Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 12)

Over the last few weeks we have been on a journey to reach a destination where each of us can willingly offer true forgiveness to anyone for absolutely anything that has been done to us. That’s what God expects, as well as demands. Unforgiveness slowly destroys our soul from the inside out like an insidious cancer. It slowly poisons us and everything around us over time if we refuse to face it and deal with it.

I find that an illustration now and then communicates the point far better than a myriad of words. Unforgiveness is like finding a fifty gallon drum of radioactive waste from the local nuclear reactor sitting in your driveway. The metal drum is clearly marked with a hazardous waste symbol, as well as a skull and cross bones for good measure. It is labeled radioactive waste in big red letters. There is no wondering about what is in this deadly container, and it is sitting smack-dab in the middle of your property.

What would you do? Most of people would call the local police and the hazardous waste material clean-up team immediately and allow them to deal with it. In a real sense, that’s what happens when we choose to forgive someone for offending or hurting us. We deal with it quickly.

But—there is another option. We could act like that barrel of toxin is not there and promptly get out the hand-trucks and move it out back into the little barn on the back-side of our property. After carefully hiding it an out-of-the-way corner, we shut the door, nail it shut, put a chain and lock on the door, and for good measure hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign above the door. For a short period of time we check it every day to make sure no one has disturbed it, but over time we forget about it. Over time the moisture in the soil reacts with the metal drum and rust slowly eats away at the drum until a tiny hole appears. Systematically, the radioactive material slowly seeps into the soil and kills everything in the barn. This fatal contamination cannot be contained by locks, chains, and signs—so it soon kills everything our yard. Ultimately, it kills everyone in our house, including us. The same thing is happening right now in your soul if unforgiveness is present.

The venom of unforgiveness must be dealt with. It cannot be ignored if you desire to be spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy. You cannot hide it—it will eventually seep out and show up in everything. It will destroy you by destroying everything that means anything to you first.

Call G-O-D-9-1-1 and get help now!

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 11)

The key to forgiveness is Jesus. If you remember, we said that forgiveness always costs the one who does the forgiving. It is given freely, but it costs the one who offers it everything. For you and me to comprehend God’s forgiveness of us, we must truly grasp the price he paid.

Like the servant who owed an incalculable debt, we must first own our debt. We did not just mess up—we sinned. And sin demands retribution. The problem is we can’t make the payment. Jesus paid the debt we owed for the offenses we have committed.

Our dilemma is we often forget the price Jesus paid and the pain he endured to purchase our forgiveness. He was beaten unmercifully before he was crucified. He was punched in the face. His beard was pulled out. He was spit on. He was kicked with boots and punched unmercifully with the butt of a spear when he fell. He was dropped twenty feet through a hole onto the stone floor of a prison cell under the high priest’s house. He was slapped unmercifully in the face over and over. Then, Jesus was flogged with a rawhide whip tipped with shards of glass, bone, and lead that literally ripped his flesh away. By the way, you can forget that forty lash less-one stuff—he was condemned to die and that rule was suspended for those doomed to die on a cross.

Isaiah 52:14 tells us that “his appearance was marred more than any man and his form more than the sons of men…” Jesus was beaten so badly that he was unrecognizable to those who knew him the best. In fact, he was beaten so severely you couldn’t tell if he was male or female. The flogging was brutal—far, far beyond inhumane. It’s cruelty was demonically inspired.

Then Jesus was forced to carry his own cross from the Fortress Antonio up to Skull Hill (Golgotha) outside Jerusalem’s gates. There the soldiers stretched his arms and legs out and nailed him to a cross and stood it up and let it fall into a hole. And there he hung in unspeakable pain. The victim of crucifixion slowly suffocated as his lungs filled with fluid. To get a breath, he was forced to push up on the nail driven through his feet. The pain was excruciating and that position could only be held for a few seconds. Over and over for six long hours Jesus did this for you and me until he took his last breath, gave up his spirit, and died.

Why? So you and I could enjoy forgiveness for our sins. Forgiveness is freely given and freely received, but it cost Jesus everything. Remember—the one who offers forgiveness assumes the loss and endures the cost, while the guilty one—the perpetrator of the offense—is released and forgiven.

This is what Jesus did for you and for me. This is the forgiveness that erased your sin debt off the books and granted you freedom from an eternity in hell. This is the level of forgiveness all of us have received because God—like the master of the servant—felt compassion for us. In his great love, he substituted his Son for us.

So here’s the deal. Let me get this straight…”and you can’t forgive another person because….what”?

The issue is not that you can’t forgive. No, it is that you refuse to give another what has been freely given to you. If you will not forgive—it means you really don’t have a clue what Jesus did on the cross for you!  

