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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The Tomb Raider and Bondage Breaker! Chains no More!

Chains No More

The tomb is meant to be a burial place for the dead; it is not a habitation for the living.  Jesus made a perilous journey to meet a man who was so bound by tormenting spirits, tomb dwelling seemed the only fitting place to be. Until “Jesus stepped ashore”!

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke present the account through almost opposing lenses. Luke calls the region “the Gerasenes” which means “alien, stranger or foreigner”or more specifically “a stranger drawing near.” Matthew, on the other hand terms it the region of “the Gadarenes” which means “rewarded in the end.”

A Stranger Draws Near

Only one person in the entire region came to meet Jesus welcoming Him. Everyone else treated Jesus like an alien, a stranger or a foreigner!

“When Jesus had stepped out on land,
there met him a man from the city who had demons.
For a long time he had worn no clothes,
and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs.”
Luke 8:27

The living among the tombs

This was neither his original home nor his original condition!

We don’t know how long his existence was relegated to the tombs; only that it was “a long time“. A long time

without family or relationship,
crying out night and day,
cutting himself with stones,
naked and exposed to shame,
rejected and ridiculed,
bound and chained.

It is no wonder Jesus was willing to endure the severest of storms to come and to release this man from bondage.

Most of us would have caught one glimpse of his condition and scampered right back into the boat paddling hard in the opposite direction. Not Jesus! Then too, most of us are impressed by crowds. Not Jesus!

For this one man, Jesus came!

Though an entire city was close, only one man welcomed Him!

Among the Tombs

What causes a man to trade a home for a tomb? This isn’t normal human behaviour, after all.

“…(For many a time it had seized him.
He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles,
but he would break the bonds and
be driven by the demon into the desert.)
Luke 8:29

Though no earthly chain could hold him, this poor man was completed bound by the demons that inhabited him. Up until this moment, they had complete control.

When Jesus stepped in, everything changed!

All around us are people “out of control!” Daily we encounter hurting people who hurt people. Our lives and neighbourhoods are affected by those who have long ago forgotten personal worth or identity. Behind closed doors many are driven by drugs, addictions and lust. They appear to be alive, but reside within personal tombs of death.

For these Jesus comes!

The Pigs Nearby

Living among pigs!

A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside.
 The demons begged Jesus,
“Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.”

Mark 5:11-12

The imagery is more than symbolic! Jesus allows the demons to enter the pigs who quickly make a suicidal dive into the nearby lake.

The saddest part of the story is about to unfold. The people of the Gerasenes were perfectly comfortable to have a demon possessed man among them, naked and screaming in agony night and day. However, they were totally unprepared to allow Jesus, The Healer, Deliver, Tomb Raider, and Bondage Breaker to stay one moment more.

“…they came to Jesus and found the man
from whom the demons had gone,
sitting at the feet of Jesus,
clothed and in his right mind,
and they were afraid.”
Luke 8:35

As twisted as a living man dwelling in the tombs is, the reaction of the locals was even more so. Rejoicing over the man’s deliverance would seem to be a more appropriate response.

Enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season!

Pigs were considered “unclean”. Their delight in wallowing in “mud” representing the human tendency to enjoy and cling to our pet sins. Jesus came into their region to free everyone who lived there. Only this destitute and demon possessed man responded. The rest preferred to “enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.”

Jesus came to release them all from sin’s cruel bondage! They preferred the swine, instead!

Only One Man

Only one man from the region of “the Gadarenes” was “rewarded in the end.” He was the only one — unnamed but completely changed.

“And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes
begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone,
for a great wave of fear swept over them.
So Jesus returned to the boat and left,
crossing back to the other side of the lake.”
 Luke 8:37 

The evidence of Jesus’ authority and transforming power sat before them, gentle, calm and dressed. Perhaps up until this moment, they could look at him, aiming their pointed fingers while wagging condemning tongues, “We’re not as bad as he is!”

But standing before Jesus, the Truth and Deliverer, they were without excuse. No other man, except this one, was willing to fall on their knees and surrender to Jesus as Lord.

“You are already clean
because of the word I have spoken to you.”
John 15:3

One man received The Word and was cleansed. Every other person treated Jesus as a stranger. rejecting Him. Out of fear, they clung like pigs to their own filth.

When Jesus came, only one received the reward of surrender.

Tomb Raider

Jesus stepped ashore!

He raided the tomb of death, restoring dignity, value and life. He broke the bondage of sin and shame, releasing its prisoner to everlasting freedom.

Grateful the man pleaded with Jesus to allow him to come with along. Jesus lovingly refused.

