Hey. So glad that you’re here today. Laurie and I are having the time of our lives. We get to be ambassadors on your behalf. We get to go and coach and mentor and help other churches and pastors and staff. Most every week, I get to sit with you and get to hear Eric as he teaches. Is he a spectacular teacher or what? It is so good. Last week, Doug Fields, who I just love because he is so clever how he uses humor to get us to drop all of our defenses and then teaches us God’s Word in such a powerful way.
We’re going to pick up right where he left off. We are on a series on relationships. How many of you have incurred a financial debt over the course of your life (a mortgage, a car payment, business debt)? There’s one rule when it comes to financial debt. You owe… This is going to be a bit more complicated than I thought. Your answer is, “I pay.” The rule in finances is, you owe; you pay.
It’s pretty simple. You don’t get to go to the bank and go, “This mortgage that I have is really hurting my happiness. I’m just not enjoying my life. So I’m just not going to pay it back. They’re very serious about these things. If you don’t pay them back, they’re going to release some rabid lawyer, and he’s going to take everything that you own.
If you go out on the streets and you get a loan, the person you get a loan from on the streets is called a loan shark. He’s not the loan support animal. He is a loan shark, and typically has a guy named Vido who will come and visit you if you don’t pay him. Because there’s one rule. You owe; you pay.
The question is…How do you settle relational accounts?
What happens is when some coworker or friend or family member or somebody who is close to you hurts to you without any justification, you trusted them, and they lied to you, they say something behind your back, they betray you, they break a promise, they take an opportunity from you of some kind, they hurt you, they hurt your reputation, they embarrass you, there is a moral gap. There is a debt.
It seems like the whole universe wants to create equalization. Without thinking, what you do is you just fall back into the same thing. “You hurt me, so I hurt you. You take an opportunity from me; I take an opportunity from you. You steal my happiness; I’m going to destroy your happiness. You hurt my reputation; I’m going to hurt your reputation.”
There has to be some kind of payment because it’s simple. You owe; you pay. We are creative in making people pay. We freeze them out. We ruin their reputation. We reject them. We punish them. The whole time, all we’re trying to do is to do what’s fair, what’s right. We’re not evil. We’re just trying to make things right. That’s just the way that we are.
Minimally, somebody hurts you, they have to apologize. Right? They have to demonstrate true sadness for what they did. They should bake you a cake or give you a $100 gift certificate. Or if it was in front of other people and they emotionally punched you in the face, you get to punch them in the face. Fair is fair. So we just think through this.
What’s natural and normal, and that’s just the way it works in the world is Jesus comes along, and Jesus says something that is absolutely overwhelming. You watch. You already know this, even though you don’t like it. Jesus came and said, “When someone hurts you, the way to resolve that relationship imbalance is that you are to forgive. See, you already knew. You don’t like saying it, but you know that you are to forgive them.
In our hearts, if we were honest and alone, we’d say, “Really, Jesus? I get it’s generally a good rule, but with what my brother did to me, with what my sister did to me, with what my family did to me, with what my good friend to me, with my story, which is the exception [really?], with the pain and the hurt that I’ve gone through, I just forgive them?”
While forgiveness is very hard, it is absolutely what Jesus says that we must do. Here’s the point. What Jesus says is, “This is the only way that you can have a long relationship. It’s the only way that you can be a healthy person if you are a follower of Jesus.” We’re going to look at what Jesus said.
You need to understand if you’re not a follower of Jesus, I don’t know how you would do what Jesus says. It’s very hard, but it’s interesting to look and at least understand. I think by seeing it, you’ll go, “Wow, this really is the way relationships will work.” For those of us who are Jesus followers, really, I think this is the hardest thing that Jesus asks us to do. Very expensive. But it is the only way life works.
We’re going to look at Matthew 18. Jesus tells a story there. If you have a Bible, you want to turn there. It’ll be up on the screen. Here’s what happened. The disciples were with Jesus. They heard Jesus talk about the way to manage relational accounts was to forgive.