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 10)

Jesus was a master story teller. He often used stories with details that were so far-fetched that his audience could not miss the lesson he was communicating. Two thousand years later we sometimes miss the obvious point of the story either because we don’t understand the elements he was describing or we get fixated on a meaningless element and try to make a doctrine out of it. Some of his tales were parables intended to communicate one simple truth, while others were intricate accounts with numerous elements to illustrate his teaching. Those who listened understood the apparent.

Jesus once told a story about forgiveness in Matthew 18 that will help us understand the condition we find ourselves in and how far God went in extending grace to us. The story revolves around two characters—a king and a servant. It is likely the servant was the chief tax collector who had contracted to do collections for the king and the time had come to settle up on outstanding accounts. In other words—it was payday! The king represents God and this servant is you and me.

The servant owed the king ten thousand talents of silver. In Jesus day, that was a mind-boggling amount of money. The Romans collected only two hundred talents of silver from the whole Galilean region once a year. This servant owed fifty times that. One denarii was a day’s wage and one talent equaled six thousand denarii. It would have taken this servant sixty million days—over one hundred and sixty-four thousand years working seven days a week every day to earn the money he needed to pay back his master. He owed big money—so big, he could never have paid back the debt. Everyone in the crowd recognized point Jesus was making.

We all owe God the same debt. If we were to work our sin debt off it would take an eternity in hell to do so. An eternity is forever and ever and ever—with zeros that never stop coming. The servant was in helpless and hopeless condition and so were we apart from Jesus Christ.

When confronted the servant fell on his face and cried out for mercy. He asked for more time. The king felt compassion. His heart was moved with great affection for the servant and his plight, even though his debt was enormous. The king then did two things—he released him from the debt and forgave him for the debt. This servant no longer had the responsibility of paying back the debt—no strings attached. Then the king pardoned him as though he never had a debt. He walked out of that meeting as though he had never owed the king a cent. This servant received total forgiveness.

That is exactly what God did through Jesus Christ. When we were born again—born from above—our sin debt was canceled—wiped away in one stroke. We were released from the penalty of hell and forgiven so completely that God no longer remembers it against us.

That is what total forgiveness looks like. That’s what you received the moment Christ became your Lord and Savior. One stroke and your slate of debt was wiped clean. The question then begs to be asked—if this is what you received when you did not deserve it, why can you not now find it in your heart to forgive in like manner?

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 9)

The Cost of Forgiveness

Most of us have a key ring with several keys on it. Every key has a particular function. Every key will open something—your car, your home, your storage locker—that is locked. The key has a function even if we have forgotten what it goes to.

The ability to forgive has a specific key. If we recognize and understand that key, the act of forgiving is no longer a big issue, no matter how offended, wounded, or hurt we may be. The sad thing is we have forgotten or never really understood the depth of the forgiveness we have been given in Jesus Christ. Our ability to forgive comes from an appropriate understanding of what absolute helplessness and hopelessness looks like apart from Jesus Christ. Make no mistake about it—all of us are totally helpless and hopeless without Christ—doomed to an eternity in hell with a debt of sin none of us can ever pay.

Every person owes a debt that cannot be paid. To do so would require an eternity spent in the torment of hell. How long is an eternity? An eternity is forever. How long is forever? Forever and ever and ever and ever and—you get the picture. Eternity never ends. If one must remain in hell for eternity, then it is rather obvious that the debt owed can never be repaid. That is the definition of hopelessness and helplessness.   

Our ability and willingness to forgive then is tied to our understanding of what took place on the cross. Real forgiveness has a cost and the person who offers it must always absorb the full cost of it. The forgiveness we enjoy cost Jesus his life. The torment and torture he endured as he was beaten, scourged, and crucified was the result of our sin, not his. He not only paid for our sin, but he literally became our sin, and at that moment was separated from God. God turned his back and the sun refused to shine as Jesus became sin—those moments were clothed in utter darkness. That’s what the second death is—it is eternal separation from God. That’s the definition of hell. Jesus endured our hell—the second death we deserved—so that we could experience the grace and mercy of total forgiveness.

We have all heard this. We all know this in our head but for some reason, some of us refuse to offer freely the forgiveness we have so freely been given. Understanding it in your mind is completely worthless if you refuse to offer it from your heart.

Perhaps we don’t really understand the cross after all. Perhaps our knowledge is more about the facts of the cross rather than the heart of the person who hung on it. Perhaps the key to forgiveness really has been forgotten. Not knowing what to do with the key is ignorance.

The other option is even more preposterous. In fact, it is downright far-fetched and unbelievable. The only other reason one might offer for not forgiving is understanding the cost of the cross yet refusing to offer it because one somehow thinks another’s sin is far worse than your own. This is not ignorance—this is arrogance.

