Faithlife Sermons

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Illustrations for Biblical Preaching Forgiveness, Forgetting and

A man who was telling his friend about an argument he’d had with his wife commented, “Oh, how I hate it, every time we have an argument; she gets historical.”

The friend replied, “You mean hysterical.”

“No,” he insisted. “I mean historical. Every time we argue she drags up everything from the past and holds it against me!”

Lord God, bless Your Word wherever it is proclaimed. Make it a Word of power and peace to convert those not yet Your own and to confirm those who have come to saving faith. May Your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life that, as You have promised, Your Word may achieve the purpose for which You send it, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Luke 17:1–4 ESV
And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
God’s Word addresses us in two ways: Law and Gospel. It speaks of many things, reveals things that we can only know by faith, excites us and encourages us with the stories of those who, by faith, accomplished great and mighty deeds. It warns us through the stories of those who refused to listen to Moses and the Prophets, and suffered the wrath of God as a result. But God’s Word comes to us, not to entertain with the stories of days gone by, but to speak to our hearts and souls concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. Through the Law, God shows us the incredible sinfulness of sin, convicts us of our own transgressions, and breaks every attempt at self-satisfaction.
The Law offers us no escape. When we try to say that we are running the race faster than the person next to us, the Law responds, “So what? You still aren’t fast enough to get away with sin!” When we try to cover our sins by pointing out the transgressions of others, God’s Law refuses to cooperate, but instead it smites our consciences by reminding us of those things that we should have done but neglects, and those things that we should have avoided but embraced.
When you think that you have got it all figured out, God allows someone else’s weakness to expose our inflexibility, someone else’s flaws to offend our sensibilities, someone else’s humanity to show us that we aren’t the spiritual dynamos that we would like to think.
Pastors struggle too. Our responsibilities to you pull on us, even as our personal needs, wants, and desires demand our attention as surely as yours do for you. “Ἀνένδεκτόν” - from the verb ἐνδέχομαι (s. δέχομαι; ‘receive’, Trag., Hdt. et al.) in our lit. only impers. ἐνδέχεται, to be acceptable to one’s way of thinking, it is possible - (plus the negative “Ἀ”) - it is not possible for the offenses not to come, but woe to the one through whom it comes!
William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 332.
So what is this passage; is it Law or is it Gospel? How many say Law? How many say Gospel? The answer depends upon how you see yourself in relation to Christ. If you hear Jesus saying in vv. 3-4, “If you don’t forgive your brother, you’re going to Hell,” this passage sounds like Law. If you hear Jesus saying “When your brother sins and then repents, remember that I died for that sin too, just like I died for yours, so go ahead and forgive Him, I already took care of both of your debts,” it’s Gospel!
Knowing the pervasiveness of temptations in this life, why are we shocked and disappointed when sinners sin, not just unbelievers, but even believers? Jesus told us, that should be sufficient for us to know that we should keep a ready supply of forgiveness in our tool belts, the way a wise mother keeps a supply of band-aids and disinfectants in the medicine cabinet.
Luke 17:5–6 ESV
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
The Apostles’ response to this directive is as touching as it is wrong: “putting the best construction” upon their request, they ask for more faith in order that they might do what Christ has challenged in response to the sin of a brother. Do we have that debts, offences or stumbling blocks that we have not released, because the wound is still raw, the disappointment or feeling of betrayal is to fresh? Jesus understands, and tells them that the solution is not “increase our faith,” but “walk by the faith that you have now!” In other words, “trust Me.”
Jesus never gives us a method for increasing our faith, because that is not the problem. When you were united to Christ through Holy Baptism (Romans 6:3-5), His divine power “granted to us everything that pertains to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3). That’s why exhorting you to live godly is good, right, and salutary - that’s why the Apostle Paul did it:
Ephesians 4:1–8 ESV
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
Moreover, now, you might think that this is unfair, but don’t expect God to get excited just because you did what God has commanded, whether generally speaking or specifically as it pertains to forgiveness! The Bible says, Psalm 95:3 (ESV) — 3 For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
Luke 17:7–10 ESV
“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”
Kings don’t get excited when their servants obey; they get excited - in a bad way - when they don’t! Kings expect their servants to obey! If you only do what you are told, that’s baseline! Good servants do before they are told, they do without being told! God isn’t a mean King, so He doesn’t fire you for doing just what you are told. But don’t get it twisted, don’t think that you are special because you did what you were told. God’s Law says that you aren’t. That’s why the Law doesn’t save you - it can’t!
Romans 10:5 ESV
For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.
The Gospel, on the other hand, saves everyone who hears it:
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
The promise of the Gospel is so much better than the compulsion of the Law, that we should be eager to preach the Gospel and seek out opportunities to share it. Dr. Luther even said as much in the Smalcald Articles when he wrote:

We will now return to the Gospel, which does not give us counsel and aid against sin in only one way. God is superabundantly generous in His grace: First, through the spoken Word, by which the forgiveness of sins is preached in the whole world [Luke 24:45–47]. This is the particular office of the Gospel. Second, through Baptism. Third, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar. Fourth, through the Power of the Keys. Also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren, “Where two or three are gathered” (Matthew 18:20) and other such verses [especially Romans 1:12].

What is this mighty man of God saying here? He’s telling you, member of the Royal Priesthood -
tell somebody, “yes, sugar, he’s talking to you!” -
He is telling you that your encouraging or edifying conversations and words of forgiveness in Jesus’ name are as much the proclamation of the Gospel as is the message that you hear from the Preacher on Sunday! You have the ability to build up the faith of one another when you remind one another of God’s exceeding great and precious promises, especially when your brother or your sister is being attacked by the devil to steal, kill, and destroy the faith that God has given to them.
Proverbs 18:21 ESV
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
We live in a time where it seems that death is on every side. We hear of threats at school, threats at work, threats in the home, even threats at church. The devil is trying to get people to be so scared and angry, so hostile and combative - just look at your Facebook feeds - not now but after service!
But listen to what James, the Lord’s brother, wrote to us 2000 years ago:
James 3:13–18 ESV
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
When I was here at Promise, I remember two things: every season of growth and deepening here at Promise took place in an atmosphere of encouragement, of edifying conversations, of the saints walking together in love. Every season of division and separation took place in an atmosphere of accusation, hostility, and the children of God being set at cross purposes with one another. The devil loves to sow seeds of doubt and discouragement, within you as a child of God, and between you and your fellow believers, including between you and those whom God has placed here to serve you in the ministry of reconciliation. Christ died on the cross to break down every wall of separation, and rose again to unite, in His own body, everyone for whom He died! Jesus is the original One who said “Come together right now, over Me;” Paul McCartney just gave it a nice hook.
God has called us, through the Gospel and by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we would no longer be divided against one another, no longer carrying the burdens of anger and guilt, but bearing one another’s burdens, thus fulfilling the Law of Christ.
Hebrews 10:19–25 (ESV) — 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
So let the peace of God, that passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds, through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.
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