The evidence of repentance and forgiveness is fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23
The root of bitterness can crush the Spirit’s root and stunt the fruit of the Spirit. The root sits just under the surface–easily overlooked–sucking the nourishment from the tree.
The foundation of Christianity is a based on forgiveness. As we grow in our faith it is easy to overlook this basic and forget how forgiveness impacts us daily. A doctor from Stanford University reports,
“The practice of forgiveness has been shown to reduce anger, hurt depression, and stress and leads to greater feelings of hope, peace, compassion and self confidence. Practicing forgiveness leads to healthy relationships as well as physical health. It also influences our attitude which opens the heart to kindness, beauty, and love.”
1. Receiving Forgiveness from God
The fruit in our life is directly proportional to the grace one has received and given.
We can strive to stay away from temptation and try to be good but there are always areas that remain sinful. We may harbor bitterness, lose tempers, or make hurtful comments to others. It is hard to accept failures and sometimes harder to confess them. But God calls us to confess and repent to receive His forgiveness. True repentance involves regret, mourning, and commitment not to continue in the sin.
God hates sin, but He loves the sinner, so much that He paid the price for sin Himself. Once the sin is covered by the Blood of Christ, it is blotted out! God doesn’t keep a record of our sins. Our forgiveness is total and complete.“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25).
Faith and forgiveness are like hand and glove; they fit together perfectly. God tells us how we can be forgiven; we just ask with faith. First must have a repentant heart, stop the sin, and ask for God’s forgiveness.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1John 1:9.
God doesn’t withhold the opportunity for forgiveness from anyone.
“For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” Psalms 86:5
Once we receive forgiveness from God we also need to learn to forgive ourselves. If God doesn’t hold a sin against us why beat ourselves up over it? We all make mistakes. We walk in the flesh and we walk in the Spirit. When we walk in our flesh we sin. Once we repent and ask forgiveness we must forgive our self and go on.
There is nothing we can do to change the past, but we can affect our future. Harboring regret and negative emotions will make us bitter and resentful. We need to resist dwelling on things we can’t take back and accept God’s forgiveness.
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8.
3. Forgiving Others
Are you bitter? Do you hold ought against another? Are you harboring resentment against someone from your past? Does the memory of the hurt and pain overwhelm you again and again? Does anxiety erode your mind as events plays over and over? If you cannot forget, have you forgiven?
When someone hurts us we never recover until we forgive. Unforgiveness causes deep pain and leads to hideous bondage resulting in bitterness, rage, anger, and with malice (Ephesians 4:31). Choosing unforgiveness is a life of bitterness and torment leading to a life of bondage to addictions and compulsive behaviors in hope of alleviating continuous emotional stress. It is agonizing and growing turbulence raging below the surface.
I recently found things I thought I had dealt with and let go. But during a weak time the pain and anger surfaced. I recognized I needed to forgive again.
Forgiveness is a choice–a spiritual decision–not to hold a sin against a person any longer. It is not based on what is deserved, but on grace. A tremendous release occurs when we are able to forgive. We must forgive others before requesting forgiveness from God. (Matthew 6:14-15).
Forgiving does not mean you can’t say something was wrong. You can encourage a compassionate willingness to forgive, yet retain the vigor of conviction that all people must be fully accountable of their behavior.
4. Receiving Forgiveness from Others
Receiving forgiveness from others is much harder than receiving forgiveness from God. God is faithful to forgive. People can go either way. The sin natures does not like to forgive and forget.
If you have a repentant heart and ask someone for forgiveness you have done your part. The forgiveness act is up to them.
5. What do you do if someone won’t forgive you?
Have you sincerely apologized? Do you have to keep asking for forgiveness? Do you need to beg? What if they say they forgive you but continue to bring up the problem or the sin? What if you get angry because they didn’t forgive you? This can be a serious cycle resulting in a vicious circle of bitterness. Here are the steps to take:
- Forgive them for not forgiving you. Pray that God will open their eyes and their heart. They will reap what is sown (bitterness and unforgiveness). If you have truly forgiven them you don’t want them to reap these things. Pray for them.
- Be patient. It is natural, human to get mad and resentful when you try to mend differences and the other person won’t respond. This may be something you will have to give to God daily.
- Let it go. Don’t continue to apologize, as long as you have done so sincerely. Don’t play it over in your head, it only stirs up anger. Find it in you to demonstrate love, concern, and the desire to improve the relationship.
- Focus on God’s perfect forgiveness. Psalm 103:12 says It is possible for the Lord to look at us without seeing our sins because when he forgave us, he removed our sins as far as the east is from the west“
For More on Forgiveness
In a recent radio broadcast, Nancy Leigh DeMoss said, “People who are not forbearing, who are not forgiving, generally become hard and cold. They often become depressed and even physically sick. There are many physical ailments today that doctors will tell you are affected by our unwillingness to forgive.” You can listen to the full broadcast at Forgiveness: Setting Your Captives Free.
Also see Nancy’s excellent book Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom