Forgiveness: Man’s Greatest Need: Part I
Begin with a Self-Inventory
This is the first in a series entitled: Forgiveness: man’s Greatest Need. Forgiveness is man’s greatest need. Without it, there is eternity in hell and misery on earth. With it there is eternity in heaven and a simplified life on earth.
Moreover, relationships are marred by constant friction. Often there are sleepless nights and long days as a result of God-displeasing activities of sinning and being sinned against. These facts underscore that forgiveness is man’s greatest need.
Without forgiveness, you are unable to pay the price your own sins and your sinfulness in Adam deserve! You are hostile toward God and others and perhaps yourself. With it, God draws close to you. By it, He has reconciled Himself to you and you to Him. Therein is the peace which transcends all human understanding (Philippians 4:7).
The term forgiveness is a pregnant one plumbing the depths of the riches of the Triune God’s Being. It highlights His love, mercy, righteousness, anger, and justice. It spotlights the Person and work of Jesus Christ – His perfect life and His perfect death. It focuses on the Holy Spirit and His work in the believer and the Church.
I begin the series – forgiveness: man’s greatest need – with a familiar passage: Matthew 7:1-6. I begin here because life is relational: vertical – to God – and horizontal – to others. Every person relates to God and to others properly or improperly. Matthew 7:1-6 forces the reader to focus first on his own sin (his log) while he addresses the sin of the other person (his speck).
Notice the focus is twofold but begins with one’s own sin (his log) including his response to God and the other person if he has been sinned against. His speck is the other person’s sin because it is the other person’s sin! His sin is the log because it is his!
In our passage, Jesus calls for proper judging by putting forth the choice: judge or not judge. Jesus addressed the subject of proper judging by referring each person to his own sin and to the sin of others.
Each person has a log and a speck. The log is his own sin and the speck is the other person’s sin. Jesus is teaching that judging must begin with you. Make sure you are as aggressive about your own sin as you are about the other person’s sin. It seems so easy to think that being sinned against justifies sinning in return or making it easy for another to sin in the first place. This approach views the other person’s sin (your speck) against you as worse than your response which is always to God (your log).
Both sin and sinner need to be judged. But the real questions are by whom and how. Since forgiveness is relational, check yourself before God and the other person before you judge. If you are ministering to someone, the same principles apply. In other words judge yourself first or have the one that you are helping judge himself first! Ask:
- Is there sin?
- What is my sin and or sins?
- Is it patterned?
- How have I made it easy for the other person to sin in response to my sin?
- What do I need to do to correct my sin and its consequences?
There may be no culpability on your part. However, the relationship is still unreconciled. Repentance is a key when you seek forgiveness and a restored relationship. Generally, it is wise to be harder on yourself than on the other person.
Remember that forgiveness is relational. The vitality and significance of your relationship to God and the other person are on the line so to speak. The Bible covers both: God to you (1 John 4:18) and you to God and others (Matthew 22:37-40). However, the vertical controls the horizontal. This highlights forgiveness: man’s greatest need.
Sinners do sin. Everyone sins against others and is sinned against. In a fallen world you can expect it. Based on the believer’s new capacity (2 Corinthians 5:17), there must be a willingness and eagerness to repent and forgive. A word of caution is in order. It is important to note that forgiveness is a promise that is only between believers. A believer can make no promises of forgiveness to an unbeliever. The unbeliever can’t repent or accept the promise because he is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit. I discuss this important point later.
In order to relate properly to God the believer must have a willingness to forgive. In that way, he imitates the Triune God. As noted above, the believer can’t repent to or ask for forgiveness from an unbeliever. The unbeliever has no understanding of the cross and biblical forgiveness. He can’t accept forgiveness because that requires the indwelling Holy Spirit.
The believer can and should express sorrow for sinning against the unbeliever. Likewise, the believer can’t forgive the unbeliever but he can and must stand ready to forgive (Mark 11:25). He should do all he can to bring biblical truth to bear on their situation. As we will discuss in future blogs, willingness to forgive differs from granting forgiveness.
- Pick two relationships and read Matthew 7:1-6 in the context of those relationships.
- Write out your logs – your sins – and the other person’s sins – your specks.
- Determine how each may be fostering relationships that are less than pleasing to God.
- Read the future blogs that address what forgiveness is, what it is not, its cost, and the subjects of cover/confront. Be ready to apply what you learned to your relationships.
Forgiveness: Man’s Greatest Need: Matthew 7: Part II
The Log and the Speck in the Context of Relationships
This is the second in the series Forgiveness: Man’s Greatest Need. Consider these non-negotiable truths. God created man a relational being. Every person is a dependent being in relationship to God and to others.
It may seem strange but God endowed man with the capacity to love himself. In the Garden pre-fall, that activity was most appropriate. Post-fall, loving self competed with loving God. Sin disconnected loving God and properly loving self. In another section in the series, I discuss the triad of love of God, others, and self.
Jesus captured these non-negotiable truths in Matthew 22:37-40 (my paraphrase: as a whole person, thoughts, desires, and actions, the first commandment is to love God with everything you have, and the second is like it – love your neighbor as you already love yourself).
God designed to live with others and to relate to them in a God-honoring way. Post-fall, self got in the way. Self-pleasing is fallen man’s motto for life. Concern for self and self-absorption became mankind’s patterned lifestyle. Man’s new normal was pleasing self, for self by self, to get. This highlights forgiveness: man’s greatest need!
