Monday, March 21, 2011

How Do I Escape the Prison of Unforgiveness?

Starting his new series called "Upgrade", Perry Noble says he was thinking about having music in cars. It obviously wasn't always this way.  Back in 1980, his parents bought a car that had an 8-track tape player in it.  "We rocked out the 8-track!!  And my mom bought the Loretta Lynn 8-track 'Coal Miner's Daughter'...I literally can sing every song in (that album)'s something that I am tortured with to this day...they bought a Rosanne Cash album and Mickey Gilley...but then and upgrade come along"  The first upgrade was casset tapes.  "I remember getting Dire Strait's 'Brother in Arms'."  Then the Sony Walkman upgrade came out.  But then the CD upgrade came out and finally, the I-Pod came out and has revolutionized everything.  Yet even with the I-Pod, we want to upgrade to each new version.  We all want and like upgrades.  We upgrade our cars, we upgrade our televisions we upgrade our computers and we upgrade our homes.  But there are many people who became Christians years and years ago, but they don't want to "upgrade" their faith!! 

In life we have physical laws and spiritual laws.  If we violate physical laws, there are consequences.  Likewise, the same holds true for spiritual laws.  Nobody hearing this believes they are an exception to physical laws.  If any one of us jumps off a building, we all know we will splatter on the concrete.  However, it seems that many people feel they are exception to spiritual laws, but these laws hold equally punishing consequences as well!  Matthew 6:14 says;

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

It is a sin to knowingly hang on to bitterness and unforgiveness in a spiritual life.  Jesus will not let us be comfortable living our life this way.  What we do to ourselves when we hold on to these things is we end up in our own personal prison.  To illustrate this, Perry goes into a cage on the stage.  "This is where we end up...and we can end up living our lives this way for the next 10, 20 or 30 years...but today I am going to talk to you about how to get out of this prison
Matthew 18:21 starts, "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?” Seven is the number of completion and was a number used in a spiritual sense many times back in Peter's day.  Jesus, who basically said, "Forgiven people forgive people", responds by saying "“I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." What He means is, not only should we forgive people, but we should continue to forgive them on an ongoing basis. 

What these verses do not say is that Jesus said we SHOULD forgive people because if there is something in our lives that we should do, we simply don't do it!  We should work out, we should visit family more, we should be more disciplined.  We should, we should, we should.   Some people think, "I can't forgive other people until I forgive myself."  But forgiveness is not achieved; it is received. 

Jesus continues with a parable. "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants."  One day, we will stand before a God where our accounts will be settled.  "As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt."  If we are Christians and you have prayed to received Christ as a forgiveness for your sins, but you have not been able to forgive others, this is your story. 

It is easy to see others sin, but it is difficult to see our own.  Several years ago, Perry's mom went on a crazy health kick that was insane and it affected everyone in the house.  They were taking pills and drinking Aloe Vera juice.  There was absolutely no sugar in the diet.  So, one night, Perry went to a friend's house and ate an entire box of Fruity Pebbles.  His mom was upset with him and said that he wouldn't be able to go over to the friend's house because it was bad for his diet.  She really drilled into Perry the notion of taking care of his body.   After Perry's mom died, his step-dad took him grocery shopping and asked Perry what kind of cereal his mother bought him.  Of course, what kind of cereal do you think Perry picked out?  Of course...  Fruity Pebbles!   It was a lie and it was a sin. 

Another point Perry makes; "If you came up and smacked me today, we might fight.  But let's say you got a chance to smack Barack Obama.  'It's not gonna go good for you...because there are secret service men surrounding him who have waited all their lives to kill someone!!'"  They will only ask questions after they've popped a cap in you!  The same is true about lying.  If you lie to a Federal Judge.  It will not go well for you!!  How much worse would then be then, if we lie to the Creator of the Universe?  Sin is ultimately against the God.  There are huge consequences of sin and all of us either needed to be saved from our sin or currently need to be saved from it. 

Jesus goes on with His parable, “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go." This is Jesus! He cancelled our debts when the enemy was about to foreclose on us.

This is a great story about forgiveness, but then the story takes an unbelievable turn. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt."  It is equally disturbing that we refuse to forgive people who have wronged us when Jesus has forgiven us. 

