It is well-known that stress arising out of relationships in the past or the present can lead to guilt and “dis-ease” which can lead to disease and to illness. It is necessary to deal with the source of problems and not just with the presenting symptoms, to experience real healing.
We need to experience the release of forgiveness for our own guilt. When we know that we are forgiven then we are in a much better place to be able to forgive others.
Healing is accelerated as guilt is dealt with, and we become more open to God’s healing love and power. And much more motivated to forgive.
1. FORGIVEN PEOPLE MUST FORGIVE. There is a problem if they don’t.
In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:21-35 we note that there were three elements of forgiveness shown in the master’s attitude towards someone who owed him a vast sum of money and who pleaded with him to give him time to repay. “And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.“ 18:27. The man who owed the money had been the recipient of the master’s amazing grace and was now free, completely forgiven of all his debt. Those elements of forgiveness seen in the master were 1. A willingness to show mercy and forgive. 2. Setting the guilty sinner free 3. Cancelling the whole debt that was owed.
But the story continued as the ”forgiven” man went out and met an inferior who owed him a small amount of money. The latter also pleaded to be given time to repay. But the man who had been forgiven of much, refused to show any mercy to the man, ordered that he be put in prison and wanted the whole debt paid. It was the very opposite of the grace that he had been shown. 1.He showed him no mercy 2. He had him put in prison 3. he refused to cancel any of the man’s debt.
When the master heard about this he summoned the man he had previously forgiven,
“Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, [handed him over to be tortured. NASB] until he should pay all his debt.”[Note 1]
Jesus added, as He applied these truths to His hearers, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Those who refuse to forgive are in a negative bonding to those with whom they are angry. They are in captivity to their negative emotions. They bring upon themselves self-imposed torture. The only way of this bondage is to do what Jesus said and forgive those people. That brings the freedom of forgiveness in being both forgiven and forgiving.
If we don’t forgive everyone of everything, we can’t experience the real freedom of our own forgiveness.
2. FORGIVEN PEOPLE CAN FORGIVE. We Need To Know How Forgiven We Are
As we experience forgiveness of all our sins, we are enabled to forgive others of all their sins against us. There is a special reason why we need to forgive. It has to do with our enemy Satan or the devil. He is named as ‘Diabolos” meaning the accuser. That is seen in Job 1:8, where God confronts Satan and asks what he is doing. ‘And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”’ Satan responds by accusing God of guarding Job so that he has no reason to be critical of God. But if God were to remove that protection then Job would show his true colours and curse God. [This was an accusation against Job]. “Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”
How great it is to read at the end of the book of Job, these words of Job, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5-6. True repentance is honoured by God. The end result? “And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Job 42:10. Coming to the Lord in true repentance makes it more possible for us to receive His blessing.
Another reference is in Revelation 12:9-10, where Satan is named as the accuser of the brothers, “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
What Satan does in the mind of humans is to plant accusations in their minds especially when they are thinking in negative ways. He accuses them of the specific sins of the past, and the present, seeking to bring them under his control through guilt. That is why we must be specific when confessing our sins to God knowing that every individual sin has been forgiven by Him. We have to know they are forgiven specifically so that when Satan accuses us specifically, we can tell him to scram because the blood of Jesus has covered that sin. Only then can we walk in freedom.
It is necessary for us in combatting the voice of Satan to recognise what is the difference between conviction of our sin by the Holy Spirit and what are the accusations being fed into us by Satan. Is it conviction by the Holy Spirit or condemnation by the accuser?
In brief when God convicts us by the Holy Spirit it is to get us to confess that sin to Him in order to receive His forgiveness and to walk in freedom. When Satan accuses us, it is to make us feel guilty so that we focus on our guilt and become morose, instead of turning to the Lord and being released from guilt. In this way we remain in Satan’s control .
3. THE COMPLETENESS OF OUR FORGIVENESS FROM GOD. God’s Word pictures.
God has given us many word pictures in His word to enable us to understand the completeness of His forgiveness of all our sins. Below is a list of many of them.
I]. In the OLD TESTAMENT
- Psalm 32:1-2. “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. “
King David is writing of his own experience of the blessing he experienced when he confessed his sin to God. He also expressed how he felt before he did that, when hiding his sins from God, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” He went through physical and emotional torture. But when he turned to God confessing his sins, there came a tremendous release. “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.“ Verse 5.
- Psalm 103:12. “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
Whether David knew that that expression denotes infinity we do not know. But what he did know is that when God forgives our sins he takes them right away. He no longer sees them on us. How good it is to know that God no longer sees us covered with that sin!
