Words: Forgiveness

Well good morning Journey Church my name is Doug Kenyon and I am what we call  “regular attendee” here at Journey Church. If this is your first time at Journey you are probably thinking “what” “what did he just say? You’re not the pastor here? Nope! You mean we have to listen to the substitute teacher?? The pinch hitter?? Yep, that’s right! All joking aside, Phil Human is our primary teaching pastor and he is usually up here speaking. Phil is a gifted speaker and teacher so in all honestly we would invite you back again to listen to Phil. As Jim already mentioned Phil, Jody and family went to California this week to attend Linda Jensen’s funeral, Jody’s mother. Please keep them in your prayers for safe travels and celebration of Linda’s life.

So we in the third week of a sermon series we entitled “Words”…..and what we are doing is taking popular words from scripture and doing a deeper dive into the meaning of that word….it has been a great series up until now (pause)……..so if you weren’t able to be here the last couple of weeks, we would encourage you to hop on our website, click on the Sermons icon and you can listen to the messages there. 2 weeks ago Phil spoke on the word Repentance….and challenged us the word actually means to ‘think differently’…..repentance….to think differently. Last week Jim Warren spoke on the word Gospel or the “Good News of Jesus Christ”….now I wasn’t here for that message as my wife and I were at Red Rocks in Colorado and went to the Foreigner concert, celebrating their 40th year as a band. But, I did listen to Jim’s message on the word Gospel online and both Phil and Jim’s messages are worth the time to look them up and listen.

Well today’s message is on the word Forgiveness…we are going to do a deeper dive into the word Forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a tough subject for sure – it tends to be  serious topic doesn’t it…. Speaking on the topic of forgiveness risks exposing wounds from our past – some small, but some wounds are life changing. Forgiveness is hard, it is a hard subject and that is ok.

Thoughts and opinions on forgiveness are as diverse as the people in this room, they are all over the place. I saw a recent video clip on forgiveness and the interviewer asked some very tough questions….questions like, what does it mean to forgive? Do you believe yourself to be a forgiving person? Do you find it difficult to be forgiving to certain people? Can you think of anyone that you are not willing to forgive? Do you believe God is a forgiving God and finally what do you think it takes to be forgiven by God? Those are difficult questions, but maybe the best questions have yet to be asked, and that is what does the bible have to say about forgiveness, what does Jesus teach us about forgiveness? What about the big stuff? Divorce or even worse, abuse, murder or rape? Are we really supposed to forgive that stuff and if so, how? Well, let’s go to the word of God and see what Jesus teaches about forgiveness.

Our passage this morning is Matthew Chapter 18 versus 21-35. If you have your bibles, great, please open them to Matthew 18 starting in verse 21. If you don’t have your bible, no worries, we will have it on the screen for you and if you don’t own a bible, we have free bibles back on the resource table, just grab one and go! Before we get started I want to point out that Jesus used parables on a regular basis when he was teaching. What is a parable? A parable is simply a story to illustrate the point Jesus is trying to make. This mornings primary passage is just that, a story that Jesus uses to teach his followers about the topic of Forgiveness.  Jesus is sitting with his disciples talking and then one of his disciples named Peter starts the conversation with a question about forgiveness…..let’s take a look.

 21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone[i] who sins against me? Seven times?” Now to give you some insight, this is somewhat of a loaded question that Peter asks Jesus….why? The Jewish teachers of the day or the Rabbi’s at the time required that if someone wrongs you, you are to forgive them up to 3 times and then you can stop forgiving them. So Peter, maybe to be on the safe side – more than doubles that amount! Peter asks Jesus very boldly and says up to seven times, or more than double of what we are being taught by the Rabbi’s?

And in verse 22 that Jesus answers Peters question and says  

22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! Can you imagine that? Peter and his audience is used to being taught that you should forgive up to 3 times, but now Jesus comes along and says that you should forgive your brother 490 times??? Obviously, Jesus wasn’t concerned about a number, He was teaching that our forgiveness should be endless…a difficult concept for sure…really, endless forgiveness?

23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.

 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. 26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’

 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. 28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars.[l] He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.

 29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.

 31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened.32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘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?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters[m] from your heart.”

