The Miracle of Yahweh's Forgiveness
Part 2: Turning the
Keys for Deliverance
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 22 January 2005
Click here for Part 1
"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors ... For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt.6:12,14-15, NKJV).
Brethren and sisters, we return again this week to that central tenet of the Christian faith, namely, the mandate to forgive and be forgiven. Other religions without exception tell you that you have to work off your sins yourself, paying for the wrong you have done. And realising this is totally impossible, Satan has deceived many of them into believing that we can do it but only by working off our karma in many lives. From this was born the lie of reincarnation. We are told we can do it but only after many tens of thousands of years of endless, imaginary rebirths.
The truth is very different. The truth is that forgiveness is the key to deliverance. Indeed, it is the very key to prayer itself. Yah'shua (Jesus) said:
"Have faith in Elohim (God). For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will come to pass, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses" (Mark 11:22-26, NKJV).
I believe that the reason so many of our prayers are not answered is because of the sin of unforgiveness. Indeed, it would not surprise me if the mountain Yah'shua (Jesus) speaks of here is also a metaphor for unforgiveness, because unforgiveness can be as immovable as a mountain. The hate between different races and religious groups, with all their blood feuds over the centuries can usually be traced to an unwillingness to forgive. Unforgiveness is indeed like a mountain: huge, indomitable, unrelenting, daunting - but if we believe in the promises, such mountains flee. I have witnessed it happen to victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) who in human terms have every 'right' to loathe and passionately hate their tormentors. Yet I have seen the miracle of forgiveness transform them again and again. So I can testify, both for myself and for others, that forgiveness truly opens the doors to miracles.
The fact of forgiveness in a Christian's life is what separates out the true Christian from the nominal one. Forgiveness does not just mean releasing your enemy or abuser of guilt towards you but of being empowered to love him too. We can forgive with our mouths but not mean it with our hearts and still carry the hate around inside. Someone who carries hate and bitterness is a very different spiritual species from someone who does not. Thus Paul could write:
"And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph.4:32, NKJV).
This is the sign of the Messianic Community - the genuine one. It is a community filled with kindness and tender-heartedness, and a genuine forgiving at all times. We all tread on each other's toes in our walk towards perfection and sanctification and if we do not forgive quickly we cannot be that living, loving community. When we fail to forgive, a mountain comes between us and Yahweh in our hearts which only genuine forgiveness will remove. A congregation full of people full of mountains of unforgiveness in their hearts is a congregation of dead stones. A Canadian lady was telling me how her father had been called to the ministry and had been given a church full of such people. They were unyielding in their coldness and it eventually crushed him spiritually and he turned awat from God. Unforgiveness can kill.
Paul is not slow to warn people of the dangers. He repeated much the same counsel to the Colossians:
"Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do" (Col.3:12-13, NKJV).
For a Christian this is not an option - it is a commandment - and if he does not do it, he is no longer a Christian in Yahweh's eyes, no matter how much he may profess his faith. One who does not forgive is dead in trespass and out of relationship with his Saviour. As the recent revelation said, "their hearts are darkened" (PWNC 050104:11). One who has a darkened heart because of a lack of forgiveness but continues to share the Gospel is counted as a hypocrite (v.61).
The central truth of the Christian message is that we get into right relationship with God in the same way we get into right relationship with our fellow man - through repentance and forgiveness. Ritually repeating prayers will not do it. Charity work will not do it. Making pilgrimages to the Vatican, Lourdes or Mecca will not do it. Going out of your way to be extra nice to the person you refuse to forgive will not do it. Pretending it never happened will not do it. For so long as their is unforgiveness in your heart, there is a mountain of unbelief there too, a rock of offence, a hill of controversy, a cliff-face of death. So why do people have problems in forgiveness? What holds them back?
We must be honest - forgiveness can be tough. I read only the other day in a British newspaper of a Polish Jew whose family was liquidated in Auschwitz. Now who of us here has lost an entire family? Perhaps some of our readers have. Families are indeed being brutally murdered even now. I know some of you have lost loved ones to war, to adultery, to disease, and to other things. Losing a beloved is not easy - perhaps one the most difficult things there is. I know people who have lost children - they are bitter in their hearts and cannot find peace. Yet I know others who have had the same losses but have peace and reconciliation. What is the difference between the two? The Polish Jew decided to hate and seek revenge. When the war was over he volunteered to be a Soviet concentration camp commandant himself only this time they were filled with Nazi war criminals and ordinary German civilians. He made no distinction between the two. He tortured them and killed them both. Today Poland is trying to extradite him from Israel but the Israelis will not surrender him. As Talmudic Jews, they believe in revenge, and that is why their hearts are darkened.
