Why Forgive? Part 1
By Pastor J.D. Link
I encourage you to read Mt 18:21-35 carefully. This is one of those stories that is a most important tool in the Christian’s arsenal. It is an absolute, “must remember” principle to learn and retain, in order to be a mature disciple of Christ and to live in true freedom, joy and victory. The Christian life will quite literally not be lived to the fullest without it.
Jesus here tells us a story of a wicked servant (vs. 32). This servant was wicked, because though he had been forgiven in full of an unpayable debt, he didn’t extend that same mercy, grace and forgiveness to a fellow servant whose debt to him was minor. Because of this, he was delivered to the tormentors. What is the spiritual application?
We as Christians, through faith and confession in the cross, shed blood, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, have been forgiven by God the Father of an unpayable debt of sin. Not partial forgiveness, but total and complete. When we, who have been forgiven all, hold a debt of sin against someone else (which, by comparison of what we have been forgiven, is always fairly minor), we open ourselves up to torment.
Certainly you can hurt someone else by not forgiving them, especially someone close to you. However, the most suffering will be your own. Unforgiveness will hinder you spiritual life (Mk 11:25-26, 1Pt 3:7). It will torment you mentally and emotionally, holding you in bondage, and unable to live your life in peace and freedom and joy. If held on to, it will eventually make you physically ill, as it eats away at your insides. Unforgiveness is a ball and chain that is always there, until you cut it free. Jesus came to make us free indeed (Jn 8:36, Gal 5:1). This is not mere theory, but reality. It will truly work in our life, if we follow the Word.
Here are a few facts about forgiveness: 1. Forgiveness is a command of The Lord Jesus (Mt 18:35). It should not be viewed as an option. Do not try to justify your unforgiveness. Do not think of it as a right you have. You will never be free, if you reason you have a right to not forgive this person. 2. Forgiveness is an act of the will; it is not a feeling. Decide to forgive. Verbalize it. Do it in obedience to God’s Word. The feelings will eventually follow. If you wait to forgive until you feel forgiveness, you will never forgive. 3. Forgiving does not mean your saying what someone did was O.K.. There is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, which I will talk more on next week.
Here are the two keys to successfully walking in forgiveness and being truly free. 1. Always remember the great debt you have been forgiven of by God. Always look at the Cross. Always remember the blood-soaked body of the Lord Jesus, and what He suffered and endured for your forgiveness, salvation and freedom. Make it personal. Be ever aware that it was your sin that put Him there. Keep in mind Mt. 18. Forgive, as you have been forgiven (Eph 4:32). Also remember, that you yourself have not always been the victim. We have all been the perpetrator at some point, whether intentional or unintentional. We all need forgiveness.
2. Be a Christ follower (1Cor 11:1). What did Jesus do? “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34). Love believes all things; hopes all things; endures all things. This means, it looks for the best. Keep in mind, that they “know not what they do.” This doesn’t mean they may not have hurt you on purpose; but it means, if there eyes were truly open to the truth, they would not have done it. Like Saul, before he became Paul. When he persecuted Christians, he knew what he was doing – or at least he thought he did. However, he actually didn’t. Once his eyes were opened, he stopped – and became the persecuted. If we will seek to live out practically the words of Jesus (Bless those that curse you; love those that hate you; pray for those who do you wrong – Mt. 5:44), then we, by God’s grace, will be able to walk in forgiveness.
Unforgiveness is rooted in pride. Pride seeks to justify itself. Pride takes up offense. Pride is of the flesh. If we walk in the Spirit, selfish pride decreases, and Agape love increases. If we walk in pride, we will take offense and harbor unforgiveness. If we walk in the Spirit, we will love, bless and pray for. This releases us, and makes us free.
