The Art And Science Of Intentional Forgiveness

BY T. F. TENNEY

Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT) If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Have your ever wished you could rewind the last 7 years, 7 months, 7 days, or 7 minutes of your life and start over? If only you could take back that word spoken in anger, say no to that unwise suggestion, say
yes to that forfeited opportunity, or salvage that broken relationship. Unfortunately, there’s no “rewind button” in real life. However, God does offer us a powerful antidote to heal the REGRETS of past mistakes. It’s called FORGIVENESS.

It’s impossible to give away something that you don’t possess. That’s why before we can ever hope to grant forgiveness to others, we must first receive forgiveness in our own lives. ONLY THE FORGIVEN CAN TRULY FORGIVE!

Guilt is one of the most debilitating of all human emotions. It wreaks destruction in our relationships with others and in our relationship with God. Sometimes, because of the unrealistic expectations of
ourselves or others, we suffer with false guilt. However, to be honest, most of the time PEOPLE FEEL GUILTY BECAUSE THEY ARE GUILTY. All of us have certain things in our life of which we’re ashamed.

Illustration: Many years ago, a prominent playwright in London, England sent the following anonymous note as a joke to twenty of London’s leading citizens… “All has been found out. Leave the city at once.”
All twenty citizens immediately left London!

Unresolved guilt affects us both emotionally and spiritually One psychiatrist estimated that 70% of people in mental wards could be released today if they knew how to find forgiveness! Guilt breaks our
relationships, because it’s a natural tendency to avoid people we’ve wronged. GUILT PRODUCES SEPARATION. And the same phenomenon occurs in our relationship with God!

Isaiah 59:2 (KJV) But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Isaiah 59:2 (NLT) But there is a problem- your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.

BY DOUGLAS STEWART PH.D.

Isaiah 59:2 (CEV) Your sins are the roadblock between you and your God. That’s why he doesn’t answer your prayers or let you see his face.

Paul tells us that a good conscience is essential in maintaining our faith!

1 Timothy 1:18-19 (NLT) Cling tightly to your faith in Christ, and always keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.

Are you suffering from a guilty conscience? Are there scenes from your past that you wish you could erase? Has unresolved guilt caused you to keep your distance from others? Or, more importantly, from GOD!

Remember King David? (2 Samuel 11-12) He was guilty of shirking his responsibilities as King when his soldiers went out to battle. His idleness led to his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her
husband Uriah. The baby born from their adulterous affair also died due to David’s sin. David’s son Ammon would subsequently rape his Halfsister, and his son Absalom would later kill Amnon and repeat his father’s adultery, this time with several of his father’s wives and in the sight of the entire nation! The sword would never depart from David s house, and he would watch his sons scheme against each other, even to the point of killing one another and leading the nation into civil war. And to top it all off, David never even confessed the sin that started it all until he was directly confronted by the prophet Nathan! Talk about a load of guilt! But David repented and received forgiveness!

Psalm 51:1-3. 7-12 (NLT) A psalm of David. regarding the time Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my shame deeds-they haunt me day and night… Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me-now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

Are you tired of dealing with, living in, or running from the past? The good news is that FORGIVENESS FROM THE PAST IS POSSIBLE!

God hates sin, but He loves the sinner!

Satan loves sin, but he hates the sinner!

God forgives us completely whenever we ask. But even after God forgive, the enemy will continually attempt to harass you with guilt.

The guilt we feel BEFORE we repent is called CONVICTION.

The guilt we may feel AFTER we repent is called CONDEMNATION.

It is sent from Satan to push us away from God.

The bad news is that PEOPLE AREN’T LIKE GOD! Receiving God’s forgiveness is easy; receiving people’s forgiveness can be difficult.

What Forgiveness Is Not

Forgiveness is not forgetting.

By forgiving the people who hurt us, we do not erase painful past experiences from our memory. Nothing we have done so far has been able to turn back the clock and remove the unpleasant incidents from our
life history, and forgiveness will not do that, either. We cannot forget, nor should we. Those experiences, and even the pain they caused, have a great deal to teach us, both about not being victimized again and about not victimizing others.

Forgiveness is not condoning.

When we forgive, we lessen the past’s impact on our present and future, but this does not alter the fact that the injuries and injustices we experienced were painful and unfair when they occurred originally. By forgiving the people who hurt us, we are not saying that what was done to us was acceptable or unimportant or “not so bad.” It was bad. It did hurt. It has made a difference in our life. In fact, true forgiveness cannot occur while we are in any way denying, minimizing, justifying, or condoning the actions that harmed us.

Forgiveness is not absolution.

Many who were raised as Christians regularly confessed our sins and then received absolution. They performed whatever penance the priest or pastor may have suggested, and the slate was wiped clean until they next sinned, confessed, and were absolved. Many still associate forgiveness with this sort of absolution, but that is not what we are expected to do when we forgive the people who hurt us. We do not “let them off the hook.” We do not absolve them of all responsibility for their actions. They are still responsible for what they did and must make their own peace with the past. What’s more, “I absolve you” are words spoken from atop our mountain of self righteousness and demonstrate that we have not yet healed our wounds or let go of pain from the past. Absolution is just another way to be “one up” on the people who hurt us. And that is not forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not a form of self-sacrifice.

It is not gritting our teeth and tolerating the people who hurt us. Plastering a smile on our face and “making nice” is not forgiving. Forgiveness is not swallowing our true feelings and playing the martyr,
saying it’s all right when it is not or getting by somehow in spite of the pain. The “grin and bear it”, approach to forgiveness makes life less joyful and more difficult. Actual forgiveness has the opposite
effect and cannot be undertaken halfheartedly. We either forgive or we don’t. Being honest about the fact that we are not ready to forgive yet is better for us in the long run than pretending to forgive.

Forgiveness is not a clear-cut, one-time decision.

It cannot be forced. Forgiveness is what happens naturally as a result of confronting painful past experiences and healing old wounds.

THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY THE LOUISIANA CHALLENGER. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.

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