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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sermon: How Much Have You Been Forgiven

HOW MUCH HAVE YOU BEEN FORGIVEN

KEY TEXTS: MATTHEW 18:21-35


INTRODUCTION:


Dear brothers and Sisters, Happy Sabbath to you. I am thankful for the life and for the opportunity to share with you what God has put in my heart. I also pray and trust that God is going to bless each one of you as you fellowship and worship in your local churches around the world.


I do not take the assignment given to me today lightly. I must confess that this is not the sermon I had in mind in the beginning of this week. I struggled, prayed and labored for the past two nights. Finally, what we have in the next few pages is what I am compelled to share with you. I have no idea why but God knows…and therefore I must obey. Please ask God right now to open your heart and your mind before you proceed. Will you? Come Holy Spirit, teach us, touch our lives, and change us into Jesus' likeness. Amen.


Let me begin by warning you! This is not going to be an easy sermon although the subject is familiar. There is possibility that some of us are being lost slowly but surely because we have no clue what the bible teaches about forgiveness or have refused to follow and heed to God’s warning. As we study this subject, I don’t want anyone to forget that there are consequences of sins that forgiveness can not change-in other words scars sometimes remain long after forgiveness. Yes-we may need to take some responsibility for our actions. Some of us refuse to accepts the fact that we are sinners –hundred percent –sinners. Our denials put us falsely on a different category and hence treat one another with “holier than thou” attitude. Let me suggest this morning that we are all in the same boat …we are sinners who need the Savior. Yes we may be at different stages in our journey, and yes some are babies while others are maturing in the things of God. However, the fact remains; we are sinners in need of the Savior. Not only because of the “original sin of our first parents” but we also continue to sin daily against God and against one another…May be you don’t think so! As we begin our study this morning, allow me to suggest that if there is an important phrase in any Christian’s vocabulary that would make much difference in our spiritual lives; that would be "Forgive me" and "I forgive you."

I. WHY FORGIVENESS?

First, forgiveness lies at the heart of our relationship with God. The message of forgiveness is the message of the Gospel. The Bible if full of forgiveness truths, warnings, and counsel on forgiveness. Why did Jesus become man, taking on our flesh? Why did Jesus undergo baptism and temptation? Why did Jesus suffer and die upon the cross? Why? So we could be forgiven! Because that is how we get saved. The only way we can be saved… Because we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God [ROM 2:23]…And the wages of sin is death [ROM 6:23]. Therefore a promise is given “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness [1 John 1:9]. Unless our sins are forgiven-we are lost. Second, in this sin-filled world forgiveness also lies at the heart of our relationships with people. We need forgiveness in our relationships as spouses, as parents and children, as brothers and sisters. Try to imagine life without forgiveness. It would be terrible, wouldn't it? All of us would be left in our sins and misery and none of us would have any hope for salvation and everlasting life. Families and churches would be a shambles for people that cannot forgive each other; we would be doomed to a life of conflict, hatred, bitterness, discord, and anger. On the other hand, where there is forgiveness there is love, peace, harmony, and unity. Where there is forgiveness the healing warmth of God's presence fills one to the brim. I can never think of forgiveness without thinking of Jesus' first word upon the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Lk 23:34). Jesus prayed this for the scribes and Pharisees who plotted against Him. Jesus prayed this for the crowds who screamed, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Jesus prayed this for the apostles who deserted Him and denied Him and betrayed Him. Jesus prayed this for the soldiers who cracked the whip and pounded in the nails. Jesus prayed this for Pilate and Herod who sacrificed justice in the name of peace. Jesus prayed this for sinners like you and me – because for our sake too He went to the cross. I can never think of forgiveness without thinking of Joseph. When Joseph's brothers came before him in Egypt, he faced a stiff test. Years before, they had threatened to kill him. Instead, they sold him into slavery. But Joseph forgave them. After father Jacob died Joseph's brothers feared Joseph might finally take revenge, but he assured them of his complete forgiveness. I can never think of forgiveness without thinking of Stephen. He was the first martyr of the Christian church. Unbelieving Jews, led by a man named Saul, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Stephen's last words were words of grace and forgiveness: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them" (Acts 7:57-60). Could you pray this way for someone who was killing you or one of your loved ones? Jesus tells us this morning that this demands a response, a thankful response. Because God has forgiven us we need to forgive one another. To forgive and to be forgiven are joined together.

II. GOD’S FORGIVENESS OF US

A. In Matthew 18 we read the parable of a king who was settling accounts with his servants. Apparently many people owed him money. One of the servants who was brought forward owed the king "ten thousand talents" (Mt 18:24) – a footnote at the bottom of your pew Bible equates this with "millions of dollars."

The servant was not able to pay the debt, so that master ordered that the servant, his wife, his children, and all his possessions "be sold to repay the debt" (Mt 18:25). Even with this drastic step the king could never get all his money back – the debt was just too big.

The servant, when he heard he was to be sold, along with his family and possessions, fell on his knees before the king and begged him, "Be patient with me, and I will pay back everything" (Mt 18:25). This was nothing but an empty promise: there was no possible way a servant could possibly repay the king the millions owed. The servant knew this, the king knew this, and everyone else in attendance knew this. Yet the king, much to everyone's surprise, "took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go" (Mt 18:27).

Take careful note of exactly what the king did. Did the king let the servant go with the understanding he make every attempt to do the impossible – to repay the debt? Did the king release the servant from the threatened slavery on the condition he try his best to pay the debt's interest? Did the king merely decide to hold off foreclosure for the time being? The king did none of this. Rather, he "canceled the debt" (Mt 18:27). In his ledgers he marked the debt as being paid in full.