So Peter is thinking, “How far does this forgiveness go?” Okay, I’ll forgive. Maybe once. Maybe twice. There were other rabbis that taught that you should forgive three times.” So Peter is thinking, “Jesus’ standards are always higher, so I’ll go to six. I’ll double it. I’ll round up one. I’ll go seven.” I think Peter really is expecting when he says this to Jesus that Jesus would say, “Oh my gosh. Peter, you are amazing. No, no. That’s too much.” But this is what Jesus says.
“Then Peter came to him and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?'” Peter is expecting, “Oh, Peter. You’re amazing. You’re wonderful.” But Jesus says this. “‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!'” Which means unlimited. There are no limits here, which imagine was like, “What?”
Then Jesus tells a story. This is a made up story. It’s a parable. The reason why you want to know it’s made-up is because every detail matters because Jesus is teaching through the details because it’s a made-up story.
Before he tells the story, he says this. “This is how my followers will live because their hearts have been transformed by love. Anyone in my kingdom [which is a way of saying, “Their hearts have been changed by my love.”], this is how you live.” Then he tells a story that you will never forget. It’s a made-up story, but a story.
He says, “There was a king who decided to settle his accounts. So he called in a servant who owed him 10,000 talents.” What’s significant about that number is a talent was what a person in Jesus’ day would earn in a lifetime. So this is a debt that you would earn in 10,000 lifetimes. If you’re really good with math, you’re going to realize it’s north of $1 billion. The point is it’s unpayable. It’s a debt that is unpayable.
The question is, “How can a guy get in that much debt?” The obvious answer is by trying really hard. This is going to come back at all of us because this is a picture of who we. We have unpayable debt because we worked at it really hard.
The king comes to him and says, “You have to pay.” He says, ” I can’t pay the debt.” So he goes, “I’m going to throw you in jail, and then I’m going to sell your wife and your children into slavery,” which would’ve been typical in that day. The person cries out for mercy, and he says these words. “…be patient with me, and I will pay it all.” Is that a reasonable request from this person? No, because you can’t repay something that would take 10,000 lifetimes to repay. You can’t do that. So it’s unreasonable.
What’s funny is Matthew is the only one who records this. I know it’s because Matthew was a tax collector. He probably had a guy named Vido who worked for him, and he’s thinking, “If I had a dollar for every time somebody said, ‘Just wait, and I’ll pay everything I owe,’ I’d be a rich man.” Matthew is just fascinated by this story.
Here’s what is amazing. The king says, “You owe; I’ll pay. I’ll absorb the debt. Debt doesn’t go away, so I’ll pay the debt that you owe. I am going to forgive you, pardon you. The slate is wiped clean. You have a whole new start.”
Then, what’s amazing is this servant goes out and finds a coworker, and this coworker owes him what is equivalent to four month’s salary. That’s a real debt. That’s real money. So he says, “You owe me. You have to pay me this debt. The person says the exact same words that he said. He says, “Please be patient with me, and I will repay you everything that I owe.” I that a reasonable request? It actually is. You could do that. You could pay something that was four months’ salary.
You just know what’s going to happen. You just know. Your listening to this story. You’re leaning in. You go, “I know what he’s going to say. A smile is going to break on the servant’s face, and he’s going to say, with tears in his eyes, ‘This is the best day ever. I have good news for you. I went to the king, and I had an unpayable debt. I mean, not in 10,000 lifetimes could I pay it. He forgave me my debt. So good news, buddy. I’m forgiving you your debt. Woo! High five. Best day ever.'”
But you’re not responding because you’ve heard this story. What does happen is he says, “No.” He literally grabs the guy by the throat, and he says, “You pay me everything you owe me,” and he throws the guy in jail. People see what happens. Somebody forgives somebody what it would take in 10,000 lifetimes (billions of dollars), you get that kind of a windfall, and that you go exact that kind of payment from somebody, everyone’s going to know.
