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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why Is Forgiveness so Hard?

Forgiveness is an easy thing to speak of. Believers know that they are forgiven and should forgive others. They admonish each other to do so. The real difficulty comes when they have either done something so egregious that they believe it exists only in the realm of the perverted or when someone has done something to them which has hurt them deeply.  Then, forgiveness is very hard.

Church should be where forgiveness reigns. The church proclaims forgiveness on billboards, literature and from the pulpit weekly. The church websites share the gospel of forgiveness given by Jesus Christ our Lord. No good church member denies forgiveness . . . until forgiveness must be given.

So, why is it that the individual members and the corporate body of believers have so much trouble with forgiveness? The answer is easy: they are obeying the ruler of this world.

John records in Revelation 12:10:

 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 

Satan stands before God day and night reciting our sins. He is saying these things because he seeks to injure God. He is saying these things because he understands nothing of forgiveness. He believes God should continue to hold them against us. He is condemned already. Forgiveness is beyond him. His nature is that he will never ask for it nor will it ever be granted to him.

Thus, condemnation is a rule for this ruler. It is the rule he, himself lives under. He believes that it cannot be overcome but that it can prevail so that his realm will be full of people who stand unforgiven and are perfectly fine with their condemnation before God because Satan either believes he will win over God or that he can hurt God by making people believe that forgiveness is a fantasy.

Jesus said of Satan:

John 12:31 (ESV)
 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 

This world and all that is in it has been judged. Satan is the ruler of this world. He has been granted the ability to make the rules of the world. Therefore, the most natural act is to obey the rules of this world. The rules of this world from Satan are chaos and condemnation. Those who lack forgiveness are obeying the ruler of this world. They are acting naturally rather than spiritually.

Does that mean that God has lost control? Absolutely not! Satan can only act where he has been granted permission. That is why Satan seeks to keep prayer far from the believers. Prayer acts in the spiritual world where the battles are fought. Prayer brings Satan defeat. He cannot stand a group of believers earnestly praying together. He will do whatever he can to hinder it.

Forgiveness also exists in the spiritual world. It is remembering that someone has committed an act of pain but never bringing it up to condemn them. Satan cannot understand this. This is why he stands before God to remind God of our sins.

Forgiveness is so hard because people try to forgive in this world. They think that forgiveness is natural. It is not. It is supernatural. Thus, even those non-believers who forgive are doing so because they, too, have been created with in the image of God. That image of pre-falled glory which was stamped on every person allows them to forgive some things. But not everything is easy to forgive. Some things require the abiding presence of the Lord Jesus.

Have you ever wondered why you have to forgive things more than once? Remember, Satan does not understand forgiveness. You are still in his world. It is natural to remember and feel all the emotions of something that you have already granted forgiveness for.

Thus, you must keep your mind of the Spirit if you are to overcome the condemnation you feel for other or even yourself. Forgiveness is not of this world It is of God. All sins, those who have been committed against you and God, have been paid for by the blood of Jesus. Therefore, you cannot hold it against someone when they have sinned against you. If you do, you have a higher standard than God for He accepts the blood of Jesus.

This is something Satan cannot grasp.


Anthony Chia said...

Indeed forgiveness is NOT an easy thing to practise. And we need to practise it, keep at it. Things such as forgiveness, love, compassion, and the likes, need to be practiced. Again, when I think about the exhortation of overly grace believers of just standing on our identity, I get concerned, for Christianity is NOT just about standing on our identity. We stand on our identity in living out our lives, a righteous life. Yes, when we do NOT have the identity, we cannot be genuine by pretence, like people pretend they are a prince when they are NOT; but a prince has to act and behave as a prince to be truly a prince. I mean, if this one is purportedly God, but he does NOT carry himself like God, then he is the Devil! The proof of the pudding is in the eating. There is nothing wrong with you finding it hard initially in doing all of those things I listed above; it can get easier if you practise them more and more (with patience and perseverance). Hard does NOT mean that it is wrong (how I am upset with overly grace teachers’ words-dropping of, if it is hard, it is NOT from or of God, quoting Jesus’ yoke was easy!), hard does NOT mean that we do NOT what we have to do.

