Text from this year’s Spring Break 2015 Relationship Conference presented at the Hampton Inn, Stow OH, April 17-18, 2015:
Thank you for attending this year’s Spring Break 2015 Relationship Conference presented by Akron Alliance Fellowship Church. We sincerely hope that you have a great time here this weekend, and that you are inspired and encouraged by what God has to say to you! A special thanks to the staff at the Hampton Inn for hosting this event.
If you were with us last year, the goal of the seminar, Using your IMAGE to Be A Change Agent for Christ, was to help its participants begin and continue the process of developing a closer, healthier and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. In order for a believer in Christ to grow in faith, he has to do more than just go beyond the basics. The seminar provided practical methods for a present believer, and even a potential believer, to reach one’s fullest potential as a child of God living in a manner that brings praise to Jesus Christ!
Our annual Spring Break weekend seminars are devoted to addressing relationships in your life, and this year is no different. We will take a closer look at an area that is a hindrance to any relationship. A lack of forgiveness—either for the person who is holding a grudge against someone or for the person who is awaiting some sort of reconciliation that never comes—is a devastating force that destroys relationships. A lack of forgiveness not only ruins family and interpersonal relationships, but it also hinders, and even damages a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ.
We will be presenting this information this weekend with frequent references to your IMAGE, which we presented last year to the group to show how you can develop as a believer who is consistent in obedience to God’s Word and His will for your life. In maintaining your true IMAGE in Jesus Christ, this will help a person to overcome the lack of forgiveness in one’s life, and even help others who may struggle with this issue.
A lack of forgiveness or receiving forgiveness, as we noted earlier, destroys relationships. Can a believer in Jesus Christ be effective in Christ as long as a lack of forgiveness is unresolved? My emphatic answer is “absolutely not.” Why? There are several reasons, but the most important one is that if forgiveness is unresolved in any way, shape or form, then that means that Jesus Christ cannot possibly be the primary focus of that person. You may have heard the lyrics of a song that declare “nobody but Jesus,” but the person who lacks forgiveness might as well sing “anything but Jesus.”
Forgiveness, in itself, is impossible to cover in its entirety over your entire lifetime, let alone within a short weekend seminar. With that in mind, we will focus on areas of personal development and in how we relate to other individuals to help us discover ways in which we can personally grow in our relationships with others and find ways to experience forgiveness and to forgive others.
The Joy of Forgiveness
Davidic. A Maskil.
1 How joyful is the one
whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered!
2 How joyful is the man
the Lord does not charge with sin
and in whose spirit is no deceit!
3 When I kept silent, my bones became brittle
from my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night Your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was drained
as in the summer’s heat. Selah
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to You
and did not conceal my iniquity.
“I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and You took away the guilt of my sin. Selah
6 Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to You
at a time that You may be found.
When great floodwaters come,
they will not reach him.
7 You are my hiding place;
You protect me from trouble.
You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance. Selah
8 I will instruct you and show you the way to go;
with My eye on you, I will give counsel.
9 Do not be like a horse or mule,
that must be controlled with bit and bridle
or else it will not come near you.
10 Many pains come to the wicked,
but the one who trusts in the Lord
will have faithful love surrounding him.
11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice,
you righteous ones;
shout for joy,
all you upright in heart.
Characteristics of Your IMAGE
Investigate the Word of God
The development of a believer must begin with the appropriate time and effort devoted to bible reading. Even as you are developing a routine for bible reading each day, the proper development of the image of the believer must have progression in this process—the progression must continue in the achievement of levels to where you are no longer just reading the bible, but you are investigating what scripture has to say to you.
- Reading the bible daily
- Scheduled time
- Use external biblical resources to complement your study (ex. – Greek and Hebrew references and concordances)
Investigate (v.) – to observe or study by close examination and systematic inquiry
Meditate on the Word of God
(Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10)
Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to become aware of and reflect upon the revelations of God. Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (such as a bible passage) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God. 
Meditation is reflection, consistent prayer and practice that promotes greater understanding and wisdom in the application of God’s Word.
Act (Application of God’s Word)
The act portion of your IMAGE involves taking action upon what you have learned in your investigation and mediation of God’s Word. Taking action or applying God’s Word involves four key lifestyle elements of your faith in Jesus Christ:
- Repentance upon acknowledgment of sin to restore immediate fellowship with Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:8; Acts 3:19)
- Compliance with God’s will in your life (John 7:17)
- A desire to improve and please God (Colossians 3:15)
- Greater consistency in Christlike behaviors (Psalm 119:101-106; Romans 12:1-2)
We act upon God’s Word and His will because we are His specially chosen people, and we desire to maintain a special relationship with Him (Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 37:23-24, 73:23-24)
Growing in Jesus Christ is the natural progression of a healthy, vibrant relationship with Him (Ephesians 3:17-19, 4:11-15)
Growth is measured in the following:
- Continuing achievement of maturity in Christ
- Hearing and knowing when God is speaking to you
- Increased sensitivity to matters of the Holy Spirit
- Greater focus and determination
Bearing all things that occur in the faith with an understanding of the big picture–the love of Christ is exhibited for all to see and that Jesus Christ is glorified (Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 13:7; James 1:2-4).
Jesus wants you to not only persevere but to remain steadfast in your faith and retain a boldness in your faith (in words and in your demeanor before others). It is your steadfastness that makes the boldest statements of Jesus Christ’s presence in your life.
2 Timothy 2:8-12a
Keep your attention on Jesus Christ as risen from the dead and descended from David. This is according to my gospel. I suffer for it to the point of being bound like a criminal, but God’s message is not bound. 10 This is why I endure all things for the elect: so that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. This saying is trustworthy:
For if we have died with Him,
we will also live with Him;
if we endure, we will also reign with Him.
1 Christian Meditation for Beginners by Thomas Zanzig, Marilyn Kielbasa 2000, ISBN 0-88489-361-8 page 7
2 An introduction to Christian spirituality by F. Antonisamy, 2000 ISBN 81-7109-429-5 pages 76-77
Forgive and Forget?
Hardly. It’s difficult to get past the pain and trauma that occurs when someone hurts you. It’s something that each one of us has experienced, and it shapes our view of the world.
When we experience pain, our defense mechanisms kick in. Everyone responds differently when they have been hurt, but most often the response is proportional to the painful experience. It is manifested in both emotional and even physical responses, where the physical ailments are often the result of prolonged emotional difficulties.
The response in kind to the stimuli of pain and trauma experienced is similar to that of Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.  While the response may be equal to what a person has done to you, it is how you respond and manage this pain that is very important as you seek the Lord for ways to cope with your experience.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Pain makes it hard to forget the hurts. It’s hard to let go of the wrongs that you have experienced. It makes it difficult to conceive the nature of “forgive and forget.”
First, we need to note that forgive and forget is not found in Scripture. It is a term that comes out of a world view that proclaims a person can indeed forget the hurt upon forgiveness and move on. There are many verses that discuss forgiveness, and there is a reference to how God sees our sin once a person repents of it:
Isaiah 43:25 HCSB
It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more.
The concept of forgive and forget means to suck it up and move on with your life. Sure, you got hurt or you’ve been damaged, but now it’s time to let it go and face the next life challenge. The reality of this is that we never truly forget. We may indeed forgive, but we never forget. In fact, remembering the hurts can help you put the healing process into perspective.
With that in mind, does God truly “remember your sins no more,” or “forget” them as if they never happened? Well, if we consider the passage of Isaiah 43:25, we need to also note that Jesus Christ made a one-time payment that covered all of mankind’s sins–past, present and future.
Hebrews 10:14-18 ESV
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
God does not forget in the same way that we forget—He doesn’t forget anything. He is omniscient. He knows everything and forgets nothing, but, in the case of our sin, because of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, He chooses to not remember our sin. He even provides a visual measuring distance as to how far He removes sin from each of us:
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His faithful love
toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed
our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
Note that God’s choice to not remember our sins reflects His love for each one of us and how he has patience and compassion for His children. In order to experience true forgiveness, on either side, there are key elements that must be involved; they include love, compassion and humility (more on this later).
