The Stronghold of Un-Forgiveness
INTRODUCTION: Have you ever said, "I will forgive you, but don't expect me to forget what you have done to me." If you have said those words, or something similar, notice Ephesians 4:31-32
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”
My friends, I believe the most thrilling realization in life is the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. The second greatest aspect of forgiveness comes when someone forgives you for a wrong you have committed against them.
Again in verse 31 Paul warns us about bitterness and anger; both are deadly sins of an unforgiving spirit. You might be saying, “Pastor,
I have a RIGHT to be bitter, look at what I have endured.
I have a RIGHT to be angry, look what he did to me.
I have a RIGHT to give that person a piece of my mind.”
No, you don't have that RIGHT. Notice again verse 32, "And be ye KIND…, TENDERHEARTED, FORGIVING…"
Did you notice the wording? We are not only commanded to forgive because we are forgiven; we are also to forgive in the same manner in which we were forgiven.
When God forgives, He forgives immediately, completely and permanently. He doesn't hold anything in reserve to use against us later. He doesn't put us on probation and let us off if we don't turn into repeat offenders.
If we fail to forgive, it will become a stronghold in our lives. In Hebrew 12:15 we read, "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled." The problem with not forgiving is that it leads to bitterness. Bitterness can be defined as dissatisfaction with the circumstances of life.
Holding a grudge, harboring bitterness and remembering everything wrong that has been done to you is a sign of bitterness, and bitterness is a warning sign of a stronghold in your life.
Scientific evidence shows that when you think or speak words of revenge, saying things like, “I’m going to get even for that," it triggers the pleasure centers in the brain. Harboring thoughts of bitterness may seem like fun. But in reality it is a sin. Remember this:
"An unforgiving spirit is the Devil's playground, and before long it becomes the Christian’s battleground."
Jealousy and envy are common evidences that you may have the stronghold of an unforgiving spirit.
Envy is wishing that you had what someone else has.
Jealousy is wishing they didn't have it, because you don't have it.
If either one of these is present in your life, you are focused on other people instead of on God. That is a very dangerous place for any Christian to live.
God does not want you to stay wounded and hurting. He wants to heal your soul and make you whole. He wants to lift you above the past and restore you through His grace.
If you want to learn to last in your marriage, if you want to last in the church, if you want to last around the human race, you are going to have to realize that those that would hurt you, are possibly broken themselves.
To forgive we must be sensitive to the burdens that other people carry. Why don't you stop and think of how much pressure the person that hurt you is under?
Have you ever done something you shouldn’t have done when you’ve been under a great deal of pressure?
Let me ask every parent here, have you ever broken under pressure and behaved in a way toward your child that you shouldn't have behaved?
You are going to have to forgive the way you would want to be forgiven. Forgive as you would want to be forgiven. Forgive as you wanted Jesus to forgive you.
Do you want people to HATE you or SEEK REVENGE against you and not forgive you? If not, then you must forgive the way you would want to be forgiven.
Do you want people to be BITTER with you and not forgive you? If not, then you must forgive like you would want to be forgiven.
Do you want people to BE UNREASONABLE with you and not forgive you? If not, then you must forgive the way you want to be forgiven.
Do you want people to AVOID you and not forgive you? If not, then you must forgive the way you would want to be forgiven.
For an example of refusing to forgive, let's look at an incident in the life of King David. David was a man who usually did what was right.
But when it came to David's own son, he failed the test of forgiveness. We do not have time in this message to read the entire story recorded in II Samuel 13-18, so let me summarize it for you.
David's oldest son, Amnon was the heir to the throne. Amnon began to lust after his half-sister Tamar. He got himself so worked up that it began to affect him physically.
His friend Jonadab encouraged him in a scheme to get the chance to take advantage of her. Amnon asked David to have Tamar bring him some food. When she got there, Amnon sent everyone out of the room and he raped her.
Then to compound the evil, he sent her away. When David found out about that awful sin, he did nothing! Maybe it was because he felt guilty over his own immorality years earlier with Bathsheba, and thought he lacked credibility because of his sin. May I tell you something?
If you have sins in your past that have been dealt with and forgiven, don't ever think that it means you have to excuse the same sins in someone else's life. You had to deal with your sin, and it will not help someone else if they have their sin covered.
Here David did nothing. So after two years, Absalom, Tamar's full brother, took matters into his own hands. He put together a plot to get Amnon away from the palace and have him killed. After that, he fled to his grandfather's kingdom.
