Let us pray the prayer that Jesus taught: (I know that you all will tend to say the KJV but so we all say the same, let’s do it as on the screen [P] [Matthew 6:9-13 Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.] That is taken from Matthew 6:6-13 in the NASB, Jesus goes on to say: [Matthew 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.] [P]
Forgiveness is foundational: Forgiveness is fundamental – you can see Jesus made a big deal of it. In fact our relationship with God is dependent upon it. [P] We are related to God through a covenant – we have just remembered that in the communion we have shared. When Jesus shared that Passover with His disciples this is what He said when they drank the wine: [Matthew 26:28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.] Jesus established a covenant in His blood – for what purpose? – for the forgiveness of sins. Covenant is the basis of all relationship with God and the new covenant is a covenant of forgiveness: Jeremiah foretold this new covenant: [Jeremiah 31:34 “They will not teach again, each man his neighbour and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know יְהוָה,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares יְהוָה, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”] It is spoken of in: [Romans 11:27 This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.] and in: [Hebrews 10:16-18 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says יְהוָה: I will put My laws upon their heart, and on their mind I will write them,” He then says, “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.] We could not come before God without first being forgiven our sins. Forgiveness is foundational to the covenant we have with God, the basis of the whole of the way we relate to God. [Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace]. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing! Isn’t it wonderful to have your sin forgiven, for the debt to be paid, for the burden to be gone?! [Psalm 32:1-5 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom יְהוָה does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to יְהוָה”; and You forgave the guilt of my sin.] Hallelujah! This was the Good News that Jesus said to proclaim in all the world: [Luke 24:47 that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.] (Not sombre “good news” but fantastic news!) And that is what the early church preached: [Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.] It was a message of faith in Jesus, faith that resulted in forgiveness: [Acts 10:43 Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.].
Forgiveness is conditional: Forgiveness is the heart of the Gospel message it is foundational; but as we saw from Jesus’ teaching this forgiveness is conditional [P] We prayed it: “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” – we have already forgiven them first. [Matthew 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.] Our forgiveness which is absolutely foundational is completely dependent upon us forgiving others. If we don’t forgive others, we won’t be forgiven! That is scary stuff! I remember a fellowship I attended and there was a woman, an elder’s wife, who had attended the fellowship from its very inception – she sang up the front, a pillar of the church – but the pianist had offended her somehow, he had sought to resolve the issue – but she wouldn’t let it go – she bore a grudge. It’s scary – I feared for her salvation! God says I will cancel your debt, if you will cancel the debt that others owe you. We have been forgiven so much! [1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.] What we have to forgive is so little in comparison [Colossians 3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.]
A forgiving God: I said that forgiveness is foundational, it is essential. If there is no forgiveness we are done for! [Psalm 130:3-4 If You, יְהוָה, should mark iniquities, O יְהוָה, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.] But, praise His Name, God is a forgiving God [P]. There is forgiveness with Him! Hallelujah! When יְהוָה revealed Himself to Moses by His Name, let him see a portion of His glory – Moses was hidden in cleft in the rock and יְהוָה passed by – this was the revelation of יְהוָה Himself! [Exodus 34:6-7 Then יְהוָה passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “יְהוָה, יְהוָה God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth; who keeps loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.] Forgiveness is inherent in יְהוָה’s Name, His very character, part of who He is. When I started looking at this I was overwhelmed with all the references to this! It is a massive topic! Here is just a sample, a mere scratching of the surface:[Nehemiah 9:17 They refused to listen, and did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; so they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness; and You did not forsake them.] A wonderful psalm of forgiveness: [Psalm 103:1-4 Bless יְהוָה, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless יְהוָה, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with loving-kindness and compassion; Psalm 103:10-12 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His loving-kindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 65:3 Iniquities prevail against me; as for our transgressions, You forgive them. Psalm 86:5 For You, יְהוָה, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in loving-kindness to all who call upon You.] We have a forgiving God! Bless His Name! [Jeremiah 33:8 ‘I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned against Me and by which they have transgressed against Me.] The verse after the one on the wall behind me: [Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to יְהוָה, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 43:25 I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 44:22 “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” Isaiah 38:17 it is You who has kept my soul from the pit of nothingness, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back. Daniel 9:9 To יְהוָה our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; Micah 7:18 Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love.] Over and over again the Scriptures tell us that we have a forgiving God.
