Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Have you ever felt trapped by your own sin? Dannah Gresh says, through Jesus, there’s a solution.

Dannah Gresh: Do you want to get freedom from your anger, your bitterness, your evil speaking, your malice? Forgive. 

Nancy: It’s December 16, 2019. I’m Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, and this is Revive Our Hearts.

If you rub shoulders with another human being for very long, there is bound to become a point where one of you will need to forgive the other. For many, the need to forgive comes to the surface more at this time of year.

The holidays can be difficult relationally, am I right? There’s all that normal stress we face, but on top of that you may be dreading getting together with a family member who has hurt you in the past. Or maybe there’s tension in the air with an individual that you’re about to see. Well, if that’s the case, I want to encourage you to keep listening to today’s program.

We’re going to be hearing a powerful message from my co-host Dannah Gresh. The message is called “The Unnatural Art of Forgiving.” Dannah, I remember how you and I were ministering together earlier this year at a conference for women in Pretoria, South Africa. 

Just a matter of a couple days before that conference began, I felt a burden on my heart to ask if you would bring the message on forgiveness. I was so grateful for your willingness to respond on such short notice!

Dannah: It was short notice, Nancy. In fact, I talk about that at the beginning of my message.

Nancy: And as that message unfolded, I remember being so touched by your honesty and your transparency as you unpacked some of the struggle you’ve had with forgiveness in your own life.

Dannah: This is not something I’m teaching from a textbook. It’s something I’ve learned on the hot pavement of life, day in and day out, as I seek to live the way that the Lord wants us to live—and in the freedom that forgiveness can provide.

Nancy: We watched God use that message to provide freedom to a lot of women in that conference! Dannah told the women that day: forgiveness is hard; it doesn’t come very naturally to us. Let’s listen to Dannah Gresh.

Dannah: I’ve had the opportunity to pray with so many women where maybe their marriages are holding on by a thread, or they’re over, and they’re battling with all of that pain! I’ve prayed with women who are plagued by sleeplessness and didn’t really know why. They just wanted to be free to sleep one night in their life!

I’ve prayed with women who were addicted to substances or pornography or erotica, and they wanted freedom. I’ve prayed with women who are struggling with anxiety and depression, and they wanted freedom. And I’ve seen them experience that freedom. 

But as I look over about twenty years of praying with women like this, I’ve made a few observations. One of the observations I’ve made is this: women seeking freedom usually have someone they need to forgive. Our own pain and shame is usually intertwined and tangled up with the pain and shame of someone else. Have you seen that, too?

Another observation that I’ve made is this: we naturally want the freedom, right? We want the freedom from the pain and the hurt. But we don’t naturally want to forgive. And so, I’m here to help you today with the unnatural art of forgiveness. 

Now, I don’t know who you need to forgive. Maybe it is a husband who has hurt your heart very badly. Maybe it’s a best friend who has betrayed you; maybe it’s a coworker or employer who has left you in financial ruin. Maybe it’s a pastor who just didn’t know how to help you in your pain and your hurt when you brought it to him. Can you think of someone?

I’ve been praying, for about twenty-four hours, that God would help you think of just one person, and I want you to take a moment right now and just search your heart. Ask God’s Spirit if there’s someone that you need to forgive. It may be a very big, obvious thing . . . and it may be very small.

Just this morning, the Lord prompted my heart that there was someone I needed to forgive. There’s a very, very big project that I’ve spent about two years working on, and this morning I got an email that I’m not going to be a part of the project anymore.

We had some differences about how the project should progress, and we’ve been really honorable. There’s been no sin involved in any party, but I hurt a little bit. I feel fired. I wasn’t fired. We came to a difference of philosophy. And the Lord said to me, “This might not seem like a big deal, Dannah, but run to the forgiveness, because you hurt.”

So no matter how small it is, is there somebody that you need to forgive? And if there is, would you do me a favor and not make me stand up here all by myself telling you that I have someone I need to forgive? Would you stand up, too (if you can think of someone) that I might pray over you? Thank you, my brave, good friends!

Lord, look at us! We’re standing here telling You that we need You! We don’t know how to forgive, Lord; we’re not very good at it. Would you teach us? Would you take the faces in our minds right now and allow Your Scripture and Your truth to make us bold in how we need to approach that heart and that face? Let us leave here, God, with forgiveness on our tongues, in Jesus’ name, amen.

