Forgiveness

* Understanding God’s forgiveness should make us more willing to forgive

Now that Jacob (or Israel) was dead, the brothers feared revenge from Joseph.  Could he really have forgiven them for selling him into slavery?  But to their surprise, Joseph not only forgave them but reassured them, offering to care for them and their families.  Joseph’s forgiveness was complete.  He demonstrated how God graciously accepts us even though we don’t deserve it.  Because God forgives us even when we have ignored or rejected him, we should graciously forgive others. (NLT)

Genesis 50:15-21 – But now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became afraid.  “Now Joseph will pay us back for all the evil we did to him,” they said.  So they sent this message to Joseph: “Before your father died, he instructed us to say to you: ‘Forgive your brothers for the great evil they did to you.’  So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive us.”   When Joseph received the message, he broke down and wept.  Then his brothers came and bowed low before him.  “We are your slaves,” they said.

But Joseph told them, “Don’t be afraid of me.  Am I God, to judge and punish you?  As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil.  He brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people.  No, don’t be afraid.  Indeed, I myself will take care of you and your families.”  And he spoke very kindly to them, reassuring them.

* These versus summarize the core of Christian living.  If we love someone the way Christ loves us, we will be willing to forgive.  If we have experienced God’s grace, we will want to pass it on to others.   And remember, grace is undeserved favor.  By giving an enemy a drink, we’re not excusing his misdeeds.  We’re recognizing him, forgiving him, and loving him in spite of his sins–just as Christ did for us. (NLT)

Romans 12:17-21 – Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.  Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.  Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible.

Dear friends, never avenge yourselves.  Leave that to God.  For it is written, “I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it,” says the Lord.  Instead, do what the Scriptures say: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them.  If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.”  Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.

* Rich & poor both need forgiveness

This money was like a census tax.  It continued the principle that all the people belonged to God and therefore needed to be redeemed by a sacrifice.  Whenever a census took place, everyone, both rich and poor, was required to pay a ransom.  God does not discriminate between people.  All of us need mercy and forgiveness because of our sinful thoughts and actions.  There is no way the rich person can buy off God, and no way the poor can avoid paying.  God’s demand is that all of us come humbly before him to be forgiven and brought into his family. (NLT)

Exodus 30:11-16 – And the Lord said to Moses, “Whenever you take a census of the people of Israel, each man who is counted must pay a ransom for himself to the Lord.  Then there will be no plagues among the people as you count them.  His payment to the Lord will be one-fifth of an ounce of silver.  All who have reached their twentieth birthday must give this offering to the Lord.  When this offering is given to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves, the rich must not give more, and the poor must not give less.  Use this money for the care of the Tabernacle.  It will bring you, the Israelites, to the Lord’s attention, and it will make atonement for your lives.”

* Forgiveness brings freedom and dignity

Imagine the joy of a slave set free.  God took the children of Israel out of bitter slavery and gave them freedom and dignity.  We, too, are set free when we accept Christ’s payment that redeems us from sin’s slavery.  We no longer need to be bogged down in shame over our past sins; we can walk with dignity because God has forgiven us and forgotten them.  But just as the Israelites were still in danger of returning to a slave mentality, we need to beware of the temptation to return to our former sinful patterns. (NLT)

Leviticus 26:13 – I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you from the land of Egypt so you would no longer be slaves.  I have lifted the yoke of slavery from your neck so you can walk free with your heads held high.

* Forgiveness only antidote for revenge

Samson’s reply “I only paid them back for what they did to me” in Judges 15:11 tells the story of the chapter.  Revenge is an uncontrollable monster.  Each act of retaliation brings another.  It is a boomerang that cannot be thrown without cost to the thrower.  The revenge cycle can be halted only by forgiveness. (NLT)

* Forgiveness doesn’t eliminate sin’s consequences

David confessed and repented of his sin, but God’s judgment was that his child would die.  The consequences of David’s sin were irreversible.  Sometimes an apology isn’t enough.  When God forgives us and restores our relationship with him, he doesn’t eliminate all the consequences for our wrongdoing.  We may be tempted to say, “If this is wrong, I can always apologize to God,” but we must remember that we may set into motion events with irreversible consequences. (NLT)

2 Samuel 12:14 – But you have given the enemies of the Lord great opportunity to despise and blaspheme him, so your child will die.”