Man is a sinner even if he is saved. Some may quibble and say the Bible does not call the believer a sinner. That is unfortunate. The book of 1 John is one book that continually holds out the reality of sin in the believer (1 John 1:7-9; 2:1-2).
John opposes a patterned, unchanging lifestyle manifested by the same sin. Such is how believers should interpret 1 John 2:3-6. John explained in the following verses that the old and new are related. The believer’s sinfulness in terms of thoughts, desires, and actions give way to godliness; but it is not instantaneous (3:1-3, 9-10).
As a result of remaining sinfulness and habituation, people sin against God and others and people are sinned against. These activities are relational; relationships are affected. Misery and strife, within a person and with others, are too common even among believers. Issues and people take center stage. Winning or self-protection becomes the most important issues. The issues may be trivial but they are not considered as such at the time (James 4:1-3). Again this highlights forgiveness: man’s greatness need.
The issues are not people or the situation. Rather, the issue is the believer as he processes God’s providence. Being sinned against and one’s response often exposes the fragility of relationships with others and with God.
Yet relationships are the context of the problem – the person’s heart (Proverbs 4;23). Relational problems are people problems – one or all parties. Therefore, it is mandatory to gather and properly interpret facts using biblical truth as one’s interpretative grid. In that way, biblical truth sets the persons free!
This rule applies to self-examination and one-on-one ministry with another. The facts should include all parties’ responses which are heart issues. These areas are part of the dynamics of personal relationships. Each must be addressed God’s way if victory is to occur.
God expects and has equipped believers to love one another. Love of the brethren marks a person as a disciple of Christ and is to characterize God’s church (1 John 3:11-15; John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:7-12). Matthew 7:1-6 gives insight into an aspect of fostering relationships God’s way. It focuses on the proper manner of judging. It gives direction as to how to develop and grow God-honoring relationships.
In Matthew 7:1-6, Jesus taught that it is easy, even “natural,” to wrongly focus on another’s sin. Because of a wrong focus and as a consequence of the wrong focus, the person functions as judge of the other person. Consequently he will neglect doing and heeding his own spiritual self-inventory. Effectively, he avoids judging himself.
Functionally, the person is more interested in attacking the person for real or presumed sin rather than focusing on himself and his own sin and sinfulness. Every person has a speck. It is the other person’s sin because it is the other person’s. Every person has a log. It is the person’s own sin. It is a log because it is his sin. It is easy to focus on the other person especially if the sin against you is great or considered great by you.
The dynamic of seeking reconciliation points to forgiveness: man’s greatest need. Every believer will function as a forgiver and one forgiven. He will begin with self according to Matthew 7:1-6 which prepares him to confront and reconcile. Forgiven by God emphasizes and gives impetus to forgiveness: man’s greatest need,
- Read and study Matthew 7:1-6.
- What truths do you gather from the passages that apply to forgiveness and relationships?
- A proper self-inventory enables you to do what?
Forgiveness: Man’s Greatest Need: Part III
This is the third in a series: Forgiveness: Man’s Greatest Need. I began with Matthew 7:1-6 so that the one sinned against has a proper vertical reference as he prepares to confront in order to reconcile. He is to be mindful of God’s forgiveness of him!
These verses in Matthew teach that each person has a log and a speck. Your sin is your log which prevents you from seeing clearly his sin (your speck) as well as your sin (your log). Your speck is his sin because it is his.
In these passages Jesus makes the all-important point that there is no such thing as big and little sins or little and big sinners. Repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation of any and all sins including Adam’s first sin require Christ’s shed blood and the work of the Holy Spirit. Forgiveness: man’s greatest need is traced back to the Garden!
In preparing to meet the other person, wrongly focusing on the other person’s sin (your speck) will functionally hinder you from addressing your log. As a result, no meaningful growth in Christlikeness will occur in you or in him. Individuals and relationships will not mature. Church life will be stalemated and strife will be the order of the day. It is not a pretty picture (see 1 Corinthians 1:11-17; Galatians 5:13-15; Philippians 2:3-5; James 4:1-3).
It is not easy for a person to take his eyes off self when he has an improper self-reference and an improper God-reference. It is also easy to fail to look up to God because of a wrong view of God, self, and others. When the person’s emphasis (“eyes”) is on the sins of the other person, there may be an improper other-reference and an improper vertical reference. These two references are linked.
As a result, relationships will dishonor God; there will be angst in the soul of all parties involved because one or both are functioning as a hypocrite rather than a fellow brother-sinner. Moreover, the cause of Christ will be harmed (John 13:34 -35).
Every sin has a vertical reference – it is a sin against God. A person’s own sin is his log which he is responsible. One sin (Adam’s first sin) required a just God to demand full payment.
Even if it was possible for a person (other than Christ) to have personal sinless-ness (it is not!) – not to sin – Adam’ first sin put every person in a state of condemnation (Romans 5:12-14). Every person is guilty before God and this guilt and condemnation must be addressed because God is just and righteous. Jesus demonstrated the Triune’s God justice and mercy at the cross. Jesus paid it at the cross.
Many sins have a horizontal reference – against another. Sin separates – you from God and others. Your log is your sin; you must consider the possibility of your sin and deal with it before God and before you address the other person’s sin against you – your speck. This is heavy theology!
Jesus is not teaching that believers should ignore another person’s sin. He is putting things in proper perspective. He is preparing the person before he confronts the other person. Jesus exhorts believers to be as aggressive about their own sin (s) as they are about being sinned against.
