Anyone who has said the Lord’s Prayer will recognize the part that says-
Today, I want to discuss forgiveness. It is a word that is often spoken especially in church circles but I suspect that it is something not fully understood. There is power in forgiveness—greater power than we sometimes realize. Jesus forgave us...as He told us to forgive others and this is not a recommendation—it is a specific instruction straight from the Lord’s mouth.
The word Forgive (Aphiēmi) has a wide range of meanings, stemming from the words Apo and Heimi.
Apo means to bid farewell amongst other things. It describes sending something away, separation, departure, cessation, reversal and completion. This is already giving us an indication of what forgiveness means—sending something away. Hiemi is an intensive form of the word Eimi that means to go. This means that whatever it is we have to forgive has to be sent away and gone...
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven (left, remitted, and let go of the debts, and have given up resentment against) our debtors. Matthew 6:12
Verses 14 and 15 state-
For if you forgive people their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Please notice the first word in each passage quoted... “and” and “for”. They link the passages with this one-
And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13
Temptations assail us all. We are not immune from them, but we have the power and authority to overcome and not yield to them. Jesus told us to ask that God would not allow us to yield and that He would deliver us from the evil one. Looking at it from a different perspective, if we do not yield, we deliver ourselves. It would seem that such deliverance is conditional which is, to forgive. This is very important, because if we give in to those temptations, the principle of forgiving and being forgiven does not work. This could imply that such temptations, trials, or testings is not referring only to the weaknesses of our flesh nature, but to the emotional and spiritual forces released in the act of forgiving others. In simple terms, if we do not forgive others for things, then we may not be able to receive forgiveness from God when we need it. It would seem that we give the enemy a legal loophole or foothold in our lives to put us to the test and if we fail, we fall in to sin.
If someone offends us, it may be intentional or deliberate. How we respond can be treated accordingly, but there is a common denominator and that is love. We have the power to choose how we respond. When religious bigots tried to trick Jesus up on The Law about the first and greatest commandment in Matthew 22:34-39, He said that we are to love! Such love is not sloppy sentimentalism, but one of the most powerful driving forces in creation. God loves us so much that Jesus took on humanity and died for us, but also raised Him from the dead.
Love is not an option! It is a command! We don’t have to like everyone. There are certain people that are just plain hard to like, but we have to love them in the same way that God loves them and I am convinced that we need God’s help to be able to do that. Sometimes we have to love on them by faith! You know what I mean. Some people are not just a thorn in the side—they are a complete bush.
We want to be justified. We want to be proved right and the other wrong. We want vengeance and vengeance is not justice. This is wanting to get even. Jesus never did that! He never yelled down at the crowd, “I’ll get even with you when I come back” but said, “Father forgive them.”
Jesus told us in Luke 6:27 to love our enemies and we sure need a good dose of faith to love those who get right up our noses, torment us, lie to us and lie about us, attack and vilify us, steal from us and treat us badly. I’m talking about believers too! What makes such attacks so serious is that Christians should know better. We expect them to love us and believe in us. That is why it hurts so.
We don’t expect people in the world to love us, so it does not come as a surprise when they come against us, but fellow Christians? Naaah! They wouldn’t hurt us...would they?
Some of you, as I have personally experienced, have been deeply hurt, let down and scandalized by other believers.
A certain group of Christians once conducted a smear campaign against me to the extent that I thought of taking legal action against them. Some of those folk stole from me and when I approached their pastor, he merely shrugged it off and laughed. They were some of his “leaders”.
So I discarded the paperwork I was preparing to give to my lawyer and told him to forget it. What happened?
The bible does tell us to treat God’s servants right. Saul wanted to kill David. He pursued him and had really lost the plot. The occasion came when David could have killed him, but refused, because he knew that God justifies and that God had anointed Saul, so he would not touch that anointing. 1 Chronicles 16:22 and Psalm 105:15 states that we are not to touch God’s anointed and do His prophets no harm. The word of God tells us that our conversation is extremely important. Words can kill! Jesus told us in like manner that such things are as good as committing murder.
“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’
I do not want to give you a false impression in any way, but that group were not attacking me personally, but God. They were touching the anointing God had deposited on my life. I forgave them, but it was not easy. I had to forgive them or I would be out of order, so sometimes we need to exercise faith in such matters. I will touch on Luke chapter 17 shortly, but here, when Jesus was speaking about offenses and forgiveness, the disciples knew it was not easy and asked Him to increase their faith. They already had faith, but to forgive in the way Jesus said, required an extra dose of it!
