Randall Caselman

Bella Vista Church of Christ

06/11/2017 A.M.

 

The Future Of Forgiveness

Ephesians 4.29-32

 

I remember being in Cape Town South Africa for the first time... and hearing Archbishop Desmond Tutu say... “Without forgiveness... There is no future.”

He was speaking in the context of the healing that had to take place after the Apartheid fell... And the formation of Nelson Mandela’s new government.... He was saying...

• Without forgiveness... Our country has no future.

• Without forgiveness... There’s no freedom...

• Without forgiveness... There’s no healing... No recovery...

• Without forgiveness... There is no peace...

• Without forgiveness... There’s no good life...

• Without forgiveness... There is no salvation...

• And we’re gonna hear God say this morning... Without forgiveness... There is no forgiveness.

Ha... If this works for Nations... It’ll work for Churches...

If it works for Churches... It’ll work for Families...

If this works for Families... It’ll work for Individuals.

Indeed... Forgiveness brings a promising future... Amen?

 

We begin by defining our subject... What is forgiveness?

 

Webster says...

• Forgiveness is to cease to feel resentment against another on account of wrong done to us...

• To give up any claim to retribution...

• To absolve...

• To pardon...

• To remit the penalty.

The Greek word literally means to send away or to put away... As if it never happened.

 

Perhaps we catch a glimpse of what forgiveness really is

when we examine what Scripture has to say...

 

Psalm 103.12 has God saying... When I forgive... I place your sins as far as the east is from the west... Not as far as north is from south... That has limitations... But east to west goes on forever and ever... There is no limit... Our sin is forever removed never to be considered again.

 

Psalm 130.3-4 asked in rhetoric... O Lord... If you kept a record of our sins... Who could stand?

 

Isaiah 38.17... You put all our sins behind your back.

 

Isaiah 43.25... I will blot out your sins and never think of them again.

 

Micah 7.19... He tramples our sins under His feet... Hides them in the bottom of the sea.

 

Ephesians 1.7... In Him we have redemption through His blood... The forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace.

 

These verses tell us that...

 

• Forgiveness is turning a key... Opening the cell door... Setting the prisoner free.

• Forgiveness is tetelestai.... To write across our life... Debt paid in full.

• Forgiveness is hearing the courtroom gravel fall and the Judge say... Not guilty.

• Forgiveness is sandblasting graffiti off a wall leaving it looking like it never happened.

• Forgiveness cannot be earned... It is a free gift of God... A blessing of being IN CHRIST.

 

What is your sin and mine?... Slander...Disrespect for Parents... Lying... Fraud... Sexual improprieties... Gossip...Murder... Materialism... Worry... Doubt... Fear... Anxiousness? Whatever they are... When God forgives...

• The debt is canceled...

• The note is paid...

• The prisoner is released...

• The offender is pardoned.

 

Church... Regardless of what you take home with you this morning... Let it be this... Salvation begins with God forgiving us... Salvation is the result of our being forgiven.

 

If God doesn’t forgive... We’ll have to suffer the consequences of our sin... Eternal separation from God... Eternally separated from His blessingS.

 

Participate with me in the lesson for a moment...

• If all good blessings come from God... And they do!

• If all spiritual blessings are in Christ... And they are...

I want you to enumerate your blessings this morning... What blessings are especially precious to you? What blessings would you not want to live without? (PAUSE)

 

Well... Without forgiveness, you will be eternally separated from that or those blessings.

 

You see... That’s what hell is... Being separated from God and all the blessings He provides...

  • Light for the day... Sun to warm us... Water to drink... Food to eat... Air to breathe...

  • Family to love... Friends to share... On-and-on we could go...

But forgiveness…Forgiveness… brings... Cleansing... Salvation... Heaven.

 

Not only does the Bible have a lot to say about God forgiving us...

It insists we forgive others.

 

I believe forgiveness has its beginning in Love... God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.

 

Our forgiveness originates in the heart of God... In His grace... We’re forgiven because God loves.

 

The second commandment from the lips of Jesus was what?... Love your neighbor as yourself.

 

Here it is church... If we really... If we really... Love our neighbor... We will forgive him... And that forgiveness will be a grace gift from us.

 

Listen to these Scriptures that confirm our responsibility to forgive as we’ve been forgiven... 

