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The Matter of Heart-Given Forgiveness

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(11/3) Two men who had been child hood friends met at a convention in Ocean City. Having not seen each other for many years, they sat down to talk and talked until the early morning hours. Their wives had excused themselves and returned to their rooms. Finally the men shook hands and also returned to their rooms. The next evening they met again, and one said to the other, "Wow, was my wife angry, because we talked so long." The other said, "My wife was more than angry, she was historical." The first man said, "You mean hysterical?" "No I mean historical," The second man said, "She brought up everything I ever did wrong."

Ever get historical? It happens sometimes when we have been hurt or offended. Letís look at todayís text, Matthew 18:21-35.

I. The Context (vv. 1-20) Ė The disciples had been arguing about who would be #1 in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus our Lord called a small child and reminded them unless there was childlike humility and a genuine conversion or turning from the worldís way of thinking they wouldnít even be in the Kingdom of Heaven. Humility, Harmony, and Holiness are what God is looking for in His children.

God wants His children to be like Him. You must understand this. This is Godís ultimate goal for each of us. He wants us to be like Jesus. In fact, thatís what Romans 8:28-29 tell us. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren."

When God sees that His children are straying from His way, He wants them to be found and brought back. He wants harmony in His body. That harmony is a tremendous evidence to His life changing truth and it is the way of peace and tranquility in our own lives. In Matthewís Gospel He told us that whether we are the offenders (Matt. 5:23) or the offended (Matt. 18:15), we are to do our very best to quickly resolve the issue. The first person aware of the problem is to make the move to reconcile. Because God is in the reconciliation business, He has called us to be in the reconciliation business (2 Cor. 5:18-21). We are His ambassadors of reconciliation. Matthew 18 and Gal. 6:1-2, shows us how to make every effort, and the correct process to seek reconciliation. Bottom line is, if you are a Christ-Follower, God wants you to be like Jesus and do what Jesus would do. Do you understand this?

II. The Question (v. 21) Ė Our man, Peter, asks a clarifying question. "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" (v. 21). He probably thought this was a magnanimous question and answer, because Rabbiís taught that from the example of God Himself in the book of the Prophet Amos, that a person was obligated to only forgive 3 times. Five times for five cities, God said, "For three transgressions of the people of (Damascus, Tyre, Gaza, Edom, and Ammon), and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, (Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13). Perhaps Peter had Andrew in mind, but probably he was referring to a Christian Brother as Jesus did in verse 15.

Have you ever asked that question? How much is enough? Jesus taught is to pray, And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And then He reminded us, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matt. 6:12, 14). In Luke 17:3-4, He said, "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ĎI repent,í you shall forgive him."

III. The Answer (v. 22) - "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." I hope it is obvious that what He is implying is that there is no limit to forgiveness; neither to the amount of sin, nor the magnitude of the offense. He didnít mean 490 times and then thatís it, no more is required. In fact, in describing the characteristics of love Paul said, "Love keeps no record of wrongs" (NIV, 1 Cor. 13:5; NKJV says, "Thinks no evil"); it does not get historical.

IV. The Illustration (vv. 23-35) "Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants." Our Lord responds to Peterís question with an illustration of forgiveness; not with how many times to forgive, but the expectation to forgive as we have been forgiven. This is a picture of how the King of Glory will deal with His children. This is not a picture of the final Judgment Day. This is a picture of God and His children. The King is God, the servants are us. Is that clear? This is also a hyperbole. It is an intentional exaggeration to make a point.

A. The Day of Accountability (v.23) - The picture is kind of like a king who is calling His tax collectors in, who have collected the Kings taxes, or as in another story, servants that have been entrusted with the Kings money to attend to the Kings business. As His ambassadors we are all about the Kings business. I want to pause here and tell you that it is so important to keep short accounts with God and with man because at a time when you arenít expecting it God will call you into account. I didnít say He will take your life, though He might, but He will call you to account for what you have done with His grace. (More about this later).

B. The Debt Owed (v.24) Ė One particular servant was found to be 10,000 talents in debt to the king. This is an impossible figure. It has been estimated to be hundreds of millions of dollars. We donít know how it was accrued but that it was an impossible figure. Solomon collected 666 talents each year from the people. It would take Solomon more than 15 years to collect the 10,000 talents of money that this man had stolen or embezzled. We canít begin to fathom the enormous amount of this debt. But on this day, there was nothing to pay to the King.

