Summary: The second sermon in the series designed to teach people to totally forgive others who have sinned against them.

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Starting the Engine to Begin

How to Forgive from the Heart – Matthew 18:21-35

Preached at the Laurel Church of Christ

On January 15, 2003


I. There is an interesting story about Robert E. Lee after the civil war.

A. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house.

B. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal artillery fire.

C. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss.

D. After a brief silence, Lee said, “Cut it down, madam, and forget it.

E. It is better to forgive the injustices of the past than to allow them to remain, let bitterness take root, and poison the rest of our life.”

II. Our minds are funny pieces of our body.

A. They must in order to function predict the upcoming movement.

1. For example when you sit up on your bed, your mind needs to predict if your feet are going to touch the floor. If not they need to know how far from the bed they are going to be.

2. Our minds need to predict the simple everyday events so that we can function appropriately.

B. Our minds must also protect themselves from threat.

1. The mind protects itself in a way similar to how the body protects itself from threat.

a. When you have a sore finger, your mind will find interesting ways to keep that finger out of danger’s way.

b. Imagine reorganizing your life to protect yourself from physical pain.

2. Well we often reorganize our life to protect ourselves from social pain.

a. We avoid thoughts, images and situations that might lead to feeling those emotions.

b. The unconscious mind protects itself out of fear and pride.

III. Jesus at this point in Matthew is dealing with something very important to our eternal life.

A. His concept is that unless we come to him as innocent as children in our faith, we have no hope of receiving the Kingdom.

B. We have to work against our natural tendencies of burying hurts for future events, and instead rid ourselves of the garbage of conditional forgiveness.

IV. We are getting ready to begin our journey to Destination: Forgiveness.

A. In order to reach the targeted goal we have got to prepare the vehicle properly before pulling out of the driveway.

B. We have our roadmaps; now it is time to check the oil, tire pressure, and fuel level.

C. Let’s find out what Jesus says about forgiving from the heart.


I. Unconditional Forgiveness (Verses 21-22)

A. Matthew 18:21-22 “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.””

B. Peter hears the previous words and asks a pertinent question, “How many time should I forgive someone?’

1. Seven times right.

a. To a man as determined, as Peter seven times seemed a fair and just number for anyone.

b. He might be willing to forgive seven times, but on the eighth watch out. (Something called conditional forgiveness)

2. Even as children we understand this very concept.

a. When we would get in trouble around the house for example.

b. “Ely quit picking on your sister and pulling you hair. That’s number one.”

c. “Ely I said that is enough. That’s two.”

d. “This next time though, Ely is much more cautious about what he does.”

e. But it is not an hour later that little Yvonne is running to mom.

f. Than we all know the Cosby line, “Just wait until you dad gets home.”

3. Oh boy watch out when Peter forgives seven times. The eighth is going to be bad.

a. Two brothers, Harry and James, were playing right before bedtime, and somehow Harry hit James with a stick.

b. Tears and bitter words followed and they were still angry as their mother prepared them for bed.

c. Mother said, “Now James, before you go to bed you’re going to have to forgive you brother.”

d. James though for a moment and then replied, “Well okay, I’ll forgive him tonight, but if I don’t die in the night, he’d better look out in the morning.”

4. Conditional Forgiveness

C. Jesus said, “Seventy times seven.”

1. Which was not meant to be an exact number but a figurative number meaning forgiving for infinity or forever.

2. Implying that we should unconditionally, completely, totally, absolutely forgive our oppressor.

D. How can we forgive completely?

1. To forgive we must change our mental and emotional experience.

a. This is not as easy as simply deciding to forgive or having one emotional experience of forgiveness or having one memory transformed dramatically.

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