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Freedom of Forgiveness - A Devotion

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Matthew 18:21-22 (Amplified)
Then Peter came up to Him and said, Lord, how many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? [As many as] up to seven times? Jesus answered him, I tell you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven!

Like many people, I have many regrets from my past. Those things that I wish that I had not done, places that I should not have gone and so on and so forth. I am only human. In fact, I am very human. Before Jesus Christ totally and completely apprehended my heart and life, I made many mistakes. I married the wrong person knowing full well that he was not the one that God had for me. See I was a Christian, just not a committed one. The marriage ended, but not before three beautiful and wonderful people came into this world. It is difficult to overcome bitterness in the brokenness of divorce and it indeed held me captive for many, many years. Arguments and disagreements over the care and provision for the children created bitterness that completely bound my heart. I didn’t even realize it. God had introduced me to my soul mate. We married and blended our family adding two additional beautiful and wonderful people. My husband and I had dedicated our marriage and family to serving God. God blessed us with each new day in too many ways to count. However, it seemed that when peace was just about to overtake us this person would rise up and cause dissention in our family. It all came to a head when my daughter began asking to be adopted by her “real” father. Not the one who made her, but the one who chose to be her “dad” and gladly assumed the role of loving and nurturing parent in her life. I petitioned her biological father multiple times as did she with no luck at all. I prayed that his heart would be moved to grant her heart’s desire and release her. Nothing. Then God spoke to me in real terms, “He will do it – if you forgive him.” I assured the Lord with my mouth that I had, but He revealed the contents of my heart to me that day when He instructed me to “put my money where my mouth was” so I did. This man owed me a great deal of money unpaid for many, many years. We were entitled to this money by court order and with one hearing would begin to collect. God told me that he would do it if I forgave him this debt of thousands of dollars. It was in that moment I realized that in unforgiveness and bitterness, I was holding this money over his head ready to stick it to him when I had the chance. I had spent the money a thousand times over at least in my head. I even imagined his stricken face when the judge ordered the decree for all the hardship and pain that had been caused over the years. I was wrapped up in hatred and didn’t even know it.

Peter asked the Lord, “How many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him AND let it go?” Jesus replied “seventy times seven”. The truth is most people assume the role of bitterness after the first, second and for the most “righteous” third time. There is a saying that goes “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.” People will always let you down some more than others. The enemy will use every single relationship that you have against you if given the chance. But today, I am reminded of the freedom of forgiveness. Many years ago, the Lord provided us the means to pay off our car. I remember the fear that overtook me walking in the bank to right my first check for over $17,000. My palms were sweaty as I chatted with the clerk laughing nervously. What if I regretted this choice or wrecked my newly owned car on the way home? As I handed over the check, the clerk handed back a receipt marked paid in full with the promise that the title would arrive in the mail soon. As I left the bank, my feet felt lighter. When I got in the car to drive home, I swear it had the new car smell all over again. It was no longer a burden to us with monthly payments but now it belonged to us with no sorrow added to it. (Proverbs 10:22) Fear and anxiety going in wanted me to doubt. But once, I was obedient. I was overtaken by pure elation and joy all over again! There is something about paying off a debt in full that makes you feel accomplished and set free. When that debt is forgiveness, the freedom is so much greater.

Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

We must learn to forgive others completely. We must learn to sever the bitter roots that are holding back our heart. It is a problem. The world is full of many broken relationships that are connected only by unforgiveness and human indebtedness. Jesus died to break these harmful soul ties so that His People could live in the Righteousness of God. You will never accomplish holiness or work out your salvation completely bound in unforgiveness. You may not even be aware that you are. We place our expectation in people unknowingly when we decide that they have something greater to offer than God and hold them accountable to deliver. Casting judgment when they don’t our relationship with the Lord is affected. We must learn to forgive other people. It is an act of faith in God because we must surrender all expectations in humanity and fully rely on God!

Luke 6:36-38 (Amplified)
So be merciful (sympathetic, tender, responsive, and compassionate) even as your Father is [all these]. Judge not [neither pronouncing judgment nor subjecting to censure], and you will not be judged; do not condemn and pronounce guilty, and you will not be condemned and pronounced guilty; acquit and forgive and release (give up resentment, let it drop), and you will be acquitted and forgiven and released. Give, and [gifts] will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will they pour into [the pouch formed by] the bosom [of your robe and used as a bag]. For with the measure you deal out [with the measure you use when you confer benefits on others], it will be measured back to you.