Thank you, you can have a seat. Now, I got this assignment to speak to you about forgiveness by my friend Nancy, obviously, the day that I left. I was sound asleep in my bed at 4 a.m. when I got a text from Nancy. She was already here in South Africa . . . and it was noon! (laughter)

The text said, “Dannah! Do you have any messages on forgiveness that the Lord would have you share with these women?” And I wanted to text back, “You mean like forgiving your friend for waking you in the middle of the night?” (laughter)

A few minutes later (well, maybe a half-hour or so later; I don’t really actually know the timeframe) she texted again, “Just wanted to make sure you got the text!” (laughter) Sometimes we have teeny-tiny little things to forgive, and sometimes we have very deep, painful things we need to forgive. 

But I want to share with you four things that I think apply, no matter how big or how small the offense. [To Nancy:] And I don’t really think that was an offense. I think you just don’t know how to tell African time from USA time! (laughter)

These are the four things that I want to share with you. First, if you would open your Bibles. We’re going to be in a bunch of passages today, and this one that I want you to see with your own eyes. Turn to Colossians 3. The first thing I want you to know, with that person’s face in your mind, is that you are commanded to forgive that person!

Let’s look at Colossians 3:12–13 [NIV].

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive [whatever grievances you may have with one another] (NIV). 

So it says, “Forgive. I want you to clothe yourself in all of these things and forgive one another.”

Life is hard, right? If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that life is hard because we hurt each other. I hurt people, and you hurt people. Now, maybe you’ve heard the saying that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it. Have you heard that?

Now, I don’t know if the percentages are right, but I know that the idea is right. No matter what has happened to me, if I respond the way that God tells me to—including with forgiveness—that forms who I am. The way I respond to the hurt and the pain and the offense is what forms who I am.

That offense doesn’t really get to be in control of my life. I do, by how I respond. And God is saying, “Hey, listen, I want you to respond in forgiveness.” And then moving on, Colossians 3:13 says, “Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another; forgiving each other [so there’s the second time it says it] as the Lord has forgiven you” (paraphrased) 

What has Jesus forgiven you of? What’s in your past? A Bible verse—actually a whole chapter—that I‘ve memorized, and I treasure and I love, that reminds me of His forgiveness and grace, is Psalm 130. It says, “If you, Lord, [could keep] a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?” (v. 3). What would your record of sins look like?

If I could read it right here on stage how long would it be and what would be on it? “If you, [O] Lord, kept a record of sins . . . who could stand?” What sins are on that record that make your knees buckle in shame, that you just really would not want read from this platform today? 

Without question, my list would be long, and the issue that would cause me to buckle in shame (at one point in my life, had the Lord not healed me) would be sexual in nature. “If you, [O] Lord, kept a record of sins . . . who could stand?!” Oh, I have been forgiven much! How about you? And the Lord says, “With the measure that I’ve forgiven you, pour that out on other people!”

I want you to notice, too, if you’re standing there and you can barely stand under your sin, Jesus will forgive you. You just have to ask Him. It’s amazing. Many of us in here can testify to how powerful it is! Just ask Him today. Don’t leave this place without visiting that prayer room and asking Him.

So it says, “Forgive whatever grievances you have.” And then moving on in the passage it says, “As the Lord has forgiven you, forgive each other.” It’s almost like, “Hey, you probably didn’t get this, so let me say it one more time, “Tou must also forgive.” Just in case you didn’t get it the first two times.” The person in your mind, that face, that heart, that name—God commands you to forgive that person. 

The second thing the Lord has taught me about forgiveness that I want to pass on to you is that there are consequences of unforgiveness. You get to choose, but we do know that there are consequences. Some of them are from observation that I’ve seen and felt in my own life (maybe you’re feeling them in your life). Some of them are from Scripture.

The first one is this: one consequence of unforgiveness is that we might experience very physical manifestations in our body. I went through a period of some unforgiveness in my marriage. I’m sure that anyone in here who’s married can testify that it can be hard to forgive! I have a little plaque on my nightstand that says, “Marriage is the union between two great forgivers.” 

I began to feel sick in my body during this period of unforgiveness. I had body aches. The doctors couldn’t figure out was wrong with me; and I am thoroughly convinced that I was holding on to unforgiveness in my heart.

Medical science has observed that 60–90 percent of health conditions which result in visits to a physician are stress related, and much of that is from relationship problems. And then I read this in a medical journal. 

Many researchers link diseases—including autoimmune disease, pain, cancer and hypertension—to stress caused by relational trauma and even use the word “unforgiveness” as a major contributor. 

Your body might be feeling it if you’re choosing unforgiveness.

Another consequence is that we generally experience an increase in negative crippling emotions like anger, bitterness, stress, and guilt. Ephesians 4:31 and 32 tells us this. It says: 

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and [evil speaking] be put away from you, along with all malice. 

