God’s forgiveness is an amazing free gift that is available to all. I am so glad that God is “good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon” Him (Psalms 86:5). The Bible says, “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Psalms 130:3, 4). Praise God for His goodness and mercy!
Jesus instructed us to include in our prayers, “…forgive us our debts [wrong-doings], as we forgive our debtors [those who have wronged us]” (Matthew 6:12). He explained, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14, 15). This is serious! It is incredibly important for us to forgive others, for our own forgiveness is tied up in that. We must understand what it means to forgive others, and how that can be accomplished.
First of all, we should realize that our forgiveness of others is not what initiates God’s forgiveness of us. In reality, His forgiveness of us is what gives us the ability to forgive others. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). “…even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Colossians 3:13).
This kind of forgiveness is thorough. Jesus said that our Father will not forgive us “if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matthew 18:35). This brings forgiveness to another level. Both confession and forgiveness must be from our hearts. When my children were little, I can remember times when their mother or I would tell them, “Say you are sorry,” and they would respond reluctantly, “I’m sorry.” I look back on that with regret because I knew that often they were not sorry, so I was teaching them to say something they didn’t mean, which is a lie. God is asking us to do more than saying a reluctant, “I’m sorry,” or “I forgive you.” If you’re not sorry don’t say that you are. If you are not going to forgive a person, don’t say that you will.
True forgiveness can only come from the God who made us. He is the only one who can change our hearts. Ask Him to allow you to view and feel about people the way He does (Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26, 27; 1 John 3:14). This will start with gaining a view of yourself from God’s perspective. Heartfelt forgiveness comes from a heart that knows their own value and identity as a child of the most High God, whom He sees as a “friend” who is “highly favoured” and “beloved of God,” (John 15:15; Luke 1:28; Romans l:7). (For deeper insight on your value, request a free copy of my our tract, Finding Your Identity).
True forgiveness is a side effect of God’s love being placed in your heart. “Great peace have they which love thy law [teachings, instruction]: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalms 119:165). “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:11). (For deeper insight on love, request a free copy of my latest booklet, The Source of Love).
Forgiveness and Prayer Life
Jesus said, “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25, 26). Our unwillingness to forgive others can hinder our prayer life and limit God’s forgiveness of our own mistakes.
Jesus also said, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:23, 24). We must be reconciled to our brothers and sisters before offering our gift. Our life of service to God can be enhanced or hindered based upon our forgiveness of those who have mistreated us.
Peter wrote, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1_Peter 3:7). Husbands, the way you treat your wife can affect your own prayer life. Give honour unto your wife as a joint heir of the kingdom of God. It is not all about you—you are in this together. Be always ready to forgive her and do all you can to encourage and strengthen your wife in her walk with the Lord. Doing this will enhance your own prayer life.
Do not let your own sins interfere with your prayers. The Bible says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalms 66:18). “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (Proverbs 28:9). “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8). I pray that God will be delighted by your prayers. He loves to hear from you.
Amazing Depths of Forgiveness
Jesus commanded us, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him” (Luke 17:3, 4). I am amazed by how often Jesus tells us to forgive our brothers and sisters. Here He says seven times IN A DAY! In another place Peter asked Him, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21, 22).
Jesus was not expecting us to start marking down every time someone sins against us, and then refuse to forgive when they reach 491. That was a way of saying, “Don’t stop forgiving your brothers and sisters.” Thankfully, that is the way God is with us. Jesus even said that we should forgive a person seven times in a day. If we were keeping count then it would only take 70 days to use up the 490 times. Let’s not keep count! I am amazed at the depth of forgiveness He is requiring here. Suppose a friend kicks you in the shin, then apologizes, and does it again six more times in one day. We are told to forgive him each time. Jesus said that God forgives us the same way we forgive, so look how merciful God is! He will forgive us at least that often.
Jesus said, “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him.” The first thing we are to do when a brother sins against us is to rebuke him. It is important to know what this means? Part of the definition of the original Greek word translated “rebuke” is “show honour, admonish, reprove” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon – επιτιμαω – epitimao, Strong’s #2008*). This type of rebuke includes the meaning of showing honor and admonishing with the intent to help the person.
* The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew. Most of the New Testament was originally written in Greek. A man by the name of James Strong took all the Greek and Hebrew words used in the Bible, put them in alphabetical order, and applied a number to each word. The small Strong’s numbers used after a word represent a Greek or Hebrew word that was translated into English. Whenever you see the number 3870 in this study, it represents the same Greek word no matter what English word was chosen by the translators.
There is another type of rebuke found in 1 Timothy 5:1, 2. The Bible says, “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” The Greek word translated “rebuke” in this verse means to “to strike upon, beat upon, to chastise with words, to chide, upbraid, rebuke” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon – επιπλησσω – epiplesso, Strong’s #1969). This type of rebuke serves to push a person down and hurt them rather than help them. This is the only time this Greek word is used in the Bible, and it is something we should never do to anyone.