God has shown us great love compassion and mercy. We are expected to do the same as a direct result of our salvation. You have been given mercy so now you must give it in return. We must learn to stop condemning people when they let us down giving up resentment. We must let it go. It is our mission to “let it drop”. Forgive and forget? Is it possible? Not always, but maybe if we spent more time in the Word and with the Father – we would have other things to focus our attention on making forgiveness and forgetfulness totally possible. We must not judge other people according to their actions and attitudes unless of course we, too, would like to be judged for our own actions and attitudes that are not always stellar. We must not condemn other people with our words speaking curses over their life and predetermining their downfall with the words falling out of our mouth thoughtlessly. Unless, we would like to be cursed by our words as well. We must forgive. I’m sorry must be accepted in every situation with an acceptance that is genuine and sincere if we want the Lord to do the same for us. The Word of God promises that if we give it, we will get it. Give love and you will get it. Give forgiveness and you will get it when you need it the most. Stop judging others so harshly and you will not be judged the same way.

Luke 22:33-35 (NLT)
When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

Jesus demonstrated human forgiveness in order to maintain His Perfection as the Ultimate Sacrifice. He could have hung their silently with harsh thoughts going through His Head as it bled beneath the thorns and from the beating He had just received. His Swollen Eyes watching as they gambled for his clothing as the religious leaders led the crowd in taunting their Savior. “He saved others…let Him save Himself if He is really the Messiah.” Jesus said, “Forgive them.” He had to forgive the people to be in complete unison with the Father when He finally released His Spirit. Jesus showed the truest form of compassion and forgiveness. He forgave those who killed Him as He hung dying on the Cross. If He had not forgiven us then, He could not forgive us of our sins now. We would not be saved. He is our example. There is freedom in forgiveness and it begins at the Cross.

John 20:20-23 (NLT)
As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

The Lord has given us the Holy Spirit so that we may have the compassion of Jesus Christ. We are called to forgive other people. Remember what we bind on earth is bound in Heaven and what we release on the earth is released in Heaven. The first thing that Jesus told them after breathing His Spirit on them was “if you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven.” It would seem to me that this would be a primary goal of the Holy Spirit. Not only to re-establish our relationship with God, but with all of God’s People. The Holy Spirit will take you in bitterness out of your present position to set you free. (Ezekiel 3:14) Bitterness is a human response to wounding. We are instructed to get rid of all bitterness, rage, harsh words, slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Again note the significance of position in these words from Ephesians 4. Bitterness is number one. We are to be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving and to love one another. Doesn’t that sound a lot like the Fruits that the Holy Spirit produces in our life which are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”? (Galatians 5:22-23) Thankfully, God has not asked us to take on such a monumental task such as forgiveness all alone. He gave us the same Spirit that was in Jesus Christ when He died on the Cross. You can forgive and release people from your expectation because now you can fully rely on Jesus Christ trusting Him by faith that He will meet your needs, as well as the desires of your heart. You no longer need human affirmation, acceptance, approval OR restitution! Bitterness will taint every single relationship in our life even unknowingly. (Proverbs 14:10) It is time to move from bitterness of unforgiveness to the freedom of forgiveness.

Hebrews 10:18 (NLT)
And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.

To forgive others is accepting the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ as more than enough to meet every need, fulfill every desire and live in contentment. You do not need what others offer and are not bound to the old law but New Covenant which is summarized in one statement, “Love one another.” We must stop living in bitterness. The Children of Israel were thirsty in their journey and cried out for water. God told Moses to throw a stick in the bitter water and it instantly was sweet. The content of the water was changed by faithfulness. But that was not an excuse to remain on the edge of bitterness. But rather move out of “Marah” into “Elim” which proved to be an oasis. To stay in the past would have left them in Egypt subject to the plague, but the bitter water would have soon overtaken them too they had to keep moving in the Goodness of God leaving past expectation in people behind. (Exodus 15) In the Book of Ruth, we find Naomi. She had changed her name to “Mara” which called bitter. She went back to Bethlehem (how fitting) to find herself again. (Ruth 1) Is your heart bitter today? Only you will ever know…and God, of course! “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. I was so foolish and ignorant—I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.” (Psalm 73:21-24)

Colossians 3:12-14 (NLT)
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

Well, I did it. I wrote the letter, notarized the provisions and forgave him of his debt to our family. What a relief! Within a couple of days we received signed paperwork allowing the adoption process to proceed and it was made official. I cannot express in words the joy of that day. Not only in the moment that the decree was ordered, name changed, and I watched my husband hug his daughter, but when I realized that my heart was finally free of unforgiveness and bitterness I had harbored for years. I not once have regretted signing those papers or releasing that debt. My heart is free. Forgiveness is not a one and done kind of thing. It is a daily effort to keep our heart free from offense, hurt and discouragement. The only way that it is possible is by the Power of Jesus Christ within us. Experience true freedom today. Set your heart free. Forgive that person that came to mind as you were reading this. Who the Son sets free is free indeed!

Luke 17:3-5 (NLT)
So watch yourselves! “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith.”

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