So, when we use the words forgive and forget, we must rely upon the power of God to give grace in forgiveness. True forgiveness is to move past the pain. While you don’t forget the sin or its behaviors, you have to choose to overlook them and extend the grace of forgiveness to the other person to move through and out of our pain. Knowing that Christ forgives us and remembers our sins no more is a reminder that grace does not need to stop with Christ. He gives you the ability to forgive and, not forget, but to choose to remember the other person’s sins no more.
But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.
This leads to the discussion about where forgiveness begins. True forgiveness comes with the understanding that it’s time to get right with God. It doesn’t matter if you are on the giving or receiving end of forgiveness. Your relationship with God requires a cleansing. In order for you to love God with all of your heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37), you need to give all of who you are and what you are to Him.
1 Article – Newton’s Law of Motion. (n.d.). From Wikipedia. Retrieved March 25, 2015 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton%27s_laws_of_motion#Newton.27s_3rd_Law
He Forgives You
For the believer in Jesus Christ, it may seem to be a redundant discussion when considering God’s forgiveness. I mean, it’s understood that he forgives you, right? On the surface, yes, but…not so fast.
The moment that you take for granted how God has forgiven you is the very moment that you begin to take your relationship with Jesus Christ for granted, and perhaps even minimize it. Believers will need to proceed with extreme caution here. The act of forgiveness was certainly a one-time act when it came to our repentance of sin and acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior (Hebrews 10). We get that. What we also need to remember, though, is that we are always in need of His forgiveness.
Why? Even though we have the Holy Spirit as a guide that dwells within us, we still have the flesh present in our hearts and in our thoughts. Our souls are indeed protected with our eternal salvation, but we still must actively call on the power of God to withstand living in Satan’s domain, and everything that goes with that.
God continues to forgive us if we exhibit the following:
- A sincere heart. You can’t fake it with God and expect to make it. Giving Him everything that you’ve got means just that…everything…nothing held back; especially your honest feelings. Come clean the way you know that you should, and don’t pretend to be close to God when you’re not. That’s rooted in the sin of pridefulness.
Matthew 6:5-8 HCSB
“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.
1 John 1:8-10
If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Hebrews 10:22 HCSB
…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.
- A willingness to repel sin. Even when you do sin, our desire to have a healthy relationship with God through Jesus Christ will drive you to make things right with Him sooner rather than later. And He absolutely loves receiving you back in fellowship with Him. Prayer must be at the forefront of your desire to repel sin.
I have sought You with all my heart;
don’t let me wander from Your commands.
I have treasured Your word in my heart
so that I may not sin against You.
Lord, may You be praised;
teach me Your statutes.
2 Peter 3:9 HCSB
The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.
Leviticus 26:11-12 HCSB
I will place My residence among you, and I will not reject you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people.
Matthew 26:41 ESV
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
- Give God His due in worship and praise. If we take the time to stop and thank God for all that He has done for us, there is little time for sin to occupy our hearts.
Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous ones;
praise from the upright is beautiful.
Praise the Lord with the lyre;
make music to Him with a ten-stringed harp.
Sing a new song to Him;
play skillfully on the strings, with a joyful shout.
For the word of the Lord is right,
and all His work is trustworthy.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the Lord’s unfailing love.
A believer who is living for Christ understands the importance of keeping a solid relationship with Him and maintaining a healthy fellowship.
He forgives you as often as you turn to Him asking for forgiveness, and He never refuses you!
We’ll discuss this further as we unpack how you can forgive others and be forgiven because of His loving example of forgiveness within His eternal promise and in how we live each day of our life!
Psalm 73:28 ESV
But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
Everyone Makes Mistakes
To err is human; to forgive, divine. –Alexander Pope
We know that everyone makes mistakes. Each of us has blown it sometime, somewhere, and in some way, shape or form. Some mistakes are honest ones, while others come from deliberate acts of malice or intent. That’s all part of our human nature. We make these mistakes because of who we are.
God reminds of this with His Word…
Romans 3:23 (NIV)
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
If we know we make mistakes, and we know that God is aware of this, as well, why is it that we don’t cut other people some slack when things go badly? We need to understand how a lack of forgiveness is harmful to relationships, and the act of harboring resentment keeps people from moving forward in their lives.
When a person drives a car into a large muddy area, it can get stuck. Unless the car can get traction, it’s not going anywhere.
Relationships can get stuck altogether because of our behavioral responses when there is a lack of forgiveness, and it will stop any progress or can even permanently damage a relationship.
What stops a healthy relationship?
What will a person see in you when you are stuck in unforgiveness:
- sluggishness (unforgiveness has a debilitating effect on your mind and spirit)
- turbulence (drama is a by-product of an unforgiving spirit–it follows you everywhere)
- unchangeable (no one can give you any advice, let alone good advice)
- confusion (where there is no peace, there is confusion and bewilderment)
- killjoy (a person who deliberately spoils the enjoyment of others through resentfulness)
Hopefully you can see that you can’t keep an unforgiving spirit to yourself. It won’t be a secret, because, sooner or later, everyone you know will see signs of it in your behavior at one time or another. It definitely has a negative effect on others, and it certainly will have a negative effect on you. One day, you may even find yourself all alone because no one will want to be around you. Stubbornness, tension, obstinance and pride are all relationship-killers. They kill human relationships, and they are absolute hindrances to any relationship that you will have with God.
The Road to Complete Forgiveness
A direct flight from Akron-Canton Regional Airport to Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport takes 1 hour and 45 minutes.
If I were to drive from my house in northern Summit County to the Savannah airport, it would take just a few minutes under 11 hours.
If I wanted to take transit, I would have to walk 48 minutes to the bus stop on Highland Road and catch the 102 bus to downtown Akron, transfer to three other buses that will take me to the Alliance Amtrak station, catch the Capitol Limited to Washington DC and transfer to either the Silver Meteor or Silver Star to downtown Savannah GA. The total time for the trip–1 day and 16 hours.
If I wanted to travel by bicycle via the Great Allegheny Passage to Savannah, which loops through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas, it would consist of 969 miles of biking through elevations as high as 2,359 feet above sea level. If I keep going without food or water or without losing consciousness, it would take me 84 hours. I could shave six hours off of that with a trip through the New River Trail State Park and US Route 321, but the mountains near Roanoke, Virginia cap off at 3,753 feet above sea level, and I would also have to take a ferry boat. If I want to walk the entire distance, I would only need to walk 767 miles, but it would take 254 hours, or the equivalent of just over 10 1/2 days. Of course, it would take longer than that if you decide to eat something or get some sleep every now and then.
The same starting point and destination can take one hour and 45 minutes, 11 hours or 10 1/2 days. The method of travel is different, and the roads are different, but they lead to the same place. The healing process within forgiveness is much the same as this travel scenario. Different people may have different paths to get to the same place, which is a place of rest through the healing. The differences will lie in the amount of time it takes to heal. Just as no persons are alike, people will heal and respond differently based upon where they have come from and where they have traveled on the journey. It’s also important to note that healing in the process of forgiveness is seldom accomplished in the same way one can get on a plane from one place to the other. If you were to take a poll, I’m confident that the majority of people would say it takes a long, long time.
The road to complete forgiveness is paved with opportunities for healing. God grants us immunity when we ask for His forgiveness, and He does it right away. Our greatest challenge is to recognize that we are guiltless before Him. Many people struggle with this issue in that there is still a form of guilt over what has happened. This is why people must heal from the wounds of their transgressions. God is aware that people suffer from these feelings and emotions (Psalm 147:3), and He is aware of them because He bore all of our sins on the cross. He relates to each and every one of us. He is a God who is relational and wants us to cast our cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7; Matthew 11:28-30).
In the same way that God gives us grace in forgiveness, He desires that we treat others in kind with grace and mercy in forgiving others. Easier said than done? Most certainly, but that doesn’t change God’s will for us. It remains the same as it always has been—to forgive others and show mercy to them. That is the best (and only real way) for the light of Christ to shine before others. Anything else is nothing more than a worldly approach of forgiveness with man-made conditions behind it.
