Summary: We have to learn how to walk in Forgiveness

FORGIVENESS: HOW SWEET IT IS

Matthew 18:21-35

10-27-02

INTRODUCTION

1. I HEARD ABOUT A MAN THAT WENT TO SEE HIS DOCTOR

BECAUSE HE WAS FEELING ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE.

THE DOCTOR

GAVE HIM A CAREFUL EXAMINATION, LEFT THE ROOM TO LOOK

AT SOME TESTS, CAME BACK IN WITH A VERY SOMBER

EXPRESSION ON HIS FACE AND SAID:

"SIR I DON'T KNOW HOW

TO BREAK THIS NEWS TO YOU, BUT YOU HAVE RABIES AND

YOU'RE GOING TO DIE VERY SOON."

2. THE MAN VERY CALMLY GOT OUT A PIECE OF PAPER AND

BEGAN FURIOUSLY WRITING.

THE DOCTOR SAID: "WHAT ARE

YOU DOING, MAKING OUT YOUR LAST WILL?"

HE SAID, "NO,

I'M MAKING OUT A LIST OF PEOPLE THAT I AM GOING TO

BITE."

3. YOU CAN GO TO ANY CHURCH IN AMERICA OF PRACTICALLY

ANY DENOMINATION AND REGARDLESS OF ITS SIZE, LOCATION,

OR CREED I PROMISE YOU IN THAT CHURCH ONE THING YOUR

WOULD DEFINITELY FIND AMONG THE CONGREGATION ARE

BITTER HEARTS.

JUST AS AIRPORTS HAVE METAL DETECTORS

I WISH CHURCHES COULD DEVELOP "BITTERNESS DETECTORS"

TO KEEP PEOPLE WHO ARE HARBORING AN UNFORGIVING SPIRIT

AND BITTER HEART OUT OF THE CHURCH.

4. The Apostle Peter came to the Lord Jesus on one

occasion and asked him a question about this matter of

forgiveness.

"Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often

shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?

Up to seven times?" (v.21)

Now that is a good question, because I'm going to tell

you a little secret that if you live long enough you

already know - but nobody I repeat NOBODY makes it

through life free of hurt or personal injury.

Either someone somewhere at sometime has hurt you or they

will.

The question is not whether or not people are going to hurt you, whether or not people are going to do you wrong, the question is how are you going to

respond?

The word literally means "to let go" or "to send away." Forgiveness is when you release to the lord any bitterness that you might feel you have a right to have towards someone else and let God handle the matter in His own way.

One great psychologist said, "Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me."

Now when Peter asked this question of Jesus, he asked it in a way that you and I would be too ashamed to ask but he was just blunt enough to do so.

His question was really this "how many times do I have to forgive a brother who sins against me, before I can beat the daylights out of him?"

Now, he pulls a shrewd trick.

He makes a suggestion to Jesus.

He says, "How about seven times?"

Now the reason why Peter was specific about seven times is because the going rate in that day was three times.

The Jewish law stipulated that a wounded person was obligated to forgive someone three times.

So Peter doubles the number of times the law demanded and then added one free pass as a bonus and he thought he was

giving Jesus a real blue light special.

Now Peter had one big concern.

He was not worried about forgiving someone too little.

He was worried about forgiving someone too much.

He was not worried about under-forgiving an offender.

He was worried about over-forgiving an offender.

Well, as usual the Lord Jesus gave an answer that was not only surprising, but absolutely stunning. verse 22 tells us, "Jesus said to him, I do not say to

you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."

Now understand that when Jesus said, "seventy times seven", he was not giving a math lesson.

He wasn't saying keep a chart and when you get to four hundred and ninety one times then you can take somebody out.

Peter wanted to say seven strikes then you are out.

Jesus was not even saying four hundred and ninety strikes and you are out.

Peter thought if someone sinned against you and he repented and you forgave him and then he did exactly the same thing and repented and you forgave him again, you could say "now that's two!"

But, here is what Jesus said, you can't keep a scorecard.

If somebody sins against you the first time and you forgive that brother then you

promise not to ever hold it against him again.

If he sins again, you cannot say "that's two", you've got to

say "that is one!"

So it is very obvious that Jesus has to teach not only Peter, but all of us exactly

what God expects of us concerning this matter of forgiving those who hurt us.

11. To illustrate the truth about forgiveness, Jesus

tells another parable and in this parable he shares

several truths and practical principles that we must

never forget and we must always remember if we are

going to forgive others the way God expects us to.

I. We Should Thankfully Receive Forgiveness

1. Now as the parable begins, Jesus teaches us

immediately THAT THOUGH FORGIVENESS IS FREE, IT IS NOT

CHEAP.

"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a

certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his

servants.

"And when he had begun to settle accounts, one

was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.

"But as he was not able to pay, his master

commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children

and all that he had, and that payment be made." (vv

23-25)

Jesus tells about a man who has embezzled a great sum of money, in fact the amount is ten thousand talents.

Now to give you an idea of how much that was, the entire tax on Galilee for one year was two hundred talents, so this man owed the equivalent of fifty years of taxes on the entire region of Galilee.

