FORGIVENESS: HOW SWEET IT IS
1. I HEARD ABOUT A MAN THAT WENT TO SEE HIS DOCTOR
BECAUSE HE WAS FEELING ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE.
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a
certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his
"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
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."
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."
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
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
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-
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
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"
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
"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."
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
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