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Forgiveness is Easter in Action

How can I forgive if I can't forget...

N.T. Wright... that first generation [of Christ Followers] answered the question of why they were Christians with a straightforward answer: "because Jesus was raised from the dead" …. As they worked that out; their thinking about a lot of things changed profoundly.”

The Easter Effect...

On of those things that I keep working out (and especially lately) is how can I forgive when I can't forget. I mean I hold on to all sorts of things... I let lots of things bother me and change my thinking... and forgiving some people is just really hard to do. A friend recently asked me this question and I've thought about almost every day sense that day in the parking lot. I mean really - how can I forgive when I can't forget what that person did or said... because they truly hurt me (and I know that I've hurt others as well). And that is where the answer is found.

Romans 5:1-2 New Living Translation (NLT)

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

Easter has an effect on us if we will just think about it for a moment. Easter has a great effect on our thinking and our actions. The early Christians looked at their world from the perspective of the cross and the empty tomb. This changed everything for us. I'm afraid that we don't always see what they saw. I mean we have lived so far from the empty tomb and we have been around "church" for so long that I think we have became satisfied and we are no longer hungry for the power of the resurrection.  

Those first Christians knew that God had just forgiven every sin that they had every done. They were living in a brand new life and they had no other choice, but to be changed. Do we have the same choice -- YES! But do we?

Do we allow "The Easter Effect" to change us, to mold us, to move us, to motivate us to be like Christ. Maybe we've just never witnessed the empty tomb for real. Maybe we just don't know that Jesus has changed every part of us.

Here's the truth... we can go to church without Jesus, we can build churches without Jesus, we can go to Bible Studies without Jesus, we can sing without Him, pray without Him... the truth is that if we will pursue Jesus - we will never leave us lacking in anything - that is even true about forgiveness.

Romans 5:3-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

The empty tomb gives us a very important truth. We have hope for tomorrow. We have the knowledge that Jesus at just the right time - Christ died for us ... literally God forgave us and gave us a new life. When I didn't deserve to be forgiven - God made a way for me to find forgiveness. How can I not do that for someone else? But in that is the difficultly.

God forgave first...

God forgave first, but God didn't only forgive and forget... God PAID THE DEBT! The Bible says that God has removed our sin as far as the east is from the west...

Psalm 103:12 New Living Translation (NLT)

12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.

God has removed our sins, but God didn't just excuse our sins - He didn't just overlook our sins... He knows every one of them... He knows every part of my life that has not lined up to the ways of Christ. God knows my sin and God has not overlooked them - God has REMOVED THEM.

Here's the really cool part about God's forgiveness - it wasn't deserved. It was something that I asked for. It was freely given because it was the only way to bring about healing for mankind. In God's forgiveness is the acknowledgement of our sin and the payment of our sin. In God's forgiveness we see a picture of what forgiveness really is.

We think we have to "forget" before we can forgive... I would tell you that today... you need to "forgive" so that you can forget... the only way to forget is to acknowledge the wrong and then ask God to take it from you.. .so that you can forgive.

It's an understandable and common notion, right? We hear it a lot in the phrase “forgive and forget.” Whatever occurred doesn’t matter. That’s different than what happens when a person thinks about forgiveness as overcoming. When you work with the idea of forgiveness as overcoming, you don’t ignore whatever happened. It’s precisely because something happened that forgiveness is on the table in the first place.

Easter redefines us not on the basis of the past but on the future: life wins. Who is not him/herself in need of forgiveness? And who then are we to withhold it? Life is messy. None of us hit home runs every moment of every day.

2 Corinthians 2:5-12 New Living Translation (NLT)

5 I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. 6 Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. 7 Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. 8 So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him.

9 I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions. 10 When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, 11 so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.

Forgiveness is for "our benefit" and not just something that we need to do because we are Christians. We need to forget because by not doing so - we harbor emotions and keep feelings that are not good for our soul. When we hold on to what ever we are holding on to and we can't "forget" it may be because we haven't "forgiven". The fact that we can't forget - may come from the point of view that we haven't given to someone the very thing that was given to us.

I don't deserve to be forgiven - but Christ died for me. I don't deserve to be blessed, but I am in Christ. I don't deserve to be happy - but Christ provides for my every need - I am so blessed. My heart should be to be like Christ and forgiveness (even when it's not deserved) is critical to my health as a Christ-minded person. I must first forgive - If I every want to forget.

Matthew 6:14-15 New Living Translation (NLT)

14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

What is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is not saying that “sin” or “hurt” is OK.

