The Miracle of Yahweh's Forgiveness
Part 4: Releasing Your Enemy's Debt
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 5 February 2005
Click here for Part 3
I welcome you back in the Name of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) for what I hope will be a rewarding spiritual journey as we continue in our quest to understand what true forgiveness is. We have already seen how central it is to our own salvation and deliverance and have distinguished it from a mere verbal formula. We saw, indeed, that true forgiveness is a direct and natural result of Truth received and our ability to have genuine compassion for the one we are forgiving. True forgiveness brings freedom to the forgiver and to the one being forgiven.
I wonder, however, if you have ever looked upon forgiveness as the cancellation of a debt? I am sure every one of us has been in debt at one time or another. It's not a pleasant feeling to know that a person or an institution has power over you because you owe them something. Personally I loathe the feeling. And indeed the Bible tells us to be very careful about borrowing and has specific instructions to those who lend money. When I lived in England I loaned a very large sum of money to a friend of mine to start a business up. He never paid me back, never even offered to make a token payment, never pled for me to cancel the debt, and seemed to think it wouldn't matter if he just forgot about it, which he did. Evidently he thought that the loss of my friendship was a good trade-off.
Now the Bible says that when you lend money to someone you should do two things: (1) You should not charge interest to a fellow brother in the covenant (that's the sin of usury); and (2) You should treat the loan as if you would never get it back again. What that means is that the giver should make the loan without expectation of being reimbursed. This does not mean, though that the one borrowing the money can expect not to give it back. He is legally in debt. And yes, it is true, Yah'shua (Jesus) says that the one making the loan has the freedom and power to forgive a debt, and includes this concept in a couple of parables. However, according to Torah, law and Yahweh's justice, the one taking the loan should expect to pay it back. And if he can't, Torah provides that he can sell himself as a short-term slave to his debtor until he has worked the debt off. We need to understand and accept these principles if we are to truly understand the legal aspects of forgiveness.
Yah'shua said: "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both" (Luke 7:41-42, NKJV). Here we see the concept perfectly illustrated using a financial example. The creditor had the right to enslave the debtors but he chose instead to forgive. And what was Yah'shua (Jesus) driving at? Well, let's continue the story: "Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?" Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have rightly judged"" (Luke 7:42-43, NKJV).
The word 'forgive' (aphiemi) means in scripture to 'dismiss', 'release', 'leave' or 'abandon'. Yah'shua wishes us to dismiss, release, leave and abandon our sins and debt to Him at the foot of the cross and be freely forgiven. Satan, on the other hand, ever the legalist and without compassion of any sort, chooses to execute the penalty of Torah and makes instead the debtor a slave to him. He never forgives. His justice is cruel. And indeed, unlike Yahweh, he has no terms of release - once in Satan's clutches, it's a sentence for ever.
The word 'forgive' (aphesis) can also mean 'freedom', 'release', 'remit' or 'cut off'. When you sin against someone, you are in debt to them spiritually, and are actually their legal prisoner until they and/or Yah'shua (Jesus) release you. If they choose not to forgive you, or cannot forgive you because they are no longer alive (for example), then you can go to Yah'shua (Jesus) for remission. Many have this idea that forgiveness has something to do with repairing broken relationships or making peace between conflicting parties, but that is not what Torah says. "Forgiveness has to do with the removal or release of an debtedness and has nothing to do with restoring a lost relationship. It is true that the debt intact will hinder the relationship, but removing the debt is no guarantee of the relationship improving or even changing" (Ed Smith, Beyond Tolerable Recovery, p.243). The restoration of relationship is a different action altogether.
Let's read an important parable from the Gospel of Matthew;
"Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Yah'shua (Jesus) said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 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. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' "Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 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!' "So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' "And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 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. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' "And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses" (Matt.18:21-35, NKJV).
I think we all know this passage well. We all understand it to mean exactly what it says. We all know is a parable about Yahweh's enormous love for us and unrelenting forgiveness which He offers to anyone who will receive it. But Peter did not at first understand. He was looking for what Ed Smith calls a "forgiveness quota" - 'how many times do I need to forgive? Seven times?'
I can picture Peter and someone he knew who kept on abusing him no matter how often he forgave the man. Perhaps he had been thinking of Matthew the tax-collector. I can feel his exasperation: "Just how many more times must I forgive this man who keeps abusing me?" Perhaps the man has been rude. Peter forgives him but he keeps on being rude. Peter gets more and more frustrated. But what is actually Peter being frustrated about? Is he using forgiveness as a means of changing his adversary? Is he expecting this abusive man to change behaviour by forgiving him? If that is his expectation, then he has not understood the point of forgiveness. We don't forgive people so they can reform. And this is something vitally important we must understand about forgiveness: "Forgiveness only has the power to change the one forgiving, not the one being forgiven. It releases us of the bondages that enslave us through our holding the note of debt but may or may not impact the one who is indebted" (Ed Smith, Ibid., p.244).
Peter's problem was himself. The whole point of Yah'shua's (Jesus') parable was to show Peter that he was in bondage as much as the one abusing him. Forgiveness does not change others, it changes us. Now it is possible - and this is surely desirable - that our forgiveness of another may have an emotional impact on them and motivate them to seek change. I am sure you have all heard stories where this happens, and when it does happen, it is wonderful.
The Good News that Yah'shua (Jesus) is teaching us is that we can be totally free of emotional, mental and spiritual bondage to others if we forgive them - if we don't expect anything from them as a result of our forgiveness. It is a lie that Satan wishes us to believe that other people's behaviour has the power to control us. Now I am not talking about physical abuse like the rape victim we talked about last week. I am talking about inner things here. I am talking about the emotional control people tend to hold over others in marriage and other relationships. When this happens, the control is not true control but rather perceived control enforced by lies which we believe in. If we believe we are powerless and weak, even though we are absolutely not so, we will be rendered powerless by their words and actions.