Again, David did nothing to deal with that either, even though from II Samuel 14:1 his heart longed to restore his relationship with Absalom. Several years went by before Joab organized a scheme to convince David to bring Absalom back home. In II Samuel 14:21-24 we read,
“And the king said unto Joab, Behold now, I have done this thing: go therefore, bring the young man Absalom again. (22) And Joab fell to the ground on his face, and bowed himself, and thanked the king: and Joab said, Today thy servant knoweth that I have found grace in thy sight, my lord, O king, in that the king hath fulfilled the request of his servant. (23) So Joab arose and went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. (24) And the king said, Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face. So Absalom returned to his own house, and saw not the king's face.”
Absalom was back in Jerusalem, but he was not truly forgiven. His relationship with his father had not been restored. Two more years went by before David finally allowed Absalom back into the palace.
During those five years when David would not forgive him, Absalom's heart turned away from his father, and he led a rebellion to take over the nation. As a result, he ended up swinging from an oak tree by his long hair, and Joab came by and killed him.
There upon in II Samuel 18:33 David said, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!"
David had reached the point where he wanted their relationship to be restored, but by then it was too late. Why did Absalom end up a dead rebel against his father? It was because David wouldn't forgive.
Over the years I have had to deal with people who have had terrible, terrible things done to them.
I have heard stories of abuse and mistreatment that frankly were almost impossible to believe. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have been treated as some of these people have been treated.
So often I've heard someone say "Pastor, why should I forgive? They did such a terrible and vile thing to me."
I understand that response. It is normal. Yet we cannot remain in bitterness without suffering ourselves. Someone once said that,
“…harboring bitterness in your heart is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
You cannot limit the fallout of bitterness. If you allow it to become a stronghold in your life by failing to forgive, it will not only harm your relationship with the person at whom you are angry; it will harm all of your relationships. That is because bitterness changes you.
Does the person who hurt you deserve to be forgiven? No. But neither did you!
You do not forgive them for their sake; you forgive them for Christ's sake. That is why God forgave you—because Jesus paid the price.
You also forgive them for your sake. Forgiveness gives you the freedom to begin to heal. The process isn't immediate, and it requires a lot of grace. Once you forgive, you begin destroying the stronghold built on being unforgiving in your life.
Turning from the story of David in II Samuel we go to Matthew 18:21-22 where Peter came to Jesus and asked,
“… Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? (22) Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”
“Seventy times seven” is four-hundred and ninety times. What does that mean?
Jesus was saying that you need to forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive, and you are going to have to learn how to forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive. Married people understand what I mean. We are to forgive and keep on forgiving. Jesus is teaching us that forgiveness is an unending process.
You notice Peter's question was in regard to forgiving one person. He says "If my brother sins against me…” That's singular. The reason this is an issue to us is because Jesus' answer to forgive 490 times applies to only one person. Unendingly, we are to forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive that one person.
In Mark 11:25-26 we read, "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."
God said, "Wait, I'll forgive you, when you come to your senses and you forgive the people that you had a problem with." Wait a minute, “If forgiveness is good for you, it is also good for others, too.”
In life we see one another's weaknesses and faults more than you realize. We make our mistakes in the presence of one another. If we, as individuals, do not constantly cleanse ourselves, we are going to be dirty with a lack of forgiveness.
We must constantly cleanse ourselves from the desire for revenge.
We must constantly cleanse ourselves from that thing called bitterness that can creep into any life.
We must constantly cleanse ourselves from hurt feelings and pride and critical mouths and critical minds and critical hearts.
We must be careful, that we are not so judgmental that we don't destroy one another like a bunch of animals over a piece of raw meat.
We've got to learn to forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive. That's the only way you are going to make it. You will not make it until you can learn to forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive. Four-hundred ninety times was Jesus' suggestion. Today, that shouldn't be hard for us to remember.
I'm not talking about when you get mad wrongfully. I'm talking about when you are mad rightfully. "What does that mean,” you ask.
I’m talking about when someone does something unintentional we are to forgive them.
I'm talking about when somebody purposely and knowingly does something to hurt you. That's when it's hard to forgive. It's easy to forgive when you find out that you were wrong about them.
If you are faithful to this church sooner or later you are going to get offended. I'm not saying there is a possibility. It's a certainty. You will be hurt. You will be offended. Someone will mistreat you.
Why? Because imperfect humans are dealing with imperfect humans on an imperfect earth. May I remind you that we are a bunch of sinful people? So sinful, Jesus said, "You need to be consciously aware of the need to forgive that same person 490 times."
To forgive seventy times seven, we have to realize what forgiveness truly is. In Ephesians 4:32 we read, "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, FORGIVING one another, even as God for Christ’s sake, hath FORGIVEN you."
Paul expressed that it's characteristic of saints to forgive. We, who have been forgiven by God, should forgive others. But we often shout, “I have a RIGHT to be angry. I have a RIGHT not to forgive.” Actually, you don't have that RIGHT, "An unforgiving Christian is a CONTRADICTION TO THE GRACE OF GOD." Thank God:
He forgives every KIND of sin.
