Man’s Greatest Need: From Unforgiveness to Forgiveness: Part I
Begin with a Self-Inventory
Introduction: This eleven-part series: Man’s Greatest Need: From Unforgiveness to Forgiveness gives much needed teaching in the area of forgiveness. Forgiveness is man’s greatest need and it is a most commonly fact. Without it, there is misery in this life and eternity in hell. With it there is eternity in heaven and joy and comfort on earth. How did it happen that man’s greatest need is forgiveness? Good question! The answer takes us to the Garden.
Relationships are marred by constant friction. The friction is sin-driven. Relationships are problematic because the people are sinners. Often there are sleepless nights and long days as a result of God-displeasing activities of sinning and being sinned against. This is testimony to mam’s greatest need: forgiveness. Without forgiveness, you are unable to pay the price for your own sins and your sinfulness in Adam. Bur too often you have bought the lie and you try. You are hostile toward God and others and perhaps yourself. Without godly forgiveness, you draw closer to Satan. 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). man’s greatest need has been met by the Triune God!
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. It addresses man’s greatest need which is so often denied and neglected.
I begin with a familiar passage: Matthew 7:1-6. I begin here because life is relational: vertical and horizontal. 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 his own sin (his log) including his response to God and the other person. His speck is the other person’s sin because it is the other person’s! 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 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 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 and it is man’s greatest need, 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). The vertical controls the horizontal. 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. As we will see, 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.
The believer in order to relate properly to God must have a willingness to forgive. He imitates the Triune God when he does. However, 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 o their situation. As we will discuss in future blogs, willingness to forgive differs from granting forgiveness.
1. Pick two relationships and read Matthew 7:1-6 in the context of those relationships.
2. Write out your logs – your sins – and the other person’s sins – your specks.
3. Determine how each may be fostering relationships that are less than pleasing to God.
4. 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.
The Log and the Speck in the Context of Relationships: Matthew 7: Part II
Continuing our discussion of man’s greatest need: forgiveness , we go to Genesis 1-2 and the creation account. God created man a relational being. Every person is a dependent being in relationship to God and to others. Man also has the capacity to love himself. In the Garden pre-fall, that activity was most appropriate. In another blog 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). Man was designed to live with others and to relate to them in a God-honoring way. Post-fall, self got in the way. Concern for self and self-absorption became mankind’s patterned lifestyle. Man’s new normal was pleasing self, for self by self, to get.
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. Man’s sinfulness gives way to godliness but not instantaneously (3:1-3, 9-10).
As a result of remaining sinfulness and the habituation to self-pleasing, people sin against others and people are sinned against. These activities are relational and 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).
The issues are actually God’s providence and they often expose the fragility of relationships both with others and with God. Yet relationships are not the problem. Relational problems are people problems – one or all parties. It is mandatory to remember that gathering and interpreting facts is a must in order for help to be biblical. This rule applies to self-examination and one-on-one ministry with another. The facts should include your and the person’s response to the facts which flow from the heart. 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 functioning as the judge 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 and his 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.
These verses 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. 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 require Christ’s shed blood and the work of the Holy Spirit.
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 is an improper other-reference and an improper vertical reference. The two references are linked. As a result, relationships will dishonor God; there will be angst in the soul 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 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!), Adam’ one sin put every person in a state of condemnation. 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 and must be dealt with before God and before you address the other person’s sin against you – your speck. Jesus is not teaching that believers should ignore another person’s sin. He is putting things in proper perspective. 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. 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).
1. Relationships are to be God-honoring. Are there any of your relationships that are not?
2. Search for your log: what did you do or not do that made it easy for the other to sin?
3. 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.
