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Forgiveness- Healing for the Past, Peace for the Present, & Hope for the Future

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church


I. A Prison With No Bars

A. A Look back At Forgiveness. For the last two months we have looked the subject of Forgiveness. We have looked at the need for Godís judicial forgiveness which the whole world needs; without it, they are hopelessly lost for eternity, but with it, a person is adopted into Godís family as His child. Unfortunately, though we should sin less, we are not sinless, and so we need to daily be forgiven by our Father. He gave us repentance and confession for that to be achieved. We saw that Godís forgiveness was not meant to just be received, it was meant to pay forward to all who hurt or offend us and we considered how to do that. We even looked at Forgiving God or accepting and submitting to Godís sovereignty when things happen that we donít understand. Last week we saw how to seek forgiveness from those we have offended. But our journey into freedom and healing will not be complete until we learn to Forgive ourselves. There are theologians who will arguer that this canít be done, because one can not be both the offender and the offended, but I think you can, and, in fact, I believe it is absolutely essential to your mental, spiritual, and emotional health.

B. The Haunting Consequences of our Pasts.

1. A young man I ministered to in jail was in a depression. The son of Christian parents, he had turned to drugs. One night, while high on something, he placed his infant son in his van and went out driving. He had an accident. He survived, but his infant did not. He came to my classes, but remained deeply depressed. After a lot of counseling, I asked him, "Have you asked God to forgive you?" He said that he had. "Have you forgiven yourself," I asked. "I will never forgive myself," he said. I lost contact with him after that and donít know what has happened.

Call them sins, errors, mistakes, or whatever you want, there are actions or words, or lack of actions in our pasts that haunt us. The guilt of our actions, or the consequences of our actions have had on-going affects and we canít change them. We violated Godís laws, or societiesí laws or mores, or our familiesí ways, or our own standards. We question, "What was I thinking, Why didnít I listen, Why did I go there, Why didnít I walk away, Why didnít I do what was right?" We have turned to God for forgiveness that has been provided by the death and blood of Jesus Christ. We have forgiven others, and we have sought forgiveness for we have done to others, but the memories and the consequences still haunt us. The abortions, the affair, the divorce, the lies, the ruined reputation, the label, the altered lives of others, the affects on our children are all still there.

2. David said, in our Psalm, "My sin is always before me," (Ps. 51:3). He took away someoneís wife, then he took away a loyal soldierís life, He disappointed a nation with his actions and cover-up, his love Ėchild has died, his children will be rebellious all because of one night. His sin was indeed, ever before Him.

3. I think of one of His descendents named Manasseh. You can read of him in 2 Chronicles 33. He was as depraved and evil as any man who ever lived. He sacrificed his own children and the children of others by fire to false Gods and led Judah and Jerusalem into horrible idolatry. He filled the streets of Jerusalem with blood 2 Kings 21 tells us. Until the Assyrians captured him and but hooks in his nose to led him to captivity like an animal. Manasseh humbly repented and God forgave him and set him free. Though he lived the remainder of his life as a God-follower, and tried to lead the people out of idolatry and back to God, we can only wonder if he thought about all the innocent children and people he had killed and the faith of families including his own that he had destroyed.

4. I think of Peter, you probably have as well, that pledged to Jesus that if all stumbled in their faith and allegiance, he never would. He would go to prison for Jesus, He would die with Jesus, He would die for Jesus, but he absolutely would never deny Jesus, was what he had pledged. You know the rest of the story. Can you imagine how he felt for days, or weeks after Jesus appeared alive?

5. How about Paul? Look at 1 Timothy 1:12-15. Whether he was a Christ-Follower or not when he did his atrocities, many people were dead, many had been tortured, many were in prison because of his hatred for Christ ĖFollowers. Read Acts 9:1-2, Gal. 1:13; Acts 22:5; and 26:9-12. Every time Paul walked the streets of Jerusalem or around Israel, he must have been haunted by the damage to so many lives that he was caused. I believe that is one reason God had him spend the bulk of his ministry in other countries and to the Gentiles.

II. The Results of our Sins in our own lives.

The guilt and memories of our past sins leads to various subjective feelings or consequences like, depression, feelings of worthlessness, despondency, lethargy, anxieties, fear, fear of failure, loneliness, excessive behavior, self-punishment, feelings of alienation from God, and all of this can lead to a variety of physical ailments and problems. It places us in a prison without bars. Did you have see the comedy western, Support Your Local Sheriff? There is scene in there where the sheriff puts a killer in a jail cell that has no bars or windows. He is kept in there by fear.

III. The Reason for Our Imprisonment. What keeps us in a cell with bars? There are several things.

  • Unbiblical view of sin- My sin is greater than others. Yours may be a 2 on the scale, but mine is a 9 or 10.
  • Unbiblical view of grace ĖGrace must be earned or deserved and I donít deserve it.
  • Unbiblical view of self-worth Ė my self worth must be based on what I have done or what I do. I did that, so I am not worth much.
  • We are disappointed with ourselves Ė I canít get over the fact that I did that.
  • Fear of Repeated failure - I will just mess things up and probably will fail again. I am a loser.
  • We listen to Satanís lies- because of this is from him. He is a liar and an accuser, and he will do all he can to keep the failure and the consequences of your sin before your face

I think that one of the best examples of this is in the animated movie called, The Lion King. The main character thinks he is responsible for his fatherís death and has run away, trying to run from his past and his conscience, until he is forced to face truth. This is scene is 7 minutes long, but watch and listen carefully.

