Faithlife Sermons

Unforgiveness Characteristics

Walking Christian on Forgiveness  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  55:51
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Taking a look at the forgiving and the unforgiving heart.

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Here stands the enemy, the former Nazi SS officer. His very presence stands for cruelty and the stench of crematoriums at Ravensbruck. As Corrie ten Boom stares at the rough hand offered by her former captor, she knows in her head what she has to do—forgive! But her emotions scream silently in opposition. The very message she has been sharing with the victims of Nazi brutality emphasizes that she must forgive those who persecuted her. Forgiveness is a necessity. But Corrie stands paralyzed as the battle rages between her mind and her emotions.
And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. [My sister] Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
Imagine Corrie’s dilemma. She knows that those who have forgiven their enemies have also been able to rebuild their lives regardless of the physical horrors they suffered. But those who continue to nurse their bitterness remain imprisoned … not in Hitler’s horrid concentration camps … but within their own wounded souls. Corrie knows the cost of bitterness—the very bitterness she is battling—because the Bible says,
“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Hebrews 12:15
Hebrews 12:15 ESV
15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

A. Why Should We Get Rid of Unforgiveness?

When you refuse to forgive, your unforgiveness keeps you emotionally stuck to both the offense and the offender. A continual refusal to forgive digs a deeper hole in which you can easily hide your hardened heart. Blaming others is a favorite tactic to justify unforgiveness. You can become too comfortable in the unnatural habitat of self-righteousness and self-pity. Your past hurts, though buried, are still very much alive. And because they are not released in God’s way, oddly enough, you become like your offender (but you are blind to it). Not forgiving your offender is an offense to God, thereby making you an offender to God as well! The Bible says to confess and renounce this sin.…
“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
Proverbs 28:13
Proverbs 28:13 ESV
13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
The Unforgiving Heart Is
The Unforgiving Heart Has
Judgmental—focusing on the past wrongs that the offender committed
Condemnation—being intolerant of any present failures of the offender
“Do not judge.… Do not condemn.…Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Luke 6:37
Merciless—rehearsing the reasons why the offender does not deserve mercy
Contempt—looking down without mercy on the offender
“Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!”
James 2:13
Resentful—begrudging the successes of the offender
Envy—coveting the accomplishments of the offender
“Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple.”
Job 5:2
Vengeful—rejoicing when the offender experiences failure, difficulty, or hurt
Retaliation—desiring to get even with the offender
“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice.”
Proverbs 24:17
Maligning—talking to others about the faults of the offender with the intent to hurt
Slander—sharing unnecessary negatives about the offender
“He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool.”
Proverbs 10:18
Prideful—elevating self above the offender, who is considered less deserving
Haughtiness—acting with arrogance toward the offender
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Proverbs 16:18
Profane—verbally abusive toward the offender
Bitterness—harboring hostility toward the offender
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
Romans 3:14
Complaining—and quick to quarrel over personal choices, words, and deeds
Resistance—arguing about any advice or constructive criticism regarding the offender
“Do everything without complaining or arguing.”
Philippians 2:14
Impatient—exhibiting little patience while being easily provoked
Annoyance—feeling easily irritated by the offender
“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”
Proverbs 19:11
Bitter—feeling weighed down with unresolved anger
Negativity—feeling no joy and no approval concerning the offender
“Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.”
Proverbs 14:10
Because of unforgiveness, the offended person becomes spiritually dry—trying to feel connected with God but lacking spiritual growth. As a direct result of unforgiveness, the offender’s prayer life is blocked.
“If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Matthew 6:15 ESV
15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Question: “How can I forgive someone who has not apologized or shown any kind of repentance?”
Forgiveness has nothing to do with repentance.
Forgiveness is not based on what the offender does or deserves, but rather on giving the gift of grace to your offender—a gift that is not deserved.
The real question is: “Do you want to be Christlike?”
When Jesus was being crucified on the cross, His enemies had neither apologized nor repented, yet He extended His heart of forgiveness by praying,
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34 ESV
34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.
Question: “If I forgive those who offend me, I’ll be a classic enabler. Why should offenders change if there is no consequence for their offensive behavior?”
Forgiveness is not enablement.
If a man borrows money from you and later refuses to repay you, still you should forgive him.
Release both him, as well as the offense, to God … for your sake, if for no other, so that you do not become bitter.
But you should not enter into another monetary relationship with him.
Do not give irresponsible people more opportunities to be irresponsible with you.
Enabling others means that by not establishing a boundary or by not having a consequence for when others violate a boundary, you enable them to continue in their bad behavior.
• Enablement puts you in a position of being offended again and again.
• Enabling never helps offenders change, but further ingrains their bad habits. However, one “consequence” to your offenders is that they will not have other opportunities to “use you” or offend you again.
• Enablers are classic people-pleasers who do not say no when they should say no. If you say yes to irresponsible people when you should say no, you are actually saying no to Christ. The apostle Paul said,
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Galatians 1:10 ESV
10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

