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Causes of Unforgiveness

Walking Christian on Forgiveness  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  55:34
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Looking at the difficulty of forgiving and justice.

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Biblical Counseling Keys on Forgiveness III. Causes of Unforgiveness

III. CAUSES OF UNFORGIVENESS

Amazingly, the Ten Boom’s little home became the hub of the underground network. From their secret hiding place, the fingers of the underground reached into the farthest corners of Holland. As those of the Ten Boom family lived their double lives, they shuffled the hunted Jews into their one-room hiding place for sometimes up to two weeks, while members of the underground sought to slip the stowaways out of the country to safety.

Meanwhile, Corrie lived with the constant fear that they could be caught … and with reason. The family was betrayed by a fellow watchmaker whom Corrie’s father had trained a few years earlier. As a result of this treachery, Corrie never embraced her father again nor delighted in the presence of her beloved sister Betsie. How could Corrie not be consumed with bitterness toward this “friend” who betrayed them? She suffered the severity of these words …

“Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

(Psalm 41:9)

III. CAUSES OF UNFORGIVENESS

Amazingly, the Ten Boom’s little home became the hub of the underground network.
From their secret hiding place, the fingers of the underground reached into the farthest corners of Holland.
As those of the Ten Boom family lived their double lives, they shuffled the hunted Jews into their one-room hiding place for sometimes up to two weeks, while members of the underground sought to slip the stowaways out of the country to safety.
Meanwhile, Corrie lived with the constant fear that they could be caught … and with reason.
The family was betrayed by a fellow watchmaker whom Corrie’s father had trained a few years earlier.
As a result of this treachery, Corrie never embraced her father again nor delighted in the presence of her beloved sister Betsie.
How could Corrie not be consumed with bitterness toward this “friend” who betrayed them?
Many have suffered the severity of these words … Psalm 41:9
Psalm 41:9 ESV
9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

A. Why Is It So Difficult to Forgive?

People fail to forgive others for a variety of reasons.
For example, when you have been deeply offended by a friend, forgiveness can make you feel emotionally “flat.”
In contrast, withholding forgiveness can make you feel emotionally pumped.
Therefore, you may refuse to forgive the friend who offended you because of pride.
The Bible states it this way … Proverbs 18:19
Proverbs 18:19 ESV
19 A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
Barriers to Forgiveness
No modeling of forgiveness from parents
— “I don’t know how to forgive.”
Denying that the offense ever occurred
— “I don’t want to think about it.”
Fearing to hold the guilty accountable
— “It’s really all my fault.” (This kind of thinking short-circuits the reality and the pain of being wronged.)
Not feeling that you can forgive yourself
— “No mercy for me—no mercy for you.”
Not being forgiven for your past offenses
— “They didn’t forgive me—why should I forgive them?”
Not understanding God’s forgiveness
— “God will never forgive me—I will never forgive her.”
Believing that bitterness is a required response to betrayal
— “God knows that my feelings are normal.”
Thinking that forgiveness is excusing unjust behavior
— “I’m not about to say that what she did was okay!”
Requiring an apology or show of repentance
— “He shouldn’t be forgiven because he’s not really sorry.”
Feeling a sense of power by hanging on to unforgiveness
— “He needs to see how wrong he is!”
Refusing to turn loose of revenge
— “He should pay for what he’s done.”
Harboring a prideful, hardened heart that becomes a spiritual stronghold
— “I refuse to forgive.”
These barriers to forgiveness ought to be considered in light of the scripture Proverbs 28:14
“Blessed is the man who always fears the Lord, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.”
)
Proverbs 28:14 ESV
14 Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
Question: “What should I do if I don’t want to reap the damaging results of unforgiveness?”
Answer:
Choose to change your thinking and consciously ask God to soften your heart so that you will be willing to forgive.
Unforgiveness can turn into an emotional stronghold that can damage many areas of your life.
You do have control of what you dwell on.
That is why the Bible says we are to …2 Corinthians 10:5
That is why the Bible says we are to …
“Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV
5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
)

