Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Don't Wait! Forgive

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts for Monday, June 28. Put on your thinking cap. It's time for a pop quiz. Someone you know has done you wrong. Do you

A. Give them a big dose of their own medicine

B. Pretend you didn't notice

C. Never associate with them again

D. Forgive them immediately

I think we all know the right answer is D, but how can we learn to forgive quickly. Let's join Nancy as she continues in a series called "Freedom Through Forgiveness."

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We've been talking about this whole matter of bitterness and forgiveness; how do we deal with the hurts and wounds of our pasts. We don't want to be debt collectors because we realizing that when we hold others hostage, who have sinned against us, we end up becoming imprisoned ourselves.

Someone has said that bitterness is like an acid, it destroys the container in which it's held. And we reap in our lives the consequences even sometimes physically and emotionally and relationally and then consequences even in our children and grandchildren of a refusal to forgive.

Forgiveness is a serious matter to God. And He has said that if we won't forgive others, then we will not be able to experience God's love and forgiveness in our lives. In fact, the apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians, chapter 2[:11] that when we refuse to forgive, we actually end up giving Satan a foothold in our lives. We open up our lives to greater influence and attack from Satan himself when we refuse to forgive.

Now I want us to address this question. If we need to forgive, how can we choose to forgive? How should we respond to those who have sinned against us? I want to suggest several steps here.

We'll take some of them today and then pick up the others in the next session. But I believe it's important first to identify the people who have wronged us.

When I talk about hurts, wounds, offenses, in most of our minds there is a name that comes to mind, there's a face, there's a circumstance, something you experienced. When I say, "hurt," your mind goes to that circumstance or that person.

I want to suggest that you take time to identify who those people are that have hurt you. In fact, you might want to take a piece of paper and draw two lines down that piece of paper so that you have three columns.

On the left-hand column, list the people who have sinned against you. Now if that person is sitting next to you, you may want to be a little careful how you write this, perhaps initials or very small writing.

But write down who are the people who have sinned against you. That's on the left-hand column, then in the middle column, next to each of those names, identify how have they sinned against you. What was the offense? And you know what it is.

Now just let me say in all of this, I'm not suggesting that you go back and try and dredge up memories that you're not sure are there. I don't believe that's biblical. God has the capacity, the ability and sometimes He does choose to just erase some memories from our minds. He can do that. He doesn't always, but He can.

And if God has removed those memories from your mind, don't try to dredge them up. If these are issues that need to be dealt with, then they're there in your consciousness. I'm talking about the things that come to your mind, write those down, who are the people and how have they sinned against you?

You say, "I'm not sure I should be bringing these things up? I'm supposed to be forgetting them. Isn't that right?"

Well, forgiveness is not pretending that it never happened. God's not asking you to pretend that it never happened. And I think sometimes in our evangelical world, we talk about this matter of forgiveness and we think, If I identify who these people are or what they've done, then I'm on the wrong pathway. Shouldn't I just be trying to push it under the carpet, to bury the pain?

Listen, God is not asking us to bury the pain or pretend that it never happened. God is asking you to run head on into the pain by His grace and with Him to learn how to deal with this situation.

Some of us have pushed these things under the carpet for so long that the carpet has gotten to the point we can't even walk on it anymore.

We've been trying to bury it, thinking that was the Christian thing to do. Forgiveness is the not the same as burying the pain or forgetting or pretending that it never happened.

God wants to meet with you in the midst of your pain. So first identify the people who have wronged you and how they have sinned against you.

And then you want to make sure that your conscience is clear toward those people who are on your list.

And that's where the third column comes in. You were wondering what we were going to do with that third column. In the left-hand column, identify the people who have sinned against you. In the middle column, how have they sinned against you.

And now here's what the right-hand column is for. Ask yourself and let God search your heart so that you can be honest.

How have I responded to these people? Go down the list and look at each individual. Have I blessed that person, loved them, prayed for them, forgiven them or have I withheld love? Have I spoken evil of that ex-mate to my children or that fellow employee to another employee? Have I retaliated in some way? Have I become angry and hateful toward that person? Write it down. How have I responded to that individual?

And then take responsibility for your responses. This is a freeing thing to realize that God does not hold you accountable for how others have sinned against you. But God does hold us accountable and responsible for how we have sinned against others.

If your response to the individual has not been Christlike, then you need to be willing to go back to that person and to seek their forgiveness for the ways that you have sinned against them.

You say, "Wait a minute, this person sinned against me and now you're telling me I have to go and ask them to forgive me for how I sinned against them?" If you sinned against that person in your responses, then you need to clear your conscience before God and before that individual asking their forgiveness.

Now God's not asking you to go and clear their conscience, but God is saying, "You take responsibility for your part."

