Monday, June 25, 2012

The Value of Forgiveness

Temple Baptist Church - 6-24-2012
Matthew 18:1-35

Introduction: We will read a lot of verses this morning so you know that I will not be able to expound them all in one service but I will read them for a purpose: there is a “common thread” that runs throughout the entire passage of Scripture.

A. In Matthew 18:1-10, our Lord speaks of the danger of offending the brethren. Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? It is you and I! Though our Lord speaks of offending little children, the interpretation is that of us becoming as little children in humility and the danger of offending one of God’s “little children.” 1 John 2:1 calls us “My little children!” In verse 10, He refers to them again as “little ones.”

B. In Verses 11-14, we find the “value of one” in the sight of the Lord as He leaves the ninety and nine in the fold while searching for the one lost sheep. When offended, God’s children have a tendency to stray from the fold and we are to recover them if we can. Again, in verse 14, the Lord refers to these wandering sheep as “little ones.” Lost means out of the fold where it belongs. We have many out of the fold this morning. They are sheep like us but are lost ones.

C. In Verses 15-20, we see the first mention of “church discipline.” Once again, the context remains the same. The “offended brother” is the crux of the message here and our efforts to restore him. A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.” (Proverbs 18:19) Now, because of one not getting right with the offended brother and not becoming obedient to the church, a brother is now treated as a publican and heathen. He is out of the fold and “lost.”

D. In Verses 21-35, we see that Peter understood full well the interpretation of the preceding verses when he asked the question, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” Humanly speaking, I believe that would be a reasonable response. Seven times is a lot of forgiveness for the same brother who continually trespasses against us. Seven times takes a lot of grace.

E. But our Lord has a greater lesson in store for the disciples and for us in His response to the question. His response goes far beyond just the simple act of our forgiving and is shown in the parable that He sets forth. You see, the “common thread” found in all of these verses is not that you and I have been “hurt” by someone. The “common thread” is that a brother has been lost and has need of restoration. He is a “little one” who now sits outside of the fold and is in need of our forgiveness.

F. The Lord begins with the number 70x7, which equals 490, and tells the parable of the man who was forgiven a great debt: an impossible amount to repay. Ten thousand talents! The “heavy talent” used in Israel during the times of Christ averaged almost 130 lbs. With there being 14 Troy Oz. to a pound and gold, at today’s prices, $1571.90 this morning, the amount the servant owed would be $28, 608, 580,000.00. It is a beautiful type of God’s forgiveness. He has forgiven you and me more than we could every repay. He did it immediately, He did it completely, and He did it eternally. Ten thousand talents is a King’s Ransom! This immense sum represents our boundless obligations to God, and our utter incapacity, as sinners infinitely indebted to Divine justice, of paying one mite out of the talent. 

G. A good analogy of the parable is this: a man catches an individual embezzling from the company and the amount runs into the tens of millions of dollars. The money is now spent and the thief has no means with which to repay. Instead of bringing the culprit before the court, the boss—though he has been greatly hurt—frankly forgives and continues to allow this person to work for him. The boss comes in the next day and finds the forgiven worker mad at a co-worker who owes him for a five dollar meal that has not been repaid.

H. God does not forgive because His laws mean little to Him. He forgives even though our disobedience and sinfulness hurt Him deeply and break His perfectly holy laws, trample the precious blood of Christ under our feet, and do despite to the Spirit of Grace. When people do things to hurt us, they leave wounds and these wounds often cause us great pain. It hurts when someone intentionally does something that they know will either damage or hurt us.

I. God does not forgive because He thinks that what we did to break His law was unintentional. He knows that we willfully sinned with full knowledge of what God’s Word says on the subject. We willfully sin against His Word and we willfully sin against His precious Son, Jesus Christ—who died for that sin. We are to forgive when people intentionally and purposefully do things to cause us pain. They did it; they meant to do it; they gladly did it! It was not an accident and it hurt.

J. God has forgiven us so much, a debt that we could never pay, and we fail to forgive those who trespass against us. God not only has forgiven us immediately when we asked and completely in the light of eternity, but also forgives us daily as we sin and never fails when we ask! All of us have “worn 1 John 1:9 out” since we have been saved! He is faithful and just to forgive us each and every time that we fail God; though we hurt Him immensely when we intentionally trespass against Him. He sent His only begotten Son to die for the sins that we have and continue to commit!

K. Now, let us look at our acts of forgiveness for a while. In the “Model Prayer,” we find the will of God in praying for forgiveness: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) “Lord, teach us to pray!” He did and, in that prayer, said that we are to ask God to forgive us AS we forgive! What are the ramifications of such a request? Lord, if I do not forgive, then do not forgive me! Would that not be a travesty? No forgiveness for our sins but a certain, fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation. Then, if we do not forgive completely and eternally, our forgiveness will also not be immediate, complete, or eternal. I am so glad that God forgives much more graciously than we. If we confess our sins, He takes care of them in a just manner because He is a faithful Creator!

