STEPPING STONES TO FORGIVENESS
I want to see ALL traces of bitterness gone in myself and in all of you! I want to see Christ deliver us from our sin that we might live in His victory and abundant life full of His peace, joy and purpose. Just the smallest amount of bitterness or unforgiveness will grow into a destructive force of evil in my life.
If you live with people, you will have plenty of “legitimate” reasons to be bitter. You will be sinned against – and it is not wrong to feel anger when someone sins against us. Anger is a gift from God that is supposed to alert us to our boundaries being violated or us being sinned against. But, in that anger, I am not to sin! And I must get rid of the anger and deal with it quickly before it gives the enemy a foothold in my life.
So, how do I begin to forgive when I am deeply hurt and someone sinned against me?
SEE THE DEPTHS OF MY OWN SIN AND THE MASSIVE DEBT CHRIST PAID FOR ME
For me, this is the first step. I used to think I was really “not that bad” and didn’t have much sin in my own life. That massive PRIDE in my heart fueled ungodly thoughts in me like:
- I don’t deserve to be treated this way
- I would NEVER do that to someone. I am so much better than that person
- I am a victim here
- I deserve to hold on to my anger and unforgiveness
- He/she doesn’t deserve my forgiveness
When I think that I am above reproach – I start to think I shouldn’t have to forgive. But that is so untrue! God Himself is SINLESS and HOLY and He forgives. Am I above God that I am exempt from forgiving others? That was PRIDE in my heart. SKY HIGH PRIDE.
When I start to look at MYSELF – and begin a rough tally of all the sin in my own life – just in my past (not to mention my future!) – I know now that I owe Jesus “billions of dollars” of sin debt. I had constant idolatry in my heart for decades (acting as if I were sovereign instead of God, putting myself and being in control up as an idol, expecting my husband to be Christ and making him an idol), PRIDE, PRIDE, PRIDE, unforgiveness, gossip, bitterness… MOUNTAINS of sin.
When I see the sin in my own life – and how desperately I need forgiveness and all that Christ has forgiven me for – how can I not show that mercy to others who sin against me. They are doing the SAME things that I have done! I need mercy, and so do they.
(Matthew 18:21-35 – a parable about how we are to forgive)
UNDERSTAND THAT IF I REFUSE TO FORGIVE, GOD WILL NOT FORGIVE ME. I NEED HIS FORGIVENESS! THIS IS NOT AN OPTION. IT IS A COMMAND AND A NECESSITY.
It is spiritual suicide for me to refuse to forgive someone. I then forfeit God’s power working in me, His strength, His Spirit’s filling me, His forgiveness and the fruit of His Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. I NEED those things! I need the presence and intimate fellowship of Christ. I have NOTHING without Him!
I am addicted to Jesus. He is my LORD. I need Him in my life and I MUST have him. I need to do whatever He wants me to do in order to stay close to Him and be able to abide in Him.
Read the book of I John this week if you can. Read it with bitterness and unforgiveness in mind and see how God wants us to live if we belong to Him. There is no room for sin. It all has to go! Unforgiveness = wickedness to Christ. I cannot afford the luxury of unforgiveness.
UNFORGIVENESS AND BITTERNESS ARE GATEWAY SINS THAT LEAD TO MANY OTHER SINS – IT IS POISON!
Not only do I forfeit the blessings of God and of obedience when I refuse to forgive, I embrace the poison fruit of unforgiveness and bitterness. It leads to death! Death of relationships, depression, anxiety, many other sins (gossip, division, feuds, jealousy, lack of faith, even stealing, suicide or murder if it is left long enough in my heart).
A tiny amount of bitterness grows and takes over my soul, my thoughts, my life and my identity. It can actually become my purpose in life if I allow it to continue – it can become my idol! Other people can see bitterness in me and it makes me toxic to everyone else. People will want to avoid me. Bitterness is contagious – the Bible says not to let a bitter root grow up that will defile many.
This is SERIOUS stuff!
GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY – THE LIFE OF JOSEPH
One of my favorite stories about forgiveness is that of Joseph in the Old Testament (Genesis 38-45). If anyone had reason to be bitter, it was Joseph. His brothers were jealous of him and staged his fake death and sold him into slavery. As a slave, his master’s wife accused him falsely of attempted rape and he was sent to prison, though he was innocent. In prison, he helped the Pharaoh’s cup bearer, but the cup bearer forgot to mention Joseph to the Pharaoh. He was a slave or a prisoner for MANY YEARS.
But this young man did not become bitter. I LOVE his attitude and how he handled things! He trusted himself to God.
And when the time came that his God-given dreams came true and he stood before his brothers as the 2nd in command in Egypt and they were all bowing down to him – he responded in godliness. He did test his brothers to see if they had changed. He checked to see if they were trustworthy. But then, when he revealed himself to them – he did not have them killed or imprisoned or tortured. His response amazes me!
“Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.” (Genesis 45:5-8) And he forgave them, loved them, hugged them, wept with them and gave them the finest clothes, food and land and he provided for them out of all the wealth God had given him.
GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY – THE LIFE OF JESUS
Jesus, also, was able to forgive as He was being crucified because:
1. He knew that the people didn’t realize what they were doing
2. He knew that it was God’s will for Him to suffer and die and take the punishment we deserved so that God’s wrath might be satisfied, and He might make a way to bring us into a right relationship with God.
He trusted the sovereignty of God. This wasn’t about him and being comfortable. This was about doing what God wanted Him to do so that He might save many from hell and from separation from God.
GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER MY LIFE, TOO
When someone hurts me or wounds me or sins against me – what they intended for evil, God intends for good and He can and will use even the sin of others against me to accomplish His good purposes, to make me more like Christ and to bring great glory to Himself.
This is a HUGE key in being able to forgive – to see the sovereign hand of God in the midst of my pain and to trust His heart even when I can’t trust the heart of the person/people who are sinning against me.