Receiving the Gift that Heals: Forgiveness

Brad Stenberg

– Read: Psalm 103:2-4; 8-13; Isaiah 44:22; 1 John 1:9 –

We all wish there was a delete key for dealing with the past so we could forget the hurtful things we’ve done. But our memory gets in the way of forgetting the pain our sin has caused others. The only way this pain can be truly removed is through forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the basis of our life in Christ. The Christian life is a forgiven and forgiving life. Jesus taught us to pray, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. We cannot give what we do not have, so forgiving is a function of having first received forgiveness. Thus, we live and relate to one another in the forgiveness of our sins.

What does it mean to receive forgiveness? Does it mean what we did is approved of, excused, or denied? Not in the least. Does it mean the hurt we caused is forgotten and not taken seriously? No. Does it mean we’re exempted from any consequences of our behavior? Not at all. Does it mean we’ve fully reinstated into the relationship we damaged as if nothing happened? Usually not.

To be forgiven simply means having our debt canceled. The forgiver, while blaming us for the serious, wounding wrong we did to them, gives up their right for vengeance and extends mercy instead.

Receiving forgiveness is experiencing grace ‘ receiving a gift we don’t deserve.

We all have difficulty receiving forgiveness and feeling it because we have difficulty receiving unmerited favor. We would prefer to have to work at it. Grace goes against who we are because we don’t feel like we deserve love when we’ve messed up. But deserve and love don’t go together. Gift and love go together. If we have to deserve love it’s not a gift; it’s a wage we have to negotiate. Forgiveness is a gift from the forgiver.

Receiving forgiveness is a process that requires several things. First, you have to be guilty of wrong doing. Some of us have difficulty accepting the fact that we did something wrong. We resist being in the ‘I am wrong’ position and owning the fact that what we did caused others to experience serious pain and to suffer the resulting, and often prolonged fallout of this. But you cannot receive forgiveness unless you own up to, take responsibility for, and truly feel remorseful of your wrong doing.

Then you must confess it in specific terms. Proverbs 28:13 says, He who conceals his transgression will not succeed, but He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy. Some guys admit they sinned in global terms, but not in specific, personal terms. They admit they’re weak in sexual sin like every other guy without naming and identifying with the specific wrong they’ve done. We are to be specific. General confessions do very little to convict of sin, convince the one offended of your seriousness, or to bring healing.

We are then to turn away from our sin; remove it from our thoughts, and resolve in our heart that we will not do it again. Isaiah 55:7 says, Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. God knows the difference between those who are sincere and those who are trying to temporarily ease their conscience. He is not mocked or deceived. If you come in sorrow, humility and sincerity, His grace is abundant. However, He has little patience for those who would abuse His mercy. Search your heart for true repentance, and seek the Holy Spirit’s power to make the necessary changes.

We also need a forgiver. Forgiveness is relational. It’s an interpersonal process, not an intellectual thing, mind set, or some meditative state. It’s something that transpires between two people. Someone has to give forgiveness for us to receive it. The forgiver needs to be a good accuser by making the offense direct and specific. Once we’ve admitted to and taken ownership of it, the forgiver’s words should be something like those of Jesus to woman caught in adultery, Neither do I accuse you. Now go and sin no more.

The wrong that we’ve done is serious, but true repentance and the forgiveness received is more serious still. Wounds are healed, self-respect is restored, hope for the future is birthed, light removes the former darkness, positives replace negatives, and newness of life made possible.

Shame vs. True Conviction: Knowing the Difference at the Heart of the Battle

Jim Grimes

Shame and true conviction are very difficult concepts to grasp for shame can easily masquerade itself as true conviction. In addition, both produce very strong emotional reactions that result in changed behavior. So what are the definitions of shame and conviction? Shame is a negative emotion that combines feelings of dishonor, unworthiness, and embarrassment, while true conviction is a firmly held belief or opinion. Knowing the difference is at the heart of the battle in dealing successfully with sexual addiction. Let’s take a look at where the resulting behaviors that come out of shame and true conviction lead.

On a recent visit to the discovery science center with my family, we spent some time at the sand and water exhibit learning about the effects of erosion. In reflection, this exhibit is a visual picture of destruction that shame can cause, and the devastating effects of shame on the spiritual health of men.

To begin with, the interactive exhibit allows you to construct a dam using sand, thereby backing up the water behind. Once the water accumulates, it literally tears away the walls of the dam, creating a small canyon for the water to escape through. Observing this phenomenon I was struck with how it reflects the effects of shame when dealing with addiction, and was reminded of Matthew 7:26 where the foolish man built his house on the sand.