Forgiveness is hard on the flesh, especially when someone close to you has really hurt you. However, we have the God-given capability to forgive. Stephen proved it (Act 7:59-60), and millions since him. If we will put into practice the two keys, we will experience very true and very real victory and freedom. Doctrine, without application, is useless. I can tell you, by God’s Word and practical experience, that this works. You can be truly free from unforgiveness. Not just pretending – I mean, truly free. Jesus has done His part. We have the tools. Deliver yourself from the tormentors today.
Why Forgive? Part 2
By Pastor J.D. Link
Last week, we looked at Mt 18:21-35, a story Jesus told to put forth a powerful point about the need to forgive. We looked at three basic facts of forgiveness, which are: 1. Forgiveness is a command. 2. Forgiveness is an act of the will, not a feeling. 3. Forgiveness is not saying what someone did is “O.K.”. We also learned two keys to walking in forgiveness: 1. Never forget how much you have been forgiven by Jesus. 2. Believe the best. Believe that deep down, they know not what they do. Assume the best until proven wrong. This is walking as Jesus walked. We are to forgive as God forgives.
How does God forgive? First of all, He is “ready to forgive” (Ps 86:5). This means, He is willing and quick to forgive if we will simply come to Him. Also, He doesn’t hold onto the offense. He forgives and “Remembers our sin no more” (Jer 31:34). We need to do the same. Choose to forgive – and forget – the offense.
When we pray the Lord’s prayer, do we really want we pray? Mt 6:12 says, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”. Do we really want God to forgive us the same way (to the same degree) that we forgive others? That’s something to think about. If you forgive all, then you can pray that prayer in confidence. We are to forgive to the same degree we are forgiven (Eph 4:32, Col 3:13). Jesus is clear: If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us (Mt 6:14-15, Mk 11:25-26).
Does this mean if we don’t forgive, that we will go to Hell, not forgiven of our sins? No. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus (Eph 2:8-9). It is through heart belief and mouth confession (Rom 10:9-10). All of our sins are judicially (legally) forgiven through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (Psa 85:2, Col 2:13, 1Jn 2:12, Eph 1:7, Rom 4:7). Of course, we must act in faith to receive this forgiveness (Act 2:38, 3:19, 26:18).
There is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. We are commanded to forgive, and it has nothing to do with what the other party does or doesn’t do. Reconciliation, on the other hand, involves both parties. I encourage you to read 2Cor 5:17-21. Here, we find that God has forgiven us through the cross of Christ. However, we must be reconciled to Him by receiving this offer. Otherwise, it will not profit us. Reconciliation consists of forgiveness offered and forgiveness received. Of an apology, and the acceptance of that apology.
If I offend my spouse, she must forgive me in Christ. However, unless I repent and apologize, there will not be reconciliation (Lk 17:3-4). Though we have to forgive, this does not mean we will be reconciled. If the other party does not wish to reconcile, then there won’t be any. If they want to hold a grudge and not receive your apology, then reconciliation cannot take place. However, you can still choose to forgive the person, and release the situation into God’s hands, and be at peace within yourself.
So, when God says if you don’t forgive, He won’t forgive you; that speaks of reconciliation. In other words, you must “clear the air” with God (1Jn 1:9). It doesn’t mean your not forgiven in the judicial sense, or that you’re no longer in covenant with God through faith in Jesus. However, it does mean there is an issue now between you and God, and your fellowship with Him will be hindered until you set it straight. Again, referencing the marriage covenant: if I have a spat with my spouse, this doesn’t mean we’re no longer married or no longer in covenant relationship. What it does mean, is that full fellowship is now hindered, and until it is set straight through reconciliation, we cannot go on as normal. In other words, there is an elephant in the room, and there is no use trying to ignore him.
We can’t play games with God. We can’t harbor unforgiveness, and expect to go on in our fellowship with God as usual. Our prayers will be hindered (1Pt 3:7). Also, as we saw last week, we open ourselves up to torment of spirit, mind, emotions and even physically through unforgiveness (Mt 18:34). If we really want to be free and at peace, we need to be real with God. We need to forgive. How many times? Seventy times seven Jesus said (Mt 18:22). This is just another way of saying an unlimited amount of times. The good news, is that this is how God forgives us. He doesn’t ask us to forgive more than He is willing to forgive. Be thankful with how much God forgives you, then extended that same forgiveness to others. Selah.
