Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Freedom From Prison

Leslie Basham: When we deny forgiveness to someone else, it's like we're putting them in a prison. Maybe today we need to grant some people their freedom.

It's Thursday, June 24; and you're listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Did you know that an unforgiving spirit could affect the way you look and feel? More importantly, it can affect your relationship with God.

Today Nancy will explain what happens when we refuse to forgive and why it's always in our best interests to extend grace to those who wound us. Here's Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In the ministry that I've been serving with for over 20 years, we have the privilege day after day of seeing God set His people free when they apply God's principles.

This matter of forgiveness is one of the most foundational, fundamental, needed truths in our Christian lives today. And when we live out God's principles of forgiveness, we find ourselves getting set free.

Often we will give people an opportunity to share how something like the truth of forgiveness has worked in their lives. I remember a session when an adult lady stood to tell a story that had happened to her many years earlier when she had been a little girl.

I don't know that she had thought about it constantly in recent years, but as we were talking about bitterness and forgiveness, God brought this series of circumstances to her mind and she began reliving it. Then she stood one day to share the process that God had had her in.

On that particular day years earlier, she and her little girlfriend ran off to visit the man they thought was their friend, who also happened to be the county sheriff. His office was in a building that was also the town jail. This was a man they knew. They thought he was their friend and they went into the building where he worked.

And then this woman shared how her little girlfriend ran off to play and left this woman, then a little girl, with this man.

She then proceeded to tell how the sheriff turned to her and said, "If you ever tell anyone what I am about to do to you, I'll put you in one of those jail cells. And if you ever tell your parents what I've done to you, I'll put them in one of these jail cells." And then the man she thought was her friend took her as a little girl and molested her.

Now as an adult, she is standing and telling this story as a married woman. She said, "All those years ago, I realize now that what I did was I put that man in one of those jail cells."

He had since died but in her mind he was still in that cell. What she had not realized until God opened her eyes to see this matter of forgiveness and bitterness and what it does to us, she had not realized that not only did she put him in a jail cell but that day, all those years ago, she put herself in a jail cell.

Through all these years of (harboring) a seed of unforgiveness and bitterness toward this man who was not even alive any longer, she had found herself in a prison of her own making because of an unwillingness to forgive.

Now what happens when we refuse to forgive? The fact is we do become the prisoners of those who have wronged us.

Let me ask you to turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of Matthew chapter 18. We're beginning in verse 21. Peter initiates the conversation. He comes to Jesus and he says. "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"

Now I think Peter probably thought he was being pretty generous because the law of the religious leaders of that day required that you would forgive three times, but Peter is saying, "Lord, seven times! That sounds like a lot to me."

And the implication is that it is the same person, maybe even committing the same sin, and he does it again and again. "How many times should I forgive him?"

Well, Jesus answered something that everyone within earshot had to think was astonishing. He said, "I tell you not seven times, but seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:22).

What is Jesus saying here? Is He saying, "Okay, Peter, notch it up a little bit and when you get to 490 times, then you can stop forgiving?" Now that's not the heart at all. What Jesus is really saying is "forgiveness without limit."

Now as Jesus so often did, He goes on to tell a story to illustrate His point. He says beginning in verse 23, "Therefore the kingdom of heaven is a like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him."

Now this was a sum that in our day would total millions of dollars. The point is it is an amount that was infinitely beyond his ability ever to pay back. "Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before his master, 'Be patient with me, he begged, and I will pay back everything.'"

Well that was a joke. There was no way he could ever pay this back. He's just saying, "Please have mercy on me." And wondrously, verse 27, "The servant's master took pity on him. He cancelled the debt and he let him go." He said, "Your record is clear."

But then we have a turn of events in verse 28 "When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him," if I could put it in modern vernacular, a few bucks. "He grabbed his fellow servant and began to choke him, 'Pay back what you owe me,' he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, (as this man had just begged his master) 'Be patient with me and I will pay you back.'"

Now, I'll tell you when I read this passage that I find sometimes my blood pressure just going up, and I get so angry at this servant who had just been forgiven so much and he refused to forgive until the Holy Spirit shines the light in my own heart and says, "How often are you that servant? Holding against others their petty little offenses in light of the incredible offense of which God has forgiven you."

