Forgive One Another

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Accept Forgiveness
God can forgive any kind of sin; no matter what you've done. Any sin you've committed, God can forgive if you confess and if you repent of it. We are to leave all of our sins of the past, present, and future in that baptistry and walk with Christ into light with the confidence that comes through the forgiveness that he offers.  When it comes to our sin, some of us picture an angry God holding rocks in his hands, ready to stone us for what we have done wrong. Some may even think that God takes joy in condemning us and barraging us with rocks of righteousness. But the picture that we have of God, shown to us through the person of Jesus Christ, is not one who throws rocks.  In Psalm 32, David discusses his personal types of sin and assures us that our God is not only big enough to forgive the sins. David also says that God is actually the only one who has the right to throw rocks since he is perfect and without sin, but instead, God chooses to drop the rocks that represent the sin of missing the mark, the sin of perversion, the sin of defiant disobedience, and the sin of deceit. You probably know John 3:16, where Jesus says “For God so love the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him will not perish, but will have eternal life.” But do you know what the next verse says? Verse 17 states, “For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” The nature of your sin is not the issue, the nature of God is the issue. His nature is for the two to be reconciled, to be in a right relationship with one another, which is made possible by the one who has already paid for your sin and taken the punishment that you deserved. Discussion/Reflection Question: Is there any sin in your life that you struggle to believe that God can forgive?
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Releasing Your Right to Retaliate
There's a passage in the Gospel of Matthew regarding forgiveness that we don't talk about very often because the reality of it can be a bit sobering and a difficult truth for us to accept. In this verse, Jesus shares the implications for those who choose not to forgive others. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” For some of us, when we read that verse, the first thing we try to do is add our own qualifiers to passage and say what we think that Jesus really meant to say. We think that maybe he means we need to forgive as long as it's not a really big sin against us, or we need to forgive if the person asks for forgiveness. Some of us even like to put a timeline on forgiveness and think we only forgive someone if 5 years have passed or 10 years have passed. After all, we feel entitled to our anger and bitterness for how we were wronged and hurt by someone else. We feel like they deserve our wrath for, at least, some amount of time.   Our world and our sinful nature tell us to pursue revenge for the ways that we have been hurt. But forgiveness releases your right to hurt someone else back, and if there is to be any punishment administered, we leave that in the hands of God, who is the perfect judge. Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Discussion/Reflection Questions: When have you enacted revenge on someone for the wrong they did to you? How did that feel initially? How did it feel longterm?
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Extend Forgiveness
Some of you have been wronged or deeply wounded by someone else, maybe even someone that you loved and trusted. You continue to hold onto these feelings of revenge and resentment with a pretty tight grip. Most of us have struggled with forgiving someone in our life, and those seasons are tough. But we discover that oftentimes as time passes, your anger gradually builds and your inner resentment can become all consuming.  In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” So, from God's viewpoint, you have committed murder in your mind when you want to return evil for evil. One of the best ways to begin the process of forgiving someone and letting go of your anger is to praying for that other individual. It's more difficult to be mad at someone when you pray for them. When you begin to pray for that other person, God always reveals something. He reveals your sin, your multiplicity of sins.  Yet the greatest motivation that drives us to forgiveness is often our own sins and our own knowledge of all the wrongdoings that God's ever forgiven us of. If you are not the worst sinner that you know, then perhaps you're not being honest. Life's too short to let someone else's past behavior mess up your life and affect your present and future. Let go of that injustice, and extend the same forgiveness that you want, and that you've received from Christ onto others who have wronged you. Your vertical relationship with God is weakened when your horizontal relationships with others are strained. But when your vertical relationship with God and your horizontal relationship with others are in sync, they paint a picture of the cross.  Discussion/Reflection Question: Where in your life are their strained relationships with others that are causing your relationship with God to be weakened?
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Believe In Forgiveness
In 2 Corinthians 7:10, we read, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” Godly sorrow is what David eventually had for the sins he had committed. Worldly sorrow is what we have when we're upset that we got caught in our sin. The Psalmist has some good words of encouragement for us regarding how God handles our sin though. In Psalm 103:11-12, David says “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” David wrote this in 1,000 BC, and people didn't know at that time that the world was round. God could have inspired David to write that our sins had been removed as far as the north is from the south. That distance would be a really long way to separate us from our sins. But there is a North Pole and there is a South Pole with 3,900 miles between them. God, in his infinite wisdom, had David write that he would take your sin as far as the east is from the west. You can head east the rest of your life and just keep circling the globe; same with west.  God will never bring your sins back up, and it's your choice whether or not you believe that God's forgiveness is so complete that he banishes it to never be seen again. Now there may be earthly consequences for us. There may be legal penalties because of our sin. There may be consequences with other relatives or other people because of what's taken place. But if you've given your life to Christ and you sincerely repent of your sins, he is faithful and will forgive you of your sin.  Discussion/Reflection Question: Do you accept that God has completely banished your sin and will never again bring it up?