He forgives every TIME we sin.
He forgives the very MOMENT we ask for forgiveness.
He forgives sin FOREVER, He never bring it up again.
Here is an excellent definition for forgiveness:
"Forgiveness is a choice, to reconcile with an offender by erasing their debt and agreeing to live with the consequences of their sin."
Forgiveness is a choice; you chose to forgive, or not to forgive.
Forgiveness is a concern "to reconcile with an offender."
Forgiveness has a cost; it comes with the price of erasing the offender’s debt.
Forgiveness has a consequence to agree to live with the consequences of that person’s sin.
Forgiveness includes you paying the price for the evil that someone else has brought upon you.
Forgiveness is accepting some undeserved suffering.
Forgiveness is vicarious substitutionary suffering for the sin of somebody else. Somebody else wronged you and you accepted it and suffered because of it. You forgave.
If you don't believe this is possible, look at Calvary. Look what they did to Jesus Christ, the King of kings, the perfect, sinless, flawless Son of God.
They ran Him through SIX trials. Was He guilty? No. Had He done anything wrong? No. Had He sinned? No.
They scourged Him. They beat Him. Had He done anything wrong? No. Had He hurt anybody? No. Had He sinned? No.
They took a spear and shoved it in His side. They nailed Him to a cross. Had He done anything wrong? No. Had He hurt them? No. Had He ever sinned against anyone? No. Had He ever abused anyone? No.
As they were driving the nails in His hands and in His feet, in Luke 23:34 of the Bible, Jesus said over and over again, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…." That is perfection forgiving imperfection and suffering a penalty that He didn't even deserve. That's what forgiveness is.
You hurt yourself by not forgiving, more than you hurt the unforgiven one. Unforgiveness:
Shows on your face and in your attitude.
Shows in your relationship. You are not happy.
Shows in your singing, or lack thereof. You don't smile.
Shows in your health.
Shows in your lack of productivity for God.
The Bible tells us in Romans 12:19, " … Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." I don't know if it has occurred to you lately, but you're not God. God said, "You leave vengeance to Me." What are we supposed to do? Forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive.
In Luke 6:37 we read, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven."
In Colossians 3:13 we read, "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye."
Recently I read this story about a doctor who had a lot of patients, but not all of them could pay their bills.
His wife was always after him to collect the money that was due on those accounts. She was always counting up how much money they would have if everybody paid.
They lived a comfortable life, and he was far better off financially than most of the people he treated. He always refused to try to collect.
When he died, she decided to get her pound of flesh. So she got his billing records to find out how much she could get. But next to each name, written in red pen, was the word "forgiven."
She went to a judge to try to enforce payment. He said, "Your husband was the one to whom the debt was owed, and he chose to forgive it. You cannot collect."
Next to every sin on your record, written in the crimson blood of Jesus Christ, is the word "forgiven."
When the Devil comes to accuse you to the Father, Jesus says, "That debt is paid." It will never be held against you again.
When somebody does something wrong to you, think about what Christ has done at Mt. Calvary by comforting you with forgiveness, and then do the same.
You can FORGIVE that guy at work.
You can FORGIVE your brother or sister or parent or children in the flesh.
You can FORGIVE your brothers or sisters in the faith.
You can FORGIVE your husband or wife.
You can FORGIVE anyone of anything without carrying a grudge.
There are people, sitting in churches all across America today, maybe even right here that have grieved the Holy Spirit of God because they will not forgive. And we wonder why we don’t have revival in the church or victory in our lives. If Jesus Christ could hang on a cross and pray, “Father, forgive them.” How much more should we forgive? You may say, “It’s hard.” Yes, it’s hard, but it’s possible.
Maybe your words have caused a wall of division between brothers in Christ or several family members. Why not agree to" forgive one another just as God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven you!”
Maybe there's someone against whom you have a grudge, or perhaps a grudge is brewing against you. You'll do yourself a tremendous favor if you go to him or her and get it off your chest by either forgiving them or asking them for forgiveness of you. Forgiveness is the promise NOT TO RAISE THE ISSUE AGAIN. Forgiveness is marked on the permanent file: CASE CLOSED.
Maybe this morning you need to experience the forgiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ. He died on the cross of Calvary to save your soul, to forgive your sins, to provide for you eternal life with Him in heaven. If that is so, right now in your heart, look up to heaven and say, “Lord Jesus, right now I accept you as my Savior. Save me in Jesus’ name.”
Praise the Lord, because of the cross, we can sing:
Calvary covers it all, My past with its sin and strain,
My guilt and despair, Jesus took on Him there,
And Calvary covers it all.
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, please let me know. Please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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