The Freedom Of Forgiveness
There are two things that cause great emotional and spiritual damage to anyone: guilt and bitterness. Guilt imprisons us and bitterness poisons us. The answer to both problems is forgiveness.
Guilt is the result of something we have done wrong. Bitterness is our reaction to a wrong someone else has done. Both have us in a prison and forgiveness is what can set us free.
God’s forgiveness sets us free from the prison of guilt. Our forgiveness of others sets us free from the prison of bitterness. Take a look at Ephesians 4:31-32. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
When you truly forgive from your heart, you set two prisoners free….and one of them is you. To forgive means to pay a debt. There are no bargain pardons. That’s why Jesus told us to pray: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Sin is a debt that we owe. We have sinned against Heaven and we have been sued for damages. It’s a debt we can’t pay. But God in His mercy and love has paid that debt and has forgiven us.
There are no free pardons. When someone is pardoned, someone else has to pay. If Joe owes me a thousand dollars and comes to me and says, “Pastor, I can’t pay it,” and if I say, “Okay, Joe, I forgive you that debt,” it costs me a thousand dollars. The word “forgiveness” actually means to bear the burden.
Did it cost Jesus to forgive us? Ephesians 1:7 says, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Jesus spilled His blood and cancelled the debt. That’s why we say, “G-R-A-C-E: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.”
When you confess your sin and ask God to forgive and save you, He does forgive and save you. But you’re not done with forgiveness then: you must begin to forgive others. If you receive mercy, you must show mercy. If you don’t forgive others, you dam up God’s stream of mercy toward you.
Forgiveness of your sins puts you into the family of God. But if you fail to forgive others, you destroy family fellowship.
The first thing I want you to see is the compelling reasons for forgiveness. Why forgive? First, there is the grace factor. Ephesians 4:32 says, “…and be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” I forgive you because God has forgiven me. That’s called grace.
There was a young man who was involved with a growing business. He misappropriated several hundred dollars and it was discovered. He was summoned to the manager’s office. He knew this was most likely the end of his job. As he went up the stairs he had a very heavy heart. He walked into that executive’s office and the man looked him in the eye and said, “Is it true that you’ve done this?” The man bowed his head and said, “It’s true. I’m guilty.” The manager said, “If I were to forgive you and allow you to keep your position, could I trust you to be completely honest in the future?” He said, “Sir, if you forgive me and give me another chance, I’ll be the best employee you’ve ever had.” The manager said, “You’re forgiven, but I want you to know that you’re not the first man in this company to make such a mistake. As a young employee I did almost the same thing as you and I was forgiven. I’m showing you the same mercy that was shown me. May God have mercy on us both.”
There was a lady in a hospital down in Rome, Georgia who wrote a letter to a local pastor. She said, “Two young men from your church came over here and donated blood for me. They don’t know me and I don’t know them. I don’t even know their names. But I want to tell you about the note they left me. It says, “We gave our blood to you because Jesus gave His blood for us.” Isn’t that beautiful?
One of the reasons you and I need to forgive is because of the grace factor. But there is also the guilt factor. Look at Matthew 6:14-15. Jesus says, “For if we forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive you: but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Think about that. The person who refuses to forgive destroys the bridge over which he must walk. An unforgiving spirit is unforgiveable. Forgiving and being forgiven go together. The only person who can afford never to forgive is the person who will never need forgiveness. The model prayer says, “Father, forgive us as we forgive those….” If you don’t forgive the person who has wronged you, then that’s a pretty stupid prayer for you to pray. You’re saying, “Father treat me like I treat them.”
Or, if you say, “Father, I’ll forgive them, but I’ll never have anything to do with them again.” God says, “Okay, I’ll forgive you, but I’ll never have anything to do with you again.”
An unforgiving spirit is not just you missing a blessing, it’s a vile, wicked sin. It’s in the same category as stealing or blasphemy. It’s God’s nature to forgive. If you don’t forgive, you’re not like God. If you’re not like God, then you’re un-godly.
Jesus illustrated this in Matthew 18:23-24. “Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.”
This man is doing an audit and finds that one man owes him ten thousand talents. Look at verse 25-26. “But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.” This is a vain boast because there is no way he could pay that kind of debt. Look at verse 27. “Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.”
