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Unlimited Forgiveness and Limited People

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Forgiveness may just be the most unnatural thing in the whole world. We are very naturally resentful, vindictive, vengeful, record-keeping people, aren’t we? Just think of it this way. Are you more likely to remember the good that somebody does for you or the bad that they do to you? Most of us would have to say that, honestly, we find it much easier to remember the times which we’ve felt mistreated and wounded than the times when we’ve been encouraged and experienced kindness from others. I find this to be especially true in marriages. You can have a couple whose marriage is 90 percent good, even great, but all they can think about, all they can talk about is that 10 percent that isn’t meeting their expectations or isn’t what they wanted.
And, this same tendency toward unforgiveness even finds its way into the church. A pastor or a leader or a fellow brother and sister might be an encouragement to you the overwhelming majority of the time, but we harbor ill feelings toward them and even feel resentment toward them because we quickly forget the good that they bring into our lives and instead obsess over a bad experience or a negative conversation or a bad day. And, this is what Jesus is going to be getting at this morning. He’s going to teach his disciples that they must overcome their natural feelings of resentment, revenge, and record-keeping by supernatural means of forgiveness.

God’s Word


Fellow Servants, Fellow Enjoyers of Grace

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.” This may just be the penetrating parable that Jesus tells. It’s a story that would have stunned his disciples that day, and it’s a story that still stops us in our tracks today. It’s important to remember what Jesus’ main point has been throughout , ever since his disciples first asked him about greatness in the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus’ main point has been to teach his disciples about life and relationships within the Christian community. And so, coming out of the discussion about chasing the straying sheep and seeking to forgive and win over your brother who has sinned against you, Peter asks Jesus a straightforward and direct question: “How often must I forgive my brother who sins against me?” In other words, how many times can he wrong me, even hurt me and I receive him back? To answer this question, Jesus tells the story of a king who wishes to settle accounts with his debtors. The king comes to one servant who owes him 10,000 talents, an insurmountable, essentially infinite amount of money. An average day laborer would have had to work 60,000,000 days or 195,000 years to pay back such a debt according to one scholar. The man, clearly unable to ever repay his debt to the king, is condemned before the king, and he will pay his debt with all that he has, being his life in slavery along with his entire family. The man throws himself on the mercy of the king and pleads for his life and the lives of family. And, the king does something remarkable. He relents. He not only doesn’t enslave the man, but he sets the man totally free from his debt! The man who owed billions, even zillions, has now had his record of debt washed clean! And, what is the first thing the man does? He seeks to collect on a debt of about $18 that he is owed by a fellow servant. He’s been forgiven billions and yet he will collect on peanuts. When the king who has forgiven the servant so great a debt hears of his stinginess and harshness, it says that literally he is given over to ‘torturers’ until his debt can be repaid, which is essentially an eternal sentence. And, Jesus makes it clear exactly who these characters represent. The King is our forgiving heavenly Father, and the servants are Christians living in the Kingdom of God together. So, Jesus is teaching his disciples that the nature of their relationships with one another and the forgiveness that they are to offer one another is to reflect that of God himself and the grace that He has shown to them. We are fellow servants, fellow enjoyers of grace, and as such, we must be fellow givers of grace to each other. So, what I want us to do this morning is to look at this powerful, timely story and make three observations about the nature of forgiveness that I think we learn here.

Observation 1: Gospel-forgiven people must be forgiving people.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” Peter must’ve believed he was being generous in his question to Jesus. In Jesus’ day, the Rabbis taught that it was your responsibility to forgive someone three times, and after that, you could discard any relationship with them you had. In our day, we typically don’t move past the very first offense, but here’s Peter asking Jesus if he should go so far as to forgive his brother seven times! That’s a lot of times to forgive someone who has wronged you! And, I think we like to ask these same types of questions in our walk. We like to know exactly how far God makes us go so that we can be considered faithful. We love questions like, “How long should I pray? How much must I give? How often must I go to church?” And, we like those types of questions because we want to know where the line is for faithfulness in God’s sight, and we want to make sure that we’re doing just enough to be considered faithful. We don’t want to do less than what God requires, but we sure don’t want to do extra. And, Jesus answers Peter the same way that He always answers these bare minimum types of questions: “There’s no limit. It’s not seven times. It’s seventy-seventy times. It’s as often as is necessary. There’s no threshold for forgiveness among my disciples.”