Tomb Raider and Bondage Breaker! Freedom in Christ!

Jesus did not let him, but said,
Go home to your own people and
tell them how much the Lord has done for you,
and how he has had mercy on you.”
Mark 5:19

Jesus restored him to his home, family and relationships. He sent him back into his community with purpose and value. There is no greater testimony to the mercy and grace of God than a transformed life.

Reluctantly, the man obliged! Though his heart longed to stay with Jesus, his mission was to his world.

Jesus steps into lives again and again, giving opportunity for freedom. What is my response? Will I consider Him a “Stranger drawing near” and refuse? Or will I welcome Him, allowing Him to do whatever He desires in my life, ultimately being “rewarded in the end“?

Jesus never stays where He is not wanted

 “…So he got into the boat and left.”
Luke 8:37

On the other side of the lake
the crowds welcomed Jesus,
because they had been waiting for him.”
Luke 8:40

Today I ask, “Which side of the lake am I on? Which side of the lake are you on?”

Jesus is stepping ashore!

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Resources:

If you need help, there are many organizations that will assist you:

Freedom in Christ

Pure Desire Ministries

or a local bible believing church.

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Addiction – Hidden Secrets – Flying with the Dragon

Hidden Secrets - Flying with the Dragon

Addiction doesn’t come in single file; it contains multiple elements!  As a result, the life-sucking tentacles of addiction sink deep and hold fiercely. Nonetheless, addictions can be broken.

I see the devastation of addictions on individuals and their families on a weekly basis. The visibly obvious comes in the form of chemical addictions to alcohol or drugs. With increasing regularity however, it is those entangled in the bondage of sexual addiction who sit before me with downward gaze.

Conservative figures record 48% of women and 78% of men battle this dragon. It is a battle originating from hell’s deepest recesses.

Marriage

Addictions create a threefold cord that is difficult to break over the mind, the body and the soul.

Difficult?
Yes!
Impossible?
No!

I have been on this battle ground with sexual addiction in my home, family, church and community for decades. It is a battle worth fighting! It is a battle worth winning!

[bctt tweet=”It is a battle worth fighting! It is a battle worth winning!” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

A Parable

In a faraway kingdom a quest was in progress to capture the great dragon that was attacking villages by night with fiery fierceness. The King’s own son was sent out to find and subdue the dragon.

Dragon Hunter

When all alone, the prince came upon the sleeping beast. The prince found it difficult to envision this placid creature as the man-slayer the King described.

The dragon spoke first, “I’m not as fierce as the King has said. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite! I am the one to set you free. Come for one flight with me and I will show you.”

The prince was uncertain and confused. He knew he should be more cautious than he was now feeling.

“Sit upon my back and I will take you to unbelievable places. I will give you your heart’s desire.”

The prince instinctively knew he should not trust the beast. “Just one ride would not hurt!”

The prince dismounted his faithful stead and slipped himself between the spines of the dragons back. One swoop of the dragon’s powerful wings lifted them into the night. Upward they went with exhilarating speed. The dragon was true to his word. Never had the prince experienced such things.

As the prince entered the gates of his city, shame cloaked him. “Why was I so easily deceived? I, a prince, have befriended the enemy?”

Silenced by shame, the prince hid himself. Yet, he thought often of the excitement of the ride. Soon he sought out the dragon. Another ride…another night…then another…and another…

On the way into the city by the moonlight he noticed his hands were beginning to form scales. Quickly he covered them with his gloves concealing how much he was becoming like the deadly dragon.

Addiction Exposed

Each night their journey would take them into more and more grotesque places. The prince rode secure upon the dragon as it breathed its fire into homes and villages. Blood stained the princes armor – the blood of his Father’s people!

Under cover of darkness, the prince attempted to slink back into the city. A crowd of angry villagers surrounded him, “He was there! He was riding on the dragon when it destroyed our homes!”

The King approached his son, “Is it true? Were you with the dragon?”

Shame

The prince’s secret could no longer be hidden. “Yes, Father,” was his hollow response.

He was sure the King would enforce the punishment he deserved – life for life. On his knees he waited for his Father’s angry blow. With the hand of mercy his Father touched his shoulder, removing the cloak covering the ugly spines growing on the prince’s back.

“My son,” the Father spoke tenderly.

Looking around, the Father asked, “Who else has ridden the dragon?”

To the prince’s surprise his older brother slowly stepped forward, then his young sister. One by one, many villagers came and bowed mournfully before the King. Few had escaped the dragon’s subtle lure.

