The Heart of the Problem (part 4 of 5-Unforgiveness)

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The Heart of the Problem is the Problem of the Heart!

*This five-part series is an overview of The Heart of the Problem book/workbook. If you discover help in these articles, I encourage you to purchase the workbook at and go deeper in your discovery. For detailed training as a biblical counselor, see

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Dealing with Unforgiveness

Forgiveness is a major roadblock in personal relationships. If a person is in bondage to a particular sin, they may keep asking for forgiveness of a particular sin yet they never freed from the sin. Could it be because of an unforgiving spirit?

Simon Peter was talking to Jesus and His disciples trying to show how spiritual he was. My paraphrase of Matthew 18:21 is, “Jesus, when it comes to the issue of someone offending us, how many times should we forgive them? Up to seven times?” Peter  thought he was being generous. He seemed to be showing off about how gracious he was and what a forgiving person he was.

Jesus said, “No, Peter. Forgive an infinite number of times (seven times seventy).”

Peter was probably thinking, “What? Seven times seventy?”

How many times are you willing to forgive those who have sinned against you? Why is it so important that we learn to forgive? Because there is a direct connection between an unforgiving spirit and bondage to other sin.

Has God ever broken you over a particular sin? If He did, and you genuinely repented, your repentance is complete and that sin is no longer an issue for you. It is not that you never commit that sin again, but you are no longer in bondage [constant struggle] to that sin.

Then, there are other sins that you struggle with daily–they keep hanging on [have you in bondage]. No matter what you do, or how much you pray and read your Bible, you can’t seem to get rid of the sin.

While leading a conference, a pastor approached me and said, “Kerry, would you come to the prayer room and pray with me?” I told him I would be glad to. The pastor told me he was in bondage to a sin problem. No matter what he did, he could not seem to get rid of this particular sin.

I looked at him and said, “Well, who are you mad at?” He said, “What do you mean who am I mad at? I came in here and told you what my sin was and I wanted you to pray with me!”

I said, “Yes, I heard you. But, who are you mad at?”

He said, “Well, nobody that I can think of.”

I asked him, “Is there anybody in your life that has wronged you that you have never truly forgiven?”

He said, “No. None that I can think of.”

I said, “You answered too quickly.”

He got so mad that he stood up, walked out of the prayer room, and left the conference.

The next morning the pastor returned. He said, “Can you go meet with me to the prayer room?” I thought–“Round two, here we go.”

He said, “Yesterday, Kerry, I was so mad at you when you told me I answered too quickly. I went back to my hotel room and I couldn’t get that off my mind.” The pastor said that God would not let him rest. He had written three pages of names of the people he had never forgiven!

I said to him, “If you are unwilling to forgive these people on this notepad, then God will keep you in your bondage to your own personal sin.” Jesus said if you will not forgive others, He will not forgive you.

Are you in bondage to fear, lack of peace, discouragement, pornography, anger, or quarreling? Maybe you have an unforgiving spirit.

In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus gave the model prayer. He then gave commentary on one aspect of the prayer. He said in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”


There is a direct connection between your forgiving others and God forgiving you.

This pastor could not get rid of his sin and at the same time have an unforgiving spirit toward those people. Most people have great difficulty forgiving the person who has offended them. You may say, “Well, I forgave them twenty years ago.” But when a situation comes up, you bring the issue up again. It’s obvious by the way you bring it up that unforgiveness is still resident in your heart.

How do you know when you have really forgiven a person? Would you name your child or grandchild with the same name of the person who offended you? When the person’s name is mentioned, pay attention to how your body and spirit react. If the reaction is negative, there is a good possibility you still have not forgiven.

Jesus was not speaking about people who had accidentally offended you. He said to forgive those who have sinned against you. Only the forgiveness that is the fruit of the Spirit of Christ living in you can do this. If you say, “I’ve had many people offend me and I can’t forgive them,” that is evidence of the condition of your heart, not the power of the fruit of the Spirit.

Would you be willing to pray this prayer right now? “Oh, God, will you right now forgive me of all my sin in the same way in which I am forgiving those who have sinned against me?”

Maybe you have never read this Scripture close enough to see clearly what Jesus said. If you will not forgive those who have offended you, Jesus won’t forgive you of your sin. If you cannot pray that prayer, there’s something wrong in your spirit.

Some people have said, “I do not want to forgive my parents for the way they raised me and treated me. I do not want to let them off the hook.” Have you ever made that kind of statement? It is a spirit of revenge. Forgiveness does not let them off the hook. It lets you off the hook.

People will offend you. You can choose whether to live with an unforgiving spirit or a forgiving one. But an unforgiving spirit will drive a wedge in your heart and your relationship with God and with other people. God wants to build a forgiving spirit in you. His Spirit will be so evident in your life, that the people around you who are living with an unforgiving spirit will be uncomfortable around you. Your life should help them to see their condition and encourage them to turn to the very God you serve.

© Copyright 2020, Think LifeChange Institute of Biblical Counseling, All Rights Reserved. Kerry L. Skinner and Alison Veazey