The road to complete forgiveness is a message of hope. In order to make the journey, it requires these attributes in order to experience the power of God’s healing:
H – Humility
Note that humility is acquired as we grow in God’s wisdom and understanding. We develop humble hearts as we become Christlike in our actions. Humility does not come naturally. It comes from a series of learning experiences that God orchestrates in our lives. Humility is what allows us to draw nearer to God.
2 Chronicles 7:14
…and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.
James 4:8 HCSB
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!
Deuteronomy 8:2-3 HCSB
Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
God humbles us in order for each of us to see the Lord as we need to see Him. With this realization, we understand the importance of humbling ourselves before Him and, as a result, reflecting this same grace before others.
A humble approach involves using a kinder, gentler approach when dealing with others.
Philippians 2:3 ESV
Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
O – Overlook shortcomings
Because we reside in the flesh, we often encounter people when they are at their best, but sometimes when they are not at their best. In the spirit of recognizing that we are all in the human race and that everyone does fall short at one time or another (see Romans 3:23), then there are times when a person who falls short needs to be cut a break. It is prudent to address issues as they come up, but sometimes we need to take the humble approach and overlook some transgressions for the sake of keeping the peace. If we are being honest with ourselves, other people we have dealt with have cut us some slack even when it was undeserved. God has cut each of us some slack–not because he is letting you off the hook for your sin, but because of His love for us. He extends His grace to you.
Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Titus 3:5-7 ESV
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
P – Patience
Humility and overlooking one’s shortcomings is an exercise in patience. You will do none of this, including forgive someone, without patience. Patience is indeed an act of love.
Romans 12:12 ESV
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Ecclesiastes 7:9 ESV
Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.
1 Corinthians 13:4 ESV
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
In order for you to exercise patience, it requires the assistance of the Holy Spirit, at times, to give you more than you believe you have the capability of doing. How patient was Jesus Christ when He suffered on the cross for each of us? Just when we think we’re going to lose our patience, take the time to remove the flesh from your thought process and rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit to move you beyond mere fleshly responses.
E – Empathy
The road to forgiveness also needs a strong dose of empathy. Empathy allows you to see people in the same way that God sees those same people. It may well be the most challenging element of a person’s Christlike development. Empathy allows you to go deeper than the surface elements of one’s personality and, through the Holy Spirit, gain insight into what a person is experiencing from within. Jesus Christ shows empathy for each of us.
Ephesians 4:32 ESV
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Empathy allows you to be human before other people.
Romans 12:15 ESV
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Matthew 7:12 ESV
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Love is the root of empathy, and Christ is the example.
John 15:12 ESV
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
The acronym HOPE is exactly what a person needs to see from a person who is sincere in forgiveness: Humility, overlooking shortcomings, patience and empathy. A person should experience relief because of these steps that are being taken in forgiveness.
Now, for one to truly forgive someone there must be an attitude that what happened in the past must remain in the past.
When a governor or a head of state gives a prisoner a “full, complete and absolute pardon,” it means that the person is released from any and all previous transgressions.
Forgiveness requires extending a pardon to another individual, and that means a full, complete and absolute pardon–without conditions.
absolve (free from guilt)
release (free from debt)
deliver (free from captivity)
optimize (enhance, improve relationship)
no memory of wrong (nomow)
No memory of wrong is the Christlike example as God has declared He would remember your sins no more (Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12).
There is hope for the recipient of complete forgiveness. It restores relationships and moves the person to a place to begin to move forward in life. Hope conveys to the other person that it is time to live in freedom, and Christ is where that freedom comes from. A person who forgives is also free to move on from the past, get on with life and focus on what is important—obedience to Jesus Christ and a desire to live according to His will.
Is there someone in your life that needs your hope and a pardon?
- Read, study and meditate on God’s Word
- Get some quiet time
- Get right before God (in order to hear Him speak to you)
- List who you need to forgive
- List why you need to forgive
- Bring it all before God and let Him do the rest
He is the Savior, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King. If you ask for His help, He is faithful to provide it to you.
God forgives you and provides the example for you to forgive someone else.
All seminar content written and presented by Melvin Gaines.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.