When we forgive others we are not condoning the sin or hurt. We are not saying that I think what happened to me is OK… matter of fact… forgiveness is just the opposite… we are saying that we know what happened to us is terrible, it’s bad, it hurt, it’s wrong… when we forgive we acknowledge the wrong doing in others and we “forgive” that wrongdoing because we know that Jesus forgave our wrongdoing. That’s step 1.

Forgiveness and forgetting don't necessarily happen together.

Forgetting should never be a test of whether a person has forgiven. The miracle of forgiveness is that, with God's help, you can forgive even while you still remember. Paul said, God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). Forgiveness isn’t about whether we forget… it’s really about while we still remember we are forgiving.

Forgiveness costs us something. The forgiveness we received was costly.

It cost Jesus His life. To ask for forgiveness, or to grant it, is often difficult. It's more than just saying I'm sorry, or I forgive you. It means giving up the hatred and resentment that sometimes, sadly, one may even enjoy harboring. It's hard because it doesn't always fit into the judicial way of thinking; forgiveness doesn't always seem fair.

Forgiveness is not the same as excusing others.

Often when we ask God to forgive us, we are really asking him to excuse us. But according to C.S. Lewis, forgiveness and excusing are almost opposites (Lewis, “On Forgiveness,” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, 178–181).

Forgiveness says, “You have done an evil thing; nevertheless, I will not hold it against you.” Excusing says, “I see that you couldn’t help it or didn’t mean it; you weren’t really to blame.” Therefore, to excuse someone is to let that person off the hook because he didn’t really belong on the hook in the first place. We refuse to blame someone for something that wasn’t his fault to begin with.

When it comes to God, C. S. Lewis notes, “What we call ‘asking God’s forgiveness’ very often really consists in asking God to accept our excuses.” We want him to remember the extenuating circumstances that led us to do what we did. We go away “imagining that we have repented and been forgiven when all that has really happened is that we have satisfied ourselves with our own excuses.”

Forgiveness is a present event. 

Time heals all wounds too often encourages a lengthy process that may even add more resentments and bitterness over time. Don't delay in forgiving someone. For Christians, forgiveness is a lifestyle. It is something that is here and now - not for tomorrow, but for today. Forgiveness is the first step in really being able to heal from the hurt… and the truth is that forgiveness may need to applied more than once… in reality… the hard part of forgetting will take time, but that should not keep us from applying grace that has been applied to us from God.

Forgiveness is freedom.

There is nothing more free than when God says to you Your sins are forgiven. Equally freeing is when you can forgive others immediately. Forgiveness is an act of the will. If you will supply the desire to forgive others, Christ will supply the emotional freedom.

Forgiveness is the first step in truly healing...

When we are physically wounded, say you're riding a bicycle and you fall and skid along the ground, you have a wound. Forgiveness is not the healing part. Forgiveness is the necessary cleaning of the wound before healing can begin. And it's a tough process. We don't want to clean that wound first. It hurts. It's difficult to do. But until that wound is cleansed, no healing can take place. So, we need to forgive before we will truly have healing of the emotional and spiritual wounds from a wrong done against us.

Romans 5:3-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Forgiveness is EASTER in Action

Forgiveness is really about trusting... (1) God knows the wrong done.

(2) and God, as the definition of justice will be the one to make sure that justice is done for the one who has wronged us. (3) So then really all forgiveness is, is the act of taking the hand of the one you're holding your anger and hurt toward and giving it to God and saying "I wish to forgive this person. I trust you will do the right thing." And then giving the hand of that person to God to deal with. And then praying for the strength to forgive and for the healing to come. Forgetting will come with healing and a pure heart.

Holding on to pain and frustration is a heart issue - not a brain issue - we know what needs to be done - we just don't want to do it - we want to hold on to the fact that we can't really see them as Jesus sees them... so do I truly trust God to handle it. If I do - then I will forgive and then I will ask God to work on my heart - so that I can forget like Jesus does with me. He knows the wrong - He chooses to see me in a different light - I can't (if I want to be fully alive in Christ) hold on to something that I can't forget - the fact is that if I don't "forgive" --- I WILL NEVER FORGET!

Maybe this weekend you can find a place to let EASTER touch your heart and heal your mind. Jesus has made a way for all of us to walk in a brand new life. The hard part is finishing the race. I pray my friend that you can really "forgive" so that you can in time "forget"... it's the best thing for your heart as a MAN OF GOD. See you all somewhere this Easter.

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