Here are the notes from my talk today to Pastors/Staff at the Westcoast Baptist Association Prayer lunch.
The Ministry of Forgiveness
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
If I were to write a book on The Minister and Forgiveness here is a rough outline of my chapter topics:
1. The Minister receives forgiveness from God.
2. The Minister gives forgiveness to people.
3. The Minister receives forgiveness from people.
4. The Minister models and teaches the forgiving life.
5. The Minister conveys the forgiveness of God.
Jesus has set the work of forgiveness into the center of our prayer life.
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.'”
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Our capacity to minister fruitfully in the Gospel depends on our continuing experience of the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. 1 John 5:5-10
The ministry of forgiveness requires us to lead people wisely, firmly, and with respect to reorder their relationships in Christian community.
5 If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent-not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven-if there was anything to forgive-I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. 2 Corinthians 2:5-11
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21-23
In the ministry of forgiveness the church practices the ministry of healing prayer that accompanies confession.
6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. NIV
In the ministry of forgiveness the minister of the Gospel sometimes may need to lead others into the process of forgiveness and healing by “leading from who we represent” to them.
“I am so sorry _______________ happened to you. I believe what __________ did is wrong. I wonder if you would forgive ___________ and enter into the freedom that Christ wants you to enjoy. When you forgive you are not saying that ________ is OK or right. Rather you are saying that ________ no longer owes you anything because of Jesus’s love in your life. So could we enter together now into prayer and ask God to help you forgive and to enjoy your freedom in Christ?”
Forgiveness and Prayer Exercises of Examine
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know
my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24
1. Ask God to search you and reveal any sin to confess to Him and to receive forgiveness.
2. Ask God to search you and to reveal any relationships and offenses for which you need to forgive.
3. Ask God to search you and to reveal any relationships in which you need to confess your wrong and ask for forgiveness.
4. Forgiveness is a process we enter into in response to the Gospel. Ask God for His grace to sustain you through the process.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.