Why is it so hard to forgive? Because there are strongholds protecting old hurts. The moment you decide not to forgive, you erect a stronghold in your heart. What do I mean by a stronghold in your heart? I mean a defence or a fortification, a place where no one else but you can enter. When you meet walls in people it is often because you have come across a stronghold. You can be met by silence, distance, or hostility. Moreover, there is usually something 'unnatural' about this wall and you can sense an evil power coming out of a person who has such a spiritual structure in his heart. That coldness, that heartlessness, that hate is all, in a word, demonic. It has a power all of its own and it isn't human. Because the moment you refuse to forgive, you push Christ out and one or more demons fill the vacuum.
Some people like this evil power. They find that with it they can threaten, manipulate and control people. And people are easily seduced by evil power. This power is not godly - it is aggressive, unhelpful, selfish and ultimately self-destructive. It is not, moreover, a power that can easily be controlled - the power drives the soul enslaved by it, which loses more and self-control over time as the stronghold gets reinforced by more hate and more unforgiveness. Try to picture a fortress in your heart run by Satan in which you hide your hurts and you have a pretty good idea what a stronghold is.
Whenever you come up against a stronghold in someone, a negative behaviour pattern is triggered. It seems to happen automatically without any consideration to what is being said or done. That is because demons are defending their territory and you are coming up against them too. Sudden flashes of anger, moodiness, irritation, depression, hostility, rudeness, a spirit of accusation, and even physical violence are usually the result of the presence of a demonic stronghold. You cannot easily rationalise with someone who has such a stronghold until they are willing to admit it is there. Usually they won't but will transfer blame to you in some way, accusing you of being the cause of their behaviour. It's a lie, of course, but either the victim doesn't know it's a lie or doesn't want to know it's a lie. Such a person may be said to be in bondage.
Yah'shua (Jesus) insists that we forgive everyone unconditionally and at all times and for one reason only: it stops us from getting into bondage ourselves. Now let's be clear about something: my forgiving someone of his sin against me does not mean that the sin is erased in the person I am forgiving - only Christ can do that. But it does mean than I myself do not fall into the bondage of unforgiveness. I may cancel the offence against myself out but I cannot cancel the offence against Yahweh - that is something the one being forgiven by me must do for himself. But the wonder of forgiveness from the one being offended is that it can, and does, give the one under oppression a revelation of what true love is all about. I can't myself reveal true love to that man but I can show him a picture or reflection of it so that he begins to desire it himself! With that desire kindled, he can then be pointed to the One where it is obtainable from - Yah'shua (Jesus). That is our mission as believers.
When we unconditionally forgive someone it does not mean we are saying that sin is of no consequence. We are not saying that forgiveness is as casual as waving ones hand. We are not saying that that it does not matter if that man sins again. If we are fulfilling our divine commission properly, we shall teach him that his behaviour is killing himself and others, and that if he does not repent, he will indeed be on the slippery path to hell. We cannot mince the truth. What is, is. But what we can and are commanded to do is to say that we will not be provoked into rage ourselves nor wish to accuse or seek revenge. We are to show that we are above that because Christ has redeemed us of that carnal lust. We can thereby offer hope that he can do the same. We can show him the path of reconciliation and forgiveness with God.
Christians in their unbelief that we should, and can, forgive unconditionally often erect their own strongholds by believing the lie that it is impossible. The reason they give is often that they have not been forgiven by others as though it were a quid pro quo arrangement - 'I will forgive you if you forgive me first, otherwise I shall continue hating you'. They won't say that in so many words but that is what they mean. That is not, however, Christianity. Christianity says that the one offended must take the initiative even of he is guiltless, because that is what Christ did for us. Yah'shua (Jesus) has already forgiven us for the crimes we have committed against Him and His Heavenly Father - our ingratitude and rebelliousness. All we have to do is accept it. But with one condition - that we extend the same grace to those who sin against us - always.
