"For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." (Matthew 6:15)
If we read these verses without asking the Holy Spirit for revelation, we run the risk of imposing a law upon ourselves that we can't fulfill. Jesus said that without the Spirit, the letter kills. This is a good example.
Also, if we read the verse incorrectly, God appears to be a stern taskmaster who lowers the boom on us if we don't straighten up and do what He says. God is not a stern taskmaster, He is a loving God. But He is also a just God, and He has established certain principles to which we must adhere.
Why would God not forgive us simply because we refused to forgive others? What if those others did not deserve to be forgiven? What if they damaged us emotionally, or physically, or both? What is so important about forgiveness?
Forgiveness is the most important act we accomplish, but we can't accomplish it on our own. We can say we forgive and make an effort to forgive, but when the memory of that incident or that person surfaces, we relive the same agony that brought on the unforgiveness in the first place. Our unforgiveness is justified, we have every right to it.
Unfortunately, that attitude discloses the true condition of our heart. It isn't our nature to forgive, our nature is to retain the unforgiveness. We may or may not feel vindictive, but we feel no need to forgive.
On the other hand, it is the very nature of Jesus to forgive. As He was crucified, He prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
Our inability to forgive is a sign that we haven't really let Jesus into our heart. When Jesus comes in we relinquish our options and He works a transformation. He is more powerful than our flesh. He is omnipotent. When we surrender our heart to Jesus He pronounces a death sentence to our flesh and its privileges.
The result is that the new person we are in Christ, the one who is resurrected, has the desire to forgive! But that is the resurrected person, not the person who refuses to die.
We can make an altar call, get goose bumps, declare that we accept Jesus and think we have it made. But salvation isn't that cheap, it carries a price. The price is death; unconditional surrender to the Lord, Jesus Christ. When we surrender completely, we no longer have a problem with unforgiveness.
That is when God can forgive us. That is the sign that we have really accepted Jesus Christ into our hearts. We have accepted His Son; therefore, He accepts us and loves us and forgives us.
"But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions...(because you obviously have not accepted My Son into your heart)."
It is not enough just to believe in Jesus. "You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder." (James 2:19)
It is true that Romans 10:9,10 tells us if we confess with our mouth and believe in our heart, we shall be saved. But it is just as true that, regardless of our confession, our actions reveal what we really believe.
From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17)
Repentance is a change of mind, which flows from a change of heart, which results in a change of action. Forgiveness is a fruit of repentance. It is a sign that something supernatural happened. We step beyond our natural limitations. We can now forgive, because we surrendered our heart to Jesus.
When this occurs, forgiveness takes no effort because forgiveness is the nature of the Jesus in us. God is pleased, because He sees by our action that His Son is resident in our heart.
This doesn't mean the instant we let Jesus into our heart mass forgiveness takes place. God is gentle. He brings one or two incidents at a time to the surface of our memory. He never gives us more than we can handle.
When the incidents surface, the forgiving nature of Jesus in us immediately works forgiveness, and we are released from that burden we have carried much too long.
We need to examine ourselves. It makes no difference how long we have been a Christian, what is our ability to forgive?
Do we still hold resentment in our heart? If so, we block God's forgiveness, because we refuse to submit our heart to Jesus. When God looks at our heart, He must see Jesus.
"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.'" (John 14:6)
"Many will say to Me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'" (Matthew 7:22,23)
For Jesus to really know us, He must be allowed to reside in the innermost depths of our heart. When we give Him access to that intimate part of us, He shows us how to forgive and, in the process, we experience the rich exhilaration of the forgiveness of God!
Jesus is King!
P.S. What are you doing of eternal value?
Question for today: Who is on the throne of my heart?