During the last hours of this age, there will be two opposing factions in the world: those whose hearts are wrought with bitterness, resentment, and hatred; and those whose love has actually increased and who are experiencing the power of the kingdom of God. Jesus foretold these conditions in Matthew: "At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. . . . Because lawlessness [iniquity] is increased, most people's love will grow cold" (Matt. 24:10, 12). But then He added: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come" (v. 14). if we are to attain this great love, we will continually be forced to make the choice between mercy and unforgiveness.
WARNING- If we do not walk in a forgiving attitude, we will certainly become prey to an embittered spirit. If it is indeed God's plan to allow wickedness and holiness to grow to full maturity, then we must guard our hearts beforehand from reacting in bitterness and unforgiveness. The increasing lawlessness will certainly give us occasions to lose love.
TRUTH- Yet just to survive in this cruel world, we often withdraw from the vulnerability of love. We cannot choose cautious, selective love and also walk in the power of God's kingdom. To counter pain, we unconsciously shut down our love, for it is love that makes us vulnerable. God wants us to be a people whose love is growing hot, not cold.
Jesus did not say we had to trust our enemies, but He did say that we had to love them. You ask, "Why?" One reason God allows difficulties is to test us. He wants to see if our Christianity is merely an intellectual pursuit or if following Him is truly the highest passion of our hearts. Thus He tells us to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44).
CELEBRATE- Some of you have gone through rejection and betrayal, but the Lord says you did not fail. You have continued to love. Although you went through great pain, you have forgiven those who have hurt you. You passed the test.
CONTINUE THE HARD WORK- Some of us still have certain individuals in our lives who we have not forgiven and whom we do not love. Perhaps you are right; they do not deserve your forgiveness. But what you do not realize is the consequence of your anger.
Live in the Here and Now SATAN'S PLAN- As long as you refuse to forgive, a part of you is trapped in the past where you are continually being reminded of your pain. Even the calendar season in which you were hurt stimulates depression and foreboding! Until you forgive, you will not be fully released to go on with your life.
There is only one way we can have true fellowship with God and that is in the "here and now." But when your mind is harboring unforgiveness, you are neither in the "here" nor in the "now." KEY- When you live in the past, you are cut off from God. What they did to you is over. It is done. It does not have any real existence or life of its own except in your mind.
REVELATION- 'I KNOW WHERE SATAN HAS SET HIS THRONE ON YOUR HEART'- There within you the conflict continues to live. And as long as it lives, you are still being hurt by it. The person who wounded you may have long since died. That person cannot be blamed, for you are the one who keeps your wounds alive!
REAP & SOW- Not only is the quality of your spiritual life affected, but your physical well-being pays a price as well. As long as you keep holding onto the burden of what someone did to you, each time you think about that person your stomach acids churn and your anxiety increases. Your body is continually put under stress.
CHOOSE to Love If you do not forgive those who have hurt you, you will lose a measure of your capacity to love. Whether they deserve forgiveness or not, you deserve a better life! And God wants to give you a better life. But you cannot enjoy abundant life while carrying unforgiveness, for you are shackled to something that hurt you, and your own unforgiveness tortures you.
FREEDOM- How do you get out of that prison? How do you find the protection of God for your soul? God calls you to forgive. You must see the hands of God reaching to you in the midst of your pain. He wants to redeem that conflict, using that specific adversity to perfect character in you. It will be this event that He will use to make you like Christ.
SANCTIFICATION- Each time you say, "Father, I choose to love; I choose to forgive; I choose to forget and to not hold bitterness and unforgiveness against that person," you are taking on Christ's nature. Rejoice! Jesus is taking over your heart! You are entering the shelter of the Most High God.
PRAYER: Master, I see in Your forgiveness of me the pattern for my forgiveness of others. Lord, You forgave the Pharisees who lied about You; You pardoned the soldiers who mocked and crucified You; You encouraged Your disciples' hearts to not be troubled, knowing they were about to deny and betray You.
Yet You not only forgave them, but You also died for them. You opened Your heart as wide as the universe and welcomed all to be reconciled to God. Grant me the power to forgive, to lay down my life for others, and to know the love that compelled You to such righteousness! Amen.
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Adapted from Francis Frangipane's book, The Shelter of the Most High,