By Dennis and Dr. Jen Clark
During almost 40 years in full-time ministry, one of the most valuable secrets I (Dennis) learned about escaping the snares of the enemy is how to forgive properly. When I was first saved in my twenties, the Lord taught me how to go to the Forgiver in my heart and let Him forgive through me.
When we get saved, we welcome Jesus into our hearts and receive forgiveness instantly. If we sin in our daily Christian walk, we can yield to Christ within and access this wonderful gift of forgiveness. Jesus has also given us supernatural peace. Both of these gifts are always available and never withdrawn (see 1 John 1:9; John 14:27). Forgiveness was so liberating I fell in love with the freedom it brought me. Through a lifestyle of forgiveness, I discovered how to walk with the Lord according to Colossians 2:6: “As you received Christ Jesus…so walk in Him.”
Releasing people and circumstances into the hands of God is similar to forgiveness. No matter what happens in my life, when I apply forgiveness and release, my peace is always restored. Peace is evidence that Jesus is Lord of our life at any given moment. When the Prince of Peace is ruling, we feel the peace of His Presence. Adam and Eve only experienced the love and peace of God before they sinned. After the Fall, they felt negative emotions for the first time. The truth is, God gave us emotions so we could live in the love, joy, and peace of the kingdom of God (see Rom. 14:17; Luke 17:21). Forgiveness removes toxic emotions so we can tap into the fruit of the Spirit as a way of life (see Gal. 5:22-23).
I taught and applied these principles when I planted my church and assumed these truths were general knowledge. However, when I spent a few years doing itinerant ministry, I discovered many believers–and even pastors–have never learned how to forgive quickly and permanently.
Because, forgiveness and release are two major keys to escaping four deadly snares of the enemy, they are vital for victorious Christian living.
The Pain Prison
Pastors are not immune to rejection, betrayal, grief, or disappointment. Anger is sometimes attached to our pain. Unhealed wounds get buried alive, chaining us to the past. If we don’t deal properly with offenses and issues, we suffer with ongoing emotional torment (see Matt. 18:34). Life has a way of causing our pain to resurface.
Forgiveness is not accomplished by time, trying, or making a mental decision. We don’t forgive; we let Christ in us do the forgiving (see Gal. 2:20-21). When we yield to Him, we discover forgiveness is one of the rivers Jesus promised would flow from our hearts. Only forgiveness from the heart is acceptable to God (see Matt. 18:35). Note that forgiveness flows in three directions: toward others, God (if we blame Him), and ourselves. Note that we don’t forgive ourselves but receive His forgiveness like we did when we got saved.
Try this: Close your eyes and pray. When we pray, we make a connection with the Lord and He can then freely search our hearts. Let the Lord show you someone who offended or wounded you. Feel the feeling attached to the thought. Every thought has a corresponding emotion. Now, yield to Jesus in you and let Him go to the unpleasant emotion and wash it with forgiveness. If you are upset with yourself, receive forgiveness.
The Pressure Pitfall
Stress is at epidemic proportions in our society and pastors are certainly not exempt. When we take on burdens we were never intended to carry, we feel stressed (see John 17:21). Pressure and frustration cause tension in the gut. When we are at peace, we feel relaxed. We can’t be stressed and trust God at the same time. When we trust God, we enter into a place of rest. If we learn to deal with stress, we avoid burn-out and stress-related health issues.
Release is the secret to overcoming stress. When we yield to the Lord and give our burdens to Him, He carries them for us. Release relieves pressure from people, deadlines, family problems, financial setbacks, and all the church-related situations that we must juggle as pastors.
Try this: Close your eyes and pray. Picture a person or situation that is causing you to feel stressed. Feel the pressure. Now yield to Christ in you, relax, and release the “problem” into His hands until you feel it change to peace.
The Trepidation Trap
Fear can make us impulsive or paralyze us. When we make decisions out of fear, our motivation isalways wrong and that almost always guarantees a bad outcome. Peace provides an amazing key for receiving guidance from the Lord and making good decisions. When we are unsure of which direction to take, we must first become neutral about our options. In other words, we must release our preferences and ideas (as in solution for the previous snare) and be comfortable letting God decide. “[L]et the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds ]”(Col. 3:25 AMP).
Try this: When you feel neutral and are comfortable letting God call the shots, close your eyes in an attitude of prayer. Present the possibilities to the Lord one at a time. Peace indicates “yes” while an uncomfortable feeling means “no.” Occasionally, we may not feel discomfort per se, but notice that the presence of God increases more on one option than the other. That is also a “yes.” If you don’t feel there’s a clear yes or no, it is possible the timing is wrong, or God has an answer that has not yet occurred to you.
The Temptation Time Bomb
Open doors from sins of the past are particularly problematic when they involve sexual areas. No pastor ever wakes up one morning and decides, “I think I’ll commit a major sin today.” However, ongoing temptation can cause us to eventually succumb. Our willpower is never strong enough to outlast the enemy. Soul ties and sexual struggles don’t go away just because we ignore them. They are like ticking time bombs leaving us vulnerable to fatal temptation. Eventually, if the bomb explodes, we are left in the ruins of our marriage and ministry. Fortunately, we can disarm time bombs by applying forgiveness.
Try this: Close your eyes and pray. When an issue of a sexual nature comes to mind, feel the feeling in your gut. Notice that it may be accompanied by shame or guilt in addition to a “tingly” arousal that indicates that a seducing spirit is hitchhiking on the emotion. Forgive another person if they were involved and also receive forgiveness for yourself. If an imaginary relationship such as pornography comes to mind, release and receive forgiveness. Finally, close the door to the seducing spirit by breaking any soul tie as an act of your will. Now present your emotions back to God until you feel peace.
You are not your own; you are bought with a price, and that includes your emotions (see 1 Cor. 6:20).
Dennis and Dr. Jen Clark minister together as a husband and wife team, pastoring Kingdom Life Church in Fort Mill, South Carolina. They are also founder/directors of Full Stature Ministries. Dr. Jen holds a ThD in theology and BS, MS, and EdS degrees in psychology.
Dennis and Jen are authors of Releasing the Divine Healer Within: The Biology of Belief and Healing, The Supernatural Power of Peace, Live Free: Discover the Keys to Living in God’s Presence 24/7, and Deep Relief Now: Free, Healed, and Whole. In addition, they have a series for children, The Great God Quest, which teaches the how-tos to children. They also have a series of eBooks: Simple Keys to Heal Rejection, Simple Keys to Heal Loneliness,and Simple Keys for Self-Deliverance. Dr. Jen is also author of Was Jesus a Capitalist?
For more info,contact [email protected] www.forgive123.com