If there’s one thing that can hold you hostage to yesterday and ruin your tomorrow at the same time, it’s the chains of unforgiveness. But how can you forgive if the offense was just too great or if the offender never repented? Well, Tony Evans answers these questions and more in this lesson on how to give the true kind of forgiveness that can set you free.

where were you

if you would have been here she said

this thing wouldn’t happen

the blood of christ has given believers

a passport

to enter into a realm

that is closed to the general public

prayer is how you show your passport

god has given so much clout to prayer

that’s relationally driven to draw

heaven in the history that he will even

allow prayer to change his mind

the disciples never asked jesus to teach

them to preach

to teach them to do miracles the one

thing they did ask him is will you teach

us to pray

if you pursue a relationship and bring

your needs along with that

in your secret place

you will hear from god because god will

hear from you

ask and it will be given to you seek and

you will find knock and it will be open

to you don’t let things that god is

willing to change go unchanged because

we refuse to meet him in a private place


unforgiveness functions as a chain to

hold us hostage

to what happened yesterday

that is destroying us today and ruining

our tomorrow

there is nothing like unforgiveness that

can keep you

and hold you hostage

day after day week after week month

after month and year after year

many relationships here and everywhere

are in crisis because one party was

unable or

unwilling to forgive the other person

there are other families that are afraid

because parents haven’t forgiven

children children haven’t give forgiven

parents or other relative structures

have broken down

the racial crisis in america continues

to plague us

because of this issue of forgiveness

at this point in the lord’s prayer

he says forgive us our debts as we

forgive our debtors

after talking about hollowing his name

submitting to his kingdom and yielding

to his will

and having gotten the provisions of god

he says now

forgive us our debts as we forgive

our debtors

so the question that we have to ask is

what does the word forgive


because a false definition will lead you

to a false conclusion

first of all let me make this

inextricably clear


is first and foremost

a decision because it is not first and

foremost an emotion

forgiveness is not first and foremost

how you feel

while it does not ignore how you feel

it is not the definition of forgiveness

you decide to forgive or not forgive

your emotions have to catch up with that


but if you define

forgiveness as an emotion

then it will be determined by how you

are emoting at a particular moment in

time to determine whether you have


and since emotions are fluid and

fluctuating all the time you can be

forgiving one moment unforgiving the

next moment about the same issue because

it’s tied to on what place on the

richter scale do your emotions happen to

be at any given moment so let’s

establish the fact that forgiveness at

its foundation

is a decision what kind of decision is

it it is a decision

to relieve a person

from an obligation or a debt incurred by

a sin or an infraction against you

forgiveness is the decision

to relieve a person from an obligation

or a debt incurred

because of an infraction or a sin

against you

when you decide to do that

regardless of where your emotions may be

at a certain given time

you’re operating on the biblical

definition of


of forgiveness

in the prayer it says forgive us our

debt why

because sin rings up a bill

the word debt is the word for incurring

a bill when you go to the store and buy

something you get a bill there is a


a charge you are expected to pay for the

bill that you incurred for the thing

that you bought

when we sin against god

we incur a bill

that bill must be paid

it either must be paid by you

or somebody who pays the bill for you

but sin

infractions against god

incurs a bill that’s why he says forgive

us our

debt because you incur a debt to god

when you sin so

the first part of the prayer says

forgive us our debt or

cancel our

bill the bill that i have accrued

because i have disobeyed you rebelled

against you sinned against you

i want you to

clear my record to push the delete

button for my failure

to let me off of the hook

now let me clarify

forgiveness does not mean excusing


justifying or pretending

that the thing didn’t happen

