Matthew 18:21-35 Forgiving the Unforgivable Have you ever been called upon to forgive someone? If you have not, you probably have not been alive very long. Most of us werenít in this world but a few seconds before some doctor turned us upside down and whacked us on the bottom. For some, it seems like that is what people have being trying to do to them ever since. Have you ever been called upon to forgive someone and you didnít know if you could? If not, you have probably led a pretty sheltered life. No worry about it through, I am certain that you will get an opportunity. This evening, I want to talk about what it takes to forgive the unforgivable. Tonight, letís consider what it takes to forgive. I. The Bible commands us to forgive. A. Forgiveness is neither a luxury nor a choice. It is a mandate from God. Mark 11:25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Luke 17:3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christís sake hath forgiven you. Colossians 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. B. For years, I have sought a good definition of what it means to forgive someone. 1. For me to understand something, I need to know what it is. a. That is why I define so many Bible words. b. I am trying to get the word down to something that I can understand. 2. I have struggled with a definition of forgiveness. a. I personally do not think that forgiving someone means that you have to be foolish. b. I believe I can forgive a thief without letting him hold my wallet. c. The problem is coming up with a definition that describes that. 3. The definition I have come to is, "FORGIVENESS IS STARTING OVER." a. When you forgive someone else, you are giving them a fresh start. b. This definition also works when applied to yourself. When you forgive, you give yourself a fresh start. c. On the one hand, giving someone a fresh start means that you are no longer harboring resentment or bitterness toward them. (1) You no longer are living in the past with regards to that individual. (2) There is no past to look back to. d. On the other hand, giving someone a fresh start does not mean that you through caution to the wind. (1) Until I do have a past with a person, I proceed with caution. (2) Proceeding with caution is not holding the past against a person. It is merely exercising wisdom. (3) After a person has deliberately wronged you, there is nothing wrong with moving forward cautiously. (4) However, the key is that you are moving forward. II. Life gives us opportunity to forgive. A. That people do people wrong is no secret. 1. Sometimes people hurt others by accident or, at least, without fully considering the consequences. 2. However, sometimes people hurt each other on purpose. a. Some people are cold, hard, even evil. b. Evil people will do evil things. c. I have heard of some who betrayed a trust, stole a mate, defiled an innocent, and caused a death. 3. Interestingly, the Scripture does not teach a conditional forgiveness. a. There is not a forgiveness that we give when someone inadvertently hurts us and a different kind of forgiveness we give when someone deliberately hurts us. b. The Bible just commands us to forgive. c. And in this account, Jesus is teaching us to forgive as often as is necessary. 4. \\#Matt 18:21-22\\ Peter was making a generous offer when he offered to forgive seven times. a. I have read that Scribal law reads: "If a man transgresses one time, forgive him. If a man transgresses two times, forgive him. If a man transgresses three times, forgive him. If a man transgresses four times, do not forgive him." http://www.sermons.org/sermons/new_testament/matthew/matthew_18_21-35.htm b. If that was the teaching of the day, Peter was willing to forgive more than twice what was being taught. c. While Peter may have thought doubling the commonly taught number of times to forgive was generous, Jesus instructed him to forgive even as many as seventy times the accepted number! d. Of course no one is going to keep that kind of count. In essence, Jesus was teaching forgive as often as forgiveness is sought. 5. While this section of Scripture starts with a question and an answer, it leads to a rather long parable that contains a pointed closing. a. The ending truth is that if you will not forgive, you will not be forgiven. b. Jesus was speaking this to His disciples. c. Jesus wasnít lying or even exaggerating. d. I do not know how God will work this. (1) I do not think this means that a Christian can lose his salvation. (2) I do believe it means that a Christian can lose fellowship with God, lose His favor, lose His protection. B. With that in mind, you have to ask yourself two questions. 1. Is there anything that someone has done to me that I have not forgiven? 2. Is there anyone that I have not forgiven who has wronged me many times? III. We must prepare ourselves to forgive. A. More and more, I am concluding that some people are just not able to do the things that God commands. 1. I do not think this is not because God has set the bar too high. 2. I think it is because man has gorged himself on sin. a. It seems to me, that the more into sin a person deliberately marches, the less control over himself he has. b. We sometimes think along these lines when talking about demons. (1) We know there is such a thing as demon possession. (2) A person at this point has little control over what he says or does. The demon within him controls him. (3) But it seems that before a demon possess a person, he would first influence that person. (4) Most likely, a person under demonic influence gradually loses more and more control of himself. (5) At some point, the demon has so much control over the individual, that the demon can easily posses him. 3. So it seems to be with sin. a. A person first tries sin on his own. He finds it enjoyable so he repeats the experience. b. Soon, he repeats that sin and adds other sins to it, seeking to find the pleasure he once experienced. c. After a time, the man is not trying the sin, but the sin is trying the man. d. When a person gets to this stage, he cannot stop. e. Sin has him. 4. I believe there are people today who are incapable of forgiving, and whatís more, I believe it has been my unfortunate pleasure to meet one or two of them. 5. In order to forgive as Christ commands, we must develop a spirit capable of forgiving. B. A forgiving spirit would have to be a born-again spirit. 