What Does It Mean To Forgive ?



I forgive You


Have you ever forgiven anyone?  Has anyone ever forgiven you?  What does it mean to forgive?  What are you actually doing, when you forgive someone?

To forgive can actually mean a few different things.  Today I’d like you to consider three things that forgiveness can mean.

Here’s the first thing that forgiving can mean;  It can mean, to stop blaming.  When you blame someone, aren’t you really saying..  You’re guilty, and I’m NOT gonna to let you forget it?  How many of you have ever been guilty of doing something wrong?  Anybody?  Everybody?

Is that how we should treat one another?  To not ever let anyone forget their guilt.  Is that how God treats you?  It’s not, is it?  God is forgiving, isn’t He?  In talking about His new covenant, God says;  “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins, no more.”   (Hebrews 8, verse 12)

The fact that you’ve sinned will always be true.  You can’t “undo” what you’ve already done.  But God is willing to stop blaming, and He’s willing to say;  “I will remember your sins no more”. 

God says, in  2 Corinthians 5, verse 17;  “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature.  The old things have passed away, behold new things have come.”  

In our relationship with God, the guilt and the blame have “passed away”.  Behold, a new relationship has come.  If we could only treat each other, as God treats us.  Maybe it’s time for us to have some new relationships.  And a lot of times, the new relationship needs to start with us, changing ourselves!  A the change needs to be he forgiveness that must take place, in us.  We’ve got to quit assigning blame!

Did you ever hear the saying..  “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone” ?   Sure you have.  That’s what Jesus said when some scribes and Pharisees wanted to stone a woman to death for committing adultery.  Was she guilty?   Of course she was guilty.   John 8, verse 4  says;  “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act!”  

And Jesus stoops down, and writes something in the dirt with His finger, and He gets up and says;  “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”  (V-7)   And then He stoops down again, and writes something in the dirt again.  I wish we knew what Jesus wrote in the dirt, but God doesn’t tell us.

But here’s what God does tell us.  He tells us in  verse 9;  “And when they heard it (When they heard the saying; He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone)  they began to go out one by one beginning with the older ones, and He (Jesus) was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst.  And straightening up, Jesus said to her;  Woman, where are they?  Did no one condemn you?  (In other words;  Where are the blamers?)  And she said; No one Lord.  And Jesus said;  Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and from now on, sin no more.”  

Jesus refused to condemn the woman, even though she was guilty!  He wouldn’t condemn her, without giving her the chance to repent!   “From now on, sin no more”..  He said.   Repent and change, because of the forgiveness I have in my heart.

You and I, need to quit blaming people, even if they’re guilty.  And we need to give them a chance to repent.  But how long do you have to give them to repent?  Do YOU get to set the time limit?  You DON’T, do you?  God sets the time limit.  Do you know how long God gives a person to repent?  He gives them their entire lifetime to repent, if it takes that long.

“..God is not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”    (2 Peter 3, verse 9)

And God is also not willing for us, to keep blaming.  So then, you who are without sin, YOU cast the first stone.


Don’t Sin !


Here’s something else, that forgiving can mean.  It can mean, to stop being angry.  Angry to the point of being controlled by your anger, and holding a grudge.  The bible tells us, in  Ephesians 4, verse 26;  “Be angry, and yet, do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down on your wrath, and do not give a place to the devil.”   In other words, do not give the devil an opportunity top control our actions, because of an unforgiving heart.

So then, be angry, oppose what’s wrong. There’s a purpose for anger.  But it’s purpose is NOT to be held on to, and thus to create the temptation within yourself, to do something wrong.

The phrase, “Be angry”, in that verse, means..  “to express fixed, or settled opposition to something”.  Can you express your fixed opposition to something, without sinning?  Of course you can.  Stand up for the truth!  You’d be sinning to NOT do that.  But, don’t let the sun go down on your wrath, and  “.. do not give a place to the devil.”   Don’t give evil, a place in your heart, by letting your Godly opposition to something, cause YOU to sin.  Voice your opposition, and then, allow an opportunity for repentance. 


Listen to  James 1, verse 14  says;  “But each one is tempted, when he is enticed, and carried away with his own lust.”   Verse 15  says;  “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin..” 

What does that have to do with giving a place to the devil, and giving evil a place in your heart?  Well, when your opposition to something, or your anger, isn’t only expressed, but it’s “held onto”, in your heart, then it becomes a grudge that you hold.  And that’s exactly where the temptation comes from.  The temptation to do something unkind, or even something nasty.  And that temptation somehow tends to entice us, and we get carried away with it.  I guess it kind of appeals to our animal instincts, instead of to our spiritual instincts.

