Forgiveness – the first step

(This is what I wrote up on the way to preach a message since God had re-written in my head what I was going to talk about that night.  So this is what I wrote out.  What I preached/taught was not this verbatim, but I used this as a guide on what I felt God wanted to get out that night.  I am still blessed by this message of Forgiveness.  In 1998, I was still at National Church of God and had the privilege of ministering to youth this Wednesday night.)


There is not one single person in here that has not been hurt by someone else.  Someone has broken a promise to you, someone has hurt you emotionally, mentally or maybe sexually or physically.  These are definite hurts and pains and they creep up from time to time to remind you of your past.

The enemy uses this pain, this hurt to keep you down and keep you from succeeding in your life where God wants you to be.  This person who hurt you could be your mother, your father, your friend, an uncle, or a perfect stranger.  Let’s get an illustration:

My wife, if I may use this story, was about 6 or so years old when her mother promised her that she would go to the mall and take her to get some ice cream.  Well after running around and getting all ready to go, Tana’s mom left the house without Tana.  She had no intention on taking Tana with her at all to begin with.  My wife tells the story as if she can almost remember the hurt and the pain she felt as she stood there looking out of the window crying.  She was hurt.  Her mother had lied to her about taking her somewhere, and it hurt her inside.  You all may look at this as something trivial, but that one incident was chalked up in Tana’s life and those emotions come back from time to time. 

We can be like that little child and have a pain that we felt in our past.  Someone let us down, lied on us, or took something from us.  Some of you in here may have already given your virginity away.  You have lost that piece of yourself and you can never say again that you are a virgin.  Yes you can be forgiven, but physically you are no longer a virgin.  A part of you has been taken from you or rather you have given that most precious gift away to someone.  Since we are on this, let’s say this person no longer will have anything to do with you.  It’s almost as if they have succeeded in their mission and now they are moving on to someone else.  You may feel dirty or used, but you are very angry at this person.

Some people use the words, ‘I resent him for doing that’ and ‘I resent her for lying’.  That word resent literally means to replay in your mind to bring it back as if it were just happening.  You resent that person for hurting you, Tana may resent her mother for doing that to her when she was a child, she may still be hurt by it.

This my friends, is an example of something that devil uses to keep us from God.  I was going to come here tonight all fired up and ready to preach on ‘Turn or Burn’ Hellfire and Brimstone stuff.  But I can’t.  The Lord impressed my heart that many of us in here, myself included, are harboring past hurts and pain that needs to be cleansed and washed before we can go any further.  It is not easy to face those things from the past but we have to do it.  So tonight I am going to be talking about forgiveness.  The title will be “Forgiveness, the first step in the journey.”

The Bible says in (Mat 6:14 KJV)  For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:(Mat 6:15 KJV)  But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Did you hear that?  God has literally said that if you harbor all that unforgiveness inside of you and never forgive that person, then He has no way to forgive you.  It goes both ways though too, so those of you who have hurt someone yourself, you also are not forgiven.  The Bible tells you to not even leave your gift at the altar: (Mat 5:23 KJV)  Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; (Mat 5:24 KJV)  Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.  God don’t want to hear from you and doesn’t want your gifts or even your praise until you have reconciled and restored that person (or at least made an attempt).

I am persuaded that so many of us are weak, puny, dried-up, lazy, and just plain nasty Christians because we are so full of resentment and bitterness.  It manifests itself in our attitudes.  We get nasty attitudes towards our family, towards church, towards powerhouse, towards new faces in school.  All of this because we have allowed the devil to use our pain and hurt against us.  The Bible warns us in (Heb 12:15 KJV)  Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.  See your bitterness spreads like weeds among the people.

Have you ever noticed someone who was just nasty and bitter?  Have you seen them come into contact with people who have since also become nasty?  I see it all the time.  You ever noticed someone who is full of curse words and just foul mouthed?  Ever notice those that they hang around usually are the same?  Well I am here to tell you that foul stuff comes from a hurting person.  If you really get into that person’s life and see what’s going on, they are hurting.  People full of so much nastiness and hatred and anger are totally empty and without love.  Any love that they think they are giving is really just a lie.  True love comes from God and if you are full of bitterness and hatred you cannot have the love of God in you, so you don’t have true love.  You may lust after someone, but love cannot be there.  You may have feelings for someone but you can never love someone.  These things are real!  I am not telling you a lie tonight here folks. 

We are such hard hearted people.  This day and the age in which we live has made us close ourselves up and hold everything in.  We don’t want anyone to know that we are hurting inside.  We don’t want to be looked at as weak or messed up.  But we have let this world get to us and we’ve closed up our hearts and allowed the devil to basically have a field day with our emotions.  He will bring things up that you thought you dealt with years ago!  He will reply things in your mind that you wanted to forget about.  He will make you recall things that hurt you so that he can use that hurt and make you spread it around and get other people all mad and upset.

Most of us here are planning on getting married one day, well you had better be sure to get these issues worked out before you get married.  Your wife may be full of anger towards men and not even realize it.  Let me tell you of something that ministered to me during our pre marriage counseling.

(Tell the wife in kitchen story…)

See she was holding that stuff in and had never dealt with it.  She may have thought she forgave her father, but really had not completely forgiven him.  They went through some serious counseling about this issue because she was totally unable to relax and enjoy her husband sexually because of it.  I hope you all are seeing the power that this unforgiveness has in our lives as we hold it in and can see that it controls you.

So how do we forgive?  The answer to that is, just how God forgives.  God says in His Word (Psa 103:8 KJV)  The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. (Psa 103:9 KJV)  He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. (Psa 103:12 KJV)  As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (Psa 103:17 KJV)  But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children.  He is full of everlasting forgiveness towards us.  And we are told: (Eph 4:32 KJV)  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. 

Remember; 1. We must deal with this forgiveness quickly.  We found out the dangers of harboring the hurt and the unforgiveness.  2. We must forgive completely.  We just read that God is full of everlasting forgiveness towards us.  You must forgive completely, not just let it slide.  You have to deal with it so that it is no longer remembered.  And how is it that you can do this?  Three points and I am done.

1. You have to see the Person as God Sees them.

All people in God’s eyes are important.  Those who are unsaved or causing you grief are still just as important to God because they are the ones He is trying to reach (possibly through you).  The cafeteria worker, the gas station attendant, the janitor, the teacher; they all need Jesus just like we all do.  Your friends need Jesus in their lives, and God cares for all of them.  We read: (2 Pet 3:9 KJV)  The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance; even the person who flips their middle finger at you or cusses you out.  Christ died for them as well.

Here is a true picture of forgiveness in the story of a Korean war prisoner.  In short he was tortured and beat and cut up and bled.  But he said that I never was angry with the man because I knew how much he was dead inside, I knew he needed Jesus.  Every night he prayed for him.  Eventually the prisoner was released and he moved to the United States.  Many years later the prisoner somehow met the guy again in a church.  The man had gotten saved and told him that it was the love that he showed to him that he could never forget.  That forgiveness that was shown to him was so powerful that it broke through the walls of hatred and violence and brought that guard to Christ!

We are told to: (Mat 5:44 KJV)  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.  It’s not always easy, but remember that if you are unforgiving, then God cannot forgive you of your sins.  Seeing people with the love of God in your heart will help you grow further into a more tender hearted person.

2. You have to feel what the other person is feeling.

It is so easy to stand back and point and say how ugly someone is or how mean and nasty they are.  But do you have any idea what they are going through?  I admit that I made fun of married people who were very angry and had horrible attitudes, until I got married and realized how much of a work it is in marriage.  See you have to try and see what the other person is seeing in order to walk in love with them.  You don’t know if they act mean and evil because they have been molested by a family member when they were younger.  You don’t know if they are so full of anger because they were physically abused.  Just like during our premarital counseling, our teacher didn’t know that his wife was sexually abused and he said that he wondered why their sex life was horrible.  Do you know how it feels to be blind?  Or how it feels to be in a wheelchair, or how it feels to suffer from muscular dystrophy?  We need to learn how to feel what the other person feels.  I never knew how it felt to loose a child until we almost lost Keira before she was born.  Tana called me at work one day crying, saying she had been bleeding a lot and was afraid that she was miscarrying.   My heart died.  I then knew what it feels like to loose a child, thank God Keira was fine, Hallelujah!  But I am able now to feel compassion for someone who lost their child better than I ever was.  I have a better sense of what they are going through.

3. Love as Christ loves.

God loved us so much that He sent us His Son.  He went into action.  He did something about it.  We need to be motivated to help others learn how to forgive.  Demonstrate that forgiveness in our own lives.  We need to become the Gospel for these people.  We need to show that compassion, in action.

Mortal Lessons:

Richard Selzer in his book Mortal Lessons writes these moving lines, “I stand by the bed where the young woman lies, her face post-operative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve. Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and altogether they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wrymouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? The young woman speaks. ‘Will my mouth always be like this?’ She asks. ‘Yes,’ I say, ‘it will. It is because the nerve was cut.’ She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. ‘I like it,’ he says. ‘It is kind of cute.’ All at once I know who he is. I understand, and lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close, I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works.” Understanding and tender love, there is no substitute.

January 1, 2013

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