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Life: What Foundations are You Building On?

Forgiveness: Giving and Receiving


This sermon was prepared and preached by Pastor Mike Rose at First Federated Church in Des Moines, Iowa, on
Sunday, November 25, 2007.
Copyright © 2007, First Federated Church

Is anyone present today who could say they’ve never done anything that they needed to ask forgiveness
for? It’s a good thing no one raised a hand because that would mean you were either a dishonest person or
a delusional one.

We’ve all done things that have hurt, disappointed, disillusioned or offended someone. And unless you’re
just a wicked person, when you’ve done that, you’ve wanted the people you’ve hurt to forgive you.

Holding that thought, let me ask, why is it that we all want to be forgiven when we hurt others, but often
we find it hard or even impossible to forgive when they hurt us?

That’s the focus of today’s message: FORGIVNESS: giving and receiving. Today we’re going to learn
about forgiveness and what the Bible has to say about it.

I. What is Forgiveness?

Many think that forgiveness equals forgetfulness – that if I’ve forgiven, I’ve forgotten. NO! Have you
ever tried to forget something? The more you concentrate on forgetting, the more you concentrate on
what your trying to forget and you remember it all the more.

Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is releasing! Forgiveness is making a choice to release


someone for the hurt and wrong they’ve done to you. Not only does the Bible give us this truth, but it’s
the very definition of the word itself. Forgiveness is:

A. To give up resentment of OR claim to compensation or retaliation for an insult or hurt.

B. To grant relief from payment of a debt owed.

C. To choose to cease feeling resentment against an offender.

Forgiveness is not forgetting – forgiveness is releasing!

II. What the Bible says about forgiveness.

Let’s begin by considering what Jesus taught about prayer. In Matthew 6:9-13 (NLT), Jesus lays out a
model to show what is important when we pray. In verse 9,He teaches the importance of worship and
honor in addressing God. In verse 10, the necessity of surrender to the will of God. In verse 11, the
requirement of seeking God for our daily needs.

Then we come to verse 12 (NLT), Jesus teaches, “… and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven
those who have sinned against us.” - If you have a King James Version or New King James Version, it
says “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

Life: What Foundations are You Building On? Forgiveness: Giving and Receiving | FFC | 11.25.2007 1
Jesus isn’t talking about finances when He uses the word debt. It’s our debt of sin that’s in view here.

And so we find that part of our prayer life should be the seeking of God’s forgiveness for our sins against
Him, just as we forgive those who have sinned against us.

The model prayer ends in verse 13 with a petition for God to deliver us from temptation and the power
of Satan. But then in verses 14 & 15, Jesus returns to what He taught in verse 12 and adds this extended
teaching:
14 15
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse
to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

You say; Pastor, are you telling me that if I refuse to forgive someone of the hurt they’ve caused me that
God will not forgive me of the sins I’ve committed against Him? That’s not what I’m saying. That’s what
Jesus is saying!

It couldn’t be any clearer? Jesus tells us that God’s mercy and grace to forgive our transgressions
against Him hinge on our willingness to forgive the transgressions others have committed against us.

Now with that thought in mind, turn to Matthew 18:21-35. These verses record a time when Jesus was
interacting with His disciples and Peter brings up the issue of forgiveness. Verse 21, “Lord, how often
should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?

Take a moment to consider the number seven, and understand that Peter didn’t just grab that number out
of the air. Many Biblical commentators write about the teaching of the rabbis of the day – they taught that
one could only be forgiven three times for the same offense. It would seem that Peter, seeking to
demonstrate his understanding of the importance of forgiveness, doubled what was considered the
standard, and then added one for good measure and asked, is even the limit?

Verse 22 “‘No!’” Jesus replied, “‘seventy times seven!’” I did the math. That equals 490 times! On the
surface, Jesus seems to suggest that we are expected to forgive 490 times. But is that really what Jesus
was convey? Is He saying that on the 491st offense, I’m released from requirement to Forgive? NOT AT
ALL! The count of three transgressions, which the Rabbis held to, and the number seven, which Peter
espoused, were numbers that could easily be tracked, and theoretically, when the number was reached
forgiveness could be denied.

However, Jesus’ number of 490 is not at all practical to track. Thus, I contend that Jesus was saying
forgiveness is to have no limits!

Remember last week’s message on Love from 1 Corinthians 1? Verse 5 said, “Love … keeps no record
of when it has been wronged.”

The 490 that Jesus spoke of and the “no record of wrongs” that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write,
have the same end in view -- Forgiveness is to be limitless!