 

Ephesians 4.32 says... Be kind and compassionate to one another... Forgiving each other... Just as in Christ God forgave you.

 

Matthew 6.12 & 14-15 is Jesus’ model prayer... Where He says... Forgive us our debts... as we have forgiven our debtors... 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.

 

Mark 11.26 has Jesus saying... If you hold anything against anyone... Forgive him... So that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

 

You see... The Bible teaches that forgiveness starts with God... And comes down to us. Then we in turn are to pass on this behavior to our fellowman... We are... To do to others... For others...  As God has done for us… We are to be conduits of His forgiveness

 

Plus... And here’s something we must not miss... There is a direct connection between our own spiritual health and our willingness to forgive those who have sinned against us.

 

The Hebrews’ Writer says... See to it that no-one misses the grace of God... How do you do that?... He tells us... that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile.

 

Listen to Paul from Ephesians 4.31.... Get rid of all... Bitterness... Rage...Anger... Brawling... Slander... Along with every other form of malice.

 

Do you know how to do this?... How to get rid of... Bitterness... Rage... Anger... Brawling... Slander and every from of malice... Forgive... Forgive.

• Forgiveness removes the root of bitterness...

• Forgiveness has a cleansing power...

• It’s like it never happened.

 

So... Forgiveness is a grace gift from above...

• It flows from God to us...

• From us to others...

 

That’s the way it is supposed to work...And we must not be guilty of breaking the chain of events... For Jesus said if we do... We interrupt God’s forgiving us... We can’t be forgiven.

 

OK... Let’s consider some frequently asked questions about forgiveness...

 

Is forgiveness an event or a process?

Both... It’s an event in the fact that we... must decide... Make the choice to forgive.

 

Forgiveness is not a feeling... But a choice.

 

If someone has hurt you deeply... You’ll probably never feel like forgiving them.

 

Back to forgiveness being rooted in love... First Corinthians 13.5 says that love keeps no record of wrongs... Don’t look back.... It didn’t help Lot’s wife and it won’t help us in this matter of forgiveness.

 

Perhaps we’re thinking...

• Well... He or she hasn’t asked forgiveness...

• Hasn’t repented...

• Hasn’t said I’m sorry...

• They don’t deserve forgiveness... And perhaps they don’t... But do we deserve God’s forgiveness?... Forgiveness is a grace gift.

 

It’s a false notion that says... Forgiveness must be earned... We don’t earn forgiveness!

 

Church... If we could earn forgiveness... We wouldn’t need it… Forgiveness is an unmerited gift.

 

Jesus is our example... Hanging on the cross... He forgave those responsible for His death... Did they repent?... Did they deserve His forgiveness?... Did they say... We’re sorry?... NO!!

 

Just forgive... Just forgive.... Remember... Forgiveness is a gift.

 

Esau forgave Jacob without being asked.

 

Joseph forgave his brothers... Before they showed any sign of repentance.

 

David forgave Saul while he was still in pursuit of him... Trying to kill him.

 

Stephen... Dying from the stones... Asked God to forgive the very ones hurling the stones.

 

Stop thinking forgiveness is dependent upon the guilty party... It isn’t... It depends upon us!!

 

Biblical forgiveness only takes one... That’s us... that’s us...

• We forgive because God commands it...

• Because it cleanses our heart of bitterness...

• And it allows God to forgive us.

Forgiveness is a process... Because it takes time to get over the hurt.

 

Here it is… We must deal with our feelings of anger that keep coming back long after we choose to forgive.

 

Forgiveness is not... A feeling... A mood... A passing notion... Somehow we must determine to not hold on to this offence...And be angry... Even revengeful against the perpetrator.

 

But know this... There’s a big difference between remembering something... And dwelling on it... Forgiveness means we choose not to dwell on the hurt.

 

Satan will bring it to mind... You can count on it... What we do with the thought is our choice.

 

Corrie Ten Boom tells of Christian friends who deeply wronged her in public and in a malicious way. For weeks she was bitter and angry until she forgave them. But the hurt kept coming back. A Lutheran Pastor helped her with this advice. Corrie... He said… In the belltower hangs a rope... When the sexton pulls the rope the bell rings. If he doesn’t pull the rope the sound goes away... Take youR hand off the rope.

 

When we tug at our grievances... Why are we surprised if the sound of anger and malice revive?

