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So often when we are listening to sermons, in bible studies and prayer meetings, we hear that we must forgive those that have caused us pain. Forgiveness is hard to do! Yet, something that our Lord says that we must do. Do you realize to the full extent of God's forgiveness? He had his only Son die on the cross for us, to forgive us of our sins. Can you imagine being that forgiving?

Even when praying the "Our Father", we are praying "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us". We are asking God to forgive us of our sins. He expects us to forgive those who sin against us. Even at the cross Jesus said, "Father forgive them,for they know not what they do". Just think of the crimes and the pain that they inflicted on Him, yet He asked forgiveness for them. We must be willing to do the same, if we are to be in God's graces. How can we ask for forgiveness when we are unwilling to do the same?

God's Word says that:

Romans 12:17-21 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my 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." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

These verses summarize the core of Chistian living. If we love someone the way Christ loves us, we will be willing to forgive. If we have experienced God's grace, we will want to pass it on to others. And remember, grace is undeserved favor. By giving the enemy a drink, we're not excusing his misdeeds. We're recognizing him, forgiving him, and loving him in spite of his sins, just as Christ did for us.

1 Chonicles 21:8 Then David said to God, "I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of you sevant. I have done a very foolish thing."

When David realized his sin, he took full responsibility, admitted he was wrong and asked God to forgive him. Many people want to add God and the benefits of Christianity to their lives without acknowledging their personal sin and guilt. But confession and repentance must come before receiving forgiveness. Like David, we must take full responsibility for our actions and confess them to God before we can expect Him to forgive us and continue His work in us.

2 Chronicles 7:14 "If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

In chapter 6, Solomon asked God to make provisions for the people when they sinned. God answered with four conditions for forgiveness:... 1) humble youself by admitting your sins,... 2) pray to God, asking for forgiveness,... 3) seek God continually, and... 4) turn from sinful behavior. True repentance is more than talk - it is changed behavior. Whether we sin individually, as a group or as a nation, following these steps will lead to forgiveness. God will answer our earnest prayers.

Psalms 51:1-7 Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to your great compassion, blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely as I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts, you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

David was truly sorry for his adultry with Bathsheba and for murdering her husband to cover it up. He knew that his actions had hurt many people. But because David had repented of those sins, God mercifully forgave him. No sin is too great to be forgiven! Do you feel that you could never come close to God because you have done something terrible? God can and will forgive you of any sin. While God forgives us however, he does not always erase the natural consequences of our sin. David's life and family were never the same as a result of what he had done. (see 2 Samuel 12:1-23).

1 John 2:2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He can stand before God as our mediator because His death satisfied the wrath of God against sin and paid the death penalty for our sin. Thus Christ both satisfies God's requirement and removes our sin. In Him we are forgiven and purified.

Sometimes it's difficult to forgive those who wrong us. Imagine how hard it would be to forgive everyone, no matter what they had done! This is what God has done in Jesus. No one, no matter what he or she has done, is beyond forgiveness. All a person has to do is turn fom his or her sin, receive Christ's forgiveness and commit his or her life to him.

Psalm 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, so far He has removed our transgressions from us.

East and west can never meet. This is a symbolic portait of God's forgiveness. When He forgives our sin, He separates it from us and doesn't even remember it. We need never wallow in the past, for God forgives and forgets. We tend to dredge up the ugly past, but God has wiped our record clean. If we are to follow God, we must model his forgiveness. When we forgive another, we must also forget the sin. Otherwise, we have not truly forgiven.

Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Jesus gives a startling warning about forgiveness: if we refuse to forgive others, God will also refuse to forgive us. Why? Because when we don't forgive others, we are denying our common ground as sinners in need of God's forgiveness. God's forgiveness of sin is not the direct result of our forgiving others, but is based on our realizing what forgiveness means (see Ephesians 4:32). It is easy to ask God for forgiveness, but difficult to grant it to others. Whenever we ask God to forgive us for sin, we should ask ourselves, "Have I forgiven the people who have wronged me?"

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

The rabbis taught that people should forgive those who offend them, but only three times. Peter, trying to be especially generous, asked Jesus if seven (the "perfect" number) was enough times to forgive someone. But Jesus answered, "Seventy-seven times," meaning that we shouldn't even keep track of how many times we forgive someone. We should always forgive those who are truly repentant, no matter how many times they ask.

Matthew 19:35 This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.

Because God has forgiven all our sins, we should not withhold forgiveness from other. Realizing how completely Christ has forgiven us should produce a free and generous attitude of forgiveness toward others. When we don't forgive others, we are setting ourselves outside & above Christ's law of love.

Luke 7:47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven, for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.

Overflowing love is the natural response to forgiveness and the appropriate consequence of faith. But only those who realize the depth of their sin can appreciate the complete forgiveness God offers them. Jesus has rescued all of his followers, whether they were once extremely wicked or conventionally good, from eternal death. Do you appeciate the wideness of God's mercy? Are you grateful for His forgiveness?

Luke 11:4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He made forgiveness the cornestone of their relationship with God. God has forgiven our sins; we must now forgive those who have wronged us. To remain unforgiving shows that we have not understood that we ourselves deeply need to be forgiven. Think of some people who have wronged you. Have you forgiven them? How will God deal with you if he treats you as you treat others?

Romans 4:25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

When we believe, an exchange takes place. We give Christ our sins and he gives us His righteousness and forgiveness (see 2 Corinithians 5:21). There is nothing we can do to earn this. Only through Christ can we receive God's righteousness. What an incredible bargain this is for us! But sadly, many still choose to pass up the gift to continue "enjoying" their sin.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.

This is Christ's law of forgiveness as taught in the Gospels (Matthew 6:14, 15; 18:35; Mark 11:25). We also see it in the Lord's Prayer - "Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors." God does not forgive us because we forgive others, but solely because of His great mercy. As we come to undestand this mercy however, we will want to be like Him. Having received forgiveness, we will pass it on to others. Those who are unwilling to forgive have not become one with Christ, who was willing to forgive even those who crucified Him. (Luke 23:34)

There is so much more on forgiveness in the Bible. That also makes me realize what an important focus God has given forgiveness. I pray that you read beyond what is written here, read the full chapters to fully understand what God's message is. Forgiveness is not always easy, often forgiving ourselves is harder yet.

Lord, help us to be as forgiving as You have been.