Forgiving is sometimes one of the most difficult things to do. There are a lot of complicated reasons why we have such a hard time. This sermon “digs up” some of those reasons and provides practical guidance on how to move forward to total forgiveness and freedom.
Being asked to forgive is a great spiritual opportunity from God for us to make big advances in the Spirit.
Some benefits that the medical world has noticed….
Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
Less anxiety, stress and hostility
Lower blood pressure
Fewer symptoms of depression
Stronger immune system
Improved heart health
Forgiveness can’t change the past, but it will change your future…
The greater the hurt, the greater the blessing that comes with forgiveness.
Jesus says this: Col. 3:13–forgive as He forgave us. Jesus knows it’s impossible in our own strength sometimes.
Areas of unforgiveness are where the pain is still trapped inside, wanting to get out.
Especially hard when:
Person is still sinning.
Person hurt someone else you care about.
Person has died.
Big problem with people, and especially men: We get hurt. But to go on, we find a way to compartmentalize it without too much residual damage–so we think!–and we put it away without ever dealing with it. This isn’t God’s way.
There are degrees of forgiveness and degrees of freedom.
Detached forgiveness–reduction in negative feelings. This can happen not because there has been any real work of God, but because of emotional deadness about the issue.
Partial forgiveness–forgiven by faith, but still angry. Maybe prayed, but not prayers of blessing.
Some of us are probably struggling physically because of unforgiveness.
The goal ISN’T to not be bothered any more….
Staying with unforgiveness puts ourselves in God’s place as Judge.
It shows we don’t really understand the depth of His forgiveness to us.
It also shows we are naive about the depth of our own sinfulness.
It also says we’d rather have judgment than fellowship with Jesus.
There’s a decision we need to make: Do you want the bitterness, or do we want the peace?
What forgiveness is not:
Approval of what they did or denial
Excusing or pardoning them for what they did–they still may need to seek forgiveness from God
Not necessarily wanting to hang out with the person. Or being able to be reconciled.
Not saying what they did was right.
Forgetting what they did or repressing your feelings
Trusting them–forgiveness is one thing, trust is another….
Closing your eyes to continued sinning on that person’s part.
What forgiveness is:
Being aware of what someone has done and still forgiving them
Letting go of the desire to punish
Realizing that other people may never know what they did to you
Realizing that they may seem to be getting away with it if you don’t tell people
Taking God’s mercy and releasing it on someone else
Forgiving yourself (maybe)
Facing our possible anger at God for letting it happen
Letting go of our imaginary control over the situation
Letting go of our imaginary power over the sinner
We forgive because we’ve been forgiven and He’s told us to pass it on.
And we forgive HOW He forgives us: Totally. Putting all sins far away. Letting us save face.
Forgiving ourselves. This can be especially hard.
We might be so disappointed in ourselves that it’s hard to face what we did and forgive ourselves. But that can ultimately be traced back to pride.
Also we might be judgmental ourselves, and we have higher standards of forgiveness than God.
How to view this
• Start thinking of it as a stepping stone to peace, as an opportunity.
• This is a chance to move forward spiritually. To get free. To know peace where we haven’t. SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO!
• To forgive where we haven’t been able to is to cross over to the supernatural realm.
• Realize that most people who have hurt us have NOT been our enemies.
Three things to remember and struggle with:
• We are guilty of a different sin that is just as bad in God’s eyes.
• We are capable of a sin just as bad in God’s eyes.
• We may yet fall into such a sin as they did–or worse.
We’ll never know how God will use us once we set our enemies free.
Consider what happens if we don’t forgive.
Taking the Journey
• Get an idea where you are in the journey.
• Maybe you realized today that you have more unforgiveness than you thought. Maybe you don’t know where to begin.
• Forgive them by faith to start. Don’t worry about how you feel about it. Your feelings WILL CHANGE!
• Stop telling other people what they did, except a counselor of some kind. Consider it your duty to protect their reputation by not revealing what you know.
• Be pleasant when we’re around them. Great is He that is in you….
• Don’t say anything to make them feel bad, and never send them on a guilt trip.
• Begin to pray for them. An early church father called it the highest summit of self-control. Don’t pray that God would get them. Or that God would teach them. Pray that God would bless them. Blessing our enemies is the sign that you’ve reached true forgiveness.
Where are you on the journey to forgiveness? Are you ready to bless those that hurt you from a forgiving heart? Are you ready to bless them because you’re ready and you know it’s right? Are you ready to forgive by faith? Or perhaps you’re just beginning to see how much unforgiveness is there.
Maybe God is showing you that you just need to begin the journey today.