Forgiveness, Part II

Colossians 3:12-14

Colossians 3:12-14 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.   And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

We determined last week that God commands us to forgive others, mainly for our own benefit.  We understand it with our minds, and yet, if we are honest, we will admit that we have trouble doing that.  Often times that is because there is a huge emotional response that goes along with being offended.  We can’t forgive because we literally cannot let go or get past our emotions.

The situation is further complicated by that fact that, when we hold on to an offence, it does not stay dormant, but like a seed, it grows and takes root in our life and it blossoms into anger, bitterness and hate which in turn bind us even tighter to the unforgiveness we are carrying.  It’s a ‘no win’ situation.

Some of you have been consumed by unforgiveness and bitterness for so long, you don’t remember what life was like before that situation.  For some of you, the offence, the rejection or the betrayal you experienced is so deep and so painful, that you see no chance of ever letting it go.  You figure that you will have to carry it until eternity.  You may think your situation is hopeless.  You may think you have been permanently and irreparably scarred.

But let me give you some good news.  Let me offer you a sure word of hope and victory, from God our Savior:

Isaiah 53:3-5 – He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely, he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Did you see it?  “He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows” and “by his wounds we are healed.”  Where did we ever get the ridiculous idea that this healing is only for our physical bodies?  Does God only care about the physical body that you have for maybe 75 years or so?  Does he want you to have a healthy body so you can carry around the sorrow and pain of damaged emotions for your entire lifetime?  No, of course not!  His stripes provide healing for the body, the spirit, the mind and the emotions.  God’s healing is for all parts of you.  The price for your emotional healing has already been paid!!  Your savior is waiting to set you free from the captivity of unforgiveness and emotional pain.  

Luke 4:18 – The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised…

Do you have a broken heart/broken emotions? Jesus came to heal you.  Are you being held captive in the prison of unforgiveness?  Jesus came to deliver you.  Are your emotions battered and bruised? Jesus has come to set you at liberty.

The question is not “can” we be healed and set free from the cycle of unforgiveness, but rather “how” does it happen? How do we appropriate or apply the healing that Jesus has provided for us? How do we break the cycle of unforgiveness and get rid of all that extra baggage we are carrying around?  How do we take control of our emotions and force them into line with God’s will?

Let’s begin by examining the way God has created us in a broad sense; this is stuff you probably already know.

God has created us with a mind, a will and emotions.  When used properly (according to the pattern set by God himself), this combination of factors will allow us to experience God’s best for us.  Improper use of these factors, or using them in a pattern other than the one God set up, opens us up to the bondage and destruction of Satan.

Here is how it works:

  • GOD = MIND…WILL…EMOTIONS
  • SATAN = EMOTIONS…WILL…MIND

God’s way is the mind/understanding first, the will second in support of the mind/truth, emotions fall into place behind the mind and will.

God wants us to make our decisions and base our actions on truth, not emotion.

For example: Let’s suppose you are walking down the sidewalk and you find a wallet on the ground. You open it up and it contains $1000.00 cash. 

Instantly, you know that you will not touch that money, but you will return it to its owner and you decide to walk it down to the police station and turn it in.

What just happened? In the blink of an eye, almost without conscious thought, your mind knew the truth (thou shalt not steal/love your neighbor).

You will was already committed to allowing the mind to dictate your actions. Therefore, you instantly decided to return the money; you never even considered taking it.

What’s going on with your emotions as you continue walking down the street to the police station?  You are probably joyful about helping someone in a meaningful way.  You are happy to do the right thing.  Why?  Because a righteous man is joyful when he does the right thing. Doing the right thing results in peace and joy because you are exhibiting the character of his savior.

On the other hand, Satan’s plan, one that he has been using for thousands of years, is to twist the principles of God upside down, and use the results to bind you.

We just saw that God wants you to operate with the mind/truth first, your will second in support of the truth and the emotions last. 

Satan wants the opposite.  He wants you to react with your emotions, put your will in full support of your feelings and ignore the mind/truth. 

For example, you are walking down the street and you find a wallet.  You open it up and find that it contains $1000.00 in cash. 