B. What Does the Forgiving Heart Look Like?

When the Spirit of Christ is rooted within you, He produces fruit consistent with the character of Christ. The moment you entrust your life to Jesus, you are “sealed” with the Holy Spirit, who dwells within you for the rest of your life. (See Ephesians 1:13–14.) Just as orange trees produce oranges and banana trees produce bananas, the Spirit of Christ produces the character of Christ in a Christian. Therefore, the next time you are wronged, allow the Holy Spirit the freedom to produce His fruit of forgiveness in you.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Galatians 5:22–23 ESV
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The Forgiving Heart Is
The Forgiving Heart Has
Loving—not keeping a record of the bad things the offender has done
• A loving spirit, allowing the possibility that the offender can change
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8
Joyous—taking to heart the goodness of God and His sovereignty over all events in life, even the painful ones
• A joyful awareness that God will use trials to bring triumph
“I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through … the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.”
Philippians 1:18–19
Peaceful—seeking to resolve any difficulty, hurt, or division and wanting the offender to be right with God and to be blessed by Him
• A peaceful demeanor that lowers the guard of the offender and paves the way for reconciliation
“Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”
James 3:18
Patient—accepting that the offender is not “fixed in cement” and could possibly change
• A patient commitment to wait for the right day to deal with difficulties and the right time to talk about them
“Love is patient.”
1 Corinthians 13:4
Kind—looking for and acting in practical ways to express kind deeds and to meet needs
• A kind deed on behalf of the offender that is unexpected, unforeseen, and unannounced
“A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself.”
Proverbs 11:17
Good—holding to moral principles and purity even in the midst of controversy
• A good heart, reflecting the highest moral character—the character of Christ
“Give an answer.… Do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
1 Peter 3:15–16
Faithful—praying that those who have caused such pain might have changed lives
• A faithful commitment to pray for those who have been hurtful
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
Romans 12:12
Gentle—taking into account the woundedness of the offender and responding to harshness with a calm gentleness
• A gentle response, which understands that often “hurt people hurt people”
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Proverbs 15:1
Self-controlled—deciding ahead of time how to respond when conflict arises
• A controlled response that is Christlike so that, no matter what is said or done, there is a positive attitude toward the offender
“Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled.”
1 Peter 1:13
Question: “How do I know whether I have genuinely forgiven someone?”
After someone has offended you, you can test the “quality” of your forgiveness by asking yourself the following questions:
• “Do I still expect my offender ‘to pay’ for the wrong done to me?”
• “Do I still have bitter feelings toward my offender?”
• “Do I still have vengeful thoughts toward my offender?”
To forgive someone does not in any way mean that you do not want justice, but it simply means that you are leaving the offense entirely in God’s hands. You are refusing to harbor hateful feelings toward your offender. Remember, forgiveness is an ongoing process which requires that you choose to forgive every time the offense comes to mind … and that you choose to pray for the offender every time the offense crosses your mind.
“Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.”
1 Samuel 12:23 ESV
23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.

C. The High Cost of Unforgiveness versus the High Reward of Forgiveness

Carrying around unforgiveness is like carrying a sack of cement all day long. If you hold unforgiveness in your heart, you are walking around with a weight that God never intended you to carry. Unforgiveness becomes a burden, and Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.
Matthew 11:28 ESV
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7 ESV
7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Unforgiveness blocks the door to salvation and God’s forgiveness.
Forgiveness opens the door to salvation and God’s forgiveness.
“If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Matthew 6:14–15
Unforgiveness allows a root of bitterness to grow.
Forgiveness keeps a root of bitterness from growing.
“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Hebrews 12:15
Unforgiveness opens a door to Satan in our lives.
Forgiveness closes a door to Satan in our lives.
“I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”
2 Corinthians 2:10–11
Unforgiveness causes us to walk in darkness.
Forgiveness brings us into the light.
“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.… Whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.”
1 John 2:9–11
Unforgiveness is of Satan.
Forgiveness is of God.
“If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts.… Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.”
James 3:14–15
Unforgiveness reflects a godless heart.
Forgiveness reflects a godly heart.
“The godless in heart harbor resentment.”
Job 36:13
Unforgiveness makes us captive to sin.
Forgiveness frees us.
“I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
Acts 8:23
Unforgiveness grieves the Spirit of God.
Forgiveness is empowered by the Spirit of God.
“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
Ephesians 4:30–31
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