4. Seek to clear the bar that separates you from another believer and leave the results to God.
Forgiveness Defined: Part III
I am addressing the issue of Man’s greatest need: forgiveness in this blog series. A short review is in order. Forgiveness is man’s greatness need. In that sense man is a needy person. This position 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. When Adam sinned his eyes were opened but not to truth. 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). Man was thrust out of God’s presence in need of a proper standing before God through forgiveness. God, in His mercy and justice, provided His forgiveness in Christ. Each believer is united to Christ and 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. 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 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).
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. Forgiveness is modeled after God’s forgiveness of the believer (see second paragraph above). The omniscient God remembers no more because He remembers His Son’s work and 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). Praise God.
For the believer, forgiveness is a gift and a duty. But it is also a privilege and a blessing to be forgiven and to forgive. Forgiveness probes the heart. Being forgiven and forgiving is 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 will not bring up the offense and or his own hurt to the detriment of the other person and their relationship. Forgiveness is always vertical – to God – and horizontal – to man (Matt 18:21-35). Granting forgiveness and willingness to forgive are not synonymous and will be the subject of our next blog.
1. Write out your understanding of forgiveness.
2. Read Luke 7:36-50 and Matthew 18:21-35. Write out what you learn about God, self, and forgiveness.
3. To which relationships do you need to apply these truths?
Types and Categories of Forgiveness: Part IV
Not only is forgiveness man’s greatness need, it is a commonly misunderstood truth. In the first two 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. The subject of the third blog was a proper definition of forgiveness. 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 current blog: Man’s greatest need: forgiveness, I set out categories of forgiveness in order to help understand the full spectrum of biblical forgiveness. The first category is termed Judicial Forgiveness. It involves God’s forgiveness 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. God is the Just Judge of all the earth (Gen.esis18:25).
Through Christ’s activity and passive obedience as He stayed o the cross as the perfect sacrifice, God declares sinners to be forgiven – not guilty and not condemned. As a result of Christ’s mediatorial work, God forgives. 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.
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; Col 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. 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.
1. Review the principles in these “forgiveness” blogs. What is your understanding of forgiveness?
2. Believer: how are you thinking, desiring, and acting as a forgiven and a forgiving person?
3. Make the link between being forgiven and forgiving according to Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 7:36-50.
4. Think ahead: how will you be able to handle the hurts of being sinned against?
Forgiven and Forgiving: Part V
This is the fifth in the series of blogs addressing the all-important subject of man’s greatest need: 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.
Forgiveness of one believer to another believer is 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.
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 the magnitude of man’s indebtedness to God and man’s woefully arrogant, ignorant suppression of that truth. The first servant in the Matthew 18 passage, when confronted with pay-up, 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)
The Luke passage teaches that the proper understanding of being forgiven and love ar linked. Much forgiveness is connected with much love. 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 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 quickly 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.
In regard to the unbeliever, the believer will 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, 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.
1. Continue to study the material on forgiveness. Determine your understanding of it.
2. 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.
3. What relationships do you need to apply the principles we have been discussing?
Forgiveness and Un-forgiveness: Part VI
The subject of this sixth blog in this series: Man’s Greatest Need: forgiveness is the issue of 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 as to why a believer may fail to forgive. Consider these. One such 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 blog 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 of understanding how important relationships are and functioning accordingly (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. 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.
Another reason for failing to forgive is simply that the person 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. 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; as if he carries the power and control of the situation by holding the offense over the other person; as if 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.
1. Consider your relationships at home, church, work, socially: how are they?
2. Which ones do you need to reevaluate according to the biblical principles that we have been discussing?
3. Prioritize your answers and seek to think, desire, and act as a forgiven person.
4. Record the results.
Consequences of Un-forgiveness and Grudge-Holding: Part VII
When considering the subject of this series: Man’s Greatest Need: forgiveness, it is important to consider the subject of an unwillingness to forgive. What are 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 (Matt. 18:21-35; 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).