To put it another way, the average working man would have to work twenty years in order to earn one talent.

So, this man would have to work five hundred years to have paid back all the money that he had stolen and that would have been without any interest.

In today's currency this would amount to roughly ten million dollars.

4. Now the point is this was an unpayable debt. This

was an impossible situation. There was absolutely no

way this man could ever pay back what he had stolen.

Now in order to understand the parable you've got to

realize that debt in this parable represents sin. Sin

is an unpayable debt and no matter how hard you work

or how good you try to be or how often you attend church, on your own you can never pay off the sin debt that you owe to God.

5. In fact, if you took the best of every human being that has ever lived and took that best and turned it into gold, there would not be enough gold to make a

down payment on the sin debt of one person.

That is why I want you to understand that forgiveness is free, but it is not cheap because as you are going to see, it costs this king a great deal to forgive this debt.

6. Jesus goes on to tell us that FORGIVENESS IS FULL

AND NOT PARTIAL.

"The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, Master have patience with me, and I will pay you all.

"Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt."

(vv 26-27)

7. Now this is what the king did. He took what this man had stolen and therefore it had become a debt and turned this debt into a loan.

But that in and of itself would not take care of this man because whether

it was money he had stolen or money he had borrowed,

he could not repay it. So, the king went further, he

not only converted the theft into a loan, he then

forgave the loan.

8. To put it another way, he took what was theft

turned it into debt. Took what was debt and turned in

into a gift, then paid the full amount of the gift out

of his own pocket. So you can see immediately what

happened. The debtor owed a debt he could not pay and

the king paid a debt he did not owe and may I just say

without passing over it too lightly that is exactly

what Jesus Christ did on the cross. We owed a sin

debt we could not pay and he paid our sin debt that he

did not owe.

9. But then Jesus goes on to show that FORGIVENESS

MUST BE FINAL AND NOT TEMPORARY.

"Then the master of that servant was moved with

compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt."

(v 27)

Now what had happened? Well, the slate was clean, the

debt was cancelled, the prisoner was released, nothing

was left hanging over anyone's head, the books were

closed. Not only was the debt forgiven, the debt was

forgotten. That is very important for you to

understand.

10. We also have a master. His name is Jesus. He

has forgiven an insurmountable debt. Now, does he

demand reimbursement? Before he forgives us, does he

insist on his pound of flesh? When your feet walk the

wrong road, does he demand that you cut them off?

When your eyes look twice where they should never look

once, does he blind you? When you use your tongue for

profanity instead of praise does he cut it out? If he

did, we would be one maimed world, but he never

demands any payment because what God forgives, God

forgets and that is why we should thankfully receive

forgiveness.

II. We Must Humbly Render Forgiveness.

1. Now we learn that FORGIVENESS EXPERIENCED SHOULD

BECOME FORGIVENESS EXPRESSED.

But that servant went out and found one of his

fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he

laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying,

"pay me what you owe!"

So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and

begged him, saying, have patience with me and I will

pay you all.

And he would not, but went and threw him into

prison till he should pay the debt.

So when his fellow servants saw what had been

done, they were very grieved, and came and told their

master all that had been done.

Then his master, after he had called him said to

him, you wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt

because you begged me.

Should you not also have had compassion on your

fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?" (vv. 28-

33)

2. Now the story turns in an incredible way. This

man, who had just recently been released of his debt,

comes upon one of his debtors. Rather than

reciprocating with forgiveness, he ruthlessly demands

full payment. In fact, he wasn't really looking for

payment, he was looking for punishment.

3. Now the incredible thing is the man only owed him

a hundred denarii. Now to show you how small a price

that was a top price for a slave was one talent and an

inexpensive slave could be sold for at least one-tenth

of a talent or roughly five hundred denarii. So the

man could have been sold for the money.

4. He only owed one hundred denarii which is about

one hundred day's wages. In today's money that was

about fifteen dollars. To put it mildly, this man

only owed a bare fraction of what the other man owed

to the king.

5. What is even more bizarre, he demands that his

debtor be put in jail until he can repay the debt.

Not only is this man ungrateful, he's unreasonable.

How can he expect the man to earn money while he is in

prison? If he has no money while he's out of jail,

how is he going to make money while he is in jail? I

mean what is he going to do, sell magazines to the

inmates? The decision makes no sense, but that is

just the point. Bitterness and the refusal to forgive

never makes any sense.

6. Now put it in perspective, the man who owed the

equivalent of over ten million dollars was not willing

to forgive the man that owed fifteen dollars. Now

here is the point. When you compare our sin debt to

God to someone else's sin debt to us, it is like

comparing a mountain to a mole hill. The old

evangelist, Sam Jones, once said: "I don't have

anything in this world to forgive. I will never stay

mad with any man unless he treats me worse than I have

treated Jesus Christ."

7. I want you to learn this valuable lesson.

Forgiveness had better not be just a past event in

your life, it better be a present experience in your

daily living. If you have been set free, you ought

not to live as though you are still in prison.

8. Did you know that one of the most effective ways

God has for keeping us conscious of forgiveness and

the forgiveness that we have received in our

relationships with other believers? You see when

somebody else sins against you and you have to forgive

them, God is just reminding you that you too had to be

forgiven. That is why the bible says in Eph. 4:32

"Be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,

just as God in Christ has forgiven you."

You're going to learn in a moment that the key to

forgiving others is to quit focusing on what they have

done to you and start focusing on what God has done

for you. That is why we must humbly render

forgiveness.

III. We Will Regretfully Refuse Forgiveness

1. Now notice what happens to the unforgiver. "And

his master was angry, and delivered him to the

tortures until he should pay all that was due to him"

(v.34)

When the king hears about the hatefulness of this

man, he immediately has him thrown back into prison

and the man is back in debt. You know why the parable

turns this way? Unforgiving servants always end up in

prison. Bitter people live in prisons of anger,

guilt, and depression. The only difference is God

doesn't have to put us in a jail. We build our own

jails. We create our own prisons. The bible says in

the book of job,

"some men stay healthy until the day they

die...others have no happiness at all; they live and

die with bitter hearts" (Job: 21:23-25 TEV)

2. Don't miss the fact that though this man was

thrown back into prison it was his own fault. There

are some of you listening to this message in prison

built with the bars of your own bitterness. If you

forget the forgiveness that you have received and you

refuse to forgive others who hurt you, God will cause

you to endure "tortures" such as stress, hardship,

troubled conscience, bitter spirits and poor health

until you deal with the sin of unforgiveness. That is

why the book of James says,

"Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown

no mercy." (James 2:13)

3. Years ago Teresa and I went to the beautiful city

of San Francisco and we went to a place whose Spanish

name is the isle of the pelicans, but nobody knows it

by that name. It is best known as Alcatraz, one of

the most escape-proof prisons in the world. From 1933

to 1963 it served as a federal prison and during that

time, twenty six prisoners tried to escape, only three

got out, but they were never heard from again.

Surrounded by the cold shark infested waters of San

Francisco bay, Alcatraz boasted high walls, doubled

locked doors, machine guns in the hands of the guards

and a staff that could not be bribed. It was known

throughout the prison system as "the big house."

4. But I want to tell you the world's worst prison is

not Alcatraz or even Devil's Island. The worst prison

is the one created by our own bitter spirit. It is

the dungeon of a bitter heart.

5. Here is the real problem of an unforgiven spirit.

AN UNFORGIVING SPIRIT IS THE MARK OF AN UNFORGIVEN

SPIRIT WHICH IS THEREFORE THE MARK OF AN UNFORGIVABLE

SPIRIT.

"So my heavenly father also will do to you if

each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his

brother his trespasses." (v. 35)

You may be theologically straight and morally

upright, but if you do not have a forgiving spirit you

are spiritually bankrupt.

6. Thomas fuller once said, "he that cannot forgive

others, burns the bridge over which he must pass

himself; for every man has the need to be forgiven."

(2)

7. A lot of you will remember the names John

Erlichman and Charles Colson. They were two of the

villains so to speak, involved in the greatest scandal

in American presidential history, the water-gate

scandal that ultimately lead to President Nixon's

humiliating resignation. Both men spent time in

prison for the roles they played in water-gate.

8. Colson became a christian through this experience,

but Erlichman a christian scientist seethe in anger

and bath in bitterness. For over twenty years he

openly despised Colson and wrote many defamatory

articles against him.

9. Less than a year before John Erlichman died in

1999, Colson learned of his failing health. This

former domestic affairs advisor, who office was once

immediately above the oval office, who had immediate

access to the president anytime he wanted was now

alone in a nursing home. He was dying of renal

failure, his third wife had left him and he was

alienated from his children.

10. One day into his room walked Charles Colson. He

not only hugged John Erlichman and told him that he

loved him, but he shared with him the awesome power of

the love of Jesus Christ. Erlichman was shocked at

the concern and forgiveness offered to him by the man

that he had vehemently attacked for twenty years.

That one hour meeting led to Erlichman's beginning

journey toward God and three month's later he called

Colson and told him the doctor's said he wouldn't live

much longer. Colson was sick at the time, so he sent

a good friend who led John Erlichman to Jesus Christ.

John Erlichman, of Watergate fame, entered into the

presence of God, because one christian decided to

extend the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

11. I want to pray a prayer for me and I want this

prayer to be prayed for you. It might be good for you

to listen to it carefully and ask God to put it into

your heart, so that you might even pray it on a daily

basis.

Oh God give me a heart of forgiveness so that I

may commune with you in the fullness of fellowship and

joy and not experience the chastening that comes when

you don't forgive me because I won't forgive a brother

or sister in Christ.

May I remember that for everyone who sins against

me, I have sinned multiplied times against you, and

you have always forgiven me.

At no time has any of my sin caused me to forfeit

my eternal life; therefore, no one else's sin should

cause them to forfeit my love and my mercy toward

them. Amen.