(June 8, 2000)

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FORGIVENESS -----Many warnings have been issued recently by our Lord through my Pastor that the devil wants to destroy you and overcome you. He seeks to devour you. As I was praying, seeking the Lord for what to say to the church, I was reminded that this message is tantamount: it is critically important in the development and growth of the church and in the developmental life of the individual believer. As I was saying to myself that this needs to be taught more, the Lord directed me to teach it.

UNFORGIVENESS AND THE DECEPTION OF PERSONAL PERFECTION Watchman Nee-“With sin under his feet and all lusts and passions of the flesh behind his back, the believer now enters a new realm. He may picture himself wholly spiritual. When he turns to eye those others who remain entangled in sin he cannot but feel elated and wonder how he has reached the summit of spiritual life. Little does this one realize that far from being completely spiritual he still remains partially carnal. He is yet a soulish or carnal Christian.”

-----This can open a door in the believer for intolerance and unforgiveness to enter in. We reason, within ourselves, that if we can be perfected, others should be also. We come to expect it and then to require it.

“Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” John 8:4-5

-----It is quite easy at this stage of Christian Life to believe that “behold the lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world”, means that God will someday allow you to walk without sin, to walk in the spirit all the time, 365 days a year. When a Christian believes this, he believes that he can someday walk the Christian life. If you believe this, you have been deceived. As Gene Edwards & I say-”You cannot live the Christian life!”

Dominic Avello-”Unforgiveness or the ability to forgive will either be your tombstone or your stepping stone in the Lord.”

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10

-----Note that all avenues are covered. “If we say we have not sin” is written in the present tense. At no time, in the present, can we say that we have no sins. If we say that, “the truth is not in us.” The past is also covered, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar.” We conclude that we are therefore sinners, past, present and future, until we are changed by and see our Lord face to face.

UNFORGIVENESS AND THE LINK TO INTOLERANCE “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” John 8:7

-----Are any of you ready to cast that stone? Perhaps you have thrown a few already. I have seen it in several churches. There is an attitude of intolerance toward the leaders. People attack and devour one another in the name of the Lord. Churches split, people leave and sometimes are thrown out. People feel justified within themselves that they have attacked the heresy. As Marvin Pressman has been heard to jokingly say, “I hate you in the name of Jesus”.

Reinhold Niebuhr-”One book, The Scarlet Letter, protests against the graceless legalism of the New England puritism. The other, Giants Of The Earth , portrays the scarcely less graceful conventionality of the Lutheran culture of our own northwest. In both cases an unforgiving spirit on the part of the religiously righteous is the final fruit of the legalism. It has not absorbed the meaning of the parable of the unmerciful servant nor heeded the injunction, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph 4:32)

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” Galatians 5:15

-----Give your leaders a break.

WHY DON’T WE FORGIVE? -----Pride -----We think the offending party doesn’t deserve it -----We feel cheated out of a type of revenge -----We feel we can’t because we still feel angry -----What the person did to us was just too terrible -----There was simply no excuse for what they did to me

UNFORGIVENESS AND HEALING, PERSONAL TORMENT AND DELIVERANCE FROM BESETTING SINS -----My own experience watching someone, who knows the bible and speaks of a belief in Christ, as that person remained in bondage to alcolism and became ever more consumed in bitterness and unforgiveness.

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

-----Note that the Lord introduces a linkage. Our forgiveness is linked ratably with how we forgive.

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15

-----What would it mean to not have your sins forgiven by the Father? It would mean that you are still in them. They are still against you. What would it mean for a saved person who was previously washed? It would seem that this saved person has picked up some spots and blemishes. You can be sure that the Holy Spirit will do everything to bring such a person to his knees so that these spots and blemishes may be removed.

“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until, seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:26

-----And so we see the even unreasonable lengths to which our Lord says that we should go in ridding ourselves of unforgiveness. It must be terribly important to do so. If we don’t, what might some of the effects be?

“I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his Lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” Matthew 18:35

-----Now our Lord speaks of a linkage in our life between unforgiveness and being in torment. Apparently, if we refuse to forgive after we have been forgiven and saved, we are turned over to the tormentors----demons. Demons can cause mental and physical illness. They hold people in bondage to sin, just as a jailer restrains a prisoner. Are you in bondage right now to a particular besetting sin? Look to any unforgiveness, resentment or bitterness in your own life.

“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:13-16

-----There we have it again....the linkage between healing and forgiveness. Prayer and confession are antidotes.

Samuel Shoemaker-”A clergyman friend of mine with a genius for compassion was chaplain of a state hospital. In one of the wards there was a woman who had long been impossible to reach. She could not be coaxed to speak. The chaplain went on doing all he could for her, and would sometimes speak to her of the love and forgiveness of God. Months went by. Then one day as he started out the door, he looked back and saw her looking after him, He went back and said, “Is there anything you wanted to say to me?” “Yes, she said, I murdered my babies.” The chaplain said, “God can forgive this too, if we are penitent; let us ask him for forgiveness.” From that moment on she began to get well, and has been back with her family for years.”

Stephen L. Bening

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