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.

Celebrating God’s Attributes: His Strength

Dwayne Collins

“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”

We may all be familiar with this line. It is from the Superman series and is a description of the attributes of the famous caped hero and mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet, Clark Kent. It almost sounds like Superman is God. But borrowing from a line by the late Senator Lloyd Bensten during the 1988 Vice-Presidential debate, I know God, and Superman is no God.

His Strength Defined

God is omnipotent or all-powerful. This is one of His attributes. According to the dictionary, it means that God is almighty, having unlimited authority or influence, and unlimited power.

It is hard to imagine All-powerful. Even Superman’s strength was limited, especially if he was exposed to kryptonite. In our finite minds, it is hard to imagine an entity that has no limitations whatsoever. The task of comprehending God’s unlimited power is further hindered with the task of realizing that His power always was and always will be. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).

But it is God who created everything, and it is God that holds it together. He created everything and He maintains everything (Colossians 1).

His Strength Manifested

We see God’s strength manifested in many ways. First we see it in the creation (Genesis 1). And we see that the only power that we, the created, have is the power granted by God (John 19). 

We also see God’s strength manifested in the plagues He placed on Egypt when Moses was asking Pharaoh to free the Israelites (Exodus 5).  It is manifested in the parting of the Red Sea and the manna from heaven (Exodus 14, 16). We see His power manifested in the story of Joseph (Genesis 37), and when Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den (Daniel 6). There are numerous illustrations in the Bible where God’s power is manifested.

We can see God’s power manifested in everyday life. God’s strength has been manifested in the improvements of society and the whole human race through of the introduction of schools, hospitals and charities. We have seen it in the improvement in the status of women and the abolishment of slavery. Proverbs 14:31 says, He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

But by far the greatest manifestation of God’s power is in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He not only conquered death, but also assured us of eternal life. Regarding his Son,’who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:3-).

His Strength Purposed

God’s power and strength are not without purpose. All of His attributes work in harmony with each other and without His power His other attributes would be limited or voided. His power was purposed to select the Children of Israel as His chosen people (Exodus 19). His power also purposed that all who believed would be His chosen people. John 3:16 reads, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ We are all called to be His chosen people (Romans 9).

His Strength Celebrated

The fact that we as believers tend to forget all too often is that as His children, we share in His unlimited power. Through His power, we are able to do anything. Matthew 19:26 says, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” As His children, even though we experience sufferings, we need not fear the suffering. Daniel 3:17 reads, If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it. If we face danger, we need not fear the danger. We are kept by His mighty power. (1 Peter 1).

God is all-powerful. By His power we are created. By His power we are cared for. By His power we are assured of eternal life with Him. Because of the Power of God, it is time to celebrate. Exodus 9:16 says, But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

Let us all take time to join in celebrating His attribute: His Strength, His Power.

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation. 4:11).