Sun. a.m. AGCC 10/8/2000
#5 (Demands of Discipleship Series)
"FORGIVENESS"

TEXTS:     Matt. 18:21-35; 6:14-15

INTRO:

The greatest joy of Christian love is forgiveness -- and the greatest challenge of Christian love is forgiveness! ILLUS:We all agree that forgiveness is a beautiful idea until we have to practice it. C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 4104. The desire for forgiveness of our own sins usually outweighs the desire to grant forgiveness to others! What's wrong with the following statistic? ILLUS:Percentage of Americans who pray to forgive others: 86%. Who pray for forgiveness for themselves: 92%. -- Gallup Poll, cited in Facts & Trends. "To Verify," italic {Leadership}. We love being forgiven and seek it freely, but usually struggle to forgive others forgiveness however is a demand of discipleship, both receiving it and giving it! The #1 purpose of Jesus' coming to Earth was to make a way of forgiveness for our sins and to make a way for us to forgive others. Failure to give means a failure to receive a fact too often ignored by those who call themselves "Christians." PROP. SENT:      The scriptures teach us that BOTH being forgiven and being a forgiver is required as a disciple of Jesus Christ, we cannot find it if we don't also give it!

I. ESSENTIALS OF FORGIVENESS!       18:21-35

A. Extreme     18:21-27 1. Peter approaches Jesus about the subject of forgiveness and feels certain that he is about to receive praise from Jesus for his magnanimous offer of forgiveness of others that will exceed the religious teaching of his day: a. Peter knows that Rabbinic teaching in Jesus' day was to forgive someone 3 times for their fault, but only 3 times. b. Peter no doubt hopes to receive praise from Jesus in his offer to forgive 7 times instead of the Rabbi's teaching of 3 times. c. Peter is about to get a rude awakening however! 2. Jesus' response to Peter's generous offer of forgiveness -- 7 times vs. the Rabbinic's teaching of 3 times still falls short of Jesus' demand of forgiveness Jesus states that forgiveness should be in the EXTREME even 70 x 7 times!! a. Jesus was NOT teaching a new high threshold - 490 times! b. Jesus was simply using a ridiculously high number to indicate "as many times as needed!" c. Peter's well meaning attempts to slightly more than double the Rabbinic teaching met a response by Jesus, Peter's response is unacceptably low too! 3. Man's best attempts, even doubling the amount, is NOT GOOD ENOUGH for God or for His children! 4. Jesus' whole mission had to do with "forgiveness" if we miss this by either failing to RECEIVE it OR to GIVE IT we fail God! ILLUS:Let us always keep in mind that the first word from the cross was a word of forgiveness! -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). 5. Jesus uses a story to explain the extreme nature of God's forgiveness. a. A man owed his master multiple millions of dollars (possibly more than $10,000,000 in today's currency). b. It was impossible for a servant to pay this back, although the debtor arrogantly states that given time he will gladly repay the debt! (18:26 NIV) "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.'" ... YEAH RIGHT! (1. Actually, this was the man's first error to assume arrogantly that he could repay an impossible debt. (2. This kind of arrogance demonstrated that this man really did not understand the power of forgiveness it is no wonder that he later demands repayment of a tiny debt owed to him, he has no appreciation of the real debt he was forgiven or the nature of the master's grace! c. He falls on his knees and begs and the master is moved with compassion to forgive him! 6. We see the heart of God our impossible debt is forgiven when we fall on our knees and ask for mercy from God. a. The debtor could do nothing to fix the debt! b. He could only ask for pity. 7. God's love forgives the debt totally! The debtor is set free! 8. This should be the cause of rejoicing a real Christian is a thing to marvel over forgiven by God, called to live God's love by forgiving others, a real contradiction to the world! ILLUS:A true Christian is a sign of contradiction--a living symbol of the Cross. He or she is a person who believes the unbelievable, bears the unbearable, forgives the unforgivable, loves the unlovable, is perfectly happy not to be perfect, is willing to give up his or her will, becomes weak to be strong ... and finds love by giving it away. -- Joseph Roy, Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 4. B. Enveloping!     