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Healing Damaged Emotions (Part 6)




Victory Over Unforgiveness

Ephesians 4:26-27, 29-32

I. Introduction: Unforgiveness is an ungodly attitude that doesn’t fit in the lives of believers. Christ gave His life so those who believe in Him could be forgiven. As His followers, we are commanded to forgive as He did (Eph. 4:32). When we refuse, Satan gains a foothold in our lives and keeps us from becoming the people God desires.

II. Key Terms Defined:

A. Forgiveness is “giving up resentment against someone and surrendering one’s right to retaliate—no matter what another person did.”

B. Unforgiveness is “a deliberate, willful refusal to give up resentment or an insistence that someone pay for a wrong that was committed.”

C. We struggle with forgiveness because it seems to let wrongdoers get away with their offenses. However, we must realize that, when we accepted Christ as our Savior, we surrendered our right to retaliate.

III. There are many reasons why we shouldn’t hold on to this negative emotion:

A. It doesn’t fit our identity in Christ. Since we’ve been forgiven of all our sins, we shouldn’t hold grudges against those who have wronged us.

B. It plants a seed of bitterness. A refusal to forgive is like a seed planted in the heart, which grows into a root of bitterness (Heb. 12:15).

C. It becomes self-imposed bondage. Carrying a load of resentment is a burden we weren’t meant to bear. When we surrender it to Christ, He gives us rest (Matt. 11:28).

D. It is rebellion against God. Unforgiveness is sin because it’s a refusal to do what the Lord commands.

E. It breaks our fellowship with the Lord. Jesus said, “If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matt. 6:15). This doesn’t mean we lose our salvation, but we cannot be right with God while holding onto resentment.

F. It causes self-inflicted suffering. Holding onto a grudge causes more pain for us than the offenders.

G. It becomes a barrier. Those who blame others and refuse to surrender bitterness that cannot achieve the prosperity and blessings God has in store.

IV. When Peter asked how often he should forgive, Jesus told him “seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21-22). If we set limits, the negative consequences of unforgiveness begin.

A. A root of bitterness springs up. Harbored resentment is not a secret attitude. It overflows from our hearts (Heb. 12:15).

B. Our prayer lives suffer. Our prayers will be ineffective until we deal with our bitterness.

C. Our worship is hindered. Resentment keeps us from praising the Lord and interacting with His people.

D. Our witness is damaged. We can’t tell others about Christ’s forgiveness when we hold grudges.

E. It creates unresolved conflict. If we want to have Christ’s peace and joy, we must resolve conflicts with others.

F. It blocks spiritual growth. Anytime we tolerate sin, we stop maturing.

G. It hinders people around us. A bitter spirit can be passed on to others, especially our children.

H. It affects us physically. Unforgiveness can take a toll on our bodies.

V. In order to overcome bitterness, we must:

A. Acknowledge it’s serious business. We can’t take unforgiveness lightly. It affects our relationships with God as well as our future plans.

B. Assume responsibility for it. We need to look beyond the hurt and focus on our own lack of forgiveness.

C. Confess it to the Lord. We should admit to God that we’re guilty of holding on to resentment.

D. Acknowledge it’s a violation of God’s Word. Until we see it from His perspective, we won’t understand it’s an act of rebellion against Him.

E. Ask the Lord to forgive us. We should admit our disobedience and seek His forgiveness.

F. Ask God to enable us to forgive. Giving up our right to retaliate isn’t easy, but the Holy Spirit will empower us to lay it down.

G. Start praying for those who hurt us. When the offense is no longer paramount, we are free to ask the Lord to work in the lives of those who did us harm.

H. Do something for others. Doing something good for those who hurt us is a powerful expression of forgiveness.

I. Go to the ones who offended us. The Lord may lead us to seek forgiveness from others for our wrong attitudes and actions.

J. Express forgiveness, even if the offender has died. We can vocalize our forgiveness while imagining that person seated in a chair. This works because God hears our conversation and settles the matter in our hearts.

VI. We’ll know we’ve completely forgiven others when:

A. We don’t see offenders in the same way.

B. Harsh feelings are replaced with a different attitude towards people.

C. We are willing to accept wrongdoers just as they are.

D. We will try to understand why they acted a certain way.

E. We won’t try to avoid them if we happen to meet them unexpectedly.

VII. Conclusion: If we ignore the sin of unforgiveness, it will continue to hold us in bondage. Jesus Christ set us free (John 8:36). He forgave us of all our sins and gives us the grace and strength to lay down our hurts and trust Him to handle our situations. When we do, we can display the fruits of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) and gain true freedom from this negative emotion.

(Dr. Charles F. Stanley. Copyright 2012 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org.)