The reason most of us never get free is because we don't believe we can. Peter is stuck in his present mode of forgiveness since he is seeking to accomplish that which forgiveness cannot do. If Peter forgives this abuser 7 x 70 (490) times, he will still be in exactly the same place as he is now. The number of times we forgive may have little or no impact on whether the person will act differently.
None of this is saying that unconditional forgiveness means we can ignore justice. If someone keeps robbing me I have a duty to bring the culprit to justice. I must forgive him for my own sake, and thus release him so that he can change if he wants to (just as righteous Stephen released Paul for murdering him), but that does not mean that I must allow him to be torahless in his relationship to Yahweh's Judicial System. Someone caught stealing must be brought before the Pastorate of his congregation for judgement, and if the victim is not a believer, he must be handed over to the secular magistrates too. Discipline and forgiveness are, however, two totally different things.
Forgiveness also requires that we take an account. We cannot forgive a debt we don't know exists or if we don't know what the amount is on the note. That is why we need to know the source and origin of our guilt. Until that happens, the one abusing cannot be truly forgiven. Sometimes the pain may be too great to confront initially (as in rape, for example) but it must be exposed in the end. Once the pain is unleashed, the debt will become apparent. And what will also become apparent is that the debtor can never repay what is owed. How can he restore the virginity of a rape victim, or the life of one murdered?
Yah'shua's (Jesus') parable tells us that we don't have the spiritual cash to repay the debts we owe. The King knew the servant could never repay such a huge debt. The carnal response to abuse is to get the abuser to 'pay'. In Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) victims are purposefully withheld all good things by their evil abusers. This leaves a huge void in their lives which they seek to have fulfilled through relationships with others. The Satanists know these needs can never be fulfilled so the victim lives in a constant cycle of defeat. They also know that compassionate deliverance ministers will 'burn out' trying to fill this void which will in turn confirm what the Satanist programmer instils in the victim: "No one can ever really love you." This void is not a true need but rather a wound that must be healed. Yahweh is the only one who can 'pay back' and restore the debt of the losses of our lives, as He says through the prophet Joel:
"So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
My great army which I sent among you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of Yahweh your Elohim (God),
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame"
I have talked to you much about anger recently but I do have one last thing to mention in connection with it. Anger is a natural reaction to injustice but it must be released before freedom will come. In the parable, the King was furious. The servant was sold into slavery and harsh treatment (i.e hell). The anger was a healthy response to the servant's irresponsible behaviour. Indeed it is hard to understand how the servant got into such a big mess in the first place. The King realised his money was gone and not recoverable. So all that was left for him was to get his revenge and punish the servant.
Christians have been too much influenced by Buddhist ideas about anger being wrong 100% of the time but as we have already seen, the Bible says: "Be angry, and yet do not sin" (Eph.4:26, NASB). Now perhaps the idea of 'sinless anger' sounds a bit of a contradiction in terms to you like my preparing a 'short sermon' or the idea of an 'honest politician'. Yet Paul added: "Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity" (Eph.4:26-27, NASB). They key is what causes the anger (if it's a personal affront, it's wrong - if it's anger at sin, it's right) and how long you allow it to fester (even righteous anger has a time limit, else the devil gets a foothold).
Now what does Satan want? He wants us to dwell in anger day after day until it becomes habitual and nothing is done about it. He either wants us to be in a permanent state of rage or to try and suppress it by burying it deep within our subconscious. And the reason he wants us to bury it is that when later something else happens that is similar, the demonic forces will take the opportunity stir to up this old anger so that we will react inappropriately and sinfully, and express more anger than the situation calls for, or may not even call for at all. The problem with expressing old anger is that it never depletes the anger. Until the anger is expressed and released by Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) in the context of the original memory, we are destined to pertpetually unload on who ever happens to trigger it.
I think, to end today ... I want so say more next week ... we need to do some careful reflection on what Yahweh hates. If you want to know a just cause for anger, then knowing Yahweh's perspective is essential. As we read this passage from Proverbs, I want you to especially notice the first and last things on this list. Let's read it now:
"These six things Yahweh hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren"
Whenever pride, anger, hurt feelings, bitterness or self-righteousness over 'unfairness' get a grip on you, you must first deal with yourself, by forgiving those who have wronged you unconditionally - by releasing them of their debt to you. This will put you in right relationship with Yahweh and allow him to work within your system. The following prayer by Liberty Savard may help:
"In the Name of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), I bind my will to Your will, Father Yahweh, and I bind my mind to the mind that is in Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). I loose all of my wrong attitudes and their strongholds, especially those of pride and bitterness. I loose all my wrong patterns of thinking about this, including wrong beliefs about what is faith and how my feelings have been hurt. I thank Yah'shua (Jesus) for being my Cohen Galdol (High Priest) in heaven. I hold tight to my faith in Him. I know He understands my weakness because the Word tells me He was tempted in every way just as I am, yet He never sinned and I don't want to, either.
"So I repent right now of the sin of anger and pride and wrong thoughts. Please forgive me and wash me in Yah'shua's (Jesus') cleansing blood. Help me to see and do the right thing. I will let this go. I will come to the throne of grace with confidence and find mercy and grace to do so. Thank You, in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name. Amen." (Shattering Your Strongholds, pp. 108-9 - adapted).
Next week we will conclude our study of forgiveness and discover the last few elements of this lifesaving gospel principle. May this week see you release anything that may be holding you back so that you may forgive freely, without expectation of return, all those who have wronged you or may be wronging you now. Amen.
Click here for Part 5
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