[bctt tweet=”Few had escaped the dragon’s subtle lure.” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

Princes and Princesses

In a culture like ours with tolerance and acceptance of sexual perversion, the dragon is constantly fed.  As with any addiction a little taste draws one into ever deepening levels of attraction and bondage.

Apart from the grace of God the noose of addiction destroys completely!

Noose of Addiction

The dragon of addiction is overcome through truth and a community of supporters.  Don’t try to fight alone! Fight to win gaining victory over mind, body, and soul!

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible –
and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”
Ephesians 6:13

It is amazing to watch how those who have overcome “become a light” of help, hope and strength to others in the battle. A necessary but painful part of recovery is coming clean – letting God’s light shine into the secret place. There is no easy way. It will be difficult.

All of us also lived among them at one time,
gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following
its desires and thoughts.”
Ephesians 2:3

“All” is an inclusive word. None of us have room to boast. We each have our own battlegrounds. We all deserve the full weight of punishment for our personal sins. Yet, God has made us for better as His princes and princesses.

First Steps

There is good news!

“But because of his great love for us,
God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ
even when we were dead in transgressions –
…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith –
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God
not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2: 4-10

God’s love and mercy extends to all! To overcome will take work done through His grace alone.

The first step is honesty and transparency. Begin with a visit to a pastor or addictions counselor. There is an army willing to step into the battle with you. You will need to become accountable to others to help you through the process.

Accountability and Freedom

There are no quick fixes. It has taken you years to get to where you are. It will also take years to completely overcome.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more
than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us…”
Ephesians 3:20

Your freedom awaits!

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Parable taken from “Pure Desire – How One Man’s Triumph Can Help Others Break Free

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Leave a confidential comment or get connected here!

 

Satan – A Roaring Lion, A Barking Dog, A Buzzing Bee

Satan

I would prefer to chat about Jesus, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords, than about the defeated one. There was a little incident this week that made me chuckle, reminding me Satan is nothing more than a roaring lion, a barking dog or a buzzing bee.

A Barking Dog

As a child I would veer off the road to uncharted paths; now I often walk the back allies of the place I call home. At one particular spot, a high chain link fence confines two dogs. Inevitably with jaws flapping, they bolt full tilt at every passer-by, dashing back and forth within their confinement. Their predictable path behind the fence trampled.

Barking Dog

Usually I ignore them. Today I did not! I stood still maintaining absolute eye contact with the lead dog. He continued his aggressive barking, pacing his restricted ground. I stayed quietly staring him down. He stopped directly in front of me barking intensely, then continued his back-forth run. Finally he slinked behind the hedging. Peering through the leaves, he was waiting for me to blink.

Blink? Not a chance! Again he picked up his pattern of intimidation. Again he stopped, this time directly in front of me. He flinched looking away – to the side, to the sky, behind him, above me… Feebly he barked; quickly he stopped. Then with head hung low slowly he headed back to the place he came from, almost looking over his shoulder, but not quite….

Inwardly I chuckled! One more dog stared down!

In Freedom

You see I know where I stand! I am standing and walking in the free zone. The dog is bound by a fence! I have liberty. He does not!

 

Freedom

As a Christian does this make sense? Through the cross of Christ the enemy was debilitated and publicly humiliated.

And having disarmed the powers and authorities,
he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Colossians 2:15

One more note! When Christ was raised from the dead, we were raised victorious IN HIM!

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ,
set your sights on the realities of heaven,
where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.”
Colossians 3:1

This is our reality! We are the ones who walk in freedom, power and authority!

A Roaring  Lion

Yes, scripture says Satan is like a roaring lion looking for someone to “devour”. We don’t need to cower (crouch down in fear). The same passage in I Peter 5 gives instruction.

Stay alert…
resist him…
standing firm...”

Eyeball him down, friends! Eyeball him down!

A Buzzing Bee

Buzzing Bees

One of the biggest challenges I face is the one between my ears. The subtle ungodly thoughts that buzz around like bees, distracting me from the reality of

who I am
the authority I walk in
and my true position in Christ.

Next time you hear the lion roar, a dog barking or a bee buzzing around your head, I hope you stop in your tracks. Then take a look around at the true freedom you have in Christ. Stare that noisy intruder down moving forward rejoicing in the power of the cross and resurrection over you. Don’t forget to grin a little as you do it!

Freedom

Thank You, Lord
for the unbelievable freedom
You have given through
the cross and the resurrection.
When I hear the growls, barks or buzzes
of life,
grant me the wisdom to stand
in the fullness of all
you did.

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Feel free to comment on this or any other post. Blessings!