Have you ever known two people who had an argument, became angry and estranged, and years later can't even remember how the bitterness between them started? How many fathers and sons, former friends, husbands and wives, haven't spoken to each other in years because a wall was built between them through hurt and lack of forgiveness?
What barriers exist between you and a loved one because of a lack of forgiveness?
On Beyond Today, we're going to help you learn how to heal those broken relationships by showing you The Mercy Effect .
Let me share with you an ancient story that can change your life today.
There is a fascinating account in the Bible about ancient Israel King David and his family. Now David had a harem, which was common for kings in the Middle East, and a large number of children. Imagine the conflicts between these siblings competing for their father's attention.
One of David's sons, named Amnon, fell in love with his half sister Tamar. Tamar resisted her brother's advances, but he finally overcame her and forced her.
When the news reached the king, course he was angry, yet, surprisingly he acted indecisively. Two years went by and still David did nothing about what had happened to his own daughter Tamar. Maybe he was trying to avoid a public scandal. Maybe he felt guilty about not being a good father. But he did nothing.
Absalom, another of David's sons, tired of waiting for his father to take action and avenged his sister by killing Amnon. In many ways, it would seem that Absalom is the hero of the story. He avenges his sister and supports her for the rest of her life, while David seems... incompetent. Absalom ends up having to flee the country and spends three years in exile.
Well, David eventually extended amnesty to his son, but for Absalom, the seeds of discontent, the feeling that he had been wronged, that he was a victim of David's ineptitude, had taken root. Motivated by a need to share his discontent, he began to feed his frustration to others. Absalom ultimately launched a coup to overthrow King David. He ended up abusing his father's harem and was killed by the commander of the army.
Absalom's self-destruction was tragic, yet from the very beginning his actions are very predictable.
His sister had been wronged, but justice was delayed. Motivated by anger and a need for vengeance, he took the matter into his own hands only to face banishment by his father. Soon he was convinced and convinced himself that he had been wronged by David. He just couldn't forgive his father. His anger against David became all-consuming, and he tried to overthrow his father's kingdom only to suffer defeat and death.
Have you ever felt like Absalom? Emotionally and mentally consumed with the agony of a wrong someone did to you? Are you obsessed with the injustice? Unable to feel closure?
Now I want you to hear me out, cause this is going to be difficult because at first what I say, may not make a lot of sense. But to overcome this emotional pain, you must first take responsibility for your own emotions and actions. Here's the difficult truth: When you harbor anger and hatred, you become a slave to your own negative emotions.
When you've been hurt by someone, the only way to experience healing is that you must forgive the person who has hurt you. Now I know this sounds hard. Now, forgiveness doesn't mean that you have to accept abusive behavior or absolve the person from responsibility. Justice is a matter of right and wrong and punishment. Forgiveness does not mean that you give up justice. Forgiveness does mean, you give up being consumed with the emotional pain and obsession on what happened to you.
Jesus Christ taught, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." Now, mercy means to show compassion to someone who has done wrong. Personally, it means that you give up your emotional need to see the other person suffer.
You know all of us can feel sympathy, when we see a suffering child or a homeless person. We can be motivated to show that fellow human being compassion. We give food or money or participate in a service project sponsored by a church or maybe a business organization. You know it's a whole lot harder to show mercy to someone who has mistreated you.
Well mercy is the foundation of forgiveness. Now remember, if you don't learn to forgive, the emotional pain will never heal, and you will never know real peace or happiness. Forgiveness is a difficult emotional process. I know that. I'm not saying that this is going to be easy, but it is the only way you can become spiritually and emotionally healed.
So how can you learn to forgive someone who has mistreated you or maybe someone you love?
Will you begin by honestly answering this question? Now, I want you to really listen to this question, okay?
Have I experienced real forgiveness from God?
Now before you answer, let me explain something about God's forgiveness. God is offering you forgiveness, but you can only experience that forgiveness when you admit how wrong you've been. This is what the Bible calls repentance. Repentance is more than a vague: "You know, I've done some bad things in my life and I'm sorta sorry." Repentance means to recognize how wrong your actions really are, to turn away from self-destructive behavior and give your life to your Creator. Repentance means to understand that you need God's forgiveness because you've messed up the life that He has given to you. It means to change your wrong actions and turn them into right actions.
Now, I'm not talking about a "give your heart to the Lord" religious experience that you may have had, that didn't mean much a week later. If you have not truly repented, then you haven't really experienced God's forgiveness and the mercy effect.
