Summary: God can teach how to accomplish the hardest thing we struggle with as humans - learning how to forgive.
Learning How to Forgive
Today, I would like to talk with you about what I believe is the most difficult thing we are asked to do as a human being and that is to forgive. You remember the old cliché: To err is human, to forgive is divine.
Yeah, no kidding right? I’m not talking about simple, “excuse me” type of forgiveness. Instead, I’m talking today about real forgiveness in matters of the heart. The kind of forgiveness that prevents broken marriages, broken relationships, split churches, and prevents or heals bitterness.
God knows how hard it is to forgive because He knows our hearts. He knows how to teach us to forgive because He is the author of forgiveness.
As we read our scripture verse this morning, I want to show you these four truths:
Pronouncement to Forgive
Problem w/ Forgiving
Process to forgive
Plan for Forgiving
I. Pronouncement to Forgive
This is a command – “shall.”
Let’s get a clear definition:
To pardon or set aside completely a wrong done to you without payment, revenge, or punishment.
This is a command I believe because you cannot be a spirit-filled Christian and an example of Jesus without learning and practicing forgiveness. God does not command it to be cruel or overbearing. He is not a dictator forcing His evil demands on us.
See what He says here, “as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” First of all, He already forgave us in Jesus. It cost Him Jesus precious blood on the cross to forgive us. He did this out of love. Second, He is always at work in us to make us more like Jesus so that a world that needs forgiveness can see it tangibly. They know what it looks like, where to find it, and see that it changes their lives.
This truth is reiterated all throughout Ephesians. 4:29 says we are only to speak in such a way as to build up. You can’t do that from bitterness and unforgiveness. 5:1-2 clearly says we are to be imitations of His love – including His forgiveness. 5:18 gives the command to be spirit filled. Verses 19-21 describe what it looks like. Verse 21 says it looks like submission to one another. How do I biblically submit to someone without forgiving them?
Because this is a command, there is a cost to disobedience:
Emotional & physical sickness, stress, etc. medical research here validates.
Spiritual consequence: no forgiveness for you Matthew 6:14-15. Disobedience is sin. Sin interrupts our fellowship with God. He is serious about this issue. As serious as about anything in our lives. Why? Because it is a major key to being that example of His love through Jesus.
II. Problem with Forgiveness
Why is it so heard? Forgiveness is the opposite of our human nature. He asks us in this verse to be “tenderhearted.” This is not simply some sweet person who everyone likes. Instead, this speaks of the condition of your heart in functioning with a Christlikeness and love.
Sin wound – it hardened our hearts. The result is make us unable to forgive and love and do the things a Jesus heart does. See verses 17-19. Sin made our hearts dark, lewd, and “filled with greediness.” This is the deeply selfishness and rotten to the core picture of the sinners heart. This was my heart before I met Jesus and asked Him to come into my heart to change it.
Listen to me: this isn’t a children’s bible drill verse. This is a deeply important and significant, adult-sized spiritual mission.
III. Process of Forgiveness
Pastor, if this is so difficult, then how do I do it. Many of you are even thinking right now,”I need to do it because I have that bitterness you talked of but I have tried and cannot. Please tell me how.”
Any time God calls us to do something, He always tells us how. Here He shows us “as God in Christ has also forgiven you.” That is how you do it. It is to rely on God to show you through how He forgave you. This is important and will change your life. Almost every time God teaches on forgiveness, He shows us the circular pattern of “I forgave you, consider that, then you will implement that same forgiveness to forgive.”
Watch this verse: “bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also you should.”
Do you see the same pattern? The “how to” lies in that pattern. Write down these references and study them when you get home. They clearly rely on the same pattern:
Matthew 6:12, 14-15
Matthew 18 – Parable of the Unjust Steward