One of the most challenging events takes place in the human heart prior to us coming to salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the realization of our need for forgiveness. Most people will agree with you that they have done some things in their lives that may not be totally right and most will agree that there have been a time or twenty when they have broken the 10 Commandments. The greatest challenge to the human will is the acceptance and confession that we are unable to justify ourselves; that we are sinners in need of a Savior.
We cannot save ourselves. We cannot right our own wrongs. There is nothing we can give, do or sacrifice that can tip the balance in our favor. We are stuck on the judgment side of justice.
But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3:22)
Are there those among us who have committed more sins than others among us? Yes. Are some sins more heinous in their evil and cruelty? Yes. Is there anyone on the planet that stands clean before God outside of the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ? No.
Forgiveness is something every human needs from God, and it is given to us freely because of the price paid by the Lord Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is also something that every human needs to give and receive to other humans. Let’s read some of Jesus’ words and then talk about this:
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven.”
“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 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?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35)
We cannot freely accept the forgiveness of God and remain wronged and offended by others. We cannot merely receive forgiveness; we must forgive.
… And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. (Matthew 6:12)
The sins we commit against one another are the sins that ravage humanity the most. Let’s look at the 10 Commandments:
- I am the Lord thy God, … Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images.
- Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
- Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long.
- Thou shalt not kill.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery.
- Thou shalt not steal.
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.
The first four commandments deal directly with sins against God Himself. The final six commandments are also sins against God but they are first committed against other people. Herein lays the heart of Christianity. We are to forgive those who have sinned against us as freely as God has forgiven us. Jesus even proclaims that if we know we have sinned against someone else we should attempt to seek their forgiveness prior to coming worship the Lord.
So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. (Matthew 5:23-24)
In the next chapter (same sermon) Jesus escalates the importance of forgiveness in our lives:
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. (Matthew 6:14-15)
We cannot receive from God that which we are unwilling to give once we have received it. We cannot ask to live under the covenant of Grace in the vertical relationship from ourselves to God and then live under the Old Covenant of an eye for an eye in the horizontal relationships between ourselves and others.
You may have been on the receiving end of some terrible sins in your life. People may have purposefully done things to you that were evil and sinful yet God asks that you allow the forgiveness He has given you to roll downhill. Jesus says we cannot have one without the other. We can’t be forgiven and free from sin in the eyes of the Father if we are unwilling to forgive those who have sinned against us.
Here are some oxymorons that cannot exist in the church:
- Angry Christians
- Bitter Christians
- Offended Christians
- Resentful Christians
- Hateful Christians
We hate sin and its effect on the lives of men and women, but we must love and forgive the sinners who commit those sins. We cannot condone any form of sin but we will never truly show the love and grace of God until we are willing to see the sinner redeemed and forgiven (by God and us).
These are the hard things to live. These are things that Jesus taught in the first century that amazed the scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the law. These are the things that make New Testament Christianity so different from other religions and philosophies. I want to make some hopefully obvious statements that fringe elements within the “church” have done or promote in the name of Jesus.
- We should not shoot doctors who perform abortions because abortion is a sin.
- God does not want to see anyone murdered; babies in the womb or mothers, doctors and nurses who kill babies in the womb.
- We are not in charge of the vengeance of God – He can and will handle it. We are in charge of fulfilling the Great Commission.
- If you want mothers, fathers, doctors and nurses not to be involved in abortions then we need to see them born again.
- We should not defame, denigrate and commit violence against homosexuals because homosexuality is a sin.
- Jesus died for the heterosexual and homosexual (and any other type of sexual). He wants all to be born again.
- We should not persecute or murder Muslims because they deny the diety of the Lord Jesus Christ and believe things about God that are not in the Old & New Testaments.
- If we judge and condemn someone based on their current beliefs and actions no one would ever be able to receive grace – including us.
The list could go on and on. There is a very distinct difference between the modern humanistic doctrine of inclusion that the media and government works so hard for us all to embrace and the grace of Jesus Christ. Inclusionists tell us that all ideas and points of view and valid and should have equal footing. Jesus tells us that He is the only way, truth and life, yet He also freely offers salvation to anyone who will accept it.
We cannot as Christians refuse to forgive the sins of those whom Jesus died on the cross for. The sinner is not the one harmed in this situation, but we the Christian have our relationship with God damaged.
Here is the heart of what I am trying to communicate:
- We are all sinners who have committed sins and stand in need of forgiveness from God
- Jesus Christ bore the penalty of our sins when He died upon the cross
- Jesus offers forgiveness of sins if we will accept and believe the gospel
- As Christians we are to forgive those who have sinned against us.
If God has forgiven you – you are to forgive others that have sinned against you. Easier said than done, I know.
Next time you find it hard to forgive someone who has sinned against you think about what it took for God to forgive you. God killed His Son on a cross instead of killing you and me – that was the price of our forgiveness. Talk about taking a bullet for someone – Jesus took the bullet for us and died in our place. It was we who deserved the cross because the wages of sin are death. It is because of Jesus that we can receive the gift of God’s eternal life.
If God can kill His Son for you and me and now call us righteous because of our faith in Christ’s sacrifice than we should be able to freely offer that which we have received so freely.
Let’s be Christians – let’s love our brothers and sisters and let’s also love our enemies.