IV. Now, let me tell you the truth. Are you ready?

  • God gave Satan permission to test you knowing that you would fail (Luke 22:31-32).
  • Jesus has and is praying for you (v. 32) That is what He is doing in heaven right now as your high priest (Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:34)
  • You are a child of the Living God and He loves you very much, no matter what. He is crazy in love with you. Nothing, not even your sins as a Christian will ever change that (Romans 8:35-39). Never forget who you are.
  • He has a plan for your life which includes your failures and sins (Luke 22:32) For Peter it was to strengthen his brethren and to be the solid one giving hope to other sinners. For Paul it was to demonstrate that if God could save, forgive, and change such a violent, angry, hate filled man, He can save anyone (1 Tim. 1:12-15). Sometimes He allows us to sin so we will develop a passion to reach other people who have sinned like we have and we can tell them about the grace of God.
  • He is totally committed to making you like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29; James 1:2-4). He has allowed your sin so you can see your self apart from Him and never want to go there again, but to desire holiness your need to be totally committed to Him.
  • The Blood of Jesus Christ has already paid for that sin. It did not take God by surprise. It was in the future and foreknowledge of God when Jesus went to the cross. And all sin is forgiven on the cross and Mark 3:28 says, "All sins and blasphemies will be forgiven the sons of menÖ" What does the word, "all," mean? All means all and thatís all all means. Your sins are at the bottom of the ocean, or as far as the east is from the west (Micah 7:18-20; Ps. 103:10-11) You are not condemned by God (Rom. 8:1) God will never bring up your past against you (Heb. 10:17)
  • You are a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). You have the capability to be a totally different person, regardless of the past or the consequences of your past, if you want to be. The Spirit of the living God resides in you to help you to put off the old man and put on Christ. But you must choose to do so. You can choose to live in your past, run from your past, try to mask your past, or you can learn from it and put on Christ and be a new creature even as you face the consequences of your life.
  • Jesus wants you to live in freedom and Satan wants to keep you in jail.

Now that is the truth and the truth will do what class? Make you free. (John 8:32)

V. Steps to Forgiving Yourself. How do we do it? How do we forgive ourselves and live as New Creatures in Christ? This isnít a keyed lock, it is a combination lock that we have to unlock and when all the numbers have been dialed up correctly the prison door will open. Letís review them.

  • Have I received Godís Judicial or Parental forgiveness? Have you? Have you confessed that thing that haunts you to Him and asked for His forgiveness?
  • Have you repented of that sin; that is, have you turned away from it and turned to God for help in not repeating it?
  • Is there remorse for that sin? Are you sorry? Not just because of the consequences but because it was wrong and it violated you, God and others. That is Godly sorry that Paul talks about in 2 Cor. 7. The purpose of your conscience is produce remorse that will cause you to turn to God to be forgiven and to walk holy.
  • Have you asked for forgiveness and made amends or restitution to those you offended?
  • Have I embraced the Truth (see IV. A-H above)?
  • Do I Reflect on that Truth daily? (Phil. 6:8-9). Satan will constantly try to fill your mind with thoughts and feelings of worthlessness. Only the truth can combat that.
  • Live like a Butterfly. This is the number that will open the lock (Psalm 130:3-4). Like Simba, you can not change your past and the past hurts. If you could change it you would, but you canít. The consequences are painful reminders of the life with out obedience to God. However, as a forgiven child of the King, the Living God, you know that you are more than what you have become. Therefore, you will live to the glory of God today. If you fail, you will get up and go through the process again, until you get it right. Determine that you will not live up to your past sins. You are a new Person in Christ. Walk out of that cell. Then,
  • Thank God for His unconditional Grace and Love

I. Tell someone else that Following God is the best way to have and enjoy life without regrets and if they fall down, God will always pick them back up.

That is a prime purpose for God allowing you the freedom to fail. He asked Peter 3 times, "Do you love me, more than these?" Thatís His question to you. "Do you love Him more than anything?" If so, He has a plan which includes using your failure to help others, jus like David, Peter, and Paul.

VI. A Suggested Prayer

Dear Father,

I confess to you my sin of _______________, and my inability to forgive myself. I am deeply sorry for offending you and _________, and I never want to do that again. I forgive those who have sinned against me and I have or will seek forgiveness from those I have offended. I will make amends or restitution where it is possible. I know Satan wants to keep me bound but you want to set me free. Help me to recognize his lies and to embrace your truth. You have forgiven me in Christ and upon my confession have cleansed me of all unrighteousness. While I can not change the past, I will learn from it and use your grace to help others. I canít change what I have done or the consequences, but I am ready to begin living as a New Creature in Christ and to be the person you created me to be. Help me to keep my mind stayed on you and your truth. I humbly pray in Jesus name. Amen!

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman