[Note to reader: This is the Sunday Edition, which a longer one. However, our hope is that it will give you much food for thought as you are considering the investment that the Evil One may have in your choice to postpone your forgiveness work.]
In 2 Corinthians 2:10-11, Paul writes: “Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs”(The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, 2001). And in Ephesians 6:12, the Apostle Paul declares: ”For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”. (KJV)
Observe Allender and Longman III (1992): “The battle is not ultimately against flesh and blood, but it is fought with flesh and blood against powers and principalities that show themselves in the normal relational entanglements of life. The rumblings of the battle are always with us, and the consequences of war are impossible to escape. Our eyes need to be open to the war we are engaged in and the wounds that require forgiveness” (p. 92).
However, we live in a postmodern society that has lost sight of a Biblical world view. Observes Chip Ingram (2006): “We tend to think that demonic activity has to do with weird, paranormal phenomena The Exorcist in real life. That assumption is dangerous because it allows us to ignore the invisible war. Creepy demonic manifestations are rare and bizarre, and most of us don’t ever encounter those phenomena. When we read these passages about Satan’s activity, however, it’s clear that the issues are usually things like unwillingness to forgive, bitterness, anger, deceived minds, and any other attitude that can break a marriage, split a church, cause depression, tum people inward, and destroy our bodies with ulcers and anxieties. Those are not rare manifestations. They are the kinds of things we encounter every day” (p. 49).
Arternburn (2005) also identifies Satan’s work as being primarily in the plain and practical day to day activities and choices that will either help or hinder our walk with God: “Satan is your enemy, and he does not want you to heal. He certainly does not want you going around helping build the kingdom of the God he rebelled against. He will trap you in the lie that you are not ready. If he has his way, you will never be ready and you will never feel ready and you will never do anything helpful or unselfish with your life” (p. 188).
Always faithful to remind us that as Christians we are not fighting for victory, but from victory, Warren Wiersbe has written at least two books discussing basic biblical principles for defeating the strategies of the devil (Wiersbe, 1979, 1986). Regarding the temptation to harbor bitterness and maintain an unforgiving spirit, Wiersbe (1979) observes that when we as believers harbor bitterness and malice in our hearts, we give Satan one of his most effective beachheads. This not only brings misery to the believer. It also hinders the Holy Spirit from working in our lives, thus robbing us of the power we need to detect and defeat the devil. The remedy? “The remedy is forgiveness. If someone wrongs you, forgive him from your heart” (p. 111).
Roy Hession (2004) echoes Wiersbe’s emphasis on obeying God’s will in order that we might walk in victory: “It is always because of a failure in obedience somewhere or a failure to be weak enough to let God do all. Satan is always beside the road, shouting at us, but he cannot touch us. But we can yield to his voice by an act of [our] will. This is the beginning of sin and slipping away from Jesus” (p. 52).
You may be thinking, “But I’ve tried before and I really can’t forgive the person who hurt me so deeply”. However, the truth is that if God commands us to do something, He will provide the strength for us to obey. Observes Stephen Olford (2003), “Here is the supreme mark of the new life. Very simply, it is overcoming the evil one. Satan may and does assault, but he need never hold us down. We can defeat him through faith in the indwelling Son of God who was manifested “that he might destroy the works of the devil” ([1 John] 3:8). Every truly born-again person can say with confidence, “Greater is he that is in … [me], than he that is in the world” ([1 John] 4:4)” (p. 77, italics added for emphasis).
You may still believe that it is impossible for you to forgive the person who hurt you so deeply. And the truth of the matter is that you can’t truly forgive them by your own strength or inner resources. Listen to what Major Ian Thomas says about this: “Repentance happens the moment you genuinely admit, ‘I cannot – and only God can.’ Deriving from that repentance is the attitude the Bible calls faith. It means bowing to the fact that you cannot and only God can. It means acting on the assumption that [this] is true, and exposing every situation to Him moment by moment, for Him to accomplish what you cannot, while you tell Him, ‘Thank You!’ You give Him your hands for Him to work with, your feet for Him to walk with, your lips for Him to speak with, your eyes for Him to see with, your ears for Him to hear with, your mind for Him to think with, your heart for Him to love with” (Thomas, 2006, pp. 103-104).
Wayne Barber (2005) refers to this heart posturing as “Living Grace” and has dedicated his life to helping persons discover the joy of allowing Christ to do in and through them, what they know they have discovered that they cannot do apart from Him: “When Christ is your life, you’re living totally under grace. It’s not up to you anymore; it’s Christ in you” (p. 8). So then, your prayer becomes, not, “Jesus, help me to forgive them” but instead, “Jesus, I surrender to Your goodness right now and invite You to forgive (name the person) in and through me as I joyfully join You in what You are wanting to do right now through me”.
Allender, D. B., & Longman III, T. (1992). Bold love Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
Barber, W. A. (2005). Living grace: Letting Jesus be Jesus in you. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman.
Hession, R. (2004). The Calvary road. Washington, Pennsylvania: CLC Publications.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton, IL: Standard Bible Society.
Ingram, C. (2006). The invisible war: What every believer needs to know about Satan, demons, and spiritual warfare. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker.
Olford, S. F. (2003). Basics for believers. Colorado Springs, CO: Victor.
Thomas, W. I. (2006). The indwelling life of Christ: All of him in all of me. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1979). The strategy of Satan: How to detect and defeat him. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1986). What to wear to the war: Studies from Ephesians 6. Lincoln, NE: Back to the Bible.
Copyright © 2013 Stuart A. Coleman