I don’t really know what malice is, but it sounds terrible! I would not want to have it!

The Bible says, “Put these things away,” and then it tells us how: by being kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving (see v. 32). Do you want to get freedom from your anger, your bitterness, your evil speaking, your malice? Forgive.

Another consequence of unforgiveness is that we can’t experience God’s forgiveness. The instruction we have in the Scriptures on taking the Lord’s Supper—or Communion—it says, “Before you come and receive this remembrance of my forgiveness, if you have anything against anybody, go fix it first” (see Matt. 5:23). Have you read that? Do you take that seriously, or do you just put that cup and that bread to your lips carelessly?

The Bible tells us in Mark 11:25, “And [when] you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you” (NIV). Do you need more forgiveness? Are you going to need it tomorrow? I’m pretty sure I am. Forgive.

Another consequence of unforgiveness is that it changes you into the person you have not forgiven. I have a very vulnerable story I feel like the Lord would have me share with you about this. I’m a little uncomfortable sharing it with you, but here we go.

Forgiveness is not an emotion. It's a choice.

I never really told anyone, but I was emotionally tied to my teenage sex partner after I was married. And the way that it showed up would be this: Every time Bob and I would have a big fight . . . And I’ve got to say, Bob and I are what they classify as a “high conflict couple.” Now, we have learned to fight fair, and we have learned to fight in a godly way, but we both have strong opinions!

Does anybody else have a marriage like that? We found out how to be healthy, but it took a lot of learning and a lot of training. Every time we would have a fight, I would be guilt-ridden by my pain and sin. I would never think about this boy any other time, except when Bob and I fought. Then I would think, In God’s eyes I’m married to him, so that’s why my marriage will never work.

Satan would beat me up with this boy’s name and this face. I never told anyone. And then one day I was praying with a very trusted friend, and we were praying over an issue of forgiveness that I needed to work out in my life over some pain I was experiencing with some of my dearly loved and respected church leaders.

And as she counseled me, God’s Spirit put it on her heart that she should pray with me to forgive this boy. She was uncomfortable with that, because at the time I was the Christian author in the United States who had written the purity book on sexual truth and sexual healing. Who was she to say, “Hey, I think you need to pray about this.” Right?

But she said, “Let me ask God if this is true. I feel like there’s something that I should pray for you about. Can you just ask God’s Spirit to confirm it in your heart?” And the strangest thing in the world happened! I wasn’t thinking about this boy, but his name ran through my head, and I spoke it to her. 

And she said, “Who is that?” 

And I told her. I said, “I feel a little weird right now.”

She said, “I think we should pray, because I think maybe you haven’t forgiven him.” 

I didn’t really think I needed to forgive him. So we prayed that God would break off any bondage that was between us and any unholy enmeshment, and then I forgave him . . . for all kinds of stuff. I didn’t really realize it until about eighteen or twenty-four months later, but I never thought of him again.

Bob and I would fight, and I’d be like, “I love that man! I’m really mad at him right now, but I love that man!” And there was nobody else in my head. There are bonds with the people you have sex with and there are bonds with the people who have wounded you with their own sexual sin, and the way to be unbonded from them is forgiveness. I’ve known it in my own life.

And here’s the big one: the worst consequence of unforgiveness is we give control to Satan. Second Corinthians 2:10–11 says, 

Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan.

You see, one reason God says, “And I plead with you today to forgive,” is so that you can put yourself in a place where you cooperate with God’s truth and the power of His Word as opposed to cooperating with Satan and the power of bondage in your life. Do not be outwitted by Satan! Unforgiveness is doing you no service!

Unforgiveness is binding you to sickness, emotional bondage, to your past and to past offenders, and potentially bonding you to the power of the enemy. Forgiveness is not an emotion. You’re not going to feel it; it doesn’t even feel good sometimes. It’s a choice.

So with that in mind, I want to take you through a few things. Did I mention Bob and I are a high conflict couple? So we have done some marriage counseling; in fact, probably my share and your share! We have a very wise, godly Christian counselor—his name is Pete—who has given us some really good skills in forgiveness. I want to share some of those with you. Also, some of the things on this list are from Nancy’s writing. 

What is forgiveness? First, forgiveness is obedience to God. We opened up the book of Colossians—obey Him! Choose to obey Him today. Forgiveness is a choice to obey God. The second thing forgiveness is, is it’s seeking to clear your conscience.

Women seeking freedom usually have someone they need to forgive.