- Isaiah 1:18. “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
Many people have shared with me that when they did or said something of which they were ashamed they felt stained and thought perhaps that other people could see that sin like a stain on them. However, when they eventually confessed that sin to God and asked for His forgiveness, it was as though the stain had been removed and they now felt clean.
- Isaiah 43:25. “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. “
There are two word pictures here showing the immensity of God’s forgiveness. The first is that God “blots out” our transgressions. The word can mean to cover over or to wipe out. God removes them from the record of wrongs. They no longer exist. The second picture is that God does not remember them any more. It is true that God is omniscient, knowing all things and cannot forget anything. But what God says is that He will not remember nor recall them from His memory. As He sees it, they are gone, not to be revisited by Him upon those who confess them.
How different we see it in an unbelieving world where people will not let go of the sins committed against them and play them over and over in their minds. There is no healing or release in doing that and it leads to a growing bitterness in those people. We can choose with God’s help to not replay the memory of sins committed against us.
- Isaiah 44: 22. “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”
This verse meant a lot to me when I was the Dean of the Cathedral in Armidale in NSW. I would often drive my daughter to school in the mornings and as I drove up the hill towards her school I could look back and see the cloud-that covered the whole city. Only the spires of the Roman Catholic Cathedral and of my Cathedral poked out above the clouds. It looked like being a very overcast day. But often as I drove home I would see that the whole cloud had lifted or been swept away and the sun was shining brightly upon the city.
What a wonderful picture that is of our sins disappearing as God forgave our sins. They don’t hang over us like those heavy clouds. God removes them from sight. He redeems us by setting us free from the burden of the guilt of our sins.
- Isaiah 55:7. “Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”
Free pardon! What an incredible privilege to be given a free pardon from God when we turn to Him in repentance and faith. But it does involve our part is being willing to turn away from wickedness in order to live for the Lord. It also involves a willingness to let him cleanse our minds from wrong patterns of thinking.
- Jeremiah 31:34. “…For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
This picture is similar to that in Isaiah 43:25 above. Forgiven, with the assurance that God will not bring back our sins against us ever again.
- Jeremiah 33: 8. “I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.”
Here the picture is of the sinner being cleansed of their sin and rebellion against God. There is a need for sinners to be cleansed because sin stains those who commit it. People often describe their guilt as feeling dirty within. And when they confess their sins and are forgiven, they describe it as being a cleansing.
- Ezekiel 18:21-22 . “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. “
In this passage the need for repentance is seen, for it is only those who repent and endeavour to live in God’s way who will live. In fact all one’s transgressions will not be remembered by the Lord if they have truly repented and turned to God.
- Is 38:16-17. “You restored me to health and let me live. Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back. Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.”
Isaiah used another metaphor on describing God’s forgiveness. These are the words of King Hezekiah who had been facing imminent death. However, he turned to the Lord who added another 15 years to his life. Hezekiah felt that he had been lifted up from the pit of death by God’s love. He also felt forgiven of his sins. He saw it as though God had cast sins behind His back. Thus, they were longer before Him. They ceased to exist in the sight of God.
- Micah 7:18-19. “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. 19 He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
This verse has a number of expressions describing God’s forgiveness. He pardons iniquity. He passes over transgressions. He treads iniquities underfoot. He cast sins-into the depths of the sea. Each one signifies the completeness of God’s forgiveness for sinners. Together they are a powerful expression of God’s forgiving nature and show how God delights to forgive all those who come to Him in repentance, confessing their sins and asking for His mercy.
II]. In the NEW TESTAMENT.
There are some terms we will find in this section which might be worthwhile to look at before we examine the verses on forgiveness.
Repentance in the Greek New Testament is from [metanoia; μετάνοια] meaning a change of mind accompanied by a change in attitude. It refers to changing one’s mind about sin, seeing it as God sees it and deciding to confess it and to ask God for His forgiveness.
Repentance is different from both remorse and rationalisation. Remorse is feeling sorry for one’s sin but it does not lead a person to go to God to receive forgiveness. Judas Iscariot was filled with remorse but never went to God to ask for forgiveness. Rationalisation is giving a reason as to why we committed that sin. It is not necessarily admitting guilt and is not looking to God for forgiveness.
Confession of sin. The word to confess one’s sins is [homologeō; ὁμολογέω] which means to say the same as. It is saying the same thing about sin that God has already said about is in His word. As we confess our sin we are agreeing with God’s verdict on our words or deeds.
Forgive has 2 main Greek words to describe it. One is [aphiēmi; ἀφίημι] meaning to let go, remit, forsake. It describes how God deals with sin in letting sinners go free from the penalty for their sins. He lets them go and does not hold them against us.