B. How Does the Need for Justice Contribute to Unforgiveness?

We feel outraged when justice is denied.
Thus, the cry for justice is common from everyone … everyone except the guilty person waiting to receive justice!
Then the cry is not for justice, but for mercy.
Those needing mercy appreciate Psalm 51:1
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.”
Psalm 51:1 ESV
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
)
But why is the need for justice so strong and natural, and why is forgiveness so difficult and unnatural?
But why is the need for justice so strong and natural, and why is forgiveness so difficult and unnatural?
Three reasons:
1. God has instilled within every human heart a sense of right and wrong; therefore, we feel a need for justice when we are wronged. Romans 2:15
“The requirements of the law are written on their hearts [on the hearts of even the heathen].”
Romans 2:15 ESV
15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
Based on the law, forgiveness seems inappropriate and unnatural.
2. Based on the law, forgiveness seems inappropriate and unnatural.
2. Based on the law, forgiveness seems inappropriate and unnatural. Deuteronomy 19:21
“Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”
Deuteronomy 19:21 ESV
21 Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
Because God is a God of justice, somebody has to pay. That Somebody was Jesus. The death of Jesus on the cross fulfilled the justice of God. (See .) In the same way that God needed to have His justice satisfied by Jesus’ dying on the cross, shouldn’t we expect justice before we extend mercy and forgiveness?
3. Because God is a God of justice, somebody has to pay.
That Somebody was Jesus.
The death of Jesus on the cross fulfilled the justice of God.
Romans 3:25–26 ESV
25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
In the same way that God needed to have His justice satisfied by Jesus’ dying on the cross, shouldn’t we expect justice before we extend mercy and forgiveness?
In the same way that God needed to have His justice satisfied by Jesus’ dying on the cross, shouldn’t we expect justice before we extend mercy and forgiveness?
The truth is that although everyone must face God’s justice, Jesus was the payment for everyone’s wrongs.
While governments execute justice, individually we are to extend mercy.
We are to leave individual justice to God.
The Bible exhorts us to …Luke 6:36
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Luke 6:36 ESV
36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

C. How Is a Spiritual Stronghold Developed?

In a military war, if your enemy gains a “foothold,” that means your enemy has gained some of your ground.…
Your enemy has taken some of your territory.
Now, with that foothold, your foe has a secure base from which there can be further advance.
If you have been hurt and as a result harbor anger in your heart, realize that your unresolved anger can be a foothold for the enemy.
The Bible says, Ephesians 4:26-27
“ ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
Ephesians 4:26–27 ESV
26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.
The Development of a Spiritual Stronghold
The Development of a Spiritual Stronghold
#1 When you refuse to forgive your offender, you have unresolved anger.
#2 Unresolved anger, in turn, allows Satan to set up a stronghold in your mind.
#3 This stronghold is a fortified place from which “flaming arrows of the evil one” are flung
Ephesians 6:16 ESV
16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
).
#4 These flaming arrows of accusation and unforgiveness can continue to burn in your heart and keep you mentally captive to do the enemy’s will.
#4 These flaming arrows of accusation and unforgiveness can continue to burn in your heart and keep you mentally captive to do the enemy’s will.
At this point you are engaged in spiritual warfare.
In order to win the spiritual war, recognize that the battle for freedom is fought in your mind.
You need to take captive every thought of unforgiveness and release your unresolved anger to God.
The Bible prepares us for this struggle… Colossians 3:8
“You must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”
)
Colossians 3:8 ESV
8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

