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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Time to Refresh – New Strength and Energy

Are you in need of refreshing? Perhaps  you need an activity, or lack thereof, to renew personal strength and energy particularly after pouring out physically, emotionally or mentally. These moments usually don’t just happen! Taking time to refresh often takes planning.

What ways have you developed to refresh yourself? A good book, a movie night, a vacation, a relaxing bath, a game of golf, a walk in the woods, a lounge on the couch, or time at the gym? For each of us it might look quite different.

Refresh! New Strength and Energy!

I just spent a few days with others who are involved in ministry at a lakeside retreat. Those few days away with others of like mind was refreshing, enabling me to return home encouraged and with renewed vision.

It wasn’t without struggle though!

Reinvigorate

To refresh means to reinvigorate, or give new strength or energy. I must admit I set out on this little adventure feeling tired. My mind and body were in need of some down time!

Those present were in full time ministry and have been most of their lives. Honestly, I felt like the odd man out or the ugly duckling – the one that just didn’t fit!

I can easily identify with farmers and labourers. It is a culture I know. Such has been my life’s work. The full time ministry environment is relatively new and feels a bit uncomfortable. like wearing a new pair of shoes.

After the first evening’s activities, I snuggled into my sleeping bag to read again from Romans.

“I urge you, brothers and sister, by our Lord Jesus Christ
and by the love of the Spirit,
to join me in my struggle
by praying to God for me.”
Romans 15:30

Now Paul’s struggle was serious! There were those seeking to take his life! He goes on to say…

“so that I may come to you with joy,
by God’s will,
and in your company be refreshed.”
Romans 15: 32

Sometimes God has to speak clearly! This was one of those nights! My struggle was a serious struggle of identity and belonging.

Come with joy and be refreshed!

Here I was in the company of amazing men and women. God gently whispered His confirmation to this little servant that yes, it was His will, that I be here at a “Refresh” conference to, in fact, be refreshed!

I almost laughed at the simplicity of God’s affirming word. I began to recognize I am in His perfect spot at the right time to be reinvigorated, strengthened and energized.

To Stimulate Memory

Is it just me who knows, but forgets?

My bible is an important tool to refresh my mind. The words within at times feel like a gentle reminder of truth, and at others like a baseball bat to the shin!

When I am weary and in need of refreshing, I can easily forget who I am in Christ.

“…with an anxious mind,
eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart.
You will live in constant suspense,
filled with dread both night and day,
never sure of your life.”
Deuteronomy 28: 67-68

I am being painful honest. When I am feeling drained emotionally, physically, mentally or relationaly, I fit this description!

Refresh in the waiting and resting!

Back up a few verses! You will find this is not a condition associated with the blessing God promises, but rather the result of opposing God. There is no victory on this side!

Even though these verses describe my feelings, they sure don’t describe my true position! Go back a few more verses and we taste of the real truth as a son or daughter of God:

“You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
The fruit of your womb will be blessed,
and the crops of your land
and young of your livestock
Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
You will be blessed when you come in
and blessed when you go out.”
Deuteronomy 28:3-4

No room for anxiousness, weariness or despair here! My circumstances may be a long way from lining up, but there is nothing to keep my mind and heart from agreeing with God’s truth about me and my family!

It is time to remember what I know!

To Refill a Container

The third main meaning of refresh is to refill, recharge, or replenish like a drink in a container.

I leak! That probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you, but sometimes I forget that too!

I need to take time to refill, recharge and replenish those areas where I have been pouring into the lives of others. God is a never ending Source; I am not!

Splash it around and others will be refreshed!

The only way to truly fill up is in the Presence of God. There are no “drive-through windows” or “fast-track” to refuel. It requires time with God, waiting on the Holy Spirit, and lavishly worshiping Jesus. To refill our emptiness we must wait in the stillness of quietly knowing and resting in Him. It is the beautiful being “with” God.

Here alone is the place of ultimate refresh!

“… be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Ephesians 5:18

Holy Spirit is ready to “keep on filling constantly and continually” our leaky containers. It is like being  thirsty on a hot day, a sip of water is never enough! In the same way, only Holy Spirit satisfies are deepest thirst!

We come into His Presence one way and leave changed. Then when we “leak”, we leak Him! We leak His love and goodness! We leak His grace and truth!

In so doing, our refreshing, becomes the refreshing others can taste and see for themselves. I think leaky buckets is an apt description of God’s intention for us. God refreshes us for the purpose of leaking enough to refresh others. I like that!

 

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Read On!!!

The 3 Keys of Effective Ministry! Secrets of Success!

Do it Again Lord! Renew! Restore! Revive!

A Refreshing Stream – A Good Rain is Coming!