There is growth when each person addresses his sin and sinfulness. Jesus did not imply that a believer should never confront another in his sin. Jesus demands proper judgment that comes only when the believer first examines himself. This sets the stage for greater growth in Christlikeness. The person(s) will be in a better position to receive truth and to minister truth to each other.
In these verses Jesus calls His people to judge but to begin with self (the log). As you move to the other person, always remember that the one who has been forgiven much loves much (Luke 7:36-50; Matthew 18:21-35). Love begins vertically but is expressed horizontally – to spouse, family, and enemy. The minimum that what “love looks like” is a willingness and eagerness to forgive (Mark 11:24-26).
- Relationships are to be God-honoring. Are there any of your relationships that are not?
- Search for your log – your sin: what did you do or not do that made it easy for the other to sin against you?
- If there are sins you committed, repent of the biblical principle violated, the pattern if appropriate, and the excuses for the sin including slowness in repenting.
- Seek to clear the bar that separates you from another believer and leave the results to God. This prepares you to confront your brother.
Forgiveness: Part IV
I am addressing the issue: Forgiveness: Man’s Greatest Need. This is the fourth in blog series. A short review is in order. The premise: forgiveness is man’s greatness need, is a non-negotiable truth.
In a biblical sense and rightly understood, man is a needy person. As I have alluded to, this state was not normal. Adam and Eve were created in harmony with God and each other. There was no sin, no judgment, no wrath, and no death, spiritual or physical.
However, when Adam sinned his eyes were opened but not to truth. He pictured himself as needing protection – cover. He suppressed the truth about God, Eve, and self. He was guilty and condemned. He ran from God but to no avail (Genesis 3:6-10).
In response, God exiled them and mankind from His presence. They were now needy people. They were lacking! They lacked a proper standing before God. Now forgiveness was their greatest need. God, in His mercy and justice, provided His forgiveness in Christ. Because every believer is united to Christ, he is thereby forgiven in Christ. What is forgiveness?
God’s forgiveness is a transaction, a declaration, a promise by God to you that your sins are remembered no more – out of God’s mind so to speak. Sin – guilt and condemnation – has been put behind God’s back.
The Bible uses several metaphors to express the concept of forgiveness. They have been put out of His sight and out of His reach (Isaiah 38:17; 43:25; 44:22; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 103:12; Micah 7:19; Psalm 51:1, 9; Acts 3:19). Obviously the omniscient God does not forget.
The above terms are metaphors to express God’s declaration that He will NOT hold the person He has forgiven guilty and condemned. How can that be? How is it possible to forgive guilty people? Is God playing the game of legal fiction? You know the answer: emphatically NO.
God remembers the believer’s sins no more because He held His Son guilty and condemned at the cross. Jesus went to hell on the cross, thus paying it all. The guilt and condemnation due you, believer, Jesus took to Himself. This includes the guilt from Adam’s first sin. WOW! God will not hold you guilty after He has held Jesus guilty. He would not mistreat and misrepresent the cross and His Son (Romans 5:9-10; 8:32).
The believer is called to remember his forgiveness in Christ as a command and blessing (actually, it is God’s forgiveness of the believer). At least one activity should and will follow being forgiven. The believer, being the most forgiven and loved person, should – and will – be the most forgiving and loving person (see Luke 7:36-50). This is heavy theology and is part the truth: forgiveness: man’s greatest need.
Forgiveness is never earned by us but was earned for us by Christ and received in Christ by the Holy Spirit. It is an Intratrinitarian activity. Horizontal forgiveness is to be modeled after God’s forgiveness of the believer.
The omniscient God remembers no more because He remembers His Son’s work. So too is the believer. God remembers His own legal transaction of declaring His Son guilty and the believer, in Christ, not guilty. God will never reverse this judgment (Rom. 8:33-34; Hebrews 7:25; 9:24). Praise God.
For the believer, forgiveness is a gift and carries a duty and privilege. It is a blessing to be forgiven and to forgive again highlighting forgiveness: man’s greatest need. The truth of forgiveness and the God of forgiveness probe the heart. Forgiving others as you have been forgiven is probes the depths of the very Being of God.
Being forgiven and forgiving is humbling and a learning experience – about self and God, the cross, and God’s love and mercy. For the believer, granting forgiveness means he goes on record as God did. He makes a promise and a declaration to the person, to God, and to himself that he will not raise the offense again in a judgmental (such as gossip), accusatory, or revengeful manner.
The forgiver promises not to bring up the offense order to hurt the other person and their relationship. Forgiveness is always vertical – to God – and horizontal – to man (Matthew 18:21-35). Granting forgiveness and the willingness to forgive are not synonymous and will be the subject of our next blog.
- Write out your understanding of forgiveness.
- Read Luke 7:36-50 and Matthew 18:21-35. Write out what you learn about God, self, and forgiveness.
- To which relationships do you need to apply these truths?
Forgiveness, Part V
This is fifth in the series: Forgiveness: Man’s Greatest Need. Not only is forgiveness man’s greatness need, it is a commonly misunderstood truth. In the first blogs, I emphasized that Matthew 7:1-6 was a cornerstone passage. Forgiveness is relational. Functioning as a forgiving person begins with an accurate knowledge of one’s own sin. My sin and yours hinders a proper perception of our forgiveness in Christ and hinders a proper view of the other person’s sin.
In the last blog, I gave a proper definition of forgiveness. Succinctly, it is going on record declaring to and promising God, self, and the other person that you will not bring up the offense for the offender’s hurt or detriment, or to hinder the relationship.
