You’ve been given a Golden Ticket. And it may be to a destination you have never considered going. But I urge you to take a look at the itinerary. We will make a few stops…as well as an extended stay in a territory called FORGIVENESS. But eventually we will reach our final destination. It’s a sweet dwelling place you’ll love—better known as FREEDOM. In order to get there, we must view everything through the lense of God’s Word. It may seem hard when we first start the journey, but it will be well worth the effort once we arrive.
Forgiveness: to give up resentment against or stop wanting to punish (someone) for an offense or fault; to pardon; to relent in being angry or in wishing to an exact punishment for an offense or fault; to absolve from payment or sin; to give up demanding satisfaction for an offense
Let’s start with visiting some LANDMARKS in scripture that help us glean more information on the subject of FORGIVENESS and its importance. Then we can get a better over all view of the map that we’ll be following to get to this amazing place called, FREEDOM.
*Forgiveness was modeled by Christ:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:32 ESV
“And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Luke 23:34 ESV
*Forgiveness in not a suggestion:
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
Matthew 5:44 ESV
“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
Luke 17:3-4 ESV
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:12-13 ESV
*Forgiveness does not come naturally:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding…”
Proverbs 3:5 ESV
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,”
Luke 6:27 ESV
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
Matthew 5:44 ESV
*Forgiveness is ongoing:
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”… “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
Matthew 18:21-22 NLT
*Forgiveness is what sets us apart as believers:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 ESV
*Forgiveness allows us to swap hate for prayer:
“I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer…” Matthew 5:44
“But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12
*Forgiveness is necessary for our own forgiveness:
“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Mark 11:25 ESV
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;”
Luke 6:37 ESV
*Forgiveness sets us free:
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him, as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgression from us.”
Let’s be real here. It’s HARD to forgive an enemy or someone who has harmed you. That’s why following the direction of God’s Word is imperative to reaching your destination. Forgiving people and moving on does not mean you ignore the offense or that you internalize it. It doesn’t mean that you pretend an offensive or abusive behavior didn’t happen. If it did, it did. And more than likely, it has shaped our thinking as we deal with life situations moving forward. However, forgiveness does allow us to move forward without allowing that hurt to define us or control our future. Instead, we can let our history do what history is intended to do: allow us to LEARN FROM IT. Learn to make wiser choices. Learn who we don’t want to be in a challenging situation. Learn how and when to share our testimonies so others can avoid making the same mistakes. Learn how to hand things over to Christ we can’t control anyway. Ultimately, learn to love the way Christ loves.
Now that we have taken a look at a few of the landmarks in the Bible regarding forgiveness, let’s finish up by taking a look at the MAP TO FREEDOM…where joy and peace reside. If we take care of these four things, we’ll be gassed up and better prepared to make it to this final destination.
1). Seek Forgiveness:
First from God:
If you know that your life choices have put you in a vulnerable place…that you have not allowed God to guide your past decisions…then stop right this minute and confess those things to Him. Ask your Heavenly Father to forgive you for the part you played, maybe for neglecting to include Him in the choices that got you where you are or maybe a specific sin that you have concealed away for years and never dealt with.
1 John 1:9 states:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
It’s that simple.
Keep this in mind…We walk away from God…He never walks away from us. He is ready to forgive and restore and redeem. Right here. Right now. Don’t go a step further in reading this until you pause and have that conversation with Him.
Next From others:
There is nothing more powerful than owning your part in something. Apologizing creates the distinct opportunity to disarm a situation and usher in peace.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
And I have a piece to this puzzle that I feel strongly about. In our home, there are three parts to asking for forgiveness. I taught this to my sweet kiddos growing up and expected them to live by these guidelines—and they will testify to it still today!! Our rules for moving past an offense looked like this:
**Lead with a sincere apology
**Never tack on the word “but”
**Always end with, “Will you forgive me?
The conversation began with an apology. But more importantly, taking full ownership of the offense was key. By using the word “but”, it basically said, “I am pretty much owning up to what I did..BUT if you wouldn’t have done what you did, I wouldn’t have done what I did.”…and it negates the apology before you ever even finish the sentence. The rest of full ownership came with, “Will you forgive me?”. That is so important because anyone can be sorry. They could only be sorry they got caught or that they have suffered a consequence for getting caught. But, -“will you forgive me”- says it matters to me that you are ok and that we are good. It demonstrates that you value the relationship more than you value being right.
At the end of the day, freedom begins when every opportunity for healthy restoration has been exhausted. You cannot control another person’s decision to forgive. But you can leave nothing to be mistaken regarding your efforts to restore a relationship back into good standing.
