The Principles of Forgiveness

Text: Matthew 6: 9-15

Introduction:
Whenever you forgive someone who has hurt you, you set a prisoner free and that prisoner is you. There are two great enemies of the soul that imprison people. One is guilt and the other is bitterness. So many people in this world are absolutely driven into the ground spiritually, psychologically and physically by guilt and bitterness.

But Jesus shows us how to overcome guilt and bitterness. "Forgive our debts" (shed guilt) as we forgive our debtors" (remove bitterness). When we are forgiven we are set free from the prison of guilt and bitterness. One of God's greatest gifts to us is forgiveness.

Facts About Forgiveness---
Forgiveness cancels a debt that is owed. When I forgive somebody, I cancel that person's debt to me. The word "forgive" means to bear the burden. If I forgive you, I bear the burden of your debt. Forgiveness can, in fact, be costly. In the Greek the word forgive means to completely cancel a debt or penalty. To forgive is to accept within yourself the consequences of the sins of others. It means to accept the pain, the problems and the burden that comes when someone sins against you. Forgiveness is neither an easy nor a frequent gift.

To give you a personal example, a few years ago a friend backed into her car while parked in the church parking lot. The damage was close to $500.00. However, this poor man had neither insurance or money to pay for the damage. My wife forgave him for his carelessness and released him from the debt taking upon herself the burden of the repairs. The blame was dismissed. Forgiveness says, "You don't have to pay, you're free." 

That is what Christ did for us. He paid the debt that we could not pay and took upon Himself the penalty and the pain. He cancelled out our debt and set us free. 

Forgiveness is an act of Grace. Ephesians 1:7, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." Christ  paid through Grace out of His riches for our forgiveness. Grace is: God's Riches at Christ' expense. Forgiveness never overlooks sin, it simply pays a debt another cannot pay.

Four Compelling Reasons to Forgive---
Number one is the Grace factor which is to show God's Grace. We should forgive because God has so willingly forgiven us. Ephesians 4:32,
"And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you." God has shown grace to us, therefore we must show grace to one another. To forgive is to be like Jesus. On the contrary, to not forgive is to be like the enemy of God - Satan. 

Number two is the Guilt factor, to be released from guilt. We bear the guilt when we don't forgive. Our unforgiveness toward others shuts out God's forgiveness. An unforgiving spirit is unforgiveable in God's sight. God holds us accountable for our actions regardless of what others have done to hurt us. Romans 12:19, "Beloved do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. 

Number three is the Grief factor, to avoid grief. An unforgiving spirit keeps us in bondage. When we get even we come down to where the offender is. When we forgive we lift the offender up to where we are. When we refuse to forgive and allow the bitterness to remain it slowly but surely turns to hatred and hatred draws us into doing sinful acts. Unforgiveness is like a cancer. It eats away the peace and rest of a person's body , soul and spirit.  George Herbert said: "He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would ever reach heaven." 

    Truth: If you will not forgive, you cannot go to heaven.

Number four is the Gain factor, to gain a friend. Matthew 18:15, "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained a brother. Matthew 5:23-24, "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." When brothers and sisters in Christ fail to forgive it disgraces the Father, it discourages the saints. Few things hurt a church quicker than an unforgiving spirit. Failing to forgive delights the devil. Psalm 133:1, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethern to dwell together in unity."

A story is told concerning the emperor Sigismond. Instead of destroying his conquered foes, he admitted them to favor. "Do I not," he replied to his monarch, "effectually destroy my enemies, when I make them my friends?"

When we forgive our debtor, we pay up. But since Jesus paid the most, He is our model. Mirroring our model we forgive freely. Matthew 10:8, "...Freely you have received, freely give." Some people only forgive after they have collected their revenge. Freely also implies quickly.

One day a visitor was watching an old farmer plowing with a mule. After a while, the visitor said, "I don't like to tell you how to run your business, but you could save yourself a lot of work by saying, 'Gee and Haw' to that mule instead of just tugging on those lines." The old farmer pulled out his big handkerchief and wiped his face. Then he said, "Reckon you're right, but this animal kicked me five years ago and I ain't spoke to him since."

The moral of the story is obvious: A grudge is harder on the one who holds it than the one it is help against. The Apostle Paul said that we are to forgive any man if we have a quarrel against him. Just like Christ forgave us, we are to forgive each other, Col. 3:13. If our Lord can extend mercy to you and your sins, surely you can be merciful to those who offend you.

One of the greatest obstacles to forgiveness is pride. There are some people who will never acknowledge that they were wrong or have wronged a person. Luke 17:3-4 gives us the formula for a prideful spirit. "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him." Notice a condition in that verse: "If he repents, forgive him..." We see this portrayed when Jesus was on the cross. He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." But if we look at Acts 2:22, we hear Peter indicating that they were still guilty for crucifying Jesus. Notice that they weren't forgiven until they repented and followed through with obedience of baptism. Those who did not repent weren't forgiven. Pride was their greatest obstacle.

In conclusion, we may find it difficult to forgive, but the cost of unforgiveness is far greater. Truly, forgiveness is a matter of life. Unforgiveness is a matter of death, spiritually, psychologically and physically. Jesus made the matter very clear in Matthew 6:14-15: "For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." Couldn't be much plainer than that statement.

 

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