In this section I set out categories of forgiveness in order to clarify the full spectrum of biblical forgiveness. The first category is termed Judicial Forgiveness. It involves God’s forgiveness of and to you. It accompanies the transfer of the now-believer from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light that occurs at salvation. It is a once-for-all activity on God’s part as Judge.
God is the Just Judge of all the earth (Genesis18:25). He is a God of wrath as He should be (2 Thessalonians 2:5-10; Hebrews 10:26-31)! Through Christ’s activity – a perfect life – and obedience to and on the cross, He was/is the perfect sacrifice, God declares sinners to be forgiven – not guilty and not condemned. As a result of Christ’s mediatorial work, God can and does forgive.
One result of God’s forgiveness is given in Romans 8:1: there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. God promised and kept His promise. When believers were forgiven in Christ at salvation, God remembered their sins no more. Believer, God will not bring up your sin to the detriment of His relationship with you. In part, forgiveness of another is modeled after God’s Judicial Forgiveness of you. This is a once-for-all forgiveness never to be repeated.
The second category of forgiveness is Paternal Forgiveness. In contrast to Judicial Forgiveness, God as Father forgives believers on an ongoing basis. He does remember their sins but not as Judge but as Father. Fatherly forgiveness is repeated and ongoing because His children displease Him regularly (Matthew 6:12). Being rebuked and being forgiven are joys to and for the believer.
A third category of forgiveness is Familial Forgiveness: believer to believer (Ephesians 4:31-32; Colossians 3:12-14). I will discuss this subject in later blogs. Suffice it to say that the believer has only two options in regards to sin and a fellow believer: cover or confront.
A fourth category is Non-familial Forgiveness: believer to unbeliever. Unbelievers can’t repent and you, the believer, can’t grant him forgiveness. Since he has no indwelling Holy Spirit, the concept of sin is foreign to him. He does not have the capacity or desire to repent of sin and receive forgiveness (Romans 8:5-8). That, in part, means that much spiritual maturity on the part of the believer is needed as he interacts with the unbeliever.
The believer must (is obligated) have a willingness – a heart’s desire – to forgive. A willingness to forgive is biblical (Mark 11:25). It differs from granting forgiveness. A willingness to forgive, at least, means no grudge holding, bitterness, and revenge. It means making it easy for the other person to repent to you and to God.
A willingness to forgive is having an attitude of forgiveness. It is a must for the believer. It is Christ-like (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60; 2 Timothy 4:16), yet it is not granting forgiveness. An unwillingness to forgive may be due to ignorance, resentment, and bitterness. The latter two lead to grudge holding which is primarily against God.
- Review the principles in these “forgiveness” blogs. What is your understanding of forgiveness?
- Believer: how are you thinking, desiring, and acting as a forgiven and a forgiving person?
- Make the link between being forgiven and forgiving according to Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 7:36-50.
- Think ahead: how will you be able to handle the hurts of being sinned against?
Forgiveness: man’s Greatest Need: Part VI
Forgiven and Forgiving
This is the sixth in the series: Forgiveness: Man’s Greatest Need. This series addresses the all-important subject of forgiveness. I opened the series with Matthew 7:1-6. Jesus taught the importance of proper judging in the context of relationships. Relationships matter. Since we live in a fallen world, everyone can expect to sin and to be sinned against. A person’s response to each is crucial.
Forgiveness is one means by which God opens the flood gate of His goodness. In that light, we defined forgiveness as a transaction, at least between the forgiver and God, and often the other person. The forgiver promises God, self, and the other person not to hold the offense against the offender. The forgiver goes on record promising and declaring not to let the sin harm the relationship. This is heavy theology. Sin may be grievous and reconciliation messy! It takes biblical wisdom and grace to correctly apply these general principles.
Forgiveness of one believer to another believer is to be modeled after God’s forgiveness – I will remember your sins no more (Psalm 51:1, 9; 103:12; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Isaiah 38:17; 43:25; 44:22; Micah 7:19; Acts 3:19). This is not legal fiction. Because God has placed the believer’s sin debt on Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21 – Isaiah 53:6, 9), there is no condemnation for the believer as he is in Christ (Romans 8:1).
Therefore as forgiven people, believers are to think and act forgiven (Romans 6:11). The believer will be ready to grant forgiveness AND he will grant it as is appropriate. I discuss the aspects of forgiving another in later blogs.
Previously, I discussed various categories of forgiveness including Judicial, Paternal, Familial, and Non-familial Forgiveness. The believer always is to stand ready to forgive. It is Christ-like to forgive (Ephesians 4:31-32; Colossians 3:12-14). It is also Christ-like to be ready to forgive (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60; 2 Timothy 4:16).
A forgiving attitude and the granting of forgiveness are to be directed from one believer to another believer (Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Mark 11:25). What motivation does God give for functioning as a forgiving person? God answers the question in Matthew 18:21-35 and Luke 7:36-50. The believer is a forgiven person! Those passages highlight forgiveness: man’s greatest need.
They highlight and even exclaim the magnitude of man’s indebtedness to God and man’s woefully arrogant, ignorant suppression of that truth. The passages highlight a holy God who stoops down and embraces sinners in His forgiveness.
The first servant in the Matthew 18 passage, when confronted with pay-up, by the master begged for mercy and received it. In his begging, he claimed he would repay his debt even though the amount was outrageously high and un-payable. It was comparable to our national debt!
His arrogance and ignorance toward God was manifested when he failed to respond to his fellow servant as the master did to him (18:29-33). He had no concept of God’s holiness, his own guilt and indebtedness, and his inability to pay.
