July 2019   
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Ephesians 4:25-32; Isaiah 41:10; Hebrews 13:5b

What was your response the last time someone hurt you?
•    Perhaps you felt the urge to retaliate.
•    Maybe you took no action but harbored bitterness in your heart.
Either way, you failed to realize that you do great damage to yourself when you have an unforgiving spirit. Failure to forgive is a devastating form of self-punishment, a destructive landmine in the path of the believer.

In Ephesians 4:32, the apostle Paul writes,
        Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
It sounds fairly simple, doesn't it? Although it’s simple, it's not necessarily easy. When someone offends us, whether the hurt came by word or deed, forgiveness can be terribly difficult. The  Devil will entice you to be so angry that you take revenge. As a mature believer, you must avoid the enemy's landmine and choose the peace of forgiveness as Christ has shown you by His example.

If you want to understand unforgiveness, you must first know what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is
•    the willingness to give up your resentment
•    toward someone who has wronged you,
•    regardless how serious or painful the wrong might have been.
Forgiveness is
•    more than just saying some words.
•    It must come from the heart.
•    You renounce any desire to get even.

We can identify three elements to forgiveness:
•    give up resentment about the wrong
•    give up resentment toward the wrongdoer          and
•    give up plans for retaliation.

Unforgiveness on the other hand, is a deliberate mindset to do the opposite:                     to
•    resent the wrong
•    resent the wrongdoer     and
•    seek revenge.
We carry the illusion that other people have caused our misery. In reality, we choose to be unforgiving. It is a deliberate decision and a self-inflicted pain. Resentment is an "acid" that eats through the spirit within us.

Few people realize the terrible effects of unforgiveness. In Ephesians 4:31, Paul associates unforgiveness with bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice. It is hard to understand why anyone would choose those attitudes over tenderness, gentleness, and a forgiving spirit. The unforgiving heart clings to the past, refusing to extend to others what our heavenly Father has extended to us. As a result of a resentful attitude, bitterness takes root in the heart and spreads its poison to choke out every godly trait there.

Let’s look at the disobedience of unforgiveness. This root of bitterness will keep you from being the person God wants you to be  and prevent you from carrying out His will for your life. The refusal to forgive is an act of pride and rebellion, deliberate disobedience to the Word of God. When He taught His disciples how to pray, Jesus added Matthew 6:15,
    If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

This does not mean that believers lose their salvation. It does indicate God will hold them accountable and there will be discipline. We are never given the right to harbor an unforgiving spirit. In Matthew 18:22, Jesus teaches us that we must forgive "seventy times seven," which means we must always forgive. As we already read, Paul wrote that we should bear with one another and forgive one another in the same way God has forgiven us. These passages from God's Word make it very clear that unforgiveness is never an option for the committed believer.

The consequences of an unforgiving spirit are devastating.
•    Our witnessing, our giving, and our overall spiritual growth are terribly weakened by a heart that carries bitterness.
•    Every other aspect of life is affected as well.
•    Because others don't enjoy being around bitter people, our relationships are poisoned.
•    When we are loaded down with stress, anxiety, and resentment, physical illness may result. As a counselor, I know that many people today are physically ill because they live day by day, year by year, with the cancer of an unforgiving heart because they fear self-confrontation.

To confront an unforgiving spirit, we must
•    take seriously the fact that we have that spirit
•    assume full responsibility for our own decisions and actions
•    acknowledge that unforgiveness is a sin
•    confess it honestly to God
•    lay our anger down--strip it away   and
•    ask God's forgiveness.

After that, we should begin praying for the other person. If that person has been aware of our bitterness, we should go to them and ask their forgiveness. We can live out God's grace by asking Him to show us something we can do on that person's behalf—serving them instead of resenting them.
•    Jesus teaches us that God wants to answer our prayers but that we must first forgive others. If we don't, it will make us bitter and will affect our prayer life and all of our worship.
•    Jesus teaches that when we are in conflict, we are to stop even in the middle of our worship and go to set matters right.
•    However, we hve the right to defend ourselves.
Due to fear, we prevent the Devil from trapping us again by refusing to rehash the same old issue or allowing the bitterness to seep back in. This debt must be forgiven and canceled in the same way our sins are.

Some Christians believe they have forgiven the person who wronged them, but the roots of bitterness are still deep in their hearts. So how can you know you have truly forgiven someone? There are two indications that you have been obedient to Christ in this area.
•    First, you know you have forgiven when your feelings toward the other person have changed. When you see him or her, you will be aware that the resentment is gone.
•    Second, you know your forgiveness is genuine when you feel concern for the other person--you care about his or her spiritual welfare and you want what is best for him or her.

God blesses us when we choose to forgive others. He removes all the baggage of resentment, malice, and wrath that weighs us down. Then, all the goodness of His righteousness can come flooding into our spirits and our lives can be as joyful and fulfilling as He created them to be. God is righteous, sovereign, and just. In time, even the one who wronged you will stand before God in judgment. Your responsibility is simply to let go of all  resentment, owing no one anything except the ongoing debt of love. Unforgiveness may explode slowly, but it destroys us just the same.

Have you ever considered how your emotions affect your life? Love influences feelings, behavior, and even your looks. The same is true of fear.
•    It can affect your thoughts, conduct, and even your physical health.
•    Apprehensions have the power to hold you back from all that God wants to accomplish in your life.
•    Satan uses the emotion of fear to prevent you from enjoying what the Lord has planned for you.
You may think that you don't have any fears, but the truth is that nearly everyone at least has concerns. Any fears may be hidden, and that makes them even more dangerous.

