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“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace…”

Ephesians 1:7

Writer and professor Lewis B. Smedes once said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” I believe Smedes had it right when it comes to forgiveness. Before coming to the saving knowledge of Christ and even after that wonderful experience, the lack of forgiveness holds us captive, a prisoner by sin, a prisoner by daily sinful activities, a prisoner through attitude and actions.

When we think of what Jesus did on the cross, we realize that His forgiveness has set us free from being a prisoner to that which robs us of joy, happiness, contentment, and most important to have a right relationship with God.

But through the cross of Christ, forgiveness comes! Praise God what a Savior!!! The simple yet most expensive truth of salvation is, “Jesus bears for sinners the outcome of their sins in order that they may not have to bear it.”Michael Green. We are all too aware that our penalty for sin is death. “For the wages of sin is death…” But how great is our forgiveness?

Generally speaking, I believe everyone has a basic understanding of what it means to forgive and be forgiven. An article published by UC Berkeley’s GGSC Greater Good Magazine entitled, “What Is Forgiveness?” answers the question this way, “Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.” Now, I share this quote with you not because I find my authority on the subject of forgiveness in modern psychology but to prove my point that generally speaking, most people understand what it means to forgive someone else for the harm they caused whether perceived or real, whether they deserve it or not. But for the Christian the subject of forgiveness is much more exact and rooted in the very nature of who God is.

I believe at the very core of God’s existence is a divine nature shrouded in the Person of Christ. The Bible tells us that God is love, (1John 4:8) and therefore logically speaking, the divine manifestation of love, among other things, is His capacity to forgive. If this is true, and I believe it is, then by the very nature of His all-consuming love is also an all-consuming forgiveness. Unlike the psychologist of today, the forgiveness that is at the very core of God’s nature transcends the pettiness of feelings and goes straight to the judicial need to deal with human transgressions against a Holy and just God. Simply put, if God does not deal with our sinfulness, our transgressions, past, present, and future, we are without hope, sentenced to a life of imprisonment here by the immediate consequences of sin in the present and the payment for our sins in the future. But praise God for His Son Jesus Christ, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” (1John 4:9) The man or woman who has placed their faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross knows what it means to live life outside the prison that our sins once placed us in. We are living proof that real life begins with forgiveness. Jesus said, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

FORGIVENESS WORKS BOTH WAYS: So, I write all this to ask you one question, are you a forgiving person because of what God has forgiven you of? The debt due to our sin had to be paid and Christ paid it with His life. If we have the very nature of God living in us, we also have the ability and capacity to forgive those who have hurt us in the past, and will continue to hurt us in the future. I know that only God can forgive sin, but we have a responsibility to demonstrate His forgiveness as we flesh out our life in Christ in present. In Ephesians 4:32, the Apostle Paul put it this way, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgive each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NIV) If God gave us such a command would He not also give us the ability to keep it? I believe He does and at our very core as believers in Christ it is within our ability to forgive others when they trespass against us (sound familiar?). Yet, I know there are those who claim to know Christ as Savior and are still held captive by an unforgiving spirit. So, if you are still struggling with forgiving others who in some way have offended you, and in some way seemingly hurt you beyond repair, here is my takeaway.  

One: Forgiveness Releases Us From A Burden Too Heavy To Carry—To harbor unforgiveness means you have to keep track of everyone who has ever wronged you whether in word or deed, whether perceived or real. WOW, talk about a heavy load. I don’t believe the human heart and mind was ever meant to hang on to such things without doing some serious damage. Yet people, including Christians do just that. Time to lay that burden down, get out of that prison, let it go. Our greatest hurt, harm, and humiliation were meant to be carried by Him. So give them to Him! Our forgiveness of others tells us who is in control, who will settle all the scores, because with forgiveness we don’t have to keep score—we can forgive and let it go.

Two: Forgiveness Releases Us From The Awkwardness Of Strained Fellowship— Let’s face it, if we are at odds with one another and I am harboring an unforgiving spirit due to something I believe you have done to me, Sunday morning worship service is going to be at best awkward for us. I’m going to do everything I can to avoid you because I am not willing to forgive you for hurting me. But the more accurate statement would be, unforgiveness just doesn’t strain our fellowship and stifle our worship, it actually eliminates it. How is it possible to worship God in private and corporate worship while still harboring an unforgiving spirit? Do we really believe that God overlooks our lack of forgiveness? Mark 11:25 says, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

Three: Forgiveness Doesn’t Releases Us From All The Consequences Of Sin—I covered this subject in my ramblings on “cause and effect.” But let’s look at it from another angle. When I have sinned against God and man and have been convicted by the Holy Spirit about it, my first reaction within the right frame of heart and mind is to seek forgiveness. I want more than anything to repair my relationship with both. But knowing that I have a loving and forgiving God and a brother or sister in Christ quick to forgive doesn’t exonerate me from the ramification of my actions. Sins committed against God and brethren can and should be quickly forgiven but can also have lingering effect until the winds of time have swept them away.

So, there you have it—forgiveness. Are you carrying the burden of an unforgiving spirit today? Is your unforgiving spirit effecting your fellowship with the Father and brothers and sisters in Christ? It is my prayer this day that we would be quick to forgive as our Father in heaven has shown the same to us.

This is Pastor Pat FROM BEHIND THE PEN—wishing you Joy in Jesus!