The Bible records a lot of mistakes made by King David. It also states that he was, in spite of his faults, "a man after God's own heart." David was a shepherd-king, a warrior-poet, who wrote poems and song lyrics recorded in, what is called, the book of Psalms.
He wrote: "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit" (Psalm:32:1-5).
You may want God's blessing of forgiveness, but you deceive yourself when you think you can experience that forgiveness without repentance.
Ancient Israel King David wrote: "When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the summer drought. And then he says, "I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,' and you forgave the iniquity of my sin." (Psalm:32:3-5)
The first step in understanding your need to forgive others is to understand your need to be forgiven by God. At the core of your being, you are a damaged person. I don't care who you are. Your life, your thoughts, your emotions, your actions have been toxic to your own spiritual and emotional well-being. In fact, you are your own worst enemy!
Now here's the difficult part to grasp. You will not experience God's forgiveness until you recognize that you do not deserve His forgiveness. Only then will you understand how much you need His mercy. Only then can you understand who Jesus Christ really is and why the Scriptures say that He died for you. Only then, can you understand the true meaning of showing mercy to others. This is the mercy effect.
Now I know God will do this for you. How do I know? Because He's done it for me.
Now only when you ask God for forgiveness can you begin to learn how to forgive others. The mercy effect can begin to take place in your life. To help you understand God's plan for your life, we want to send you a free copy of Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion.
Now converting to Christianity is more than accepting some doctrines and going through a ritual. Conversion is having your heart and mind changed so that you can give up the old, messed up life and become a child of God.
Page by page, you will learn the purpose for your life, how God can change your life, and how to pray to God for His help. This is a study guide for beginning your journey of having your Creator change your life!
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A number of years ago, I felt mistreated by a co-worker. For months I harbored some anger towards that person. Finally, I approached him and apologized for my secret anger. I wasn't sure how he would react to that, how he would respond. To my surprise, he apologized for what he had done and said that if everyone handled situations like this, we would have much fewer unresolved conflicts.
Now I had wasted a lot of time on useless, secret anger. But I was motivated to approach the man because, you know what he did to me, I don't care what it was, it was minor compared to my offenses towards God and God has offered me forgiveness. I had experienced the mercy effect.
To illustrate this point, Jesus tells a parable. A man owed a king an enormous sum of money. The king demanded payment. The man was bankrupt and could not pay his debt. He begged for forgiveness and the king showed him mercy by erasing the account.
The forgiven man left the king and came upon someone who owed him a very small amount of money, but couldn't pay. Instead of forgiving the small debt, the forgiven man had the poor man thrown into prison. The king hears about the situation and calls the man he forgave into his presence. The king tells the forgiven man how he should have had "compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had compassion on you" (Matthew:18:33) --the mercy effect. In Jesus' parable, because the forgiven man had been shown mercy, but refused to show mercy to others, he was punished.
Then Jesus makes this remarkable statement: "So my Heavenly Father also will do to [each of you] you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses" (Matthew:18:35).
To accept God's mercy and refuse to give mercy to others, means God will withdraw His mercy from you. That's the point of Jesus' parable!
So how can you unleash the mercy effect in your life and avoid making the mistake that the forgiven man made in the parable?
Well, here are three practical steps you can do to begin to experience the mercy effect. Now, I encourage you to write them down, so that you can go back and study them when you find yourself angry and bitter because you've been mistreated by someone else.
Remember, Jesus taught that once you've accepted God's forgiveness, you are required to change how you deal with other people who mistreat you. This leads us to the first step in showing mercy to others. Here it is:
1. Take the situation where people have hurt you to God in prayer and ask for healing of your damaged emotions.
For this healing to take place, you must be willing to give up the emotional need for payback and your obsession on the trauma.
Now if you've ever been really hurt, you know exactly what I mean, and here's the problem. The normal human reaction to being hurt is to want payback. The person who hurt you is now your enemy. Now once a person is an enemy, we can emotionally justify almost anything that we say about them or even do to them. After all, right, they deserve it! They deserve it! They hurt me!--Right?
Aren't you glad that God doesn't treat you and me that way?
I mean how much of your time and energy has been wasted in feeling animosity towards others? Like, you know, other people that may have hurt you? You know, like a cancer, this bitterness devours your emotional and spiritual life. How much happiness are you sacrificing because of what someone did to you or said about you in the past?