D. Can You Be Totally Forgiven by God?

You can’t truly forgive others until you have God’s forgiveness in your own life.
Of all the world’s religions, only the Bible teaches that God forgives sin completely.
God is ready to forgive each and every one of our offenses.
Yet, many refuse His forgiveness because they don’t understand mercy and grace.
Grace is getting what you don’t deserve (forgiveness and heaven).
Mercy is not getting what you do deserve (unforgiveness and hell).
Right now, God wants to show you His mercy and grace.
Through Jesus Christ, God wants to give you His forgiveness—forgiveness that is found only in a secure relationship with Him.
How Can You Find God’s Forgiveness?
#1 God’s Purpose for You … is Salvation.
— What was God’s motive in sending Christ to earth? To condemn you?
No … to express His love for you by saving you!
“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
John 3:16–17 ESV
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
)
— What was Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth? To make everything perfect and to remove all sin?
— What was Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth? To make everything perfect and to remove all sin?
No … to forgive your sins, empower you to have victory over sin, and enable you to live a fulfilled life!
“I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
John 10:10 ESV
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
)
#2 Your Problem … is Sin.
#2 Your Problem … is Sin.
— What exactly is sin?
Sin is living independently of God’s standard—knowing what is right, but choosing wrong.
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”
James 4:17 ESV
17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
)
— What is the major consequence of sin?
— What is the major consequence of sin?
Spiritual death, spiritual separation from God.
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 6:23 ESV
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
#3 God’s Provision for You … is the Savior.
#3 God’s Provision for You … is the Savior.
— Can anything remove the penalty for sin?
Yes. Jesus died on the cross to personally pay the penalty for your sins.
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
)
Romans 5:8 ESV
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
— What is the solution to being separated from God?
— What is the solution to being separated from God?
Being in Jesus Christ as the only way to God the Father.
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ ”
John 14:6 ESV
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
#4 Your Part … is Surrender.
#4 Your Part … is Surrender.
— Place your faith in (rely on) Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and reject your “good works” as a means of gaining God’s approval.
“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
)
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
— Give Christ control of your life, entrusting yourself to Him.
— Give Christ control of your life, entrusting yourself to Him.
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?’ ”
Matthew 16:24–26 ESV
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
The moment you choose to believe in Him—entrusting your life to Christ—He gives you His Spirit to live inside you. Then the Spirit of Christ enables you to live the fulfilled life God has planned for you, and He gives you His power to forgive others so that your heart can begin to heal. If you want to be fully forgiven by God and become the person God created you to be, you can tell Him in a simple, heartfelt prayer like this:
The moment you choose to believe in Him—entrusting your life to Christ—He gives you His Spirit to live inside you.
Then the Spirit of Christ enables you to live the fulfilled life God has planned for you, and He gives you His power to forgive others so that your heart can begin to heal.
If you want to be fully forgiven by God and become the person God created you to be, you can obey Him according to the simple of salvation He extends to all.
What Can You Expect Now?
If you obey His commands, look at what God says!
“In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”
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Ephesians 1:7–8 ESV
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
Question: “I know God has forgiven me of my sins, but how do I forgive myself?”
Question: “I know God has forgiven me of my sins, but how do I forgive myself?”
Answer:
Have you ever considered that being unwilling to forgive what God has forgiven is discrediting God’s gift of mercy toward you?
It is placing yourself as a higher judge than God Himself.
It is saying:
• “God, you are wrong in forgiving me because I don’t deserve to be forgiven.”
• “Christ’s sacrifice on the cross must not be sufficient to cleanse me of my sins.”
• “Something else must be done to make up for what is lacking in Jesus’ sacrifice.”
While not forgiving yourself may make you feel like you are being humble before God, realize that in such a situation your focus is not on God but on yourself.
Humility is bowing your knee to God and submitting to His authority and His right to declare righteous whomever He chooses.
After all, who are you to overrule God?
Since Satan is an “accuser” of Christians
Revelation 12:10 ESV
10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
when you continue blaming yourself, you align yourself with Satan, whose goal is to keep you feeling defeated.
when you continue blaming yourself, you align yourself with Satan, whose goal is to keep you feeling defeated.
Instead, humbly thank God for His undeserved mercy.
Thank Him for His undeserved grace and live in His undeserved forgiveness.
“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
)
Titus 3:5 ESV
5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

E. What Is the Root Cause of Unforgiveness?

Everyone has been created with three God-given needs:
for love, for significance, and for security.
Many people who have been hurt feel insignificant and powerless; therefore, they try to get their need for significance met by withholding forgiveness.
Unforgiveness gives them a sense of power and superiority.
If you were ever betrayed by a friend, for a time you may have felt powerless to stop the pain.
Since no one likes to feel powerless, unforgiveness provides an illusion of power.
By refusing to forgive, you feel a sense of power.
By holding on to hatred, you feel infused with strength.
By retaliating with revenge, you carry out a power play.
Wrong Belief:
It’s natural for me to resent those who have wronged me.
If I forgive them, they will get away with it.
My offenders need to pay for the wrongs committed against me.”
Result:
This belief reflects an attitude of pride that sets you up as a judge higher than God Himself—God, who is willing to forgive and forget.
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
)
Isaiah 43:25 ESV
25 “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
Right Belief: “Because God has totally forgiven me, I can release my resentment and choose to forgive others. I will rely on Christ, who is living within me, to forgive through me.”
Right Belief:
Because God has totally forgiven me, I can release my resentment and choose to forgive others.
I will rely on Christ, who is living within me, to forgive through me.
Result:
This belief reflects a heart of humility that results in a desire to forgive others in the same way God forgives you.
“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 ESV
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
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