"Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, . . . They are not
just idle words for you-- they are your life" (Deuteronomy 32:46-47).

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Transforming Power of Forgiveness

"You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you." Psalm 86:5

Notice that the psalmist included forgiving, good, and love in the same sentence describing God. Might that suggest that, as these terms describe God, they should also describe his people? To be a forgiving person is both good and loving; when we lovingly forgive, we are exemplifying goodness; if we extend love to others through forgiveness, we are modeling God's goodness. Here are a few more Bible truths on forgiveness for us to remember and model in our daily lives:
  • Forgiving others is not equal to condoning sinful behavior. Often we hold back forgiveness because we're afraid our offender might view it as us going along with their bad choices and wrong behavior. This is a subtle, satanic tactic meant to keep us withholding forgiveness, and our eternal enemy has managed to use it to destroy many families and relationships. God never condones our sinful behavior, yet he forgives us: "O LORD our God, you answered them; you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds" (Psalm 99:8).
  • True forgiveness places the memory of the offense in the ashes of forgetfulness. How many times do we refuse to forgive because we refuse to forget? We excuse our sinful unforgiveness saying we just can't forget, but the truth is we simply refuse to forget. As a result, people walk around, sometimes for a lifetime, with a never-ending bullet-list of wrongs perpetrated against them and a heart scarred and hardened by bitterness, anger, resentment, and hate. What if God treated us this way? Thank heavens he doesn't: "If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared" (Psalm 130:3-4).
  • True forgiveness does not depend on the degree or level of the offense. Many times our own sinful nature will convince us that we could have forgiven a person had the wrong we suffered not been so bad and painful. This course of thinking is also from Satan to keep us bound up in the chains of unforgiveness. On the cross, Jesus modeled for us that we are to forgive the smallest and the greatest wrongs committed against us. Hanging on the cross with a bleeding, dying body riddled with horrific wounds and nails in his hands and feet, "Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing'" (Luke 23:34).
  • Our forgiveness of others is the prerequisite of God's forgiveness of us. How hypocritical it is for us to pray asking God to forgive us our wrongs against him, when we refuse to forgive others their wrongs against us. The shame that truth brings to our hearts should be enough to cause us to alter our ways. As Jesus so clearly put it, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14-15).
  • God commands us to forgive others. We who call ourselves Christians through faith and surrender to the Lordship of Christ Jesus have no choice but to forgive others, if we desire to stay in good fellowship with our heavenly Father. We can all attest to how broken our human relationships get from unforgiveness. How much more is our relationship with God broken from the sin of unforgiveness? Let's write it down big and plain: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32).
So, let me ask you: does your forgiveness really count? Old Joe was dying. For years he'd been mad at his childhood friend Bill. Wanting to straighten things out, he asked his friend to come see him. "Bill," Joe began, "I don't want to face God with all this bad blood between us." Then very reluctantly and with great effort, Joe apologized for things he'd said and done and assured Bill he forgave him for his offenses. Everything seemed fine until Bill turned to leave. As he reached the door, Joe called out to him, "But remember, if I get better, this doesn't count" (Roy B. Zuck, The Speaker's Quote Book, 154).

Friend, don't let your forgiveness be like that. If it doesn't count on earth, it won't count in heaven. As the early church father, Augustine, put it: "If you are suffering from a bad man's injustice, forgive him lest there be two bad men" (Zuck, 155).

Forgiveness: love it, live it, loose it!

Prayer: Father in heaven, forgive me for the my sin of refusing to forgive others. Pierce my soul leaving the trail of conviction left by your truth concerning real forgiveness. By your grace and your molding hands of love, make me the forgiving person I should be as a follower of your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I pray in the strong name of Jesus, Amen.