2). Accept Forgiveness:
First From God:
This may seem elementary for some…but for many, this can be the hardest part. We know God “forgives”…but then we can’t forgive ourselves. We allow the enemy to constantly condemn us and beat us up over the very decision he most likely talked us into in the first place! But this is what God’s word says:
“For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”
Not only does He say that, He also says He will redeem those storylines and even bring good out of them.
“And in this we know that all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”
Freedom comes when you allow the Lord to lift those burdens and then experience moving about freely – unencumbered by sin in your past.
Next From Yourself:
Once you forgive yourself, God can begin to restore and redeem those past disappointments you thought would kill you. You will be less insecure, less defensive and more confident in God’s future for you.
Jer 29:11 says:
“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”
This promise was not given to a perfect set of people. In fact, this promise came after a chastising of past behavior with an expectation that their heart turn back to God. So take comfort in that. No matter where you have been, asking forgiveness, then accepting God’s forgiveness and then living “forgiven” opens the door for the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 to come alive for you personally.
3). Give Forgiveness:
This can be the tricky one. Giving forgiveness can feel like you are letting someone off the hook. I know. I have been there. However, what it actually does is say to God: “Your Word says forgive. So I am. I’m choosing to trust you with this person and this situation…because you promise to handle the consequences of my obedience. You see what I can’t see…and you know what I don’t know. I just want to be part of the possible solution and —if nothing else—live free of the burden of messing things up further by being judge and jury without all of the information.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 says:
“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, and everywhere you go. He’s the One who will keep you on track. Don’t assume you know it all.”
God’s Word goes on to say:
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
And let’s be reminded that forgiveness is not a suggestion. Let’s take another look at Matt 5:43 – 48 in The Message Version:
43 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44 I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. 46 If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. 47 If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.
It’s hard to hold hate in your heart toward someone and pray for them at the same time. Not to mention, we could be the only one praying for that person. Furthermore, God sometimes allows us an unwanted window in to the depths of another person’s struggles. Then we have to choose how we will use that information: Will we use it to keep a hurt nurtured that keeps us in a self-imposed prison? Or will we use it to pray fervently and specifically in order to see freedom come for a person so weighed down in bondage that they don’t even realize the depth of pain they are creating?
Forgiveness can seem impossible in situations where the devastation is so damaging, you think you can’t recover. Murder, physical abuse, abuse of a child, identity theft along with betrayal financially and relationally—all of these things can’t be forgiven without the help of the Holy Spirit. Only HE can accomplish that forgiveness through you.
“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings to deep for words…”
Being reminded of this also helps to guide our actions:
Romans 3:23 says:
“all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
It’s only because God has loved and forgiven us that we can be in a relationship with Him. It is more manageable to forgive others when we realize all that we have been forgiven. It’s part of being human that we struggle here. But maintaining this perspective helps us imitate Christ.
4). Get “FORGETFUL”:
I used to believe, “ I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget.” But one of our pastors challenged our congregation with this statement on Sunday ….
long after most of the blog post was written.
“If you say you have forgiven, but you can’t forget, you may not have forgiven.”
– Garret Craig, Grace Creek Church
Sweet friends, walking in forgiveness is a sign of spiritual maturity. A good measurement of how free you are is to examine how “bound up you still are”.
So if all of this seems challenging, let me challenge you with this. Just try doing it God’s way. No matter how you feel, give Godly principles a test run. Chances are, you have tried everything else. Just as I did. You’ve stuffed away your personal sin to your detriment. You have held the grudge—long after you should have let it go. You’ve told God that you can’t forgive. You’ve convinced yourself, God can’t forgive you. You’ve used the words, “Sorry…NOT SORRY!” You live in the pain of the past— believing that everyone else is to blame.
If that’s you, please know, you’ve been given a Golden Ticket to freedom that you have either thrown in the trash -or if nothing else- have left lying on the counter. But what a waste! The ticket is already bought and paid for! And it’s a destination worth traveling to—believe me! So don’t put off the journey any longer. Don’t miss the voice that’s calling out, “All Aboard!!” Our Heavenly Father has a seat in the VIP section just for you:). Pick up that Shiny Golden Ticket and experience God’s best for your life. It’s a destination called FREEDOM. A destination of unimaginable joy that comes through the power of FORGIVENESS. And trust me. Once you get there, you’ll never want to leave.
I’ll give you one last reminder from my good friend, Kevin:
“You can’t see the future looking in the rear view mirror!”
– K Stewart
Shine like you mean it, friends!
IMPORTANT: If you or your children are in an abusive or life-threatening situation, I urge you to call a local church or someone you can trust to counsel you on how to get to a place of safety.