The Miracle of Yahweh's Forgiveness
Part 5: The Path to Reconcilliation
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 12 February 2005
Click here for Part 4
A few days ago I received a Christian magazine in the post and on the cover were these words: "Give up all hope for a better past". It certainly gabbed my attention and made me think. The past is dead and we can never improve upon it. And no matter what it may contain, it is irrelevant. The past is dead - we can't go back to it or recreate it.
Some of you (if you are old enough) may remember an American TV series called Fantasy Island which was about a company that specialised in recreating the past for rich people. Everything from the past was recreated at great expense - the scenery, the food, clothes, cars, everything. Actors played the rôles. It was, however, a lie, and things invariably went wrong, because no matter how good the actors may be, they still remain actors. They aren't the real thing. Some of the customers actually bought into the lie until things started going wrong and they exposed their own self-deception. Then disappointment and sometimes violent anger were the result as they sought revenge against the actors whom they thought were real abusers.
Give up all hope for a better past because it's water under the bridge. What this does not mean is that we should deny that the past ever existed, especially if it was an unhappy one. That is as equally deceptive as trying to recreate it. What is important is that the life principle lives in the present where it was supposed to be. It is OK to have memories of the past but it is dangerous if they contain unhealed hurts, traumas and wounds. So long as these are present in our lives, we remain very much prisoners of the past and are unable to live life fully in the present. We can suppress our memories, even pretend they never happened, but the pain still intrudes into the present, like methane bubbling up to the surface in a marsh. The marsh of sin has to be drained so the noxious gases (demonic behaviour) stop rising to the surface to spoil our present.
This series of sermons has triggered a number of people. Some people even think I wrote it especially for them to rub salt into old wounds. The truth of the matter is that Yahweh has laid this theme heavily on my heart this last month so that we get to grips with the past, learn forgiveness, and find freedom. And if you have been triggered in any way, or have been stirred up to anger, then it is because Yahweh wants you to confront continuing issues in your life and get delivered.
Forgiveness may be defined as ceasing to feel resentment against a real or imaginary offender. You may be surprised that I include the word 'imaginary' in my definition but it is right that I do: we often imagine things about people that are pure fantasy but let that provoke us to anger. And very often this is because demons have prompted us to believe in a lie. Recently, one of my clients believed that I hated her and reacted accordingly. After she went through deliverance ministry and met Yah'shua (Jesus) face-to-face, she discovered the truth - that I had always loved her and that demons had played on her fear and insecurity. Even now she sometimes doubts that I care for her when things don't quite go the way she expects them to, and that is because of the sheer force of bad thinking habits. Once we know the truth, and have genuinely forgiven, we have to force our mind and heart to agree with the truth. And that implies that the act of forgiveness is an active rather than a passive process.
Thus my definition is actually defective. Forgiveness is more than "ceasing to feel resentment against a real or imaginary offender". Forgiveness must also be a conscious act of the will to deliberately pardon an individual. It isn't just a function of feelings. Indeed, it would be true to say that forgiveness must begin with an act of the will because sometimes feelings are a bit slow in following up. In fact, they can be very slow.
The passive method of forgiveness - that of simply acting emotionally and mentally 'neutral' - is something a lot of people do. That is very dangerous. They simply ignore the person so as not to be triggered by them. But that isn't forgiveness at all. It's just escapism. Sometimes this can happen unconsciously. The hurt caused by someone long ago may simply be 'forgotten'. Forgetting is not, however, healing. When I lost my first wife I was counselled by several people to just focus on my work and forget. Forgetting does not solve the problem, though, for resentments and hurts are just buried and surface in other ways. A friend of mine was once jilted by his fiancée and never married. Instead of working through the pain he buried it and simply transferred it onto all women. I know women who do the same, who had bad husbands, and who never dealt with the woundedness in their heart and simply transferred blame and hate to the whole male gender.
Just because you are not aware of an old unforgiven hurt doesn't mean it isn't there anymore. It has simply been put away in a mental room and the door closed and locked. Only the other day I was doing deliverance with a client and my wife saw a vision of the client's inner spiritual 'house'. The living room was beautiful and white and then she was taken to her childhood bedroom. In the bedroom were lots and lots of lockers. Some were open and empty but others were closed and locked. As we opened one we found a memory of a long forgotten abuse which we were able to minister to and get Yah'shua (Jesus) to heal. Yes, we tend to lock things away in order, as we suppose, to cope. When we deny them, we open demonic doors which influence our whole personality and behaviour in the present. The past must be released so that the life that it is stealing can be transferred to the present so that we can live to the full. And forgiveness is a vital part of that process.
You can tell whether you have not forgiven someone if you don't feel the same fellowship any more. If you once felt warmly disposed to that person but now feel cold and indifferent, that is an unmistakable sign that something is wrong. As Christians our hearts are always supposed to feel love. But if fear, suspicion, resentment or any other negative feeling replaces that which was once good, then you can be pretty sure that you are a prisoner of unforgiveness. This goes for our friends as well as for our enemies. Beware, then, of indifference, especially if it is towards a Christian brother or sister. You can't just pretend they don't exist. We are supposed to be in fellowship as the Bride of Christ. Some people cope with this by rationalising that the one they hate isn't really a Christian at all and set about mud-raking to 'prove' that they aren't true believers any more. But what good does that do? In the New Covenant we are supposed to love believers and unbelievers alike.
