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The importance of forgiving others Unforgiveness can drag you to Hell (pdf)
Peter once asked the Lord how many times he was required to forgive his brother who would sin against him. Then he supplied a possible answer to his own question. He said, "Up to seven times?"
From this the Lord gave a concise answer, then He elaborated in detail on the importance of forgiving those who sin against us. Dear reader, lay down your preconceived ideas regarding this subject and read on with an open heart and willingness to receive what the Bible plainly declares! Jesus' teaching on this particular subject, as in other areas, has been twisted and modified to appease people who have "itching ears" and sinful desires! Don't let yourself be deceived by anyone regarding the importance of forgiving others who sin against YOU.
This article will primarily focus in upon two key times the Lord touched on this subject (Mt. 6:14,15 and Mt. 18:21-35).
In Mt. 6:14,15 the Lord emphatically stated eternal truth with the following words:
"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
Those words about forgiving others who sin against us must have shocked the Lord's disciples, for this is the very first time in the Bible that such was stated! In other words, we never read of forgiving others to get our sins forgiven anywhere in the entire Old Testament! However, the Lord changed all that when He gave us His teaching on this subject!
Please note that verses 14 and 15 are given specifically to those already saved! This is apparent, for Jesus said, "your heavenly Father" (v. 14) and "your Father" (v. 15). Jesus never stated the unsaved had Almighty God as their spiritual father. Their spiritual father is clearly the devil(Jn. 8:42-44) and they are clearly "children of the devil" (1 Jn. 3:10). This fact about the two spiritual families helps us see that the Lord's teaching on the subject of forgiving others who sin against us is specifically directed to those who already have experienced true regeneration (or salvation). This alone refutes those who would say one must have a forgiving spirit toward others to begin with, before he can come to salvation, based on a misunderstanding of this passage! If that was true, we would see such expressed elsewhere in the New Testament in one of the various salvation sermons, but we never do! Such is never cited as a prerequisite for initial salvation. Instead, the teaching of forgiving others so that the Heavenly Father will forgive us is always directed to those who are truly saved already. This fact is absolutely devastating to all of the perseverance of the saints (or eternal security) teachers who would say all of our future sins are automatically forgiven after salvation! If one's future sins were automatically (unconditionally) forgiven, then we would not have to forgive others who sin against us to get our sins forgiven, as Jesus clearly taught! Somebody is teaching falsely about this subject and we know it can't be the Lord!
So, according to Jesus, a person who has been saved by faith in Him must meet the condition of forgiving others or their future sins committed after their salvation won't be forgiven. This is the teaching which proceeded from the One who has the words of eternal life (Jn. 6:68). This is true grace teaching by the Lord Himself, who gave us Jn. 3:16 and 10:27-29! Remember, "grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (Jn. 1:17). This hated and misrepresented teaching of the Lord's on forgiving others is under that umbrella.
Dear reader, can you see from all of this the spiritual danger intrinsically linked to the teaching of once saved, always saved? This should be apparent, even at this point, but there is much more that needs to be said, especially on the subject of forgiving others so that we can get forgiven.
In Mt. 18:21-35, we have the most exhaustive teaching in the Bible on this subject of forgiving others who sin against us. In those fifteen verses, many things are observed as one would ponder them. Some observations are:
(1) Jesus never even suggested that some of His disciples would not be sinned against in this world. This is very basic, but nonetheless, an important point to stress. Dear reader, YOU are not the only one who has been "stabbed in the back" by others who should never have treated you badly! (I once heard a preacher make this point well by saying, if you are alive in this world for five minutes, you have already been stabbed in the back by someone! Though this is an exaggeration, he made this point well.) Without exception, everyone alive today has been sinned against multiple times, even if they are saved. Furthermore, if you continue to live much longer, you'll soon be sinned against again! This age is rampant with this kind of thing. There is no avoiding being mistreated by others, if you stay around people. Many godly people were unjustly sinned against: JOSEPH by his own brothers, Potiphar's wife and the chief cupbearer (Gen. 37-50); MOSES by his brother and sister (Num. 12:1-13); and DAVID by King Saul who personally tried to kill him more than once (1 Sam. 18:11; 19:10) are just three examples.
(2) At the point of our salvation, our mountainous sin debt that was forgiven is likened to "ten thousand talents." When someone sins against us, it is likened unto only "a hundred denarii." That is about a 600,000 to 1 ratio between these two values! In other words, we offended God 600,000 times more severely over the years by sinning against Him, than people do when they sin against us!
(3) The man who received personal forgiveness in Mt. 18:21-35, but refused to forgive the man who owed him a mere "hundred denarii," was labeled a "wicked servant"! This same description is used in Mt. 25:26 and there we learn that such people will be thrown into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (25:30)!
(4) The same way that "wicked servant" was treated is how the heavenly Father will treat YOU unless you forgive your brother from your heart, v. 35! God expects, even demands, those who received incredible mercy from Him which came at the point of their salvation to afterwards show mercy by forgiving others.
How the devil hates the light that shines forth from the Word of God. This is so because he wants to damn as many as possible through deception, but God's Word is a major hindrance to his lies. With this in mind, it should be apparent why you have seldom, if ever, heard this clear truth regarding the importance of forgiving others, as cited in these passages.
Now that you know that you must forgive others who sin against you or your heavenly Father won't forgive you, what does it mean to "forgive"? The word actually means "let go" or "put away." This is the same word found in Jn. 4:28 and 1 Cor. 7:11:
"Then leaving her water jar, the woman went to the town and said to the people...."
"But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife."
In other words, what that woman did with her water jar, and what a husband must not do to his wife are what we must do about any grudges, feelings of resentment and revenge toward those who sin against us so that we can get our sins forgiven after initial salvation. In other words, leave those things go. Don't harbor bitterness or a desire for revenge on those who have sinned against you! (Vengeance is God's. Let Him repay. See Rom. 12:19.)
Beyond a shadow of doubt, your spiritual enemy, the devil, will try to get you into a state of unforgiveness so that he can destroy you! He will remind you of past hurts that occurred years ago, if that will work for him. Seemingly he did this to David using a past painful incident with Shimei (2 Sam. 16:5-14; 19:18-23 cf. 1 Kings 2:8,9). Remember, anything goes, as far as he is concerned! Please know that the devil is both aggressive and malicious to the core. He is capable of giving us thoughts and he continues to do so every day! Regarding this, it would be good for you to get in the daily habit of asking yourself the question: What kind of thoughts or suggestions has the devil been giving me today? You can detect his destructive thoughts and suggestions by comparing such that has been coming into your mind with the Word of God. If thoughts and suggestions that have been coming into your mind do not come under the category of simple obedience to God's Word, they are from the Tempter! Do NOT ponder or entertain such thoughts, even for a moment! To "resist" these thoughts is to resist the devil. Your enemy is trying to get you to ponder them long enough so that you will act them out. Resist the devil's temptations.
When the devil gives you the thought (temptation) of some past hurt, trying to get you in (or keep you in) unforgiveness, he is trying to initiate something in your heart and mind that will later destroy you spiritually, unless you resist him. Again, don't yield to these thoughts. You can "resist" the devil when this type of attack comes by praying for the person(s) who sinned against you (Lk. 6:27)! Stephen prayed for those who were killing him (Acts 7:60). Praying for your offenders will come much easier, if you remember your "ten thousand talent" debt God canceled at your salvation and that offense against you was only a "hundred denarii"! As cited earlier, godly people from the past have been sinned against just like you have, even worse! This, of course, does not lessen the hurt from cruel acts and/or words that came from a trusted friend or loved one, perhaps even someone you greatly helped who later turned on you! Christians have been greatly hurt and totally betrayed in the past by their spouse, parent(s), brothers and/or sisters, children, grandchildren, neighbors, best friends, co-workers, teachers, boss, etc. (Consider how people turned on Jesus. The same crowd that He fed, healed and taught later cried, "Crucify him.") In spite of how people might treat us, Jesus said we must forgive. Ask Him to remove all resentment from your heart. Wash out those hurtful thoughts from your mind by spending quality time in the Bible and by listening to gospel music. To hum or sing Christian songs to yourself throughout the day might mean victory or defeat in this area, when certain attacks come!
