The Forgiveness Discipline

In this blog I should like to talk about an often overlooked, but very important discipline in the Christian faith, the discipline of forgiveness.  This close to the Rapture I would hate to think that there are a few good folks out there who are looking for Jesus to take them home to heaven, but deep in their heart, they are holding unforgiveness toward someone over something that needs to be released, forgiven, and just plain let go. Jesus spoke about this topic and He stressed it’s importance when it comes to our own personal faith and salvation.  A brief look at the Sermon on the Mount will reveal some sacred truths, particularly with the Lord’s Prayer, where He challenged us to live a life of forgiveness.

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

Jesus reiterates the importance of forgiveness in context with walking with Him. Forgiveness is a critical aspect to a healthy prayer life; it also solidifies our personal salvation.  We must not be a people who hold grudges, maintain hatred for others, or restrict healthy relationships because of our own bitterness.  We must forgive our offenders and set them free, because in so doing, we also set ourselves free in the process. Truth be told, if a person holds unforgiveness in their heart toward another person, they actually forfeit their own salvation.  This is a harsh doctrine, but one that Jesus clearly communicated in the gospels. 

Jesus emphasized this forgiveness discipline in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant:

“Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”           – Matthew 18:21-35

This parable speaks for itself regarding our salvation and our need to forgive others.  Ask the Lord to reveal it to you if you are still holding unforgiveness toward another.  When we take a closer look at the Lord’s Prayer, we must remember that we are also in the prayer.  The concept of asking God to forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors is a statement of faith as well as of action.  We must actively participate in the forgiving process of others if we too are to receive God’s forgiveness. We must understand that a major component in the Lord’s Prayer is that true forgiveness is truly forgetting; and we need to learn to forgive and forget the offense and move on!

The Apostle Paul said it this way, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”                      – Philippians 3:12-14

  • The phrase, ‘those things which are behind,’ is a phrase, for Paul and for us, that they need to stay there, in our rear view mirror.  As believers in Jesus we are to ‘press toward the high call of God in Christ Jesus and lay hold of those things that Christ has laid hold for us.’  That’s hard to do that when you’re anchored to a past offense or wrought with unforgiveness.

While it’s true that you may not have a problem with forgiving others; it is equally true that you may be struggling with forgiving yourself for past mistakes where you may have hurt yourself or others. Some people don’t have a problem so much with forgiving others as much as they do forgiving themselves.  We need to better understand the art of self-forgiveness and our ability to remove the power of negative thoughts.  The enemy will use our past mistakes to derail our present advancement and keep us from a prosperous future.

NOTE: The devil is a liar and the accuser of the brethren; don’t listen to him or believe the lies that he says.

John the Revelator said it this way, “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.  And they overcame him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”                                                     – Revelation 12:10,11

  • This passage in Revelation refers to a particular group of people known as the tribulation saints, our future brothers and sisters in the Lord who will miss the Rapture, but come to salvation during the tribulation period.  They will be severely persecuted and many martyred for their faith during this horrific time.

In context, it is at this specific time, during the tribulation, that the devil’s access to God will be taken away. No longer will he be able to accuse believers of things that God has already forgiven them for.

  • The phrase, ‘the blood of the Lamb’ references our salvation through Jesus Christ.  Many souls will be saved during the tribulation period and many will suffer and die for their faith.
  • The phrase, ‘the word of our testimony’ is the confession of faith in Jesus to others who would also know and be saved.  Our testimony is all about sharing the sacred gospel message of Jesus.

Today, many believers are constantly being accused by the devil for their past lives and former sins; however, as Christians, we need to remember that the sins of our past have been covered by Christ’ blood.  The devil’s accusations should have no hold on us if we understand the grace that God has bestowed upon us for our salvation. There is no past sin to be accused of, because all our sins have been forgiven! We were justified by faith when we were saved by God’s grace through Jesus.  Justified means ‘just-if-id’ never sinned.

The Psalmist proclaimed, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed (let go) our transgressions from us.”          – Psalm 103:12

There are three individuals we need to either ask for forgiveness or be forgiven.

