Summary: The basic steps to forgiving--we must forgive perfectly as Christ forgave us.

Scripture Ref: Matthew 6:12-15 Romans 12:19

Colossians 3:13 Luke 17:4

Romans 6:23 Colossians 3:13

Isaiah 43:25 Philippians 4:13

Luke 23:24 Matthew 6:12

Mark 11:25 Matthew 6:14–15

Based On: The Keys to Forgiving by Lewis B. Smedes, Christianity Today, December 3, 2001.

1. Introduction

a. Discuss that we all have something in our past that we have either forgiven or that requires forgiveness. Use personal experiences to amplify.

b. Jesus was explicit on the point of forgiveness: As his followers, we are required to forgive those who sin against us. Read Matt. 6:12-15.

c. A readiness to forgive others is part of the witness or testimony that we have truly repented. To forgive is to be whole-hearted. It springs from Christ’s forgiveness of us, and it is to be like Christ’s forgiveness

Read Col. 3:13—Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

d. But what if you don’t feel like you’ve forgiven? How do you know, then, if you have truly forgiven? The Holy Spirit, often enables people to forgive even though they are not sure how they did it.

e. Forgiving, and knowing that you’ve truly forgiven, comes easier when you understand the basic process of forgiving.

1. Forgiveness is a redemptive process to having been wronged and wounded.

a. Forgiveness is reserved for those who have wronged and wounded us. If they injure us accidentally, we usually excuse them.

b. We forgive only those to whom blame has been assigned.

c. Redemption means deliverance from some evil by payment of a price. In this case we are redeemed or delivered by paying the price of letting go of the urge to hurt in kind.

2. Forgiveness requires three basic steps.

a. THE HARDEST PART—Step 1: we surrender the right to get even.

· Every victim is positive the victimizer deserves so suffer as much as they made us suffer, but that isn’t true.

Read Rom. 6:23—For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

· The blood of Christ covers all of our sins, but we must each interface with God to experience His forgiveness. So by forgiving, we place the outcome of the matter in God’s hands and often choose to live with the scales unbalanced.

b. Step 2: We rediscover the humanity of the wrongdoer.

· When we have been badly injured and clearly wronged, we make an instant mental picture of the person who did it to us. We define them totally by the wrong they did to us. EXPOUND!

· When we forgive, we rediscover that the person who wronged us is a complex, weak, confused, fragile person, not all that different from us.

· This is what God does. Our sin essentially made us invisible to him. But, forgiven and covered by the blood of Jesus, we stand out before him much like the Invisible Man in the movies became visible when he was wrapped in clothing.

c. THE SECOND HARDEST PART—Step 3: We wish our wrongdoer well.

· We not only surrender the right to take revenge, but we also desire good things to happen to or for them. We bless them.

— When viewed from the OT viewpoint, the content of ‘blessing’ included such goods as vitality, health, longevity, fertility, and numerous progeny.

— NT viewpoint: Eulogeo (ευλογέω ), the word from which we get the word eulogy, is speak well of and to cause to prosper, to make happy, to bestow blessings on.

· Is this unnatural? Is it too much to ask of us? Perhaps.

· Yet, this is how God forgives us. He not only surrenders his right to see us punished, He graces us with whatever blessing is right for us.

Justice - When you get what you deserve

Mercy - When you don’t get what you deserve

Grace - When you get what you don’t deserve

GRACE—God’s redemption at Christ’s expense

3. Forgiving takes time.

· God can forgive in a single breath. We, on the other hand, need time.

· Corrie ten Boom once told of being able to forget a wrong that had been done to her. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn’t sleep. Finally, she cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest. She wrote this about the incident:

"His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor, to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks." "Up in the church tower," he said, nodding out the window, "is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there’s a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They’re just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down." "And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force—which was my willingness in the matter—had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but also above our thoughts."

4. Forgiving doesn’t mean instant amnesia.

a. God said in Isaiah 43:25—I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. He can truly forgive and forget.

b. Most of the time, we can’t forgive and forget—it is futile to try. The more we try to forget, the more we remember.

· Dethrone the memory and refuse to let it control our lives.

· Detoxify the memory and purge its poison from our souls.

c. You might ask, how can I forgive? HOW CAN YOU NOT?

(1) Follow the examples and commandments of God’s word.

(a) The biggest example

· Luke 23:34—Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

(b) Commandments

· Don’t hold anything back.

Mark 11:25—And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

· Don’t attempt revenge for your hurt.

Romans 12:19—Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

· Forgiveness should be unlimited:

Luke 17:4—If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.

· Model your forgiveness after God’s:

Colossians 3:13—Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

(2) Lean not to your own strength, which is actually weak.

· Read Phil. 4:13—I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

5. Forgiveness comes naturally to the forgiven.

(1) We should be empowered by knowing we are forgiven.

(2) This is probably why Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:12—Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

· Jesus implies it is unthinkable for a forgiven person to not forgive. It should be an automatic reaction.

· He says later in that same passage (the Lord’s Prayer), we have no claim on God’s forgiveness if we do not ourselves forgive.

Matthew 6:14-15—For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Summarize and read this story:

A story tells that two friends were walking through a desert.

During some point in the journey, they had an argument and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, he wrote in the sand: "TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE".

They kept walking until they found an oasis where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but his friend saved him. After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone: ’TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE.”

The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, "After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now you write on a stone, why?"

He replied, "When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away, but when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone, where no wind can ever erase it.