They see it. They are incensed. They are scandalized. So they go to the king, and they go, “You can’t believe what this guy did. You forgave him this unpayable debt. He’s a billion-dollar-debtor. He went out and threw a guy in jail for a few hundred dollars. This is wrong.” So the king calls him in, and look at what he says.
“Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?'” Yeah. “Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.”
Two key words: prison and tortured. Circle them on your outline.
Now read with me God’s Word. Fill God’s house with God’s Word. “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” So what happens to people who are Jesus followers who do not forgive? They are put in a prison of their own making, and they are tortured. What does that mean? You’ve seen it, and you know it.
When we don’t forgive when we have been forgiven a debt, the way that we throw ourselves in jail is that we take the people who have hurt us in our past, the events, those experiences when you were lied to, when you were failed, when someone betrayed you, embarrassed you, abandoned you, stole an opportunity from you, you take all of those things in your past, you drag them into your future, and you bring them into your job, into your family, into your marriage, and you imprison yourself with anger and bitterness and resentment.
You torture yourself and everybody else in your life by holding onto them and wanting to tell this story about how you got hurt so much by it. You literally invite them into your future. So you go, “Who would want to do that? Why would you do that?” The question is…How long are you going to do that?
Anybody would say, “I don’t want to do that.” Well, what are you going to do? Are you going to ignore it? Are you drink it away? You’re going to resent them away? What’s your plan for dealing with this?
The other thing that happens that Jesus is very clear on is everyone knew how wrong what the first servant did was. Everyone knew. This guy had been forgiven. He was a billion-dollar debtor. He was forgiven. It’s just wrong if someone is forgiven such a big debt to not extend that forgiveness to another person. Which is Jesus’ point and a warning to all of us.
If you are a follower of Jesus, like I am, everyone knows what we believe. Everyone knows. Your friends know. Your family members know. Your coworkers know what you believe. Even if they don’t believe it, they know that you believe that Jesus paid your debt by dying on the cross for your sins. It was an unpayable debt.
That you say you were a forgiven person, they know what you believe, and they are equally scandalized when you don’t extend forgiveness. They know it’s wrong. They might not believe what you believe, but they know you’re wrong if you don’t extend forgiveness because it would make no sense for you to be forgiven so much and not to extend your forgiveness. Everyone knows what forgiveness looks like. You’ve talked to someone.
I have a friend. Over the course of time, as I got to know them, you say to them, “I had no idea that you were raised in a home like that.” Or you might say, “…that you lived through a marriage like that,” or, “…you were betrayed by your brother or sister like that,” or, “…you had a business partner who hurt you like that. How did you get through that? How did you get over that? How did you go from, ‘Oh my gosh. That’s terrible,’ to the incredible beauty and grace and peace and kindness in your life”?
Every time you ask someone that, here’s the answer.
“By God’s grace, I chose to forgive. I set them free, so I am free.” That’s what it looks like. Here’s the most important part (the last part) is the cost to you. When you are in this prison, and you are being tortured, you do not experience God’s love and grace. You might be forgiven, but you don’t really know what it means to be forgiven by God. You really don’t, and that’s why you don’t extend it.
Look at what Jesus said in Matthew 6, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” That is a statement of the reality of where you live every day. You will not experience the forgiveness of your own sins if you don’t forgive.
He said it again in Luke 6. “Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” You forgive, and your gift will return in full. Press down, shaken together, running over, and he goes on. This is what Jesus is saying.
You have a choice to live one of two ways. You’re either going to understand and embrace God’s forgiveness and say, “I am forgiven…” When you are hurt, as hard as it is, you’re going to extend that forgiveness. In that moment, when you extend it, you’re going to realize, “This is what God did for me. He forgave me. He pardoned me. As hard as it was, as much hurt is there, this is what it’s like to forgive. God forgave me this way.”
You’re going to experience God’s forgiveness in a whole new fresh way, which means you’re going to be more excited about his love and his grace, so you’re going extend more forgiveness, and you’re going to be a more peaceful and loving person, and you’re going to live in his forgiveness, and it just keeps going around.