 

Does or should forgiveness lead to reconciliation?

The answer is yes and no...

Forgiveness is one thing...Reconciliation is another... They’re never the same.

Scripture tells us that we are to forgive...It does not demand reconciliation.

 

The reason is that forgiveness depends upon us individually... While reconciliation depends upon us and the other party or parties.

 

Reconciliation implies...

• Confession...

• Repentance...

• Forgiveness...

• A Restoration of trust...

• And a mutual desire to reconcile.

Sometimes this is not possible...Sometimes it’s not even wise... And that’s OK!

 

John Calvin addressed this question… Saying...There are two kinds of forgiveness...

The first is the kind where the person who did the wrong admits it... Comes asking forgiveness... We grant it and the relationship is restored... That’s the best kind... The ideal!

 

But… We live in a fallen world where the ideal is not always possible

Sometimes people wrong us and will not admit their guilt... They will often lie to cover up the truth. When this happens... Relationships are ruptured and reconciliation is out of the question.

 

In this case... As Children of God... We are called upon to not remember the sins of others... But choose to wipe the slate clean so that our life is free from anger and bitterness. This is not easy... But is far better than living in the past... While nursing a wounded spirit.

 

Remember forgiveness only takes one!

 

Well… How do we do it?

How do we instigate this grace-gift of forgiveness?

 

We must have a change of heart.

Attempting forgiveness without changing our hearts leads to serious problems within self and our relationship with others.

• Forgiveness must not be hypocritical...

• Itmust be genuine... True... And of pure motive

 

Secondly…We must pray for God’s intervention in the process.

We must admit our need... And ask Him to...

• Soften our heaRt...

• Give us patience & understanding with one another.

• Mold us into the image of His Son... With a heart of forgiveness.

 

We must be willing to get out of the revenge business.

Do not take revenge... But leave room for God’s wrath.

Punishment for sin... Any sin... Is out of our hands... This is God’s work... Let’s leave it there.

 

Then we must act upon our good intentions.

• Be ready to say... I love you... I forgive you...

• Do good to those who hurt us....

• Do not quench the spirit of forgiveness.

 

Phillip Yancey wrote this about forgiveness... Forgiveness breaks the cycle. Forgiveness does not settle all questionS of blame… justice… and fairness... To the contrary... Often it evades these questions entirely. But it does allow spiritual renewal within and allows relationships to start over.

 

How do I know I’ve been forgiven?

 

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son… LISTEN NOW!...That whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 

God’s forgiveness is found in faith.

 

Paul reasoned... We are children of God by faith...For as many as have been baptized into Christ... Have been clothed with Christ.

 

Have you placed your faith in God?...Have you been born again?… Baptized into Christ?... Then your past sins have been forgiven.

 

John wrote to children of God saying... If we will… Acknowledge... Confess... Our sin... God is just and willing to forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness... For if we walk in the light as He is in the light... His blood continues to cleanse us from all our sin.

 

Put these verses together and we find that faith and obedience… Faith and walking in the light of truth… Brings God’s forgiveness... Makes eternal life in Heaven possible.

 

Indeed… Desmond Tutu was right when he said...

Without forgiveness... There is no future... Amen?

 

You see... Through Jesus... God has moved the fence.

 

During WWII... A soldier was killed in a firefight. After the battle... His comrades wanted to give him a decent burial.They found a small cemetery in a nearby town... Next to a church. Asking the priest if they could bury their buddy here the Priest asked... Was he Catholic?... No... Protestant. The Priest told them the cemetery was reserved for Catholics only.

 

After searching in vain for a proper place... The solders decided the thing they could do is to place their comrade just outside the fence of the old Catholic cemetery.  Some months later they returned to the village to install a suitable marker. To their surprise... The fence had been moved to include the grave. Asking the Priest... He told them that his conscience bothered him with sleepless nights until he moved the fence.

 

This is what God has done for us...Moved the fence... Given us Divine Forgiveness... through His Son.

• He found a way to include us in His love...

• Remove our guilt...

• And make us fit for eternity.

 

What do we need to do this morning to be inside the fence…

• Be clothed with Christ... Cleansed by His blood by faith and New Testament baptism?

• Perhaps we need to forgive someone... Opening the gate to God forgiving us.

 

If the lesson has spoken to you... Come as we stand and sing together.