For(GIVE)ness – The Definition!
Several months ago I walked into a store with my family and I saw someone and instantly I turned and walked away. It wasn’t that I was pressed for time. I just despised that person in my heart. I felt fine going in the store but once I saw this person I felt nauseated, physically hot and emotionally angry. I was angry for what they did to me and what they did to the people I love. I knew immediately what I had to do. I prayed. I prayed to God to GROW UP and willingly choose to forgive this person! Is there someone in your world you need to forgive? A family member, a friend, yourself – even God Almighty! They did something to you OR you did something to them and in God’s case – he didn’t prevent your worst nightmare and because of that you blame him!
Bill McNeely had a knife stuck in his back for three years. He had "itching and minor pain" from the 3 inch blade, and a consistent problem with setting off metal detectors. Scratching his back one day, his fingernail caught something, and then Bill said something like “OH MAN! THERE'S THAT KNIFE I GOT STABBED WITH IN A FIGHT THREE YEARS AGO. I WONDERED WHERE THE BLADE WENT!”[i]
If you think that story is unbelievable this one is even better or worse – depending on how you look at it! The Associated Press reported back in February 2011 that a Chinese man named Li Fuyan said a robber stabbed him on the right side of his jaw. For years, Li suffered from severe headaches and had trouble breathing, but didn't know it was because a knife blade was stuck inside his head. "As time passed, I used injections to kill the pain in my head and ears," Li, 30, told Chinese state TV. A hospital spokesman announced that surgery was successful, when doctors removed a rusty 4-inch knife blade that had been lodged in Li’s skull for four years.[ii]
That seems ridiculous to me. How is it possible that a person can carry around wounds and not even know it? We do it all the time. We do the same thing when we choose NOT to forgive! Are you part of the walking wounded? For all of 2013 this church, better yet people are focusing on what it means to GROW! You will grow if you add to your faith! You will grow if you choose to forgive! Open up your Bibles to where we left off on Easter weekend – John 21:14! Do you need a Bible? Just raise your hand! I have two invitations today. One is to Pizza & Pastors! The second invitation is in your handout. Open your handout so I can introduce you to a phenomenal ministry called Serenity Street Foundation! Here is their mission: Founded in 1996, SSF provides a sober, safe and structured home environment. Our program promotes a radical life change, dynamic personal growth and permanent sobriety. Men arrive suffering from the devastating consequences and detrimental effects of alcohol and drug addiction. Today, there are over 100 graduates of the Serenity Street program living sober and productive lives. Forgiveness and Serenity Street seem to go hand in hand! We want to help this mission the entire month of April. You can do that by donating any of the following items… Let’s now read vs. 14!
Timothy Keller, in his book, The Reason for God said, “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn't rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like Jesus’ teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”
Seven of the 12 apostles are convinced. Go back to verse 12. Jesus has been speaking to seven men – they know who he is - now he turns his attention to one! Go to verse 15.  When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter… “You of all people disappointed me the most. Weren’t you the one who tooted your own horn saying, “Everyone may fall away, but I’ll never fall away. I am willing to die for you!” Die? Are you kidding me Peter? Or should I call you Simon, because you are not even close to being MY ROCK! You denied me, Peter and I want nothing to do with you!” Is that what Jesus said? NO! But isn’t that what we would WANT to say to someone who has stabbed us in the back? Here’s another bulletin or handout blooper - Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say 'Hell' to someone who doesn't care much about you... If you’re going to treat me this way then just go to… Go back to verse 15. Just what did Jesus say to Peter? (Read vs. 15) I wonder if for the first time Peter honestly doesn’t know what to say? OR I wonder if Peter thought I knew this day would come! I was kinda hoping Jesus would have forgotten about that whole denying him incident because all I can hear is that stupid rooster crowing! Go back to verse 15-now 16-now 17! Did you notice that Jesus does not even use the word forgive? But I believe that’s all that Peter could hear!
May I give you a Biblical definition of the word forgiveness. Forgiveness: “A term denoted in the Old Testament by words that mean ‘send away,’ ‘cover,’ ‘remove,’ and ‘wipe away.’ That is erase! Tell me – what does the Duncan Yo-Yo, the Barbie Doll, Silly Putty, Etch A Sketch and Mr. Potato Head all have in common? They were named five of the top 100 toys of the 20th century! This man, André Cassagnes, created one of them! Do you know which one? Cassagnes died on Jan. 16th in Paris at the age of eighty-six. This French-born inventor was in his early thirties when he created a plastic device with a glass screen on which children could draw by turning little knobs. Cassagnes called his little invention "the magic screen." We call it the “Etch A Sketch!” The Ohio Art Company began distributing the “Etch A Sketch” in the United States in 1960. Since that time more than 100 million little drawing machines have been sold. It's unlikely that André Cassagnes had any idea the toy he created in his basement half a century ago would become so popular. It's also unlikely that he imagined his hand-held creation would provide people a powerful illustration of forgiveness.[iii] (I have said things I shouldn’t have said. Thought, done… SHAKE AWAY)
In the New Testament ‘send away’ is used most often for forgiveness; forgiveness is also communicated by words which mean ‘loose’, ‘be gracious to’, and ‘pass over.’”[iv] Mull around in your mind. To forgive means – to send away, to cover, to remove, to wipe away, to loosen, to be gracious to and to pass over! But once again Jesus doesn’t even use the word forgiveness for Peter, so what’s Jesus doing in John 21? He’s restoring Peter. He’s getting him back on his feet. And by restoring Peter He grants us a subtle understanding of what forgiveness is and what forgiveness is not. Here’s what forgiveness is NOT! Forgiveness is not pretending the offense didn’t happen. The gun was fired. The rape did happen. The lie was told. Go back a few chapters to the “incident” in John 13:36. Three rooster crows then – three questions now. Go back to John 21:15! I wonder if Jesus and Peter are walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. (Read 15-17) The first question was obvious. The third one was brutal. I imagine Peter is in tears by now! Forgiveness does not eliminate the reality of the offense. However, forgiveness does allow you to move forward! Look at what Jesus said in verse 18! (Read 18-19) Just what does it mean to “follow Jesus?” Jesus just told us. It’s a call to die! What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is the “sending away.” To follow Jesus means to die to ourselves and to willingly choose to forgive!
But that’s not all there is to Jesus’ “follow me!” Follow me is a call to die but it’s also a call to live! Go to verse 20! (20-22) When I’ve sinned and Jesus whispers to me these same words “I forgive you - follow me!” I always say I can’t. I’ve screwed up too bad. You can’t use me anymore. I’m damaged goods! In your Bible look right! What book follows John? ACTS! It’s the ACTS of the HS using the Apostles. Primarily two apostles. Peter and Paul. Peter will be a rock for Jesus in the first 12 chapters of Acts - going, teaching, preaching, healing and baptizing! For three decades Peter will serve as a shepherd and feed Jesus’ sheep! None of that happens until Jesus forgives him in John 21! Following Jesus is a call to live! Do you really want to live? Then be forgiven by Jesus and choose to forgive others? How Greg? On one of our trips to Africa Dereck Mushayamunda asked me to speak to their leaders about forgiveness. I demonstrated forgiveness this way! Unforgiveness is a burden that you carry with you. It’s unnecessary. You can send it away. How? By letting it go. Unforgiveness is also like this backpack. Backpacks can get real heavy especially when they’re filled with bricks! What brick are you carrying around?
The Bible tells us – research confirms what the Bible has already said. The person who benefits the most is the one who forgives! Is that going to be you? Jesus came back from the dead. So what? The “so what” is we can to come back from the dead. And we do when we ARE FORGIVEN AND THEN choose to forgive!
Some people can do some amazing things on an Etch a Sketch! Maybe what you need to do is just give this thing a shake!
[i] www.preachingtoday.com Links that Illustrate
[iii] http://www.preachingtoday.com/Inventor of Etch a Sketch
[iv] Achtemeier, Paul J. ; Harper & Row, Publishers ; Society of Biblical Literature: Harper's Bible Dictionary. 1st ed. San Francisco : Harper & Row, 1985, S. 319