C. The Justice Required (v.25) - The King demanded that everything the man had be sold and some of the debt recovered. We can only imagine the mansions, the cars, the yachts, the motorcycles, the Rolex watches, the art, etc. that the vast amount of misappropriated money went into. But justice demanded that it all be confiscated and sold, as well as the manís family and himself to be sold as slaves. For every ill action there is some kind of justice that can or should be applied. Be it retribution, or punishment, something can and should be done to account for the offense. Seizure, stripping, selling, and slavery were in order for the offenses. This manís sin affected his entire family, just as yours and mine does today.

D. The Mercy Requested (v. 26) Ė The servant fell face down and begged for patience and against all odds promised to repay the debt. The point here is that it could never be repaid. Remember 15 times Solomonís annual taxes for all Israel? He was begging for some kind of leniency, for grace. I saw this every day at the jail. Inmates would say, "Chaplain, I have to go to court, please pray for me, that the judge will show leniency." Itís what we say to the policeman who pulls us over for speeding. "Have mercy and Iíll never do it again, I promise." Does that sound familiar? Thatís what we want when our sins find us out and justice is required.

E. The Pardon Received (v.27) Ė The King is moved with compassion. His insides are stirred. Maybe he remembered a time his father forgave him, or perhaps, he remembered that this had been good servant at one time, or maybe he just saw what a pitiful mess this man had become, but for whatever reason, his compassion moved him to not just be patient, and hope for some kind of refund, but to completely forgive the debt. He released the man from any obligation to repay. He absorbed and would suffer the loss of an incredible fortune. He would forever bear the pain of the sin of betrayal. But He set the man free. There would be no jail time, no conditions attached. No obligation to repay. Just freedom.

F. A Pause to Reflect Ė This part of the story is our story, all of us. The King is God. We are the servant who has a debt we cannot repay. While I have told you this before, I want you to remember, that every wrong thought, every wrong word, every wrong action, and every failure to do what we know to do, is sin and places us in the debt of God. How often, just in a course of one day, do we pile up the charges? Remember that if we just sinned 3 times a day, we would be almost perfect. Yet, that is over a 1000 times a year, and multiplied by your age (mine 62,000) is an unimaginable amount of charges. But the truth is, we are guilty of much, much, more; probably closer to 62 million. Justice would be an eternity in Hell for each of us. But God (Eph. 2:4-5) paid our debt, absorbed the loss, and set us free, with no obligation to repay. But God goes beyond that. He then adopts the forgiven servant as His own son, to share in His inheritance. And my, how good it feels to be forgiven, as David recites to us in Psalm 32:1-2. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,

And in whose spirit there is no deceit."

G. A Problem of the Redeemed (v.28) Ė This servant, just set free and pardoned, under no obligation to repay finds another servant that owed him a hundred days wages for a laborer (About 4 months of minimum wages) and he wants his money; in fact, he grabs the guy by the throat and demands his money, but the man is unable to repay and begs for patience and time and to make good. But the newly liberated servant demands justice and has the other thrown into debtorís prison. "You owe me and I want what you owe me." The hope is that the family of the imprisoned will come up with the money.

How can we forgive others of the offense against us? We know it usually isnít about money. It is something that was said, something that was taken, a trust betrayed, a credit taken, a promise broken, or a hurt to a family member. And sometimes the pain is deep, and we donít want to give what we have received. We want justice, we want what we are due, repayment, an apology, revenge, but to release someone and accept the pain or loss is not what we want to do. To release someone who owes me something doesnít seem fair. I am left with the pain of what happened, the words that cut into my soul, the loss of someone or something. So we distance ourselves from the offender. We carry the anger, the pain, and the resentment with us. We secretly hope that the wrath of God will fall on that person. Am I right?

What we fail to do, is to look up or look back to the abundant grace of God and remember all that He has forgiven us of and how the blood of Jesus Christ keeps on cleansing us on a daily basis. Every day as we discussed earlier we pick up the dirt of sin on our feet, hands, in our heart and minds, and every day like the soap and warm water of a bath or shower, the blood of Jesus washes it away. This is why passages like 1 John 1:9, Psalm 32, and the verse 11 is in the Lordís prayer (Matt. 6:11).

But when it comes to forgiving others we make excuses, and justify our anger and bitterness. "You donít know how that hurt, or what they caused, or how it costs me." And somehow we think that if we hold onto our bitterness it gives us a sense of control or power over that person and we donít want to give up that power.