18:28-35 1. The master's forgiveness of such an impossible debt should have been so overwhelming, so enveloping that this man would easily forgive others of any small debt they may have toward him; however, he spurns the great gift he has received by demanding repayment from a fellow servant who owes him a few dollars! a. Though his own huge debt was forgiven and FORGOTTEN, he will not forget a few dollars owed him by a fellow servant. b. He not only seeks out the small debtor to him, he grabs his fellow servant and begins to choke him!!!! (see 18:28) 2. We love the idea that God forgets our sins when He forgives us, but we so often won't forget the sins of others against us! ILLUS:A guy complained to his buddy that whenever he argued with his wife, she got historical. His friend said, "You mean hysterical." He said, "No, historical. She dredges up the past and reminds me of every time I've failed her in the past." We do that with our kids sometimes, don't we? Our kids do something wrong, and we remind them of the previous forty-three times that they did the same thing. -- Jim Nicodem, "The Father Heart of God," Preaching Today, Tape No. 152. 3. Ironically, this fellow servant that owed him a few dollars begged and said the exact same thing he had said to his master, "Be patient with me, and I will pay you back." -- only this man could actually do this since the amount was only a few dollars, it was no empty arrogant boast as his had been! 4. This wicked man however has no mercy for this man, no compassion, no willingness to forgive such a small offense though he had been forgiven such a huge offense freely! a. Tragically, too many Christians live this way toward others! b. We have been forgiven by God a huge list of debts, a debt so large we could never repay it yet we find it too difficult to forgive others who do us wrong! c. The greatest arrogance of course is the man who claims he can pay back God by himself for all his sins such a one is nothing more than a fool and likely to not forgive others either! 5. Forgiveness is easy to accept and hard to give! a. But it is a MUST! b. It is a requirement of being a person of faith! c. It requires that we not only forgive others, but forget their wrongs against us! ILLUS:Clara Barton was never known to hold resentment against anyone. One time a friend recalled to her a cruel thing that had happened to her some years previously, but Clara seemed not to remember the incident. "Don't you remember the wrong that was done you?" the friend asked Clara. She answered calmly, "No, I distinctly remember forgetting that." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 216. 6. This forgiven man failed to forgive his fellow servant and for this Jesus doesn't mince words, he calls the man a "wicked servant." a. There is nothing acceptable about a forgiven person failing to forgive others! b. Jesus' point is clear: "forgive others freely" - with no stipulation as to what they owe or how much, no matter what others owe us it is small change compared to the huge debt we have been forgiven by God! 7. Jesus clearly teaches here that this wicked servant's first debt is now rekindled, and it was back in prison for him and the master allows him only one possible way of getting free again "until he should pay back ALL he owed." which of course matches the arrogant boasting he had originally made! a. This was his original boast and now he will be held to it! b. And of course this meant a life of imprisonment, it would be impossible to repay! c. Such arrogance of sinful man, that he can repay his own sins is a boast that will keep him in bondage for life and eternity! II. EXPECTATION OF FORGIVENESS     6:14-15 A. Expected!     6:14 1. Everything Jesus said about forgiveness points to two clear things: a. That we are EXPECTED to forgive others. b. That we can EXPECT to be forgiven AS we forgive others! 2. Actually the order of Jesus' words about forgiveness here are quite revealing, Jesus STARTS by saying we must forgive others THEN we too can expect our sins forgiven by our heavenly father. a. It is therefore impossible to BE a Christian and not forgive others! ILLUS:On February 9, 1960, Adolph Coors III was kidnapped and held for ransom. Seven months later his body was found on a remote hillside. He had been shot to death. Adolph Coors IV, then fifteen years old, lost not only his father but his best friend. For years young Coors hated Joseph Corbett, the man who was sentenced to life for the slaying. Then in 1975 Ad Coors became a Christian. While he divested himself of his interest in the family beer business, he could not divest himself of the hatred that consumed him. Resentment seethed within him and blighted his growth in faith. He prayed to God for help because he realized how his hatred for Corbett was alienating him from God and other persons. The day came, however, when claiming the Spirit's presence, Ad Coors visited the maximum security unit of Colorado's Canon City penitentiary and tried to talk with Corbett. Corbett refused to see him. Coors left a Bible inscribed with this message: I'm here to see you today and I'm sorry that we could not meet. As a Christian I am summoned by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to forgive. I do forgive you, and I ask you to forgive me for the hatred I've held in my heart for you." Later Coors confessed, "I have a love for that man that only Jesus Christ could have put in my heart." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 215. b. This of course doesn't mean it is easy, just necessary! 3. Christ came to save to forgive, and if He lives in us we will be compelled by His love toward sinners to forgive them also! a. Certainly Jesus demonstrated this on the cross they were His first words on the cross "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." b. Stephen when he was stoned uttered the same words! c. Forgiveness was the hallmark of Christians who were martyred in the coliseums and thrown to the lions. 4. The power of forgiveness is not only that it releases the errant person from condemnation but it also releases the forgiver from bitterness, anger, malice and thus a life of misery and revenge! ILLUS:When you forgive you in no way change the past-but you sure do change the future. Bernard Meltzer - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 4108 5. This demand on Christ's disciples to freely forgive others was not just to benefit the person who wronged them, in so many ways it brought healing to the disciples! a. The freedom to no longer hold grudges. b. The freedom from anger c. The freedom from revenge d. The freedom to move on toward the future without being stuck in the past. 6. Granting forgiveness to others is redemptive for both the forgiven and the forgiver! a. And this is why it is EXPECTED by Christ! b. God wishes ALL to experience His redemptive power, from Him directly and through us by granting forgiveness to others. B. Evaluation     6:15 1. In this statement by Jesus: (Mat 6:15 NIV) "But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Jesus make it quite clear that the evaluation of whether our sins will be forgiven are connected to our forgiving others! a. This sounds pretty tough and it is! b. It is not an easy thing to forgive wrongs done to us, our natural man wants "justice" or "revenge." 2. When we ask for forgiveness of our sins, God does look at what we do with others in determining the extension of forgiveness to us. a. God's love cannot flow through unforgiveness! b. God's power must not be negated by our unforgiveness toward others. 3. So much of God's love is experienced through forgiveness, both what we receive from God and what we give to others! ILLUS:Ronald Reagan's attitude after the 1982 attempt on his life made an impression on his daughter, Patti Davis: "The following day my father said he knew his physical healing was directly dependent on his ability to forgive John Hinckley. By showing me that forgiveness is the key to everything, including physical health and healing, he gave me an example of Christ-like thinking." -- Angels Don't Die. Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership. 4. So many of us pray that we will experience God's power, that we will see God's power at work in us and in His Church GOOD, then learn to be forgiven and TO FORGIVE and you will see it!! a. God's call of discipleship here is unmistakable: We must forgive in order to be forgiven ourselves! b. God's power will flow outward to others when we forgive, and back toward us inwardly when we forgive! 5. The only thing you have to lose when you freely forgive others is your anger, bitterness, malice, frustration, and sin not a bad bargain! a. Is there someone you need to forgive? b. Do you need forgiveness? From God, from others? c. Now, what are you going to do about your own forgiveness and those around that need it from you? CONCLUSION:    One of the greatest joys of Christianity is the forgiveness of ALL our sins! One of the greatest challenges of Christianity is to forgive others ALL their sins! In Christ we find complete forgiveness, all our sins washed away. Forgiveness is not only a great joy, but a tough thing to practice with others! Forgiveness is one of those things that God demands of His disciples -- and failure to offer forgiveness to others means failure to experience it ourselves! We who will be forgiven must also forgive!