At this point you might be asking: Yeah, but what about justice? I am not suggesting you absolve the guilty person from responsibility, or allow that person to continue to hurt you. It is impossible to have a relationship with someone who continues to abuse you. What we're talking about here is your emotions and your relationship with God.
If you don't give up the emotional need for payback and obsession with the trauma, you will refuse to forgive. The result is that you will create a barrier between you and your ability to experience God's mercy. In addition to thwarting your ability to experience God's mercy, you create a barrier between you and the person. Because of this barrier, the relationship can never heal even if the other person admits that he or she is wrong.
Well this brings up the second step.
2. Don't replay what the other person did to you over and over again in your head like you're watching a movie.
You know, I knew a man who had been mistreated by someone and the person who mistreated him died. Unable to forgive, the man remained trapped in the past reliving old offenses. He said that he felt like the one who had mistreated him was reaching out from the grave and controlling his life. Because he couldn't give up the obsession and kept replaying the events, this man was trapped in emotional turmoil by a dead man. Sad story, isn't it?
Well when you refuse to give up the need for payback and stay obsessed on the trauma, then something that happens to you emotionally and spiritually. There's something terrible that happens. You become emotionally frozen in time. The trauma is relived over and over again as if it is a current event. You become a slave to the pain of your past.
Now, one of the quirks of human nature is the more you obsess on the actions of the person who hurt you, the more you're going to be in danger of developing--now listen to this--those same faults yourself. What you obsess about is what you become. Remember Absalom? Absalom hated Amnon because he raped his sister. Absalom's obsession with the wrongs that had been done, and uncontrolled desire for payback, led him to what? Try to overthrown his father's kingdom. A lot of people died. A lot of people suffered. Eventually he was killed.
An old Arabic proverb states, "Write the wrongs that are done to you in the sand, but write the good things that happen to you on a piece of marble. Let go of all emotions such as resentment and retaliation, which diminish you, and hold onto the emotions, such as gratitude and joy, which increase you." Wise saying, isn't it?
3. You need to work at being a kind person.
Now this may seem unrelated to forgiveness, but the simple actions of holding a door open for someone else, saying a kind word to the stressed out postal worker, helping your wife wash the dishes, not only brings happiness to others, but when you concentrate on the actions of being kind, you change your own negative emotions.
I'm going to read to you a remarkable statement, but what is even more remarkable is who said it. Now see if you can guess who said this and who it was.
"Join the great company of those who make the barren places of life fruitful with kindness. Carry a vision of heaven in your hearts, and you shall make your name, your college, your world, correspond to that vision. Your success and happiness lie within you. External conditions are the accidents of life, its outer trappings. The great, enduring realities are love and service. Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulty."
Wow. A remarkable way of looking at life isn't it? Be a kind person and you not only change yourself, you have a positive effect on the world around you.
The quote, is from Helen Keller. Born both deaf and blind, if anyone had the right to not be kind to others because of personal circumstances, it would have been her. Well everyday you're presented with opportunities to be kind. Seize them, as if they were gold.
So here's the challenge. Get a small notebook and keep a list of how many acts of kindness you do every day. Make it your goal to do ten acts of kindness on a daily basis to anyone; strangers, people you know, loved ones, doesn't matter. And this is a simple way to begin to change your life, for the better.
Now I want to remind you to order your free copy of Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion . This biblical study guide will help you learn the purpose of your life and how God can help you reach it. When you order your copy, we will also we send you a free subscription to The Good News magazine.
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We're going to continue to discuss what we've been talking about here on today's program, the mercy effect, with fellow Beyond Today hosts, Steve Myers and Darris McNeely. Gentlemen describe what it was like for you, when you first came to grips with the idea and the realization you needed God's forgiveness.
I came to that after a process of time in my life. It was not something that was an emotional decision on the moment. It brought, you know it was brought about by a process of thought, preparation. And I came to realize that at a point in time where I made a decision to accept Christ as my Savior, my personal Savior, that I certainly needed His forgiveness, for who I was and you know, I could always look at specific things and perhaps list those then, but it was a transforming aspect of my life. But really, it began a process of realizing all my life I have needed forgiveness. It's not just something in the past. It is an ongoing process, to realize that I need that forgiveness for mistakes that I make, for the problems that I can get into and for at times, what I become.
And you really doesn't experience that forgiveness until you experience the need. I mean it's a real core need.