B. Jesus starts the parable by saying "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like ..." (Mt 18:23). We all see, I think, the point Jesus was trying to get across about "the kingdom of heaven." The king represents God and the servant represents people like you and me who have heard and experienced the message of forgiveness. Like the servant we have a debt that we cannot possibly repay – an enormous debt. A debt caused by sin.

God does to our debt what the king did to the servant's debt. He doesn't throw us into the debtor's prison of hell, nor does He foreclose. Rather, in response to our plea for mercy He forgives us our sins. In His ledger He marks beside our debt, "payment received in full." Like the king in the parable, God shows pity and mercy to the undeserving.

Why is it that God does this? Why does He show pity and mercy to undeserving debtors? We all know that too. God forgives us our sins because of the precious blood of Christ shed upon the cross.


III. OUR FORGIVENESS OF OTHERS

A. Jesus continues His parable by telling us some more about the forgiven servant. When that servant went out, "he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii" (Mt 18:28) "He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded" (Mt 18:28).

This debtor makes almost the same plea for mercy and patience that the forgiven servant made: "Be patient with me, and I will pay you back" (Mt 18:29). There is, however, one major difference between the two requests. The promise of the first servant to pay back everything was impossible to keep because the debt was too large. The promise of the second servant, on the other hand, was capable of being kept because the sum was rather minor.

How did the forgiven servant respond to this request for patience and grace? "He refused," says the Bible. "Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt" (Mt 18:30).

B. Isn't this all a little astonishing? Isn't there a great, big inconsistency here? How is it that a man forgiven a simply enormous debt cannot, in turn, forgive a rather small debt?

In telling us this parable the Lord wants us all to search our heart and answer a very personal question: am I unforgiving like that first servant?Don't dismiss this question too quickly, congregation. Are you, am I, unforgiving like that first servant?

Like that unforgiving servant you and I have been forgiven an absolutely enormous debt – a debt far greater than we can ever repay; a debt that increases with every passing day. Compared to that debt, as in the parable, our neighbor's or our brother's or our sister's debt to us is nothing. In other words, not one of us is sinned against by his neighbor or brother or sister near as greatly as we have sinned and do sin against God. Or, to put it another way, nothing our neighbor or brother or sister does to us – no matter how bad it may be – can compare to what we have done against God. Or, to put it one other way, the Christian needs to be forgiven far more wrong by God than he needs to forgive others for the wrongs they have done. Are you, am I, unforgiving like that first servant? Sometimes I wonder. Who among us doesn't harbor grudges and nurse resentments – for years, if necessary!? How many times don't we let the past continually come between us? How many times don't we hold a particular sin against another? How many times have we refused to go to a church or family function because we are mad about something that has happened years ago?

C. My brothers and sisters, the message that God gives us is so very plain and easy to understand: being forgiven and being forgiving are interdependent; they cannot be separated; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. For this reason Jesus taught us to pay, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." Exactly how are Christian forgiveness and God's forgiveness related? No believer would ever dare claim they ought to be "to the same degree" or "in the exact same manner." For no believer would ever want the perfect forgiveness of God to be limited to the same level as our imperfect forgiving. And clearly no believer wants the extent of his forgiveness to limit God's boundless forgiveness. Yet, Jesus makes a connection here between God's forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others. The point is that if we are forgiven by God – as the Word of God assured us of – then we, in turn, forgive each other. Our ability to forgive is evidence that we have been forgiven by God. We can go so far as to say unforgiving means unforgiven. Those who can't forgive others show that they have not been forgiven by God. General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, "I never forgive and I never forget." To which Wesley responded, "Then Sir, I hope you never sin." That's a good reply to anyone with an unforgiving attitude: "If you can't forgive someone who has wronged you then I hope you never sin." Don't forget, unforgiving means unforgiven. Those who can't forgive others cannot possibly have experienced God's forgiveness themselves because those who have been forgiven are forgiving!

D. What is forgiveness? It means three things. First, to forgive means that the forgiver no longer lets the sin comes between her and the offender. The sin is regarded as over, gone, done, and removed. Second, the forgiver will not accuse the offender on the basis of this sin any longer; the sin will no longer be used or held against the offender. Third, to forgive means the forgiver will no longer dwell on the sin, or nurse it, or harbor a grudge on account of it. All this, God does for those who believe in Jesus. All this you and I must do for each other. As the Lord has forgiven me, so I also must forgive.

IV. AS INDIVIDUALS, WE ARE LOST IF WE REFUSE TO FORGIVE

A. In the parable the king called the unforgiving servant before him and said, "You wicked servant! I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" (Mt 18:32-33). And in anger the king delivered the servant to prison and torture until his debt could be paid – in other words, he would be there for life.

B. Jesus concludes this parable with a warning to us all: "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." Again the message is clear: unforgiving means unforgiven; unforgiving means lost eternity. Or to put it a more positive way: forgiven means forgiving! This, my brothers and sisters, is what "the kingdom of heaven is like."

Let’s close today with our mind on Lords prayer Matthew 6: 9-15. Note Verses 14-159

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

You and I know without doubt that we cannot be saved if our sins are not forgiven. My prayer today for you and for me is that we accept God’s forgiveness and also learn to forgive others in the same measure. Do you have someone in your life you need to forgive? Hurry up and do it! Do you still harbor resentment, anger, and bitterness over a brother, sister, fellow church member, neighbor and or spouse? Ask God to give you the power to make things right! You must, and I must if we are serious about our salvation. May God bless you, and keep you until that bright morning day when we see Him face to face. Amen.


Preacher: Caleb Migombo

Painter: Lars Justinen

1 comment:

  1. this is 2017 and this message is very timely today for our church

    ReplyDelete