We might not “like” certain folk, but love has to be present. Each of us has individual traits...mannerisms; likes and dislikes, preferences or ways of talking for example and they may differ from those exhibited by others. Some people are loud talkers, gushy and tend to be “pushy” whereas others are quiet and reserved, so we need to be mindful of such things and walk in love regardless. Even if we have personality clashes, or others operate differently to us, our attitude is to respect and honor what God is doing in their lives, or honor the position they occupy. I will qualify that statement by adding that the office has to be one chosen and appointed by God.
I have seen churches fail and ministers no longer in the ministry and some of them “deserved” to go under for a whole range of reasons—but the church members were hurt! Many Christians simply quit because someone “offended them”.
Others leave because of failed expectations and so on, which is another matter, but when the love walk starts to falter, it is not the time for others to criticize and judge them, but to love on them and if necessary forgive. Rather than shoot the wounded as many churches do, it is time to love the unlovely, bind up the wounds, pour on the healing balm and embrace the brother or sister in acts of forgiveness.
Now I am not talking about turning a blind eye to error and pretend nothing happened. Mistakes happen! Sometimes they are willful and deliberate, whilst at other times they are just that...mistakes. If someone makes a genuine mistake and later comes to you and says, “I am sorry”, what are we to do? There are all kinds of possibilities, but one is to accept that act of repentance and forgive. We need to remember that sometimes people are sorry because they have been caught out and are suffering the penalty, but do not want to change. What we are to do then is to take several steps. The first one is to ask the Holy Spirit to show you what to do and/or say. Follow that lead. Ask for scriptural understanding.
I know that there are times when someone keeps on doing that thing. How do we handle things then? Let us see what Jesus said about it. In Luke 17, He teaches us to avoid occasions of offense. They will come. You can be sure of that, but make sure that you are not the one who causes them.
AND [Jesus] said to His disciples, Temptations (snares, traps set to entice to sin) are sure to come, but woe to him by or through whom they come!
Before I moved to Mount Tamborine, I visited a church several times and witnessed how there were groups of people who never related to other groups. They were doing what James told us not to do in James chapter two. I urge you to read it carefully and whilst you are at it, continue onto chapter 3. It happens only too often in many churches and as a church grows larger, it is easy to get lost in the crowd and fall through the cracks if the pastor is not careful.
One Sunday evening, I sat in the rear of this church and observed. The pastor asked people to greet each other and I saw the same groups of people greet the same groups of people as they always did, whilst others were ignored. A man called Charley was there. He was not “one of them”. He had a kind of spastic disorder that caused him to walk funny, look funny and talk with a speech impediment. He stood there expectantly, wanting someone to come to him, but people walked around him. I could see disappointment and hurt coming on his face when the Lord told me to go to him.
I introduced myself, “Hello. I am Robert.” He struggled to get out, “duh.......I’m Charlie” and a big grin came on his face. I gave him a great big hug and said something like, “Hi Charlie. I love you man” as he drooled and dribbled over my shoulder. It was definitely not pleasant, but an amazing thing happened. A sheer feeling of joy suddenly overwhelmed me and the Lord told me, “Thank you. I love him too.” I can still feel that exuberant joy today. Later during the week, I was strolling down the street in town and saw him on the other side and stopped, to yell out, “Hey Charlie. How are you going?” and he froze on the spot. That massive grin came on his face and he blurted out some kind of answer as the Joy of the Lord again flooded through my being.
Members of that church were giving cause of offense. He could have walked away from God and gone to hell over that. It is easy to love the lovely, but if you are not wearing the right school tie or are not in a certain category of folk, some people don’t want to know you. That’s not what Jesus wants and it happens only too often. Look however at what the Lord said next-
Pay attention and always be on your guard [looking out for one another]. If your brother sins (misses the mark), solemnly tell him so and reprove him, and if he repents (feels sorry for having sinned), forgive him.
We are our brother’s keeper. We are to be careful in how we act in life and we are supposed to care enough for each other that we should be able to gently (and in love) let the other person know something is not quite right. I am not saying we are to criticize and judge each other, but when someone has offended us, we should let them know how we feel. Rather than point an accusing finger at the other person and tell them, “You did such-and-such to me”, perhaps it would be better to let them know how you feel and explain that you are feeling that way because...
