Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Process of Forgiveness- Learning to Forgive Ourselves

Peninsula Community Church

The Pathway to Forgiveness – Self Forgiveness

March 25, 2012

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Let me say that this study today only skims the surface of this issue. I would need to do another series in order to deal with every aspect of what it means to forgive ourselves and to let go of the past.

But, in the passage before us this morning, we find great hope in that God forgives ALL of our sin and He cleanses us from ALL unrighteousness. Notice here, there is nothing out of the reach of God’s grace and mercy. He forgives everything. His forgiveness is amazing but He not only forgives all our sin but he cleanses us from all unrighteousness. In Christ we are new creations that continue to be touched by His grace and His cleansing work within us. This is not to say that we keep getting saved over and over but rather after we have accepted Christ, Christ empowers us to live a victorious life through ongoing forgiveness of new sin and ongoing cleansing from new unrighteousness.

Let me illustrate what God does for us in this way. When we lived on Long Island, there were certain days of the week that people could put almost anything at the curb to be picked up on garbage day. As we would drive around Michelle had an incredible eye for pieces of furniture that were left by the curb but had potential to be made over. I remember on one occasion she saw this old cabinet by the side of the road. Of course, being the man I am, I did not want anyone to see me pick up the piece of furniture so I waited until it was dark and I returned and grabbed the piece off of the garbage pile. When we got the piece home, Michelle asked if I would remove off all the layers of paint. As I did that what was revealed was a beautiful piece of wood. It was, if I remember, a beautiful maple cabinet with awesome grains in the wood.

When we think about that is what God does for us. He redeems us off of the garbage heap of the world and he strips us of all of the years of pain, hurt and sin. And when we begin to be effected by those things He comes and continues to offer forgiveness and cleansing because He knows that underneath there is a beautiful vessel that can be used for His glory.

In this passage we should also note that the word confession means to come into agreement with God’s will and His purpose for us. It is interesting to note that in the Greek language of John’s day the word confession was actually a legal term which meant to come into agreement with. In order words, as we understand that God has forgiveness for us in every sin and every issue and that he not only forgives us but he also cleanses us to bring out the beauty that is hidden beneath, we will seek to come into agree with that and allow the Holy Spirit to do that work in us. It also means that we will recognize who we are and what God has called us to be as detailed in His word. We will see that and we will align ourselves with that work.

But in this life we have a dilemma. While we know that we have been forgiven and that we have been cleansed by Christ we often struggle with self forgiveness by way of an attitude of unforgiveness that is most often manifested by:

  • Shame-
  • Sense of Failure

We have all experienced the motion of shame. Have you ever tripped and fallen? What is the first thing that you do? I don’t know about you but I usually will stop and make sure that no one else is looking. Once I do that, then I look to see if I am hurt.

Shame and a sense of failure come from a fear that we will be exposed or that we will not be accepted and that people will look at us differently for what we have done. To be honest with you the emotions of shame and sense of failure are often a result of a legalistic environment or a sense of the negative pressure of being perfect. These emotions bring with them a deep sense of needing to present one’s self as perfect. As a result there is an intense fear of ever making mistakes or disappointing others. In terms of shame, in particular, there is also an intense sense of the inadequacy of one’s self or there is a sense that we are being judged by the probing eyes of others.

While guilt typically involves regret over a particular action or behavior, shame centers on one’s very being. The root of shame lies in the thought that there might be a sudden unexpected exposure of who we really are. The problem is that we believe that when we are exposed that we be revealed as a lesser person or as painfully diminished in our own eyes and the eyes of others. Therefore we become overly concerned and regretful about the mistakes we have made but in reality this mistake or sin has revealed something essentially flawed within us.

The result is that we attempt to be perfect in all areas of our lives as if when we become perfect we will no longer be vulnerable to shame. Rather than free us, these emotions tend to drive us into alienation and emotional bondage. But God wants us to live as authentic beings who love God and are willing to allow God’s forgiveness and healing to come.

But Jesus is ready and willing to forgive and to cle3anse us from all sin and unrighteousness. Jesus in essence enters into our shame, experiences its destructive consequences, and then triumphs over its power in the resurrection. We need Him to heal our unhealthy desire to be accepted and our unhealthy sense of wanting to be perfect. Christ’s coming to earth and his eventual death and resurrection represents God’s total immersion in humanity’s history of conflict and oppression.

If we do not deal with shame and a sense of failure it will destroy us.

How do we deal with this pain:

  • Read and meditate on Scripture
  • Memorize Scripture
  • Take every thought captive
  • Find an accountability partner

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The Path of Reconciliation Part 2

Peninsula Community Church

The Process of Reconciliation

March 5, 2012

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Editorial note: Much of my notes in this message come from Everett Washington’s book entitled “Forgiving and Reconciling: Bridges to Wholeness and Hope” published by InterVarsity Press.

The goal is to build bridges that lead to reconciliation. John Paul Lederac has stated that “You cannot build a bridge by starting in the middle. Bridge builders begin from the side they are on.”