A talent was the largest measurement of money in the Roman world. We’re talking about the wages of 17 men for 10,000 years. It would be roughly a billion dollars in today’s money. Solomon’s temple was overlaid with 8 thousand talents of gold. This man owes 10 thousand talents. The word “talents” literally means “without number.” Sometimes the Bible translates it as “myriads.” It’s an astronomical amount of money. There’s no possible way this man could ever pay that amount, but the king forgives him. At that moment, it cost the king 10 thousand talents.
But then the man who’s forgiven goes out and finds someone who owes him money. Look at verse 28. “But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him a hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.” A pence is a day’s labor. This man had been forgiven billions, yet he won’t forgive a man who owes him a day’s wages.
Look at verses 29-30. “And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.”
Do you see the analogy Jesus is making? He’s pointing out the wickedness of this man who’s been forgiven. The king becomes wroth and throws this man in prison himself. Look at verses 31-35. “So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt because thou desiredst me: shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”
Is there somebody who has wronged you? Have you been holding back forgiveness? Yet, Jesus has paid your sin debt with His blood? James 2:13 says, “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy…”
We should forgive because of the grace factor….we’ve been forgiven. We should forgive because of the guilt factor….we’re in need of forgiveness each day. Only a person who never sins can afford not to forgive…..and there is no such person.
Thirdly, there is the grief factor. This man who failed to forgive endured the severest discipline. Hebrews 12:15 says, “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.” If you don’t forgive, you will know unusual trouble and grief.
It’s not just what an unforgiving spirit does to someone else; it does you personal harm. You say, “So and so did this to me and I’m going to get even.” Have you ever thought about what that means? You’re up here…..they’re down there…..and you’re going to get even with them? That means you’re going to descend to their level.
You say, “Okay, I won’t get even; I’ll just continue to hate.” In that case, you’re committing emotional suicide. Bitterness is an acid that destroys the container in which it is held.
You say, “Pastor, if you only knew what they did to me, you wouldn’t let them off the hook either.” Friend, you’re on the hook with them! You need to forgive because of the grief factor…..in other words, what that unforgiving spirit is going to do to you.
Fourthly, you need to forgive because of the gain factor. In Matthew 5:24 Jesus is talking about someone who’s bringing a gift to the temple. And on the way, they remember that there’s a problem between them and someone else. It says, “Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”
If you’re here with bitterness in your heart, you need to keep your offering. Don’t spend it on something else because its tainted money……It taint yours! Go and be reconciled with your brother and then bring your offering.
Look at Matthew 18:15. “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” A brother is a precious thing to waste.
If you come to church with bitterness in your heart and with some grudge against your brother, you disgrace Almighty God. When children fuss and fight, it’s a disgrace to the parents.
But not only is it a disgrace to the Father, it’s a disgrace to the saints. Have you ever been to a congregation where there’s a church fuss going on? The devil would rather start a church fuss than sell a barrel of whiskey any old day! Unforgiveness is also a delight to the devil.
These are all compelling reasons for forgiveness. But now let’s talk about the costly requirements of forgiveness. There are no bargain pardons. Jesus is the model of our forgiveness. He paid the price. You are going to have to know a little personal Gethsemane and Calvary before you can truly forgive someone who has deeply hurt you.
How did Jesus forgive? First, He forgave freely. His forgiveness is free, spontaneous and quick. Don’t wait until you’ve collected your revenge to forgive. Don’t make them suffer the way they made you suffer. Don’t get your pound of flesh before you decide to forgive.
If someone treats you that way and then says, “Okay, now I’m ready to forgive,” you feel like saying, “I don’t need forgiveness anymore: I’ve already paid!”
Forgive freely. You should be so ready to forgive that you chase them down in order to forgive them. Isn’t that what God did for you? We love Him why? Because He first loved us.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God didn’t sit up there in Heaven saying, “If they come to me, then maybe I’ll be persuaded to forgive them.” God came to the Garden and asked, “Adam, where are you?” God knew where he was, but He wanted Adam to know where he was.
Peter asked Jesus, “How many times do I need to forgive my brother? Seven times?” Jesus said, “No, seventy times seven.” He didn’t mean that you stop forgiving after 490 times. He’s telling us to take the mathematics out of it altogether. Don’t keep score! Forgiveness has no limit. Forgive freely, even if you have to chase somebody down in order to forgive them.
