Jesus visited his disciples three times after He rose again, each time with purpose. One of His tasks was to help them transform from a fearful, angry, lost group of followers to the founding fathers of the Christian church. Given this task, it’s fascinating to read what He chose to do and say during these important meetings.
The many things that had transpired, leading up to His crucifixion, had left His disciples traumatized with fear and failure.
“Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’
- He blessed them with peace a second time. This was apparently necessary. He may have basically been saying, “Calm down, it’s ok. It’s going to be alright” because they were still so rattled by recent events.
- He said to them, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you,” commissioning them to spread the Gospel throughout the world.
- He breathed on them, imparting the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort them.
- He told them, “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” This is important. Their task was to spread the good news that through Jesus’ death and resurrection, peoples’ sins are forgiven. But for that to be true, they had to forgive everyone they preached to. This included the authorities and crowds that betrayed their Lord, Jesus. These were the very people they were currently hiding from in the house where Jesus visited them.
He had given them a mission, implying that they had to get their hearts right if they were going to be effective.
Some of us are in the same position as Jesus’ disciples. We have had to choose to forgive, or to be held back by not forgiving. Many of us don’t realize that unforgiveness, bitterness, anger and hate all have the potential to keep the door to our true calling in Jesus locked. Like the disciples, we have to accept His peace and His direction, be led of the Holy Spirit, and forgive.
Here are 5 steps to finding the freedom to be released into our true and best destinies through authentic forgiveness;
5 Steps to Freedom through Forgiveness
Decide then and there to give each person a fresh start in your mind, as Jesus has given each of us, every day. Lamentations 3:22-23 says His mercies “are new every morning.” Praise God.
2. Bless each person. Romans 12:14 says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” Luke 6:28 says, “bless those who curse you.” Bless each person you have forgiven by formally pronouncing a blessing of them before God. Then pray, “bless them, Lord,” every time you are tempted to think thoughts that counter forgiveness in your heart.
When we trust God to deal with the other person, you in turn are also blessed.
3. Pray for each person. Prayer is the beginning of change. Luke 6:28 also says, “pray for those who mistreat you.” It’s helpful to give that person to God, asking Him to intervene in the situation, to work in your heart and the other person’s heart, and to see salvation and change.
4. Release them to God, and release them to love. Just as our unforgiveness keeps us in bondage, it also keeps our offender in bondage. Remember Jesus told His disciples that they need to forgive people in order for them to be forgiven by God.
God has given us tremendous responsibility. Luke 7:47 says of the woman who poured expensive oil on Him, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” We need to give each person to God, saying “I trust you have this, God.” And we need to set them free to live in the light of forgiveness, which produces love in their lives.
The joy of our freedom as a result of our own forgiveness should overflow in our hearts.
Everybody wins when forgiveness becomes the relational standard in the lives of Jesus’ followers. It’s possible that one of the reasons why forgiveness is so hard is because it’s powerfully opposed by the enemy. Unforgiveness enslaves. Forgiveness liberates. Grudges, bitterness, anger, hate, revenge and fear are all friends of unforgiveness. Clear your heart of all such things and begin to walk in a new freedom. God will turn situations
See also the related article,
The Cost of Unforgiveness