The Luke passage teaches that a proper understanding of love, of being forgiven, and loving are linked. God is supreme as a Lover and Forgiver. Much love give rise to deeper and thorough forgiveness; in turn, forgiveness gives rise loving much. Mary considered Christ’s forgiveness of her a supernatural and awesome gift. She understood God’s forgiveness of her as a gift of love.
Therefore, as a forgiven person, she understood forgiveness: man’s greatest need. It was hers! She was quick to love Jesus. It was the most logical thing she could do! In contrast to Simon, Mary was quick to function as a forgiving person. She had an idea of the cost of the gift of forgiveness.
Forgiven people are lovers of God and lovers of others. They have a willingness to forgive AND are quick to forgive when the other party repents. Simon had no idea of his indebtedness. Therefore, he had a low view of being forgiven by someone other than himself. He had himself and his lawkeeping to rely on. He was a self-server and missed the joy of forgiveness: man’s greatest need,
In regard to the unbeliever, the believer is privileged and expected to maintain a forgiving attitude (Mark 11:25). However, there is no requirement to grant forgiveness (some call this transactional forgiveness) to those who fail to repent whether he is a believer or unbeliever. Moreover, the unbeliever can’t repent because he has no concept of sin and has no indwelling Holy Spirit. Therefore the believer can’t grant forgiveness to the unbeliever although he must stand ready to forgive.
The believer, as the spiritually mature one, must determine where the sin resides: with him and or the other person or both. To the degree that the believer has contributed to the broken relationship, he must approach the unbeliever expressing a desire to correct what he can. He must approach the believer ready to reconcile.
- Continue to study the material on forgiveness. Determine your understanding of it.
- What is your view of your own sinfulness? Read and study 1 Timothy 1:15 and write out how it helps you understand AND apply Matthew 7:1-6.
- What relationships do you need to apply the principles we have been discussing?
Forgiveness: Man’s Greatest need: Part VII
The subject of this seventh blog in the series: Forgiveness: Man’s greatest Need, is un-forgiveness. I address some of the reasons a believer may fail to forgive. In the next blog I will address consequences of this failure. I have alluded to several reasons why a believer may fail to forgive. Consider these. One reason may simply be a failure to realize he has sinned against a brother. This failure may be understandable and even excusable. I will cover this issue in the section entitled: Cover and Confront: When?
Another reason may be a lack of understanding of what forgiveness is and a failure of the forgiver and forgivee to understand their own status and identity as forgiven people. Such was the case with Simon (Luke 7:36-50) and the first servant (Matthew 18:21-35).
Forgiveness is relational: God to you, you to God, and you to others. Being forgiven places the believer in a position for remembering how important relationships are; functioning accordingly logically follows (Matthew 22:37-40).
This fact is highlighted by the simple truth that this is God’s world and not yours or mine. We live in it His way for His glory and we are blessed exponentially when we do. When relationships are God-honoring, there is joy, peace, and contentment. Life is simplified.
Building and holding onto biblically strong relationships is facilitated by forgiveness. Such is the impetus of Matthew 5:23-24 and Luke 17:3-10. Body life in the Church is God-honoring. The fruit of restored relationships often serves as a magnet for others as they witness the greatness of being forgiven and forgiving. Again, it highlights the fact: forgiveness: man’s greatest need!
Another reason for failing to forgive resides in the person: he does not want to give up control. Failing to forgive and grudge holding go hand-in-hand. The un-forgiver perceives the sin against him as so heinous that he has a right to hold a grudge. He has no willingness to forgive and nurses his own hurts. Being sinned against justifies his grudge holding.
Being sinned against is no small matter. Simply it hurts. However, we can focus and major on our hurts rather than on our God. Sin is never to be minimized. The believer does that by maximizing grace. Sin must be dealt with but it must be dealt with God’s way for His glory.
Failing to forgive or at least failing to be at peace as far as it is possible is an attack on God, His power, goodness, and wisdom (Romans 12:17-21 especially v.17). The grudge holder functions as a troublemaker. Prideful, he functions as if:
- relationships are not important;
- he carries the power and control of the situation by holding the offense over the other person;
- God’s forgiveness of him at the cross is “no big deal.” The cross does not motivate him to forgive as he has been forgiven.
- Consider your relationships at home, church, work, socially: how are they?
- Which ones do you need to reevaluate according to the biblical principles that we have been discussing?
- Prioritize your answers and seek to think, desire, and act as a forgiven person.
- Record the results.
Man’s Greatest need: Forgiveness, Part VIII
Consequences of Un-forgiveness and Grudge-holding
In this section of the series: Forgiveness: Man’s Greatest Need, I consider some consequences of an unwillingness to forgive and initiate reconciliation. Failing to forgive carries its own burden. As we have discussed, grudge-holding is a major consequence of a high view of self and low view of God (Matthew18:21-35; Luke 7:36-50).
Grudge holding is an attack on God – His character, wisdom, and goodness. It is based on a view that God is a debtor God (He owes you) and a degraded God (your works, no matter how tainted, should suit God just fine). Underlying grudge holding is the belief that your sin of grudge holding is not a sin or is less of a sin than that which had been done to you.
Moreover, it is based on the false belief that being sinned against allows you to sin against the other person, because you deserve better treatment than God gave His Son – Jesus Christ. The grudge holder functions as if relationships don’t matter: God to him, him to God, and him to the other person. The un-forgiver can expect angst within himself and misery in this life (Proverbs.13:15b; 26:11).