Or you’re going to be like this wicked servant where you’re going to get hurt, and you’re going to say, “You owe, so you pay.” That’s how God treats you in your mind. You have a debt, and you’re working hard, and you’re being really religious. You’re saying, “I owe, so I pay. I work hard, and I’m saying, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry,'” because, in your mind, your debt is not unpayable. You actually believe somehow you could pay God what Jesus says is unpayable.
So when somebody hurts you, you go, “Hey, fair is fair. I’m going to make you pay because you think God makes you pay,” and you never understand. The reason God gives us forgiveness is so that we can then extend forgiveness, so we’re released from our past, and we can move forward. Forgiveness lets us step out of the jail of pain and anger so that we’re free, so we can set others free. The only way we can understand we’re free is by embracing God’s grace.
On the back of your outlines, I want to run through this another way, which is a way of looking at forgiveness. We think of conditional forgiveness, or I have five kinds of forgiveness. I’m going to show you what the definition of what forgiveness is, what the implication for a relationship is, and why, ultimately, it’s because of your view of God that you hold onto this.
Some people just live with conditional forgiveness. Conditional forgiveness is basically this. You owe; you pay. There is no forgiveness unless you pay. You have to ask for forgiveness, or I can’t extend it to you. I hurt you; you hurt me; I’m going to hurt you. There’s going to be a gap, so you have to pay.
What does that do for relationships? There’s always this even-ness. There are has to be this equalization. You hurt me; I’m going to hurt you. You hurt me; you’re going to have to pay. In relationships, there’s no grace, and there’s no love. You’re always earning someone’s love.
Ultimately, it’s because that’s the way you believe God treats you. God’s love is conditional, so God won’t really love you unless you’re really sorry for what you’ve done, unless you’re willing to pay for what you’ve done. So you usually, with shame and guilt, are going, “I feel so bad,” and you’re always trying to earn his love, and that’s how you treat other people. There is no relationship with conditional forgiveness.
The second kind of forgiveness is indifference. People make a mistake believing that when you’re indifferent, that’s forgiveness. Somebody hurts you, and you go, “Whatever. I don’t care about you. You’re dead to me. You’re just dead to me.” You think that’s forgiving.
Well, ask the person on the other side if that’s forgiving. Basically, they’re saying, “There is no relationship, and there’s no vulnerability and connectedness.” They’re dead to you. The reason you do that is that’s how you think God treats you. When you fail, God goes, “Hah. Whatever, because you’re dead to me. I don’t care what you do. Live how you want because it just doesn’t matter.” You don’t think God loves you. God doesn’t forgive you.
The third kind of forgiveness is indebted forgiveness. Oh, we love this kind of forgiveness because this is hostage-taking forgiveness. We say, “You hurt me? You owe. So you’re going to pay, and you’re going to pay, and you’re going to pay. Then I’ll forgive you, and you’ll still pay.” Who wants to be in a relationship like that? No one. Everybody goes, “Forget this. I’m out, because I can’t pay and pay and pay.”
What’s sad to me is there are many people who believe that’s what God is like. I have a couple of friends who don’t come to church who I love, and they are not believers, and this is what they believe God is like. They literally go, “Look. I try, but I can’t be good enough. I never can pay for the evil that I did. I just can’t. I try.” Basically, what they’re saying is, “I owe, and I owe, and I have debts, and I can’t pay,” because they think God is just always holding it over their head. They cannot embrace a God who forgives.
Then there’s reasonable forgiveness, which is what I think all of us have. We say, “Okay, a dollar? I’ll forgive you a dollar. I’ll forgive $5, $10, $100, but let’s be reasonable.” This is sort of the question Peter asked. “There has to be limits here.” So whatever your number is, when people cross that line, you’re out. Done. “No one would expect me to forgive at this number.”
