LETTING GO OF UNFORGIVENESS
A. OPENING STORY
1. In New Hampshire, a man named Josh Muszynski stopped at a gas station and bought a pack of cigarettes with his debit card. A few hours later he was online checking his bank account and found that this particular pack of cigarettes set him back seventeen figures!
2. To be exact, it was 23 quadrillion, 148 trillion, 855 billion, 308 million, 184 thousand, 500 dollars. To put that in perspective: if you took ALL the money from ALL the countries in the United Nations, you still wouldn’t have enough money to buy that single pack of cigarettes.
3. Needless to say, Josh immediately called his bank and managed to clear things up. Not only did his bank correct the error, they also removed the $15 overdraft fee they charged him. (Patrick D. Odum, Heartlight.org 8/11/09)
4. The point is: if this man had actually owed that much money there was no way he (or anyone else on the face of the earth) could ever pay it back. This leads us to a parable of Jesus we’re reading this morning.
24A man who owed [a King] ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26"The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' 27The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. 29"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' 30"But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
I. THE TWO DEBTS CONTRASTED
A. THE GIGANTIC DEBT & ITS REDEMPTION
1. This is a “parable,” an “earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” The first man represents US. We owe the King [GOD] 10,000 talents (equal to 10,000 years of working).
2. In today’s terms the 10,000 talents could be as much as $5 billion! You could NEVER PAY IT OFF, and in fact…that was the point of Jesus’ parable.
3. The IMPOSSIBLE DEBT we owe & can’t repay represents the mountain of our sins, individually. Jesus paid the terrible price for your sins by dying “the death of the cross,” the worst form of punishment the world has ever known. Jesus died so our DEBT of sin could be forgiven. Romans 6:23 says, “… the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
4. This parable explains that the King had pity on this man and forgave him his entire debt. In the same way, when we became Christians, God forgives us ALL of our sins – they are moved as far as EAST is from WEST and buried in the depths of the sea. They don’t exist anymore (Praise God)!
B. THE TINY DEBT NOT FORGIVEN
1. In the 2nd part of Jesus’ parable, the man who was forgiven his massive debt starts home – rejoicing – and encounters a man who owes HIM a debt of $100. This is not a debt like the first – between God & man, but between two humans. It’s a wrong done by one person against another.
2. The 2nd man pleads for mercy, but the first man will NOT forgive him. The 1st man who’d received mercy for his mountain of sins refuses to show mercy to the man who had humanly wronged him. Why is Jesus telling this parable? To warn us that we must forgive others. Why do we struggle to forgive?
II. FIVE REASONS WHY PEOPLE DON’T FORGIVE
1. IT’S EASIER TO BLAME OTHERS. It’s not easy to own responsibility for our feelings, words or actions. We have the tendency to try to shift the blame.
2. WE THINK WE’RE JUSTIFIED. We say, “My attitude is not really a sin. They deserve my response because of what they did; it was merited. If I forgive, they’ll think it’s ok to treat me that way.” So we excuse ourselves from forgiving.
3. OFFENDED PRIDE WON’T BUDGE. We allow our ego to take over decision-making when our egos are bruised. “An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city” Prov. 18:19 TLB. We become driven by our negative emotions instead by the fruit of the Spirit. We cater to the carnal nature instead of letting the Holy Spirit control us.
4. WRONG CONCEPTS OF FORGIVENESS HINDER US.
a. We think we have to ‘forget’ in order to forgive. (False) b. “We don’t have to forgive because we did nothing wrong.” (False). What about the fact that they are offended? Mt. 5:23-24. c. “We don’t have to forgive if the other person isn’t sorry for what they did.” (Wrong) It takes two to hurt, but only one to forgive. d. “I tried to work it out, but they didn’t want to, so I don’t have to try anymore.” (Wrong) God doesn’t tell us to ask “permission to forgive.” Forgiving requires no permissions, only action!
5. WE DON’T FORGIVE OURSELVES. How can I forgive them when I can’t forgive myself? I really messed up, and hurt others; I can’t undo what’s been done. True, HOWEVER the past doesn’t define you! It’s going forward that does. There’s no one on the face of the planet who hasn’t regretted something he or she did to others. We can only learn from it, but regret is not a life sentence!! It’s to learn from…and move on.