Another consequence and effect of un-forgiveness is expressed in Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13. Failure to forgive leads to disruption of and the absence of a one-anothering ministry in the church. When that happens problems are not solved, believers and the church become factious, and God is dishonoring (1 Corinthians 1:10-17).
Conversely, failing to apply passages addressing forgiveness leads to grudge holding. In effect the unforgiving person removes these passages from his Bible or functions as if they were not there. Prideful, the grudge holder assumes that he is a higher authority than God’s Word. Since forgiveness is relational, it is vital to and for body life – at church and home. Forgiveness is man’s greatest need, at home and at church. Proper horizontal activity (person to person) reflects a correct view of one’s vertical reference (to God) both individually and corporately, at church and at home.
One other consequence of grudge holding is attempting to forgive you. This is a common ploy of the psychologized. Consider this cycle of control and controlling.
- First, there is the fact of being sinned against.
- Second, wrong thinking and desires fosters bitterness and resentment.
- Third, the hurts of being sinned against, a sinful response to it, and to the other person produces further an inner-man unrest and angst.
- Fourth, in an effort to remove “bad feeling” the person is told to or takes it on himself the task of forgiving himself. He is not told how except just do it. Many reasons, actually excuses, are given for this activity.
The resultant inner-man angst is a logical and predictable consequence of trying to forgive oneself. Instead of seeking God’s counsel in His Word, the “self-forgiver” takes matters into his own hands. He does not understand biblical forgiveness. He is more concerned about bad feelings and their removal than the honor and glory of God.
Trying to forgive self is impossible, utterly foolish, and competes with God and desecrates the cross. Moreover, there is no biblical mandate to forgive self. Consequently and predictably, it leads to greater angst. Simply, self-forgiveness has no biblical warrant.
The idea is that you “sin against self.” Rather you are the sinner. Definitions are important. Sin is a whole-person, anti-God rebellious act against His standard. Sin is not simply the absence of good. It is the very presence of evil. Forgiveness understands and acknowledges this vertical reference first and foremost (Psalm 51:1-3).
The “self-forgiver” considers himself more important than God. He has been hurt and in a desire for relief of bad feelings he seeks to forgive himself. He is using God’s ordained way to store proper fellowship for self rather to please God. All the while he has missed the fact that being sinned against is somehow worse than his sinful response. He is not concerned about his sin against God, the True Forgiver (Romans 3:21-26; 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He places himself on a par with God.
Forgiveness is not about making a person feel good. It is about God restoring Himself to hell-deserving sinners. Attempting to forgive self is stealing from and competing with God. It makes a statement that Christ’s active obedience (a perfect life before the cross) and His passive obedience (His death and going to hell on the cross) is impotent. Functionally, the self-forgiver claims that God failed, Christ’s cross-work did not do the job, and he must be his own savior.
- Where are you in your vertical and horizontal relationships?
- How has your relationship with God, and God to you, affected your relationships with others beginning at home and working outward?
- Are you guilty of grudge holding? If so specifically write out how you will use God’s truth to honor Him and reconcile one to another.
Forgiveness: Part IX
Cover and Confront
This is the ninth in the series; Forgiveness: Man’s Greatest Need. In the series I have defined the term; discussed the implications of the believer as being forgiven and functioning as a forgiver; discussed false views of forgiveness and potential ramifications; and discussed the perils of attacking God through grudge-holding and self-forgiving. I hope you have been gripped by the greatness, beauty, and the sweetness of God as The Forgiver.
Only a proper understanding of Who God is and who you are as a believer will motivate you to forgive as you have been forgiven individually and corporately as God’s chosen people (Ephesians 4:31-32; Colossians 3:12-14).
There is another aspect of forgiveness that I must address in order to continue our excursus into the biblical view of forgiveness. That aspect is summarized by the motif of confront or cover. How does a believer know which is appropriate? As you might imagine the Bible offers more than enough guidance in this matter. Every believer when faced with another’s sin has two options and only two: cover or confront.
Covering is an Old and New Testament concept (Proverbs 10:12; 17:9; James 5:8; 1 Peter 4:8). In the New Testament the word in the original language (kalupto) means to hide or veil. The idea conveyed in these passages are the necessity of covering sin and love being the instrument that does it.
How is sin hidden and from whom? Sin must be “hidden” from God. How is that possible since He is the all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-understanding God? We plumb the depths of God’s love and mercy in answering the question. Forgiveness is God’s answer. Sins are placed on Jesus’s account and our punishment and guilt is reckoned to Him by the Father (Isaiah 38:17; 43:25; 44:22; Jeremiah 31:34; Micah 7:19; Ps. 51:1, 9; 103:12). The passages indicate that sin is far removed.
As I have mentioned, metaphorically God puts sin behind His back, out of His sight, out of His reach, out of His mind, and out of existence. The sheer amazement of God’s forgiveness is captured in Psalm 130:4: But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are to be feared. God has covered – actively and completely – the guilt and condemnation due to original sin and the believer’s subsequent sins.
The power of sin has been broken and its penalty, guilt, and condemnation are forever removed for and from the believer. In like manner, there are times in which the believer can and must cover another’s sin – hide it from himself and the other person.
Covering is an inner-man activity – a promise to and between the coverer and God. It is the activity of the person who has been sinned against or thinks he has been sinned against. Covering is giving a response to God and the other person BUT not necessarily visibly to the other person.