After answering Peter’s question, Jesus gives a parable to further explain God’s perspective on
Forgiveness. I’ll not read all of the parable, but paraphrase it for you. Check me out in verses 23-35.

Life: What Foundations are You Building On? Forgiveness: Giving and Receiving | FFC | 11.25.2007 2
Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven could be compared to a king who decided to update the accounts
of servants who had borrowed money from him. One servant owed the king millions. When the man
could not pay, the king ordered the servant’s wife, children and all his possessions be sold to satisfy the
debt. The man fell to the ground begging the king for a little time, and he promised he would repay all
that he owed. This moved the king, and he decided to forgive the man his debt.

But as the man left, he remembered a fellow servant who owed him a couple thousand dollars and so he
went looking for Him. When he found him, he didn’t ask nicely for the debt to be paid. Rather, he
grabbed the man by the throat and demanded the debt be paid immediately. The indebted servant fell to
the ground and pleaded for the man to give him a little more time, and he promised he would repay all he
owed. Sound familiar?

But the forgiven servant would not hear it, and so he had the man arrested and thrown in prison until the
debt could be paid. In the meantime, some of their mutual acquaintances heard what happened, and they
went to the king to report what was going on

This upset the King greatly and he had the man he had forgiven brought before him and notice what is
said:

Matthew 18:32 – You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me.
33
Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you? 34Then the angry
king sent the man to prison until he had paid every penny.

At this point, Jesus is finishes His teaching with this statement: 35That’s what my heavenly Father will do
to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters in your heart.

Can it get any clearer? I think it can. Let’s return to verse 34 and see the rendering from the New King
James Version, “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay
all that was due him.”

I especially like that rendering because it makes the point better than any other “…and delivered him to
the torturers …”

Don’t miss this. It’s the point God brought us all here to get. When we refuse to make forgiveness a
foundation upon which we build our lives, God turns us over the torturers until we learn how to
forgive.

Let’s not rush through this. Let’s think about what Jesus means when He says, “… delivered to the
torturers …” Some have mistaken this to mean the loss of one’s salvation, but that’s not what Jesus is
talking about! He’s not talking about taking the servant’s life (spiritual life for believers), but about
allowing suffering until the debt is paid.

That is a key thought. The torture Jesus speaks of has the payment of a debt in mind. No amount of time
in hell will repay our sin debt. Therefore, we know Jesus was not talking about the loss of relationship
with God that salvation brings. So what is in view?

To answer that we must understand the nature of the debt this servant had to the king at this point. It
couldn’t be the original debt, for that was legally forgiven. Rather, the debt he owes is the debt of love for
others who find themselves in the same shape with him that he was previously in with the king

Life: What Foundations are You Building On? Forgiveness: Giving and Receiving | FFC | 11.25.2007 3
Notice what the king said. Verses 32 & 33 – You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt
because you pleaded with me. 33Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on
you?

The debt that the king was interested in being paid was the debt of forgiveness of others in light of the
GREAT forgiveness that he had extended.

Church, that is what Jesus is referring to in verse 35 when He states, His Heavenly Father will do the
same to us when we refuse to forgive, from our hearts, our brothers and sisters. In our unforgiveness, we
will be turned over to the torturers.

UNFORGIVENESS: It has been said that the root of much mental illness, family dysfunction,
relationship break-up, depression and anxiety is a root of bitterness that has grown from an unforgiving
heart. These then torture a soul.

But the torture isn’t for retribution or punishment, Rather it is to teach one to pay the debt of Love
which is Forgiveness

Conclusion

You say, Pastor, you don’t understand how I’ve been wronged, you don’t understand what I had to put up
with, you don’t understand how deep the betrayal was.

You’re right, I don’t understand. But Jesus does! He was wronged. He was betrayed. He was lied about,
and He was crucified. And as they were crucifying Him, He said, “Father forgive them for they know
not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).

Forgiveness in the power of our flesh is impossible. That’s why I presented the message on the Holy
Spirit before giving this message. Because without His divine power filling me over and over again, I can
never forgive! But, through His power, I can do all things – even forgive!

I close with this statement: Forgiveness is not a suggestion or a nice Christian thing to do. It is an
ABSOLUTE in the life of a child of God.

Paul wrote in Colossians 3:12-13 (New King James Version) Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and
beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13bearing with
one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ
forgave you, so you also must do.

Let’s Pray

The First Federated Church copyright, above, is for the sermon itself, not for any items quoted in the sermon, unless
otherwise stated. All quoted items are done so in good faith, and the source is attributed when it is known.

Life: What Foundations are You Building On? Forgiveness: Giving and Receiving | FFC | 11.25.2007 4