We're so prone to attach percentages to all this. So the tendency is to think, and I hear so many wives express something along this line, I was only maybe 5 percent responsible for the breakup of our marriage and you should hear what he did. And often I do hear. Ninety-five percent is his responsibility is the implication.

The problem is if someone would go and talk to that man, chances are, he might be willing to claim 5 percent responsibility but he's got his list of ways that his wife sinned against him that he feels provoked him to do whatever he did.

So he's saying, "I'm 5 percent responsible; she's 95 percent responsible." She's saying, "I have a little responsibility but he's mostly responsible." So really you only have 10 percent of the responsibility being claimed, her little 5 percent and his little 5 percent.

Who's responsible for all that 90 percent in the middle? You see it's pride that causes us to think, generally speaking, it's the other person who was more wrong.

Now I'm not saying that what that offender did was not wrong and some of you are in the process of already starting a mental list, maybe even starting to even write it down and there are some huge offenses on your list.

We've talked about some of them, about the matter of the husband abandoning his wife, leaving you with those children, about someone who molests the little girl who thinks that that man is her friend. These are huge offenses. And I'm not minimizing or trivializing these at all.

But I'm just saying, "We need to take responsibility for how we have responded to the offender and where possible go back and make sure that our conscience is clear. Seek their forgiveness for the ways that you have sinned against them."

Now when you go to seek their forgiveness, be careful how you do it. Don't go back to that ex-husband and say, "You know, I'm so sorry that I wasn't the wife I should have been. But it was really because you were such a louse of a husband that I was that kind of a wife."

Now I know no one would go and say that but sometimes we can ask forgiveness in a way that makes the other person feel like they're really getting the load down on them. Let God put the sense of responsibility, guilt where needed on the other person. You respond to the sense of responsibility that God is putting on you.

Now once you have identified these people who have hurt you, you've identified how they hurt you and you have done everything that God has put on your heart to do, to clear your conscience toward those individuals; then you can take this step of choosing to fully forgive every person who has sinned against you.

Purpose in your heart to extend forgiveness to every person on your list, not because you feel like forgiving, not because they have come and ask you to forgive them but as an act of your will.

We forgive as an act of obedience. We forgive by faith. And let me say this, "It's supernatural to forgive." We don't have that kind of capacity for true forgiveness within us. Only by the grace of God and the power of His Spirit can we forgive. It's not natural to forgive.

When you make this choice to forgive, watch how you say it. Watch your language. What do I mean by that? I've heard women say, "Lord, please help me to forgive so and so." Now I think I know what they mean. But let me suggest, that's not going far enough. You don't just need God to help you forgive so and so.

You need to say, "Lord, by Your grace and in obedience to You, I choose to forgive."

I've heard women say, "I know I need to forgive so and so."

But the enemy may use that way of thinking to keep you from going all the way to forgiveness. Don't just say, "I need to forgive so and so." Say to God, "I choose to forgive. I do forgive so and so."

A woman wrote to me and said, "I chose today to forgive my husband for his sexual relationship with his girlfriend before we met. I've been holding on to this hurt for four years." [She'd be a debt collector.] She said, "I'm excited now to embrace him and tell him he has been released."

Another woman said, "God has shown me my root of bitterness toward my husband because he doesn't live up to my expectations. I have been able to release him from that prison.

Leslie Basham: This is a big issue. Like you just heard, we're getting all kinds of letters from women learning to be free, learning about the power of forgiveness.

The letters we get at Revive Our Hearts serve as a small picture of what God is doing in the hearts of women. And we're so thankful to receive them. Here's Nancy to tell us about a special note we recently received.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I received a precious letter recently from a mom who enclosed a one dollar bill which was actually from her seven-year-old daughter. This little girl has been taught by her parents that when she receives her allowance or any kind of money that she can spend a third of it, she should save a third of it and then she should give a third of it to the Lord's work.

And what a blessing and encouragement it was to me to know that this little girl's heart is being touched by the message of this ministry as she begins to grow into a young woman of God and that God had laid it on her heart to support this ministry in a sacrificial and significant way. You say one dollar won't go all that far.

Well I think the Lord is able to multiply those dollar bills and use even the smallest gift to feed and bless the multitude of people. So I thank the Lord for how He's been faithful and generous in meeting our needs through the sacrificial giving of His people.

Now as we come to the end of our fiscal year at the end of this month, June 30, we're asking the Lord to provide a significant amount of funds to enable us to close this year strong and to make it possible for us to continue airing this program on radio stations throughout the United States and then through the Internet around the world.

So would you pray and ask the Lord what He wants you to do to further and continue the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

Leslie Basham: Thank you, Nancy. You can send your donation to Revive Our Hearts or you can donate on-line at ReviveOurHearts.com or call us toll free 1-800-569-5959.

We've all heard the saying, "Forgive and Forget" but are these two words one in the same? Nancy will answer that tomorrow. We hope you can be here for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a ministry partnership of Life Action Ministries.

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