By Pastor J.D. Link
For the last two weeks, we’ve looked at Mt 18:21-35, a story Jesus told to put forth a powerful point about the necessity of forgiveness. We’ve looked at three basic facts of forgiveness, which are: 1. Forgiveness is a command. 2. Forgiveness is an act of the will, not a feeling. 3. Forgiveness is not saying what someone did is “O.K.”. We’ve also learned two keys to walking in forgiveness: 1. Never forget how much you have been forgiven by Jesus. 2. Believe the best. Believe that deep down, they know not what they do. Assume the best until proven wrong. This is walking as Jesus walked. We are to forgive as God forgives.
Last week, we learned that while salvation is dependent only upon faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ; unhindered fellowship with God is dependent on us forgiving others (Mk 11:25-26). We also learned that there is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is dependant only on us, but reconciliation involves both parties. In Christ, we can forgive anyone, but if the other party does not want to be reconciled, then no reconciliation can be made. As King David once said, “I am for peace, but they are for war” (Ps 120:7). We also learned that, like God, we are to forgive and forget.
On this last point, clarification is necessary. Yes, God not only forgives all of our sins in Christ, but He also forgets them (Jer 31:34, Heb 8:12, 10:17; Isa 43:25). If we are to forgive as we have been forgiven (Eph 4:32), then we are to forget the offense as well. I believe in most cases this true. Most things we just need to forget. However, there are certain offenses that we are not to forget.
Here, we must define forget. Yes, we are to always forget, in the sense that we do not harbor bitterness; hold a grudge; and replay the offense over and over in our minds. We will not walk in freedom if we do. However, in some cases, we are not to forget, if trust has been broken. Forgiveness is to be given freely, but trust must be earned. So, on the issue of trust, we are not to “forget”. Let me give an example.
If you steal my wallet, I am to totally forgive you, and forget it (don’t hold a grudge). However, I will not trust you. If you wanted to be church treasurer, I would not “forget” that you stole my wallet, and therefore would not give you the job. Does this mean I don’t forgive you? No. It means you have broken trust, and I would be foolish to entrust you with more. Of course, I should give you opportunity to regain my trust, as I would want that same opportunity. We are to do unto others, as we would have them do unto us.
Paul warned the church to beware of certain people and false teachers (2Tim 4:14-15, Philp 3:2); and Jesus did as well (Mt 7:15, 16:6). Does this mean they were holding a grudge and not forgiving? No. However, they didn’t trust them, and so told us to beware of them. This is not unforgiveness. This is wisdom. We are to be gentle as doves, but wise as serpents (Mt 10:16). The church at Jerusalem didn’t trust Paul at first, because of his history (Act 9:26-27). Were they being bitter or unforgiving? No. They were being wise. So, we are to “forget” the offense, as in not be in bondage to grudges or memories, but we are not to “forget” as it pertains to trust. At the same time, be careful not to use not “trusting” as a perpetual excuse for not “forgetting”. Give people a chance to prove themselves, and extend the same grace you would want.
One last word on forgiveness: He who has been forgiven much loves much (Lk 7:36-50). Understanding forgiveness and walking in love are very much connected. Paul reckoned himself the “chief of sinners” before his conversion. We would do wise to do the same. When we come to understand how that it was our sin that put Jesus on the cross; and how much God forgave us – we will “love much”. We will love Jesus and love others, and be able to walk in forgiveness. If you love little, then it’s possible you think you have been forgiven little. We must understand these facts: We are all great sinners; who, through faith upon Jesus, receive great forgiveness; and, as a result, should walk in great love. Selah.