Instantly, you know you are going to keep the money.  You quickly put it in your pocket and head to the police station to turn in the wallet.  You are probably joyful.  Why?  Because you are busy thinking about all the plans you are making for your unexpected wind fall.

What just happened? In the blink of an eye, almost without conscious thought, your emotions took over.  Your emotions became so excited, they just bubbled over.  You think:  Wow! This is my lucky day! My ship has finally come in! This is just what I need….

Your will was already committed to allowing your emotions to dictate your actions.  Therefore, you instantly decided to keep the money.

Catch this:  If your will is supporting your emotions, your mind has no choice but to justify your behavior (This guy won’t miss that $1K.  After all, he owes me a reward for returning those credit cards.  Think how bad it would have been to cancel those. I deserve this money.  I need this money more than he does).

Do you see the difference? God wants us to put our will behind his truth, and when we do our emotions will fall into place.  Our emotions will rejoice when we do right.  Satan wants the opposite.  He wants us to put our will behind or emotions, and ignore the truth.  In so doing, we will destroy ourselves because our emotions were never designed to lead the way in our lives.  

Now, apply what we just learned to forgiveness:

Your cousin does you wrong.  You fold your arms over your chest and adamantly declare “I cannot forgive Lancelot! No way … it’s not going to happen after the way he hurt me!”  In this instance, whose life pattern are you following?  [HINT: You are putting your will behind your emotions, ignoring the truth.]

That’s right… you are following Satan.  And what do you reap? Based on what we learned in the last blog post, you get God’s discipline as well as the destruction of your relationships.  You kill the work of the Holy Spirit in your life and you become unusable in God’s kingdom.  Eventually you become angry and bitter. Even your physical health is affected.  In short, you reap bondage and destruction.  Sadly, this is the situation some of you find yourself in today.  However, there is hope, if you are willing to change.

First, do you see the truth?  Do you understand that in the past, you placed your will behind your emotions, instead of behind the truth?  Do you want to change?

Are you ready to turn this pattern around and receive/apply the healing that God has for you?

THREE STEPS FOR HEALING YOUR EMOTIONS/FORGIVING YOUR ADVERSARY:

Renew your mind; reject the lie that you cannot forgive, instead come to the realization that you CAN forgive.

Romans 12:1-2  – Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

As we begin to meditate on the truth presented in the scriptures, it will transform us. It will allow us to change the pattern we are living by. What truth should we be meditating on?

The truth as found in Luke is this:

Luke 1:37 –  For nothing is impossible with God.

Or if you prefer, as Jesus says to the disciples in Matthew 19:26  With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

The truth is that with God’s help, IT IS POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO FORGIVE. It is possible for you to let go of the offence and emotions you are holding onto, and receive freedom from anger and bitterness.  

Hebrews 13:20-21 –  May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back to life from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,  equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen.

God doesn’t just tell you to forgive and then shut the door in your face and leave you to it.  Rather the Holy Spirit has promised to equip you with whatever you need to get the job done and he further promises to work with you/in you until the work is accomplished.  That’s his job – to bring the will of God into fruition in your life.  He will see it done.

Philippians 1:6 – Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Not only that, he promises to walk with you through the experience.

Psalms 23:3-4  – He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.

Isaiah 43:1-2 – …Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…

Here’s the bottom line:  In step one, the renewing of your mind, you start bringing your life into proper order/pattern by meditating on the truth and changing the way you think.  Satan will tell you that you can’t change but that is a lie. Search the scriptures, find those that deal with forgiveness, and begin to recite them out loud several times a day. Memorizing them would be great.  Recite them in your car, listen to them on your phone.  

The truth is, forgiveness IS possible, regardless of how long you have been carrying that burden around. God promises to equip you with everything you need for doing what is pleasing to him, including forgiving others. He promises to walk through the process with you. He also promises to continue to work in you until the work is complete. He won’t give up on you!  Will you commit your way to him?  

Step Two: Put you will behind the truth; release the person from the debt you think they owe.

Colossians 10:13 – Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

That is pretty straightforward and simple to understand, but what does that look like practically?

