D. L. Moody, in his book, Prevailing prayer, said, “…When you go into the door of God’s kingdom, you go in through the door of forgiveness…If we are unwilling to forgive others, God cannot forgive us.” Consequently, if He doesn’t forgive us of sins, then they remain with us to create havoc on our body and soul. We will discuss now that havoc in five progressive steps:
1. Fellowship with God is lost. My relationship with God depends on my relationship with others. For His love for us and for our neighbors cannot be separated. He loves us all the same, and He loves the whole world (Jn. 3:16). Therefore, when we refuse to love and forgive a person whom He loves and forgives, we are cutting ourselves off from His flow of love and forgiveness to us (Matt. 6:15), because we in a sense are telling God that He is wrong for loving that person whom we don’t love. And so, by failing to forgive a person, we create a difference of opinion between God and us; thus we break off our fellowship with Him. Furthermore, if you insist that you love God, even though you refuse to forgive someone whom He has forgiven, I must point you to 1 John 4:20-21, which states, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
2. Power with God is lost. When we don’t forgive (that is, when we hold bitterness in our heart toward a person), besides losing our wonderful love and fellowship with God, we also lose what He wants to give us—His power.
Moody states: “I believe this [not forgiving a person] is keeping more people from having power with God that any other thing…”
I agree. And I want to emphasize also that His power comes to us through prayer. When we don’t forgive we have no power with God in prayer. Prayer is the tool that brings us power; but failing to forgive makes that tool useless.
Hence, this is why Jesus told us in Matthew 5:23-24 “…if you bring your gifts to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” I take it to mean here that the gifts we bring to the altar are to be sacrifices offered to God as our worship. This certainly includes our prayers. And so what Jesus is saying to us regarding prayer is that if we fail to reconcile with our brother, and thus don’t forgive him, then God will not forgive us and will not regard our prayers. In fact, He will reject them completely. Therefore, it follows that if He rejects our prayers we do not have the power with God that we so desperately need in life; consequently, we become easy prey for the devil and sin.
3. Anger and bitterness set in. When we have failed to forgive, the first visible sign that others may see in us is an angry and bitter look on the face—a hardness. In Ephesians 4:31-32, Paul said to the Ephesians, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Here it is clear that these things in verse 31 are the result of not forgiving. At the head of the list is bitterness. Bitterness is like a virus that keeps all goodness and kindness out, and feeds all badness and evil. In Hebrews 12:15 it is described as a root—a root of bitterness that causes trouble and defiles. As a root, bitterness lays the foundation and gives strength and sustenance to sin in the heart. Hence, anger, vengeance, clamor, slander, and malice are all welcome into the heart of a bitter, unforgiving person. What happens next is that Satan does a work in the heart so that…
4. We feel guilty and depressed. Satan (who is our constant accuser) may at this point put on an act of self-righteousness and will condemn us for our anger and bitterness toward others (as well as for many other sins). His goal is to make us feel guilty, depressed, and hopeless. Many at this point commit suicide. But here is the good news. We have the option, the choice to repent of our sins and be cleansed. We can say to Satan, thank you for reminding me of how bad my sins are and how wicked I have been, but now I choose to go God’s way.
5. We become attached to the person who wronged us. If a person fails to repent he will remain in that state of bitterness and will become more and more attached in his mind to the person he is angry with. This is because he has placed upon himself an obligation to punish that person for what they did to him. And even though he wants no part of that person, he feels a constant compulsion to think about him in order to build a case against him—to plot his revenge against him.
In Matthew 18:22-35 Jesus tells His disciples a story to instruct them about forgiveness. The story concludes by describing what happened to the man in the story who did not forgive—he was delivered to torturers and was tortured. Then Jesus turned to the disciples and said, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brothers his trespasses.”
Therefore, God is saying to us that He will deliver us to torturers if we don’t forgive. No doubt this attachment we have been talking about is a part of that torture. I think those who we can’t seen to forgive and who we say we must continue to punish in our mind become our torturers; and they will continue to torment our soul to no end—until of course we choose to forgive.