Greetings, and happy Sabbath. It’s a blessing to be here with you all. Today, I want to talk about the power of forgiveness and its centrality to the authentic Christian experience.
I am so thankful that God is willing to forgive us, aren’t you? If it weren’t for this particular characteristic of God, we would all be doomed. Have you ever considered just how willing He is to forgive us, though? For much of my life, I have struggled with the thought that perhaps I’ve gone too far for Him to forgive me. How many times did I say I wouldn’t do that again? I’m thankful we don’t have to wonder how willing God is to forgive us. We have ample verses in the Bible that tell us. The easiest reference is probably . It would seem that Peter thinks that it would be quite gracious to forgive someone 7 times, but Jesus tells him to forgive 70 x 7. Those of you arriving at 490 have your math correct, but that’s not what Jesus was saying. There is more to unpack—7 is a symbol for totality, and to multiply it by 70 is, well, ask a theologian!
Picture of God.
If you recall the
If we break down the concept of forgiveness, we can easily see at least __ roles: the seeker that may or may not receive, and the offended that may or may not yield. A strong caution is in the Bible for any that may be unwilling to offer forgiveness. It’s hinted at in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The consequences are illustrated if we continue reading the parable Jesus offers Peter after saying 70 x 7. A debtor is forgiven his debt until he has someone imprisoned for a lesser debt than the one he himself was forgiven. And if that’s not enough, the warning is more clear in James 2:12-13
So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
I have been wronged in this life. I’m certain there is nobody in this room, or on this planet, that has escaped betrayal. I urge you to take an inventory, and see to it that you have forgive one another. I worked on this for years, and thought I had it down. You know what? I was wrong…I had to pray about some things. I had to forgive my parents. I had to forgive my grandparents. I even had to forgive myself! Can you believe I found myself on my own list? Yes, indeed. I had to pray. As I look at my role in my family—fathers, listen up: I looked at my role in my family, and realized I must be a better representation of Christ for my family. My wife can confirm that while I still have some transformation to make, I have come a long way.
Speaking of roles, we discussed four of them earlier. As a quick review, we had the person that requests and receives, the person that requests and does not receive. We also have the person that forgives, and the one that does not. We looked at some of the consequences of not forgiving. But we failed to mention a couple other roles. What about the unrepentant sinner that doesn’t seek forgiveness? Ladies and gentlemen, we are the church. We are called to work in the vineyard. Have you felt that calling? Have you reached anyone lately? I know the world is going crazy out there, but what are we doing about it. Are we loving our neighbors if we let them perish? Some of us may be able to witness to others by our willingness to forgive them. And in doing so, we would be standing in the shadow of One who fulfilled an entirely different role: the sinless Savior that took all our transgressions upon himself. He’s completely innocent! He shed his blood, because that was the only way for us to be saved.
I should probably stop there, but I have just a couple more things to share. Somebody messed up and gave me the microphone! :) While preparing for this message, I tried to imagine the most painful situation a human can endure. Emotional pain, not physical. The thought that occurred with the least amount of effort seemed obvious enough. I imagined a person that had done something wrong to a loved one, then asked forgiveness only to be denied. Satisfied, I went back to bed. The next morning, I realized there’s at least one thing worse than this, and that would be if the supposed offender is actually innocent and still denied forgiveness. Well, that led me to the cross. Jesus suffered more. Then I considered the anguish that will be suffered by those who come up in the second resurrection only to realize their error, profess the truth, then continue in rebellion and be destroyed by their loving Creator who is out of other options. But Jesus still suffers more than that, because he suffered the misery and anguish of the second death for each person—regardless of whether they are saved or lost. He lost the most. He is the King.
But we have this hope, and I encourage you to share it with everyone you know: no matter how far you think you may have gone, all you have to do is humble yourself before your Creator and confess, and ask forgiveness. Get into the routine of asking for the Holy Spirit to fill you. Every day, ask for it. If you hear His gentle guidance, do not follow your own will. If you don’t hear Him yet, keep humbling yourself and asking for Him to come into your life.
In closing, I want to discuss the following excerpt from page 8 of Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing by Ellen White:
“Whatever may have been your past experience, however discouraging your present circumstances, if you will come to Jesus just as you are, weak, helpless, and despairing, our compassionate Saviour will meet you a great way off, and will throw about you His arms of love and His robe of righteousness. He presents us to the Father clothed in the white raiment of His own character. He pleads before God in our behalf, saying: I have taken the sinner’s place. Look not upon this wayward child, but look on Me. Does Satan plead loudly against our souls, accusing of sin, and claiming us as his prey, the blood of Christ pleads with greater power.”
This is powerful! Whatever your situation, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past, or even what you’re doing now. If you come to Jesus just as you are, he will come to you. For years, I thought I had to wait until I could prove myself that I’m worthy before I could approach the throne. Friends, if that’s what you’re thinking, wake up! We can never be worthy. Just as Paul says in "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
White, E. G. (1896). Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing (p. 9). Pacific Press Publishing Association.