* Confession & repentance essential to forgiveness 

When David realized his sin, he took full responsibility, admitted he was wrong, and asked God to forgive him.  Many people want to add God and the benefits of Christianity to their lives without acknowledging their personal sin and guilt.  But confession and repentance must come before receiving forgiveness.  Like David, we must take full responsibility for our actions and confess them to God before we can expect him to forgive us and continue his work in us. (NLT)

1 Chronicles 21:8 – Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly and shouldn’t have taken the census.  Please forgive me for doing this foolish thing.”

* Forgiveness demonstrates strength not weakness

While Adonijah feared for his life and expected the severest punishment, Solomon simply dismissed his brother and sent him home.  As a new king, Solomon had the power to kill his rivals, something Adonijah would have done had his conspiracy succeeded.  But Solomon acted as if he had nothing to prove, thus demonstrating his authority and power.  Sometimes forgiving a personal attack shows more strength than lashing out in revenge.  Trying to prove one’s power and authority often proves only one’s fear and self-doubt.  Only after Adonijah made another attempt to secure royal power was Solomon forced to have him executed. (NLT)

1 Kings 1:52-53 – Solomon replied, “If he proves himself to be loyal, he will not be harmed.  But if he does not, he will die.”  So King Solomon summoned Adonijah, and they brought him down from the altar.  He came and bowed low before the king, and Solomon dismissed him, saying, “Go on home.”

* Conditions for forgiveness 

In chapter 6, Solomon asked God to make provisions for the people when they sinned.  God answered with four conditions for forgiveness: (1) Humble yourself by admitting your sins, (2) pray to God, asking for forgiveness, (3) seek God continually, and (4) turn from sinful behavior.  True repentance is more than talk–it is changed behavior.  Whether we sin individually, as a group, or as a nation, following these steps will lead to forgiveness.  God will answer our earnest prayers. (NLT)

2 Chronicles 7:14 – Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.

* No sin too great for God to forgive

In a list of corrupt kings, Manasseh would rank near the top.  His life was a catalog of evil deeds including idol worship, sacrificing his own children, and Temple desecration.  Eventually, however, he realized his sins and cried out to God for forgiveness.  And God listened.  If God can forgive Manasseh, surely he can forgive anyone.  Are you burdened by overpowering guilt?  Do you doubt that anyone could forgive what you have done?  Take heart–until death, no one is beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness. (NLT)

2 Chronicles 33:12-13 – But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and cried out humbly to the God of his ancestors.  And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request for help.  So the Lord let Manasseh return to Jerusalem and to his kingdom.  Manasseh had finally realized that the Lord alone is God!

* David was truly sorry for his adultery with Bathsheba and for murdering her husband to cover it up.  He knew that his actions had hurt many people.  But because David repented of those sins, God mercifully forgave him.  No sin is to great to be forgiven!  Do you feel that you could never come close to God because you have done something terrible?  God can and will forgive you of any sin.  While God forgives us, however, he does not always erase the natural consequences of our sin.  David’s life and family were never the same as a result of what he had done. (NLT)

Psalms 51:1-7 – Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.  Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.  Wash me clean from my guilt.  Purify me from my sin.

For I recognize my shameful deeds–they haunt me day and night.  Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.  You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.

For I was born a sinner–yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.  But you desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

* Peter had been an unstable leader during Jesus’ ministry, letting his bravado be his downfall, even denying that he knew Jesus.  But Christ had forgiven and restored him.  This was a new Peter, humble but bold.  His confidence came from the Holy Spirit, who made him a powerful and dynamic speaker.  Have you ever felt as if you’ve made such bad mistakes that God could never forgive and use you?  No matter what sins you have committed, God promises to forgive you and make you useful for his Kingdom.  Allow him to forgive you and use you effectively to serve him. (NLT)

Acts 2:14 – Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem!  Make no mistake about this.”

