In my counseling career, no matter what diagnosis a client ends up with, there is often a topic that comes up in therapy sooner or later — forgiveness. I often meet people who have been abused either physically, sexually, or verbally. Forgiveness is in great need but short supply.People come with broken marriage problems ranging from poor communication to infidelity. Once again, forgiveness is needed but difficult to find. Other areas where forgiveness is needed include: family issues, people in the same church who won’t speak to each other, business problems where one or both sides feel wronged, and the list goes on.
I believe a myriad of psychological problems stem from unforgiveness. A Scripture that I connect with unforgiveness is found in Hebrews 12:15 (KJV): “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”
Unforgiveness can be a deep root that causes bitterness for the holder and often creates dysfunction with those around the person who does not forgive.God’s Forgiveness: You Don’t Manufacture Forgiveness, You Learn to Access It Click To Tweet
I also think of the story that Jesus told about the man who owed his master a fortune (Luke 7:36-50) and was forgiven of it all. He then he went out and would not forgive another man a paltry sum owed to him. When his master found this out, he had the first man thrown in prison until he paid the huge sum back.
Now, I ask you, how would the man pay back such a sum while in prison? Forgiveness is a serious topic and can be difficult for us to extend to others. Thanks to God he has already provided all of the forgiveness that is necessary. Every sin ever committed and every sin that will be committed is provided for by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
This includes unforgiveness. The Bible clearly says we must forgive as we are forgiven. Ephesians 4:32 says that we must forgive others as Christ has forgiven us. The problem is not one of provision but rather of access. The good news is that we don’t have to fake it until we make it.
There is a way to access forgiveness which can keep that root of bitterness from springing up. I believe that all forgiveness must go through the cross. If you are struggling with unforgiveness, read the rest of this article. I hope it will encourage you.
My best advice when it comes to forgiveness is to start where you are at. Be honest, if you need forgiveness from God ask for it. Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
The context of this verse is actually about forgiveness, not monetary giving. If you feel as if you can’t forgive someone, start there and be honest with the Lord. Ask Him to help you do what you did not want to do or have not been able to do by yourself. God will help you if you ask Him for help.
It is also necessary to understand the dual direction that forgiveness flows in. There is a divine order to forgiveness. Those who claim to be Christian have already received forgiveness of all their sins from the Lord. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins” (I John 1:9).
I call this the vertical aspect of forgiveness because it comes from God down to mankind or, if you will, from heaven down to earth. Once we have the vertical aspect of forgiveness then the horizontal aspect can be addressed. We tune forgiveness in by giving out that which we have received to those around us.This concept of forgiveness reminds me of the television sets from my childhood. There was a knob for the vertical and a knob for the horizontal. You had to get them both just right to see the picture properly. (If you are under 50 years of age you may need to Google this metaphor). Forgiveness works like the old TV. I believe it is difficult, even impossible, to give what you have not yet received.
But once the Lord has given you forgiveness then the supply will be sure because it comes from the Cross. This is a great revelation! All forgiveness starts and ends at the Cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus died once for all sin – sin that you did and I did, and sin done against you and me. All forgiveness was provided for by His sacrifice, that is the blood of Jesus Christ.
The good news is that forgiveness has already been provided and we don’t have to manufacture it. Our task is figuring out how to appropriate that forgiveness so that the love of Jesus can “cover a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8 NIV). The sins we have committed as well as those sins commited against us. Forgiveness is all in and through the Cross!
There is also another type of forgiveness I have yet to mention, and I think it is the hardest one to come by for many of us. As I have talked with hundreds of clients, they often are able to comprehend that God has forgiven them. They may even forgive others, but often the hardest one to forgive is themselves.
All I can say here is if God says you are forgiven then how can you not forgive yourself? It is like saying that the blood of Jesus provides forgiveness for everyone but you. The enemy wants you to believe that your sin is worse than anybody else. He will lay it on thick; work you over with guilt, shame, regrets, and memories of would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.
What can you do about the past? The enemy will use it like a baseball bat over your head. More good news! Mercy forgave us, but Grace enables us to be, “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). That’s the key: Through or (in) Christ Jesus. We do not just live our own life now but Jesus lives His life in us. Let me expand this truth further.
It is vital to understand the power of the Cross when it comes to forgiveness. There is a verse in Galatians 2:20 (KJV) which says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” I believe there is an important application to forgiveness in this verse.
Since Christ is living in us and through us, he has already provided the forgiveness that is needed. We don’t have to manufacture what has already been given by Jesus Christ who is in us. Colossians 1:27(KJV) says, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” I can hardly wait for heaven when it is time, but I already have the hope of heaven living in me and that is Jesus Christ.
Christ in me is the source of forgiveness that I can’t manufacture on my own. Christ in me is the source of forgiveness for whatever I can’t forgive. An old song used to say, “Give it all to Jesus…” This truth includes giving Christ your unforgiveness for someone else or even for yourself. Turn in your unforgiveness to Jesus and he can provide the forgiveness you desperately need.