Last week I read you the parable that Yah'shua (Jesus) taught about forgiving 70 times 7 (Mt.18:21-35) which contains so many important principles for us to understand. You will remember, I am sure, how the servant fell down before the king or master, and said: "Have patience with me, and I will pay you all". We need not suppose in reading this that the servant had come to a realisation of his sin and was genuinely repenting. Indeed, we learn later on that he left the court with the same heart with which he had come! When he said, "I will pay you all", he lied and revealed a darkened heart full of deceit and robbery. He knew perfectly well he could never repay his debt and had no intention of doing so. The king knew that too, so why did he forgive the rascal?
We, as forgivers, have the power to forgive the debt note against us whether the person wronging us changes his heart or not. The king, who we understand to be Yahweh, forgave this liar and thief in spite of his dishonesty. He asked to be forgiven and was. Yahweh forgave the debt not the debtor! Now let's let that sink in. The act of forgiveness did not restore the relationship between the king and the servant it merely cancelled the debt. Forgiveness is not the restoration of a damaged relationship and if we don't understand this, we will simply delude ourselves into thinking we are in right relationship with Yah'shua (Jesus) simply because He has forgiven us our sins when we have asked him. The apostle John said: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (1 John 1:9-10, NKJV). Please notice that the focus is the sin and not the sinner. It surprises many who have been delivered from Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA), for example, after extraordinary healings and miracles, to discover that their hearts are still not right. Forgiveness does not make a heart right - it merely cancels the debt of sin. What is forgiven is the sin, not the sinner. Yahweh cuts off the sin, not the sinner.
Now if you just pause and think about this for a moment, you will know it is true. People who come to Christ and receive a remission of their sins still keep on sinning. Why? It is because their hearts are still not educated fully in the paths of righteousness. It means we have to keep coming to Him to have our new debt noted cancelled until we have learned the truth and are being transformed in our natures so that we do not sin anymore. This is the path of sanctification. This is what discipleship is all about. It's why we need Torah. This is why we need rules and leaders to guide us into the freedom and deliverance that have worked things out through diligent application of Yahweh's commandments.
Those who believe that they are freely forgiven and carry on sinning are deceiving themselves. It is in part the origin of that pernicious doctrinal lie, "once saved, always saved". There is no way we can cancel our own debts by our works or obedience to Torah. All we are able to do is to cast ourselves at the feet of the Master and beg Him to cancel our debt note to Him and to our offended Heavenly Father. In His mercy He forgives our sins and we learn the hard way that we cannot just sit back and do nothing. We discover that there is a sin nature to be dealt with which still leads us into sin and trouble, so we have to every now and then come before Yah'shua (Jesus) to get new debt notes forgiven. Some Christians just give up, confused and miserable that they are continuing to sin. Those who search the Scriptures soon discover that faith in the atonement of Yah'shua (Jesus) isn't enough for a full deliverance, that they have to "work out" - actively engage in fixing - "their own salvation in fear and trembling" (Phil.2:12). They discover, by the by, that there is a carnal nature to fix, and that simply confessing sins is not enough. They have to get to the root of the behaviour by immersing themselves in Yahweh's Truth. By the by they discover, if they are honest and zealous (Rev.3:19), that what Yahweh requires is a whole life style, not for its own sake, but to lead us as individuals and as a community of believers into right-relationship through a complete transformation of our nature.
Why is it, then, that the bulk of Christians delude themselves with the lie that 'wide is gate and easy the way that leads to salvation, and that millions find it'? The Scripture days the very opposite: "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matt.7:14, NKJV). The instant, MacDonald's type salvation is a huge deception. It isn't that easy! They fail to realise that what Yah'shua (Jesus) did was to cancel our debts, not transform us and perfect us instantly upon profession of faith. The Gospel is much more than going to a Gospel Crusade and 'getting saved' and attending Church once a week. It's about fully living the life and being completely changed inside. In a word, it's about perfection over time.
If we can grasp this one truth, we will save ourselves a lot of needless misery going round and round in circles wondering why we are failing all the time. We do not automatically enter the Throne Room of God upon having our sins forgiven. Why do people believe this when the scriptures say the opposite? It is because they have been lied to and brainwashed. The Scriptures speak, rather, of at least three major grades of salvation, and inform us (in the Book of Revelation) we have at least seven overcomings to engage in, in addition to getting our debt-notes cancelled through repentance and forgiveness.
So this brings me to the next and most vital aspect of forgiveness that I touched on last week, and that is the principle of compassion. The king, in the parable, felt compassion for the rogue and thief and forgave him because of that compassion. Yah'shua (Jesus) forgives out of compassion, and we too are supposed to forgive our debtors out of compassion, not some heartless legal obligation.