Charles Stanley in his book, “The Gift of Forgiveness”, makes this suggestion: Make a specific list of wrongs that you recognize.  For instance, Lancelot, cheated me out of 10% of the profits from our widget company. Lancelot lied to me.  Lancelot gossiped about me.  Lancelot ruined my reputation, etc.  Then, take your list into your prayer closet and bring it before the Lord. Humble yourself before him.  Confess that you want to forgive Lancelot specifically, for each and every offence.  Confess any part that you had in the offence. (You might as well admit it.  During this conflict, you probably responded in anger or retaliated for the wrong, or caused an escalation of the situation.  Just confess it.  God knows about it anyway.)  Confess all the anger, bitterness and hate that you are carrying around because of those offences.

It’s important for you to speak out loud (more on that in a minute).  When you speak it out loud, in essence you are casting it away from you, and at the same time giving it to God.

Psalms 55:22 – Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

1 Peter 5:7 – Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

What if you don’t “feel” like forgiving Lancelot, and what if you don’t “feel” delivered at the end of your prayer?

You may not feel like forgiving him at that moment, but you are planting a spiritual seed.  Joyce Meyer, in her book “Do Yourself a Favor – Forgive”, instructs us to forgive with clenched teeth if we need to!  

When you do that, when you humble yourself before God and ask him to help you walk the path of righteousness and forgive, you are putting your emotions where they belong – in back of your will.  At first, they won’t like it.  They don’t want to give up power.  But eventually they will fall into place.  If you feel like you need to cast the offences to God a second time, go ahead. Remember: as you forgive and release your emotions to God, you must ask the Holy Spirit to give you the capacity to truly do it from your heart.  You cannot get through this by sheer willpower, but you can be victorious through the Holy Spirit.   

Zechariah 4:6 –  This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.

What was true for Zerubbabel is true for us.  In order to reverse the pattern in your life, you must work with the Holy Spirit to forgive.  Corinthians 10:13 says to “forgive as the Lord forgave you”.  If you are having trouble “feeling” like forgiving, remember some of the things you were forgiven for…

How long does the process take? Well, it will be different for each one of us, and different depending on how grievous the offence was.  Maybe the chains will fall off instantaneously, and you will be freed immediately. Other times, it will be a process over time.

How will you know when you have truly forgiven? Several things will occur when the forgiveness process is complete. 

  1. You will feel a release of your burden. Once you finally let go of that all consuming unforgiving attitude, God’s peace and joy can return to you.
  2. Negative feelings about the other person will disappear.  You will not feel that instant anger or fear or bitterness you used to experience when you met them at the gas station or heard their name.
  3. You will find it easier to accept people who have hurt you without feeling the need to change them.  You will be willing to take them as they are, faults and all.
  4. Concern for the spiritual and physical needs of these people will outweigh your concerns about what they did to you. When you care about them and their needs as opposed to you and your feelings, you have truly forgiven.

Don’t be surprised if Satan comes by at some random time and tries to bring that offence back to the forefront of your mind.  He will try his best to ignite those old emotions again.  When he does, reject it.  Cast it out from your mind.  Do not dwell on it.  Turn it back to God. 

II Corinthians 10:5We demolish arguments and every pretention that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

When those thoughts try to come back, take them captive, then push them out of your mind. Tell Satan he is not going to bind you again.  Remind yourself that you have already handled that situation, and it is done.  Then, focus your mind on appropriate things, like praise and worship or other good things.

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

When you are thinking of those things, evil thoughts will flee because they can’t stay in that environment.

When you truly feel that you have forgiven and you have been delivered from your bondage, you are ready for step three.

Step three: Reconciliation.

Matthew 5:23-24Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Unforgivness is a wall that hinders the relationship between us and someone else.  Many times when that wall has disappeared through forgiveness, we can become reconciled to our estranged friends and family.  Sometimes all it takes is a visit for a face to face talk.  Find your estranged cousin.  Say to him, ‘Lancelot, I know we have had issues in our past, but I want to share something with you.  I forgive you for XYZ, and I apologize to you, for any part I had in our estrangement.  Can we be friends going forward?’  Sometimes it’s that simple.