The truth of Galatians 2:20 is that it is Christ’s faith (in us) that we live by, not our own. The faith of Jesus has already forgiven that person. It is important to understand this great truth. I often use the picture of the light switch being like forgiveness.
I turn on a switch which lets the light come on. My turning on the light did not create the power for the light. I know that somewhere in my city there is an electric company that produces the power for my light. I simply access the light when I turn the switch on. The same is true of forgiveness. I don’t create forgiveness, Jesus provided all forgiveness at the Cross. I simply have to learn how to access such forgiveness by His faith which is in me.
By the way, people who access forgiveness this way have tapped into the greatest power of the universe. It is the power of forgiveness provided by the love of Jesus Christ.
“And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” — 1 John 4:16, KJV
That’s not to say forgiveness is easy but it does come down to simple faith. I am convinced, as the Holy Spirit reveals the simplicity of Galatians 2:20 to you, forgiveness becomes possible. If we say it is impossible to forgive, then we are saying that the Cross is somehow deficient and has not provided forgiveness for that sin done against you.
May we never say the Cross is deficient of anything. It is more likely I am deficient and need to humble myself and ask the Lord to show me how to be more like him. How to let Jesus live His faith through me. Sometimes forgiveness is a process, and over time the Lord in you will succeed. Let me just say that this process works best when we yield to the work of the Holy Spirit in our life.
The work of forgiveness will be complete as we learn to yield to the Spirit and to His ways. It will definitely take a change of heart, which is something only God can do. Remember this while you are working on forgiveness, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13 KJV). Forgiveness is the pleasure of God.
Furthermore, while the Holy Spirit works on you let me give you a little homework. Look for models of forgiveness who have already made this journey so that you can see it is possible. Just to get you started I will share a few examples for you. In the book of Genesis there is a man named Joseph. His brothers hated him, threw him in a pit and then sold him into slavery because they were jealous of him.
Read the rest of the story in the later chapters of the book of Genesis. Years later when he finally meets up with his brothers he had become a powerful man in Egypt. It looked like Joseph would finally get his revenge on those terrible siblings. At first, the brothers did not recognize Joseph.
Listen to what he said to them once he revealed to his brothers who he was. “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Genesis 50:20 KJV).
I call this the Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament. No matter what others have done to you, and it was evil what they did to Joseph, God can take your circumstances and use them for your good, as well as for the good of the Kingdom. This is a promise of God.In more modern times one could look at the life of Corrie Ten Boom who was treated horribly by the Nazis in World War II. Read her book sometime and hear the firsthand account of what she went through in a concentration camp. The part I remember the most was when she was speaking in a church after the war about her being arrested for harboring Jews in her house.
As she looked over the congregation, she saw a man she recognized, it was one of the guards from the concentration camp. During her message she had spoken of forgiveness. He came up to her, not recognizing her, but she recognized him. He thrust out his hand and said that was a good message, especially the part about our sins being at the bottom of the sea.
He then told her he had been a guard at the camp she had mentioned in her message. Since the war, this man had become a Christian and realized that he had mistreated the people very badly in the camp where he worked. This man asked her to forgive him. She was not sure she could forgive him. She said a silent prayer and said, Lord, I know that if you have forgiven me then I must forgive him but you will have to supply the feeling.
As the story goes, Corrie attests to the fact that she did have the forgiveness that comes from Jesus wash over her the moment she took his hand. The Lord had helped her to forgive this man and she was free! (For the whole story read it in her book The Hiding Place or in Guideposts Classics online).
In my pastor’s last sermon, I heard an excellent story of forgiveness. He told our congregation about the story of the Green River killer, Gary Ridgway. This man had killed 49 women in horrible and grisly ways. During trial, before his sentencing, families that had lost loved ones to this killer were allowed to confront him in open court before his sentence.
Person after person proceeded to spit out hatred for the killer and told him they had confidence that he would soon die and be going to Hell. Then a man came up who had lost his daughter to this killer. Gary had raped and killed her. This man said to the killer that he was a Christian. This man told the killer that Christians learn to forgive those who have mistreated them and have done wrong to them.
The man went on to say he knew his daughter was in heaven. He told the killer he wanted him to know he forgave him. The man gave quite a speech about forgiveness. The killer had not expected to hear such a statement from one of his victim’s father. Apparently, it affected the whole courtroom and even this hardened murderer began to cry. You can “Google” the story and read the details for yourself.
I hope that if you struggle with unforgiveness it will encourage you to ask the Lord for help. Forgiveness is powerful, steeped in love, and available to everyone, through Jesus Christ. Only His sacrifice could provide such forgiveness in a world that is bereft of such love.
If this article has helped you, I just want to let you know that I would be honored to walk with you on your own path to forgiveness. Come and share your burden in session. You don’t have to carry this alone. Lay it down at the Cross and never pick it up again. Let the faith of Jesus work through you so that you can be free!
Make an appointment today and begin the journey to freedom. “If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36, KJV). Don’t wait another moment. Make that call today!
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