III. REASONS WE MUST FORGIVE
A. YOU HURT YOURSELF IF YOU DON’T
We do this in three ways:
1. “When we hate our enemies we give them power over us - power over our sleep, our appetites, our happiness.” [Dale Carnegie]
2. We hurt ourselves physically. In one study where the subjects took “forgiveness training” mental distress dropped by 40%, and there was a 35% dip in headaches, back pain and insomnia. [Lisa Collier Cool - Reader’s Digest, May 2004]
3. Unforgiveness also hurts us spiritually. Eph. 5:26-27 says, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” When we allow ourselves to remain bitter and unforgiving toward others -- Satan gets a foothold in our lives, a tool he needs to enslave us.
B. BECAUSE GOD WON’T FORGIVE YOU
1. Jesus said “…when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." Mark 11:25
2. Unforgiveness blocks your prayers to God. Confessing your sins to God won’t do any good until you forgive your enemies; then you’ll be forgiven.
C. TO RESTORE THEM TO THE KINGDOM
1. In Matthew 18:15 Jesus says "If your brother sins against you, GO and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”
2. Why does Jesus say I should GO to my brother who’s sinned against me? TO WIN HIM back as your brother. Now – if they don’t want to be won back - that’s no longer your problem. But God expects us to be missionaries to win those who’ve hurt us.
D. BECAUSE GOD ALLOWED IT FOR GOOD
1. When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, he could have become a very bitter young man. Instead, he chose to forgive his brothers. He recognized that God had allowed it to happen for His purpose and Joseph’s ultimate good (Gen. 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good….”)
2. Forgiveness is a costly thing. It issues from broken hearts and many tears. Forgiveness is never a case of saying: "It's all right; it doesn't matter." Forgiveness exacts a price from us. It is grace covering a wrong.
3. Jesus said we must LOVE our enemies. How do I do that? 1 Pet. 4:8 says, “…love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Cor. 13:5 says, Love “…keeps no record of wrongs.” You can’t obey Jesus and still keep a record of the wrongs they’ve done you.
A. ILLUSTRATION: IN WHOSE PRESENCE YOU STAND
1. On March 22, 1824 an incident took place in Madison County, Indiana, known as the Fall Creek Massacre. Six men murdered nine American Indians and wounded another.
2. The six men were apprehended and tried and some were executed. On June 3, 1825, John Bridge, Jr., who was condemned, along with a large crowd, witnessed the gruesome spectacle of the hangings of his father and uncle.
3. The crowd waited expectantly for the possibility of a pardon from the governor for the son. With no sign of a pardon, a sermon was preached as the crowd waited.
4. Finally, John Bridge, Jr. was led to the gallows and the rope was lowered over his head. Can you imagine the terror of standing on that trap door, feeling the ropes around his neck, and knowing death was seconds away?
5. As they prepared to pull the trap door, a cheer arose from the back of the crowd. A stranger rode forward and said, "There are but two powers known to the law that can save you from hanging by the neck until you are dead; One is the great God of the Universe, and the other is J. Brown Ray, Governor of the State of Indiana. I am the Governor…and you are pardoned!" He handed over the pardon.
6. In an instant, what had looked like a hopeless situation became a door of hope. John Bridge Jr. went back home, settled down, opened a dry goods store and died peacefully, fifty-one years later! (Carl Allen)
7. If we could but see it, every one of us stand in the same desperate situation as that young man, until we get a pardon from the Lord Jesus Christ!
B. ALTAR CALL:
1. God is offering “free pardons” here this morning! How many people want to claim one? They’re free to us, but were purchased by Christ’s death on the Cross.
2. How many of you have been hurt by someone, and you’d like to receive healing to your heart and mind?
3. How many of you have someone you need to forgive? Someone you wouldn’t want to talk to or be around? Don’t let Satan have a foothold in your life; unblock your relationship with God by surrendering unforgiveness!
[Source for section II: Rob Corbin in “5 Reasons Why People Don’t Forgive”]