade my forgiveness from God for the right to hold someone accountable for their offense towards me?
The first key thought about forgiveness is that forgiveness will set you free. If you are taking notes, the second thought is…
FORGIVENESS IS A TWO-PART PROCESS
FORGIVENESS IS A TWO-PART PROCESS
That is 1) our part, and 2) God’s part. Our part is to forgive, then get out of the way. When we forgive, God is able to enter the situation and bring about justice, healing, and restoration. As long as we are holding the offense against the person who hurt us, we are in God’s way. Forgiveness is an act of obedience to God that we participate in.
Our part is to forgive others. Without forgiving others we can’t expect God to be forgiving of us. When someone hurts you, remember two important things…
The sin was against God long before it was against you.
Jesus did not just die for the sins we have committed, but also for the sins committed against us.
Jesus came to heal and forgive. We get to participate in His forgiveness and share it with others, then God does the rest. We partner with Him in His mission of love and forgiveness, spreading His freedom through grace. Don’t let the enemy lure you into his trap of bitterness and anger. He is crouching at the door to your heart hunting you. Waiting to catch you off guard. Take every thought captive. Subdue and be the master of the sin that tries to ensnare you.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
When you think you are facing something different and you deserve to be angry and hold out for an apology, just remember that it’s not true. You don’t deserve an apology. Just like the parable of the king and the servant, we have been forgiven for much more without having to pay restitution. Remember that what you face isn’t something new or different. According to Hebrews, Jesus has been tempted in every way yet he didn’t sin...
15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.
When you feel betrayed by someone you love, remember that Jesus was betrayed by a close friend and disciple, Judas Iscariot. When you have been accused of something that you didn’t do, remember that Jesus was falsely accused in sever courts with Pilate and Herod. When you feel rejected, abandoned, and alone, remember that Peter told Jesus he would die for Him, but before the next morning came he denied knowing Him three different times.
Jesus was beaten, flogged, spit on, made fun of, tortured, and crucified to death on a cross. He was humiliated in front of everyone. They made a sign that mocked Him, and gave Him much worse than a burger king crown. They gave Him a crown that had sharp thorns that dug into His skull, then they hung Him naked on a cross for everyone to see.
17 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. 18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.
Forgiveness begins when we bring God into the process. We will always have a choice to make. 1) Satan’s way, harboring bitterness and anger, or 2) God’s way. Forgiveness. It is a decision. Just like the decision Jesus made on the cross when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Jesus wanted us to have a heart of blessing toward those who hurt us.
27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.
The Greek word for “bless” means “to speak well.” The Hebrew root for bless is widely understood as referring to “health-creating power.” So Jesus is saying that when someone has ill wishes for us, we should speak well of them. Moreover, we should hope for God’s power to breathe wellness and health into their lives. We should be a blessing, even to our enemies.
In closing, I want to leave you with Paul’s words as he quotes scripture. In Romans 12 he says this...
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. 20 Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” 21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.