Faith, Forgiveness and Fruit seem to go hand-in hand. This is where Jesus told us to forgive and to forgive and to forgive and that’s impossible without His help. That is why they asked Him to increase the faith that they had. As I read this again, knowing I had read it scores of times before, I saw this in a new light. Isn’t the Rhema word wonderful? Jesus immediately started talking about mustard seed faith so that we could command a mulberry tree to be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea and it would obey us
Forget about “faith” in the way we think for a moment. The disciples asked for more faith so that they could avoid being the cause of offense and of taking offense and being able to forgive others as necessary. Mustard seed faith thus seems to be linked to forgiveness. Jesus then went onto servanthood. Later in the chapter He spoke about the Kingdom of God living inside us! Fallen man wants to get even, but when we live according to Kingdom principles, we will drive across town to repent or to forgive someone; to tell them that the love of God that constrains us, is compelling us to love on them as He loves us.
A mulberry tree has extremely sensitive roots. Plucking one up in the way Jesus said, would kill the thing. He did not tell them to throw it away or cast it into the sea, but to plant it in the sea. The sea, to a mulberry tree, is probably the most hostile environment imaginable, so what is the Lord teaching us? When we face a hostile situation that could destroy our love, cause us to harbor grudges and walk in resentment and bitterness, use what little faith we have and pull that thing up by the roots and get rid of it. He is looking for good fruit, not bitter fruit.
Good fruit, like a rich, juicy, plump mulberry cannot be found naturally in a hostile environment, but when the love element is introduced by faith, it can be produced supernaturally in a hostile environment.
When people hate you, use and abuse you, treat you in a despicable manner, lie to you and about you, steal from you, or mistreat you in any way, you are in that hostile environment. There are ways to deal with such situations, but I am only talking of the love and forgiveness elements, so pull up the negative reactions and responses and throw them in the sea where they are irretrievable, but the love element can still produce good fruit. Am I making sense?
I called this message “ I forgive” but what is forgiveness?
In simple terms, forgiveness means dismissing a debt. It denotes a dismissal or a release. If someone were arrested on a charge and brought to court, charges against that person would be made. He or she would be accused of something. If guilty...and found to be guilty by process of law, that person would be sentenced accordingly.
If the accused was innocent and found to be so, the charges and accusations would be dropped. The person would be acquitted, dismissed and released. That is a picture of forgiveness.
When someone forgives you, they dismiss the debt you owe them.
When you forgive someone, you dismiss the debt owed you.
That is the process God employed when you were saved. Actually, it was already done before you were born.
The righteousness of God demanded the death penalty, but the goodness of God dismissed the charges laid against us. When Jesus told us in Luke 6:27 to love our enemies, we think of human enemies, but in man’s fallen state we are the equivalent of enemies of the state, or the Kingdom of God. God therefore turned the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) forgave us and dismissed the demands of justice. Forgiveness is thus dismissing, cancelling and destroying the things that we were doing to offend Him. Acts 10:43 says that everyone who believes in Jesus received forgiveness of sins.
How may times are we to forgive? I’ve taken you already to Luke chapter seventeen. Look now at Matthew 18. Here the disciples came to Jesus with a question of who is best. It seems that this is an ongoing question (who has the biggest church? Whose ministry is best? Etc.) and Jesus spoke of being like little children and receiving each other and of avoiding the source of offense. He told us that He came to seek and to save the lost, which means that He did not come to judge us in the way we think of judging.
He is the Good Shepherd and told us about the shepherd seeking for that one lost sheep and rejoicing when he found it. He left the 99 behind to find that one precious one. He did not abandon the 99, because he knew that they were safe and secure. Why? He trained them! That one sheep was precious and it was His! When he found it, He was overjoyed. Jesus told us that our Heavenly Father is not willing to lose one! You are extremely precious to God.
Now from verse 15 onwards, Jesus touched on how to handle offense. He described how we, especially pastors, should handle it. Go to the other person. Share your heart and how you feel. Explain how you are being hurt because you were offended somehow. That’s better than striding up like a gunslinger in a western movie, draw and blast away. Words can kill you know! We must know how (and when) to forebear in love. Paul explained-
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
That gunslinger attitude is like letting loose with a shotgun and pellets fly everywhere, possibly hurting innocent people as well as the intended victim (who may actually “deserve” it).
been done. It would be better to say that they “found” their temper instead.
Peter asked Jesus how many times we should forgive. That is a valid and good question. I suppose that Peter was thinking in Old Testament terms of an eye for an eye and so on, but Jesus was ushering a new way of doing things. Peter was limited to natural thinking processes. All he knew up to that point, was The Law as found in Leviticus 24 that could be quite severe. Peter asked if 7 times was enough, but he was placing a limitation on it. Jesus said to do it seventy times seven. Would this mean that we can quit after we have forgiven 490 times and then get even on the 500th? I think not. I believe that the Lord was teaching us about perseverance and of doing all we can to make sure things are in order. He said to speak in private to the other person, so that our brother can be like that one lost sheep I mentioned. He said to try again if that did not work and to take a witness. Witnesses are important. Sometimes our judgment and vision can be marred when alone; clouded by emotion perhaps; angry, hurt, disappointed and so act rashly to do or say something we could later regret.