Forgiveness is not easy. It often requires great sacrifice, one sacrifice of which is our perceived need to 'punish' those who wrong us because we believe that we will feel better if we do. Punishing those who sin against us may give us a power surge but I assure you it is not godly - such comes from demons. It is what Satanism thrives on. When a courageous Catholic Bishop once went to a North African Muslim country to apologise for Catholic abuses in the past, he was not greeted with tearful embrace but with jubilant chants of "Allah is Great!" For those Muslims it was sweet revenge. Their hearts were not changed. By contrast, when some evangelicals went to a religious war stricken Muslim island in the Philippines some years ago and asked forgiveness for their fratricidal Catholic brethren in the past, the hearts of those Muslims were changed and they laid down their weapons. One set of Muslims chose to hate and the other to forgive. Yahweh blessed the latter.
If Yahweh asks us to forgive it is because He knows we are capable of doing it. He never asks us to do the impossible. If we offer excuses then the fault is ours. Moreover, He is not asking us to do it alone - He empowers those who wish to forgive with the actual power to forgive. He knows our limitations and weaknesses but He also knows how we can overcome them. It's our responsibility to ask Him how and not do dictate.
Liberty Savard tells the story of how she learned this lesson. She relates:
"I have been saved since 1973. I have had very little trouble forgiving at first, probably because I denied that the hard things existed while I forgave as many easy things as I could think of. Then, after four years as a Christian, I went through one of the most heart-wrenching wounds I have ever suffered as an adult. I had physical pain throughout my body from the pain in my heart. Another person was directly involved in creating the hurt and I wavered between striking back or building a stronghold to hide behind. So the Lord sent a new Christian friend named Jan. I rebuffed her initial attempts to befriend me, but finally gave in because it seemed easier. Our ways are not God's ways and He will use whatever can best reach our hurt. She invited me to her home where she played a record for me, an album I'm still searching for 15 years later. Jan's stereo and album collection were stolen shortly after that and neither one of us have ever found the record again. The album had one song entitled, 'Let pain become an open door'. My spirit grasped at that and I somehow released my pain and it did not become a memorial to my hurt, a stronghold of unforgiveness and a stumbling block to the rest of my life. I used my pain as an open door to walk into the arms of Jesus [Yah'shua]. While He held me, I began the process of learning how to forgive when it's really hard" (Liberty Savard, Shattering Your Strongholds, p.103; Bridge-Logos Publishers, Gainesville, FL: 1992,)
A memorial to hurt. Something to remind us of it. Memorials to pain are not memorials to love. In His great discourse on love in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul reminds us:
"Love does not keep a record of wrongs" (1 Cor.13:5b, GNB).
Love does not say: "Do you remember what you did to me 25 years ago, you bastard!" Love never brings it up because it is a lifeless memory filed away for good. But unforgiveness does. Unforgiveness brings up again, and again, and again, like an old-fashioned gramophone record that has got stuck in a groove. Where there has been genuine forgiveness, the matter is at an end. And if you find that old resentments are surfacing, then it is because you never truly forgave - you are still in bondage. You still have a demonic stronghold. And if that is the case, Yahweh will only forgive you of your sins in proportion to what you have released of others' sins against you.
Yah'shua (Jesus) gives us the model we are to follow:
"... when He [Yah'shua/Jesus] was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him [Yahweh] who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness -- by whose stripes you were healed" (1 Peter 2:23-25, NKJV).
Yah'shua (Jesus) entrusted everything to His Father Yahweh just as we are to entrust everything to Him - not in just word but in very deed. If something is stopping you from doing this, then you have a demon problem that needs addressing. When we refuse to revile or threaten, we allow His wounds to heal us. When we refuse to hate or entertain bitterness, then His grace ministers to us and cleanses us. And when we are no longer provoked or triggered by negative behaviour in others, then we know we have made it and are safely in His arms. The apostle Peter said:
"Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tender-hearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For 'He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of Yahweh are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of Yahweh is against those who do evil'" (1 Peter 3:8-12, NKJV).
Our deliverance from unforgiveness begins with an act of self-will - we must decide not to respond to the demonic stronghold. Having done that, we must be prepared to open ourselves up to the woundedness that made us flee to the stronghold in the first place, and allow Yah'shua (Jesus) to heal it and expel the demonic. Then we will know freedom and forgiveness will flow from us as living water. Amen.
Click here for Part 3
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