All too often, when people are hurt they lash out with words, “Look how you made me feel. Look what you have done to me.” In this scenario it is all about the person injured. A better response would be, “You must be hurting to have hurt me so badly. How can I help you so you can stop going around hurting people?” This response has the intention of helping the person who is hurting others. You see, hurting people, hurt people. Usually bullies have been bullied themselves by someone else.
The Bible tells us that instead of beating people up with words we should intreat them. The Greek word translated “intreat” in this verse means to “to beg, entreat, beseech, encourage, console, comfort, instruct” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon – παρακαλεω – parakaleo, Strong’s #3870). This word is translated “comfort” and is very close to the Greek word παρακλητος parakletos, Strong’s #3875, which was translated “Comforter” four times and “Advocate” once. John wrote, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate [#3875] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Jesus is our advocate or Comforter. Through Him, God “comforteth [#3870] us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort [#3870] them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted [#3870] of God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
When we are injured by someone we should comfort, encourage, and instruct the one injuring us so they can be a better person. The focus is on helping the one causing the injury. The Bible says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). If a brother or sister is overtaken in a fault we should do all we can to help them get better. Too often, those who claim to follow Christ have the attitude when they hear about someone in trouble, “Too bad for them.” If they were really following Jesus, they would have a different response. When Jesus was being nailed to the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). This was a totally unselfish prayer with the focus on helping the persecutors. I pray that God would grant us to have this attitude when we are being injured, and grant us to forgive others as God forgives us.
The Bible gives us an amazing promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This is fantastic in so many ways! If we confess, God will forgive, but not only that, He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness that will enable us to avoid that sin the next time.
The requirement here is for us to “confess our sins.” Sometimes it is hard to admit we have done wrong. A common human response to being caught in a fault is to blame someone else, like Adam and Eve did after their first sin (Genesis 3:11-13). If you are wrong, admit it, confess your sins. This is the first step to forgiveness.
After David committed a terrible sin, he said, “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me” (Psalms 51:3). There is no shame in admitting when you have failed—the shame would be to try to cover it or blame someone else. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Let us say with David, “For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin” (Psalms 38:18).
Confessing your sins is more than saying, “I am sorry.” We use that phrase for things like expressing sympathy for someone, “I am sorry for your loss.” Saying “I am sorry,” does not necessarily acknowledge wrongdoing. If you are confessing a wrong you did to someone you should be more clear, such as, “I apologize for what I have done, please forgive me.”
We should forgive everyone who asks us. Jesus said we are to plead with those who sin against us, and “if he repent, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). Forgiveness comes after a person repents. That does not mean we should hold grudges, for on our side we should be eager to forgive. It is kind of like the double doors that separate some hotel rooms. You can leave your side open, but until the other person opens their door you cannot have full interaction. Make sure your side is always open to forgiveness. That is the way God is, for the Bible says, God is “…good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon” Him (Psalms 86:5).
Do not Hold Grudges
There are a lot of disagreements and holding grudges that are based upon misunderstandings. Many people are too proud to admit they did anything wrong, or if they will admit it, they seem to wait until they are thoroughly convinced they were in the wrong. It is a good practice that if you know you are at odds with someone, apologize for everything you can possibly apologize for. This can open doors that will never open while both parties wait for an apology. “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:23, 24). If you remember someone has a problem with you, it is your responsibility to go to that person to seek reconciliation. Don’t wait for an apology. Be the change! Free up everything that could prevent you from having open communion with your Father in heaven.
God wants us to live forever. He says, “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11). When we sin, God doesn’t get mad at us, instead He wants to help us see our condition and turn to Him so we can live. Repentance is a turning away from self and sin, toward God.
A beautiful thing about repentance is that God will never mention our sins to us again. “If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live” (Ezekiel 33:15, 16). You see, we shall all give account for our actions in the judgment (Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12; 1 Peter 4:5), but this account can be given ahead of time if we confess our sins. The Bible says, “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after” (1_Timothy 5:24). Our sins can go ahead of time to the judgment so that when our names come up in the judgment our record is clean (1 Peter 4:17; Daniel 7:10; Revelation 4-6; Romans 14:10). We will never have to answer for those sins that have been forgiven and removed from our record.
The Bible says, “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust” (Psalms 103:11-14). God, the Father, “hath committed all judgment unto the Son… because he is the Son of man” (John 5:22, 27). Jesus knows very well what we are going through, for He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
“He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). He casts our sins into the depths of the sea and puts up a no fishing sign. They have gone beforehand to judgment so we will not have to meet them again (Ezekiel 33:16). God’s forgiveness is amazing!