Do you know what the problem is? Whatever your line is, people are going to find it and cross it. So there’s no relationship, and they’re dead to you because there’s no forgiveness after a certain line. Do you know why you believe that? Because you think God is that way. And oh yeah, God loves you because there are spiritual misdemeanors, and you’re good with those, and you’ve done that, but felonies? You’re out. The problem is you’re just lying to yourself because you’ve all done spiritual felonies.
The only way relationship is possible is in unconditional forgiveness, unmerited favor. It is when you have a debt you cannot pay. You can’t pay. God says, “I get it. You can’t pay. You owe; I’ll pay. You’re pardoned. You’re set free. You get a brand-new start. I’m going to let you go.”
The reason why it works in relationship is because people know they can’t pay. It’s like, “Wow, you gave me a fresh start. It’s new.” You go, “It’s great.” The reason you do it is because you believe that’s what God is like. It makes no sense (50:38), but we have a God who is generous and extends this incredible grace.
I know as we talk about that there are some of you who are just grabbing on with white knuckles going… So what is forgiveness not? Forgiveness does not mean that you are approving or excusing wrong behavior. It’s not like you go, “Oh, hey. No problem. You can just do all these wrong things. That’s not what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is not denying or pretending it doesn’t hurt. It hurts. When people hurt, it hurts. It’s a real debt, and there’s really pain.
Forgiveness is not letting go of consequences. All of my kids would do something wrong, and they’d go, “Dad, don’t you forgive me?”
“Yeah, I forgive you.”
“Well, then, there shouldn’t be a consequence. Oh, no. There’s a consequence. You have to learn.”
When you look at our story with God, there was a consequence. Jesus had to go to the cross to die. That was a consequence of our sin. When we sin, and we hurt people, there are still consequences. Sin hurts. It’s not like consequences go away. It does not mean that you are a punching bag for a person.
It doesn’t mean you forgive them and go, “Hit me? Okay. Just fine.” That’s not what it means when it says, “Turn the other cheek.” Don’t write me about it, because that’s what I’m saying. The point is you’re just saying, “Oh, hit me. Okay. Go ahead. Hit me again. Hit me again.” That is not what Jesus is teaching about in forgiveness.
It doesn’t mean you let go of justice. One of the beautiful parts of living in America is if someone steals from you, they take money from you, we have a justice system. Police are a good thing. The courts are a good thing. You don’t walk in and just say, “I forgive him, so courts forgive him.” You have a justice system so you don’t have to retaliate because the system will take care of justice. There are people who live in other countries in the world, and there is no justice system, and God still expects them to forgive. It’s way easier to be American and be a forgiver. It just is.
Here’s most important. It does not mean you trust the person, and that you’ve reconciled with them. So if a person hurts you, you remember the trust game you played as a kid? You’d stand there, close your eyes, and say, “I trust you. You’re my friend, right?” You do the fall of trust thing, and the person catches you. Well, if they go, “Okay, fall,” and you go, “I trust you.” And woo, boom, are you going to do it again?
Shame on you. They’ve proven themselves untrustworthy. Forgiveness does not mean you continually put yourself in a place with an untrustworthy person, and it does not mean reconciliation. Jesus goes to the cross, and he pays the price for your forgiveness. God has forgiven. Are you reconciled to our heavenly Father? No. Not until you receive that gift of Jesus as your personal Savior, are you then reconciled. It takes two people to reconcile.
What you’ve done when you’ve forgiven is you’ve done what the Bible says, where as far as it depends upon you, you live at peace with all people. You have forgiven. You’ve canceled the debt. They’re free.
In Jesus’ story, there are only two ways for the bad servant to get out of jail. One was to pay the debt, which was impossible, or the second way he could get out of jail is to forgive the other servant. If he would forgive, he would be set free in Jesus’ story.
How do we forgive? This what it says in Ephesians 4. This is the biblical way to forgive. It’s real simple and very easy to understand. Look at the first point. First, you have to keep anger in its place. “And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry…”
Last week, Doug Fields did a great job talking about anger. If you didn’t hear that, go back and listen to it. He talked about this. The first step. You have to keep anger in its place because if you don’t, look at what happens. “…for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” If you have anger and you let that anger sit, and there is sunset after sunset after sunset, that anger turns into bitterness and resentment and into vengeance really quickly.
