Making the Most of an Abundant Life: Forgiveness

Making the Most of an Abundant Life:

Brother Leroy Brownlow tells about being in a worship service when a woman, very emotional, came forward at the end of the service asking for forgiveness. She had been out of worship for quite some time. There was a woman who was sitting right behind her whom Brownlow observed had quickly become shocked, pale, and nervous.

There was tension in the air as it appeared the audience was bewildered and wondered if there might be trouble. There had been trouble in the congregation and in the community - and lots of it. Tragic and heart-breaking trouble. Two murders. Court trials with opposing families. One death in the electric chair.

The woman who responded was the mother of a murderer. The woman behind her - was the wife and mother of his two victims. What would her reaction be? Will her mercy be unstrained? Will her forgiveness be big enough to welcome the mother of the man who widowed her and left her missing her husband and her son? It was!

After worship, the second woman went up to the first, clasped her hand, and said, “I’m glad you have come back to be with us in the church.” Later, the victim said, “I feel better than I have felt in years. Now I feel free.”

Forgiveness is indeed liberating. When I gave my sermon on forgiveness from Luke 7 a few months ago, it did not surprise me that that sermon was well received.

Jesus came to give us an abundant life (John 10:10) and a part of living an abundant life is forgiveness. We can be free physically but in the prison of our own hurts, or we can be imprisoned physically but free from the guilt of our past.

Joseph was in Egypt, sold into slavery by his brothers out of envy. He had not talked to his loved father for quite a few years. But then the midwife’s voice rang out: “Joseph, it’s a boy!” And Joseph named that little fellow “Manasseh.” The reason is given in Genesis 41:51 - “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” Forgiveness! Leaving the past behind.

What had Joseph forgotten? The abuse of his brothers. The slavery in the house of Potiphar. The lies of a lustful vengeful woman who sent him to prison. The chief butler whose memory was not quite Joseph had hoped it would be. It’s all different now! He’s on top. He’s the boss. Part of the secret of his rise to the top is his willingness and ability to forgive.

Joseph could have allowed himself to fall into the pit of bitterness, retaliation, vindictiveness, and vengeance. Many have. Joseph did not. Joseph was enjoying a real freedom that many people simply do not experience - the freedom within. He was not held back; he was free to rise. And rise he did with the blessings of God.

Stone walls do not a prison make -
Nor iron bars a cage.
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for a hermitage.
Richard Lovelace

Sin is common to man; if we say that we have not sinned, we are liars (1 John 1:8). Therefore, we need forgiveness from God:

Matthew 6:9-12…

We need to forgive others:

Matthew 6:12.

We need to forgive ourselves:

Philippians 3:13.

Our religion is known by its fruits. What kind of religion do we profess if we cannot accept God’s forgiveness on His terms and forgive ourselves? If your religion does not have roots deep enough to tap God and His fruit-bearing power and, in return, produce the godly fruit of forgiveness, then it is too shallow to be worth very much.

It is understanding - Luke 23:34.

Merciful - Matthew 18:27.

Forgetful - Hebrews 8:12.

Numberless - Matthew 18:21-22.

Helpful - Matthew 5:44. The sandal tree has a strong fragrance, which it gives even to the axe that is made from its wood and used to cut it down.

God-like - Psalm 86:5.

It is to our glory to forgive: Proverbs 29:11. Forgiveness distinguishes between big people and little people. Only the big and brave can forgive.

Lord Bacon said, “Generous and magnanimous minds are readiest to forgive; and it is a weakness and impotency of mind to be unable to forgive.”

We can’t live the “abundant life” if we do not forgive and forget. Charles Spurgeon stated, “If you bury a mad dog, don’t leave his tail above the ground.”

When I realize how much God has forgiven me, I can forgive others: Matthew 7:3. Sometimes, those who are guilty of the same sin find it harder to forgive others. It is their way of hiding their own sin, or even punishing themselves vicariously by refusing to forgive others.

God will not forgive me if I do not forgive. So forgiveness makes me more like God. Matthew 6:15.

It makes life easier to live. When we realize that humans are going to make mistakes; they are fallible, then it makes it easier to forgive.

Richard Baxter said, “I see that good men are not as good as I once thought they were, and find that few men are as bad as their enemies imagine.”

When John Greenleaf Whittier strolled through a cemetery, he noted and wrote:

…I strolled among the green mounds of the village burial-place;
Where, pondering how all human love and hate
Find one sad level…
Awed for myself, and pitying my race, depart,
Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave,
Swept all my pride away, and trembling, I forgave!

Take home message: Accept God’s forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Then share it with others, including yourself.


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