 

Whew. Did we just read that correctly, I mean the end of that passage? Are we really going to be forgiven to the measure that we forgive others???

You may have experienced this yourself, but when you lead a bible study, or teach scripture in anyway, it is amazing how much you learn in the process of preparing and how God exposes your own heart on the topic at hand. This passage for me was no different. You guys, I literally looked at this passage, especially the end and thought to myself “so let me get this straight, is Jesus teaching us that our forgiveness should 1. extend to everyone, 2. our forgiveness should be endless and 3. us receiving forgiveness is measured by the way we forgive others”……is that really what He is saying?? How can those statements be true?? So I had to dive deeper into scripture to get a better understanding and see if I was supposed to take this passage literally. Is this truth taught anywhere else in scripture? And here is what I found:

 Luke: 6:37 – 37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.

 Matthew 6:14-15 14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

 Ephesians 4:32 – 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

 Colossians 3:13 – 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

 Mark 11:25 25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.

In no time at all, using BibleGateway.com and other study tools, I found over 140 passages of scripture that teach on or have the idea of forgiving. And maybe the biggest one of all for me was one of the most famous passages of scripture out there…..”The Lord’s Prayer”…..yep, the Lord’s Prayer. I have said that prayer a thousand times and never quite caught that little piece at the end.

 9 ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

     10 your kingdom come, your will be done,  on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation,    but deliver us from evil.

There it is again, plain black and white, forgive and you will be forgiven.

You know, if you stick around here at Journey Church very long, you will learn some things about us that I think  are not only pretty cool, but are pretty consistent as well. First and foremost, we have the best darn donuts & bagels of any church within a 100 mile radius of this joint, can I get an amen??! Second, if you stick around long enough, you will learn that we are a church that gives itself away…and we are generous…..I have been here from the start of this thing and I am amazed and humbled by the generosity of the people sitting right next to you….Journey church gives and gives generously. And although there are many more things I love, I really love the fact that we talk about the difference between rules based religion vs. a genuine relationship with the God of the universe. We focus on transformation of our hearts and becoming the kind of people that love, give, extend grace and forgive because our relationship with Christ is changing the way we think and how we act….I love that about this place…and you know what this passage really hits home to me. I don’t want to just follow the rules….I want to change the way I think about forgiveness I want to change the way I forgive ….So here is where I started. I started to look at my past to look for any grievances I may have with people and they started to line up quick….

Starting with this one and this is a true story:

  1. It was the summer of 1980 and I was 13 years old. My parents had divorced when I was 7 and 5 years later they decided that us two Kenyon boys would go live with Dad in a small town in SE Nebraska and my sister would live with my Mom in Papillion. Anyway, I was staying with my Mom in Papillion for the summer before I had to move down to Cook, NE for my 8th grade year of school. A friend of mine we’ll call Bob asked me if I wanted to go with him on a camping trip for a mining claim in Butte, Montana with a friend of the family, a guy I will call Frank. We were supposed to go there, camp out and we would be home in 3 days. Mom said no because we didn’t have the money, but I finally whined enough that she said yes and so off we went. We got to Montana only to find there was no mining claim at all. In fact our the guy told us he was taking us to Canada to pick up wreckage off of World War II planes to make him millions. Well, we made it all the way to Seattle WA where we escaped and ultimately made it home. We were gone 21 days total. Had I forgiven this guy?
  2. Only just a few years ago did I discover/remember that my mom and dad never once talked to me about that incident, not once. Had I forgiven them?
  3. My first wife left me in 1996 and took my daughter Carli and moved away to Des Moines, have I forgiven her?
  4. I was rebellious punk kid by the time I graduated high school and was living a sorted lifestyle….my Dad and I “had words” and I went away to the Navy during the first Persian Gulf war and he died. Had I forgiven him? Had I forgiven myself for all the things I had said and done to him and to other people over the years?

What about you? If you did an honest inventory of your heart is there any un-forgiveness in there? Is there that one person, that hurt you so bad that you can’t fathom forgiving them for what they have done?

You know, at the beginning of this thing, I said that forgiveness can be hard.  Why would I agree to talk with you about such a difficult subject that potentially exposes deep wounds of the past? I will tell you why: because I have lived with the consequence of un-forgiveness in my own life and in my own heart. And I think I have a pretty good idea why the bible teaches us so much on the topic of forgiveness.

– Anger, Pain  I know personally that an unforgiving heart only produces anger, pain, resentment, bitterness and hatred. Forgiveness can be hard, but I can tell you from experience that living with a grudge is even harder. Keeping grudges up can be very dangerous, and can hurt us and can hurt others in ways we might not have imagined. Likewise with you, if you are withholding forgiveness, you are the one paying the price for it, in many ways. – Quote 1 Lewis Smedes in his book on forgiveness pens these words, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner was you.”

 Quote 2  I like this quote too – “Refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die from it.” Unknown author.

I don’t want to be that guy…..I want to live in spiritual and emotional freedom…..I want to be free to change and love, not hate….I want to be a different kind of person….

Well, I have good news!!!! Today is a new day for every single one of us. If you are here today and you are just checking this thing out, if you are curious about this Jesus guy we are glad you are here, you are in the right place….Journey is a safe place for you to learn and grow spiritually, regardless of where you are in your spiritual journey. If you have not yet bought into the whole Jesus thing, I have great news for you, in fact, it is the “Good News” that Jim talked about last week. The good news is this: IT DOES NOT MATTER how ugly your past – you can be forgiven by the God of the universe, even yet today. And I mean forgiven, 100% – Everything – you owe nothing. You see, the merciful king in our passage today represents Jesus and how forgiving He is to His children…the King represents our Father in Heaven. He will cancel your debt today, “millions”….gone, forgiven, you owe nothing. The Good News is God loves us, and even likes us, just the way we are….He wants a relationship with us, He wants to sheppard our lives, He wants to teach us how to be a new kind of human…He simply asks that you receive the free gift of forgiveness by placing your faith in Jesus. If you want to know more about that, and you think you have reached a point that you want to taste what it is like to be 100% forgiven and to be set free, please talk to me after the service today, or please talk to Phil Human or Jim Warren or any of our Elders… Ask someone around here who these guys are and they will point them out to you. Today could be your day.

If you’re here today and you have already crossed that line of faith and are part of the Kingdom of Heaven, doing your best to follow Jesus, I have great news for us too! We represent the opportunity in this parable. We have the opportunity today and the coming weeks to do an honest inventory of our hearts, to repent or change our thinking, to embrace the Gospel or good news we have already received and to let Jesus transform our hearts and genuinely forgive those that have wronged us in our lives.

I asked some hard questions of myself earlier and I want to answer them. Have I forgiven the jerk that kidnapped me and my friend years ago? Yes. Have I forgiven my parents? Yes, I have. Have I forgiven my ex-wife for leaving me? Yes, I have. Have I forgiven myself for all of the crap I have pulled over the years? I have. And church family, I am here to tell you I know intimately how good the taste of forgiveness really is…..I have received and given forgiveness and it provides a peace and joy that is indescribable…..I am not saying that I don’t struggle from time to time, I have received some pretty deep wounds in the last month from some family members, but I work that spiritual muscle of forgiveness and I work it regularly.

How? How did I learn to forgive and what does it mean to forgive and what did I do?

Well, it starts with the King in this story and how much He has forgiven me. You see the King represents Jesus and he has forgiven me so much through the blood of the cross that it starts there.

I also think it is important to understand what forgiveness is and what it is not. When I learned more about what forgiveness really looks like, practically, it was life changing for me. Forgiveness starts with the Father and then comes through our heart. And as it comes out of our heart, we look at the one who has wronged us and do a few basic things that God has done for us:

 – Humanity We look at that person and we give them their humanity back. What do we mean by that….well, God looks at us and knows that we are sinful people and we mess up and so is the person that wronged us. This guy that took my friend and me, I don’t know his past. I do know that he is messed up in a big way and that I am not in a position to judge him. I am not excusing what he did, that was horribly wrong….but I do at least recognize that he is messed up, period, and I get that. He is human – a messed up, sinful individual. I give him his humanity and realize he is a fallible human being.

