“I Forgive You” — Forgiven and Free

Forgiven And Free

No other words eliminate guilt and shame as well as these, “I forgive you.” Undeserved and unmerited, they come. Forgiven and free, we leave. The cost of forgiveness always runs heavy. The one wounded carries both the wound and weight. Yet, by God’s immeasurable grace, the one who forgives gains the most and receives the best.

Whether “Please forgive me” or “I forgive you,” I’ve hesitated too long to utter these necessary words on both sides of offense. I’ve stuttered and stammered, delayed and doubted, justified and judged.

I’m not alone!

The rich reward of freedom flows only through forgiveness. Isaiah watched his people perform unlimited religious duties and ceremonies with excellence while ignoring compassionate care for others. God rebuked them sharply for it.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?”
Isaiah 58:6

None of us need to look far to witness injustice, yokes, and oppression. How do we — in this generation — respond better than they and previous generations to similar issues? How do we move compassionately with love toward those around us? May I suggest that forgiveness plays a strategic role.

Dog Tied

Injustice

My dictionary defines injustice as “an absence of justice, violation of right or of the rights of another, and unfairness.” It also defines justice as “the maintenance or administration of what is just, impartial, or fair; to treat fairly and adequately; to show due appreciation for; the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity.”

Truthfully, everyone faces injustice — some minor, some extreme.

God doesn’t mince words,

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8

What does God mean by “loose the chains of injustice” or as another version puts it, “to break the chains of wickedness?” The Hebrew word for chains means “bond, pain, or torment, referring to unjust, wicked bonds usually indicating social, economic, or political oppression.” How do abusive cycles break — cycles where the rich dominate the poor, the strong intimidate the weak, and people emphasize differences and ignore similarities?

Tiger in Zoo

Jesus showed us. He came low and stayed low.

Humility

” . . . he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
Philippians 2:7,8

Forgiveness follows the low road that leads to the high way. Jesus never needed to be forgiven, but forgave us all. Jesus, worthy of honor, dignity, and praise, came only to serve. He thought of us, putting us first before His own needs or desires.

Forgiveness is the highest form of servanthood. Forgiveness bridges the widest gaps, breaks through the strongest chains, and levels the field of injustice. But it requires humility.

Undoubtedly, the unbearable chains of your past exceed mine. However, even some of mine have been difficult to overcome, including molestation and rape. Perpetrators rarely seek forgiveness, but when the abused offer it (even if only before God) chains break — for real, for good, for always.

The greatest injustice in history occurred at the cross where the holy Son of God died for wicked humanity. Yet from that cross, He prayed,

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ . . . “
Luke 23:34

Ever since, chains break and people experience freedom.

Untie the Cords

The Hebrew word for untie contains two separate meanings. The first is “to jump, leap, or startle, describing a rapid rush forward that startles or shocks.” The second meaning encompasses “setting free, loosing, releasing, and letting something go.” To “untie the cords of the yoke” requires decisive action, both a moving forward and a letting go of the past.

Yoke

Owners place yokes on horses, mules, or oxen to pull heavy loads. It is the owner, not the animal of burden, who also removes the yoke. Isaiah states clearly our responsibility to remove yokes worn by others, placed there by whoever, and kept there for whatever reason. Action is needed!

Perhaps nothing startles the kingdom of darkness as much as the words, “Please, forgive me.” Nothing rattles the enemy so deeply as, “I forgive you.” That one radical choice to forgive looses offense, keeps accounts short, and removes unbearable, even generational, yokes.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:32

If all my offenses lay exposed and visible before others, how ugly and disturbing they would prove to be — thoughts I’ve thought, attitudes I’ve carried, and sins I’ve committed. But God!!! But God forgives even me, releasing me from them all.

In the same way, He calls me to forgive — to forgive the grotesque, forgive the unjust, forgive the vindictive, and forgive the defiling. He both asks and gives the ability to do what He commands. Through forgiving others, I instantly become forgiven and free. In one shocking, startling undoing, I’m set free! Yokes break! Cords sever.

Set the Oppressed Free

The word oppressed means more than I thought. It means “to crack in pieces.” Are you willing to see the cracked remnants of humanity? Am I? They live close to us. They walk beside us. The broken bundle themselves behind busy facades, glossy exteriors and fake smiles. They are here. And there. Everywhere.

Often our own brokenness overwhelms us, incapacitating us from releasing others. As we begin to live as those forgiven and free, we gain the tools to free others. Until we forgive, we remain slavesvictims of the crimes of our assailants. Only through forgiveness does healing flow and gates fling open.

