Sunday, January 11, 2009

Spiritual warfare and personal choices - Copley

For many believers forgiving those who have hurt them is a difficult task. The Scriptures tell us we are not ready to receive forgiveness of our sins unless we have forgiven others (Matt. 6:15). We will have great difficulty forgiving others if we do not understand how great our own forgiveness is (Matt. 18:21-34). If there is any single problem holding more people in spiritual bondage than any other, unforgiveness towards those who have hurt them is that problem. What does forgiving others involve? First let's look at some of Satan's lie and then God's truth about forgiveness. Satan's lie. I cannot forgive because... God truth. God forgives us through Christ; we forgive others in response to His work. Satan's lie. If I can understand or explain why they hurt me, then I do not need to forgive. God's truth. Understanding is not the same as forgiving, neither is explaining or excusing. Satan's lie. If I just wait long enough, time will heal the pain and I will not need to forgive. God's truth. Time does not heal the wounds-that is why they still hurt. Satan's lie. In forgiving, I become nothing more than a doormat and let them off the hook. God's truth. Personal forgiveness is not the same as judicial pardon. Satan's lie. I do not need to forgive someone until they ask me. God's truth. I am glad Jesus did not wait. Satan's lie. If I still remember, then I have not really forgiven. God's truth. True forgiveness involves living with the consequences of the action(s) of another whether we remember them or not. Satan's lie. I cannot forgive someone if they do not want it. God's truth. Forgiveness is between you and God-the other person can be forgiven whether or not they want it. Satan's lie. To forgive someone, I must tell them all the ways they have hurt me. God's truth. This is a nice way of getting revenge. As used in the Scriptures there is a range of ways the term "forgiveness" may be understood. "Set aside, leave, let go, leave behind, abandon, take away, wipe out, blot out, pass over, allow, permit, let go unpunished, make no account of, dismiss, release from guilt (or punishment), pardon, cover, conceal. Forgiving does not involve being content with asking God to help. It does involve recognizing that God does help, but I must make the choice; it is a crisis of my will. Forgiving does not involve forgetting what happened or denying the truth of my hurt or letting time heal everything. It does involve honestly admitting my pain. Forgiving does not involve justifying or excusing or tolerating what happened. It does involve being strong enough to hold the offender accountable, recognizing that debt comes with pain. Forgiving does not involve waiting until the offender apologizes or taking revenge before you forgive. It does involve agreeing to live with the consequences of another person's sin by freely choosing to release the debt and accept the pain that comes with its release. Forgiveness is so critical because it is at the core of Christ's work on the cross-it is an unnatural act for fallen people. We have been fully forgiven, and one reason is so that we may in turn forgive others. It is part of what He means when He tells us to take up our cross daily. Forgiveness short-circuits several areas of attack. When I forgive myself, I can recognize my identity as a child of God and I do not have to wallow in self-pity (all too often disguised as self-hatred). When I forgive others, they no longer have emotional holds on me-holds that disrupt the process of my maturing as a Christ-follower. It leaves revenge in the hands of the One person who will handle it justly, and frees us to focus on the true issues of maturing in Christ. Forgiveness affects two areas of spiritual conflict. It affects our minds, we are freed from mental/emotional bondage to those who have hurt us. It also affects our service. We do not have personal issues dragging us down, and we are free to look beyond ourselves so as to serve more effectively in the lives of others. Forgiveness is part of the total reconciliation process. If we are to live in community with each other, forgiveness is a necessity. Do I need to forgive someone? Here are several questions we need to ask if we are unsure as to whether there is someone we need to forgive. Is the pain still there? Does it in any way continue to shape or even define my life? Can you wish them well-and even rejoice when good things happen to them? Am I looking for ways to get even and repay the pain they have caused me? Bear in mind that revenge can be active (striking out) or passive (withdrawing, ignoring). How can I forgive? We need to begin by recognizing the injury. Whom do you need to forgive? How have they hurt or injured you? Describe what happened. Identify the emotions involved. List some of the feelings you have about what happened. Examples of things to consider. I am afraid to look at this because. I feel guilty about... I feel ashamed and humiliated by... I am angry that... I am afraid to look at this because... I feel guilty about... I feel ashamed and humiliated by... I am angry that... Then express your hurt and anger "If I could say what I wanted to this person (or these people), I would tell him (her, them). Set boundaries to protect yourself. List what you can do to protect yourself, both now and in the future. This should be done with someone you trust who will help you be realistic. Cancel the debt. When you have released the other person from your own expectations, you are ready to forgive-to cancel the debt. Write down something you can do to symbolize your willingness to forgive. You will need a time for private reflection. Do not be afraid to get away to ensure that you will not be interrupted. Pray, asking God to reveal to you anyone you need to forgive. Make a list of the names He brings to mind. Walk through the list, announcing your pain, hurt, anger, even hatred. Choose to release them verbally announcing your release. "I choose to forgive________for the time they________and accept the pain that comes with releasing them from their debt to me." I strongly encourage a verbal renunciation because verbal pronouncements involve a more conscious and deliberate commitment of your will. Consider the possibility of reconciliation. Why do you want reconciliation? If you approach the other person(s), what do you think will be their response? Can you accept the worst possible response? How can you check to see if the other person (or persons) are open to working through their part of the reconciliation process? We are commanded to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us. Should we refuse to do so, we will live in spiritual bongage. Please read prayerfully Matt. 18:25-35. Meditate on verse 35 "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."

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