A First Step Testimony
Despite my angry defiance of anything Christian during my youth, I confessed Jesus as Lord at the age of 26. While my conversion was a profoundly life changing event, five years into this new life I was very discouraged about my struggling spiritual and emotional condition. The Biblical promise for peace was eluding me, and I could not figure out why. Finally I was challenged to resolve the mountain of unforgiveness in my heart. After much resistance, I was ultimately obedient to honor God by forgiving others because He had forgiven me. Soon after, a dark cloud lifted and my life was radically changed for the good. That experience of transformation left me feeling blessed and hungry for more.
The full proposition of the Christian life is living in the security of salvation combined with progressive transformation and increasing peace. The Biblical promise of peace that surpasses all understanding is a priceless reward for responding to God’s call to be transformed by our faith while resisting conformity to the world. God has a very specific transformation in mind and a definite path for how we get there.
The target is the heart of Christ. In Romans 8:29, God reveals His purpose to mold us so that we inwardly reflect the heart of Christ. He wants our heart, our character to resemble the essence of the character of Christ. The characteristics God desires of us include: forgiveness, humility, truth, love and more. In the expression of this desire, God has also established the battle line between the Holy Spirit who is calling us to become more like Christ and the desires of our sin nature that resist that call. The sin nature relentlessly opposes the Holy Spirit, because gratifying the Spirit means putting to death the urges of the flesh.
The Engine of Change
The explanation of the “law of the Spirit of life” in Romans 8:1-6 outlines the “how” of changing from within to realize the goal God has set before us. As described in the passage, the Holy Spirit is leading us to change. Our part in the process is to respond to that leading in a way that “gratifies” the Spirit. So we are to obey as prompted, which requires resisting the sin nature. At that moment when we may feel convicted to forgive or to trust God or make any decision that puts God’s will before the “urging of the flesh”, we experience how intense the battle for our hearts really is.
The Motivation to Change
It is clear from the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18 that we will suffer torment if we do not forgive. Torment is the opposite of peace. We can make the decision to withhold forgiveness, but Jesus warns us that we will suffer torment if we do not pass on the forgiveness that was freely given to us. “Tormented” is a good description of how I felt before I was willing to forgive. We experience torment in countless forms- anger, depression, headaches, sleeplessness or anxiety, which can even lead to self-defeating behaviors we can’t seem to stop. Forgiveness is a core characteristic of the heart of Christ, as is humility, believing truth and rejecting lies, loving God, trusting God, obedience and more. When the opposite of any of these characteristics, such as self righteousness, rebellion or lies is allowed to reside in our heart, we experience emotional torment. My ultimate conclusion is that when we reject God’s plan to mold us on any level, we suffer. We cannot oppose God’s will and be at peace.
The Transaction of Change
When I came under the conviction that I needed to honor God by being willing to forgive, I realized it was a transaction between me and Him. In the same way that I had asked Him to forgive me of my sins in my prayer of salvation, I needed to ask him to forgive me for withholding my forgiveness. I realized later that this prayer of forgiveness that brought freedom from the darkness of my emotions was a prayer of repentance. I needed to ask His forgiveness for resisting His will and the strength to turn a new direction so that I could honor Him as a person who displayed His forgiveness. Whenever Christians are willing to respond with repentance to His conviction for needed character change, the reward is relief from emotional torment and a greater peace.
Your Next Step
If there is still a breath of life in your flesh, then there is probably a place of unforgiveness. In most people, there are many opportunities to honor the Lord through forgiveness. If you are not sure, God will make it clear. Stop right now and ask God if there is anyone you need to forgive. Write down the first name that pops into your conscience. If you feel some resistance to forgive that person, consider it confirmation. You can’t make a mistake by over-forgiving or needlessly forgiving. Either way, God is honored. Know that the person you need to forgive may not deserve it, but neither did you deserve God’s forgiveness.
Take the Step
Pray this prayer for the person that God has put on your mind to forgive and anticipate experiencing a burden being lifted.
Heavenly Father, I forgive [Name]. I forgive [him or her] for: [list everything you can think of that caused the offense]. I ask that you forgive [Name] as well. Father, I ask that I would lose sight of the offense, and if I am ever reminded of the offense, that I will dismiss that memory as an old resolved situation I no longer want to revisit. Father, I ask that I would simply forget the incident and move on with rebuilding that relationship as you lead me to do so. Father, please show me how to love [Name] the way you do. Father, show me how to turn my offense into concern for [Name’s] well-being. Father, I am moved to forgive [him or her] because I desire to be obedient to you and desire for you to be glorified. Father, I ask that you would forgive me for not forgiving [Name] before now and remove from my heart any consequence or torment from not forgiving them in the past. Father, I confess that I will need your help to live out this forgiveness and I ask you to give me the strength to live true to this forgiveness. Father, please bless [Name]’s life in every way and heal [Name] of any emotional or physical wounds that cause [Name] suffering. [If you are not sure of person’s salvation in Christ:] Lord, I also pray for [Name]’s salvation and ask that you would write [Name]’s name in the Book of Life and compel [Name] to seek your salvation.
If you have done the forgiveness, then unforgiveness has been removed from your heart. A heart with less unforgiveness is a heart that more reflects inwardly the character of Christ. God will honor your obedience and fulfill His promise to do a transforming work in you. Congratulations on your first step!
John Murphy is the founder and President of Rock House Center providing Biblical counseling to promote spiritual growth and healing based on the principles in his ground-breaking book Be Transformed – New Life Awaits. John is also an international speaker, consultant to leaders, and transformation facilitator of the proprietary Biblical consulting and programs offered at the Rock House Center that strengthen and transform lives.
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 John Robin Murphy, “Be Transformed, Workbook 2nd Edition”, 2010, Rock House Way Press, Brentwood Tn, <www.rockhousecenter.com>