Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Forgiveness from the Heart

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

“[Love] is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (I Corinthians 13:5).

The above verses are emotions of the heart. Earlier in Matthew 18, Peter asked Jesus for a commendation if he forgave his brother seven times. Jesus replied 77 or 70x70 or 490 times. Is there a difference between the two numbers? No! the meaning is in the conjunction of the two sevens, that is, times without number, or an infinite number of times. Jesus did not want Peter to keep count. “That’s 66 or that’s 365.” “When I get to 491 I will deck him.” Love does not keep a record of wrongs. If the brother is forgiven from the heart, the next time he sins, it will seem to the forgiver like the first time. Heart forgiveness is complete forgiveness; it has no qualifications with it.

There are several things to see in these few verses.

1. The forgiveness is unilateral. It is not dependant on the sinner being repentant or saying he is repentant. Nor does the forgiver have the requirement to judge if the sinner is really repentant before he forgives. The only requirement is that he himself has been forgiven by God an infinite number of times. “So watch yourselves. ‘If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him’” (Luke 17:3-4).

2. The forgiveness is from the heart, not just from the mouth.

3. The forgiveness is not conditional on the number of times one is sinned against or the magnitude of the sins.

4. Forgiveness from the heart means that the forgiver is no longer angry, bitter, or begrudging. The joy of his own salvation is restored.

5. Even righteous anger is not allowed to go beyond sundown. “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26).

6. The person who does not forgive from his heart is in bigger trouble with God than the one who has sinned.

7. Forgiveness has qualities to it that are seen by the forgiven and all bystanders, Christian or non-Christian.

8. The above is in contrast with the world’s justice system (official or censored by the public at large). Grace is so seldom used, never understood and thought to be unjust. If we do not wish to forgive him from the heart, nor want God, nor the church, nor the public to forgive him, then we are saying we want him destroyed. That may happen. It may be likely that God will forgive him, the church will forgive him, and he will be back in the joy of his salvation. We are the ones who end up destroyed.

9. A few years ago in Seattle, a murderer was sentenced to die for his murder. During his time in prison, he had heard the gospel and had received Christ. On the day of his execution, three conflicting events happened, recorded on TV.

a. An anti-death penalty group was objecting outside the prison.

b. A pro-death group was demonstrating outside the prison. They wanted him dead and in hell.

c. The murderer was announcing his conversion to Christ and his anticipation of going to heaven. This made no sense to either of the other groups, and made them angry.

10. If you do not have the characteristics of heart forgiveness for someone who sinned against you yesterday or ten years ago, then you must repent today and stay on your knees until you are forgiven for your unforgiveness.

Unforgiveness is evident in Christian families and in Christian churches. It is a stench in the evangelical church.

Please download How to Be Free From Bitterness from ccmbooks.org or request a hard copy from us by calling (208)883-0997.

(Taken from Day & Night, 2005)

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