Forgiveness and the Future of Your City
By Pastor Francis Frangipane
Terrorists have openly, defiantly proclaimed no city in America will be safe from their attacks. Our own government has warned that these attacks, whether through biological, chemical or nuclear warfare, are a "clear and present danger." We need God's mercy. The following message is adapted from the House of the Lord. In this article is an important revelation concerning the effect of extending mercy and its consequential effect in releasing God's protection over a city.
The Power In Forgiveness
Perhaps nothing so typifies the transforming, cleansing power of God as that which is experienced when a soul receives forgiveness. It is the power of new life, of new hopes and of new joy. It is the river of life flowing again into the cold, hardened valleys of a once-embittered heart. Forgiveness is the essence of revival itself.
Whenever pardon is given there is a dramatic release of life, not only between those once estranged, but also there is an increase of life in the heavenly places. Observe the release of power when Jesus prayed "Father, forgive them . . ." (Lk 23:34). At that very moment every demonic principality and power which had infiltrated man's relationship with God was legally "...disarmed!" (Col 2:15) As Christ pleaded, ". . . they know not what they do," hell's gates began to unlock, soon tombs opened, the veil into the holy place rent, and heaven itself opened -- all because of Jesus' forgiveness! (Matt 27:51-53)
When Stephen forgave his murderers, a plea for mercy with Saul of Tarsus' name on it ascended to the heart of God. In response to Stephen's mercy request, Saul was transformed into Paul, a great apostle of God.
Would you like to see the Lord shatter the spiritual prisons in your life, the areas where you feel trapped? Then forgive those who put you there, for surely the walls of your imprisonment are made of your own anger and unforgiveness toward others.
When Jesus, on the cross, "canceled out [our] certificate of debt," by not taking our sin into account, He simultaneously disarmed ...the principalities and powers" (Col 2:14, 15KJ). Likewise, when we forgive there also is a canceling of debts and a disarming of the enemy. You see, Christ's forgiveness disarmed the devil in mankind's heavenward relationship with God; our pardon of others disarms the enemy in our earthly relationships toward one another!
Consider the last time you experienced full healing in a severed relationship. It is likely such words as "wonderful" and "glorious" were used to describe the baptism of love that renewed your souls. Can we see that forgiveness is the very heart of Christ's message?
Several years ago I met an Islamic scientist. Islam is a religion based upon man's righteousness, and he had stumbled over the lack of good works among the Christians he knew. As I witnessed to him, I soon found myself in a debate concerning the credibility of Christianity. As our discussion grew mutually more ardent, two of my children approached; one was crying, the other angry.
My procedure in disciplining my children when they were young was to have a brief "hearing" in which I discern who is the victim and who is the offender. Then, I ask the victim to pass sentence on the offender. "How many spankings should I give?" I ask the hurt child. Now, the victim knows next week the roles may be reversed and she or he may be the culprit in need of pardon. Thus, the wounded child extends mercy and says, "No spankings." The result is the kindness of the victim leads the offender to repentance. As the judge, I did not have to punish the guilty because the debt was forgiven; the victim's mercy triumphed over judgment. With the enmity broken, the kids are reconciled and restored.
This scene took place while my Muslim friend watched. As our "trial" ended, the children went off happy. I returned to my debate, but my acquaintance stopped me and said, "There is no need to continue. I have just seen the power of Christianity!"
Are you angry at all Muslims because of the terrorist attacks? This is the time to show those nearest you Christ's love and forgiveness. One of the fundamental truths of our faith is that, through Christ, we have received forgiveness from God for sins; and, because of Christ, we can forgive one another. Someone pays the price to absorb the offense themselves, but in so doing they release the healing power of God. It may rend the heavens as Christ's forgiveness did for us, or it may rend the heart when we forgive one another, either way the power released is the very life of God!
Consider the reunion of Jacob and Esau. Esau was a hardened man who sold his birthright for a single meal. Yet, as Jacob bowed seven times to the ground in repentance, asking forgiveness from Esau, a flow of life from the heart of God flooded the embittered Esau. Scripture tells us that Esau "...ran to meet [Jacob] and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept" (Gen 33:1-4). When we truly desire to walk in love and forgiveness, even a hardened man like Esau can be touched by God!
We see this divine life flow again when Joseph was reunited with his brothers. Having been sold by them into slavery, Joseph had every right to be bitter. Instead, he chose to forgive. Note carefully the washing of the Spirit of God through these lives as Joseph was reconciled with his brothers: "Then Joseph could not control himself . . . and he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it . . . Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am Joseph!'"
Joseph was so full of forgiveness that he actually begged his guilt-laden brothers to forgive themselves. He pleaded, "Do not be grieved or angry with yourselves. For God sent me before you to preserve life...and to keep you alive by a great deliverance" (see Gen 45:1-15).
There was no bitterness, no revenge, no angry "last word" which preceded his forgiveness. There was only the foretaste of Christ's own unconditional forgiveness to every self-condemned sinner. Indeed, like Joseph, every time we forgive, we too "preserve life." We restore our brethren to wholeness "by a great deliverance."
Release Every Man His Servant
Forgiveness is the very spirit of heaven removing the hiding places of demonic activity from the caverns of the human soul. It is every wrong made right and every evil made void. The power released in forgiveness is actually a mighty weapon in the war to save our cities.
Jeremiah 34 unveils the impact of wholesale forgiveness upon a city, revealing what might have happened had the Jews obeyed God's call of release. The account speaks of more than the reconciliation of family relationships. It deals with the entire city of Jerusalem, as well as all the cities of Judah. It reveals the wonderful wisdom and love of God.