What is compassion? "Compassion is the benevolent action we take toward another as a result of emotional inner identification we have made with them" (Ed Smith, Beyond Tolerable Recovery, p.248). The king saw something in the servant that made him identify. We forgive others when we see in others that which is, or has been, in ourselves. How, then, does Christ identify with us? Well, it is a little different with Him because He was without sin, yet He was every bit as human as us and was tempted as we are. He knows how tough it is. He had to face those self same struggles. However, what the point is, is not so much Christ's identification with us but the requirement we have to identify with those fallible human beings around us, knowing that we have done the same or similar wrongs as they have done. That is the only way we can cancel debt notes against them and so find release for ourselves. In that action of forgiveness we actually learn to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. We learn to sympathise and empathise with them. And in forgiving them we learn, through compassion, to forgive ourselves as we are commanded to in the Great Commandment which summarises the whole of Torah:
"The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, Yahweh our Elohim, Yahweh is Echad (one). 'And you shall love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:29-32, NKJV).
Notice, would you, that the Shema is included in the Two Great Commandments.
In forgiving others we learn to forgive them and love them, which in turn enables us to forgive and love yourselves. Satan wants us to hate others and hate ourselves so that we can never forgive or be forgiven, for Yah'shua will not forgive our debt note against Him unless we forgive others' debt notes against us, whoever they are.
Which brings me to another error in the churches, namely, that we are never to judge others. Well that's not exactly the way the Scriptures describe it. The first Roman Christians had a non-compassionate attitude towards others, leading Paul to explain:
"Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgement of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practising such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgement of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God, who "will render to each one according to his deeds": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honour, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness -- indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil..." (Rom.2:1-9, NKJV).
Now who do you suppose Paul was talking to here? The unsaved? The way some evangelicals believe, you would think so. Yet Paul was talking to members of the congregation, those whom most Protestants would call 'saved'. So what did he say? He said that if they did not have compassion, indignation and wrath would await them.
Please don't fall for the 'eternal security' red herring that evangelicals sometimes throw up to persuade you that once you have made your confession you have made it into heaven. Such notions do violence to the total of all scriptures on the subject. We are secure as long as we remain trusting Him, in a repentant, forgiving and loving heart. But once your heart starts going cold, let those alarm bells go off, and get on your knees. The cold heart comes from the self-seeking fallen nature, and does not, as Paul says, obey the truth.
Once we are able to identify with others, miracles of another kind start happening. For one, it releases the perceived need for revenge and leads us to eagerly cut off the debtor's debt. The king - our Heavenly Father - felt compassionate feelings, released the slave, and forgave the debt. And though He did not need to do it to be saved (since He is the Cosmic Saviour), we absolutely do, which is why He permits us to come against adversaries in this life. We need them to forgive then and so ourselves become cleansed. This is why I love, and keep on quoting, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow when he said: "If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm hostilities".
So why do we remain violently hostile to our enemies sometimes? It is because we shut out an awareness of the possibility that they never suffered, and are doing the evil against us that they do, in full knowledge of what they are doing. How many people, for instance, realise the real reason why Germans voted the tyrant Adolf Hitler into power? Why did they descend to mass murder? Was it because of something 'Germanic'? Was it because they were inhuman? Was it just because of the harsh provisions of the Treaty of Versailles which were designed to humiliate them as their enemies sought revenge rather than pardon? It was not because they were not human or a depraved race. We know that from their earlier history. Was it the harshness if the Allies in 1918? Partly, yes, but there was a deeper reason which few know about, and which shocked me when I first learned about it. For you see, the reason there was such brutality in the nazi era was because of what life had been like for them as children around the turn of the 20th century, which we now know was a totalitarian nightmare of murder, neglect, battering, sexual abuse and torture of innocent, helpless human beings by their parents. This nightmare was simply restaged four decades later in the Holocaust, making war inevitable. Tenderness was never a part of their upbringing. They lived a nightmarish existence which hardened and demonised them. It was worst in Bavaria, where nazism was born. These poor children were just cauldrons of hate, a long line of victims in a vicious cycle of abuse over the centuries. Seeing them as victims makes it easier to forgive, knowing that most never knew what love was like (The Cause of Nazism, Digital Archive of Psychohistory).
If we will but grasp that the key to forgiveness is the divine result of receiving truth and compassion, that it is about cancelling a debt note, and that it is not the same as reconciliation, then we will also understand the whole Gospel way of life and what grace really means. The power to forgive lies in the hands of the one with the debt note. We can cancel the debt note but we cannot reconcile with the debtor unless he chooses to as well. Reconciliation - which is also a Gospel command - requires that the debtor come to the place where he is willing to confess the error of his way. Along with his confession he must give evidence of genuine brokenness and a a contrite heart, seeking to make restoration and restitution. At this time the one offended is in the position to receive Yahweh's grace to enter into relationship if he chooses. But if he does not, then there is no more you can do. Paul said: "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men" (Rom.12:18, NKJV). If they will not live peaceably with us, then we have done our part, and must move on.
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