Do Not Tell Others!
Jesus said, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” (Matthew 18:15-17).
This instruction is so vital in all of our relationships. The first thing Jesus tells us to do when we are wronged is “tell him his fault between thee and him alone.” All too often, instead of following this instruction, people tell many others about it first. This only serves to make the problem worse. Jesus instructed us how we can keep problems as small as possible. The first step is to go to that person directly alone. Do not tell anyone else about it! Ideally, this step is where all problems should be dealt with. If you go and tell someone else about it first, then you have poisoned their mind against your brother or sister. It is likely that you are mistaken about the person’s intentions anyway, so you are spreading an imbalanced perspective of someone, and it is sure to bear bad fruit. STOP! Go talk to the person directly first. Most disagreements stem from a misunderstanding about the other person.
The Bible says, “Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another: Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away” (Proverbs 25:9, 10). After you talk with your brother or sister about the injury they caused, if they hear you, that is the end of it. Don’t repeat that to other people, nor bring it up to that person again. It is over! Telling secrets about someone to other people is a terrible thing to do, and it is one of the seven things God hates (Proverbs 6:16-19).
Here are a few things the Bible says about gossipers. “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter” (Proverbs 11:13). “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people” (Leviticus 19:16). “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly” (Proverbs 18:8). “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth” (Proverbs 26:20).
I am so glad that God does not broadcast to everyone all of the misdeeds that we have done. If you are about to go tell someone about the mistakes of others, STOP! Go talk to that person directly. It is very likely you misunderstand the circumstances anyway, so you would only be sowing bad seeds.
When to Involve Others
There is a time to involve others in conflict, but that is only after step one has been done. After you have personally pleaded with the individual who was in the wrong, and they defiantly refuse to listen to counsel. Only then should you bring with you one or two others to plead with them again. If this doesn’t work, then you should inform the church about it, and the only reason for this is to help to plead with the individual. Every step is only to help the person who is in the wrong. At every step, your goal must be to attempt to win them back. I have heard it said, “If you are not willing to die for the individual you are approaching about a problem, then keep your mouth shut.” I think that is very good advice.
Jesus said, “And why beholdest thou the mote [speck or twig] that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). If our goal in pointing out a fault in a brother is not to help them, then we should not get involved. We need to make sure our motives are correct first, take the beam out of our own eye, before we go to someone with any type of correction. Otherwise, we cannot see clearly, and we will make a mess of things. I surely do not want an eye doctor who is wearing a blindfold to come to me to try to correct my vision.
Even after all the steps in Matthew 18 are taken, you should still try to win the person back. Jesus said, at the last stage they should be to you “as an heathen man and a publican.” This doesn’t mean we reject them. Jesus was “a friend of publicans and sinners!” (Luke 7:34). We should be their friends too.
Hungering and Thirsting
Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). That is a great promise, we “shall be filled” with “righteousness.” Why? …because we “hunger and thirst” after it. We want it so badly we will give everything to acquire it.
Being forgiven is more than just having a record of our sins wiped clean. That is only part of it! The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1_John 1:9). True repentance includes a desire to be filled with righteousness and cleansed from our wickedness. David wrote, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalms 139:23, 24). He also wrote, “Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults” (Psalms 19:12). Elihu said, “That which I see not teach thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more” (Job 34:32).
David understood that when he fell into sin, he needed more than just the record of his sins removed. He said, “Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalms 51:9, 10). Repentance includes confessing our sins, and asking God to create in us a clean heart to keep us from making the same mistakes again. I pray that God will grant us to hunger and thirst after righteousness. This will ensure that we will be filled so we can walk in a new life (Romans 6:4).
Even though we have been given a clean heart, sometimes we may fall (1_John 2:1). Don’t be discouraged! In fact, the Bible says, “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief” (Proverbs 24:16). Based upon this verse a just man falls more often than a wicked person. This is because a just man rises up again, while a wicked person stays down. Rising up each time includes confession and forgiveness. Thankfully, God will forgive us at least seven times in a day.
I am very glad that God forgives us so thoroughly that we will never have to face those sins again (Ezekiel 33:16). He so fervently wants to live with us forever that He has given everything He has to help us to do that (Romans 8:32). Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2, 3).
God wants to see you thrive and succeed. For this to happen you must “cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days” (Deuteronomy 30:20). “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11, 12).
Friends, God loves you much more than you can imagine (Ephesians 3:14-21). He will relentlessly pursue you in hopes you will accept His free gift of salvation (Ezekiel 33:11; Jeremiah 31:3). He reached me at the perfect time. He promised, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).
God says to you, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:15).
Give your life to Him, and it will be the best decision of your life. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Don’t wait any longer. “…behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).