The story occurs at a time when the Israelites were hopelessly outnumbered.
Seemingly, every enemy who could carry a sword had it pointed at their cities. We read that "...Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army, with all the kingdoms of the earth that were under his dominion and all the peoples, were fighting against Jerusalem and against all its cities" (Jer 34:1).
Is this not our battle as well? Do we not have our own "king of Babylon" with his hosts set against us (Rev 17-18)? We see armies of demons led by principalities attacking and almost overrunning city after city. The demonic powers of immorality and rebellion, drugs, rock music and satanism, greed, murder and fear have all but swallowed many of our communities. Unless the Lord acts mightily, will we not continue to be overwhelmed by the dimensions of the battle?
Such was the plight of Israel. Yet, hidden in the ways of God was a plan, a strategy which would both rout the enemy and heal their cities! The Lord called them to implement the "Year of Remission," which proclaimed complete and generous release to both servants and slaves (See Deut 15:1-18).
"Then Jeremiah the prophet spoke all these words to Zedekiah king of Judah...that each man should set free his male servant and each man his female servant, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman; so that no one should keep them a Jew his brother in bondage. And all the officials and all the people obeyed, who had entered into the covenant that each man should set free his male servant and each man his female servant, so that no one should keep them any longer in bondage; they obeyed and set them free" (Jer 34:6-10).
It is one thing to have lost at war and thus become the slave of an enemy, but it is quite another to become the slave of your brother. Yet, this kind of servitude was a provision of the Mosaic Law. One's indebtedness could enslave him to another.
However, every seven years a Jew who was the slave of another Jew was to be released; and every fiftieth year all their original properties were to be returned. Yet, in all the years since the law of remission was issued, Israel never celebrated this Jubilee, and only rarely did an individual release his slaves. Now, with their enemies within striking range, the entire nation set about "to free every man his slave."
How does this story relate to us? Whenever any relationship exists outside the shelter of covering love, that relationship degenerates into a system of mutual expectations, an unwritten law to which we all become debtors. As it was under the Law of Moses, so also it is in the context of human relationships: indebtedness enslaves. Obviously, we do not enact the master/slave relationship,but our unforgiving opinion of the offender enslaves him, together with his indebtedness, in our memory.
It is a basic principle of life: Where there is no love, of necessity there must be law. And where there is law, there are both debts and debtors. To counter the debilitating effect indebtedness has upon human relationships, Jesus commanded His disciples to maintain love in all relationships. For love transcends the "ledger sheet mentality"; it refuses to take "in account a wrong suffered" (I Cor 13).
How shall we deal with debts? Christ taught to release debts in prayer. He even warned we would not be forgiven unless we forgave others. Whenever we are not forgiving, we will always be reacting; those unchristlike reactions to offenses become our sin before God. To be released from our reactions we must return to the cause, the first offense. As we forgive, we are forgiven and restored; life and balance return to our souls.
In our story from Jeremiah, the Judeans did not merely forgive each other. They made a "covenant" before God. They "cut the calf in two" and they passed "between the parts" (vs 18,19). This was the same quality covenant relationship Abraham made centuries earlier with the Lord (See Gen 15:10,17,18). They made a covenant with God to release one another!
The redemptive plan of God was this: If the Israelites set free their slaves, they would not be taken as slaves. If they showed mercy, He would show Himself merciful as well. The destruction of their cities would be averted, for "mercy triumphs over judgment"! (James 2:13) Although they were sinners, love would fulfill the law and make all things clean for them (See Gal 5:14; Lk 11:41).
Look what happened to their enemies as the populace enacted the covenant of
remission. Something marvelous was occurring in the spirit realm. Supernaturally, the Lord drew "the king of Babylon...away" (vs 21). At the very moment the people were being merciful to one another and releasing their slaves, their enemy was drawn away and their war ended! What they did on earth was actually being done for them in the heavens!
We are just like the Judeans of Jeremiah's day. Our cities are also under attack. No one knows where or how or when the next terrorist will attack, and no government can fully protect us! What we need desperately is the mercy of God. Jesus gives us a way to receive new mercy, and it is by our becoming merciful (Matt 5). The very mercy the Judeans were giving to each other allowed God to pour out mercy toward them. It worked! The King of Babylon, his armies, and every one of Israel's enemies abandoned their attack on Israel! (Vs 21).
They Fell From Grace
If Israel had maintained the mercy alternative, Jeremiah would never have needed to write the Book of Lamentations. But when the Babylonians left, the Jews "turned around and took back the male servants and the female servants, whom they had set free, and brought them into subjection for male servants and for female servants" (Jer 34:11). Under the fear of death they released their slaves. Now, with the threat of death removed, they returned to their selfishness.
Where there is a decrease of love there will be an increase of demonic activity in our relationships. The Lord gave them exactly what they gave each other. They made their brethren slaves; their enemies in turn made them slaves. This was no happy ending.
For us, however, the outcome of our battle is yet unwritten. There is yet time to flood the heavens with the mercies of God! Who has offended or wounded you? Release them from unforgiveness. This release of divine power is resident, even now, in our capacity to set one another free from indebtedness. Forgive your debtors and maintain forgiveness. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. With terrorists, even now, plotting attacks upon our cities, it is up to us as individuals and churches to flood the spirit realms with mercy.
Let's pray: In all sobriety, we make a covenant of forgiveness with the Lord and extend it to all men. We choose, as did Jesus, to free one another. Oh God! As we release one another, liberate us from the attacks of our enemy. As we show mercy, pour Your mercy upon our cities and nation! In Jesus' Name. Amen.