God is greater than any terror your mind can imagine. He wants you to walk in courage and faith (Isaiah 41:10). There is no fear in Christ as Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:7 and Philippians 4:6-7.

And Christ Jesus Himself said,
        Do not be afraid, or do not fear
•    when calling Peter, James, and John to be His disciples
•    when he calmed the wind and waves
•    when He performed other miracles
•    when He appeared to His disciples and the women after His resurrection
Perhaps we remember most his comforting words in John 14:27.

           Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

There are six basic things that all of us are anxious about at one point or another: fears of
•    poverty
•    death
•    sickness
•    old age
•    criticism       and
•    the loss of a loved one.

Human reaction of fear is not a sin. In fact, some fears are useful or even wise.
•    Protective fear usually helps keep us safe. For example, I would not try to pet a grizzly bear!
•    Fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. means that we are to reserve reverence, honor, and exaltation for the holy God we worship.

Negative fear, which becomes a landrnine, is the kind of anxiety that damages and enslaves us (Joshua 1:9). Fear is a normal part of life, but not one that should hold us constantly in its grip. Our Heavenly Father gives us promises to hold on to so we never have to be dominated by fear.

Fear is so damaging because it is as though we constantly have a message playing in our mind telling us to be afraid.
•    We are programmed early in life by others to be anxious concerning relationships or certain situations. That fear continually torments and punishes us, paralyzing us from doing God's will.
•    Our worries dominate all our goals and desires, blocking our spiritual growth and preventing us from building our faith. This does not honor God in the least. In fact, our anxiety is a way of saying we do not think God is powerful enough to protect us.
•    We become increasingly doubtful of the Lord's powerful promises. Since we don't trust God, we begin to assess and respond to His circumstances in our own strength and reasoning power.
•    The result is that we come up empty in life.

Fear simply does not fit the life of a child of God. We may have moments of fear, but we should handle them quickly, remembering God's promise that He will use all things for our benefit and His glory.

What are the sources of fear? Where does this terrible landmine come from?
•    Fear can be the product of sin because anxiety and guilt are a natural result of our transgressions.
•    Fear can also result from things we have been taught or from our own imaginations, or from the environment.
•    Doubt of God, poor self-image, and ignorance of God's Word are other sources of our worries.
We must have our hearts fortified by God's promises so that we won't be so susceptible to the enemy's weapon. The more we dwell on God's Word, the more courageous we will be.

Terrible results occur for those who give in to the tyranny of fear.  Anxious people are afraid to take risks.
•    They are incapable of launching out on the great adventures God has prepared for them.
•    They are indecisive.
•    They will procrastinate on important projects because of being fearful of making the wrong decision.
•    Self-confidence will be undermined.
•    They will give in to an irrational course of action because of internal torment.
•    Ultimately, fear will dominate their entire life.
•    They long to be free from anxieties, which requires giving in to their greatest fear--lack of control.
People only experience true freedom when they give control of their  life to God.

Do you really want to be free of fear? The answer should come easily, since no one wants to suffer. Being free from fear requires you to step out in faith.
•    You must recognize and admit that the basic cause of your fear is your failure to trust in the sovereignty of God.
•    You must also make a choice to be courageous and take your eyes off the cause of your apprehension, and gaze upon God instead.
God will liberate you from those powerful emotions if you will trust and obey Him (Isaiah 64:4).

Only God can free you from the devastating landmine of fear.
•    Seek Him through His Word and in prayer.
•    Trust Him to set you free.
•    Reprogram your mind with His truth.
•    Trust Him to fill your every need.

Why is there is no need to fear? The Lord is with you.
•    He is not out of reach in some distant place
•    He is there beside you at every moment.
•    He is your God, and He loves you more than anyone else ever could.
God will strengthen and help you, no matter what happens (Isaiah 41:10).

These are solid promises from His Word, and He's never broken a single pledge He's ever made. You can expect Him to fill your every need, no matter what obstacle or challenge you face in life. This is your wonderful heritage as a child of God—so embrace Him and the wonderful victory that's yours through Him. Imagine living your whole life and missing all the good things the Heavenly Father has prepared for you.

Every person in the world has an opportunity to live this earthly life to the fullest, but some do not take it because they spend their time in bondage to fear. Don't allow that to happen to you. The next time you feel anxious, take hold of God's Word and be courageous. In Hebrews 13:5 your Heavenly Father has promised that He will never leave you nor forsake you. He wants you to be able to proclaim your faith in Him with confidence.

No matter what the Lord calls you to do, He will give you the power and wisdom to accomplish it. He calls you to serve Him out of a desire to fellowship with you and bless you.

★    You can't depend on your own goodness to get to Heaven. We've all sinned  (Romans 3:23). Jesus paid the penalty for your sins with His death on the cross and His resurrection (John 3:16).
★    To be forgiven and be guaranteed a place in Heaven, you need to repent of sin, confess that you are a sinner, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart (Acts 2:21).
★    You can use the following prayer or your own words, but you must actually believe in your heart that your prayer is real:
             Lord Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed. Please forgive all my wrongdoing and let me live in relationship with You from now on.
             I receive You as my Savior and recognize that the work You accomplished once and for all on the cross was done on my behalf.
             Thank You for saving me. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You.
             In Your name I pray, Amen.