* Sometimes it is difficult to forgive those who wrong us.  Imagine how hard it would be to forgive everyone, no matter what they had done!  This is what God has done in Jesus.  No one, no matter what he or she has done, is beyond forgiveness.  All a person has to do is turn from all known sin, receive Christ’s forgiveness, and commit his or her life to him. (NLT)

1 John 2:2 – He is the sacrifice for our sins.  He takes away not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

* Forgiveness means forgetting the wrong committed against you

East and west can never meet.  This is a symbolic portrait of God’s forgiveness.  When he forgives our sin, he separates it from us and doesn’t even remember it.  We need never wallow in the past, for God forgives and forgets.  We tend to dredge up the ugly past, but God has wiped our record clean.  If we are to follow God, we must model his forgiveness.  When we forgive another, we must also forget the sin.  Otherwise we have not truly forgiven. (NLT)

Psalms 103:12 – He has removed our rebellious acts as far away from us as the east is from the west.

* Forgiveness is the first step in restoring relationship

Jesus said that divorce is not permissible except for unfaithfulness.  This does not mean that divorce should automatically occur when a spouse commits adultery.  The word translated “unfaithful” implies a sexually immoral life-style, not a confessed and repented act of adultery.  Those who discover that their partner has been unfaithful should first make every effort to forgive, reconcile, and restore their relationship.  We are always to look for reasons to restore the marriage relationship rather than for excuses to leave it. (NLT)

Matthew 5:32 – [Jesus said] “But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery.  And anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

* God won’t forgive those who don’t forgive others

Jesus gives a startling warning about forgiveness.  If we refuse to forgive others, God will also refuse to forgive us.  Why?  Because when we don’t forgive others, we are denying our common ground as sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.  God’s forgiveness of sin is not the direct result of our forgiving others, but it is based on our realizing what forgiveness means.  It is easy to ask God for forgiveness but difficult to grant it to others.  Whenever we ask God to forgive us for sin, we should ask, Have I forgiven the people who have wronged me? (NLT)

Matthew 6:14-15 – [Jesus said] “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

* How often should we grant forgiveness

The rabbis taught that people should forgive those who offend them–but only three times.  Peter, trying to be especially generous, asked Jesus if seven (the “perfect” number) was enough times to forgive someone.  But Jesus answered, “Seventy times seven,” meaning that we shouldn’t even keep track of how many times we forgive someone.  We should always forgive those who are truly repentant, no matter how many times they ask. (NLT)

Matthew 18:22 – “NO!” Jesus replied, “seventy times seven!”

* Don’t withhold forgiveness from others

Because God has forgiven all our sins, we should not withhold forgiveness from others.  As we realize how completely Christ has forgiven us, it should produce an attitude of forgiveness toward others.  Wen we don’t forgive others, we are setting ourselves above Christ’s law of love. (NLT)

Matthew 18:35 – [Jesus said] “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters in your heart.”

* Admitting the need for forgiveness 

The purpose of John’s preaching was to prepare people to accept Jesus as God’s Son.  When John challenged the people to confess sin individually, he signaled the start of a new way to relate to God.

Is change needed in your life before you can hear and understand Jesus’ message?  You have to admit that you need forgiveness before you can accept it.  To prepare to receive Christ, repent.  Denounce the world’s dead-end attractions, sinful temptations, and harmful attitudes. (NLT)

Mark 1:5 – People from Jerusalem and from all over Judea traveled out into the wilderness to see and hear John.  And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River.

* Use forgiveness first before judging others

This is a significant statement about judging others.  Because Jesus upheld the legal penalty for adultery, stoning, he could not be accused of being against the law.  But by saying that only a sinless person could throw the first stone, he highlighted the importance of compassion and forgiveness.  When others are caught in sin are you quick to pass judgement?  To do so is to act as though you have never sinned.  It is God’s role to judge, not ours.  Our role is to show forgiveness and compassion. (NLT)

John 8:7 – They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, stone her.  But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!”

