INTRO - How many of us have ever needed forgiveness? Unless we are perfect 100%, and the Bible reminds us that we are not, we are going to need forgiveness from those around us and from God. Since we all need forgiveness, the Bible has something to say about it, Jesus has something to say about it, in fact, He made asking for forgiveness a part of His model prayer. In Mt 18:21 Peter asks Jesus about forgiving someone else and Jesus tells us a story. - Mt 18:21-35 - When Jesus was teaching us the model prayer, He not only taught us to ask for forgiveness but to ask for it in a way that puts our need to forgive on the front burner. Mt 6:12 reads And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. But, how many of us are ready to pray for forgiveness the way Jesus taught, how many of us are ready to pray forgive me as I forgive?
I. REDEFINING FORGIVENESS - Two little boys had quarreled. But the next morning Johnny took his cap and headed for Bobby's house again. Surprised, an older member of the family said teasingly, "What! Going to play with him again? I thought you quarreled only last evening and were never going to have anything more to do with each other. Funny memory you have." Johnny looked a little sheepish, dug his toe into the carpet for a moment, then flashed a satisfied smile as he hurried away. "Oh! Bobby and me's good forgetters!" (Bible Illustrations) - What does forgiveness mean to you? The Oxford dictionary defines “forgive” in the following manner: 1) to stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone for an offense or mistake. 2) excuse. I somehow believe that there is mor to forgiving than that when Christ said to pray And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors
A. A Foreign Idea - F. W. Robertson writing on 1 Cor. 4:12 says Forgiveness was not a pagan virtue. The large-souled man might disregard offenses in cases where he considered them beneath his notice, but to forgive was weak-spirited. Even in the O. T., man's forgiveness of his fellow-man is infrequently mentioned. In those that are mentioned, each time the one asking forgiveness is in a position of subserviency, and is petitioning for that to which he has no just right. Unless it’s ourselves needing the forgiveness we often focus on the opposites - bitterness, hatred, anger, resentment, revenge, etc ... instead.
B. What Of These Debts - The word debts is here used figuratively. It does not mean literally that we are debtors to God, but that our sins have a resemblance to debts. Debtors are those who are bound to others for some claim in commercial transactions; for something which we have had, and for which we are bound to pay according to contract. Literally, there can be no such transaction between God and us. It must be used figuratively. We have not met the claims of law; we have violated its obligations; we are exposed to its penalty; we are guilty; and God only can forgive, in the same way, as none but a creditor can forgive a debtor. Debts here, therefore, mean sins, or offences against God - offences which none but God can forgive.
II. REQUIRING FORGIVENESS - God has given man certain responsibilities, certain things to do and not to do. Every man has failed at some point to do what he should. Certainly no man would ever claim he has fulfilled his duty perfectly, without any failure, without any shortcoming. Sin is universal. Everyone fails in his duty at some point to some degree. Everyone needs to pray "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." for without forgiveness we’re lost.
A. We Are To Ask - One of our duties to God is to ask forgiveness when we fail to do His will.
1. In the O.T. We read Is 55:6-7
2. In the N.T. We read 1 Jn 1:9
B. We Fail To Ask - The Number one reason for praying this prayer is that we are "debtors", that is, sinners. Many people who repeat this prayer do not see themselves as sinners.
C. We Need To Ask - Sin creates barriers, it separates us from God, and from each other. Is 59:2,
1. Ep 1:7
2. Col 2:13-14
III. RECEIVING FORGIVENESS - How badly do we want forgiveness? Many people have the same concept of God as the German poet Heinrich Heine. Heine was on his death bed and his priest told him that God could forgive his sins to which the poet responded "Of course God will forgive me; that’s His job." Is it God’s job to up and forgive? What Jesus taught about forgiveness while teaching us to pray doesn’t agree with Heinrich.
A. The If / Than Statement. - Robert Louis Stevenson in his Picturesque Notes of Edinburgh tells the story of two unmarried sisters who shared a single room. As people are apt to do who live in close quarters, the sisters had a falling out, "on some point of controversial divinity." In other words, they disagreed over some aspect of theology. The controversy was so bitter that they never spoke to one another again! Yet, possibly because of a lack of means or because of the innate Scottish fear of scandal, they continued to live together in the single room. They drew a chalk line across the floor to separate their two domains. It divided the doorway and the fireplace, so that each could go in and out and do her cooking without stepping into the territory of the other. For years they coexisted in hateful silence. Their meals, their baths, their family visitors were continually exposed to the other's unfriendly silence. And at night, each went to bed listening to the heavy breathing of her enemy. Thus the two sisters (ostensibly daughters of the church!) continued the rest of their miserable lives. Jesus said "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors"? There is no way they could truly pray those words and remain bitter and unforgiving!
1. St. Augustine called this request "the terrible petition" because he realized that if we pray "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" with an unforgiving heart, we are actually asking God not to forgive us, for "debts" here really means "sins." When you get to this part in the Model prayer you are in effect saying, "Lord if there is someone whom I haven’t forgiven then don’t forgive me." Ouch! Forgiveness is tough. Charles Spurgeon stated, "Unless you have forgiven others, you read your own death-warrant when you repeat the Lord's Prayer."