  1. The offended. – We must ask forgiveness from those we have offended.

“…and forgive us our debts (our sins and offensives) as we forgive our debtors (those who have sinned and offended us).”                                                       – Matthew 6:12

  • God. – We must ask God for His forgiveness.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”                                                             – 1 John 1:9

  • Yourself. – You need to forgive yourself for your own past sin and failures.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”                                          – Romans 8:1

Condemnation vs. Consequence:

There is always some sort of consequence for your sin, but un-forgiveness should never be one of them.

“I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins.  Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”                                – Isaiah 44:22

The word redeemed means ‘to set free, rescue, ransom, to save from a state of sinfulness and its consequences.’

The writer of Hebrews said it this way,

“So, friends, we can now – without hesitation – walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of His sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is His body. So let’s do it – full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out.”                      – Hebrews 10:19-22 (The Message)  
There is a confidence and a boldness that comes with forgiveness.  It’s a feeling of freedom like none other.  This is the way the Lord would have us live our lives, totally forgiven and totally free.  
“For you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  For if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”                                                                                                                      – John 8:32,36 (NLT)   Jesus has set you free and forgiven you from you past sins.  You need to receive His forgiveness by faith and walk in the newness of life and spiritual freedom that Christ has granted to you.   “There is no forgiveness from God unless you freely forgive your brother from your heart.  And I wonder if we have been too narrow in thinking that ‘brother’ only applies to someone else.  What if YOU are the brother or sister who needs to be forgiven, and you need to forgive yourself?”    – David Seamands                                                                                                                     Healing for Damaged Emotions  
If God has let go of your sin, then how can you still hold on to it?  If Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross wasn’t good enough for your forgiveness, nothing else will ever be.   “For the death that Christ died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Likewise, you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”                   – Romans 6:10,11   Not forgiving yourself for your past sins would be like a man being released from prison, but refusing to go.   If you hold on to your sin after God has let it go, what is the message are you sending to God?  You are in essence telling God that sending His Son to die on the cross was not good enough to forgive you of your sins.  You are telling God your sin is too great for His sacrifice to cover; but His sacrifice on the cross was sufficient!   If we don’t believe and put into practice what God’s Word says about our forgiveness, than we will end up on a path that God never intended for us.  If we refuse to forgive ourselves, than we are really never allowing ourselves to live fully in the present because of the hold we keep on ourselves from our past.   NOTE: God can take our sinful past and make it work together for our good if we allow Him to do so. 

“Some Christians who can’t forgive themselves are, underneath it all, angry with themselves. But God can begin today to cause all that happened in the past to fit into a pattern for good.  Begin to forgive yourself.  And don’t feel guilty about doing so!  God says, “Take your forgiveness and don’t look back.”  God will take the wasted years and restore them to good before it is all over.  It is just as the prophet Joel promised: “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25).”                       – R.T. Kendall – Total Forgiveness

  • God’s plan for our lives is to be totally set free from past sin.  As believers in Jesus, this forgiveness discipline should be a basic understanding; however, with the onslaught of the enemy, even simple principles in God’s Word can be hard to grasp when in the snare of self-guilt and self-un-forgiveness has gripped the soul of a believer. 

Bottom line: You need to forgive yourself and receive God’s grace and mercy.  Remember, grace is getting something that we don’t deserve, and mercy is not getting something that we do deserve.

As I wrap up this blog on forgiveness, I should like to remind you that we all have voice that speak to us, many come from the balcony and attic of our lives, some come from the basement or cellar.  We need to close off the messages that we hear from our cellar and open the door to those voices that speak life to us from our attic.

God loves you, He is for you, He will never leave you or forsake you; He loves you more than you can possibly understand or comprehend.  God with that and press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus and lay hold of that for which Christ has also laid hold for you.


Encouragemen is a blog written by Pastor Rob Lee, recently relocated to Northern Missouri.  He lives with his wife of 33-years, near their three adult children, their spouses, and children (their grandchildren).  Pastor Rob is an Ordained Assemblies of God minister, a former Lead Pastor (25 years), police chaplain, and community advocate.  He continues to serve, consult, and disciple men of God, including those who are in the ministry. 

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