Basically, when you have anger in your heart day after day, it says your giving Satan a foothold. That word foothold there literally means space and place. Do you know the devil’s name means? The deceiver, the liar, the accuser, the slanderer. Literally, it says you’re giving him a headquarters in your life. So he walks in with his office, and he sets up, and he sets out to ruin your life. Here’s what he says to you all the time.
He just whispers, and he goes, “Did you see what they did to you? They hurt you, and you were so right, and they were so wrong. You were just fine. You were going alone, and they betrayed you, and they lied about you, and they stole to you. Right is right, and they owe you. When they owe, they have to pay. You have to get even.” Here’s the greatest lie that Satan whispers to you all the time. He says, “You can’t forgive until they apologize.”
It is a lie from hell. The reason is because that’s conditional forgiveness. They’re not going to apologize because half the time, they don’t even know what they did, which is the beautiful thing about forgiveness because Jesus on the cross said, “Forgive them. They don’t need to know what they’ve done.”
The other time is they just aren’t going to. If you live as a victim because they’re never going to apologize, you go first so you can move on. You have to move on. So he does it. He puts you in prison. Understand you have to deal with anger, or Satan has a stronghold in your life.
He says, “What we do is we join the Holy Spirit and his work in our life.” What is the Holy Spirit doing? Not only, when you believe in Jesus, do you get forgiveness, but he gives you the Holy Spirit. So he says, “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.” Bring sorrow means don’t grieve him or make his job harder.
What’s the Holy Spirit’s job? “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander…” When you join him in saying, “I have to get rid of this anger and bitterness, harsh words and slander, you’re joining the Holy Spirit in the work he’s done. You can’t do it alone. He’s going to do it as well.
“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving…” Again, which is the work of the Holy Spirit. You go, “I can’t do that. I can’t. I can’t let go of it.” The good news is maybe you can’t, but God can. Philippians 2:13 says, “God works in your heart, first to make you want to. Then he gives you the ability to do the very thing that you want.”
The Holy Spirit works in your heart, and he creates the desire, so you can say, “I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to retaliate. There’s enough pain in the world. I don’t want to add more to the pain in the world. I don’t want to pretend that my debt is less than other people’s debt. I don’t want to live in this vicious cycle. I want to forgive.” That is a work of the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, he says he gives you the ability to forgive. It’s the hardest thing, but when it comes down to it, do you know what forgiveness is? You simply saying, “By God’s grace, I choose to forgive. You’re free, so I can move on.” That’s what it is. Look at what it says in this passage. We are to forgive, “… just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Here’s the discipline of forgiveness. This what I do on a regular basis. This is how you live a forgiving life.
First, you just embrace God’s forgiveness in your life. What you have to do is in a daily time, just being honest or being vulnerable. The Bible term is confession. What I do is I make a list, and I write down the things in my list, and I go, “I’m forgiven.” I write where I was petty or small, and I go, “I’m forgiven.” Where I didn’t tell the truth, and I go, “I’m forgiven.”
The reason that I’m honest is that I’m honest with my billion-dollar debt. The truth is, of all of us, most all of us think our debt isn’t unpayable. I’m pretty sure. I know some of you. You know what, your debt is pretty unpayable, but mine is not so bad.
But the truth is, when I sit down, and I start writing the things in my life, I join Paul in what he said. I am the greatest sinner I know. I know my thoughts, my intentions. I know how petty I am. I know what I think about people at certain times. It isn’t overwhelming, and it’s not shame and guilt. I go, “God, I did this, and oh, you forgave me. I am forgiven. It’s just a celebration of forgiveness as I write these things down. I go, “I am forgiven. I embrace God’s forgiveness.”