it does not mean that i just dismiss


and pretend what did happen didn’t

happen so i can feel better about what


because that’s not being honest

in fact you can’t forgive unless you’re

willing to acknowledge the truth of what


forgiveness deals in the reality not the


of the reality but it deals with having

a debt paid

for an infraction



at this point you we need to clarify

the kind of forgiveness we’re talking


there are two types of forgiveness when

it comes to

our relationship with god because the

first part of the prayer is forgive us

our debts because you’re praying to the

to god

the first kind is legal forgiveness

the biblical word for legal forgiveness

is justification


means to be declared righteous it’s a

court room term

where the judge declares you not guilty


a particular crime

when the bible says we are justified

god in heaven

declares us legally not guilty

for the infractions

against him

but the reason he declares us

legally not guilty when we get saved

when we accept jesus christ is because

god credits the righteousness of christ

to our account jesus on the cross paid

your bill

jesus on the cross paid my bill

which allows god the father to

to credit us as not guilty

not because we’re not guilty we are

guilty but because the debt that was

incurred by being guilty was picked up

by the death of jesus christ

the sinless son of god who paid the

penalty for our sin so

that’s legal forgiveness that’s what

every person gets when they accept jesus

as your personal sacrifice as your

personal sin bearer you get a credit on


account which declares you to be

innocent legally

that’s an eternal issue

settled when you come to christ for


but that’s not what he’s talking about


he’s not talking about legal forgiveness


he’s now dealing with your relationship

with your father

our father who art in heaven so you’re

already a child you’re already a son or

daughter of god

so he’s dealing with another kind of


he’s dealing with relational forgiveness

legal forgiveness is settled forever

when you come to christ

but relational

forgiveness is conditional

legal forgiveness

is have i accepted christ

relational forgiveness is am i in

fellowship with my father

if you’ve accepted jesus christ you are

in permanent legal relationship but when

you sin

you’ve interrupted personal fellowship

that’s why the bible says in first john

1 9

if we confess our sins he’s faithful and

just to forgive us our sins and to

cleanse us from all unrighteousness

so a lot of christians live a long time

out of fellowship with god because they

are on their way to heaven but they are

refusing to deal with the mess in their

lives and get forgiven for god’s

intimate fellowship with them on earth

how do you know

when forgiveness has occurred

if it’s not a feeling

then if you look into your feelings

forgiveness may be here today but it may

not be here tomorrow because i don’t

forgive i don’t feel like forgiving you

but since forgiveness is a decision

you can always measure whether

forgiveness has occurred

because forgiveness occurs when no

retaliation is being sought

let me say that again

forgiveness occurs when you’re not

seeking to retaliate against the person

who offended you

as long as you reach back



to bring it up today

even though it has nothing to do with

what’s happening today the only reason

you’re bringing it up is to cause pain


even though it happened yesterday it

means you have not forgiven yet because

you’re using it as a tool

to bring pain

because you haven’t forgiven

even though you may still feel it it is

the act of retaliation that demonstrates

whether you’ve forgiven or not because

you know whether you’re retaliating or

not or using that thing from yesterday

to bring about

an act of judgment today



is the decision

that i am not going to credit this to

your account i’m not going to put a

charge on your bill

what the bible means by forgetting

is not forgetting the information

it’s forgetting the pain

that it was caused

by the information

it’s not forgetting that it happened

it’s no longer allowing what happened to

have the impact now that it had when it


in other words when uh joseph

joseph when his brothers sinned against

him he says in genesis 41 verse 51 he

says these words he says

god has helped me to forget what you did

to me

but in chapter 50 he brings it up again

you meant it for evil but god meant it

for good so he never forgot what

happened because he brings it up in 50.