Other times, reconciliation is neither possible nor appropriate.  For example, when the actual physical distance between you is too great (perhaps Lancelot move to Italy), or the other person is dead, reconciliation is impossible.  Also, there are situations where the other person is hostile and will probably not receive what you are saying (like divorce.  You can forgive, but you can’t control what your ex chooses to do).  There may be other situations when reconciliation is inappropriate, as in some cases of abuse.  

Let’s talk about verbally speaking things out loud for a moment.  In step one (renewing your mind), step two (confession) and step three (reconciliation) we mentioned speaking the word out loud and confessing things out loud.  Why would we need to do that?   There is something about your verbal confession that makes a difference.

Mark 11:23 –  Truly, I [Jesus] say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.

Is it fair to say that the burden of destructive emotions and unforgiveness that you are carrying around are like a mountain in your life?  Jesus says that part of casting that away from you and into the sea, is to speak out loud to it.

If that seems weird to you, then you must think Jesus is weird, because he did the same thing.

Mark 11:12-14, 20 – The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree “May no one ever eat fruit from you again”. And his disciples heard him say it.  In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.

Spoken words can curse things, but they can also restore life – case in point: Lazarus.

John 11:43-44  – When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice “Lazarus, come out!”.  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Proverbs 18:20 – From the fruit of his mouth a man’s stomach is filled; with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied.

Do you want to eat and be satisfied with forgiveness and reconciliation and healed emotions? Do you want the word of the Lord to renew your life? Then speak out the words.

Joel Osteen, in his book “I Declare”, says this: “…the moment you speak to your mountains, something happens. In the unseen realm the forces of heaven go to work. God moves, sending healing, sending breakthrough, sending victory. You may not see what God has done for some time. That mountain may look just as big and permanent and strong as it was before, but … one day, all of a sudden, you will see that the mountain has been removed”.

So take a deep breath and speak out loud!

Now, this process brings up a further question.  How do I treat the people I have forgiven?  First off, we need to have wisdom in our future dealings. Just because we have forgiven someone, does NOT mean that we have to trust them unconditionally.

Forgiveness and trust are two entirely different things.

If I forgive Lancelot today and a month from now he comes and asks to partner with me on a new widget company, there better be giant red warning flags waving in my face, and I better pay attention.

Secondly, when you are in a situation where you have been wronged or offended, it is important to remember that forgiveness is for our benefit. The other person’s behavior may NEVER change. It is up to God, not us, to change them. Our part is to forgive and trust in God.

So, we need to accept others as they are; recognize that they are essentially tools in our lives God is using to aid us in growth. 

 Joseph is a prime example.  His brothers had certainly wronged him.  He had the opportunity to be angry and bitter, but he did not fall into that trap. Later, when he was reconciled to his brothers, he did not try to change them.  Instead, he loved and accepted them as they were and acknowledged that God was using them to accomplish his purposes in Joseph’s life.

Genesis 50: 20- You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

God is not the author or cause of sin or offence.  He does not command or even tempt someone to sin against someone else. Those are the tricks of Satan.  What God will do is use that circumstance to bring you closer to him, to develop your character, and to fulfill his ultimate plan for your life.  God will use the people you have forgiven to shape you into his image.  Satan has plans to destroy you, but God will turn that plan around and use it to bless you.

So, let me give you some encouragement:  Forgiveness is a process that can be painful and at times seem unending.  But whatever our pain, whatever our situation, we cannot afford to hold onto an unforgiving spirit for even on more minute.  Right now, we must begin to renew our minds with the truth of God, we must set our will to follow God’s truth and we must force our emotions to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.  It may be difficult, but it will be worth it.

Let me give you some relief from that burden you are carrying around:  When we set ourselves to truly forgive as the Lord forgave us, we will experience complete healing/restoration of our emotions.

Let me offer you some strength:  You can break the cycle of unforgiveness in your life, if you partner with God to get it done.  Start the process today and see where God will take you.  Remember, God specializes in bringing the dead back to life and restoring what has been lost!  

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