Then the second thing I do is I write a second list, and I’m always surprised at how much energy and joy I get out of the second list. When somebody hurts me, I write down, “They hurt me.” It goes like this. “I was so innocent and so good, and they were so mean and so inciteful.” I have energy, and I’m going after it. “They didn’t… I was… It was so good… They don’t…” I’m going after it like that. It’s just there.
You know what? When I look at it, I go, “They couldn’t even pay for what they did to me.” With what I list, I go, “What could they do to make this right?” They don’t even want to. What I do then is I look at the two lists. I go, “Here’s God’s forgiveness to me in my life. Here’s what people have done to me.” So I just write over the second list, “Forgiven. Set free.”
Sometimes, some people (not you, but other people in other services) write mean emails to me. Do you know what I write across their mean emails? Forgiven. I just go, “I forgive them. Set them free.” You just do it.
I know what you think. Here’s the problem. For those of us who struggle with forgiveness, you’re going, “It’s just not that simple, Kenton. If you knew what they did to me, and you understand the pain, you’re asking me to let go of something. It’s not fair, and it’s not right. They owe. You’re asking me to let go.” I’m telling you what I’m asking you to let go of. Jail and torture. That’s really all your letting go of.
Do you know when you live over there what you have let go of? Really? You have let go of joy and freedom and relationship and connection. The thrill of a God who forgives you. The incredible joy of being set free because you set someone else free. That’s what you’re really missing. When you do that, you look back, and you go, “What did I think I was getting out of the anger and resentment and the bitterness and being so right and holding onto what is so fair. They owe; they should pay. What did I really get out of that?”
The truth is, God’s forgiveness is such a spectacular gift. He gives us this gift to set us free, so we can release and set others free, so we can live a life of total freedom. Don’t you want that? Why would you drag the past pain around for one more day? What are you getting out of it that you want so bad? What are you giving up by holding onto it?
Do you want to let it go? I want you to bow with your eyes closed. Just hold your hands out in front of you. I want you to do this profound spiritual discipline. This is not just a game This is real. I want you to take a moment with your hands out and enjoy the truth of his forgiveness.
Begin to just list the places that you know and go, “Thank you for forgiving me. Where I was small and petty, thank you for your forgiveness. Where I wasn’t telling the truth, when I wanted to be bigger than I really am, when I wanted people to know, when I was unforgiving, God forgive me.” Just say, “God, thank you for your forgiveness. Thank you for your forgiveness.”
It’s just joy in a moment. Can you feel his forgiveness? He forgives you. Then take that situation, that pain, that angst, that person that you’ve been dragging around in your heart and saying, “I don’t want to take this anymore.” Say, “I’m going to release them so I can be free. I’m going to set them free, so I can be free.” Just say, “God, by your grace, I forgive them.” In fact, just say it in a whisper loud enough for you to hear yourself say it. “Father, by your grace, I forgive them. Father, by your grace, I forgive them.”
God, would you every day remind them of your incredible grace to us, your love, that gives us a fresh start, so we can be free. And then, Father, would you make us mindful that every day we have a choice when we are hurt, to release that hurt and set those people free so we can live in your love and grace.
Let’s stand and worship him together.
Next week, we’re going to finish our relationship series, and we’re going to have time at the end of the service, where we’re going to pray and experience God’s healing. You want to be sure and be here for that. In two weeks, we begin our new series titled A Better Way to Live, and you can pick up cards. Invite your friends. It’s going to be a great series.
If you need to pray with someone, help to understand what it means or to extend forgiveness, there’s a team of people over here who would love to pray with you. Or, if your need is to be prayed for healing, you can go outside these doors to the right, elders are there. They’ll pray for your healing. Hold out your hands and receive God’s blessing.
Look at your children, they love you. Would you bless them and keep them? Would you cause your face to shine upon them and be gracious to them? Would you lift up the light of your countenance? Would you turn your attention towards them when they cry out? Would you deliver and rescue and save? God, would you give them your peace. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Go in God’s grace. Have a great day.