Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Finding freedom in forgiveness

As I'm typing, I can see the delete button... just glaring at me. I thought of a chapter in a book I read several months ago titled "Choosing Forgiveness". I began reading it because I was struggling to forgive those around me that had sinned against me- sometimes on a regular basis for the same things. How could I forget what they had done to me?! I knew I was called to forgive them, but what did that really look like when my heart was hurting so badly? I found comfort and stepping into freedom with the words by DeMoss. I wanted to share some of her wisdom- found at the foot of the Cross :)

"I wish the delete key was so easy to press in real life. In many ways, what happens when we trash a computer document is a vivid picture of what takes place when we truly forgive someone for an offense they've thrust upon us. We eliminate it. We clear the record. We treat it as if the sin never occurred in the first place. Isn't that the way God has forgiven us? And isn't that how He tells us to forgive others- "forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you?" (Colossians 3:13) As believers, we are told that God has forgiven "all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:13-14)
At one time, the "record" was right there, accusing us, exposing us, vindicating His righteouss anger agaisnt us. But with one press of the delete key, our holy, merciful God erased the whole thing. Nothing was saved on a backup disk. Nothing printed out in hard copy. Nothing stored in a separate folder or filing cabinet in case it proved useful to whip it out again someday. All of it, deleted. Forever. All because of Christ's death on the cross- in our place. Debt canceled.
This was God's way of dealing with what we had done to Him. And that is what He asks us to do with others' sins against us. I believe most of us, in our dealings with others and the pain they've brought into our lives, would love to get to that point. We'd love to see the pain and bitterness gone, a nonissue, done away with.
But the problem is, we know that just pushing a button won't make all the feelings disappear. It won't totally undo the damage or put everything back like it was. So why even try? Why set ourselves up for disappointment, perhaps leaving the door open for this to happen again and to hurt us even worse? Why go to all the emotional trouble of transacting forgiveness if it won't repair the gaping hole in our hearts, at least not for a good long time?
Why would God ask for such a thing?
Because of a promise.
Yes, as much as anything we could say about forgiveness, this truth seems to capture it well: forgiveness is a promise- a promise never to bring up that sin against that person again- not to God, not to the person who committed it, not to anyone else. It is a deliberate decision to deal with another's sin by doing away with it, pressing the delete button, wiping it off our slate. With the promise of forgiveness, we relinquish our "right" to punish the offender or to make him pay- his record has been cleared...
It's a promise God has made to us. "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12). Yes, what we did to Him was real. What we continue to do against Him is real. But by the atoning blood of His Son, God has chosen not to remember our offenses. He has put them behind His back. That's a promise we can take all the way to eternity. This matter of forgiveness is truly at the core- the very heart- of the gospel. Even our excuses for not forgiving keep bringing us back to the cross, back to where forgivenss was perfectly applied, not to a group of people who'd gone through all the right steps to become forgiveable, but to us- to people who didn't deserve it, didn't know we needed it- perhaps didn't even want it!
We of all people should appreciate the joy of forgiveness....by knowing what a treasure it is to be purely and perfectly forgiven. But beyond that, when we extend to others the forgiveness that Christ extended to us on the cross, we reflect the mercy and grace of God to a world that desperately needs to be forgiven...
While forgiveness is indeed costly, it is not beyond the means of those who have Christ's life flowing within them. When God tells us to love our enemies, He also gives us the love to go along with the command.
Yes, you can do this...because He can do this.
That's a promise.
You may not feel any natural "great love" toward the one who brought such shipwreck into your life. No one would expect you to. But the power- and the beauty- of the transformed Christian life is that "it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippeans 2:13). It will never be the depth of your love that causes you to forgive such heartless acts and attitudes. It will never be within your power to overlook the wicked lies and wild justifications of those who have made you distrustful of just about everybody. It will be- it can only be- the love of Christ transplanted into your believing heart that can exchange your weakness for His strength. And so because He has forgiven us- and because of His boundless life which now indweels us- what offense is too great for us to forgive?
"To be a Christian," C.S. Lewis said, "means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in us." When it comes to forgiveness, our Lord would not command us to do something that He would not enable us to do. Or that He hasn't done Himself.
When we choose to press the delete key- to forgive, to clear the record, what then?
Has this automatically fixed everythign for those individuals? No. Has it changed our circumstances at all? Not always. Not immediately.
Certainly, not every relationship is remedied the way we hope. But even when you can't see the results- though the situation may not clear up entirely or get any better at all- you can still know that you've done what God has required of you.You can continue to forgive as His grace and love flow through you. And you can walk in peace- His peace. As Paul wrote in Philippians 4:7, the peace of God will "guard" your heart- your feelings, you emotions. It will "guard" your mind- your thoughts, your decisions. That's because His peace does its hard work in your life "through Christ Jesus," who knows what it means- and what it costs- to forgive it all. That's the promise of God to you.
Forgiveness isn't meant to be free and easy. It is hard. It is costly. It is painful. But this is the only way it can be real- real like God's forgiveness of us is real- real enough to truly change us.
-Nancy DeMoss

I have a lot of repenting to do. It's been a repenting week actually. There is a lot of pent up rage in my heart that is not only keeping those that I haven't forgiven in prison, but also- myself.
For instance: classic Katie responses to being sinned against are: Avoiding the issue. Choosing to do my best to ignore him or her.
Resenting the ability to call and confess or let the offending party know they have my forgiveness.
Trying not to think about it... these all end in disaster folks.
Take it from me, a woman who knows what it means to harbor hurt feelings, who can use her words to wound those around her in defense, and yet, is finding the road to repentance and forgiveness is the only answer. There is freedom- and new ways to grow. Trust in our Savior. Let those angry thoughts go. Find peace in Jesus' arms. He's waiting to show you how beautiful life can be.
I, for one, am growing. Praise God!

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