Tonight I want to talk about us forgiving others. Because the end of verse 12 says "As we forgive our debtors" and verses 14 and 15 say - If we forgive we get forgiven, if we don't forgive we don't get forgiven.” We just finished discussing judicial forgiveness and parental forgiveness, which is between us and God. But now I want to go to the concept of us forgiving each other.
Now there are several reasons why we are to forgive one another. And this is a list: Number one: We are to forgive one another because such is the character of saints. Christians are characterized as those who forgive. The traditional Jewish rabbis taught - you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But the Lord said Matthew 5: 44, 45, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you. Do good to them that hate you. Pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. 45 That you may manifest that you are the sons of your Father.” In other words, forgiving others, blessing those who curse is the same as forgiveness; it’s characteristic of a son of God.
We are the forgiven, are we not? Have we forgotten that God has forgiven us and would we not forgive someone else? You know when you fail to forgive someone else you set yourself up as a higher court than God? For God always forgives. You've usurped His place.
Secondly, we are to forgive one another because it follows the example of Christ. First John 2:6 says, "If we say we abide in Him we ought to walk as He walked." Right? How did He walk? He walked in forgiveness. And that's why in Ephesians 4:32 it says that we are to forgive one another even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven us.
Christ has established a model, a pattern that the death of Christ and the forgiveness of God through Christ given to us is not only for its own sake, but beyond to give to us a pattern for forgiveness.
On the cross to those who had driven the nails through His hands, to the very ones who spit on Him and mocked Him and crushed a crown of thorns into His head He said - Father, forgive them. Here is the model.
Thirdly, we are to forgive one another because it expresses the highest virtue of man. Men most manifest the majesty of his creation in the image of God when he expresses forgiveness. That's indicated in Proverbs 19:11, "The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression."
Fourthly, we are to forgive one another because it frees the conscience from guilt. When there is a need to be forgiven and to forgive there surely is guilt. I think of David who in the midst of an unforgiving situation has all kinds of problems. His life's strength evaporated, he became sick, his bones felt so old and this continued as long as there was unforgiveness.
You know people who carry grudges and bitterness and an angry attitude toward an individual that goes on and on unrelieved are literally wounding themselves. Dr McMillan has written a book in which he has one chapter titled - It's not what you eat, it's what eats you. That's the real issue.
Fifthly, we should forgive one another because it delivers us from chastening. Where there is an unforgiving spirit there is sin. And where there is sin there is chastening. And every son that the Lord loves He scourges and chastens, Hebrews 12:6 says.
But there's one more that's more important than those five: we are to forgive one another because if we don't we don't get forgiven either (verses 14 and 15). And many people do not understand those verses. Remember our discussion on the two kinds of forgiveness? The first was judicial forgiveness, the second was parental forgiveness.
Look at verse 12 and let me start right there. You could translate it, "Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven." Before we ever seek forgiveness for our own sin against God we already have forgiven those who have sinned against us. First we forgive then we are forgiven. That's the order it is right here.
We are not talking about an unbeliever because an unbeliever has no capacity, no spiritual virtue to do an act of forgiveness by which he would earn forgiveness. It's talking about a believer. Before we come to get our feet washed each day, before we bring our sins to the Lord and say - Lord, cleanse me again and use me - we've got to be sure that we've forgiven others. That's the prerequisite.
Just confessing your sins isn't enough because the Lord isn't giving you release from those sins because you've still got somebody else that you haven't forgiven. And you have ruined your own spiritual welfare. It isn't my word, this is the Lord Jesus Christ and we know that He knows.
Begin to examine your life and the people you know including family members and try to remember your relationships. Oswald Saunders says, "Jesus is here stating a principle and God's dealing with His children." He deals with us as we deal with others. He measures us by the yardstick we use on others. The prayer is not forgive us because we forgive others but forgive us even as we have already forgiven others. That's the idea.
I'll give you another illustration that's very clear. Jesus said this in Luke 6:38, “Give and it will be given to you. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” How about this verse in 2 Corinthians 9:6? “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” God deals with us the same way we deal with Him.
Whatever we invest in His kingdom we receive a return on. If we harbor sins and grudges and so forth we cut ourselves off from the blessedness that can accrue to us because of those things. We have taught you so many times that as you give you invest with God, you receive a return on it.
The same thing is true on your confession of sin and seeking forgiveness. God deals with you the way you deal with others. And maybe the short circuit in your spiritual life is just that you have some people that you're holding bitter resentment or a grudge against and you have not been able to forgive them.
Even the Jews knew this. The Talmud, the rabbinical commentary on the Old Testament says, - He who is indulgent toward others faults will be mercifully dealt with by the supreme judge Himself. What about your life? Are you forgiving? Because if you're not God's not going to forgive you and you're going to be going through the world with muddy feet.
Oh, judicially you are justified and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to you but the joy is gone and the intimacy isn't there and the usefulness for God disappears. Now you say - Well, if I have a grudge like this with somebody how do I take care of it? There are three practical steps:
Number one: take it to God as a sin. That's where it starts. Lord, there is this person and this is the way I feel and it's a sin and I admit it and I'm sorry and I acknowledge it and I repent of it and I forsake it. That's where you start.