but he forgot

the impact that it had on him

so it didn’t have the same impact

so even though you may remember when you

see that person or see that situation

what happened five years ago

when you forgive it no longer destroys

your day destroys your weak destroys

your life because you made a decision



one of the reasons it stays destructive

is we’ve kept forgiveness as an emotion

and not as a decision

once you make a decision and it’s no

longer an emotion then emotions don’t

decide about whether forgiveness has

occurred the decision has made that for

you so

forgiveness is the cancellation

of a debt

whether or not you remember what

happened or remember the details

it is it is the cancellation of a debt

for a sin an infraction that was

committed against you

forgive us our debts

an infraction occur incurred

because of what was done to you or me or

us or as i’ll say in a moment what

you’ve even done to yourself

i want to first talk to you about

two categories

first is unilateral forgiveness

unilateral forgiveness is forgiveness

that you grant

even when the person hasn’t asked for it


why would you give unilateral

forgiveness nobody said i’m sorry

nobody’s repented

and you forgive anyway

unilateral you just do it on your own

unilateral forgiveness is given one

because the issue is so small in other

words it didn’t matter

they did wrong but you don’t care

because it didn’t hurt you that much and

it’s something you can forget so you

don’t even care if they say i’m sorry if

they repent so that’s unilateral

because it’s so small

another reason you would do unilateral


is the person refuses to say i’m sorry

refuses to confess refuses to repent

they say i ain’t going to repent no no

i’m kind of glad i hurt you i’m glad i

did so so they refusing

another one is

they can’t


because they’ve died

they hurt you

when years ago they’ve since passed on

so they can’t make amends even if they

wanted to they can’t because they’re not

here or maybe you don’t even know where

they are anymore so so even even though

you’re still hurting for they’ve moved

away they’ve gone somewhere so they

can’t repent okay

if you don’t do unilateral forgiveness

then you’ll stay hostage

to something that can never be fixed

because they’ve died they’ve gone or

they’re never gonna say i’m sorry

unilateral forgiveness

is to set you free

is to forgive what happened even when

the person is not sorry about what

happened because you don’t want to be

held hostage by what happened

so it sets you free

once you

unilaterally forgive

then vengeance is mine saith the lord

and i will repay


the second kind of


when it comes to the categories is

transactional forgiveness

unilateral is where you

forgive even if there is no opportunity


apologies and confession and repentance

transactional forgiveness is different

this is where a person

repents of what they did to you

they come and they confess it first

i’m sorry for what i did

that’s confession confession is i agree

that i did you wrong

repentance takes confession to the next


repentance is

the decision to make it right



i confess

what you said i did i did and it was


then repentance is

i want to turn from doing it

and i want to make restitution i want to

make it right whatever kind of right is

possible to be made i want to do it the

bible calls that fruit of repentance in

other words

how do you know if a person’s truly

repented because their words don’t mean


they can say i’m sorry and not mean it

how do you know that the confession was

real you know the confession was real

when there is

visible there are visible acts of

repentance that is

trying to make it right at whatever

level is possible to correct it the

reason for transactional


or transactional forgiveness is because

that opens the door for a restoration of

the relationship

the relationship can now be restored

because repentance has been requested

and forgiveness has been granted opening

up the opportunity for reconciliation

in unilateral forgiveness you can

forgive but there is no reconciliation

with transactional forgiveness you

forgive and the goal is to try to

reconcile and to heal the breach that

caused the problem

forgiveness canceling a debt

it’s legal when you accept christ it’s

relational when you confess your sin to

jesus christ and repent of your wrong

direction and get back in fellowship

with god

now why does this matter

okay you don’t want to miss this because


i have said

is is contingent on or determined by

what i’m getting ready to say

let’s reread the verse

forgive us our debts

as we forgive our debtors

let me read chapter 6 verses

14 and 15.

for if you forgive others for their


your heavenly father because you’re

already a christian your heavenly father

will also forgive you

but if you do not forgive others

then your father because you’re already

a christian

will not forgive your transgressions

well wait a minute he can’t be talking

about heaven because i’m already

forgiven for all my transgressions when

it comes to my legal relationship

but he’s talking about his relationship

with you on earth

so now let’s read the verse

forgive us our debts


we forgive our debtors let me read it in

another way

forgive us our debts to the same degree

that we forgive our debtors

to put it another way

a refusal to forgive

the bill that somebody owes you will

cause god not to forgive the bill you

owe him

and the bill you owe him is probably

bigger than the bill somebody else owes


maybe somebody hurt you once twice three

times we hurt god every single day

we hurt him with the thoughts we think

the things we do the places we go we

hurt god god weeps over us every day but

every time we come to him he’s

cancelling canceling canceling

canceling he says now don’t come to me

and ask me to cancel for you what you

are unwilling to cancel for somebody

else mark chapter 11

mark chapter 11.

