Summary: Jesus has once and for all paid the price for our sin. But we daily continue to commit sin. Jesus’ once and for all forgiveness is applied daily—just like our forgiveness many times has to be applied daily.
Many of you are familiar with the story of Corrie ten Boom. Corrie ten Boom was a godly Christian woman who was Holocaust survivor. After the Germans invaded her home country of Holland, she hid Jews in her house to keep them from being sent to the concentration camps. After risking her life doing that for a couple of years, an informant finally turned her in to the Germans. They arrested her and eventually sent her and her sister Betsie to the horribly brutal Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany. You know the horror stories of the German concentration camps. Both Corrie and Betsie were brutalized. To the point that Betsie physically couldn’t handle it any more. She died in that horrible camp at the hands of her brutal captives. Before she died, Betsie told Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” Corrie was eventually released on Christmas Day of 1944. She spent the rest of her life writing books and travelling the world speaking on God’s love and grace and mercy and forgiveness. But then there came a time in her life where God pressed her words about forgiveness into action. Listen to what she wrote about that day: “It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, a former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face. He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.” He said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I prayed, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness. As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself. ” Is there a more difficult thing that Jesus tells us to do? Is there a more difficult thing to do than forgive those who have wronged us? That’s why Jesus tells us to pray about it. We’ve been looking at the Lord’s Prayer over the past several weeks. And now we get to a part that most of us just want to skip over. The part where we praise God for who He is—we’re OK with that. The part where we recognize that Jesus is in charge and we pray for His will—that’s OK too. We really like the part where we get to ask for stuff. The part where we get to ask for our daily bread. But this part… can’t we just skip over this part? I mean it would be great if it just stopped with the first part of verse 12. It would be great if it just stopped with us asking God to forgive our sins. As a matter of fact, that’s where we stop most of the time, isn’t it? “Lord, here are all the areas that I have failed you today.” “Forgive me for those things.” Let’s just stop there. But we can’t. Because Jesus said, “after this manner therefore pray ye.” “Pray like this.” “This is the way you’re supposed to pray—forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” This is one of the difficult statements of Jesus. It’s difficult for us to hear and it was difficult for His disciples to hear. That’s why Jesus has to go on to unpack it in a couple of places. The first place was immediately in verse 14-15. Look there with me:
Did you notice something? This subject of forgiveness is the only part of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus gives a commentary on when He finished. Do you suppose that means something? Do you suppose that means it’s important? All the other parts of the prayer are important too. But do you suppose it points out how much of a struggle we will always have with forgiveness? Do you suppose it points out how much we will always want to skip the second part? How much we want to get God’s forgiveness, but how much we are unwilling to give it out? Jesus knows our tendency. He knows our weakness. He knows we are but dust. So He tells us in no uncertain terms how important forgiveness is. He draws a parallel between the way we forgive other people and the way God forgives us. If you forgive others—God will forgive you. If you don’t forgive others—God will not forgive you. Wow—that’s tough. Does that mean that if someone has done me a terrible wrong and I don’t forgive them… does that mean I’m lost? Here’s the scary part—it just might mean that. Do you remember when we studied the book of James last year? James, the half-brother of Jesus, copied Jesus’ style of teaching when he wrote his letter. When James said, “Faith without works is dead” he was using this same teaching style. James laid out a series of tests throughout his letter. And he said that if you are consistently failing those tests, you need to check your salvation. Because if your works don’t show it, your so-called faith is worthless. It’s not real. Jesus is saying the same thing concerning forgiveness. If you refuse to live with an attitude of forgiveness toward others… you need to check your salvation. It doesn’t matter what kind of warm fuzzy experience you’ve had. If you continually live in bitterness and unforgiveness toward other people, you haven’t experienced forgiveness yourself. Because if you have truly experienced the cleansing forgiveness of Jesus, you will be convicted when you harbor unforgiveness toward others. But here’s the thing with the tests of James. As Christians we fail those tests all the time. Just like we fail Jesus’ test of forgiveness all the time. So does that automatically mean that when we fail, we’re not saved? No—it means we need to check our salvation. It means that we need to understand that an attitude of unforgiveness is completely incompatible with being a Christian. It’s just like when you get sick. When you get sick, your body gets a virus. That virus is completely incompatible with your body. Your body immediately recognizes that something isn’t right. And it immediately begins to war against the invader. That’s how you know you’re alive. When you’re dead, the body decomposes and nothing fights against it. When you’re alive, your body wars against the things that try to destroy it. In the same way, when you’re alive in Christ, your life is completely incompatible with sin. It doesn’t mean you won’t sin any more than it doesn’t mean that your physical body won’t get a cold. What it does mean is that when you do sin, your new life in Christ will war against that sin. If that war against sin isn’t happening in your life, it might mean that you aren’t alive. It might mean that you have never experienced a new life in Christ. It might mean that the reason you can’t forgive is because you haven’t been forgiven. A complete and total lack of forgiveness in your life shows that you are lost and in need of a savior. If you find yourself in that condition tonight, you don’t have to stay that way. Jesus has paid the price so that you can be forgiven. If you are living in a perpetual state of bitterness and unforgiveness… ask Jesus to save you right now. Don’t wait until the end of the sermon. Don’t wait till the invitation. Make it public during the invitation, but ask Jesus to save you now. Tell Him that you are a sinner and you need His forgiveness. He will save you now. But the fact is that most of us in here tonight have been saved. Most of us have been forgiven. So if that’s the case, then why is it so hard for us to forgive other people? Could it be that we really don’t understand the extent of our forgiveness? Could it be that we still think that we somehow deserved to be forgiven? At least we deserved it a whole lot more than that other person does. I want you to turn with me to what Jesus had to say in Matthew 18:21-35. Unlike many of the discourses of Jesus, this one is specifically to His disciples. These are the men who had been with Jesus from the beginning. And they still don’t get it. So Peter spoke up and asked a question.