* Forgiveness must lead to change of heart

Jesus didn’t condemn the woman accused of adultery, but neither did he ignore or condone her sin.  He told her to leave her life of sin.  Jesus stands ready to forgive any sin in your life, but confession and repentance mean a change of heart.  With God’s help we can accept Christ’s forgiveness and stop our wrongdoing. (NLT)

John 8:11 – “No, Lord,” she said.  And Jesus said, “Neither do I.  Go and sin no more.”

* How forgiveness is tied to obedience

When Jesus says those who obey won’t die, he is talking about spiritual death, not physical death.  Even physical death, however, will eventually be overcome.  Those who follow Christ will be raised to live eternally with him. (NLT)

John 8:51 – [Jesus said] “I assure you, anyone who obey’s my teaching will never die!”

* Forgiveness found only through faith in Christ

Jesus was giving the disciples their Spirit-powered and Spirit-guided mission–to preach the Good News about Jesus so people’s sins might be forgiven.  The disciples did not have the power to forgive sins (only God can forgive sins), but Jesus gave them the privilege of telling new believers that their sins have been forgiven because they have accepted Jesus’ message.  All believers have this same privilege.  We can announce forgiveness of sins with certainty when we ourselves have found repentance and faith. (NLT)

John 20:23 – [Jesus said] “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven.  If you refuse to forgive them, they are unforgiven.”

* Love should be the response to Jesus’ forgiveness

Overflowing love is the natural response to forgiveness and the appropriate consequence of faith.  But only those who realize the depth of their sin can appreciate the complete forgiveness God offers them.  Jesus has rescued all of his followers, whether they were once extremely wicked or conventionally good, from eternal death.  Do you appreciate the wideness of God’s mercy?  Are you grateful for his forgiveness? (NLT)

Luke 7:47 – [Jesus said] “I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love.  But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

* Forgiveness the key to our relationship with God

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he made forgiveness the cornerstone of their relationship with God.  God has forgiven our sins, we must now forgive those who have wronged us.  To remain unforgiving shows we have not understood that we ourselves deeply need to be forgiven.  Think of some people who have wronged you.  Have you forgiven them?  How will God deal with you if he treats you as you treat others? (NLT)

Luke 11:4 – [Jesus said] “And forgive us our sins–just as we forgive those who have sinned against us.  And don’t let us yield to temptation.”

* Why sin against Holy Spirit is unforgivable

 Jesus said that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable.  This has worried many sincere Christians, but it does not need to.  The unforgivable sin is attributing to Satan the work that the Holy Spirit accomplishes.  Thus, it is the deliberate and ongoing rejection of the Holy Spirit’s work and even of God himself.  A person who has committed this sin is far from God and totally unaware of any sin at all.  If you fear you have committed this sin, be assured that your very concern shows that you have not sinned in this way. (NLT)

Luke 12:10 – [Jesus said] “Yet those who speak against the Son of Man may be forgiven, but anyone who speaks blasphemies against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.”

* Forgiveness changes bitterness to joy

In the story of the lost son, the father’s response is contrasted with the older brother’s.  The father forgave because he was filled with love.  The son refused to forgive because he was bitter about the injustice of it all.  His resentment rendered him just as lost to the father’s love as his younger brother had been.  Don’t let anything keep you from forgiving others.  If you are refusing to forgive people, you are missing a wonderful opportunity to experience joy and share it with others.  Make your joy grow: Forgive somebody who has hurt you. (NLT)

Luke 15:30 – [Jesus said] “‘Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the finest calf we have.'”