“Let not the sun go down on your wrath”.   That word “wrath” means..  “irritation, indignation, and exasperation, or, anger and wrath”.  Don’t harbor those feelings.  Don’t let the sun go down on them.


What happens when you forgive?  You let go of those feelings don’t you?  You don’t keep them around, and so then they can’t entice you, to do something that’s not right.  God has a real advantage over us in this respect.  James 1:13  says;  “..For God cannot BE tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”  

But we’re not so lucky, we ARE tempted by evil.  But we won’t be tempted in this respect, if we learn to stop blaming, to stop being angry, and to start being more forgiving.

Remember what it says in  1 Corinthians 10, verse 13?  “No temptation has overtaken you, but such as is common to man.  And God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may endure it.”  

Well, forgiveness, is one of those “ways of escape”, provided by God.  And so, maybe we need to put that into practice more often then we do.   It’s like Jesus said;  “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”   (Mathew 6, verse 12)


Forgiveness Is Letting Go


That brings us to a third thing, that forgiving can mean.  Forgiving means to cancel out a debt.  It means to get rid of it, to send it away, to let it go.  If you forgive a debt, you cancel it out, as if it were paid in full.  Even when it’s NOT paid in full.  Usually, when someone owes you a debt, you make arrangements for them to pay you.  But have you ever just, let it go?

I’d like you to do something for me here.  Raise your hand, if you owe a debt, to God.  We all do, don’t we?  But you know what?  YOU, don’t have to pay your debt to God!   You know why you don’t have to pay it?  Because GOD, is willing to cancel it.  He’s willing to just let it go, and send it away.  And why is He willing to do that?  It’s because of His mercy ad His forgiveness.


The Scapegoat


Do you know what a scapegoat is?  If you don’t already know;  A scapegoat is someone who ends up taking the blame for something.  It’s typically someone who’s actually innocent, but they’re getting the blame pinned on them anyhow.   If that happened to you, you probably wouldn’t be very happy about it.  But maybe, just maybe, you might love someone, so much, that you might willingly take the blame, for them.

Romans 5, verse 7,  talks about the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate acceptance of blame.  It says there;  “For one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps, for the “good man”, someone would dare to die.”   If you did, willingly die for someone else, you would have willingly, become the scapegoat.

But let me tell you where that idea of a “scapegoat” comes from.


The Law of Atonement


The nation of Israel, in the wilderness, had a “law of atonement”, that God had given them.  Listen to what it says in  Leviticus chapter 16,  about that “law of atonement”..


I’m not going to read the whole chapter, but I’m going to read a few verses that give the understanding of where the scapegoat originated.

Leviticus 16, verse 3;  “Aaron shall enter the holy place with this;  With a bull for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.”  Now  verses 5 thru 10;  “And he shall take from the congregation of the sons of Israel, two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.  Then Aaron shall offer the bull for the sin offering which is for himself, that he may make atonement for himself and for his household.  And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord, at the doorway of the tent of meeting.  And Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.  Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the Lord fell, and make it a sin offering.  But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat.” 

The literal translation of the word “scapegoat” is,  “the goat of removal”.   It was a symbolic act.  The sins of the people were symbolically put upon the “goat of removal”, and then those sins were “sent away” into the wilderness, never to be remembered again.

The “scapegoat”, the “goat of removal”.

I want to read three more verses in this chapter,  verses 20 thru 22;  This is speaking of Aaron, the high priest;

“When he finishes atoning for the holy place, and the tent of meeting, and the alter, he shall offer the live goat.  Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it, all the iniquities of the sons of Israel, and all their transgressions, in addition to all their sins, and he shall lay them on the head of the goat, and send it away, into the wilderness, by the hand of a man who is in readiness.  And the goat shall bear on itself, all the iniquities, to a solitary land, and he shall release the goat into the wilderness.”  

The sins of the people were sent into a “solitary land”.  This is the only time that the word “solitary” is used in the bible.  It means..  “a deserted land, and an uninhabited land.  A “land of separation”.   A land of separation.


We’re told, in  Isaiah 59, verse 2;  “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.”   But the scapegoat, the “goat of removal”, would make a separation of those sins, from the people.  And it would carry those sins away, into a “land of separation”.   God’s “law of atonement”, was the symbolic demonstration of the forgiveness of God.   The cancelling of the debt of sin.  He let it go.  He completely sent it away, into a solitary land, where it could NOT come between the people, and their God.