Shame is sand when it comes to building relationships with ourselves and others. When the storms of life such as stress, problems at work, or conflict with your spouse arise, the coping abilities you possess can crumble because addiction provides you with a false sense of mastery. This is sinking sand because it produces shame. These strong negative emotions can lead to isolation, hiding, denial, division of the self, depression, decreased self-esteem, and feelings of anger towards oneself and others.

In Philippians 3:18-19 Paul speaks of people who are ‘enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.’

Shame focuses on the here and now, just like in the sand and water analogy of the exhibit. Once a breech was created, we had to focus our attention towards that one area, and we found that considerable effort was required in order for us to seal the breech and restore the dam.

Having seen that shame erodes away the very fabric of relationships with self and others, what are the results of true conviction? First off, a person receives numerous blessings from living out a life based on true conviction. Where shame led to the destruction of relationships, true conviction leads to strengthened relationships and community, openness, acceptance, union of the self, joy/happiness, healing, and increased self-esteem.

Living through true conviction is like building your house upon the rock. The storms of life will come and rage against you, but you will stand because you have built wisely. Proverbs 28:13 states, ‘he who conceals his transgression will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.’ 1 John 1:9 says that ‘if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ Within a humble man, true conviction leads to confession. In confession, you find compassion, and in compassion, healing and restoration.

This week, I challenge you to spend some time engaging in an object lesson: create a dam in your backyard using dirt and a garden hose, and observe the devastation that transpires when a small break is formed in the dam you built. As you do this, train your mind to listen to and respond to true conviction rather than to shame. Shame works to destroy your inner life and your sense of self, just like water quickly erodes away a dam once it’s broken. Instead, stop the break and erosion. Rebuild your life and character by responding to the true conviction of the Holy Spirit through confession, openly taking responsibility for your actions, and choosing to build your house upon the Rock.

For more help on this subject, see Every Man’s Battle.

When the Wound Doesn’t Heal

Sam Fraser

Rarely is the road to recovery straight forward. It takes many twists and turns as God teaches us His way after we have been doing it our way. Recovery is more like a dance than a road really. It is three steps forward, two steps back, interspersed with one step ahead and four steps backward. However, one of the main ways to keep dancing backwards has to do with woundedness that has not yet been healed.

Being wounded keeps us in bondage. It is God’s truth that nothing in this world can keep us from the surpassing love we have found in our relationship with Jesus Christ. ‘By His wounds we are healed.’ That is a Scriptural truth. We are destined for experiencing freedom in Christ. Yet, we remain stuck in this addiction. Why the wound doesn’t heal can take several forms and so this article should help identify several of the main roadblocks.

This is the first part of a series in which we will go in depth to explore and highlight what may be occurring if we seem to be stuck and are not making any headway into recovery. This article will highlight these possibilities overall and the next articles will go in greater detail.

First off, we have to be patient. We need to pace ourselves. It is more about running a marathon than a 100-yard dash. If we rush forward we will not be able to sustain that pace over the long haul. This wound did not develop over night and it won’t disappear that fast either. I have found in my own life and working with many men that God’s intention is to teach us to identify the issues and then trust Him to show us His better ways to address them. That takes more time than we wish. But God not only wants us to get free but also stay free, thus the need for the time it takes is a process rather than instantaneous delivery. Sorry about that! This is often the best way to get the wound healed. It is akin to giving a man a fish to feed him for one day or even better to teach a man to fish and he can do so for a lifetime. The skills needed are to be utilized for the rest of our lives. Getting frustrated and discouraged, can make us end up in despair and want to quit.

Next, do you have an action plan? It is one thing to say I want to stop but unless we have alternative ways to deal with feelings and behaviors we will return to the very behavior we want to eradicate. It is like holding your breath. Some can hold on longer than others, but guess what? You are going to have to take a breath sometime. And so it is with acting out, we have to replace the former behavior with a new one. Have you developed an alternative behavior scheme to replace your old way of acting out? It is essential that you have found other options to dealing with your emotional needs.

Another important step of recovery is getting accountable. No longer ‘efforting’ it alone, by ourselves in isolation. That is a recipe for disaster. The basic root wound of this issue has to do with intimacy. We have gotten into this routine because we are not able to connect in a more fulfilling way. We need relationships. Without our being more connected to others we will return to connecting with ourselves, i.e., acting out again. So it is important that we begin to reach out for help by getting someone to hold us accountable for our behaviors. To connect with others meets the true needs we were designed for and replaces the false sense of intimacy that our acting out attempts to achieve.

This addiction is about connections and the lack there of. We need to have relationships with others and when we don’t, sexually acting out becomes a mode of coping. If none of the above mentioned factors are creating success and you are still not experiencing sobriety, then counseling by an experienced therapist who understands sexual addiction or a person, group or ministry team probably needs to be consulted. These possibilities are not the entire list. But often if you will begin with this list it can eliminate a lot of extra pain that will delay your recovery.

For more help see Every Man’s Battle.