Here is how it works. The coverer (thinking he has been sinned against) says to God and himself: “I will not let this presumed sin interrupt or rupture my relationship with him and with You.” He considers it a private matter between him and God. Once covered it is done. The coverer is called to keep his promise. He has God as his model – God is the true Promise Keeper.
However, at other times confronting the person about his sin is required (Luke 17:1-10; Matthew 18:15-18). The biblical concept of confronting is often misunderstood. Confrontation is a biblical concept although the word is not commonly used. Consider these examples. God had plans for His people and Pharaoh opposed God. Moses was told to confront Pharaoh face to face – take a stand against him on the Lord’s side (Exodus 8:20; 9:13). A similar theme is conveyed in Psalm 17:13: Rise up God, confront them…: meet them head on, face to face looking for results which is God’s glory.
On what basis and for what reasons does a person confront instead of cover? These are practical questions. Consider these guidelines which I will flush out in the next blog:
- Confrontation may be required; covering is always to be considered. That said, confrontation may be the most loving activity a believer may engage in with another believer.
- When there is sin, attention must be directed to a potential rupture of the relationship. The more mature believer must decide. If he can cover the sin he should. If he cannot he must confront. Reconciliation and preserving the relationship are keys.
- When sin is public and harming the cause of Christ, confronting the person is the loving thing to do and is required. This may be done individually or by the church leaders depending on the nature of the sin and its public knowledge. The circle of sinfulness should be as narrow as possible. Private sins should remain private. Public sins require action.
- When the sin is patterned and without change, confrontation must be a serious consideration.
- What is your view of God as the Great Forgiver? How does that fact influence your relationship with God and others?
- What is your view of yourself as a forgiven person? How does that fact impact your relationship with God and others?
- How do you understand cover and confront?
Forgiveness: Man’s Greatest Need: Part X
This is the tenth in the series: Forgiveness: Man’s Greatest Need. Forgiveness should be considered as multi-faceted. Forgiveness must be appreciated from God’s perspective, the forgiver’s perspective, and the forgivee’s perspective. Only the believer is able to view himself, others, and circumstances through the lens of biblical forgiveness because his God is the Forgiver, par excellence. Forgiveness originated in the mind of God and reaches His people via the cross, the resurrection, and the Holy Spirit.
Forgiveness highlights the relational emphasis given in Matthew 22:37-40 and 1 John 4:7-12, 19. God is love – He is the Lover. In response to being loved, the believer, who was formerly God’s enemy, loves others as a testimony to being loved. God is to be feared and loved because He forgives (Psalm 130:4; Luke 7:36-50).
The key for a proper understanding of forgiveness is to understand relationships. No un-reconciled relationship should exist between believers. They won’t in heaven and they don’t with God. As far as it depends on you believer, be at peace – no grudge holding (Romans 12:17-21).
Reconciliation in the original language means a cessation of enmity and hostility and in its place friendship. The relationship in varying degrees is to thrive. Matthew 5:23-24 indicates the importance of this truth. Reconciliation trumps worship.
The believer is to engage is the ministry of reconciliation as given in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (also see Romans 5:10-11; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:21-22). God declared to every believer: I am no longer hostile to you. Rather, My Son took your place and I poured out my wrath on Him. You are forgiven. I have reconciled myself to you now you reconcile yourself to others and to Me. Simply amazing! Such is forgiveness: man’s greatest need, purchased by the blood of Christ.
The following points should help you decide how you should proceed in terms of relationships especially among believers:
- One, Matthew 18:15-18 addresses one aspect of being sinned against. If your brother sins against you and the sin can’t or should not be covered, the relationship is at stake and God’s name is at stake. This decision is a wisdom issue. In general, the one sinned against must go to the other person. He knows he has been sinned against – or assumes he has. The one who goes to the other person is to bring the sin to light (what biblical principle is violated, is it single or patterned). The goal is for the person to “see” the sin as sin. The word for confront in Matthew 18:15 is a legal term. You go with the idea that sin is a real issue, the relationship is at stake, and sinners must be reconciled. But you go with the goal to reconcile.
- Two, Luke 17:1-10 gives instruction on how to go. If your brother sins, you are to rebuke him all things being equal. The word for rebuke differs from that in Matthew 18:15. It carries more of a tentative aspect to it. It allows for and calls for data gathering. The desired effect is reconciliation through repentance and forgiveness. Simply on the basis of confession and repentance the rebuker is to forgive. The passage teaches that this initial forgiveness is not based on the other person’s fruit (v.3-4), the forgiver’s faith (v.5-6), or feelings (v.7-10). God expects His people to be reconciled.
Remember, believers are justified (records are clean – no guilt or condemnation) and forgiven. Therefore, they are to think properly about God, themselves, and others (Romans 6:11). What wonderful words to hear and mediate upon: forgiven in Christ. Struck by who and what you are in Christ, you should be motivated to think and desire as a God-pleaser with a desire to reconcile one to another (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). When you do, relationships will prosper and God’s name will be glorified (John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:7-12).
- Give special attention to your relationships starting at home and work outwards.
- What are your conclusions?
- How are you in the relationship area?
- What do you need to change?
- Using biblical principles begin to reconcile and improve each relationship one relationship at a time.
Forgiveness: Man’s Greatest Need: Part XI
Should and Can We Forgive Unbelievers?
II this section of the series: Forgiveness man’s Greatest Need, I address a practical question. Should we and more accurately, is it possible to forgive unbelievers? People often quote Luke 23:34 saying it teaches that because Jesus forgave “unconditionally,” believers should also. Some teach that Jesus prayed to the Father and asked Him to forgive them because of their ignorance (“they know not what they do”).