The sins of the people, had made a separation between them, and their God.  But their GOD, made a separation between them, and their sins, through the “law of atonement”.


A Modern Day Scapegoat


Maybe WE need a scapegoat today.  Maybe WE need a “goat of removal”.   Actually, we don’t though.  We don’t need a “goat of removal”, because we already have a “Lamb of removal”.   “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”   (John 1, verse 29)   

“He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf.  That we, might become the righteousness of God, in Him.”   (2 Cor 5:21)   YOUR SINS, and my sins have been removed, by God’s  “Lamb of removal”. 


So then God removes our sins.  He cancels the debt, EVEN without us paying the debt, and He doesn’t even blame us!  Instead, He separates us from our sins, and He sends them away, into a wilderness place, a “land of separation”, I don’t know where, but those sins will never be seen again.  And they will never even be remembered again!   God said; “I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins, no more!”  

Now, If GOD isn’t even willing to remember the sins that you’ve committed, because He’s “blotted them out”, are YOU going to still keep remembering them?  And are YOU going to keep remembering the sins of other people?

“Be angry, and yet, do not sin.”   (Ephesians 4:26)    Express your fixed opposition to sin, and then LET IT GO!   Please, listen to God’s word.  God says, it is actually SINFUL, to keep remembering those sins, that He has forgiven.  Whether they be your own sins, or the sins of someone else.  It’s sinful, to keep remembering them.  Stand against sin, but then, let it go!   Because that’s exactly what God does. 

“And do NOT let the sun go down on your wrath”.  There is a purpose for our anger, but that purpose is NOT, for us to hold on to our “irritation”, and our “indignation”, and our “exasperation”, that may be the result of sin.


What does it mean for YOU to forgive?  Well, it means to stop blaming.  And it means to stop being angry.  And it means to let it go, and to cancel the debt.  “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  

And for you to forgive, means that you FORGET!   What you forgive, you MUST treat, as if it never happened.  And the sins that God has forgiven YOU for, you must forget them too.  You must..  You don’t have a choice in the matter.  God has separated you from those sins, and He has sent them to a “solitary land”.  And YOU do not live in that land.  Those sins are gone forever.  They don’t even exist anymore!


Now, I want to tell you something that forgiving does NOT mean.  When you forgive someone, it does NOT mean that YOU can literally forgive someone’s sins.  Only GOD can do that.  Our biggest debt to God, is our debt for sin.  And God can, and will, forgive that debt, if we believe, and repent and obey Him.  But nobody owes YOU the debt of sin.  And since no one owes you that debt, you can’t forgive that debt.  Everyone owes that debt, to God.  And only God, can forgive the debt of sin.

A person can owe you a debt for some kind of misconduct done towards you, and you can forgive them for that.  And according to God, you MUST forgive them for that.  You can release the blame, and you can release the anger, and the irritation, and the hard feelings.  But you can’t release the sin.


Next week, Lord willing, I want to show you several verses of scripture that lead many people to believe that we can, in some way, forgive someone for their sins.  But it’s not so.  I’ll show you, from the bible, that only GOD can forgive sins, not any man, that has ever lived.  That’s for next week..  this week, we’re out of time.


But I can’t close without telling you one more time, how you CAN be forgiven by God.

First, you must believe that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God”.  (Mat 16, verse 16)   And you must believe that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven, that has been given among men, by which we must be saved”.   (Acts 4, verse 12)

And then, once you believe, you must repent of your sins.  You must turn from your sins, and turn to God.  Jesus said;  “Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish.”   (Luke 13, verse 3) 

And once you’ve made that u-turn, back to God, you must be buried in baptism, immersed in water, like a burial.  And when you do that, God will forgive your sins.  That’s what we’re promised in  Acts 2, verse 38;  “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”   That’s the promise of God.   The forgiveness of your sins, and the promise of eternal life in heaven.

And throughout this whole process, and even for the rest of your life, you must be willing to confess your faith in Jesus, and in His authority to forgive your sins.   We’re told in  Romans 10, verse 10;  “For with the heart, man believes unto righteousness.”  (that means that your belief results in your obedience.  You believe, UNTO righteousness)   “And with the mouth, he confesses unto salvation.”  

But if you will do these things, and if you will remain faithful unto death, then you WILL receive eternal salvation, by the blood of Jesus, and by the grace of God.   Thanks be to God!





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