1. I repeat the necessity of salvation so often because salvation is so necessary. a. You cannot begin to live like Christ teaches without having salvation. b. Several years ago, I preached a message on forgiveness. (1) In that message, I stated that you cannot give the forgiveness of Christ until you receive the forgiveness of Christ. (2) I still believe that today. 2. If you do not want to wreck your health, waste your life, and ruin your friendships, you need to come to Jesus Christ. C. A forgiving spirit would have to be an obedient spirit. 1. Obedience is best learned in our youth. a. It is very hard for an older person to learn to be obedient. b. That is due in large measure to pride and stubbornness. 2. However, wherever you are in life, you must learn to obey if you are going to be able to forgive. a. Why is that? b. Because sometimes the only reason you are going to have to forgive a person, is the reason that God said so. c. Do you remember the question the child asks when given a command that he didnít think was appropriate? "Why?" d. You are I are going to be asked to forgive people who have donít some very hurtful things to us. (1) Even when called upon to forgive them, we are going to know in our hearts that they have not changed. (2) We are going to sense that they are not truly repentant over their wrong. (3) And yet, God has commanded that we forgive them. e. When that happens, we like the child are going to ask our God, "Why? Why would you have me to give them a fresh start?" f. When we ask God why, He is likely to answer, "Because I said so." 3. As Christians, you and I must come to the place where we are willing to do whatever God says, just because He says so. D. A forgiving spirit would have to be a humble spirit. 1. As I mentioned a moment ago, humility and obedience go hand-in- hand. 2. A proud heart cannot lower itself enough to forgive. 3. Rather, the proud heart is the vengeful heart, the stubborn heart, the rebellious heart. 4. I find it paradoxical that the person who will not forgive is the person who most needs to be forgiven by God. a. Their proud heart has made God their enemy. b. They are willful, rebellious, stubborn, and all the things that says He will judge. c. And yet, this kind of person will not forgive and so will not be forgiven by God. d. I also find it interesting that this kind of person usually claims to know Jesus as their Savior. e. Whether they do or not, I cannot judge; but one thing I do know, they cannot be forgiven if they will not forgive. E. A forgiving spirit would have to be a strong spirit. 1. Sometimes, the only thing that will work is muscle and brawn. 2. As a younger man, I was never very strong in my upper body. a. I did not work out with weights and my biceps were never very impressive. b. However, I had very strong legs, I believe they would say today that I had a strong core. c. Because of that, there would be times when I could do things that others could not do. d. I remember once at work, several workers were attempting to move an object, and they could not. I was bashful and did not want to push my way in, so I watched from a few feet away. Once they finished, they noticed me watching and challenged me to move the object. I planted my feet firm, and scooted the object where it needed to go. The workers seemed to have a new appreciation for me after that. 3. Sometimes, God calls upon us to do difficult things, such as to forgive someone we may not want to forgive. a. I cannot give you pointers and helps on how to that. b. The only way to do what God has commanded is to be strong and just do it. c. Some things just require a strong spirit. F. A forgiving spirit would have to be a thoughtful spirit. 1. By a thoughtful spirit, I mean one that can still remember what it was like to need forgiveness. 2. Every Christian had to know they were wretched and wicked in order to be saved. a. If you do not think you were wicked, you did not get saved. b. God does not save moral people, good people, so-so people, or decent people. c. He only saves the bottom-of-the-barrel, the scum of the earth, and the most vile and wretched of sinners. 3. People who can remember how wicked they were, find it much easier to forgive others. G. A forgiving spirit must be a compassionate spirit. 1. Compassion is defined as having sympathy and sorrow for another. 2. No matter what wrong has been done toward you, the person that wronged you needs your pity, not your wrath. a. If they are unrepentant and superficial in asking for your forgiveness, they will still have the wrath of God against them. b. Compared to His, your wrath is puny and worthless. c. If they are genuine in their sorrow, then God has forgiven them and if you do not, you will have His wrath against you. 3. At any rate, we ought to pity the person who is entangled in sin. I close now, but I want to leave you with one final thought. Forgiveness is not based on the offense of the offender. It is based on the command of the Master. Our job is not to decide who is worthy of being granted our forgiveness. Our job is to prepare ourselves so that we can forgive no matter what has been done to us. I pray that we will do just that.
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