A Forgiving Spirit

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

Is there anyone that has wronged you and you just can’t bring yourself to forgive them? Anyone that you are holding a grudge against? Perhaps there is someone that you hate and have disdain for. Perhaps then there are people that you have no love for. Are there people who you don’t like to see receive praise or be well spoken of? If you are like me you can justify these emotions towards others even though you know in your heart that it is wrong. The hard truth is that if we are not willing to forgive others, then the Heavenly Father will not forgive us. “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14)

Personal relationships are a valuable gift that we can receive in life. It is hard and rear to find a trusted friend. We sometimes allow these relationships to take first place in our life above things that are more important. Then sometimes we allow others things to come even before our personal relationships. We allow our ambitions, the desires of the heart, our want for recognition, the lust we have for wealth, and the plans we have to achieve them to come ahead of our first love. We know that it is wrong and it places a burden upon our heart because we know that our first priority is to love the Lord with all our might. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) If we place God first in our lives, then we have His promise that the needful things will be added to us.

When we look at forgiveness it is like other concepts in the scripture. We show mercy that we can receive mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) We give that it may be given unto us. “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” (Luke 6:38) Do not judge others that we will not be judged. “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1) So too we must forgive that we may be forgiven. “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:15)

Forgiveness is not so much a release to the one whom we harbor offence too as much as it releases bitterness from us that we have for others. When we do not forgive others it builds a wall of ill felling between us and the unforgiven. Un-forgiveness also opens a door in the hedge of protection that the Lord has placed around us and the Devil will exploit such an entry. If unchecked the Devil will gain a stronghold upon our life and will cause havoc upon us. Solomon advises us not to repay evil with evil. “Do not say, “Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.” (Proverbs 24:29) If we return evil with evil we become evil in our selves. How this must disgrace our Lord. The Apostle Peter tells is to bless those who do evil against us. “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9) Then we have done what is pleasing to the Lord, we no longer feel as the victim, and we have laid that burden down and can walk away free.

If we do not forgive others it leaves us stuck in the past with all its bitterness. It prevents us from moving forward in our own spiritual growth towards the image of Christ. Far too many people waist years of their life stuck in bitterness and resentment over past wrongs that have been committed to them. Think about that, who is the one being punished? Judgment is the Lord’s work, let us move on and live in peace. “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) Release yourself from the past wrongs and spend your time in the joy of the Lord that He has given you.

Forgiveness helps us to grow. We are no longer spending time on ways to get even with the offender, no longer spending time on our own personal complaints, and no longer trapped in an attitude of vengeance. We can spend our metal energy on the thoughts that are productive and worthy. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Harboring feelings of resentment towards others is not only sinful but it stands in the way of our physical wellness. When the mind is stressed it has an effect upon the whole body and can lead to sickness. Heart problems and cancer are tied to stress. Just the release of the stress that the burden of sin and the guilt that it causes will have a good result upon the body. Jesus has the authority to forgive sin and to heal the physical woes as well.  “But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Matthew 9:6

Forgiveness is the free gift of God. God’s forgiveness is free to the sinner but forgiveness is not free, it comes with a high cost. Jesus died for the sins of the world, not just mine and yours. Forgiveness is free to anyone who will accept it from Jesus and follow Him in faith. If forgiveness is free to receive, then it is also free to give. “Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

Jesus tells the parable of the unmerciful servant. The servant was forgiven his debt by his master but was not willing to forgive those who owed him money. When his master heard of this he turned the servant over to the torturers until the debt was paid. This is the price of sinful behavior and the wage of sin is death. By our forgiveness to others and our forgiveness we can receive purification of our spirt. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

If we have a forgiving spirit it will empower us. By our forgiveness for those who have transgressed against us it returns power back to us. We are unbound by the effects of the one who has done wrong to us and opens the door for the Lord to deal justly with that person. “So that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” (2 Corinthians 2:7) Our Heavenly Father will repay those who have afflicted us with their own affliction. Our God is a God of love and He is a God of justice. God will settle all accounts. “For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you” (2 Thessalonians 1:6)

Forgiveness is free to us and it is free to give. But forgiveness is not free. Jesus suffered the agony and torture of the cross to pay the wage of man’s sin. Only He has the authority to offer forgiveness, as there is no other who has paid the wage of man’s sin. This is the cost of our sin! Jesus not only died and was buried but on the third day rose from the grave so we could not only have forgiveness but eternal life. As Jesus told His disciples on the eve of the Lord’s Supper His atoning blood is the new covenant. “For this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28) For this reason all sins are against God and His Word. Jesus has paid the wage of all sin. Who then are we not to forgive? We forgive to release the Lord’s justice and we forgive that we can be forgiven. “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.” (Mark 11:25)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, August 24, 2016

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