Summary: Based on Dr. John A. McArthur's book "The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness" in reading or hearing this message we learn that we are nothing less than hypocrites when we do not forgive. For more information on this topic,read MacArthur's book! (1/5/14)
**I preached this sermon, based upon concepts from John MacArthur's book "The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness", originally in 1999. Since then, I have preached it a few times and have modified it to fit in a devotional format. Over the next few weeks, we will discuss the topic of forgiveness, and how that when we forgive we are the most like Jesus Himself.--JH
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32
Vengence is in style today, forgiveness is not. We can see this in our society, with lawsuits running rampant for the stupidest of things. We can see this in the media today, with talk shows like Jerry Springer and the like, and in movies like "Dirty Harry" where Clint Eastwood tells a perp at gunpoint, "Go ahead. Make my day." We see that the world is drunk on wrath, and this is evidenced in road rage, drive by shootings, crimes of vengence and shootings among teens.
Generally, there are two main issues that are addressed in Christian counseling. The first group is one that struggles with guilt, that cannot forgive themselves and the second group is replete with those that have a sinful propensity to blame others and withhold forgiveness for wrongs done. There are also those that fall into both of these categories in varying degrees.
Both of these categories point to people that are miserable; the only true way out is thru a better understanding of what the Word of God teaches about forgiveness. If you doubt that the Word of God can solve these problems, then you put a limit on God, casting doubt on the power of God and his word.
How We Picture God Can Affect Our View Of Forgiveness
* Do you picture God as a being that is watching and waiting for you to drop the hammer on you?
* Do you envision God as a being that is just waiting for you to make a mistake so that He can squash you like a bug?
* Do you picture God as being unmerciful and unforgiving?
* Do you picture God as being ultimately neutral and forgiving, and that He looks the other way when we sin and that we have nothing to fear from God at all?
All of these views are not just wrong, they are dangerously wrong when we look at the issue of forgiveness. This week, we will look at the basis of all forgiveness and how often we ignore this and, quite honestly, make hypocrites of ourselves in the process.
* Self Centered Views Of Forgiveness
He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He. Deuteronomy 32:4 (NKJV)
How we look at forgiveness can often be self centered. On one hand, don't we all expect to be forgiven and consider it highly virtuous when forgiveness is extended to us, but when we are the person injured by an offense we cry "It's not fair to forgive! He's got to pay for what he did to me!" Forgiveness, mercy and justice are three of the highest of virtues. How do we bring them all together? How do we reconcile them to each other?
How can God forgive us as wretched sinners? God can do that, that's what God does, you may say. He's God, and God can do what He pleases, you may say. He could forgive all sins, and none would go to Hell. But, when we think in these terms, we hold God to an unbiblical standard. Scripture does not contradict scripture, and God will not contradict Himself. God is a God of love, but also that God is a God of perfect justice. To look the other way would violate this perfect justice.
* First, The Bad News
God will punish each and every sin that occurs on planet Earth:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap (Galatians 6:7)...
The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked. The LORD has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet (Nahum 1:3).
God describes the relationship with Him and sinners as one of enemy to enemy:
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Rom 5:10).
God hates sin, and all who sin are His enemies:
God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day (Ps 7:11)