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To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).
This process is part of the renewal aspect of Ephesians 4:22-24.
If you only said, “I’m sorry,” you would never go to this relational depth with the person, and your sin will remain like a stain under the white paint. You will not have gone to this detail with God either. You would have smoothed out a horizontal, relational dust-up with a friend but with no depth through relational interaction. Eventually, that sin will return.
The person you sinned against is an unbeliever. They cannot forgive you because forgiveness is a three-actor play where God is part of the process.
For this person to say, “I forgive you” is merely words, with no faith-infused power. They are mouthing something, but it’s not effectual because God is not the one providing or energizing their forgiveness of you.
We are not the originators of salvation or forgiveness, but the vessels of them. They are gifts from God. The offended must have a “clear path” from God to themselves to extend the forgiveness that they have received from Him to others. Otherwise, the point-of-origin for the forgiveness comes from a dark place—an unregenerate heart. It’s mere words.
If the person cannot forgive you, but you have a life-dominating sin with anger, how do you become free from your sin?
The Ephesians 4:22-24 template is still in play. The fact that they cannot forgive you does not hinder you from changing.
This process is a powerful display of the gospel on an unregenerate heart.
The unsaved person you sinned against would never expect you to go to those depths to find cleansing for your sin.
By working out your forgiveness with them, it would have a two-fold effect.
Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).