Absolutely. I think when God starts to work with you--I know in my life when God started working with me--He begins to open your mind, and you begin to see things from a difference perspective. You begin a spiritual journey. And you realize that something's been missing. You know there's kind of been a hole in your life and the only thing that, that can take away the guilt, when you begin to realize that, you know, I've earned death. The wages of my sin weighed on me and you feel that weight. And you need God's mercy. You need that effect in your life so that you can be released from that. And that is a remarkable point, I think that, that God calls us to, that we have to change, and we have to see the need and seek that forgiveness.
And you can't earn it. Either He gives it to us, or He doesn't. And if He doesn't give us mercy, we, you know we talk about being lost. People are lost. People are truly lost unless God freely gives it. It's an amazing gift He's offering, if we understand it. Now how did that understanding of receiving God's forgiveness change your life?
Well it removed guilt, as Steve mentioned. I think we all are, labor under so much guilt.
The feeling of guilt.
Yeah, and it removed that. But it also, again my understanding that I'm forgiven and removes that, I also begin to live a way of life whereby I forgave other people. And so it's kept me from harboring grudges, over a long period of time. And that's helped me to move beyond conflict because eventually then you get to a point where you just, you realize, hey, it's not worth it. Or you even forget, in some cases, what it was you had the problem with, the conflict with somebody.
…And you're willing to let it go.
Yeah because you let it go. And you, you know, the saying is trite but you let go and you let God. And you let God forgive you and you learn to forgive other people. So that's how it's changed my life.
Yeah and I think because of forgiveness, it does, it should change everything. You know, when you realize I've been going down a path where I need that forgiveness, it's sin that causes that need. And I've got to change that. And God calls you to that, to change your lifestyle. To change that. To actually then begin to put it into action. That means my priorities have to change. And when your priorities change in life, then that meant for me personality my goals have to change, what my intent was in my life, radically changed because of the forgiveness that God granted me. That I want to please Him. I want to do what pleases Him and honors him. And so that changed everything for me.
Just quickly, maybe in a very short amount of time…You're both pastors. People come to you. They want to understand repentance. They want to experience God's forgiveness. What's the very first thing you tell them?
I tell them that repentance is more than just a forgiveness of a specific act--which it is--but it is also, it is a recognition that we are wrong. That we need God. There is a vast hole in our life, spiritually, that needs to be filled as a result of how we live our life. And we come to that point where we recognize God's way of life as one we want to live for the rest of our life and we turn from whatever it is that we are living, whatever lifestyle, whatever way of this world that has entrapped us. And we replace it with God' way of life. A turn from a way.
Which there is--right--and there is standards. And God determines right from wrong.
God determines, not us.
Absolutely. Maybe a different way to say it: We turn away from sin. We turn to God. And so it involves both those actions. That we've gotta put that into action so that we're demonstrating that we're turning away from sin and we're counting on God.
…And turning to God.
Awhile back we did a program titled: In Search of Angels and Demons . We showed that passages in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 described how the archangel Lucifer rebelled against God, and was thrown from heaven, and became the evil adversary of God known as Satan.
Well I received a number of emails asking if this was the same event as the one described in Revelation 12 where the "dragon," a symbol for Satan, makes war with God. Revelation:12:7-9 states: "And war broke out in heaven: Michael"--which is another archangel--"fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast to the earth, the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world…"
What is described in Revelation is a different event than the one described in the Old Testament. The Revelation account is a prophecy of a future time when there will be a war in heaven unlike anything that you and I can imagine. Satan will then try to destroy God's creation and unleash the events that the Bible calls the Tribulation. Well fortunately, what we can know, is Christ returns and saves humanity by defeating Satan and setting up God's Kingdom here on this earth.
Well do you want to break out of the emotional prison of anger and resentment? You know life is really too short to harbor resentment. God has something better for you in your life.
Peter, one of Jesus' disciples, wanted to know how many times he should forgive someone who had mistreated him. Peter asked if seven times was sufficient. Wow. What a remarkable attitude! It's hard enough to forgive someone who has mistreated you one time. Now forgiving that person two times, three times, you'd have to be a spiritual giant. Peter asked if seven times was enough? Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven.
Only by following Jesus' instructions and understanding that God has first forgiven us, can you experience the mercy effect.
Well that's our program for today. If you missed some of it, go online and catch the whole program at BeyondToday.tv. Don't forget our free offers and be sure to join us next time.
For Beyond Today , I'm Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.