Step two, go to that person. That’s very tough, huh? Well, I'm only telling you this so you can know spiritual joy. You make the decision. You say - I want to seek your forgiveness. And see the freedom that comes. I may have already forgiven them. I may not even have known I did anything for which they were offended.
Third thing, give the person something you value very highly. It's a very practical approach. Let me tell you why. Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, "Where your treasure is, that's where your heart will be also." And I'll tell you this, you put something of value something that is precious to you in their hand and your heart will go with it and it will change the way you feel about them.
Now let's see this in several other passages. Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." In other words, if you want to receive mercy from God then you must be merciful. It's a principle of spiritual life.
People in Christ's kingdom are merciful. They will bear the insults of evil men and their hearts will reach out in compassion. Now in that context that has a much broader meaning and I don't want to get back into that again but just the principle is the same, it can be compared. You want mercy, you give mercy.
Let me show you another one, Matthew 5:21: "You have heard that it was said by them of old," that is a statement that gives reference to a rabbinic tradition that says: "You shall not kill and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of judgment." In other words, your teaching is that and it certainly had truth in it but it wasn't all the truth because that's as far as it went.
Matthew 5:22 says, “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgment. Whoever shall say to his brother ‘Raca’ shall be in danger of council,” and by the way Raca is an untranslatable epithet. That's not like saying anything it's more like a tone of voice than it is a word. To them it might be saying - You brainless, stupid idiot or whatever.
Verse 22 goes on, “But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” Why? Verse 23-24, "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
The point is the same. Again, the context is a little different as we saw in our study of it but the point is the same. You cannot come offering to the Lord some sacrifice to deal with your own spiritual life until you've gotten it right with somebody else. Go away and get that right first.
Now some of you came to worship the Lord this evening but you can't offer God worship because He won't accept it. You're going to go away just like you came because you've got relationships that are unresolved and you're unforgiving in some situations, therefore, you forfeit true worship, go back, get that straight first and then come back.
Psalm 23 says this, "Mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." Why? Because I have to have mercy all my life long because I sin. And if God is so merciful without His mercy ever being diminished, who am I to be unmerciful to anyone. No wonder so much of Christianity is short circuited in its power--so many unresolved conflicts with people.
So go away from the altar until you get your life right. If you regard iniquity in your heart, Psalm 66:18 says "The Lord will not hear you." James says it again in James 2:13, "For judgment is without mercy to the one that has shown no mercy." The Lord will really chasten you if you're not merciful to others. Everybody manifests a weakness in different ways; so let's be forgiving.
When somebody has sinned against you and you seek reconciliation and you take somebody with you as a witness and then tell the church this sin, this whole thing deals with forgiveness. And so Peter asks in Matthew 18:21, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Now the rabbis taught three times.
Jesus said to him in verse 22, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Jesus says we need to forgive infinitely, unendingly. Why? For we have to forgive others the same way as God has forgiven us. Is God’s limit of forgiveness four-hundred and ninety times? Better hope not. He forgives us indefinitely.
Then Jesus gave an illustration starting with verse 23-24, "Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents."
This guy was real scum, the worst. Ten thousand talents is so much money that it's hard to conceive. How could a servant ever owe that much? He probably stole from the king's treasury. To become indebted so much at that time in the history of the world is unbelievable. That’s more than 10 million dollars.
So, verse 25 says, he was not able to pay. So, the master ordered to liquidate the only assets he had and all he had was himself, his wife and kids. Look at verse 26, the servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, “Lord, have patience with me and I will pay you everything.” Oh that's really stupid. What do you mean? How could he do that from prison?
And look in verse 27, “the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him and forgave him the debt.” Now that is amazing. Guess who this king represents? God. Guess who the servant is? All of us. Did we owe a debt we couldn't pay? Huh? Better believe it. And He forgave us. Why? He was compassionate. How could anybody forgive anything as astronomical as that? I want to show you more about this guy.
“The same servant”, verse 28, “went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii.” You know how much that was? Three months work, very little. The servant who had just been forgiven for the 10 million, went out and found a guy who owed him 3 months work.
“And he took him by the throat” saying, “Pay me what you owe. 29So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will pay you all.’ And he could have. “30And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.”
Now he couldn't pay the debt while he was in prison because he couldn't work while he was in prison. That shows you the evil of the man's heart. “31So when the fellow servants saw what was done they were sorry and they came and told their lord all that was done.” 32Then his master after he had called him said unto him, "O you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.
33Should not you also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you? 34And his master was angry and delivered him to the torturers until he could pay all that was due unto him. 35So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."
That's the picture, people, of somebody who wants to take all the forgiveness that God give but isn't willing to give it to somebody else. You see yourself there? You hold grudges? Oh, have you so soon forgotten the mercy that you have received?
Now listen to me, one of the reasons you need to acknowledge your sin by name on a constant basis is that you will be reminded what a sinner you are, how constant His forgiveness is and thereby it reminds you to forgive others.
But as you fail to acknowledge your own sin as you cover it up and not deal with it, you not only will lose your intimacy and your joy and your usefulness, but you will find yourself becoming unforgiving to others because you're not being honest about what God is forgiving in your own life.
Let us remember what out Lord did for us in paying our debt at the cross, thereby forgiving us all our sin forever and ever, Amen. Let us participate in the Lord’s Supper.