* Forgiveness only way to God’s power

“Everything has a price” seems to be true in our world of bribes, wealth, and materialism.  Simon thought he could buy in the Holy Spirit’s power, but Peter harshly rebuked him.  The only way to receive God’s power is to do what Peter told Simon to do–turn from sin, ask God for forgiveness, and be filled with his Spirit.  No amount of money can buy salvation, forgiveness of sin, or God’s power.  These are only gained by repentance and belief in Christ as Savior. (NLT)

Acts 8:18-23 – When Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given when the apostles placed their hands upon people’s heads, he offered money to buy this power.  “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!”  But Peter replied, “May your money perish with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought!  You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right before God.  Turn from your wickedness and pray to the Lord.  Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, for I can see that you are full of bitterness and held captive by sin.”

* How to experience the joy of forgiveness 

What can we do to get rid of guilt?  King David was guilty of terrible sins–adultery, murder, lying–and yet he experienced the joy of forgiveness.  We, too, can have this joy when we (1) quit denying our guilt and recognize that we have sinned, (2) admit our guilt to God and ask for his forgiveness, and (3) let go of our guilt and believe that God has forgiven us.  This can be difficult when a sin has taken root in our life over many years, when it is very serious, or when it involves others.  We must remember that Jesus is willing and able to forgive every sin.  In view of the tremendous price he paid on the cross, it is arrogant to think that there is any sin too great for him to forgive.  Even though our faith is weak, our conscience is sensitive, and our memory haunts us, God’s Word declares that sins confessed are sins forgiven. (NLT)

Romans 4:6-8 – King David spoke of this, describing the happiness of an undeserving sinner who is declared to be righteous: “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.  Yes, what joy for those whose sin is no longer counted against them by the Lord.”

* Why we should forgive our enemies 

In this day of lawsuits and incessant demands for legal rights, Paul’s command sounds almost impossible.  When someone hurts you deeply, instead of giving him what he deserves, Paul says to befriend him.  Why does Paul tell us to forgive our enemies?  (1) Forgiveness may breed a cycle of retaliation and lead to mutual reconciliation.  (2) It may make the enemy feel ashamed and change his or her ways.  (3) By contrast, repaying evil for evil hurts you just as much as it hurts your enemy.  Even if your enemy never repents, forgiving him or her will free you of a heavy load of bitterness. (NLT)

* Forgiveness involves both attitudes & action 

Forgiveness involves both attitudes and actions.  If you find it difficult to feel forgiving toward someone who has hurt you, try responding with kind actions.  If appropriate, tell this person that you would like to heal your relationship.  Lend a helping hand.   Send him or her a gift.  Smile at him or her.  Many times you will discover that right actions lead to right feelings. (NLT)

Romans 12:19-21 – Dear friends, never avenge yourselves.  Leave that to God.  For it is written, “I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it,” says the Lord.  Instead, do what the Scriptures say: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them.  If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.”  Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.

* Forgiveness can’t occur without God’s mercy 

This is Christ’s law of forgiveness as taught in the Gospels.  We also see it in the Lord’s Prayer–“Forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.”  God forgives us, not because we forgive others, but solely because of his great mercy.  As we come to understand his mercy, however, we will want to be like him.  Having received forgiveness, we will pass it on to others.  Those who are unwilling to forgive have not become one with Christ, who was willing to forgive even those who crucified him. (NLT)

Ephesians 4:32 – Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

* What true forgiveness involves

From his prison cell, Paul had led Onesimus to the Lord.  Paul asked Philemon to forgive his runaway slave who had become a Christian and, even going beyond forgiveness, to accept Onesimus as a brother.  As Christians, we should forgive as we have been forgiven.  True forgiveness means that we treat the one we’ve forgiven as we would want to be treated.  Is there someone you say you have forgiven but who still needs your kindness? (NLT)

Philemon 1:10 – My plea is that you show kindness to Onesimus.  I think of him as my own son because he became a believer as a result of my ministry here in prison.

* Forgiveness involves God forgetting that we ever sinned

The writer concludes his argument with this powerful statement that God will remember our sins no more.  Christ forgives completely, so there is no need to confess our past sins repeatedly.  As believers, we can be confident that the sins we confess and renounce are forgiven and forgotten. (NLT)

Hebrews 10:17 – Then he adds, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.”

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