Don’t shoot from the hip. Go and find someone else who knows the truth and should be impartial and by the time you return, the tabasco sauce is no longer heating the situation and then present your case...with a witness.
Try it again a third time if necessary and if the other person still refuses to comply, let him or her go; brush the dust off your feet and keep on keeping on. The important thing is that you keep yourself pure.
In Ephesians chapter four, where Paul taught about the five ascension gift ministries Jesus gave the Church to bring us to full maturity and enable every member (you and me) to fit in where we are supposed to be—so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love (verse 6), he told us-
With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused.
In the Greek text, it reads not to let anger consume you and go to sleep whilst you are still angry. During the night, your mind can run riot; the thought processes can think evil towards others and such unbridled emotions can be detrimental to your health! Stop and think for a moment how you feel when you are angry! It can affect your breathing, your heartbeat, release chemicals like adrenaline into your system, possibly trigger ulcers and so on, so there is a practical reason as well as a spiritual reason.
As well as exposing one to illness, it can produce emotional unbalance. People can become melancholy and I am not talking of people who have heads like melons and hearts like caulis; I refer to feeling morose, bitter, sad and resentful.
Paul said not to give place to the devil. The word for Place is Topos. It has a range of meanings, one of which is a scabbard where knives or swords are kept. Think that through a little. Another meaning refers to a physical geographical location. The bible often associates blessing with possessions (the Promised Land for example), so lack of self control in such areas can steal your blessing! Anger can give the devil an opportunity or legal foundation to operate.
Perhaps you may see that forgiving someone is of more importance than you thought, with blessings at stake.
If you look at the cover page, I have used an image depicting an empty birdcage. If we are not careful, the tendency to hold grudges and not forgive others can ensnare us.
When we forgive those who we know or think we know have wronged us, we can escape the snare of the fowler and can bring the other person (or persons) into harmonious fellowship. I did not say two fellows in a ship. Two men can be in the same boat but not pulling with each other.
We can have differing viewpoints on certain things, yet still work together.
I want to show you something taken from Psalm 91, that we regard as the “protection” Psalm, which it is, but as with many of God’s promises, there are conditions.
HE WHO dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand].
We must dwell in God’s secret place. Here there is no dissension; no holding of grudges. Grace, mercy and truth abide, but such attributes are not sloppy sentimentalism. Justice also prevails. We must rightly assess every situation and maintain our integrity together with grace, mercy, truth and application of justice.
Love for the brethren has to prevail. Psalm 133:1-3 reveals that when we meet God’s criteria, He pronounces and commands the blessing.
How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!
We need to define forgiveness. What is forgiveness? What is it? Is it the same as reconciliation? The act
of reconciliation is a product of forgiveness but they are not the same.
Forgiving another does not always depend on that other person. Several years ago I had a meeting with a certain person and as I was making a coffee before the meeting, the Lord started speaking to me about this person. He gave me words of knowledge and a passage of scripture I had to tell this person to read and I did not then realize that God had been speaking that passage to this person. The Lord told me to tell this person to forgive someone, adding that it was impossible to do, because that other one was dead. How does one forgive a dead person?
When I shared this, all was confirmed. The person forgave and great release came. Nothing could be changed about that relationship with the deceased, but the one sitting before me was set free.
This hopefully illustrates that forgiveness is a one-person affair.
Reconciliation on the other hand requires at least two parties. It is reciprocal. Forgiveness releases the offender and reconciliation rejoins the offender with you. Forgiveness requires a change in thinking about the other person, but reconciliation requires an change in the behavior by that other person. Forgiveness is unconditional. It is given freely as a gift when trust has been broken and reconciliation restores that trust.
When we forgive others, it does not require them to meet any condition. They may or may not repent and change, but we have fulfilled the royal law of love and released both ourselves and the one in error.
The act of forgiving and restoring is not dependent on whether we want to or not, or on what the other party is like or not—it is a command and we need to remember that we are God’s ambassadors.
Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too.
And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.