Bird in Cage

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Colossians 3:13-14

What grievance do you carry? What bitterness clouds your wounded heart? May I encourage you today, set yourself free by freeing others through forgiveness. Open the cage of oppression, so that healing may enter and every broken place be restored.

Forgiven and Free

God has graciously led me into many areas of ministry. None brings me greater joy than to walk people through the steps of forgiveness. Yes, there are steps! The most effective steps I’ve found come from Neil Anderson’s The Steps to Freedom in Christ.

  • Forgiveness is a decision of the will. As long as we refuse to forgive, we remain “hooked” to that person, bound to the past, and held by bitterness. Until we willingly forgive, that person maintains the power to continue hurting us.
  • Forgiveness agrees to live with the consequences of another’s sin. The sins of others affect us all. Will it be through the bondage of bitterness or the freedom of forgiveness?
  • To forgive must be genuine — from the heart. We must truthfully acknowledge the pain we feel, without diminishing or excusing it. God heals from the inside out as we honestly face the pain others have caused us.
  • Forgiveness chooses to not hold someone else’s sin against him, her, or them. God does not tolerate sin. Neither should we. In forgiveness, we release others to God. He will deal with them. Through forgiveness, we take a stand against sin by exercising God’s grace.
  • Forgive before you feel like forgiving. Emotion will follow action.
“We don’t heal in order to forgive; we forgive in order to heal.”
– Neil T. Anderson
Halter Cow

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'”
Matthew 18:21-22

We live forgiven and free by forgiving quickly and continuously, without keeping score or counting the times.

A Prayer

Here is a sample prayer to assist you as you continue your process of forgiveness. Don’t rush! Take your time to feel the pain, acknowledge the disappointment, and face the consequences you have endured because of another person’s hurtful and destructive decisions. Then surrender it to God. He is the only one strong enough to bear the burden.

“Dear Heavenly Father, I choose to forgive __________ for __________, because it made me feel __________. Lord Jesus, I choose not to hold on to my resentment. I relinquish my right to seek revenge and ask you to heal my damaged emotions. Thank You for setting me free from the bondage of my bitterness. I now ask You to bless those who have hurt me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

If this is a struggle for you, please contact Freedom in Christ Ministries in your area. Someone will walk with you as you process these steps. My desire is for everyone to walk forgiven and free, with chains of injustice loosed, yokes untied and broken, and the oppressed free forever.

Bless you on your forgiveness journey.

Forgiven and Free

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Forgiven: The Freedom of Forgiveness

To know you are forgiven is one of the greatest gifts this side of heaven. Yet few people experience the fullness of forgiveness toward themselves or others.

A question I often hear repeated is, “How can I counsel others to godliness when I fail so miserably myself?”

The answer is, “We are people of promise not prisoners of our past. The past neither defines nor limits us.”

Like most people, forgiving others and receiving forgiveness is a recurring pattern. I can go through the process of forgiving and think I have overcome, until …

I see the offender,
rehearse injustice mentally or verbally,
or a sadness infects
random moments
with recurring pain.

Have I really forgiven? Am I forgiven?

Justice and mercy

Necessary

Jesus taught the disciples to pray,

“And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Matthew 6:12

Forgiveness is a pivotal piece! To be forgiven, first we must forgive!

“For if you forgive other people
when they sin against you,
your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not
forgive others their sins,
your Father will not forgive your sins
Matthew 6:14-15

To forgive and be forgiven is not optional! God explicitly states, “To be forgiven, one must be forgiving!” Our willingness to show mercy, opens the gate to receive mercy.

Forgivenss Corrie Ten Boom

Forgiveness removes the invisible but powerful bondage of past hurts. Setting others free releases us to live unhindered.

Neil Anderson in his book “The Bondage Breaker” defines forgiveness as a “crisis of the will.” Rightly so!

Misconceptions

There are many misconceptions surrounding forgiveness:

  • Forgiveness is not forgetting. It does begin the healing of wounds, however.
  • The offender is not “let off the hook” through forgiveness. Everyone remains fully accountable to God.
  • Forgiveness is a choice of the will not a feeling. Feelings will follow choice.
  • Forgiveness never approves hurtful conduct.
  • No circumstance is too difficult to forgive. Only after forgiving will you be released from the pain.

Jesus carried every offense to the cross. In the midst of indescribable agony he prayed,

“Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

Forgiven - Robertson

Jesus set the example, giving each of us the ability to forgive and be forgiven. Every act of forgiveness demonstrates God’s grace.

We all remember Peter’s sincere confession before the cross,

“Even if all fall away on account of you,
I never will.”
Matthew 26:33

We also know how that scene played out! Jesus knew the frailty of His closest followers. Three times Peter betrayed the Master; each time more vehemently,

“He began to call down curses,
and he swore to them,
‘I don’t know this man
you’re talking about.'”
Mark 14:71

Tears of grief and shame were powerless to wash the agonizing pain of his betrayal! One moment confessing unquestionable allegiance; the next cowering in fear and treachery.

Peter Restored

As Jesus hung on the cross, He spoke words that span all time or circumstance,

“Father forgive them,
for they don’t know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

It would take even more than this to penetrate Peter’s wounded heart.

Often the hardest ones to forgive are ourselves. Where is the limit on God’s grace? Does it include my adultery, my lying and deception, my thievery, or shedding of blood  through abortion or even murder? Does forgiveness have limits?

Agonizing questions many have wrestled long and hard over. Can I be forgiven? Is the blood of Christ enough?

Jesus confronts the point of Peter’s deepest pain, his betrayal. Three times Peter rejected Jesus and three times Jesus presses his hand of compassion and grace on that tender spot:

“Simon son of John,
do you love me more than these?…”
“Simon son of John, do you love me?…”
Do you love me?”
John 21:15-19

The painful public reminder of Peter’s personal failure cut deep. Betrayal of Jesus tore every thread of Peter’s resolve. For days he was stuck in the quagmire of guilt and shame, questioning his identity, purpose and calling to “feed my sheep.” 

Like a skilled surgeon, Jesus took the knife of forgiveness cutting away Peter’s failure. Every cancerous source of doubt exposed and removed forever!

Forgiven

In the natural, I view such public confrontation of a man’s failure as bordering on cruel and unjust. Since the offense was public, Jesus knew the restitution also must be public. What to me seems cruel became a powerful turning point in Peter’s life!

How am I so certain forgiveness became personally grasped and possessed in that moment?

Forgivenss has no rights

A few days later, forgiven and free, Peter declared to the Jewish crowd,

“The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.
You handed him over to be killed,
and you disowned him before Pilate,
though he had decided to let him go.
You disowned the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
You killed the author of life
but God raised him from the dead.”
Acts 3:13-15

Peter could never so boldly confront others for disowning Jesus if he remained haunted by personal guilt, condemnation, or self-loathing. “Forgiven” was stamped across every word! By God’s grace alone, he “fed the sheep”!

Refreshing

His words, unmarred by condemnation, were bathed in the compassionate mercy and grace only those fully forgiven can express. From the depths of a heart radically forgiven, Peter grants to others what he so lavishly received.

Repent, then, and turn to God,
so that your sins may be wiped out,
that times of refreshing may come
from the Lord.”
Acts 3:19

The Greek word rendered “refreshing,” means “breathing,” or “refreshment“, after being heated with labor, running, etc. It denotes “any kind of refreshment, rest, or deliverance from evil.” Only here is this word used.

Peter rested forgiven before the Saviour he once denied. He experienced the deep refreshing, strength and energizing promised!

Many Christians who declare Christ as Saviour continue to

live as powerless victims,
prisoners bound by personal sin or
the offense of others,
weaponless warriors worn from fighting
battles long gone and eternally won.

Mark 2:5

Jesus still speaks clearly as He once did to a paraplegic (Mark 2:5), a woman caught in adultery (John 8:11), and a notorious sinner and social outcast (Luke 7:39),

“My child, your sins are forgiven.”
Mark 2:5

Who are we to withhold from others or ourselves, what Christ has freely given?

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Extra Resources:

Steps to Forgiveness:

Neil T. Anderson recommends making a list of every painful memory and the persons involved. Then one by one go through the list with this prayer:

“Lord Jesus, I choose to forgive (name the person)
for (what he or she did or failed to do)
because it made me feel
(Share the painful feelings,
such as rejected, dirty, worthless or inferior).”

After you have forgiven every person for every painful memory, pray this prayer as well.

“Lord Jesus, I choose not to hold on to my resentment.
I relinquish my right to seek revenge,
and I ask You to heal my damaged emotions.
thank You for setting me free from the bondage of bitterness.
I now ask that You bless those who have hurt me.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

(Taken from Interactive Workbook, The Bondage Breaker, Pg 73-74, Harvest House Publishing)

Booklet:

“What Christians Should Know About the Importance of Forgivenessby John Arnott, Sovereign World Limited

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