Forgiveness is not trivial He is so ready to forgive – that the trouble is we can be in danger of presuming upon it, regarding it lightly. “It doesn’t matter, God will forgive.” “Just say sorry and God will forgive.” The danger is that sin is trivialized. And forgiveness is not trivial! [P] Forgiveness is a serious and weighty matter – it is not trivial, something we brush aside, say sorry and carry on as before. Forgiveness is not trivial because the crime is not trivial. The fact is: that God made us, made us for Himself, with the purpose that we glorify Him – but we have all fallen short of that glory. We are His, we exist for Him. But every single one of us, like sheep has gone astray, every one has turned to their own way. We have gone our own way, lived our life as if it were our own, not His! This is rebellion – it came as a revelation to me one day reading [Deut 21:18-21] that the penalty for a rebellious son was stoning to death. And it hit me! I was a rebellious son! I knew that! Suddenly the Holy Spirit hit home to me through His Word that I was deserving of the death penalty! I had committed an awful crime! And that is true for every son of Adam – we are all rebels, and the wages of our sin is death. That is what we owe. We have taken our life for ourself, lived independently of God. We are in debt to God, we owe our life! – a life that is now corrupted and cannot be paid back. We owe a debt to God and we cannot pay! We need to realize the gravity of sin, the seriousness of our situation; forgiveness is our only hope having that debt forgiven. The psalmist appreciated the situation: [Psalm 25:11 For Your name’s sake, O יְהוָה, pardon my iniquity, for it is great!]
Forgiveness is costly Forgiveness is not facile – it is not “forgive and forget”. Forgiveness is not trivial because the debt is not trivial. We owe a debt that must be paid – and for us to be forgiven someone has to pay that debt. Forgiveness is costly [P] – because the debt is immense, it costs a great deal to pay it – we remember the cost every time we take communion. The thing with forgiveness is that the debt must still be paid! We understand it more clearly in financial things: say, for instance, I blew the engine in my car – I need transportation urgently but I’m skint. So I go to John who I know to be wealthy and generous and ask for a loan to buy a new car. Now time moves on and I’m still skint, and can’t pay John back. In the end come shame-faced to John (and begging forgiveness is humbling) and tell him there’s no way I’ll be able to pay him back, will he forgive the debt? – and, generous man that he is, he does. Now, the thing is, the new car still has to be paid for – I didn’t pay for it, who did? John did! But the debt still had to be paid! [P] And that is how forgiveness works – the debt does not vanish into thin air, magicked away – it still has to be paid – what it means is that someone else ends up paying it instead! And that is what Jesus did! Praise His Name! We owed a debt, our life, we couldn’t pay – so Jesus paid price Himself with His own life. That is why He had to die – He was paying my debt, redeeming me by paying what I owed. [1 Peter 1:17-19 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.] You can see how untrivial forgiveness is by the price paid to procure it! The precious blood of Jesus! It was costly! [1 Corinthians 6:20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.] The debt we owed and couldn’t pay, Jesus bore the cost of it: [1 Peter 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.] What we couldn’t pay, God gave: [John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.] But to give, cost Him His Son! Forgiveness is not trivial, it is costly! The debt had to be paid – it is just that someone else paid instead of us [Isaiah 53:6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but יְהוָה has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.] On the crosss Jesus said: "It is finished" (τετελεσται), which means: "paid in full!" The debt though costly has been paid!
Forgiveness is tangible Now forgiveness is not trivial, it is costly and something that costs that much is tangible [P]. What I mean is that we often regard forgiveness as something intangible – it is mental, some impression or attitude. Someone has something against you and they say that they forgive you – but I mean how do you know, you can’t grasp it or tell if it’s real – can you? Yes you can if it is real forgiveness, if the debt has been paid. The debt-collector is breathing down my neck, the bailiffs are at the door – then John pays the debt for me! Do the debt-collectors still come around? No, the forgiveness has a real and tangible effect. Do you know the story of Pilgrim’ Progress – of the burden that was lifted from his back – it was tangible, it was real, he knew! [Luke 7:36-47 Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.” “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. “When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. “You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. “You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”] The fact that she loved much showed that she had been forgiven. Here this woman came kissing Jesus feet, weeping, spent much on costly perfume – was this because of some vague impression, some intangible thing. No, her forgiveness was real – she knew that her sins were gone! The difference was real! That is why she poured out her love in a tangible way, because the forgiveness was tangible also.
Forgive as God forgave you: We need forgiveness and that forgiveness was no trivial thing, it cost God dearly. Jesus made it clear that forgiveness is conditional – it is dependent upon us forgiving others. The forgiveness comes from God but only if we forgive others. When Rhoda and I got engaged Murray’s wife, Kay, gave us very appropriate verse – a well known memory verse: [Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.] We have to forgive others as God forgave us in His Son, the Messiah [P]. As He forgave us, in just the same way we must forgive each other. You go through life, you interact with people and inevitably you run up some debts and some people end up owing you. The Bible says [Romans 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.]. But inevitably, people end up owing you. It may be money, it may be an obligation. If we do something for someone, we say, “you owe me one.” It may be a moral obligation, someone may have wronged you, insulted you, caused offense. You hold something against that person – you hold them obligated, they owe you, they have a debt – a wrong that they are obligated to right. Now you can, like the elder’s wife I mentioned, hold that debt, hold a grudge; or you can let it go, you can forgive. Under the Law you had the right to hold people obligated: [Matthew 5:38-41 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ (they had to pay back what they had wronged) “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.] Jesus taught a different way. It ain’t easy, people can take advantage, make you a door-mat, walk all over you. I mean, do you let people continue to wrong you? [Matthew 18:21-35 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. “When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. “But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. “So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ “And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ “So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ “But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. “So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. “Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. (he was forgiven then was un-forgiven) “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.] When you think how much we have been forgiven, what we are asked to forgive is quite trivial in comparison. If we do not forgive, we jeopardise our own forgiveness. That slave had been forgiven, then lost that forgiveness and had to pay back, was handed to the torturers!
Forgiveness is not trivial The thing is we are good Christians, we know about forgiveness. We are loving and kind and don’t want to cause offense. If someone wrongs us or comes up and apologizes we say, “it is nothing” “It doesn’t matter” “Forget it” – we brush it aside – no! It is something – that is why it has to be forgiven. Forgiveness is not trivial [P]. Sometimes it actually is nothing, it is no issue, we may not even be aware of the matter; if so, forgiveness is not required. There is no debt, we are not holding anything against them. Forgiveness is only required if we are holding them indebted to us; if there really is something that needs to be dealt with. Forgiveness is not trivial. There is something real there, a real debt, an obligation, something we are holding against the other, something they owe us. In this case you cannot brush it off as “it is nothing”. There is a real debt and it must be dealt with. It is dealt with by forgiving it. Forgiveness is not trivial – so don’t trivialize forgiveness, brush it off as something insignificant.
Forgiveness is costly– There is a debt, it is not “nothing”, “forget it”. The debt is real and it must be paid. There is a cost [P]. We understand the principle with finances – I owed money, John paid what was owed instead of me. He bore the cost. We understand the principle with Jesus but not with ourselves – we owed God and He paid what we owed. He bore the cost instead of me. We have to forgive “as God in Christ has forgiven you”. There is a debt, it has to be paid [P] – with forgiveness, it is just that it is paid by someone else. You bear the cost instead of holding the other in account for it. To forgive is going to cost you – you, of your own volition choose to lose out, to suffer loss of what is legitimately owed you, so that someone else is not in debt. You carry the loss, the cost, yourself. There is an illustration of this in the Corinthian church. There were those who had defrauded others, the others held them to account, and it had ended up in legal action. They had taken the case to court to settle who owed what. Paul said this was an absolute shame on them as Christians – he said: [1 Corinthians 6:7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?] Bear the loss yourself. Don’t hold it against your brother. Forgive the debt. There are people that owe you, you have “I owe you’s” that are legitimate debts – but we have to tear them up – bear the loss yourself. It is not easy, it is not trivial and it costs. We were talking about forgiveness on the way back from the prison, and Robin mentioned the incident when Corrie Ten Boom met up with the German guard who had been particularly cruel to her and her sister when they were in POW camp. Her sister’s death was to a large extent because of his action. Now, years later, she meets him after a meeting, he is now a Christian. She then faced the absolute impossibility of forgiving this man. She could not do it! She knew she had to, but hatred against him welled up within her. She knew she could not forgive him. And there was the breakthrough! Forgive as God in Christ has forgiven you. It is not in us – but is in God! He is a forgiving God! Praise His Name! Has He not forgiven me, the worst of sinners? Does He not live in me? [Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.] I don’t cling to my life and my debts, what is owed me. Christ is my life – I depend upon Him who lives in me. That is the life of faith. The capacity to forgive, to bear the cost the debt, is within me – living in me! And His Name is Jesus!
Forgiveness is tangible Forgiveness is not ignoring the matter, “forgetting it” – trivialising it. Carrying on as if nothing has happened – forgiveness is tangible! [P] The debt is no more, someone else has paid it. People know when they no longer owe, when the debt is gone. It brings release, liberty, joy – the burden is gone and they know it. If they do not, is the forgiveness real? For forgiveness to be real it must be tangible. Not overlooked and ignored, forget it and just carry on. A saying I’ve heard among Christians is “God casts our sins into the sea of His forgetfulness and hangs up a sign “no fishing”” But the Bible does not say that God forgets our sins but: [Hebrews 10:17 their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.] Not trivialising, forgetting, an oversight, ignoring it – but rather: choosing not to remember – something more active and determined: not remembering, not holding the other accountable, not remembering what they owe you no more, bearing the loss yourself, allow yourself to be wronged. [P] Forgiving as God in Christ forgave you.