"My heavenly Father will also [turn you over to torturers]..., if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart" (Matthew 18:34-35).
The sad commentary on many a believer's life is that he/she remains in spiritual torment because of refusing to forgive someone of a wrong done against her/him.
Heart-felt Forgiveness Flows from Being Forgiven a Huge Debt
Bitterness (pikria, Acts 8:23; Romans 3:14: Hebrews 12:15)) is the emotion that results when we dwell on how someone has hurt us and begin to think about revenge. We become self-centered and filled with self-pity. We can only think about ourselves or how we might vindicate ourselves. Wrath (thumos, Luke 4:28; Acts 19:28) and anger (orge, 1 Timothy 2:8; James 1:19-20) are expressed as we “clamor” for attention and speak evil of the offender. We begin to plan malicious acts against our offenders.
May we forgive from the heart because we appreciate that we have been forgiven a huge debt of sin by our holy God and thereby be free of the emotional torture that results from refusing to forgive.
2. Ponder and dwell on the wondrous love and forgiveness God has granted to you through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:9-2:2).
3. Recognize that you cannot maintain a heart of forgiveness and forgive again for the right reasons in your own strength (John 15:5).
4. Keep in mind the Lord’s command to not take your righteous wrath to bed (Ephesians 4:25-27).
5. Be on the alert for signs of sinful anger and bitterness (Matthew 18:35). Remain sensitive to the convicting work of the Spirit from the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 4:30-31; Colossians 3:8-10; Hebrews 12:15).
6. Confess to the Lord the sin of an unforgiving spirit when the Holy Spirit causes you to realize that this is the reason for the emotional torture of bitterness and anger (1 John 1:9; cp. Matthew 6:14-15; Psalm 32:1-6).
7. Cry out to God for the grace to keep on maintaining a heart of forgiveness to forgive again and again so that your life will be a testimony to His love and grace (John 13:35; 2 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Jesus taught that refusing to forgive is itself a sin and breaks fellowship with God (Matthew 6:14-15). When a believer refuses to forgive, God will not forgive him until it is confessed as sin (1 John 1:9; Psalm 32:1-5). This is forgiveness for fellowship with God in this life. Every believer remains forgiven in Christ forever whether he or she forgives or not (Ephesians 1:7). The importance of forgiving others and the sin of refusing to forgive in Matthew 6 and 18 has to do with continuing in fellowship in a meaningful relationship with Jesus here and now in this life.