L. Now, according to Verses 34-35, in our forgiveness, we find forgiveness. This is a strong statement and shows the importance and value of our forgiveness. We are so quick to ask God to forgive our sins while “praying down” the judgment of God on those who intentionally and continually hurt us. When church discipline is instituted, the offender is to get right with the Lord and the one whom he or she hurt before restoration can take place. They are to be admonished as a brother and treated like a publican and a heathen until things are made right. Verse 29 says that the “fellowservant” fell down at his feet and “besought” him.

M. We need to forgive in our hearts those who offended us. No, restoration cannot take place until he or she gets right with the Lord and with us, but our forgiveness needs to be immediate, complete, and eternal in our hearts. Our personal forgiveness has great temporal value! Let us look at the value of forgiveness:
1. When we forgive, our forgiveness shows God’s forgiveness! The forgiveness of God cannot be seen. Though He has forgiven us so wonderfully and completely, the world and other Christians cannot see that forgiveness. God’s forgiveness is a reality to all of us as we know the peace and relationship that it brings. It is real and we feel it but it cannot be seen by others. When we forgive as God has forgiven us, then the world can see the forgiveness of Christ through us. When we fail to get victory in the matter of forgiveness, we constantly think evil towards those who have hurt us and the greater hurt is done by us, not them. They are not around to hurt us; we have hurt ourselves.

Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”

Notice what happens when we fail to forgive: Hebrews 12:15 “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”

1. Bitterness! We become bitter of heart and that bitterness does more to hurt us than the one who offended us! It grows out of a hidden root but soon “springing” up becomes visible to others: both saved and lost. 

2. Troubling! Uncared for, bitterness continually “troubles” us though the “enemy” is not around to do so. Now, we are hurting ourselves as we walk around thinking about our hurt and having malice towards someone else. Their malice towards us has now turned into our malice towards them which is just as bad. The result is wrath, anger, clamour, evil speaking, and bitterness.

3. Defilement! The end result is “thereby many be defiled.” Our unforgiveness has now offended many others who have done nothing to us.
2. When we restore, our restoration shows God’s restoration! In 1 Corinthians 5, a man was disciplined by the local church for fornication. He would not get right with the Lord and was “put out” and “turned over” until such a time that he repented and made it right with the church. Evidently this man got right with the Lord and tried to get right with the church but, in the church, we find unforgiveness:

2 Corinthians 2:6-8 “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. (7) So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. (8) Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.”

I want to give the understanding here: when we sin, God forgives but—when we do not forgive ourselves—we cannot “get right” because we will not let ourselves do so. God has forgiven but we have not forgiven ourselves. The product is “overmuch sorrow.” I have often stated that the Holy Spirit brings conviction when we sin but not condemnation. When we sin and ask God for forgiveness, we are forgiven at that point and—as far as God is concerned—as white as snow. Because of our godly sorrow for the sinfulness, we often beg God time and time again to forgive the sin. The product of personal unforgiveness is condemnation and condemnation is of the devil. We have “overmuch” sorrow. The result of not forgiving the man in 2 Corinthians 2 meant “overmuch” sorrow which will not allow him to get right with us.
3. When we forgive and restore, we resist Satan which causes him to flee! In 2 Corinthians, they were to forgive corporately; they were to forgive immediately; and they were to forgive completely. This was for two reasons: 

a. Lest the sinful brother have overmuch sorrow. We have dealt with this but I want to recap before I go to the second reason for forgiveness. He should be sorry for his sin but not “overmuch” sorrowful. That means to sorrow too much. We need to be sorry for our sin but we must also be able to “get over it.” 

b. For the spiritual welfare of the church.
2 Corinthians 2:10-11 “To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; (11) Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”

One of Satan’s devices is to gain the upper hand in this matter of forgiveness. He battles us on many fronts at the same time and though we fight him off in most of these areas, he continues to get a “toehold” in our lives in different places. I preach often on the enemy from within and that is the saved but carnal man who sits upon our pews. More people are out of church because of hurt and misunderstanding than we can count. We must be mindful of others in our expressions of love, equality, and forgiveness.
4. When we forgive in a biblical manner, it helps the repentant brother to be able to get victory over his sin! I want to use a verse that we are so familiar with but only make application to the first part as a norm.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

When we confess our sinfulness, God is ever so faithful to forgive us but there is a second part to that verse. He does two things: He forgives our sin but He also cleanses us from all unrighteousness! When others sin against us, we forgive for the same reason. As they see the forgiveness of God in us as it is exercised toward them, it helps to cleanse them of the unrighteousness that causes the sin and hurt in the first place. It helps them to get right and stay right. Notice what happens when we forgive and restore properly:

1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

Now the repentant brother is right with the Lord, right with the church, right with his brothers, and is cleansed from all sin. I want to make an application at this point. Now the brother is not only forgiven and restored but he also can make the wrong in his life right and be cleansed from it. If not cleansed from all unrighteousness, he will offend again and again in the same area but, if he gets right in that area, he is “good to go.”
Conclusion: One of the most valuable things that we can do within the church is to forgive: immediately, completely, and eternally! Everyone including the lost will gain from it as they see the forgiveness of God manifested in His people.

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