We must maintain our standards and ensure that the blood line is drawn. In simple terms, do not compromise. Forgiveness therefore is not excusing sin. It does not say that what was once wrong is now right. When Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, He dealt with the way she was living with a man not her legal husband. Today’s morals are a world away from God’s. Modern day attitudes have eroded the purity and sanctity of marriage. Living together is not Godly. Many folk now call each other their “partner”. What happened to proudly saying, “My wife” or “My husband”? That phrase “partner” gets right up my nose. I’d better stop there before I start.
Jesus ministered to people and then told them to go their way and sin no more.
When we forgive someone we are not giving time to heal wounds. Time is not a healer. Often times, “time” causes bad memories to keep coming back and ensnaring us. When “bad memories” come to me. I rebuke myself. I tell myself to shut up and control my thoughts, because if I dwelt on those bad times, I know that bitterness, anger, resentment and the like are knocking on the door. That stuff is the devil’s playground. Don’t entertain them. I ask God to permanently erase them from my memory. OK, things happen and they are part of our lives, but I will not open a porthole in a submarine to allow the devil to play with my mind.
Time does Not heal wounds. The longer things continue unabated, wounds can fester; problems can be embellished and stewing over them can breed resentment and bitterness. Forgiving others helps bring the healing we seek. It is possible for sickness to be the result of not forgiving. Although I just spoke of getting things out of my memory banks, forgiving does not always depend on forgetting. We need to remember to a certain extent, so that we can forgive, but once that is done—drop it; let it go. You just passed responsibility on to God and to the other person.
Forgiveness is not letting the guilty party or parties get off scot-free. It is not excusing bad behavior, but forgiving unjust behavior. We do not have to tolerate unjust or foolish behavior you know and allow others to walk all over us. We can turn the other cheek, without becoming a doormat.
It is not getting them off your hook, rather it is placing the on God’s hook. If we pray for our enemy and forgive, we can heap up coals of fire on his or her head and God can act in the way that only He can act. You may in fact restore a brother or make a friend.
Forgiveness is not a feeling or an emotion. Whilst we can “feel good”, forgiving is a calculated, deliberate act of volition on our part. If we have been hurt, it is not denying the hurt but it is releasing it.
Forgiving is not based on fairness either. It was not fair for Jesus to go to Calvary, but He did, so that we could be forgiven.
Forgiving others is impossible. Huh? Yes, that’t right—impossible. Forgiving others is a supernatural phenomenon. God is the “ultimate forgiver” which is why we need His help to do what He commands us. Remember the disciple’s prayer, “Lord. Increase our faith”? Those men knew that they couldn’t do it, so asked Him for His help.
I will bring this to a close now with something that is powerful.
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to come to his home for lunch and Jesus accepted the invitation. As they sat down to eat, a woman of the streets—a prostitute—heard he was there and brought an exquisite flask filled with expensive perfume. Going in, she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping, with her tears falling down upon his feet; and she wiped them off with her hair and kissed them and poured the perfume on them.
When Jesus’ host, a Pharisee, saw what was happening and who the woman was, he said to himself, “This proves that Jesus is no prophet, for if God had really sent him, he would know what kind of woman this one is!”
Then Jesus spoke up and answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”
“All right, Teacher,” Simon replied, “go ahead.”
Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—$5,000 to one and $500 to the other. But neither of them could pay him back, so he kindly forgave them both, letting them keep the money! Which do you suppose loved him most after that?”
“I suppose the one who had owed him the most,” Simon answered.
“Correct,” Jesus agreed.
Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look! See this woman kneeling here! When I entered your home, you didn’t bother to offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You refused me the customary kiss of greeting, but she has kissed my feet again and again from the time I first came in. You neglected the usual courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has covered my feet with rare perfume. Therefore her sins—and they are many—are forgiven, for she loved me much; but one who is forgiven little, shows little love.”
And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Then the men at the table said to themselves, “Who does this man think he is, going around forgiving sins?”
And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:36-50.
So far, I’ve touched on forgiving other people—those who have hurt us and harmed us in so many ways. Sometimes their actions were deliberate, whilst at other times it could have been inadvertent. Our part as individuals is to forgive them. I think you understand that, but there is something else.
I would like you to go to your bathroom or dressing room and look in a mirror.
What do you see? Who do you see? Forgive that person. Tell that person there that you love him or her. Jesus does...
Sometimes our own guilt plagues us. It aught not, but there are times when it does. You know what you have done in the past and you know what you never did when you should have done something. The memories haunt us. They are keeping us in that cage on the cover page, but the door is open. Jesus opened it 2000 years ago, so fly out...
Forgive yourself. There is a whole new world out there waiting for you.