Another consequence and effect of un-forgiveness is the failure to apply Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13. Conversely, failing to apply those passages 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. 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 yourself. Consider this cycle. First, there is the fact of being sinned against. Second, wrong thinking and desires produce bitterness and resentment. Third, the hurts of being sinned against, a sinful response to it, and to the other person produces an inner-man unrest. Fourth, I a n effort to remove “bad feelings: the person is told or takes on himself to forgive himself. He is not told how except just do it. Many reasons/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. Consequently and predictably, it leads to greater angst. Simply, there is no biblical command to forgive self.
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. It 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.
1. Where are you in your vertical and horizontal relationships?
2. How has your relationship with God, and God to you, affected your relationships with others beginning at home and working outward?
3. 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.
Man’s Greatest Need: Forgiveness: Part VIII
Cover and Confront
In the blog series addressing Man’s Greatest Need: Forgiveness, I have defined the term forgiveness; discussed the implications of the believer 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 right 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 (Colossians 3:12-14).
There is another aspect of forgiveness that I must address in order to continue our excursus into man’s greatest need: forgiveness. However I think it is wise to use the term biblical forgiveness since there are so many misconceptions and untruths regarding it. An aspect of biblical forgiveness is summarized by the motif of confront and 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 ideas 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
1. What is your view of God as the Great Forgiver? How does that fact influence your relationship with God and others?
2. What is your view of yourself as a forgiven person? How does that fact impact your relationship with God and others?
3. How do you understand cover and confront?
Man’s Greatest Need: Forgiveness: Part IX
In our discussion of man’s greatest need: forgiveness, it must be recognized that 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 and fellowship. The relationship in varying degrees is to thrive. Forgiveness, man’s greatest need, begins that thriving process! Matthew 5:23-24 indicates the importance of this truth. Reconciliation trumps worship.
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). 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. Relationships matter and are the vehicle for solving man’s greatest need. 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).
1. Give special attention to your relationships starting at home and work outwards.
2. What are your conclusions?
3. How are you in the relationship area?
4. What do you need to change?
5. Using biblical principles begin to reconcile and improve each relationship one relationship at a time.
Should and Can We Forgive Unbelievers?: Part X
As we begin to close the series: man’s greatest need: forgiveness, we are faced with the question regarding believers. This question regarding unbelievers is an important aspect of understanding man’s greatest need. More accurately, is it possible to forgive unbelievers? People 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 murder, 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, are there any person Jesus did not forgive? How about the people in hell?
Specifically, did Jesus forgive Judas (see John 6:61-71; 12:1-6)? 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. 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). 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 in spite of who you were (Romans 5:6-10). These facts highligjt the fsct that man’s greatest need is forgiveness and that God is the Forgiver par excellence.
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. Remember that forgiveness is man’s greatest need. 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. Help him come to realize that forgiveness, not by you but by God, is man’s greatest need.
1. Review the Bible’s definition of forgiveness as discussed in other blogs in the series on forgiveness. What is it?
2. Specifically, what is the basis for forgiveness?
3. Is that promise extended to every one?
4. What should the believer be ready to do for the unbeliever?
Man’s Greatest Need: Forgiveness and Scriptural Studies: Part XI
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: How do they fit in answering man’s greatest need?
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 and man’s greatest need:.
Psalms 51:1, 9; 103:12
Isaiah 1:18; 38:17; 43:25; 44:22
A. What do these verses teach about man’s greatest need and 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: how does that fact help you answer: man’s greatest need?
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.
1. According to Ephesians 4:31-32 and Colossians 3:12-13, what is your model for forgiving?
2. How is that possible?
a. Read Matthew 18:21-35 to help you answer the question.
b. Read Luke 7:36-50 to help you answer that question.
c. What does Luke 17:3-10 teach about forgiveness and fruit, faith, and feeling?
V. Being forgiven and forgiving are man’s greatest need: they are great facts/truths, privileges, and blessings of all believers.
A. Keeping your promise of forgiveness is something that you can and must do. It that way you imitate the Triune God.
B. What does Mark 11:25 say is one cause of unanswered prayer?