Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Forgiveness: Release from guilt, despair and depression.

Be set free from the bondage of hurts and unforgiveness.

Jack Viljoen
The church is a sad testimony to the world. There is so much that does not conform to the teachings of Jesus and the other New Testament writers. And, worst of all, the leaders of the numerous institutions are more interested in their reputations, membership numbers and finance than they are in the well being of their flocks. Their image in the media is of utmost importance.
Whilst the flock is struggling with all kinds of personal issues the leaders are preaching well prepared sermons that contain no life-changing message. Furthermore, when it comes to counseling they use methods from psychology studied during their preparation for the ministry. They counsel from the mind to the mind. But the issues of life are issues of the heart and hence are spiritual in essence. Therefore mans methods are absolutely powerless when it comes to life issues.
Why is it that in the church, the divorce statistics are higher than those in the world? Suicide, child abuse and poor, if not non-existent, inter-personal relationships are accepted as normal behaviour patterns. Is this the Kingdom of God that Jesus taught about? I think not.
Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts, for the heart is the wellspring of life. In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul talks about two kinds of wisdom; human and spiritual. We know about the human kind of wisdom, but Paul says that if we do not have the Holy Spirit we cannot receive the wisdom that comes from God because it is spiritually discerned. And, only the Godly kind of wisdom has any power to bring change and healing to the human nature and emotions. The sad part in this situation is that the majority of the church institutions are founded upon humanistic principles which exclude the Holy Spirit, and are therefore powerless to help anyone.
This brings us to the subject of this article. Unforgiveness.
You have been hurt; maybe only once or perhaps many times. You have sworn never to forgive or you have tried to forgive but cannot. You can face the perpetrators and put up a brave front. But you are wearing a mask. You have to hide your true feelings because, usually those who have hurt you are close; like family members. Inside you there is turmoil. Peace evades you. Bitterness is beginning to take root. You secretly plot revenge but you just cannot bring yourself to do it. Or, maybe you have tried to, and now you feel worse than before. Never the less whatever happens you are slowly losing your grip on life. You are being consumed by all sorts of wrong thinking. At the slightest provocation, of whatever kind, you fly off the handle and then feel remorseful. What makes it worse is that you feel to apologise but cannot, and so you make excuses for your behaviour and pass the blame.
Your self image is taking a beating. To compensate you begin to act strong even though this is not in your nature. You begin to control and manipulate those around you in order to gain the upper hand and feel good about yourself. You are on a downward spiral of despair.
Listen to what Jesus has to say about forgiveness:
John 20:23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. The words are not forgiven are translated from the original as holden or retained. This is the same word used in Acts 2:24 where it says that death was not able to retain Jesus when God raised Him from the dead. A very powerful word; think about it.
In the Amplified Bible John 20:23 reads if you forgive the sins of anyone they are forgiven: if you retain the sins of anyone they are retained. Now Jesus was not giving us the authority or power to forgive sin: only God has that right. There is a far deeper problem facing us here. What Jesus was actually saying in this passage of scripture is this.
If someone sins against you, no matter what the sin, we are to forgive them. Did Jesus not also teach in Matthew 6 in the Lords prayer, that we are to forgive? Check verse 15 which comes after the Lords Prayer. Jesus said But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Serious isnt it? Many people sight Mark 11:22 24 as the great prayer of faith. But you never hear them quote verse 25 which is the key to unlocking that faith. Jesus said And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.
Are you starting to get the message? Can you see the absolute power and release there is in forgiveness? Now back to John 20:23. If you are walking in Unforgiveness towards anyone then you have placed yourself in the bondage of Unforgiveness. You have retained the consequence of unforgiven sin, which is sin. You must understand that Unforgiveness is a sin. God requires, even commands that we forgive others just as He forgives our sin. If we do not forgive others we are sinning against our heavenly Father. And, furthermore we are making a mockery of Jesus blood that was shed for the forgiveness of our sin. Some would say, but I do Not sin. Well the Word says that you are a liar. Read 1 John chapters 1 and 2.
The other party lives oblivious to your predicament. It is not their hurtful actions that are the cause of your situation. No! It is your Unforgiveness towards them. Allow me to recount a true story that I was part of, and the beautiful results that God brought into peoples lives.
I was a group leader on a course teaching telephone counseling. A very important part of this course was helping the trainees to achieve wholeness in their lives. You cannot counsel from a position of hurt. Now you cannot coerce people to reveal incidences that have caused hurt in their lives but under the guidance of the Holy Spirit they do open up.
There was a lady in my group (let us call her Martie) that, although she said there was nothing in her past that had caused her to walk in unforgiveness, one day just decided to quit the course. She said that she was not worthy to help others. Self pity and a poor self image were beginning to show. A warning light went on for me. I asked her if we could have a chat at the end of that Saturdays session. Martie agreed.
Before we started talking I prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to lead us into truth. Well I had hardly finished praying when she started blurting out a whole lot of things concerning her mother in law. Martie was in her late fifties and had been married for more than thirty years. Apparently her mother in law did not like her and was always breaking her down. She was never good enough. Her cooking was openly criticised in front of the whole family. Her baking was so bad that it was not fit to be eaten. Her home was never neat enough. And so the criticism went on and on for more than thirty years.
Now that was all bad enough, but Martie started recording all these wrongs done to her. Yes, she kept a black book in which she had recorded the dates and the things had had been said about her. What is more she kept reading through these things to keep them fresh in her mind. She became in her mind what her mother in law thought of her; a failure. This was amplified by the fact that her mother in law had influenced her two sisters in law in the same way. She now had three people breaking her down. All these incidents were recorded in her little black book. This was another mistake. 1 Corinthians 13 says that love does not keep a record of wrong things done to us. This was only compounding the problem. Marties behaviour was outside of Gods law of love.
The Word of God says we are to love our enemies because love covers over a multitude of sins. The Word also says that no weapon used against us has any power to harm us when we walk in Gods love; and perfect love casts out fear. This poor woman lived in fear of the times when the families would get together.
Now I knew her husband and he had nothing but praise for his wife. Everything he had to say was nothing but praise for her, but she could not accept it. She was a failure in her own eyes.
But worst of all she had built up bitterness and resentment towards her mother in law and two sisters in law. Martie was trapped in that downward spiral.
By the time she had finished sharing all of this with me she was sobbing her heart out. I sensed that the Lord was busy doing something in her. I then shared John 20:23 with her and explained that the only way to be released from this situation was through forgiveness. But she had forgiven them she said. She had prayed and forgiven them. She had even written it all on a sheet of paper, handed it over to the Lord and then torn the paper up and thrown it away. Nothing changed.
There is a good reason why that never worked. It is simply that, it is not the way the Word says we are to deal with these matters. Jesus said, If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23 24.
Then Jesus goes on to say in verses 25 26, Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
Now let us apply this to our real life story above. When we have anything like bitterness or unforgiveness in our hearts we cannot worship God. Worship is the gift of our lives that we offer to God. We first need to put those things right before we can truly worship in spirit and in truth and connect with our heavenly Father. Our wrong attitudes cause a separation between us and Him. Jesus instructs us to go and set things right. We are to take action and do something about it. If we do not go, then our adversary (Satan) hands us over to the judge (our minds and emotions), who hands us over to the officer (demon), who throws us into prison (the negative condition of our minds).
Can you see how we place ourselves in this prison? This prison is that hopeless state we find ourselves in and is brought upon by not setting things right as soon as they occur; things like harbouring grudges and bitterness. The last penny that we have to pay is the action that needs to be taken to set the issues right. That demon will continue to torment our minds with a negative bombardment of accusations until we have paid the price of seeking reconciliation; that price is humility.
You see, when Martie never attempted to set these issues with her mother in law right, her mind gave the demonic forces the power to torment her. That is why Jesus said that we are to settle matters quickly. Do not give the adversary the opportunity to mess with your mind. The scriptures say do not let the sun go down on your anger: do not give the devil a foothold.
But Martie was never taught how to deal with conflict situations. Now do you understand my opening statements concerning the condition of the so called church? Knowing all about the prophecies in the book of Revelation and how they relate to the book of Daniel will not help you one iota when you are facing issues in your life. Church leaders are too busy impressing their congregations with their knowledge and not teaching them about dealing with life issues. The congregations are caught up in pampering the pastor, molly coddling the minister and pleasing the priest. No one is really seeking God for His plan and purposes for His church.
Sorry, let me apologise for that statement about the leaders. They dont know any better. That is what they are taught in their colleges and universities. They studied the letter of the law without the help of the Holy Spirit and the Bible says of itself that the letter kills but the Spirit gives life. It is only in the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit that lives are transformed, not in being bombarded with humanistic knowledge. They dissect the Word (the seed) until there is nothing left to plant in order to bring forth life. A seed must be planted whole to produce life.
Back to Marties story. She agreed to obey Gods Word no matter how difficult it would be. Marties mother in law and her two daughters lived very far away so it would not be practical for her to go and put things right. I suggested that she write letters in which she should ask forgiveness for harbouring a bad attitude towards them, without mentioning their offense.
This may seem strange to you as they were the ones who had sinned against her. Correct but, remember John 20:23, Martie had retained the consequence of unforgiveness towards them! She wrote the letters and to her amazement she received prompt replies by telephone. All three said no, they were to blame and asked her forgiveness. Much crying and reconciliation. God is faithful and as the scripture says, He watches over his word to perform it.
Martie was totally set free and went on to complete the course, and became an excellent telephone counselor. Guess what the problem was that her very first caller had? Right! Unforgiveness. Martie was able to counsel out of her very own life experience and Gods faithfulness. Bless the Lord. Glory.
If you are struggling in the same area then read the scriptures above and ask the Father to give you the grace to apply His word. James says that it is the doers of the Word that are blessed. Do it and watch the miracle that God our Heavenly Father will do in your situation.
I know that there are skeptics out there who would say impossible, years of hurt just cannot be healed that fast. They are right; when it comes to humanistic counsel and tablets. But when we trust in a miracle working God and the power of His Word the impossible becomes possible. Bless His Holy Name.
May the Lord bless you in your search for the Truth.
If you need help in this area please feel free to contact me;
Best regards,
Jack Viljoen. The Church in the Fathers Heart.
P.S. Ephesians 4:32 5:1 and 2. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

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