Continuing from Part 2, we will jump right into the next heavy, yet freeing, topic in the battle against the darkness that so desperately wants to have power over us.
Lewis B. Smedes wrote: “To forgive is set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” When it comes to forgiveness, and what it accomplishes, truer words have ne’er been spoken.
We think, often, of forgiveness as an offer of freedom to the perpetrator/offender. A ‘get out of jail free’ card, that says what they did doesn’t matter. It’s done. Over. Even if they are not repentant. And that’s not accurate at all. Forgiveness is first a gift offered to us by God for our sins and when we receive it and understand it’s value, it is a gift that we, in turn, offer to those who sin against us.
When God forgives us, the sins are wiped away, erased, forever and He sets us free. When we forgive, we don’t have that kind of authority to forgive in that sense of eternal freedom for the offender. They remain accountable to God for their sins; we merely release them from any kind of ‘debt’ to us, and any personal claim to vengeance or vindication. As long as those who violate us have a debt to us, we have a bond with them, and they have power over us. When we forgive, we say, in essence, ‘the debt is now owed only to God. Your account with me is cleared.”
This does not mean that there is never a time for legal action, after we forgive. We, as Christians, are not above the law. What the law requires of the non-Christian, it also requires of the Christian. So to avoid reporting sexual abuse, for example–particularly when there is any current risk–is to defy and break the law.
If I am the victim, I do have the right not to report it. There is no law, to my knowledge, that forces a victim to come forward. However if a child is violated, I have no right to ‘discern’ whether to report it or not. I must report it. If I am a pastor and I know of victimization, the law requires that I report it. This doesn’t mean that the pastor and I are not willing to forgive. For the offenders, forgiveness does not wipe away consequences in this life for sins, it merely extends grace from the person wronged. The law then determines appropriate consequences.
Regardless of those consequences, or lack thereof, when I forgive, I don’t carry that ‘debt to me’ in my heart. I am free. For this reason–to break any bonds and ties to the offender–forgiveness is imperative for our freedom. When I forgive I don’t spend my life thinking of how wronged I was. I think of how God will use that wrong against me to bring redemption. My focus shifts from the wrong, to my Saviour. And that makes all the difference.
Jesus came to save, redeem, and restore. The New Testament is full of promises, not to mention stories that show this ‘hope’ that Jesus offers. Wherever He went, we see radical transformation. The dead are raised. The sick healed. Those possessed and oppressed by the demonic are made free. But it didnt’ end there. He offered this power and authority to His disciples, and all who believe in Him.
John 14:12-14 (NKJV)
12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
That’s a strong promise. Either Jesus is who He said He is, and this is true–meaning we have missed much of the power of the gospel–or the entire thing is a sham. If we don’t really have this kind of power and authority, then who is Jesus? I believe we have this power. Radical, untamed by man, an authority that sets people free.
What is the secret…. the key? To be so lost in Christ, so plugged in to the authority of the Father and surrender completely to His will and purpose. If my suffering benefits His Kingdom purposes, then I surrender myself to His authority and accept that suffering. (Yes, I have prayed this prayer. And, yes, I have paid a high price for it, at times losing sight of that prayer in my own desperate longing for ‘this-world-kind-of-peace’ because I am human and fear that suffering, the rejection, the attacks. Still, when the storms pass, I thank God for the suffering. It has made me stronger, and I have seen as He redeemed and used it for a higher purpose.)
It is impossible to surrender completely, and yet stay focused on myself and my suffering. For, when I have surrendered, my eyes are turned to the suffering Christ who walked the path before me, carrying the cross that I was destined to carry in eternity–the cross of death and eternal hell. When I see Him, scarred, bleeding and weeping, my suffering, though real and overwhelming in my humanity, pales in comparison, and I am suddenly lost in awe and wonder at such amazing love.
Inevitably, when my eyes focus on this suffering Jesus, and I remember how He bought my sinful and selfish heart, my soul and spirit begin to worship God. He, a Holy, righteous and powerful Creator, chose suffering for the sake of my redemption. He chose suffering. Chose it… I cringe at any suffering. He chose it for me. That is my identity, this amazing love poured out by the Highest Being ever to exist. To grasp this, even in a small way, is to fall before Him in worship.
And, again, when I worship Him, I am not thinking of myself and my pain or suffering in the light of this life, in the light of time. I see a higher purpose, a higher calling. And, while it doesn’t make suffering easy, it gives me a reason to press on.
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
We underestimate the power of our words. We casually toss around words of defeat and hopelessness as though they are all we have to live by. And, in the process we suck the life right out of our spirits. Jesus paid the price for our sin, and bought us with His blood. Fact. Our testimony cannot save us. But the word of our testimony–giving glory to god for our salvation, for healing, for freedom–give us authority over the enemy.
We think of a testimony as that nice ‘story’ we tell after the battle is over. And that’s a part of it. But there is more. The testimony that gives us authority to overcome the enemy is the testimony that we share before breakthrough. By the time we tell the ‘after’ version, the battle is over. We need to declare victory in the heat of the fight. We need to claim the power of Jesus for that fight and in the struggle, long before we see the results. It takes away the power of the enemy.
