I am so excited to be able to teach this next lesson on Effective Prayer; forgiveness and deliverance. In case you have missed our previous lessons, or, just as a simple review, here is a list of previous lessons.
- Effective Prayer Lesson 1
- Effective Prayer Lesson 2 part 1
- Effective Prayer Lesson 2 part 2
- Effective Prayer: Allegiance, Submission, and Gratitude
- Effective Prayer: Petition and Intercession
This article is based on lesson 5 from the study, “The Essentials of Effective Prayer“. In this article, we will examine the need to be forgiven by so that we can extend forgiveness to others to build and maintain relationships with others.
I. Forgiveness from God
All people are born separated from the presence of God. What separates us is our sin nature, producing the sins that we commit against God, our Creator. In Isaiah 59, verses 1-2 teach us that our sin separates us from God and He hides His face from us because of our sin. There is nothing that we can do to bridge the gap of separation. God initiated our reconciliation and He did it by forgiving us. In order to forgive us, He had to provide a substitute to pay the price for our sin. God sent His One and only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to pay the price so that He could forgive us and bridge the gap of separation. In I John 1:9, Saint John teaches us that we must confess our sins. This means that we agree with God that we are sinners and have done wrong. We stop trying to excuse ourselves. We stop trying to blame others. We admit our guilt. When we do this, God forgives us and then cleanses us from all unrighteousness. This is applicable for our salvation and also for the mistakes that we make along the journey of faith. Back to Isaiah, in chapter 59 we see that if we sin and do not confess our sin then God chooses not to listen to our prayers. The psalmist David echos what Isaiah taught in Psalm 66:18, when he states that is we hide sin in our hearts and do not confess, God will not hear us. So, before we can forgive others, we must be first forgiven by God and it involves us confessing our sin. Now, we are able to offer forgiveness to others.
II. Forgiving others
In order to understand what it actually means to forgive, we must understand the Biblical meaning behind forgiveness. The idea is to send away or release. When we sin, we sin against God. When God forgives us, He sends our penalty in another direction. He then releases us to be able to reconcile with Him. The same happens with our relationships with the people around us. When we sin against each other, our relationship divides. In order for that divide to be bridged, one party must release the other party of their offenses. Matthew 6:12, 14-15, teaches us that once we have experienced God’s forgiveness, we want to extend that forgiveness to the people around us, so that we can be reconciled with them and share how they can be forgiven by God. On the other side of the coin, if you cannot forgive the people around you, then, you have probably never really experienced God’s forgiveness. Now, forgiveness is not something that we always want to offer, but, when we do, we want the other party to apologize first. In God’s economy, things work differently. With us, He took the initiative to be able to forgive us, way before we ever considered confessing our sin. Jesus teaches us that we are to do the exact same thing with the people around us. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus teaches His followers to take initiative to start the process of forgiveness and reconciliation, even if they are the offended party. The entire process is done for reconciliation and the establishment of good relationships. In order for these relationships to be long lasting, they must be maintained. God knows this and He teaches us how to maintain good relationships.
III. Relationship maintenance
The Apostle Paul was a man who knew what it meant to experience God’s forgiveness. He was a man who sinned against God and many different people before he was forgiven by God. Paul began to extend that same forgiveness to others. In his travels throughout the Roman Empire, Paul formed many new relationships with many different people from vastly different backgrounds. Those relationships took much work in order to be maintained. In Romans 12:10, 14-19, 21, Paul teaches us how to maintain long lasting relationships with others. There are 16 commands that, if followed, will help build and maintain long lasting, godly relationships.
- Be devoted to others in love – The word for love here is “phileo”. This is brotherly love. We are to be friends with one another. We are to spend time with each other. We are to care for each others’ needs. We are to care about the well being of each other.
- Give preference to others in honor – This carries the idea of being an example in honoring others. Do not wait for others to show honor to you. You take initiative to show honor to others. The verb here is in the present tense which means that we are to do this continually, not just for a time. It is in the middle voice, which means that God has to help you be an example in giving honor to others.
- Bless those who persecute you – To bless means to speak well and wish well. This is odd because it is done to someone who does not deserve it. This person is persecuting you. This is impossible without the help of the Lord.
- Do not curse those who curse you – This is your natural action toward those who persecute you. In order to keep from doing this, God has to help you react the correct way, instead of the way that you naturally want to react.
- Rejoice with those who rejoice – Be excited with those who are excited. Do not be a “Debbie Downer”. When good things happen to others, be happy for them. Our natural tendency is to wish that the good had happened to us instead.
- Weep with those who weep – The same is true here. When bad things happen to others, do not rejoice, even if that person is your enemy. Weep with those who weep.
- Be of the same mind with each other – In order to be of the same mind, you must have your mind filled with God’s Word. The best way for this to happen is to study the Scriptures together. Do you spend time studying the Word with your friends? This will draw you together faster and better than anything else.
- Do not be haughty – Do not think more of yourself than you actually should. Know the appropriate measure. You are not the center of the Universe.
- Associate with the lowly – Do not avoid the people society deems lesser. Associate with all. Be ready to befriend all people and try to build relationships with them.
- Do not be wise in your own estimation – Again, this is difficult for you because of your selfish nature, the same selfish nature that we all have. God has to help you realize that you are not as wise as you think that you are.
- Never pay back evil with more evil – Our natural tendency is to pay back with evil because since they did it to me, I can do it to them. I must choose not to pay back evil with more evil.
- Respect what is right – It is difficult to respect others on my own because of my selfish sin nature. Therefore, I need God’s help in teaching me to show respect to others.
- Be at peace with all men (as much as it is possible) – Do all that you can on your part to be at peace with all men. If there is no peace, try to reconcile. If it is not possible, it is because of the other party. You are free. Love on that person. Pray for that person. Help that person when the opportunity arises.
- Never take your own revenge (revenge is not bad) – Instead, allow God to take revenge for you as He will pour out His wrath on the guilty party.
- Do not be overcome by evil – When others treat you poorly, do not let that dictate your response. Do not respond negatively. Do not be controlled by the person’s evil actions. Do not react. It is like another command from Paul about not being controlled by anger. You can get angry but do not act in anger.
- Overcome evil with good – Choose to do good, even to the person who has done evil to you.
What about you, my dear friend, have you experienced God’s forgiveness? Do you extend forgiveness to others? Do you share with others how they can experience forgiveness from God? Do you have long lasting relationships that you are maintaining? How are you maintaining those relationships? Are you allowing God to control your reactions or do you allow your emotions to control you?
May the Lord help control us so that we can build and maintain long lasting relationships with the people around us, teaching them to know God so that they can experience His forgiveness and also learn to build long lasting relationships with others.