No Privilege of Grudges

Gracious, merciful living is the requirement of the Christian life. Christians do not have the privilege of grudges, bitterness, or resentment. This privilege is forfeited at the cross.
Gracious, merciful living is the requirement of the Christian life. Christians do not have the privilege of grudges, bitterness, or resentment. We have as much right toward grudges and resentment and vengeance as this servant had to demand payment from his fellow servant. How could one who has been forgiven so great a debt demand payment for an amount so small? And, how could we who have received grace so freely and mercy so richly be unforgiving and unwilling to be right with our brother or our sister who has wronged us? Their offense is so small in comparison to our offense toward God, and yet God has forgiven us and we struggle to forgive them.

Grace Given, Grace Received

This privilege of bitterness and resentment is forfeited when we come to the cross that we nailed Jesus on. Oh what grace and mercy each one of us has found at Jesus’ cross! You have heard me frequently say that what separates the Christian from every other people on the earth is the concept of grace, and I am convinced that is true. But, it's important for us to realize that this distinctive grace which the Christian so gloriously knows is not simply a grace received. It is a grace known and a grace lived. It is grace received and grace given. God's grace is too big and too transformative to be known and not lived, received and not given. That's how Jesus can say what He is saying throughout this text. If you believe that you are forgiven, but you are not forgiving; you have not experienced God's grace. If you believe that you have received grace and you are unwilling to give grace, you have likely never received this type of transformative grace, sin washing, soul-cleansing, liberating grace.
APPLICATION for the unchurched : Do you see how beautiful and abundant God's offer of mercy and grace is to you? Why would you spurn such an offer? Why would you reject such kindness aside from your own feelings of pride and self-assurance? APPLICATION: "Personal forgiveness is the key to good relationships." France
APPLICATION for the unchurched: Do you see how beautiful and abundant God's offer of mercy and grace is to you? Why would you spurn such an offer? Why would you reject such kindness aside from your own feelings of pride and self-assurance?

Unified Churches are Forgiving churches

APPLICATION: And, church family, what we must see is that the only way for us to be a unified church is if we are at the same time a forgiving church toward one another. Our power in the gospel and testimony in the community will be directly proportional to the grace and mercy which we show one another.

Observation 2: Gospel forgiveness is costly.

“his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made” Now, maybe you’re thinking, but it isn’t that easy. It sounds so easy to hear that you must forgive, but it’s altogether something different when you’re actually in a position that requires forgiveness. Forgiveness is simple, but it isn’t easy. In fact, it’s costly. We learn this from our experiences, don’t we? Your dad abandons you or abuses you or neglects you, and you know how difficult forgiveness is. Your husband or wife has an affair or ‘falls out of love with you,’ and you know how painful it is to forgive. Your best friend betrays you and gossips about you, and you learn of forgiveness’ difficulty. When your brother or sister in the church is harsh with you or puts you on the receiving end of their hypocrisy, you learn how difficult and painful it is to forgive.
But, it is not just our experiences that teach us the costliness of forgiveness; it is the cross that teaches us the loudest. You see, before a holy God every ‘account will be settled’. And the only way for you to not get what you deserve was for Jesus to get what He didn’t deserve — the brutality of the cross. And yet, it is because of that high price that He paid that you don’t have to pay for your sin paying for it with your life, if you have come to Christ in faith.

Settle Accounts at Your Own Cost

“the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt” But, all gospel forgiveness takes that shape. Forgiveness, by definition, means that neither person got what they deserved. The person who was sinned against was not loved or treated as they deserved, and the person that is forgiven is not given the consequences and pain that they deserve in return. It is to ‘settle accounts’ at your own cost. The forgiveness that the King gave to the servant was not free. It didn’t cost the servant anything, but it cost the king billions! The forgiveness of the cross is not free. It is free to us, but it cost Jesus his dignity and his life.
“Pay what you owe” This is what was so wicked about this forgiven, but unforgiving servant. The servant was willing to receive forgiveness from his King at a great cost to the King, but he was unwilling to grant forgiveness to his fellow servant at a very low cost to himself. In other words, he was anxious to receive forgiveness at someone else’s expense, but unwilling to offer forgiveness at his own expense. This is the picture of the unforgiving Christian. We have received the greatest forgiveness for the greatest of sins at the greatest of costs, and yet he or she is unwilling to offer to smallest forgiveness for the smallest of costs. After all, most forgiveness costs us very little other than getting over ourselves.