Don’t you love it when you waste your time driving down the highway making up all of these speeches you’re going to give to that offender, just blowing them out of the water with your anger and your wrath? Have you ever done that, or is that just me?

You’re driving along and you’re thinking, “I would say this. Then I would say that.” And all of the sudden, instead of to pick up your children at school, you’re at the vet . . . or something. Right? (laughter) God doesn’t want you to have that kind of a cluttered conscience! He wants you to have a cleared conscience.

About ten or fifteen years ago (I may have my dates wrong there), my husband and I were in partnership with a man who was helping us with our ministry, helping it grow. (I want to have a clear conscience before you today, so I shall not tell you the details.) He betrayed us, and he stole from us, and he offended us. When we confronted him about it, he sued us!

I wanted to walk in forgiveness, but I was so m-a-a-d! He had some of my money, and he had some of my . . . never mind. I want to have a clear conscience when we’re finished! Every day I had to open up my Bible to Psalm 7. (Some of you are going to have to write this down because you’re making up speeches in your cars! In fact, if you make up speeches in your cars, open your Bible to Psalm 7 right now, as fast as you can, because you need this!) 

I have Psalm 7 marked up so much in my Bible, it looks like a toddler was in here! It says 

O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver (vv. 1–2).

Doesn’t it feel like that sometimes when you’ve got someone to forgive? You’re just going to be ripped apart by it! Then here’s where it gets real, sisters. Oh, be ready!

O Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it (vv. 3–5).

Now, I didn’t think I had really done anything wrong when I started reading that, but by the end of . . . I started in the year 2000, well, three years, I found some things that I had done wrong to offend my friend. My conscience was cleared, and I stopped making up speeches in my head. I forgave!

Nancy: True forgiveness . . . yes, it’s not natural, but it is oh so necessary! Dannah Gresh has been helping us think through some ways that we can develop skills in the area of forgiving others through the power of the Holy Spirit. She gave this message earlier this year to a gathering of women in South Africa. We’ll hear the rest of that message tomorrow.

Dannah, as I listen to you giving that message, my mind is flooded with memories from that conference.

Dannah: Sweet, sweet memories! And their faces, I remember women who just really were changed by the content they heard. God is really calling women to Himself in the country of South Africa. We saw such hunger in those who came to that conference!

Nancy: Yes. And Revive Our Hearts never set out to start an outreach in South Africa, but when leaders began to raise their hands and say, “Can you bring this message here?” we wanted to respond, because we sensed that God was at work. 

We sought the Lord; we asked for His blessing and favor, and when we sensed it was time to move forward, we were able to do that, thanks to listeners who support Revive Our Hearts!

Dannah: And you know, there are new opportunities birthed every day—leaders meeting together in Europe, in Brazil saying, “Please! Bring Revive Our Hearts to our areas in our language!” As we pray about what steps God would have us take, we’re also trusting that He is going to supply the funds needed to follow through.

Nancy: And not only to expand the ministry in new areas, new languages, but also to keep our current ministry outreaches going in English and Spanish. 

Dannah: That’s right. And each year, almost half of the support we need comes in at the end of the year.

Nancy: And that keeps us on our knees, I’ll tell you that, because even most of that comes in the last week of the year! So we don’t know what God is going to provide or how He is going to provide, but He always does just what is needed . . . thanks to the heart that people have for this message and this ministry.

Dannah: So we’re praying that God will provide, yet again, for the year ahead.

Nancy: Yes, our team is making that a matter of daily, concerted prayer. And when you support Revive Our Hearts here in December, your gift is going to go twice as far! That’s because, as we’ve been sharing with you over the last couple of weeks, some friends have offered a matching challenge . . . a generous matching challenge.

That means they’re doubling each gift that comes in this month up to that challenge amount. We’re praying that the entire match will be met. In fact, if we go beyond that matching challenge, what an opportunity we have right now to pour fuel on the work that God is doing in the hearts of women around the world!

So, God’s provision here at year-end is going to help make sure that this program keeps coming to you each weekday, and it’s going to help make it possible for us to take advantage of some new ministry opportunities.

Dannah: Will you help us meet this matching challenge? To do so, make sure you make your donation by December 31. You can do that at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959. 

Nancy: So is forgiveness a one-time event or a series of events? I’ll give you a hint: that’s a little bit of a trick question! Dannah Gresh will explain tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Helping you learn the unnatural art of forgiving, Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

About the Speaker

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh is the best-selling author, speaker, and founder of True Girl (formerly Secret Keeper Girl), America's most popular Christian tween event. She has authored over 20 books that have …

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