2. You see, forgiveness is conditional. We have sinned against God, and others have sinned against us. If we want God to forgive us, we must forgive those who have sinned against us. How can we expect God to forgive us, if we do not forgive those who have sinned against us? We can expect no better treatment than we give. This one concept was so important that Christ not only mentioned it in the model prayer he went back to comment on it and literally uses three time more words to define what he said then he used to say it. Mt 6:14-15 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. While it may be easy to ask for forgiveness, it is much harder give forgiveness. - I forgive because I'm not bigger than God, but I'll never forget. - They won't get a dime from my will. - If they come within 500 feet, I'm calling the cops. Too often today we are shown that the only way to bring about closure is to seek revenge, retaliation. But that doesn’t bring about closure. A Chinese proverb says "Before starting down the road to revenge dig two graves" You don’t just forgive for the other person you need to forgive for yourself.
B. Dishing It Out - In 1994 a former pre-med student, Edward Summers, hijacked two young men in a jeep near a mall in Nyack, New York. He forced them out of the vehicle, had them lay down in the snow, and shot them both in the back of the head. Michael Falcone died instantly. Scott Nappi survived to point out the attacker in court. Summers was sentenced to 70 years to life in prison. Scott Nappi says his life has been changed irreparably. Friends and family avoid him. He told the reporter he wanted to know about his attacker's fate in prison. "Has he been threatened? Has he been beaten up yet? "I want to know if he's suffering yet. "That's what I'd really like. "I don't want him to go there and not be threatened. "He's paying for what he did, but I want him to pay even more." The reporter asked Nappi, "Can you see a time when you would ever forgive him?" "No, never. Never. Never, never." - While Jesus was hanging on the cross, after being unjustly tried convicted and flogged He said just the opposite Lk 23:34 "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."
1. Joseph is another model of genuine forgiveness. Joseph was rejected, kidnapped, enslaved, and imprisoned. Although his brothers had been unfaithful to him, he graciously forgave them and shared his prosperity. Joseph demonstrated how God forgives us and showers us with goodness even though we have sinned against him. - Not only is our forgiveness of other necessary it’s also our duty.
a. Ep 4:32
b. Co 3:12-13
2. Mamie Mobley's only son was visiting relatives and friends in Mississippi one summer in 1956. Outside a general store, with boys playing games on the front porch, eleven-year-old Emmett decided to go into the store and buy some bubble gum and some candy. As Emmett and some other boys came out of the store someone asked Emmett, "How'd you like the lady in the store?" Emmett whistled his approval. Someone nearby heard his whistle and did not like an African-American whistling at a Caucasian woman. It was 2:30 a.m. the next Sunday when two men stormed into the house where Emmett was staying and took him at gun point. Three days later they discovered his badly beaten body. Years after the tragedy she was asked, "Don't you harbor any bitterness toward the two men?" Mamie's reply reveals the depth of her faith: "From the very beginning that's the question that has always been raised. What they had done was not for me to punish and it was not for me to go around hugging hate to myself, because hate would destroy me. It wouldn't hurt them. I did not wish them dead. I did not wish them in jail. If I had to, I could take their four little children and I could raise those children as if they were my own and I could have loved them." I believe the Lord meant what he said, and [I] try to live according to the way I've been taught." Through this terrible ordeal she can honestly say, "I haven't spent one night hating those people." - Real forgiveness does not keep track of offenses. The rabbis taught that people should forgive those who offend them - but only three times. Peter, trying to be especially generous, asked Jesus if seven (the "perfect" number) was enough times to forgive someone. But Jesus answered, "Seventy times seven," meaning that we shouldn't even keep track of how many times we forgive someone. We should always forgive those who are truly repentant, no matter how many times they ask.
CONCL. - In a recent article on the Daily Motivator by Ralph Marston the value of forgiveness was talked about. Here’s what the article had to say. “Forgiveness can indeed be difficult. Yet in the long run, it is far easier to forgive than to live with resentment or continuing retribution. Through forgiveness, you can move away from the pains of the past. With forgiveness, you can achieve real freedom. There are always opportunities to benefit from the value of forgiveness. You can forgive yourself, you can forgive others, and you can forgive even when you don't know exactly who to forgive. Because forgiveness is not about who is to blame or who is at fault. Forgiveness is mostly about letting go, completely and permanently, within yourself. Forgiveness is recognizing the reality that what has happened has happened, and that there's no point in allowing it to dominate your life. Forgiveness refreshingly clears the slate and enables you to move positively forward. Carrying around a load of resentment can be an enormous and unnecessary burden. Forgive early and often, and you'll considerably lighten your load. - While forgiveness definitely has positive results, it has to be given away before the benefits can be felt and enjoyed especially, the forgiveness that will come form God in return. So, are you ready to pray Forgive me as I forgive?