 

But, how do we build a bridge toward reconciliation? I submit to you that there are at least four steps that brings onto a path that leads to reconciliation.

First, we must make a decision to face each other. Notice that here again is the concept of making a decision. The fact is that many times our emotions are not ready or in the place to affect a positive move toward a life of reconciliation so we must make the decision to take this step as nerve racking or risky this may seem.

  • We reconcile because we will not allow failed relationships.
  • We reconcile because we value the other person and their relationship.
  • We reconcile because we know that not doing so spells disaster.
  • We reconcile because we will not accept the status quo.

As we walk through these items we recognize that we no longer desire to see or have failed relationships. We will do everything in our power to live peacefully with all men. Hebrews 12:14 “Strive for peace with everyone, and for holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”  And. Paul in Ephesians 4:3 says that we should be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” By this we are to maintain a unity of affections, of confidence and of love that is only maintained through a life of lived in the spirit and the spirit in the believer.

It is my belief that one of the problems we face in the church today is that we have begun to maintain the status quo where we simply accept things for what they are without fighting for life and health in the body and in the lives of those who a part of the body.

Secondly, we must begin to dialogue about the issues. It is here that we deal with the truth and we dialogue about the real issues that have caused the separation and division in the relationship.  Sometimes, when we are a standstill we will need a respected third party to get involved to mediate the process. The key here is to allow God to soften our attitude and the way we speak to the other person. Many people find it is easy to blame others whether take on their level of responsibility.

  • Practice forbearance. Instead of lashing out practice patience and self-control. Ephesians 4:1-3 – I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
  • Practice empathy while the other person is sharing. Too often when we are in thinking about how we will respond or we are thinking of a come back to the point that we never hear the other person.
  • Summarize what the other person has said. This will help to clarify any misunderstandings.
  • Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Misunderstandings happen not because people’s motives are evil but that they cannot turn their positive emotions into positive actions.
  • Be fair in your expectations.
  • Speak the truth in love… Eph 4:15.

Thirdly, we must begin to look for ways to detoxify the relationship. We bring forgiveness into the relationship. We drop our right to be hurt. We let go of the pain and we take steps to see the other person healed. The steps to the deteriation of a relationship:

  • Criticism that was once in the mind now becomes verbal.
  • Criticism becomes defensiveness. Criticism plus defensiveness equals arguments.
  • Contempt is the bext action that occurs.
  • And, finally they begin to stonewall or war against the other partner or person with whom we are in relationship.

To detoxify we must reverse the above.

And finally, we devote ourselves to rebuilding the relationship. We don’t give up easily. We don’t give up when things get rough because sometimes issues rise to the surface that can hurt the relationship if we allow them to do that.

  • Resolve our grief over the loss.
  • Build love through empathy.
  • Decrease the negative.
  • Increase the positive.

As we have noted before one of the themes that runs throughout the Bible is the theme of forgiveness and reconciliation. In the Old Testament there are two examples that best illustrate positive and negative reconciliation.

The first of these stories is David and Saul. If you remember the story you will remember that Saul had been appointed King overIsrael. But on his journey in life, he made some poor decisions that led to a life of bitterness and hatred. Remember that Saul offered the sacrifice that was to be only sacrificed by the high prelist. He became impatient and stepped in where he was not called (1 Sam. 13).

Saul:

  • Disobedient to commands of God on two occasions
  • He offered sacrifices that he was not called to do.
  • He failed to destroy all of the enemy and the spoils of war.
  • He was impatient – He offered sacrifices that he was not entitled to do.
  • He blamed others for his short comings.
  • He was jealous of David who was honored for his feats but Saul was not praised.
  • He sought to kill David although David showed Saul great grace.

We also see that Saul rejected God’s will and plan by disobeying God’s plan for destroying all of the Amalekites and not taken any spoils from the battle. But Saul listened to the people and took animals to sacrifice and also took the king of the Amalekites alive.  When Samuel arrived, he scolded Saul (1 Sam. 15).

But, rather than deal with his issues he became angry at David who was getting accolades and praise for his many fetes as the leader of the armies of Saul. In fact, if you read the story on a number of occasions Saul tried to kill David but he was never successful. In many ways we see David walk in forgiveness as he had many opportunities to kill Saul but he refused because he was guided by the spirit of the Lord.

A second illustration is found in the story of Jacob and Esau.  What a dysfunctional family we see. We talked about this before but we see that Jacob and Esau best illustrate this idea of the bridge of reconciliation. They both made a decision to approach one another. This was not an easy decision but one that was required so that true healing was realized. They met each another and dealt with the issues of the past which began to detoxify the relationship. We do not know all that happened to them after the event that brought healing to them but we certainly have the story of reconciliation and healing (Gen. 32-33).

Is reconciliation easy? NO! Is it possible? Yes! Can we do it by ourselves? NO! But we have God on our side!

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