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 8)

Curses tend to get worse with time. Unforgiveness smells of death, and its noxious aroma attracts dark creatures that traffic in death. Unforgiveness is an open invitation for all of hell to attend a grand party at your personal expense.

Nothing draws the devil like unforgiveness. It gives him a foothold in your life—a base of operations to work from within you. It is surrendered ground, given up when you refuse to do what God demands. He plants his flag in your soul and invites his forces to dig trenches in that conquered ground. He does not own the real estate, but he holds it due to the darkness of disobedience. In the vacuum created by your disobedience, he has slipped back across the border. He’s no longer forced to attack you from the outside. No—you’ve left your screen door wide open and invited him in. You’ve given him legal rights to be there as long as you refuse to forgive.

You may find this hard to believe. You may be thinking, “There’s no way!”  I propose you read something Jesus taught in Matthew 18:21-35 in your Bible before you proceed any farther. We will re-visit this story over the next few blogs because there is a tremendous amount of truth contained in these few verse about the blessings of forgiveness and the curse of unforgiveness. Please read it and pay close attention to what takes place in verses 34-35.

 “And his lord moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all was owed him. So shall my heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother (or sister) from your heart.”  I believe the “torturers” are demonic spirits. I also believe the sin of unforgiveness (a sin one refuses to turn from) causes God to gradually remove his hand of protection, which then allows the enemy to move in, set up shop, and bring torment. Death always resides in darkness, and unforgiveness is darkness of the worst kind. Where sin lingers—the devil lurks.

I am in no way implying what many would call “possession.” This is not possession versus oppression. The Greek text of the New Testament uses neither word. In some translations, the term “possession” was supplied in an attempt to explain what was meant. In other words it was added to clarify by the translators, not by the Holy Spirit or the men who penned the original words of Scripture. That attempt to clarify has clouded this issue and coined a whole genre of inappropriate language and bogus beliefs concerning the work of both the devil and his demons. The New Testament primarily uses two descriptions: 1) to have a demon (ekw), or 2)to be demonized (daimonizomai). The issue is not ownership or whether a believer can be possessed or not. They may be issues to you, but they are arguments developed from silence or bad theology, not from the plain truth of Scripture. Both Greek words mean “to have a demon—to be under the influence or power of a demon in certain areas.” Don’t allow movie makers, bogus theology, or blind ignorance to influence your doctrine in these areas. Just allow the plain truth of the Bible to speak.

 Now, back to the issue at hand! If you struggle with the above paragraph, I invite you to do some study on your own. Don’t naively accept what you have been taught or even what I say. The tools you need are accessible even if you don’t have a mastery of biblical Greek. Check them out and allow the words of God to speak for themselves.

If forgiveness is not granted fairly quickly, the enemy expands his territory. That wound perpetrated on you may become a stronghold in your life. Many people who have been hurt in a particular manner eventually hurt others the very same way. Hurting people hurt people! The wound inflicted on you may eventually become a generational curse. Things like sexual abuse, emotional abuse, drug abuse, unfaithfulness in marital relationships, immorality, pornography, and alcoholism are all examples of generational curses that seem to follow families. I am not implying that if you were wounded, hurt, or offended you will automatically end up doing one of the above listed things. But if you don’t deal with whatever your wound is by forgiving the offender, you may do to someone else what was done to you. The sin perpetrated on you will affect you if you don’t forgive, and if it affects you, it will affect your children in some form or fashion. That is, unless someone breaks the pattern.

Sometimes a person who has been wounded becomes a control freak. Unforgiveness is often an attempt to get control of the chaos one has encountered. It’s your choice, but attempting to exercise control over everything and everyone will never heal the hurt or make you safer. Only forgiveness can do that.

Often people who are hurt become bitter, harsh, cold, uncaring, or unfeeling. Perhaps numb is the best word to describe this condition. They often turn to drugs or alcohol to insure the numbness, or to death-defying activities and life-on-the edge adventures to feeling something—anything to remind them that they are still alive.

Physical illness can be the result of the curse of unforgiveness. Stress triggers a domino effect of disaster in our physical bodies. I have witnessed people who were experiencing all kinds of physical conditions find healing once they offered forgiveness. God reversed the work of the tormenters in their case.

There is a curse that accompanies unforgiveness. It destroys the person from the inside out. Unforgiveness is the playground of Satan. As long as unforgiveness reigns, the devil will run roughshod through every area of your life. He cannot not get your soul if you know Christ, but if you refuse to extend forgiveness—he will eventually destroy you and possibly those you truly love.