In Acts 7:60 at his stoning, Stephen makes a similar request and prayed: “…Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” The teaching implies that forgiveness can come without the cross. Jesus and Stephen were not interested in getting even and retaliating (1 Peter 2:23). Their overriding interest was trusting God. Paul reinforced the fact that prideful ignorance and the hidden mystery of the cross led to Christ’s crucifixion (1 Corinthians 2:7-8).
To reiterate, while on the cross, Jesus prayed and asked the Father to forgive thereby showing a willingness to forgive. He made no promise (which is what forgiveness is) to the crucifiers. Jesus’ prayer was answered at Pentecost. Some of those who crucified him came and professed faith in Christ and were forgiven – because of the cross and not apart from it (Acts 2). Moreover, we must ask: was there any person Jesus did not forgive? How about the people in hell?
Specifically, did Jesus forgive Judas? As far as we know, no. Did Jesus hold a grudge? No. Was He ready to forgive? Yes. Did He make it easy for Judas to repent? Yes. The passages in John indicate that Judas was an unbeliever (John 6:61-71; 12:1-6). He did not repent although it is recorded in the gospels that he was remorseful (Matthew 27:3-5). As was his pattern, he took matters into his hands and hung himself (2 Corinthians 7:8-11). He shed the wrong blood! Moreover, John 17:9-10 makes it clear that Jesus does not pray for the world.
God does not love or forgive un-conditionally. Rather, He loves and forgives contra-conditionally – in spite of the person and because of His own nature. The Gospel is better than unconditional love, whatever that term means. The Gospel teaches that God accepts you just as Christ is and not as you are – rebellious and dirty. He accepts you in spite of you and with an agenda for change. God has contra–conditional love for His people. His love and forgiveness are conditioned on and by Himself. He loves and forgives you in spite of who you were (Romans 5:6-10).
Remember that forgiveness is a promise. It includes a willingness to forgive and a transaction in which you promise the other party and God not to bring up the offense again in order to hurt. The promise is made in the context of the cross.
In regard to the unbeliever, you are to display a willingness to forgive (Mark 11:25). The actual transaction of forgiving can’t occur until the other person acknowledges his sin against you and hopefully against God. The unbeliever will not do that because he has no Holy Spirit – he is un-regenerated. He does not know what sin is. In forgiveness, you promise not to bring up the other’s sin to him, yourself, others, and God. Therefore, it is not right or possible to forgive before repentance.
The believer should have a correct vertical reference in regards to the unbeliever (Mark 11:25). He is to be ready to grant forgiveness to the unbeliever. He is to hold no grudges because grudge holding is an attack on God. It says that God made a mistake putting this other person in your life. The grudge holder often considers his sin less than the sin of the other person, unbeliever or believer. He believes he has a right to hold a grudge thereby sinning against God and the other person.
So what should a believer do when an unbeliever sins against him? Pray for him, be ready to forgive him and to explain the forgiveness dynamic, and make it easy for him to become a believer and repent. But you can’t forgive an unbeliever.
The ground for forgiveness is the cross and Jesus’ active (his perfect lawkeeping) and passive (his perfect death) obedience. Reach out to the unbeliever on the basis of the cross and what God has done for and to you. But you can’t grant (transactional forgiveness) the promise (that is what forgiveness is) that God has granted only to the believer. God has not granted the unbeliever forgiveness because he is opposed to the cross and the Christ of the cross.
- Review the Bible’s definition of forgiveness as discussed in other blogs in the series on forgiveness. What is it?
- Specifically, what is the basis for forgiveness?
- Is that promise extended to every one?
- What should the believer be ready to do for the unbeliever?
Forgiveness and Scriptural Studies: Part XII
Confession, Repentance, Forgiveness
I. Read and study 1 John 1:9:
A. What is your reason for confessing your sin(s)?
B. What is your hope in doing so?
C. What is John’s teaching?
D. What is your response to the verse?
E. How does God’s truth in verse 9 affect your thinking, desires, and action?
II. Read and study Romans 8:1, 32-34
A. How is it possible that there is no condemnation or guilt?
B. How is possible that neither God nor Christ will bring charges against you?
III. Read the following passages regarding God’s forgiveness:
Psalms 51:1, 9; 103:12; Micah 7:18-20; Isaiah 1:18; 38:17; 43:25; 44:22; Jeremiah 31:34; Acts 3:19
A. What do these verses teach about God’s forgiveness?
B. What does God do when He forgives? How is that possible?
C. What does the Bible teach about sins once forgiven?
IV. Believers are the most forgiven people on earth.
A. What was your condition prior to being saved? See Isaiah 59:1-2; Romans 5:6-10
B. Functioning as a believer at least means forgiving as you have been forgiven.
V. According to Ephesians 4:31-32 and Colossians 3:12-13:
A. What is your model for forgiving?
B. How is that possible?
VI. Read Matthew 18:21-35 to help you answer the question: how is it possible to forgive others
VII. Read Luke 7:36-50 to help you answer the question: how is possible to forgive someone who has sinned against you?
VIII. What does Luke 17:3-10 teach about forgiveness and fruit, faith, and feeling
IX. Being forgiven and forgiving are great facts/truths, privileges, and blessings of all believers.
X. Keeping your promise of forgiveness is something that you can and must do.
XI. What does Mark 11:25 say is one cause of unanswered prayer? Does that apply to you and if so how?