There was a scene in Schindlerís List, that I will never forget (The whole movie is unforgettable.) I canít play it because of the language, but the Commandant and Schindler are talking about power. The Commandant says, "Control is Power." Schindler says, "A man does something wrong and we have him killed. He should have known better. We feel pretty good about ourselves, or we kill him our self and we feel even better; but that it is not really power, that is justice." Schindler says, "Real power is a when a man who is guilty, is brought before the emperor, and knows he is going to die, but he falls at the feet of the emperor and begs for mercy, and the emperor pardons Him, that is power." What a teaching moment. That is so true; the ability to pardon, to bear the pain, absorb the loss, and release the guilty from all debt, is power. And the God who gives us our Pardon also gives us the power to pardon. (By the way, I would encourage you all to go on line and look at our whole series on forgiveness that we did a while back, especially the one called Paying it Forward from 4-29-12, because we just canít handle all the questions about this subject today. But in that lesson, we go into specific steps and details about what forgiveness involves. Forgiveness is paying forward what God has given to us. And no matter how deep the pain, or the size of the offense, it pails to what God has released us from. When Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus he wrote this. "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." (Eph. 4:30-32) and to the Colossians he wrote in 3:13, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. This is what our Father expects His children to do, as we emulate Him. And His heart is grieved when we do not

H. The Prison of Non-Remission (vv. 31-34) (Un-forgiveness) The other servants see what has happened and they let the King know. The Un-forgiveness of any servant affects the whole body, the church and our testimony. The servants grieved when they saw it. Christians are supposed to be like Jesus and forgiveness ought to be one of our trademarks. The King is angry that His servant didnít pass on the Grace and Mercy he had received. He calls him wicked, and delivers him to the torturers until payment is made. Here is a Biblical principle that you must grasp. Are you listening? If you donít show mercy, you will not receive mercy. Listen to James 2:12-13, "So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Our Lord Jesus has said, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matt. 6:14-15). God will exact some kind of justice until you forgive. Listen to me, I believe with all my heart that there are two kinds of forgiveness with God. The first is judicial forgiveness that the whole world needs. Without Godís judicial forgiveness man will spend eternity in Hell. He must receive Jesus and His death for our sins on the cross to receive Godís judicial forgiveness. Then there is Godís parental forgiveness that His children need because even they are saved from hell they still sin. When Godís children donít forgive they donít enjoy parental forgiveness. Instead they receive what the offense deserves.

The word torturers refers to anguish. It is what results from the harboring of a grudge. The results are extreme stress, depression, hardships, sickness, cynicism, distancing yourself from God and His church, lashing out at friends and family, and more, that comes from the bitterness of being hurt or offended. It is the prison we enter when we have been hurt but donít forgive, and we remain there as long as hang on to the bitterness. The only way to be released is to release the offender to God. To pay forward what we have received from God. And listen, a lot of times they are not suffering the least because of what they have done, so holding onto the sin is only hurting you. Iím not sure who the first person was that said, "Forgiveness is opening the prison door and releasing the prisoner only to find out that the prisoner was you."

Finally, even if forgiveness seems humanly impossible, with God all things are possible. I will never forget the story of Corrie ten Boom, who had heard an unbelievable speech by a person in reconstructed Germany, about how God had forgiven him. He put out his hand to her after the speech and said, "Sister, God has forgiven me." She recognized him as one of the guards in the concentration camp where her sister died. She said, in effect, "I could not raise my hand to shake his, but in that awful moment I realized how much God's mercy and grace had been extended to me. What I could not do by my own strength, I did by the strength of God."

V. The Promise of Retribution (v. 35) "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." This isnít lip service forgiveness. This is not just saying the words. This is a settled transaction in the core of your being. Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy." Our Father in Heaven will discipline His children. The desire is to produce Christ-like Holiness, and a good testimony in the world. Un-forgiveness, will affect the whole body of Christ. It will affect the testimony of Jesus. It will spread like poison in the body. Hebrews 12:14-15 remind us to, "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;" Offenses are going to come. He has established that earlier in this chapter and we talked about that last week. But His goal is that you respond in reconciling grace as He has with you. He sought you, He restored you, He released you from your debt, and He wants you to do the same.

VI. The Application.

A. Look up Pay it Forward or I will get you a copy for more extensive details on Forgiving others.

B. Everyone- Donít ignore the grace of God. Just as this king forgave when the servant begged Him to, so He will forgive you, because Jesus paid it all for you on the cross. He will set you free and while there may be natural consequences, He will never bring your sin up against you again.

Child of God- who are you thinking about right now? Who has hurt you? Who is hurting you? Who has you in a prison? Will you this moment, say to God and then later to them, "because if what you have forgiven me of, my Lord, I am releasing them from what they owe. I will never bring it up again. As you bore the pain and loss of my sins, I will bear the pain and loss, of theirs. While I wonít forget the sin, I will not harbor a grudge, I wish the best for them, from my heart."

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman