Posts Tagged ‘unforgiveness’

We’re talking about resentments today and how we need to deal with them. We have all been in situations where we weren’t treated right and have been tempted to become resentful – maybe it was with a family member, a friend, neighbors, co-workers or even fellow church members. And certainly as we move forward as a congregation we want to be united in mind and heart and have no residual resentments in our midst that might hinder God from working among us and through us.

A little exercise. I want you to look at everyone that is seated around you. Now look at me. If I may, let me say, this message is for you – and not for them. So don’t think to yourself, “I hope so and so is listening up! I’ll be waiting for their apology.” Let’s each examine our own lives and hearts this morning, in the light of God’s Word. What is God calling me to do? This is the right focus.

We begin with the question – 

What is resentment?

I believe this is a good short definition, “to continue to hold something against someone.” The basic idea comes out in a couple of verses that talk about forgiveness:

  • Jesus uses the phrase – “if you have anything against anyone.” – Mark 11:25
  • Paul says it this way- “if one has a complaint against another” – Colossians 3:13

Now, listen carefully. It is natural to have something against someone, if they have wronged you. That’s how we are made. We are moral creatures. It is the continuing to hold onto it, instead of dealing with it in a biblical way that is the key. That’s what these verses are talking about. 

When we continue to hold onto it, it becomes a grudge, a vendetta, a point of bitterness – what I am calling “a resentment.”

Let’s break this down some more by looking at –  

The three parts of resentment

When we are wronged, 1. we have a sense of unfairness; of injustice. We rightly feel that the other person owes us for what they have done.

2. This then leads to ill feelings, especially anger. Again, it is natural to have anger when you are wronged. But as Christians we have to be very careful what we do with our anger. Anger is meant to motivate us to act; it is meant to lead us to deal with the situation and to deal with it in a biblical way – face to face with the offender, in gentleness and so forth.

But when we don’t deal with the situation and find some kind of resolution – and most of us would rather jump off a cliff than deal with hurt and conflict face to face with someone; when we don’t deal with the situation in a biblical way, our anger, as it were, spoils within us and becomes a well-spring of resentment in our heart. And this leads to other ill feelings such as hatred and we eventually end with hard-heartedness.

3. Finally, these ill feelings manifest themselves in expressions of judgment and punishment. Some typical examples of this include: avoiding the person, cutting off the relationship, talking the person down (slander, gossip), criticizing and fault finding, verbal attacks and worse.

You move into punishing mode. You haven’t found resolution to your fundamental sense of unfairness and anger, so consciously, or not you take things into your own hands and are busy getting back at them.

Now, that we have looked at what resentment is, I want you to think for a moment, is anyone coming to mind that you have a resentment against? Keep that person before you as we move on.

The message today is that – 

We need to release our resentments

Instead of holding onto resentment and acting out on others in punishing mode,  Scripture teaches us that we are to choose love and forgiveness. Let’s look at how this works in three specific scenarios:

1. Someone wrongs you, but it’s not a big offense. It’s not a big deal. Here you can simply choose to overlook it. That is, just let it go. You don’t hold it against them.

Now if you find you can’t do this; that you have abiding anger, resentment or bitterness – then this is a sign you need to deal with the situation. But if not, just choose to let it go; release it.

Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” This is an act of love on your part.

2. A second scenario. Someone wrongs you and the person isn’t seeking forgiveness or reconciliation. Let’s say you have gone to them, as the Scriptures teach (Matthew 18:15; Luke 17:3), but they are unrepentant. In this case, you are to release the resentment and choose to walk in love. Release it into God’s hands. This is absolutely key. Give your anger over to God who will sort everything out and right all wrongs. Trust God to take care of this so you don’t need to take up the issue of payback or go into punishing mode.  

What you are really doing here is loving an enemy. For an enemy is precisely someone who harms you and has no repentance. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” – Luke 6:27-28 (NIV). So we return good for harm in all these examples. Instead of anger and punishing behaviors, we show them love.And we pray for them.

And I can testify that doing good to an enemy and praying for them can change our towards those who have harmed us. 

Now it is really hard to love an enemy. This is one-way love – from you to them. But it is a choice that we make, enabled by God’s grace.

In this scenario, even though the relationship is currently broken, our goal for the relationship is ultimately full forgiveness and reconciliation (two-way love), although this can only happen when they want this also, and when the issues are fairly dealt with.

3. Someone wrongs you and the person is repentant and is seeking forgiveness. Let’s say you have gone to them as the Scriptures teach or they have come to you as the Scriptures teach (Matthew 5:23-24) and the person is sorry and wants to make things right and commits to treat you right from now on. So things are dealt with, which should address the issue of your anger. In this case, you are to release the resentment and forgive so that the relationship can be restored.

Sometimes we still don’t want to. We want to hold onto our resentment and continue in punishing mode. But Scripture is clear on our need to forgive. Indeed, this is the situation that is addressed in most if not all passages that talk about the need to forgive.

  • “If your brother . . . repents, forgive him” – Luke 17:3
  •  “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone . . .” – Mark 11:25
  • “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” This is a portrait of resentment. Rather we are to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another . . .” -Ephesians 4:31-32
  • “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other . . .” – Colossians 3:12-13 

Now this can be hard, but it is a choice that we make, whether we feel like it or not. The feelings will come later with God’s help. Sometimes we will have to continue to choose to release the resentment, because the temptation is always to take it back – even after a reconciliation has been reached. You have to let it go and don’t take it up again.  

Let me end by giving you –

Several reasons why you should release your resentments and choose instead love and forgiveness

 You are only a forgiven wrongdoer yourself. How can you hold resentment, when God has released his resentment against you, loved you and has now forgiven you? That’s why we are to forgive “one another, as God in Christ forgave you” – Ephesians 4:32. We have no ground to stand on to hold onto resentments we who only live by God’s grace and mercy.

Resentment will destroy you. No doubt you have heard the saying, “resentment is the poison you drink hoping for the other person to die.” But they don’t and it only destroys you. It poisons you.

  • It takes away your joy and peace. As Paul says about those who need to forgive, your life will be characterized by things like “bitterness” “wrath” “anger” “clamor” “slander” “malice” – Ephesians 4:31.
  • It will make you a slave of the person, the wrong, the situation that you are bitter about as you continually replay it in your mind.
  • It will make you self-focused as you think about how badly you have been treated – me, me, me. You become self-absorbed.

It twists and distorts us from being who God want us to be, into a negative, bitter person, walking around with a cloud over our head. So for your own sake get the poison out. Enter into the peace and joy that God wants for you  to have.  Choose love and forgiveness and be free!

Resentment will destroy your relationships with others. Everyone will fail us at some point. So if you can’t release your resentments your relationships with family, friends and fellow church members will remain weak, damaged or broken. And you will end up isolated and lonely.

To have strong relationships you need real love. And as Paul said “love is not resentful” – 1 Corinthians 13:5.

Resentment will destroy your relationship with God. This is the most serious and dangerous thing of all. Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” What a great promise. But hear the warning as well – “but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” – Matthew 6:14-15.


What resentments do you need to release this morning?

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Series: How to overcome sin

Our focus is, ‘How to overcome sin in our lives.’ We have been looking at five key steps in this process, that we learn from the example of Jesus as he overcame his test of the cross. And tonight I want us to move into looking at some deeper concerns that can trip us up in our quest to overcome sin.

But first, here’s a very brief review of the five steps, using the example of unrighteous anger.

Step #1: Understanding what God’s will is, acknowledge your weakness to do what God says. The Word says in James 1:20, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” This is anger that is according to the flesh which hurts and tears down others. Jesus likens this to murder in Matthew 5, or verbal murder, when our words destroy others.

God gives us anger to stir us up to act when a wrong has been done. But so often, once stirred up, we act in the flesh and not according to God’s will. We return harm for harm and tear down those who have wronged us or those we love. Rather than this, we are to trust God with our grievances and desire for justice, so that we can be free to focus on being Christ-like as we address the wrongs that have been done –  with love and gentleness (Matthew 5:44; Galatians 6:1). If you struggle with unrighteous anger, you need to humbly admit this, so that God can help you.

Step #2: Remain alert in prayer for testing and temptation in this area. Since Satan will seek to pressure you in your area of weakness, pray to be spared people and situations that might trigger your wrongful anger. Maybe that someone won’t slander you so that you become enraged. Or maybe that someone doesn’t start an argument with you on a particular topic that would trigger your anger. But if God allows you to be tested, at least you will be ready and know what is going on. It’s not that this person is trying to start an argument with me – this is a test from Satan!

Step #3: In a time of testing – Keep your mind focused on God’s truth. Rebuke Satan as he tempts you and offers up rationalizations to give in to your anger. “Hey that person who wants to argue with you – he needs to be put in his place!” Tell him to go away. You can respond by countering with the Scriptures – “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” And “the fruit of the Spirit is love . . .patience . . . gentleness . . . and self-control.” – Galatians 5:22-23.

Step #4: In a time of testing – Receive strength from the Spirit to do God’s will. Pray for the Spirit to fill you and help you. In this way you can put to death your desires to engage in wrongful anger and respond to every situation with love for others.

Step #5: Endure the test. Continue on until the testing and temptation passes – keeping your mind focused; receiving strength from the Spirit.

My point this evening is that sometimes, we work hard at all this and still consistently fail. And when this happens we need to look at some deeper concerns in our lives.

Here are six things to check:

1. Are you double-minded?

To be double minded means you are torn between two things; you have two minds on an issue. You know, you want God to help you with one problem in your life, but not others. For instance, “God help me overcome my anger issue, its destroying all of my relationships!” But you don’t mention your sexual immorality, because you happen to like this sin.

We have to stop playing games. If you’re only trying to stop sinning in one area of your life, while knowingly continuing in sin in other areas, God can’t help you. James 1:7-8 tells us that a double-minded person “must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”

We find God and his help when we seek God with our whole heart, not part of it. Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “you will find the Lord, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

So if you are struggling with anger and calling out to God for help and no help seems to be coming, check your heart. Be rid of any double-mindedness and give your whole life over to God. Then you will seek and find the help that you need.

