If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
How can you forgive somebody who has hurt you? Forgiveness starts by acknowledging that you have been wronged and then viewing your hurt from God’s perspective. Today, let’s look at two more steps to forgiveness.
To free yourself from the prison of bitterness, you need to acknowledge your failure and receive God’s forgiveness. Now, I’m not engaging in victim blaming, but what I am saying is this: you can never truly forgive others until you have received God’s forgiveness, and you will never receive God’s forgiveness until you understand how desperately you need it. People who have a hard time forgiving usually have an inflated view of their own righteousness. They don’t understand what sinners they are and how much they need God’s grace. That’s why it’s important if you are ever going to forgive others that you receive God’s forgiveness. Trying to forgive somebody without receiving God’s forgiveness is like trying to write a check on an account for which you have no money. We forgive because we have been forgiven by God.
Finally, we have to choose forgiveness over bitterness. We can’t choose what other people do to us, but we can make the choice of letting go and forgiving, or holding on and being destroyed. Why should you choose forgiveness? There are certainly some great spiritual reasons to forgive. In Matthew 18, Jesus told a parable of a king whose slave owed him an immeasurable debt. The king graciously forgave his slave, and then that slave refused to forgive a fellow slave of a very small debt. When the king heard what happened, he “handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him” (v. 34). Jesus said, “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart” (v. 35). And look at his words in Matthew 6:14-15. Jesus said, “If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” If you do not forgive other people, then God will not forgive you and you will die in your sins. You may be wondering, “Pastor, are you saying I’m going to lose my salvation?” No, you are not going to lose your salvation. But if you find yourself saying over and over again, “I will not forgive. I will not forgive this person,” it’s not that you lose your salvation; it means you never had salvation to begin with. When you truly understand the great debt from which God has forgiven you, it’s only natural that you would extend forgiveness to somebody else. Forgiveness is the obligation of those who have been forgiven.
Are there offenses in your life that you need to acknowledge? Are there hurts in your life that you need to release? Go ahead and acknowledge that hurt, release it, and begin today to experience the freedom that comes from choosing forgiveness over bitterness.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Choosing Forgiveness Over Bitterness” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2019.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.