Not only should you forgive freely; you should forgive fully. If somebody asks you to forgive them, don’t say, “Forget about it,” or “Don’t worry about it.” That’s not forgiveness. That person needs to hear you say, “I forgive you.”
Don’t go to someone and say, “If I’ve hurt your feelings, I want to apologize.” The word from which we get our word “apologize” means “to make a defense.” When you make an apology, you’re really defending yourself. If you offend someone, don’t apologize. Just say, “I was wrong. Would you forgive me?” And when you fully forgive, it gets buried in the grave of God’s forgetfulness.
Then forgive finally. Don’t bring it up again……EVER! Look at Isaiah 43:25. “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgression for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” That’s forgiveness once and for all. You say, “Pastor, are you telling me that God doesn’t remember my sins anymore? I thought God was omniscient. How can God truly forget anything?” Well, intellectually, God can’t forget. God doesn’t develop amnesia. But when God says, “I will remember them no more,” He’s saying, “I will never bring them up again. I’m not going to use them against you. If I remember them, I’ll remember them as forgiven sins.”
Finally, forgive forcefully. It’s not natural to forgive. Our spirits demand justice. We’re thinking, “They hurt me and need to understand how badly they hurt me.” It has been well said, “To err is human: to forgive divine.” You need Jesus to be forgiven and you need Jesus in order to forgive.
Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Where do you get that kindness? It comes from Jesus…..the same One who has forgiven us, and put His Spirit in us, and who has enabled us to forgive.
Some of you have heard of Corrie Tin Boom. She was a Dutch girl who was taken by the Nazis in WWII and put in a concentration camp along with her sister. She was put in Ravensbrook because she had been hiding the Jews as a Gentile. Her hiding place was discovered. Her sister died in that concentration camp. They were both treated with unimaginable cruelty and brutality. They almost starved to death. They were put to hard labor. They were stripped and forced to shower as the guards stared at them with leering eyes. They did everything they could to humiliate this righteous and godly girl.
After Corrie got out of the camp she continued to serve God. She was giving a message of forgiveness to a crowd. After her message, a man walked up to her, put out his hand and said, “Corrie, isn’t the grace of God something wonderful? Isn’t forgiveness wonderful?” When she looked into this man’s face, she froze for a moment. It was the prison guard who had humiliated and abused her.
She said, “I wanted to put out my hand because I had just spoken about forgiveness, but I couldn’t. So I prayed, “Oh, Jesus, help me to forgive.”” Then she put her hand in his and she said, “The love of Jesus began to flow through my body.”
Think about how Jesus has forgiven us. Don’t insult the grace of God by saying, “I can’t forgive!” You forgive freely, finally, fully, and forcefully.
Think about the certain results of forgiveness. When there is forgiveness, there’s a personal emancipation. You’re set free. Secondly, there is reconciliation between you and somebody else. And, lastly, there is going to be spiritual jubilation. Real revival is not getting the roof off and getting right with God; it’s getting the walls down and getting right with one another.
Has somebody wronged you? Forget it and bury it in the grave of God’s forgetfulness and forgive.
You say, “Pastor, can I forgive if that person continues to do the same thing? Can I forgive if that person hasn’t repented and continues to hurt me?” That’s a hard question because even God doesn’t forgive without repentance, does He?
If they haven’t repented, is it up to you to get them to? No. God says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, sayeth the Lord.” If you can’t forgive because of their continuing practice, you can have the spirit of forgiveness. What did Jesus do on the cross? While they were still nailing Him up He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
You may have to put forgiveness in escrow until that person is ready to write a check of repentance, but at least you’ve uploaded it so that person can download it when they’re ready. But don’t lock yourself in a prison of guilt swallowing the poison of bitterness. How foolish!
All true forgiveness begins with receiving forgiveness. If you’ve never really received forgiveness, it’s time for you to do it right now. God longs to forgive you. Jesus died to forgive you. He wants to cleanse you. And He will if you come to Him. He says that if we confess our sin, He will cleanse and forgive our sin.
Would you open your heart to Him today and receive Him into your heart?