A human baby is born to walk (unless he is born with particular defect); that is his identity. Initially, is it easy to walk? No, but the little one will try and try, again and again, keep practising it, and then it becomes easier and easier, and finally walking is part of him. I will give you another story, this one I learnt from a pastor who preached recently in a market-place fellowship meeting, when she preached about being an “eagle believer”. Although she underscored our identity, she did NOT fail to talk about living it out; and that should be the way the subject should be preached. Here is the story: Once there was a little boy, a naughty little one, and what he did was that he took one of the eggs from an eagle nest, and placed it in the nest of a prairie chicken, together with other prairie chicken eggs. Soon, the eggs in the prairie chicken’s nest hatched, including the eagle egg. Now, only one was an eaglet, but the eaglet thought he was prairie chicken chick, since he was with the rest. Since all the rest were doing what prairie chicks do, the eaglet learnt along with his “siblings”; including scratching the ground for seeds and worms for food, flipping his wings to fly only a foot or two off the ground. One day, while in the open, the eaglet and his siblings saw a majestic eagle flying overhead, and that eaglet murmured in the midst of his siblings, “How I wish I am like that bird up there, soaring over the world!” The other chicks (prairie chicks) harshly said to the eaglet, “Forget it, you are a prairie chick; we cannot do that, stop thinking about it!” That eaglet grew up and grew old, and eventually died, without living the life of an eagle. You are sad; what are you sad about? Are you sad that the eaglet did NOT know he was an eagle? OR are you sad that he did NOT get to live the life of an eagle? He was already an eagle (identity) whether he knew it or NOT; actually mere knowledge matters not so much; it is what we do with that knowledge that is important (living out that identity), and that is what we are sad about, for the eagle.

Anthony Chia said...

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Suppose the eagle that was hovering over them, told the eaglet below that he was an eagle, but the eaglet below said, “Well and good, I now know I am an eagle, like the one in the air, but I am just going to stick to the ways of my “siblings”. Thank you for telling me!” What good is that knowledge? See, it is NOT enough to tell believers their identity; we need to exhort believers to live out their identity. Which loving father or mother does NOT want to see his or her child living out the potential of the life (the child) he or she has brought into existence. Our Father in Heaven feels the same way; and no preacher should tell God’s children that they are sons of God, and so, they have everything in the world, and so, all they have to do, is just bask in grace or do anything they like. No, that is a disservice to God. Don’t tell believers that it is alright to be a spoiled brat! The correct exhortation should be, “You are a son of God, go live the life of a son of God. Behave and act in keeping with your identity.”

A spoiled brat prince (son of God) would say, “Why must I ask for forgiveness? And why must I forgive that fellow; my father is God, you know?” So, is it right or wrong, to tell this prince, “Yah, man, no need to ask for forgiveness, from men or from God, God already forgiven you umpteen years ago! Furthermore, if you find it hard, don’t do it, you are a prince; prince does NOT need to do hard thing!?

Forgiving is hard, and it is made harder when believers are being bombarded with wrong teachings. It is quite natural for something hard, we find excuses NOT to do it; and so, when there is the great number of overly grace believers with their witty and eloquent international teachers, more and more believers are beginning to just swing over, excusing themselves NOT to have to practise forgiveness, both to ask for forgiveness and to forgive others. I am NOT saying that God will NOT forgive a believer who sins, or that Jesus’ sacrifice more than 2000 years ago is NOT effective anymore for any sins committed today or in the future; I am saying, many of such teachings are insidiously exhorting taking God and His grace for granted. When we take God for granted, it is only a matter of time before we will also take others (men) for granted.

As far as forgiveness, in terms of forgiving others, it is in our identity to forgive, and just like it is in the identity of a child to walk, we have to practise forgiveness, until it is part of us, hard as it maybe, in the beginning (even some children have had greater difficulties in learning to walk).

Of course, the matter of forgiving is NOT so much of a physical thing like walking, the point is that if it is the righteous thing to do, we have to do it. Our identity from new creation is that of one who is righteous; and so, doing righteous things, or righteous living, is living out our identity. Our Father is holy and righteous, and on salvation, we have been granted a righteous identity; we just cannot, NOT do it (forgive others), just because it is a hard thing to do. And do NOT be fooled, he who does righteous, is righteous (1 John 3:7).

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Anthony Chia said...

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“Why is it so hard?” is what was addressed by Ps Prentis. I will only add these:

Indeed, forgiveness is so hard, has to do with Satan. If you believe, Eze 28 has a part that talked about how magnificent Satan was, in the beginning, and then he fell from grace, because pride started to surface in him, you will know unforgiveness has to do with Satan. Satan began to think he was more worthy than that was already accorded to him. Iniquity came into Satan (aka Lucifer) as a result (verse 15). This Iniquity possessed Satan (Satan became consumed by it), and it is like a “living thing”, and it got “replicated” into Man when the latter fell in the Garden of Eden. It is my belief that Satan became resentful of God, and bitterness took root in him; he did NOT repent and ask for forgiveness. It is interesting that God did NOT immediately threw him (Satan) into Hell, and we know from Scripture that, that would be the eventual fate of Satan. I believe it could be that God was initially giving Satan, time and opportunity to repent and return, by asking for forgiveness, but he (Satan) remained resentful and bitter against God. Instead of being the lead worshipper of God, he became the accuser. His resentment and bitterness towards God did NOT reduce but grew over time, and his anti-God, spread to hatred against all that belonged to God, or are worshipping God, and that included the pinnacle of God’s creation, Man. Scripture said that Satan, was NOT sent direct to Hell, but was hurled down to earth, and on earth, Satan’s aim was to steal, kill and destroy Man (John 10:10a). And we find that God, when He hatched (out) His Salvation Plan, God only had Man in mind; Satan was unrepentant, and had become the enemy of God; Satan was and is beyond redemption! What was and is the thing that overcame Satan? This: “I am more worthy!” In other words, “I deserved more”; in other words, self-pride; in other words, haughtiness; in other words, refusal to submit to higher authority. These things are what is “eating up” Satan, and these every same things are “replicated” in fallen men, resulting in unrepentant and unregenerate man is counted with Satan, and who will go where the latter is destined to go, Hell.

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Anthony Chia said...

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If you are NOT asking for forgiveness from God, why? At the base of it all, you still think your righteousness is what matters, NOT God’s! In other words, you have placed yourself above God. Who is instigating you in that? SA Tan, some of us, Chinese, like to call him (Satan) that!

If you are NOT forgiving others (men), why? The bottom line is that you are refusing to submit to God; to His sense of righteousness, which said that all men are brothers (being sons of God) {or all God’s servants}, and have to forgive one another, even as the Father God has forgiven each one of us, when we entered into salvation, and has promised faithfulness in continuing to grant us forgiveness. We are insisting that we are better than the one who offended us, when in God’s eyes, we are all His children, His loved ones. God loves the offender enough to be willing to forgive him, but you cannot submit to that, and you (placing yourself above God), refuse to forgive the person. Whose instigation are you submitting to? SA Tan’s. Every Christian should know, and must always bear in mind, that our true enemy is only one, SA Tan, who only wants to drag us along with him (we, to be counted or reckoned with him) to Hell.

It is we need to know who we are up against, and what is the right thing to do; and then even if we find it hard to do, we still do it; and when God sees that we are honoring Him (because we love Him {God} and want to obey Him), and what we intend to do is according to His righteousness (and forgiveness is in accord to His righteousness), He will grant us the grace to do it. If you find it hard to forgive another, you need to have the right understanding, and then, you need to choose to want to do it (and your resolve must be strong), and then you ask for God to help you to do it, in other words, you ask for God’s grace to do it.

I said the one true enemy is the spiritual SA Tan. But is it no men can be considered as our enemy? No, not exactly that, for stubbornly wicked people are NOT your friends. It is foolishness to regard such to be your friends. Now, to forgive someone does NOT necessarily mean (NOT necessarily also does NOT mean you MUST NOT, either), that you must take that person as your friend (or friend again). To forgive someone means that you no longer hold the matter against that person. Let me illustrate: Suppose you have a friend, and he has a need to come over to stay at your place a short period of time, and you let him come over to stay. Then you realised that you are missing money and things in the house, and for simplicity, let’s say you know he took your money and things, but you cannot provide the proof to “nail it” on him, and when confronted, he denied, and soon, his need is over, and he leaves. Questions! Are you to forgive him? Are you two to continue as friends as if nothing has happened? Should you again take him in, if shortly he comes back and said that he again has the need to stay over? Let me be very brief: Yes, you are to forgive him (even if, it is a fact he took them, and refused to admit); you may tell it to God, then on your part, you do as you are commanded to do, forgive. NOT you must, as far as God’s grace is sufficient for you, still be nice, be friendly. Scripture said that as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. To again take him in, it is a prima facie, “No”. If you want to, such cases should be submitted to God, i.e. you got to pray about it; generally, you got to hear from God to risk again. Also, you may need to consult an elder on the matter.

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Anthony Chia said...

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What I am saying is that, there are 2 separate matters, one is forgiveness of a past act or offence against you, and the 2nd, is how you are to continue on with the person. In the case of pure physical hurt, and material loss, and you have sufficient grace to do until the extent Jesus talked about in Scripture - “If one slaps you on the right cheek, turn the left over also; or if your tunic is taken, offer your cloak, also!” by all means; but it is best to look at forgiveness, separate, from subsequent possible offence. When we lump the 2 together, we will tend to jump the gun, at stare at the 2nd part, and then we will say we do NOT want to forgive the chap. People tend to say, “I cannot forgive him so that he can do it to me again”. Jesus actually taught it this way (Luke 17:3-4): … “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

In our case, the friend denies the theft, but Jesus’ requirement before we forgive another, is NOT much either; if he says he repents, forgive him, even if he comes round time and time again with “I repent”!

But does NOT the same Luke 17:3-4, also tell us that the offender must repent before we forgive? So, does it mean that if he is NOT saying, “He repents”, I do NOT need to forgive him? You have to come to your own conclusion, and I am NOT expounding it here (it would be too long), that we are to forgive another, even if he does NOT repent. The “he repents”, here, the importance is only to indicate that there was reconciliation each time, and thus allowing for repeating offences against the innocent party. One has to forgive even when there is no repentance on the part of the offender.

PS: We forgive, but we do NOT forget; it is just that the “sting” from the remembrance of the episode is no more there when we truly have forgiven. You are NOT expected to forget, and please, counselor must NOT suggest that! As far as emotion goes, some emotion may still be there, but it is no more than the normal, for you would have been able to exercise self-control over it, as in other normal, day to day, occurrences of life.