The other word is [charizomai; χαρίζομαι] from charis = grace. It is showing grace to the guilty party. It is refusing to punish people for their sins against us and instead offering them grace for something [forgiveness] they can neither earn nor deserve.
- Mat 26:28. “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
This was a very significant moment in the ministry of Jesus. It was the Last Supper and Jesus was preparing his disciples for life without His physical presence. As He took the cup He said that this was the new covenant in His blood. His blood was about to be shed. But His blood to be poured out in His death was to bring about the forgiveness of sins. This had been the whole purpose of the sacrificial system in the Old Testament, to prepare people for the concept of the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross to take away the sins of the world.
- Rom 5:9-10. “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
The term that is used here is “justified.“ People are justified by Jesus’ blood. The term means to be declared righteous in the sight of God. Jesus’ death on the cross, shedding His blood, made it possible for sins to be forgiven. That has led to their averting the wrath of God by this act of salvation. Not only that but God through that death, reconciled those who were once enemies of God, to Himself. Now as reconciled friends, God will save them by His life. Forgiveness by God opened the door to penitent sinners, to a living relationship with God
- Heb 9:22. “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”
The shedding of blood was the central part of the Old Testament sacrifices. Sacrifices had to be made for the sins of the people and in worship everything had to be purified with the shed blood. Here the writer observes the truth that unless blood is shed, there can be no forgiveness of sins. The writer of course was referring to the blood Jesus shed on the cross. His blood had to be shed for any forgiveness to become available for sinners.
- Heb 9:25-26. “Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
The priests and high priests had only been protypes of the great High Priest [Jesus] who would offer a single sacrifice for sins. Unlike their offerings Jesus’s sacrifice was perfect. It was the shedding of His own blood in His one offering of Himself for sin. There was no need after that for any offering take away sin.
- Heb 10:14. “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
The Old Testament had many priests and high priests offering many sacrifices during their lifetimes. None of which could take away even one sin. But Jesus as the Great high Priest offered just one sacrifice which could take away all of the sins of the world, for ever. It was the perfect sacrifice of His own blood. Those who trusted in Him and in His sacrificial death, were “being sanctified.“ In other words, God has set them apart to belong to Himself [they have been perfectly accepted by Him] and while they were still alive, He would keep working in their lives to make them more holy. Justification is a one-time declaration that a sinner has now been forgiven and accepted by Jesus. Sanctification is the process in which God continues to make His people even more like Himself.
- 1 John 1:7. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
John in his gospel had recorded the words of Jesus commanding His disciples to abide in Him. That is what is meant by walking in the light. Jesus is the light of the world and sinners are enlightened by Him when they come to Jesus for salvation. As they maintain this close relationship they will have access to the light of divine truth and will remain open to the cleansing power of the shed blood of Christ. This cleansing refers to the cleansing of the actual sine but also to the cleansing of the consciences of repentant sinners.
- Ephesians 1:7-8. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.” [See also Colossians 1:14].
This verse tells us where forgiveness is to be found. It is in the Person of Jesus. He accomplished this forgiveness of sins for us on the cross and it can only be found in Him. He has redeemed us through His blood. That was the redemption price. It was His death for sinners as He shed His blood. It means then that in our preaching we should not be offering our hearers forgiveness of sin as though it was some disembodied prize to be gained. Rather we preach the Person of Jesus as someone to be received into one’s life and in receiving Him, we receive IN HIM, forgiveness and eternal life.
In my early days as a new Christian I wrote a sentence I found in an article by Dr.Jim Packer but I have not found the article since then. I thought it summed up what preaching should be all about. It went something like this, “We preach Jesus Christ who embodies in Himself all the saving efficacy of His work on the cross.“ [ I remember being asked to give the Bible studies over 50 years ago, at a Clergy Summer School in the diocese of Brisbane with about a hundred clergy present. I quoted these verses and then held up my Bible to say that it represented the Person of Jesus who is meant to be the subject of our preaching. Then I opened the Bible and drew out 2 slips of paper. On one I had written “forgiveness of sins” and on the other “eternal life.” The point I was making was that we preach the Person of Jesus IN WHOM forgiveness and eternal life are to be found. We don’t preach just the doctrines but the Person. We want people to receive Him, not just forgiveness or eternal life as concepts to be gained!]
4. THE DIVINE COMMAND FROM THE MAKER.
What Should Be Our Christian Attitude To Those Who Make Themselves Our Enemies?
Jesus wants His people to seek forgiveness for themselves but also to forgive others. St Paul gives God’s command in Ephesians 4:32 [and in Colossians 3:13], “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” The word for “forgiving” here is from [charizomai; χαρίζομαι} meaning to show mercy, to pardon, to deal graciously.
The pattern we are to follow is God’s forgiveness of us, “as God in Christ forgave you.”