in mark chapter 11

jesus is telling the story and he says

he says in verse 20

and to 26 he says have faith in god

and when you have faith in god he says

you can move mountains

a mountain in the bible is an

unovercomeable situation situation you

can’t fix it’s called a mountain in the

bible he says you can say to this

mountainous situation in your life be

moved and it will be cast into the sea

stay with me here so you got a problem

in your life you can’t fight you got an

addiction you can’t get over

you’re living in fear maybe you’re

afraid person all the time maybe you’re

controlled by anger maybe the marriage

can never get right maybe you’re living

as a defeated single uh whatever the

mountain is you try to get rid of it you

went to counseling get rid of it it’s a


and god says you can speak to the

mountain and it’ll go into the sea if

you have faith in god

but what a lot of people don’t do is

read the whole passage because after he

says you can remove mountains

the only way god will help you move a

mountain he says as if i see you


if you don’t forgive you won’t be able

to get rid of your mountain get rid of

that addiction heal that relationship

solve that emotional problem because

you’re living in unforgiveness

unforgiveness will block god’s miracles

in your life

so if you need a miracle in your life

forgiveness is a condition of that

miracle proverbs chapter 19 verse 11

says it is to a man’s glory to overlook

a fault that when a man overlooks a


that god is able to shine his glory on

that man

unforgiveness traps you in your own

prison some of the forgiveness we need

is not toward another person

is toward ourselves

if i hadn’t done that

if i hadn’t gone there

if i hadn’t been with them

if i hadn’t if i hadn’t and you know

because you live a life of regret

if i hadn’t if i have never had look

jesus says in matthew 22

he says uh

what i want you to do is i want you to

love your neighbor like you love

yourself okay that’s what he said

okay when it comes to forgiveness the

bible says in first corinthians 13 5

love keeps no record

okay love doesn’t keep a record so if he

wants you to love your neighbor that

means you don’t keep a record when you

forgive them like you love yourself

which god doesn’t even want you keeping

the record on you

oh learn from what you did but he does

not want you continue going back there

in your mind

in your thoughts and in your in your

lifestyle oh if i hadn’t if i had okay

you did

you did

that’s a reality now you must decide yes

i’m not going to go back there anymore

god i’ve repented for you

you’ve canceled it so how can i be

bigger than god holding on to something

he canceled

he says if you repented i cancelled it

then you must let it go by a decision

and every time the devil brings it up to

your mind you must inform him that that

has already been dealt with on the cross

i’ve learned from it

but i’m not going back there

the question on the floor is how long

are you going to let the pass hold you


how long are you going to let the devil

hold you hostage

you are to be set free

but in a righteous way

by acknowledging to god forgive me my

debts on a regular basis

to the degree that i let others off the

hook either unilaterally or


lord i’m going to move forward with my

life because i’m tired of blocking your

grace and your mercy from me through my

unforgiveness even if it’s my

unforgiveness of myself



forgiveness is a key element in

communicating with a perfect god

because god is totally separated from


a cleansing must take place if we’re

going to be in relational contact with

him and he has made that provision

through forgiveness

forgiveness is

release of an obligation due to an


and god wants to give to others what we

ourselves are expecting from him if we

want god to forgive us

then we must be forgivers in our own


this is the one part of the lord’s


that gets repeated again

because it’s so critical to making


with a holy and righteous god

so let’s not let our sin

or our refusal

to grant others what we ourselves need

through forgiveness block our own


with god