To our credit, we all know that forgiveness is hard!  Right?  Here are a few pointers that might help us to deal with our own unforgiveness.

1. We have to deal with the hurt. 

In the verse, the forgiven servant found someone who ligitimately owed him money and he was angered because it affected his being able to pay back the king. 

Perry remembers several incidents as a child, that ligitimately made him mad.  Brian Jones gave him a bloody nose.  Then there was Roy Pettit in the 4th grade.  "I got a paddling from Mrs. Natalie but her paddles never hurt and 'I was a frequent customer'...Me and Donny Farmer had gotten a paddling and I walked into class saying 'didn't hurt, didnt hurt'...then Roy Pettit told the teacher what I said...So I got a 2-for-1 that day...and the second one was from the Principal, and it hurt!!...I remember a girl who broke up with me."  It's easy to find people who have hurt us.  The enemy will keep them fresh in our mind. 

There are certainly more serious cases of forgiveness.  There are people reading this who have been raped, abandoned or molested.  But Jesus says we have to deal with these.  Just dealing with the emotions around these incidents can be hard.  "I'm not talking about something that is happening currently like living in a currently abusive situation."  In this case, get out of the house today.  Jesus is talking about dealing with pain from the past.

2. We have to avoid handling these situations ourselves. 

We all love to handle things ourselves.  "My wife is so godly...our little girl Karis came home one day talking about how a little boy had talked mean to her...everything my wife told her was godly...she told Karis to forgive him and to talk to him etc."  But that night, when his wife asked Perry what he would have told his daughter, here is Perry's reply:

"There is a spot on a man that, if he's ever messing with you, it's called the 'no-no-special-place...and it will stop any man at any time and when you kick him there and when he bends over, you take your knee and put it on his nose... it will bring blood and he will pass out.  Then you stand over him and talk about his momma.  Doesn't that feel good?!!"  Obviously kidding, Perry's point is that our Heavenly Father feels the same towards us when it comes to protecting His children. Romans 12:17 says,

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone."

Some of us deal those who have hurt us by by gossiping or slandering.  We hope for bad things to happen to these people.  But we have to avoid wanting to have our way immediately.  Paul tells us, "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

When Perry recently heard about, not one child who had been talking mean to his daughter, but 3 boys, he was furious.  He wanted to go to the school and deal with each of them.  "I could chuck three-year-olds all day!  Did you know that there's not a three-year-old on the planet who is a match for me?...Likewise, there's not a man on the planet who is a match for your God"
Perry was talking about how, when he was 4 years, he got locked in the bathroom and how it was during a time when he had a teacher, Mrs. Moore (who he nicknamed Satan), was very frustrated that he couldn't get out. When he finally did get out, his teacher slapped him with an open palm.  "I couldn't wait to tell my daddy!"  That night, at the table, Perry shared what happened with his parents.  His daddy said, "Why don't you go out and play...and, btw, you're not going to school tommorrow.  I am"  Perry doesn't really know what happened, but his father told me a few years later that when he had gone to the school, the principal brought the teacher in to apologize.   Perry's father said, "Well, I brought my wife in to whip her $%#@."   My dad completely handled the situation and all I had to do was tell him!!  Similarly, your Heavenly Father will handle it.  Trust Him! 
Have you ever played "Angry Birds"?  These birds are angry!! 

These pigs keep stealing the birds' eggs and it makes the birds angry.  So they go after the pigs to get their eggs back.  But if you look at the game, the birds keep killing themselves.  The lesson here?  It only hurts us when we seek out our own justice.  Look at what happens next in the parable:
When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘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. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”  We put ourselves in a prison with unforgiveness! 

3. Forgiveness is the KEY to free us from our personal prison. 

When we choose to use the key that God has given us, we free ourselves.  This is the key to a life of abundance.  Karis is learning how to ride a bicycle.  Perry and his wife took her to an area where it was safe to teach her how to ride.  It was frustrating Perry because Karis kept braking because she was scared.  Perry told her to trust him.  "Do not brake...fix your eyes on me and trust me...I will take care of you". 
We have to do this with our God.  We have to look in His eyes.  We have to trust Him.  Do not brake on your walk with God.  He will take care of you.  Make a choice to forgive and let your Heavenly Father deal with it. 

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