Well in verse 30 he refused. "He refused to forgive and have mercy on his fellow servant. Instead he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and told their master everything that had happened."

And by the way, we have a master in heaven who always knows when we refuse to forgive. We may hide it from others, but He knows. And He will call us to account as he does in verse 32. "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant!' he said." That's pretty strong language. He just didn't say, "You know, you made a big mistake here. You really should have forgiven that man."

This master is exercised. He is grieved; he's angry. He says, "You wicked servant!" And how often am I and how often are you, really that wicked servant, if we could come to see the sin, the greatness of our sin of unforgiveness.

We are so conscious of how great the sin is others have committed against us, but God wants us to see that our unforgiveness is a huge wicked sin.

"You wicked servant!" he said. "I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had on you? In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed."

One of your translations reads, "He turned him over to the tormentors, to the tormentors!" You see when we refuse to forgive, we get turned over to tormentors.

What are some of those tormentors? They may not be literal tormentors. I tell you what I think is one of them and that is the chronic emotional and physical disorders that some of us women experience.

In many cases these are the fruits of unforgiveness. Some of those emotional disorders, chronic recurring depression, not in all cases but in many, is the fruit of an unforgiving spirit.

You see, God never intended that our bodies should hold up under the weight and the guilt of unresolved conflicts, of bitterness and unforgiveness. And I don't know why it is, but we as women seem to show this more, even in our faces, and to carry it in our bodies sometimes even more than men do.

You know there's nothing wrong with looking like you're 80 years old, if you're 80 years old, but there is something wrong with looking like you're 80 years old if you're only 50 years old and the reason is that bitterness and unforgiveness have caused even your countenance and your skin to age prematurely.

When we refuse to forgive, we end up being turned over to tormentors. Many of the issues that many of us battle with may be the fruit and the result, the consequence of refusing to forgive. And then Jesus ends this passage by saying, "This is how My Heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart" (Matthew 18:35).

We've prayed many times the prayer Jesus taught us to pray where we say, "Father, forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). We've heard the words of Jesus who said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7).

The fact is we cannot and will not experience God's love and forgiveness in our lives if we refuse to forgive those who have sinned against us.

Leslie Basham: That's Nancy Leigh DeMoss reminding us of the incredible forgiveness God has shown us and challenging us to forgive others. Nancy will be back in just a minute to wrap up our time together.

But maybe today you realize how much you still need to learn about forgiveness. Nancy has taught on this subject on a DVD called Forgiven, Forgiving and Free. If you have a small group in your home or a women's Bible study at church, this would be a perfect resource.

The DVD comes with a study guide that will help you personalize the material. You will explore areas in which you've been hurt. The booklet will lead you through a process of forgiving those who have wronged you.

You can order a copy of Forgiven, Forgiving and Free on-line at ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also order toll free at 1-800-569-5859. 

If you appreciate the teaching you hear on Revive Our Hearts on topics like forgiveness, would you consider helping us continue this ministry? This month represents the end of our fiscal year and we're so thankful to listeners who have made this ministry possible. Would you consider joining them?

By becoming a monthly supporter, you'll be helping us call women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. And as we begin a new fiscal year, it's important that we hear from you now. You can send your donation to Revive Our Hearts. Thanks so much.

Well, tomorrow we'll hear from a woman who allowed hate and bitterness to build up in her heart toward the three men who assaulted her as a teenager. How can someone who's been the victim of terrible abuse learn to forgive? We'll hear her story tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Now to close our time together, here's Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Where does God find you on this whole issue of forgiveness and bitterness? Is there a root of bitterness in your heart? Is there someone that you've refused to forgive, someone whose record you just won't clear? Would you come to the place of acknowledging to God that your unforgiveness is a great sin against your forgiving Heavenly Father?

As you contemplate how much He has forgiven you, do you realize how serious it is that you or I would refuse to forgive someone else? So cry out, "Lord, have mercy on me, and may I be to others as forgiving as You have been to me."

Leslie Basham:

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

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