November 25, 2012     Matthew 6:1 – 18         Forgiveness 

    Personally I think that there are a number of topics from scriptures that we should hear every year at least one message a year and forgiveness is so very important to us.   I wanted to preach on this now because it is part of the Christmas story.   John the Baptist said behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.   What is sin well it is missing the mark.   It is missing God’s holiness.   It is selfishness, self centeredness and it is personal pride.   It is us doing our thing and leaving God out of the picture.    Some of the other topics that I think we should hear a message on every year are the bible, prayer, giving, family, ministry and etc.   Forgiveness is important because we have either offended or sinned against someone or we have been sinned against or wounded our self.    Certainly when we sin we have offended a holy and righteous God.   Since we live in a fallen world which has departed from God offences abound.   When we are hurt our desire is for revenge as the following illustration points out.  

       Late one summer evening in Broken Bow, Nebraska, a weary truck driver pulled his rig into an all-night truck stop. The waitress had just served him when three tough looking, leather jacketed motorcyclists - of the Hell’s Angels type - decided to give him a hard time.    Not only did they verbally abuse him, one grabbed the hamburger off his plate, another took a handful of his french fries, and the third picked up his coffee and began to drink it.    How would you respond?      Well, this trucker did not respond as one might expect.      Instead, he calmly rose, picked up his check, walked to the front of the room, put the check and his money on the cash register, and went out the door.    The waitress followed him to put the money in the till and stood watching out the door as the big truck drove away into the night.    When she returned, one of the bikers said to her, "Well, he’s not much of a man, is he?"   She replied, "I don’t know about that, but he sure ain’t much of a truck driver.    He just ran over three motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot."    Getting even is fun or can be fun isn’t it?   But God says vengeance is mine I will repay says the Lord.  

      God is a forgiving God and that puts a whole different spin on this topic of forgiveness.  Our God the only God is merciful and that should impact how we respond to other people who hurt or wound us.   II Chronicles 7 I will forgive their sin and heal their land that is if they seek God and ask for forgiveness.   God is reasonable about this.   Isaiah 1:18 Come now let us reason together says the Lord though your sins are like scarlet they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson they shall be like wool.   God’s desire is that we would be clean like snow and wool.   Ephesians 1:7 in him we have redemption through his blood the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.   I John 1:9 if we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.   The Pharisees asked who can forgive sins but God alone and Jesus answered that the son of man meaning Jesus himself has authority to forgive sins.   It is  hard or difficult to be forgiven unless you chose not to repent and ask for forgiveness.  A person’s pride gets in the way of forgiveness.   At the cross Jesus prayed father forgive them for they know not what they do.    God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world.  The world was already condemned.  Jesus came to get some of us un condemned.   Jesus came to save the world or that people might be saved. 

      Since God forgives we need as his followers and as his people to be forgiving.   Jesus teaches that in Matthew 18.  Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?    Up to seven times?"    Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.   As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.  Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.   "The servant fell on his knees before him.’Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.'    The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.  

     "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii.   He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.  "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'    "But he refused.     Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.  When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.   "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.    Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?'   In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.    "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."     

     The debt that the man owed to the king was like several million dollars.   His debt was huge and virtually not payable by him.    It would be like you or I owing someone several million dollars to someone.   I could never pay that in my lifetime.   Since I retired as far as money goes I do not make much.   And when he went out he got his fellow servant who owed him just a few dollars.  His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him but there was no mercy.   He had him thrown into prison.  He did not have any mercy on him.   He would not forgive him.    The king found out about it and threw him into jail because he did not have mercy.  Jesus says what at the end of this parable or story.  The king represents God.  In the last verse Jesus says this is how my heavenly father will treat each of you.    Jesus says God will treat each person who will not forgive as the king treated the unmerciful and unforgiving servant.    So the people who do not forgive are punished by the Father.   Does God delight in punishing us?   He loves us and does not like to punish.   

     This is kind of tough to wrap our arms or out heart around at least I find it hard.   Does God forgive or not forgive?   If I confess my sins and do not forgive others does God forgive my sins or not?  In Matthew 6 Jesus said if you forgive men when they sin against you your heavenly father will also forgive you.   But if you do not forgive men their sins your heavenly father will not forgive your sins.  These passages seem to say about the same things.   Did you ever struggle with that before?   It is inconsistent for a person who has been totally forgiven not to forgive others.  

      I think Jesus is talking about the heart here.   Jesus is giving us a warning in these passages that we need to forgive.   It is not easy to forgive but if we don’t we carry the pain.    What happens to us if we do not forgive others?   It can put us in a prison.   It can cause bitterness.   It can cause anger.   It can cause us to hate or dislike others.   We could let it go and walk in freedom but if we do not forgive it brings pain in our life and for some it is every day they are thinking about how they have been hurt, wronged, cheated, or abused whatever it is.   God may have forgiven them but they walk in bondage not in joy and freedom but bondage.   God does not want us to walk in bondage.   We do reap what we sow.  

       It can be very hard to forgive others if they have deeply hurt us.   It is not easy to forgive.  Some have struggled for years to forgive someone else.  Many carry very heavy pain.     This passage about the unforgiving servant seems to say that we have hurt God far greater than any pain that anyone has inflicted on us.   Our debt to God is far greater than the amount others have put on us.   Is it easy for God to forgive?   We tend not to think about the cost or pain that others pay to forgive us.   And we do not think about the cost or pain that God experiences to forgive us.   When we sin I think we take forgiveness way too lightly.  We find it easy to confess and move on.   I suppose it takes a life time for a person to truly appreciate the salvation that God has given to us.   Thank God we grow in our appreciation of God and salvation. 

    God knows about suffering.  God suffered a great deal when Jesus was crucified and God never forgets anything.   Jesus suffered tremendous injustice.   Peter tells us that Jesus committed it to God.   To forgive means to hurl away.   It means to cast it off.   Jesus in the agony of his soul cast it and rolled it on God.      Somebody once said I choose not to think about it.   I will not allow that thing to ruin my day today.  I choose to think about God.  Butch in the men’s bible study often says when he talks about issues father forgive them for they know not what they do.   That is what Jesus prayed.   Stephen prayed Lord don’t hold this sin against them.   God does not want us to walk in bitterness and anger to others.  God does not want that pain to be in your life day by day.   We bring self inflicted punishment upon ourselves because we hang on to these kinds of feelings.  

   To work through this forgiveness process we need to acknowledge that we have been hurt.  Truth is truth and it is not good to deny truth.    I have been hurt and I have been offended.    I need to surrender my desire or rights to get even.    The mother ran into the bedroom when she heard her seven-year-old son scream.    She found his two-year-old sister pulling his hair. She gently released the little girl’s grip and said comfortingly to the boy, "There, there. She didn’t mean it. She doesn’t know that hurts." He nodded his acknowledgement, and she left the room.  As she started down the hall the little girl screamed.    Rushing back in, she asked, "What happened?"   The little boy replied, "She knows now."  

      We roll it upon God like Jesus did.   Vengeance is mine says the Lord - He will repay.   I think it is good to ask God what we can learn from the offense.   Lord how do you want me to deal with this?    What can I do about the situation?   How can I pray for that person?   Father what are you trying to tell me or teach me through this?   I think we need to realize that it may be a long and difficult process to work through.   It may take years.   Life I find is a battle at times.   We belong to God and I do not really have any rights.  We can pray Lord I belong to you and I submit myself to you.   I do not want to submit this to you but I surrender my unwillingness to you.   We can ask God to help us understand what happened.  Often we do not know or understand the situation clearly.   Satan likes to get into these kinds of situations and we think we have all the facts but we don’t there is more to the situation.   I am glad God is the judge.    Sometimes we are part of the problem and that we need to focus on our part.   What part did I play in this?   What do I need to confess?        Forgiving someone does not necessarily mean that you want them not to be punished.  If someone breaks the law the punishment may be necessary for them to come to a repentant attitude.   We need God’s wisdom to discern in these situations.  

    Jin Butcher shares this illustration.   When Chris Carrier was ten, he was abducted, stabbed, shot through the head, and left for dead. Surprisingly, he survived, but the emotional and physical scars were very difficult to heal.  Eventually, though, his commitment to Christ helped him to move on with his life.   The perpetrator was never found.   Over twenty years later, on September 3, 1996, Chris received a phone call from a detective in the Coral Gables, FL police department.  The detective said that an elderly man in a local nursing home had confessed to being his abductor.   The man’s name was David McCallister.   Chris visited David the following day  . Here are his words: “It was an awkward moment, walking into his room, but as soon as I saw him I was overwhelmed with compassion. The man I found was not an intimidating kidnapper, but a frail seventy-seven-year-old who had been blind for the last half-dozen years.  David’s body was ruined by alcoholism and smoking - he weighed little more than sixty pounds.  He had no family, or if he did, they wanted nothing to do with him, and no friends.  A friend who had accompanied me wisely asked him a few simple questions that led to him admitting that he had abducted me.  He then asked, ‘Did you ever wish you could tell that young boy that you were sorry for what you did?’ David answered emphatically, ‘I wish I could.’  That was when I introduced myself to him.   Unable to see, David clasped my hand and told me he was sorry for what he had done to me.  As he did, I looked down at him, and it came over me like a wave: Why should anyone have to face death without family, friends, and the joy of life - without hope?  I couldn’t do anything but offer him my forgiveness and friendship.”   In the days that followed, Chris was able to share the love of Christ with David.   William Arthur Ward writes we are most like beasts when we kill.   We are most like men when we judge.   We are most like God when we forgive.