Forgiveness vs. Reconciliation

“not seven but seventy-seven times” Now, there are times in which it is even harder than that. What do you do when someone has hurt you so profoundly that it has rocked you to your very core, and yet that person doesn’t even seem to recognize that there’s a problem? It isn’t you forgiving someone who is asking forgiveness; it is you forgiving someone who has never even acknowledged that they’ve wronged you. I think that’s in the big picture of what Jesus is teach Peter when he says, “not seven but seventy-seven times” you are to forgive. Jesus is teaching Peter not to keep a record of how many times he’s been sinned against and how many times he’s been hurt and how many times he must forgive for each offense. Instead, Jesus is teaching Peter to live with an attitude of forgiveness. says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” This is what Jesus is teaching Peter: For you, always have forgiveness on the table. For you, always be willing to be reconciled with those who have wronged you. For you, be just as eager to show mercy as God has been. Refuse to obsess over what they’ve done. Refuse to linger in their record of wrongs. Refuse to grow bitter and resentful. As for you, live in a posture and attitude of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is Freedom

APPLICATION: Listen to me, brothers and sisters. Forgiveness is freedom. Let me say it again: forgiveness is freedom. It isn’t free, but it is freedom. It’s freedom from obsessing over the things that have went wrong in your life. It’s freedom from keeping records of your husband and your friends and your church family. It’s freedom from having to stay hurt and stay mad so that you can pay back to someone what they owe. This morning, where is their bitterness in your heart? Where is their resentment in your heart? Where is their a desire to see someone else hurt as badly as you have? Come to the cross this morning, and be set free! As far as it rests on you, don’t worry about your dad, don’t worry about your wife, don’t worry about your husband, don’t worry about your friend, as far as it rests on you, forgive. If they are ever ready to repent, you will already be ready to be reconciled!

Observation 3: Gospel forgiveness must be given in gospel portions.

“And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servants, as I had mercy on you?” There’s one final thing that I want us to see about forgiveness here this morning, and it is in the portion size, the generosity of the forgiveness that we are to give. The measure of forgiveness that we are to offer others is not in proportion to how badly they hurt us or didn't hurt us, how easily or difficult we have found it to move on, or even in proportion to the degree of their sorrow or contrition; rather, our forgiveness is to be given in proportion to the amount of forgiveness given to us in the gospel by Christ. How much should we forgive our dad? How much has Jesus forgiven us? How much mercy should we show to our ex-husband? How much mercy has Christ shown to us? How much grace should we offer to the Christian brother that wounded us and scarred us? How much did Jesus offer you? And, remember Jesus did not give it to you because you deserved it; Jesus gave you forgiveness and mercy and grace because He was good. And, this is how you, too, can give it. You are not offering the other person forgiveness, mercy, and grace because they deserve it or have earned it; You are offering it to them because the presence of God, goodness totally manifest dwells within you and so you are offering it to them because of the good, the godliness, the love of God has been given to you. You are forgiving them in his power, not your own. It's a supernatural forgiveness that you give, just as it was a supernatural forgiveness that your received.
“So also my heavenly Father will do to everyone of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Jesus is calling us to judge as severely as we wish to be judged. He is calling us to who others the same degree of mercy which we desire for God to show us. He’s not saying that we shouldn’t confront someone in their sin, as we saw last week. He’s saying that when we do, it must be done without an ounce of resentment or an inkling of vindictiveness. It is done only because you want that person to know greater mercy and grace than they have known. I said 'gospel portions' because that is the intention here. When you forgive as radically and as supernaturally as Jesus is teaching here, people don't simply see a kind man or woman before them, they are catching a glimpse of God himself. That's what this about. Forgiving as God forgives so that the world might Christ in you. Forgiving as God forgives you so that your brother or sister in Christ might see the gospel in your life and be called back to a life of faithfulness and abiding joy in Christ.

Gospel forgiveness flows from your heart.

“if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” You see, ultimately, your willingness or unwillingness to forgive reveals your heart. If you are unwilling to forgive your brother whose sin, regardless of what it is, is far smaller than your infinite offense toward God, then you reveal a heart that doesn’t grasp God’s mercy or forgiveness or grace. You reveal a heart that doesn’t reveal the presence of God, the forgiving and merciful God, dwelling inside of you. But, if you do find yourself able and willing to forgive, willing to not obsess over others wrongs toward you, willing to settle their account at your own cost, they you reveal a heart that has been so transformed by the forgiveness of God that it is now eager and anxious to offer that forgiveness to others.
APPLICATION: What does your life reveal about your heart? Are your reluctant to forgive or anxious to forgive? Are you willing to give grace and mercy with the same generosity that you have received them?
On the evening of June 17, 2015
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