Lesson 4 - Forgiveness


We are inculcated or trained into believing that we must forgive ourselves in order to experience fulfillment, peace, happiness, and joy. How many of you have heard or believed this? How many of you have stated to yourself or to others that, “Even though I know that God has forgiven me, I just can’t forgive myself for what I have done.” Maybe you’ve heard from well-meaning people, even Christians in the ministry, that “You must forgive yourself to get rid of this guilt, shame, and condemnation.” Even we, as children of God, might erroneously say, “Now that God has forgiven me I must strive to learn how to forgive myself.” Feelings of guilt, shame, and condemnation indicate that we still need to rest our hope on the promises of God concerning what He says in His Word about His forgiveness of our sins. Read Psalms 103:12; Romans 5:1-2; Colossians 1:21-23; and Hebrews 11:6.

The problem with this sophistry (deceptive or misleading method of reasoning) is that it causes us to exalt ourselves. This kind of thinking causes us to elevate our own works, thoughts, and desires (lusts) above the finished work of Christ on the cross. We, as children of God, must rest on the promises and provision of His forgiveness. God’s Word states clearly that there is no condemnation in Him regardless of our feelings, circumstances, or understanding (1 John 3:20). To believe anything else is to say to Him that His perfect work is not sufficient and that it is somehow incomplete. God does all the work, and there is nothing we can do to add to it or take away from it. In Him alone are we made complete. See 1 John 1:9; Romans 8:1; Philippians 1:6; 2:13; Colossians 2:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 1 John 2:5; and John 15:5.

To forgive is to trust God in all things. Unforgiveness shows that we don’t trust Him to be our protector and provider. The truth of the matter is trust will not manifest until there is complete forgiveness in the heart of the individual who is seeking to forgive.

Trust is the second reaction that is caused by forgiveness, not the first, as is often sought after when we are in the flesh. Remember, forgiveness came first from God and then we began to trust Him for it (1 John 4:10, 19; Romans 5:6, 8). Recognize that forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Our feelings will change when we exercise obedience to God’s commands. We are commanded to forgive; it is not an option.

Forgiveness was given by our heavenly Father before we ever knew that we needed it. Now that we have it, we are to give it away as abundantly as it has been provided to us. Remember, forgiveness is totally undeserved and cannot be earned. If we are normal, we won’t ever feel like forgiving when we are sinned against. We want to stew on the wrong done to us, we want revenge, and if not dealt with by the blood of Jesus, we become bitter, resentful, and angry. All sin, no matter the size, leaves us with a bitter taste that is impossible to get rid of without the help of God.

Remember this nonnegotiable and important fact. If we consistently refuse to forgive as we are instructed to do in the scriptures, it indicates the work of regeneration has not been completed or possibly, not even started (1 John 2:3-4, 9-11; 3:6, 9-10, 15; 4:20-21). It shows that we are still controlled by the flesh and not the Spirit of God. If we still have a desire for revenge and our focus is on ourselves instead of God and others, it shows that our hearts still do not recognize nor understand the totality of our forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35; Luke 7:47).

If this is the case, we need to be honest with ourselves. We need to revisit the last two principles and allow the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God to take place within our hearts so that the necessary fruits of forgiveness and mercy can take place. With this stated and fresh in the forefront of our minds, let’s look now at the next principle in this series.