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 7)

It was never God’s plan for people to hurt one another, but our sinfulness changed all that. We do have choices. Choice, or the ability to use our personal will, is a gift from God, given so that we might also have the ability to love. Love is an act of the will. It can never be coerced; it is always a choice. So, for each of us, forgiveness is a choice—an opportunity to show God how much we love him. Sadly, many choose not to forgive, and in doing so, they open the proverbial Pandora’s Box that releases the curse that perpetually escorts unforgiveness where ever it goes.

Curse, what curse? Direct disobedience of God’s commandments opens a person up to the direct attack of the devil. Salvation destroys the chains of bondage, but when you refuse to forgive, thinking you will somehow get even, get justice, or see that other person hurt like you hurt, you re-forge the chains of a bondage called unforgiveness. You may think you have that person right where you want them, but you are the only person behind the eight ball of bondage.

Hurt quickly turns into anger, and anger turned inward becomes the poison of revenge, wrath, and murder that screams “I want justice! I want them to pay for what they’ve done to me! I want them to hurt like I hurt or feel the way I feel!—I! I! I! Something is terribly wrong when “I” becomes the center of one’s world and revenge becomes one’s supreme purpose for existence. The reality is that no one can feel precisely what you feel and no one will hurt in exactly the same way you are hurting. What you desperately desire in unforgiveness is therefore not even possible. Yet…you refuse to let it go. Can you feel the cold dead weight of those chains of unforgiveness as they envelope you in their hellish power? The curse has been loosed.

That seed of anger soon turns into a root of bitterness that will, in a short time, produce all kinds of toxic fruit in your spirit, soul, and body. According to the apostle Paul in Hebrews 12:15, this root of bitterness causes us to fall short of God’s grace, while defiling us at the same time. We step back under the curse of sin, rather than experience the full blessing of salvation. (No, we don’t lose our salvation, but neither do we enjoy its benefits.) That root spreads like a cancer sucking the life’s blood out a person throughout your heart and soul. And, whatever is in your heart comes forth in your life. The root soon becomes a fatal fruit tree producing the putrid fruit of death in your ability to love, to feel, to make right choices, to have intimacy, to build relationships, and to be a parent, a spouse, or a friend

The bitterness—that need to get even—produces a rot, whose venom is deadly to every part of your being. It paralyzes and pollutes your personality, your emotions, and turns you into something you were never designed to become. It’s like a super-charged staph infection running wild inside your body. Yet…on the outside you smile and act as though nothing is wrong.

That hidden wound in your soul and spirit coupled with your refusal to forgive (this refusal, by the way, is called sin) creates a darkness within you that has a specific smell that invites even more destructive forces into this scenario you call you.

Now the curse starts picking up both steam and speed. But…the worse is still yet to come.

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 6)

We have all been wounded, hurt, disappointed, or offended. That’s for sure, and no good reason exists to answer the “why” question other than the dark effects of sin in this world. None of us necessarily deserve these things, but the reality is we’ve all experienced them in one form or another. We cannot stop them from happening, but we can, in time, respond to them appropriately.

Time does not heal all wounds. It’s how you use the time that counts. Some experiences that happen to us as children are so horrible that our minds hide them from us so we can survive and grow stronger. Otherwise, the experiences of that event would destroy us. But, over time we mature to the place where we can deal with the pain we have experienced. The question is—will we?                  

Sometimes we stuff them down and shut them away in a little room in our soul. You know the place—that tiny dead end closet at end of the hall in your heart. We cram them in, nail the door shut, and then put a chain and lock around it so nothing can get out and no one can get in. We hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on it and throw away the key. We hope this will do the trick and no one will ever discover or disturb that memory again.

Occasionally we just act like it never happened. We ignore the pain and tell ourselves it never happen. But—it did! And no memory block, no hidden room, or denial will keep them pushed down forever.

There is a moment in the life of every believer when the Holy Spirit will tell us it’s time to forgive—to pardon, overlook, or remit the wrong done to us—and give God the responsibility for dealing with that other person. That moment does not mean we act like it never happened, or that it doesn’t matter, or that it didn’t hurt, or that we must forget it and never mention it again. None of those things have anything to do with forgiveness.

When that moment comes, we have a simple choice to make. Will we forgive or not? The choice is ours, but if we choose not to, our refusal becomes sin. Let’s be very clear here, the offense, hurt, wound, or offense is not “our” sin. That sin belongs to someone else. “Our” sin is the refusal to obey God and forgive. Disobedience is “our” sin. And—sin is sin. It destroys our fellowship with God and prevents the healing process from taking place. That refusal then constructs a tiny little prison cell one block at a time until you find yourself imprisoned in solitary confinement with only the pain to keep you company.

The bottom line here is the choice. What happened to you is the sin of some else, but what you do with it will determine whether you sin or not. Why add more misery to the pain?