What are the elements of His forgiveness towards us? When God forgives us He does so absolutely and completely, holding nothing against us (of the sins we confess to Him). We could never earn or deserve our forgiveness. It was an act of sheer grace, His unmerited favour. We accept it as a free gift in Him. We are then to forgive others in the same way.
We are meant to forgive AND to bless others
1Peter 3:8-9. “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” Pay back should have no place in the life of believers. It is a natural response when we are hurt by another’s sin against us, but it is not a Christian response. Here Peter tells us the way to respond. In forgiving others, we “grace” them with something they could never deserve or earn. (As God “graced” us.) If it seems to be an impossible command to obey we can ask the Lord to give us the grace to forgive. He is able to do so!
Blessing those who hurt us is a further step in the process of forgiveness. It is also a test of whether we have really forgiven someone. [I remember at a conference counselling a female pastor of a non-conformist church who saw the need to forgive someone who had tried to sexually assault her many years before. Fortunately her screams had prevented that from happening but it certainly bruised her emotionally. When I asked if she would be willing to pray a blessing upon that man she said that she couldn’t. When I asked why, she replied, “Because he hasn’t suffered enough yet.” After a quick arrow prayer to the Lord for guidance I found myself saying to her, “But when you came to the Lord, did He say, ‘No, I can’t accept you because you haven’t suffered enough yet? ‘“After a few moments she said, “No, He accepted me as I was. Yes, I will pray a blessing on him!” WhIch she immediately did. She left the conference a much different person than when she-had arrived. In fact within 2 years after getting rid of her antagonism against males, she had happily married a former close friend.]
We should be gracious towards them.
As we have been the recipients of grace we can extend it to others. Perhaps we think that nothing they could ever do would make up for the hurt they caused us. That’s where grace comes in! We are giving them what they could never earn or deserve. That is what God has done for us!
We should be loving towards them.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” That may sound impossible, to love some individuals. But Christian love means seeking the best interests of that person, not having loving feelings towards them. To love is a decision we make, not an emotion we feel.
Christian love [agapē; ἀγάπη] is a love centred on another, not upon oneself. It is a self-giving love. And the good news is that it a part of the fruit of the Spirit which can be produced in our lives as we abide in Christ. It is also shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, Romans 5:5 “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” We can love others with the love of God which is in our hearts as we make the decision to do so.
We can exhibit peace and forgiveness in troubling situations
All of us face difficulties in life often caused by difficult people. There will always be people we need to forgive for the hurts they caused us. It does make it more difficult when such people never repent of their words or deeds. However St Paul gives us a process we can put into place which enables us to live in peace, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:17-18. [Note 2].
If someone has committed evil against us then we have a choice we need to make. We can seek revenge, or we can decide not to do that. Instead, we can be loving and forgiving. That is the more honourable thing to do. It is seeking on our part to maintain peace in all relationships to the extent we are able to do so.
5. THE FREEDOM THAT COMES FROM FORGIVING!
The freedom that comes from forgiveness only comes from true repentance. It can never come from rationalising our sin by giving a reason for why we did or said something that caused hurt to another person. This is where we project our guilt onto that other person saying to ourselves, “It was their fault not mine, that I acted that way.” That may have been the trigger for our sin but blaming the other person and refusing to take accountability for our words and actions brings us no freedom from our guilt.
We have seen above that to forgive [aphiemi] means to “let go” to cancel the debt owed, to set someone free. This sets us free from bondage to our negative emotions, such as anger, bitterness, resentment, etc. To choose not to forgive holds us in bondage to those who hurt us. They still have some control over us even though we may be far from their minds.
I remember reading in one of CS Lewis’ books that he wrote, “Forgiveness is a difficult thing”. But it was encouraging that he later could write, “At last!” He had now forgiven someone who had hurt him in the past. There has to come an “At last!” moment in the lives of all of us, and that can only come when we deliberately forgive those who hurt us
One of the things that people find hard in forgiving someone who hurt them, is when that person keeps on doing it and never asking for forgiveness. That means that we need to keep affirming our forgiveness, both our forgiveness from God and our forgiveness of them even when the situations or people don’t change. It gives us a forgiving spirit. Then we can maintain the victory of being freed from the bondage of our unforgiveness.
[Note 1]. “Tortured.” This is from [basanistēs; βασανιστής ] meaning a tormentor or a torturer. The noun [basanismos; βασανισμός] means torture or torment. It is also translated as a “prison guard.”
[Note 2]. “Honourable” is from [kalos; καλός] which has the meaning of being beautiful, worthy of admiration, valuable, virtuous.
Blog No.429 posted on Thursday 22 September 2022