Lifestyle of Forgiveness

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Matthew 18:21-22

We will all sin from time to time, but that does not mean we have to live a lifestyle of sin. A person may drink too much one night. That’s an action of sin. But when someone gets drunk night after night, that is a lifestyle of sin. When someone sleeps around, that is a lifestyle of sin. When someone intentionally and continuously embezzles money, that is a lifestyle of sin. It’s not a stumble or slip up, but instead a pattern of behavior that flows out of a heart that is unhealed.

This distinction is important because it is in the areas of chronic sin where the demonic is most likely to enter our lives. These are the areas where demons set up camp in our heart, mind, and body and begin to torment us. One of the most overlooked chronic sins in the Church is a lifestyle of unforgiveness. Jesus makes it clear that we are not just called to forgive a few times. As those who have been forgiven of all of our sin by the grace and mercy of God, we are to live a lifestyle of forgiveness.

To drive this point home, Jesus tells the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. A man who owed the king 10,000 bags of gold could not repay it, and yet the king forgave the entire debt. But when that man found a guy who owed him 100 silver coins, a much smaller debt than the one he was forgiven, the man refused to let it go. The man choked the guy and threw him in prison until the debt was repaid.

But when the king found about about this, the king brought the man in and said:

‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

Matthew 18:32-34

The man was shown mercy but didn’t show others mercy. The man was given total forgiveness but wasn’t willing to forgive his fellow servant. So the king enacted the biblical principle found in Luke 6:

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Luke 6:37-38

The man had the opportunity to measure with grace, mercy and forgiveness. Instead, the man measured with justice. Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. So the king measured him with the measure that he himself used. And justice demanded that the man be thrown into prison until he could repay the debt.

Another interesting plot twist in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant is that the jailers tortured the man. The lesson is clear. A lifestyle of unforgiveness leads to a tormented life. Unforgiveness becomes a super-highway for the demonic to set up camp in our life and bring all manner of torment to our hearts, minds, and bodies.

Chronic sin often leads to chronic problems. Chronic unforgiveness leads to chronic problems in our mental health, emotional well-being, physical health, and relational intimacy with others. Forgiving those who have hurt us is the quickest way to kick the enemy out of our life and restore flourishing to areas of our life that have been shut down for years.

Who do you need to forgive?

Pray this:
In the name of Jesus, I choose to forgive as I have been forgiven. I now choose to forgive _____________. I release any right I have retained to bring revenge. I release them from my hands and place them into Your hands, Jesus, my Just Judge. I break every curse I have sent to them and call forth a blessing to them instead. Thank you for the grace to forgive and the power to live in freedom. 

Masquerading

One of the jobs of a pastor is to protect the church from false teaching. This was a primary concern for the apostle Paul and his churches. It was relational for Paul. He saw false teaching as a kind of marital infidelity between the church and Christ.

He writes to the Corinthians, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2-3).

One of the most dangerous things filtering into the church today is the false belief that dabbling in astrology, mediums, psychics, reiki healing, spells, seances, horoscopes and other forms of eastern mysticism and occult practices are harmless fun. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

A woman in my church, after years of dabbling in tarot cards and automatic writing, found herself demonized. She needed multiple demons cast out of her because of her participation in these occult practices.

Another friend of mine used to watch Long Island Medium on the TLC channel. I believe people are so interested in this stuff because western skepticism has told us there is no spirit realm, yet a part of us still believes there is more out there than what empiricism tells us.

Unfortunately, much of the church has sided with western skepticism rather than adopting a biblical worldview that acknowledges the reality of a spirit realm that contains both light and dark, angels and demons. A large segment of the church doesn’t warn against these occult practices because they see them as “fake” rather than what they are, which is a direct line to “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

So when my friend would watch this medium on TV revealing things about people she couldn’t possibly know, and it seemed like the person was encouraged, then it had to be a good thing. Right? If good things are coming from it, isn’t it a good thing?

Paul responded to something similar by reminding the Corinthians, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). He warned them not to accept things that come from a “different spirit from the one you received” (2 Corinthians 11:4).

Was this medium hearing from the spirit realm? Yep. But she’s not hearing from the Holy Spirit. She’s hearing from deceptive and cunning demonic spirits. And the same demonic spirits that speak to her about other people also torment her life.

New Age and occult practices are darkness masquerading as light. They invite us to put our trust in something other that God and His word. They are a form of marital infidelity between the church and Christ. They end up being a gateway for the demonic to access and torment the life of those who participate in them.