2. Are you the cause of broken relationships?

If we don’t act to deal with relationships that are broken by our sin, this will break our relationship with God and cut us off from God’s help. Our horizontal relationships with others affects our vertical relationship with God. These can’t be separated.

So, if you have sinned against someone, make it right. Jesus said, “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, (that is, you have sinned against him) leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24. The broken relationship with the brother or sister must be dealt with before we come to God in worship. Why? Because this affects our relationship to God. Now, we can’t control whether they are willing to reconcile with us, even if we come in repentance seeking to make things right, but the rule is ‘do what you can from your end’ to restore the relationship and then you will be free to come before God in worship and to receive his help and grace.

Also, if someone has sinned against you and seeks forgiveness, forgive. Don’t keep the relationship broken through the choice to withhold forgiveness. Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew 6:14-15. If we don’t forgive, this breaks our relationship with God.

With both of these situations, if you have caused broken relationships, seek to make things right. And then your relationship with God will be right, and God can help you, for instance with your weakness in the area of anger.

3. Do you expose yourself to stumbling blocks?

According to Scripture we are not only to stop sinning, we are to separate from what leads us to sin. This is what a stumbling block means – something that trips you up and gets you off the path. It is not a sin in itself, but something that leads you to sin.

Jesus says in Mark 9:43, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.” What this means is that we are to create righteous boundaries that keep us away from sin. And we must do this even if what is cut off is precious to us, like a hand.

Now these boundaries are different for each of us, since we all have different weaknesses and triggers that can lead us to sin. For instance, if debating certain topics triggers your wrongful anger response, you need to avoid these for the sake of righteousness. Or if working in a certain job environment causes you to give in to sinful anger regularly, seek a new job. This job might not be a problem for someone else, but for you it is.

The rule is – ‘separate from whatever encourages you to sin’ – relationships, activities, jobs, personal freedoms, whatever. Even if the item isn’t a problem for others, if it causes you to stumble, cut it off.

4. Are you dealing with an ingrained sin?

By ingrained I mean something that is firmly fixed; a sin that is deeply rooted in your life. We practice some sins for so long that they become a part of us as negative character traits. You say, ‘Yeah, I’m a hot-head,’ because you have made a practice of outbursts of anger for so long. It’s a part of how you think of yourself now. And some sins even create physiological addictions, like drug and alcohol abuse.

These kinds of sins are difficult to break. You may well need to take drastic measures, and in the case of addictions seek medical help.

One thing that can really help is intense accountability from other disciples – who can check with us on a regular basis. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We all need this kind of fellowship to be strong. But this is especially needed with ingrained sins.

If you know that at any time someone will be asking how you are doing in your area of struggle, it can make a real difference. Both to encourage you and certainly to keep you accountable.

5. Are demonic powers involved?

When we allow sin in our life, we open up our lives to Satan and his demonic powers. They can gain a foothold, as it were. Sometimes this is just a general influence, but sometimes we can come into bondage to demonic powers in areas of our life. Our sin is energized by a supernatural evil power.

If this is the case, the demonic power must be sent away by the authority of Jesus. Say something like, “Evil spirit, I break your power over me in the name of Jesus. Leave now!” Jesus tells us, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy . . .” – Luke 10:19. Then submit that area of your life to God, so that the Spirit of God is filling every part of your life.

I’m not saying this is a common thing, but if this is a part of your struggle, for instance, with anger then you need to act. I would just add here that it might be wise to seek the help of a mature believer or a Pastor as you work at this.

6. Is your sin connected to inner brokenness?

By inner brokenness I am thinking of mental illness or just the inner woundedness that comes from life experiences of pain, heartache and tragedy. And inner brokenness can make it much harder for us to do God’s will. For instance if you want to overcome anger, but have borderline personality disorder that leads to expressions of intense anger, this is a much more complicated situation.

If you are struggling with these kinds of weaknesses, pray for God’s healing so that you can do God’s will. But if there is no relief (I Timothy 5:23), learn to manage these issues through treatment so that you can do God’s will.

Once again Jesus’ words in Mark 9:43 are relevant. Our inner brokenness is not itself a sin. But if it leads us to sin, we must cut it off by seeking reasonable treatment – counseling or medication. In either case, through miraculous healing or treatment, seek healing for your inner brokenness so that you can do God’s will. This is a matter of Christian faithfulness.

So these are six additional factors that you may well have to sort through as you seek to overcome sinful habits and areas of failure in your life:

  • Are you double-minded?
  • Are you the cause of broken relationships?
  • Do you expose yourself to stumbling blocks?
  • Are you dealing with an ingrained sin?
  • Are demonic powers involved?
  • Is your sin connected to inner brokenness?

My point tonight and the underlying theme of all of this is that we leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of doing God’s will. We must do whatever it takes.

William Higgins

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