Have a Spirit of Forgiveness (3), Sermon 02/24/2019

THE STEPS TO THE ABUNDENT LIFE        

“Have Spirit of Forgiveness” (3)

“Ps. 40:6-10; Matt. 18:21-22

It is not easy to forgive. Wrongs dig deep into our lives, fester, and produce pain. A child is killed by a careless driver. A wife or husband is unfaithful. A neighbor builds a fence across another’s property. Someone in the community creates false rumors. A friend cheats to win. It’s easy to talk about forgiveness, but forgiving others is hard.

Has someone been cruel to you? Has someone hurt you deeply? Maybe you think there is no way you could ever forgive that person. On your own strength, you probably can’t. But you can ask Christ to give you His forgiveness.

In the gospel of Matthew, chapter 18, Simon Peter asks Jesus, “How often shall I forgive my brother?” Of course, Simon knew the Jewish law: forgive a first offense, forgive a second and a third, but punish the fourth-forgive three times, but then get even! Simon Peter, wanting to show his mercy (and perhaps hoping to impress Jesus ) went beyond the Talmud:

“Shall I forgive him seven times?” But Christ’s teaching is that forgiveness should be unlimited:

“No, not 7 times, but 70 times 7!” And by that Jesus means, forgive every time! Forgive an untold, never ending number of times.

For the Jews, the number seven was the number of perfection. When time has run through seven days, it begins again; the cycle is complete. So no expression could more convey the fact that forgiveness is to be unlimited than this “forgive 70 times 7.”

Forgiveness is an overflowing spirit. It keeps no score of wrongs; it holds no grudges. It is merciful, as God is merciful! Because God has forgiven all our sins, we should not withhold forgiveness from others, realizing how completely Christ has forgiven us should produce a free and generous attitude of forgiveness toward others.

Forgiving begins with a recognition of our need for forgiveness. In the eighth chapter of John is a story of Jesus teaching near the temple. The scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They placed her before Him, repeated their case against her, and then reminded Jesus that the Law of Moses commanded that she be stoned. “What do you say?” they asked to test Jesus. Jesus said nothing but looked down, writing in the sand. They continue their questions. He then spoke: “Let anyone among you who is without sin, be the first to throw a stone at her” (verse7). When they heard his words, one by one they went away. Is there anyone without sin?

Jesus said, “…if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God and suddenly remember that a friend has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar and go and apologize and be reconciled to him and then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”

If we have a problem with someone, we should resolve the problem as soon as possible. We are hypocrites if we claim to have a right relationship with God, while we have wrong relationships with others. When we don’t forgive others, we are setting ourselves outside and above Jesus’ law of love.

The price of forgiveness for our sin was not easy to pay. The cross on which Jesus died was an instrument of execution. Jesus’ death was a beautiful giving of self, but it was brutal. His death was a painful and horrible price to pay for sin. The cross is a constant reminder of the cost of forgiveness.

God offers us the grace that not only covers our sins, but also enables us to forgive the sins of people who do wrong things to us. That kind of grace received and offered can change our home, can change our lives and can change our church.

A couple had gone to an orphanage to adopt a child. One little fellow particularly appealed to them. They talked to him about all the things they would give him; clothes, toys, a good home. None of these things seemed to appeal to the boy much. So finally they asked him, “What do you want most?” He replied, “l just want somebody to love me.”

Dear friends!

That is what we all want. Deep in every human heart is a hunger for love. Loneliness is a cross for more people than we realize. Yet people are hard to love.

They say things they shouldn’t, many have unattractive spirits, yet Jesus told us to pray, “Forgive as we forgive.” This is the only petition He emphasized. Every time we enter the sanctuary, we have the symbol of our forgiveness before us; “The cross of Jesus Christ.”

Forgiveness is a continuing response to God’s forgiving love, which is essential if the mercy of God is to remain alive and active in our lives. Forgiveness changes our lives. When we accept forgiveness and when we forgive others, wonderful things begin to happen!

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