This is a one-part series before I start a 3-part Christmas series. Last Sunday we discussed one of the major hinderances to answered prayer — unforgiveness. I think it is also a major hindrance to Christmas joy. Mark 11:25 tells us that when we stand praying that we must forgive anything we hold against one another so that we will be forgiven ourselves. I do not believe this is talking about salvation because other scriptures related to receiving salvation do not add this stipulation. When we ask God to forgive, He is faithful and just to forgive. However, if we do not forgive others, we walk around this world AS someone unforgiven. Our eternity may be changed already, but our life on earth will be like someone who is not forgiven. Being right before God does not give us more favor with God, but it does give us faith to receive from Him. It’s hard to go before someone to whom we owe money and ask them for something with any hope that they will say yes.
A note on the statement that we should forgive 70x7 times. The number 7 in the Bible indicates perfection, which means we should forgive to perfection, until they no longer need to be forgiven.
We looked also at a parable Jesus tells in Matthew 18. There is a servant forgiven of a debt of 10,000 talents. A talent was made up of about 3000 shekels of silver. A shekel was worth about $0.50. So 3000 would be about $1500. Then he owed 10,000 talents — about $15 million. That is a huge, insurmountable debt (just like our sin). In the Bible, servants were to work for the lender (them and their family) until the debt is paid back.
After he pleads with his master the debt is completely forgiven. Then he turns and immediately finds a man who owed him about 100 dinari. A dinari was worth about $0.15. So the man owed him about $15. He demands the man pay and, when he cannot, has him thrown into jail. Now this course of action was perfectly legal. But the picture we see is that we CAN choose to live by the law or we can choose to live by grace.
When word gets to the man's master he is called back to face him. The master was angry and had him turned over to the jailer to be tortured. The jailer can be a picture of the enemy, but I also believe it is the results we deal with when we carry around bitterness and unforgiveness.
Many physical and psychological studies have shown the terrible effects on the human mind and body related to hatred and bitterness. Our body is prevented by our unforgiveness from being able to heal ourselves and fight disease. Proverbs 17:22 reiterates this as well. The bone marrow is where the white blood cells, which fight disease, are produced. There was a study that had people think about something someone had done against them. Within minutes, their blood pressure increased and chemicals known to cause pain and disease were being produced. Proverbs 18:14 echoes this as well. Philippians 3:13 emphasizes that if we are to fulfill God’s purpose, we must forget what is behind and press on toward the things of God. God is not saying the things that occurred in our lives are not important, but we should not continue to let those things rule us or dictate how we behave. Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us to not let the sun go down on our anger. How many of us have let MANY suns go down on our anger? When we sleep, the subconscious continues to dwell on those thoughts!
The Bible also says that this gives the enemy a foothold in our lives. Footholds will eventually become strongholds! We may be putting on the full armor of God every day and fighting the good fight of faith, but we continue to fail because we've actually allowed the enemy a base IN our camp — our hearts and minds!
Remember also we should refrain from picking up the offenses of others. 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 includes a command to the Corinthians from Paul to forgive since he has already forgiven them. He was referring back to a person from 1 Corinthians 15 who was causing problems in the church.
In order to supernaturally forgive, there are three important steps (since there ARE things that will require supernatural forgiveness. We just can't do it on our own). First, choose to forgive. That is the hardest part. We aren't willing to give it to God because we're afraid He won't give them what they REALLY deserve. That is probably true. He doesn't do that with you (Remember the story in Matthew 18?). He actually desired to fix whatever it is in them that causes them to hurt others. We have to be OK with however God deals with it. Remember that forgiving does not mean we allow them back in so they can hurt us again, but that we leave the situation to God to handle and stop letting it hinder us. I would encourage you to read the story in 2 Kings 5 about a girl who was hurt but then is the means by which her master is healed of leprosy by Elisha.
Remember that the forgiveness is mostly for us, but also when we keep the offense to ourselves, God cannot act however He wants to toward that person (the debt is owed to us until we give it over). BUT we have to give it not expecting Him to “get them” but knowing that God may instead just fix the root problem so they will not do it again. Romans 10:14 tells us to bless (speak well of) our enemies). We rely on God to fix us because the person who wronged us can’t fix us
The next step is to allow the Holy Spirit to do the work and help us. John 16:7 and 16:13 and 1 John 1:5 talk about the Holy Spirit being our helper and teacher. God tells us to do many things that are impossible in the natural but none that are impossible in the Spirit. He will do what you are incapable of doing. You can't forgive and forget, but He can.
Last, remain obedient to do what you know to do. Pray for your enemy. Speak blessing over them. This will keep you from falling back into the trap of offense. James 1:12 speaks what happens when we hold evil desires in our heart. Evil desires will always result in action or frustration, neither of which we want. Romans 12:17-21 talks about praying for and blessing our enemies. Heaping hot coals may sound nice, but in the day people put hot coals on their heads in order to keep warm, so it actually means that their needs will be tended to.
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