The Israelites were commanded to put blood around the doorposts to protect their homes, and their firstborn sons, specifically, from the tenth plague. It was an old Testament type and shadow of the New Testament redemption through the blood of Jesus. The significance, again, is that the blood was applied before the death angel came. It signifies being prepared before battle, before the enemy strikes. And when he comes, he will see the territory is marked and claimed. He has no power.
I pray the blood of Jesus over my mind, my body, my soul and my spirit. My husband prays over me. And when my heart is prepared this way, I do well, spiritually. Sometimes, though, I lose focus and find myself in mind battle against the enemy. And sometimes it takes awhile for me to be take my eyes off that fight and shift back to Jesus, in whom I have authority.
A WORD TO PASTORS, PARENTS, SPIRITUAL LEADERS AND MENTORS:
I’ve discovered that Christian leaders are quick to condemn ‘going back’ to the past, for healing. The arguments against it are varied. One of the most recent ones I heard is ‘it requires discussing ungodly things in an ungodly manner’. No it doesn’t. It requires talking about ungodly things through the eyes of Jesus and the blood He shed on the cross.
Is it uncomfortable to hear people share stories of vile abuse that they had to suffer as little boys and girls? It’s painful! It’s devastating. But if we, who are adults representing the heart of God, cannot hear it and point the victim to a safe place, then what have we to offer? When a 3, 5, 7… 13, 15… year old–or anyone in between, younger or older–is forced to endure sexual assault, or demanded to offer sexual favours of the most vulnerable sort (I’ll spare saying it, but I’ve heard it all) are we really willing to say that we cannot handle what they as toddlers, children or teens endured?
What do we communicate with that message?
“You are too much! Your pain is overwhelming! I am disgusted by what I know about your childhood! Keep it to yourself, no one wants to know!”
And then what do we say on the heels of that?
“Forgive, forget and move on! Take it to Jesus! Let God be enough! Jesus died for their sin, let it go! … ” And whatever other cliché lines we can think of to distance ourselves from them their pain and their stories.
And when they walk away, they take their false guilt, their shame, their pain, their torment with them. And they struggle. They try desperately to work hard enough to be free. The cry out to this Jesus, but all they hear is our cliché lines, echoing in their hearts and their minds. And they believe this Jesus sees them the same way. They are too much, too messy, too broken. They become more hopeless for having tried. They entertain thoughts of death, and ending it all.
All while we stand beside Pilate, washing in his bowl, drying with his towel, because there’s nothing we can do to change things…
That’s not my Jesus. My Jesus sat with the lowest of society. He touched the unclean, and they were made clean. He brought life and hope in every situation. That, my friends and fellow ministry workers, is what we are called to do in every life we touch.
If we do not offer this hope, when we have spent time with the broken, then I hesitate to believe that we truly know Jesus as we ought. And if we offer this hope, there will still be rich young rulers who walk away disappointed at the cost of freedom. But we will have offered it. We will have spoken truth and heard hearts and acknowledged stories.
TO THE STRUGGLING WHO FEAR GOING BACK:
Many people fear going back to the past because they fear they will stay stuck there forever. My encouragement is, walk through it for the sake of healing, but don’t build a permanent residence in the past. Find a mentor, a counselor or some other person who won’t judge you or silence you, but will point you to hope in Jesus.
Through that person, let Jesus show you what good He brought into your life and spirit, through the hard things you faced, and listen to His promise that He will make all things beautiful–in His time–and will make all things new. Find that voice of hope and, if you need to, create some distance between you and the negative voices clamoring for your soul, often in the form of well-intentioned, but terribly misguided, people. You need uplifting truth and healthy perspective. You need affirmation and hope.
When I look at what happened in childhood, and focus on it, things can get pretty dark. When I look at it and see how God used it to stir my heart to compassion for the wounded, and passion to make a difference, then suddenly it looks very different, and I begin to thank God for my story.
Perspective, and what we focus on, is critical. We need to focus on purpose, redemption and hope in Jesus, while grieving (in our humanity) the experiences. To thank God, is to disarm the enemy. To praise God is to silence the enemy. And, to do all that, while allowing our hearts to grieve and weep–giving our brokenness to our Heavenly Papa–is to tell the enemy he has no power over us.
These are only some of the ways we overcome the enemy, and the power of darkness in our lives. From practical–finding a mentor who will hear us without judgement–to the spiritual aspect of forgiving those who sin against us, and repenting for our sins, we have been given keys to overcoming the power of the darkness. I would love to declare that all mental anguish will vanish if you do these things, but that is not a promise I can make.
Many of us fight depression, darkness and spiritual attacks for many years. I have. I do. And, given the work I do, I expect I will continue to fight. But I am not a victim of it. Through Jesus, I am victorious. When I fail, I am forgiven. It is about Him, not about me, or about performance. And that alone is reason to rejoice! So today I choose joy. I choose hope. And I choose to focus on the One by whom I am defined.
What choices will you make… what steps do you need to take to move into freedom?
© Trudy Metzger
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