 – Ask God to Take the Injustice of it All Secondly and maybe most importantly, I had a conversation with God and told him I didn’t want to carry this burden and pain any longer…I didn’t want to be responsible for making sure that justice was served….I didn’t want this guy to be accountable to me…I wanted to be free of the injustice of it all….and I asked God to take it…I asked him to take it all…..and He did. At the end of that conversation with God, I was finally free and the whole thing is now between him and God…. he is going to have to answer to God for what he did….he no longer answers to me…..sure, I would love to hear a heart-felt apology, but it is no longer required by me.

 – You don’t Owe Me Anything – And as a result, over time we can look at the other person and say “you don’t owe me anything” …..nada …. …..you have wronged me and I forgive your debt. Just as my Father has forgiven me. If you look at this parable, Jesus teaches us this truth by using a monetary debt “owed.” He uses this monetary principal to teach us that He wants us to get to a point where we can say “you don’t owe me anything”, you have wronged me, I forgive you your debt to me and now it is between you and God. You don’t owe me anything.

 – Relationship May Change Next and this one is big. Forgiveness does not mean that the relationship has to be restored to its original state. Sometimes new boundaries need to be created to protect people. For example, the guy that kidnapped me is gone, the police never found him. But let’s say he resurfaces all of the sudden, let’s say he tracks me down and he came to me and said Doug, I am so sorry for what I did, I was wrong, will you please forgive me? I would say “yes” I forgive you, in fact, I forgave you a long time ago and then he says “hey, you want to go camping next weekend?”………….uh……no…….I don’t think so.

 – Not Always a 2-Way Street – Forgiveness is not always a two-way street. What do I mean by that? Well, people don’t have accept our forgiveness. Forgiveness is a matter of our own heart before God, not theirs. The point is They can’t reject our forgiveness and they can’t deny our forgiveness. Forgiveness is an issue of my own heart before my God. My dad is dead and the guy that took me is gone, I will never be able to face them. It doesn’t matter….forgiveness is about our hearts, not theirs.

 – Does Not Necessarily Mean Forgetting- Finally, forgiveness does not necessarily mean forgetting. Sometimes it is impossible to forget. I have found over the years that not forgetting has actually brought me closer to God. Why or how? Well, having to forgive over and over keeps me on my knees and humble before my Lord. I don’t know about you, but I mess up regularly and I need to go to Jesus on a regular basis and ask for forgiveness. As a result, when I think of the pain someone else has caused me, my response has to be hitting my knees….remembering how much I have been forgiven and then asking God for the willingness, strength and courage to extend the same forgiveness to others….. Forgiving does not necessarily mean forgetting.

By the way, if you are in a situation where you have deep, deep wounds and you think counseling may help you, at Journey we offer assistance with Christian counseling. We have partnered with a couple of very good counseling centers and you can get professional counseling for $25 a session. Please see Phil or Jim or make a note on your comment card and someone will contact you confidentially.

As we close here, I would like to conclude with more of a question than a statement. If you are not yet a follower of Jesus, do you want to be forgiven, do you want to get right with God? If so, the Good News is you can be forgiven today…, you have the option to receive a love and grace and forgiveness that will transform your life and you can have it today.

If you are already a follower of Jesus is it time to pause and ask ourselves how we are doing in the area of our life? Is it time to look in our hearts and ask if we are harboring anger, bitterness or resentment for someone, maybe our spouse, maybe a parent, maybe even a friend, business partner or coworker? Is it time to look at someone and give them their humanity and ask God to take the burden, the pain, the accountability and ultimately the injustice of it all. Is it time to look at someone and say this is between you and God you don’t owe me anything anymore…. I don’t need you to acknowledge this, but I forgive you. I pray that it is time….I pray it is time to lay that burden down and genuinely forgive as freely as we are forgiven.

Let’s close in prayer…..Father, I am so thankful this morning for the fact that you love us…and even like us, just the way we are. I am thankful that you are such a forgiving and gracious God. Father, I am also just amazed how you are so patient with us, how you pursue us and how you teach us how to be the kind of people you intended us to be all along. I pray this morning that you would change us from the inside out…that you would help us to change the way we think about forgiveness and Father, I pray that you would give us the willingness, courage and strength to forgive others as freely and graciously as you forgive us. Please Father, help us to be a church and a people that point others to you by the way we forgive. We love you, in Christ’s name we pray….amen.

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