To say you can't forgive is to show yourself already completely deceived by the devil! Not only can you forgive, you must forgive. Forgiving others doesn't come easy for anyone offended, especially since the devil will be trying his best to get you in unforgiveness. Use the spiritual weapons God has given you that are mighty through Him (2 Cor. 10:4) and resist the devil's temptations to be unforgiving. Don't go by your feelings to gauge your own forgiveness of another.
Furthermore, please know that it is possible to forgive another and yet not trust that person to the point where they can hurt you again or even worse than before! There are some people in this world who we won't ever be able to completely reconcile with--who will continue to hate and hurt you and me as often as they can. Let's face it, such does exist. There is Biblical evidence of such which will soon be cited. We forgive such people, that is, we harbor no bitterness or desire for revenge, but we better not trust this unique type of person. David never trusted Saul's invitation to return to Jerusalem, even after Saul seemingly repented (1 Sam. 26:21-27:1). We can also assume that Paul forgave Alexander the metalworker, who did him a great deal of harm, but he still warned Timothy of this same man (2 Tim. 4:14,15)! Apparently, Paul didn't think Alexander was going to change.
Also, to limit the seriousness of unforgiveness to only being a hindrance to your prayers, as some teachers do, is to dangerously understate the consequences of it. This is usually done from Mk. 11:25. That verse says:
"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."
Clearly, we see here as in the aforementioned verses, we block our own forgiveness by being unforgiving! Also, we should check our own hearts for any unforgiveness as often as we pray! In other words, this should be a constant area of self-examination.
Furthermore, don't think that your refusal to forgive others who sin against you will merely hinder your fellowship with God! This is never stated as the consequence of refusing to forgive (Mt. 6:14,15; 18:21-35; Mk. 11:25; Lk. 6:37; 11:4), but is another lie from the devil to lessen the seriousness of unforgiveness! DO NOT BE DECEIVED ABOUT THIS. YOU MUST FORGIVE OTHERS TO GET YOUR SINS FORGIVEN. With this in mind, ponder James 1:14,15:
"But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to DEATH."
Note: spiritual death is the final result of sin, which all began with sinful desires and temptations. This is exemplified with the Prodigal (Lk. 15:24,32 cf. Rom. 8:13). Since spiritual death is the end result of unforgiven sin, then to have forgiveness denied to us because of our refusal to forgive others has to be spiritually fatal. This has to be why some Christians become cold and "fall away" after a period of time with the Lord. When this occurs, the devil has been successful with his schemes. Don't let this happen to you!
Furthermore, though unforgiveness is not clearly mentioned in Gal. 5:15, certainly such is understood:
"If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other."
Please note that Paul stated they could be "destroyed" by each other through this! With this in mind, the devil must have great delight in local church splits.
Also, Heb. 12:14 reads:
"Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord."
Besides being holy, we are to "make every effort to live in peace with all men," that is, as long as we don't sacrifice truth or Christian values to get this "peace." This is how hard we should try to avoid the state of unforgiveness or anything that might lead to such.
In conclusion, to be unforgiving is to: anger God (Mt. 18:34), to give the devil an advantage in your life (2 Cor. 2:10,11), to conform to this wicked generation (2 Tim. 3:3), to assure you will receive no mercy on Judgment Day (Mt. 18:30-33 cf. Jam. 2:12,13), not to walk in love (1 Cor. 13:5), to stop God from forgiving you (Mt. 6:14,15) and to negate your own salvation (Mt. 18:32,34,35; cf. Jam. 1:14,15).
Remember, for you to be unforgiving towards another will not destroy the person who wronged you! Instead, IT WILL DESTROY YOU, THE PERSON WHO WON'T FORGIVE! This is why the devil frequently uses it against the offended party. Unforgiveness has to be one of the devil's most subtle and destructive satanic temptations, but few seemingly know the seriousness of it because of the false teachings that, especially, come through the once saved always saved teachers! To continue to walk with the Lord and have spiritual life, we must forgive others who sin against us. Forgiving others is as important as getting your own sins forgiven, for without the former, the latter won't occur, according to Jesus.
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