Good morning everyone! My name is Peter Gowesky, and I’m the pastor here at Hope City Church… We’re so glad that you’re here. Connect Groups have gone into full swing, and I love seeing pictures of you all in your groups. Keep that up… I hope that you’re finding connection with one another and that you’re discussing together in circles midweek what you’ve discovered in rows here on a Sunday morning.
Well, we are in week 3 of our 40 day, Red Letter Challenge… We’ve been taking a look at the words of Jesus and actually have been centering ourselves around this big idea, big offer from Jesus.
A lot of things offer you something… they make promises that they may or may not be able to keep, but Jesus makes an offer that I think, my hunch is that many of is in this room would love to have happen in their life. Look at what Jesus says,
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. [i]
What do people talk about all the time… They lived a really full life. They were living life to the fullest… And they say it with a twinge of jealousy to it. As if to say, I want to live my life that way! Jump on Instagram, click that thing open, and what do you see there? You start scrolling and seeing everyone else’s life and what everyone else is doing, and where they are going, and you say, I want a bit of that.
This is our desire to live a full life. There are all kinds of things that get in the way of us living this full life that Jesus offers… which is why we need to pay particular attention to what He has to say… this is why I’m so excited for you to be jumping in to the Red Letter Challenge and reading each day. We start to learn more about and apply more of what Jesus is offering us in this ‘life to the fullest’ kind of a way.
Can I tell you something though that has kept me from living that full, to the max kind of life? Pain & Heartache… Especially when it’s from other people. Hurts… Words… Actions… I mentioned to you all last week that I’m an Enneagram 3 with a 4 wing… that 4 wing is the sneaky little guy that takes peoples words and causes me to feel them like they are 400 pounds.
WORDS: I’ve had people say some of the most hurtful things TO me…
ACTIONS: Do things specifically to put me down, and it hurts…
GOSSIP: I’ve had people say things ABOUT me…
I put these in your notes… circle which one for you has been the hardest.
These things right here have been stumbling blocks for many people… they’ve kept people from living this kind of full life. I know they have prevented me from time to time… because do you know what can easily happen? I play this out in my head… “DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY SAID TO ME? HOW COULD THEY? OR DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY DID TO ME?” and I get caught up in the vicious cycle of explaining to myself why what they did was so wrong.
Here’s the interesting thing… We can’t prevent what others do to us, or say about us… but we can control what our response to it is. Too many of us harbor the hurt. We bring it in closer, and keep it on repeat, and play it over and over again in our head. Rather than what we’re going to see Jesus saying we should do, and that is to simply FORGIVE.
There are some common misconceptions out there about Forgiveness that prevent us from living out Jesus’ invitation… and ultimately prevent us from forgiving others. And they all start with a single word: IF
One of those is that, “IF I forgive them it minimizes what they did to me.” We are afraid that if we forgive other’s what we’re saying is it’s no big deal… Forgiveness is not saying, just get over it and get on with your life.
Another lie we easily believe about forgiveness is that if I forgive them, it means I have to forget. Some of you have been afraid to forgive somebody who hurt you in your life because you don’t want to forget it. You’ve all heard the cliché “Forgive and forget”. Isn’t that nice? It sounds so sweet! The only problem is it’s impossible to do. You can’t try to forget anything. When you’re trying to forget something, what are you focusing on? The very thing you want to forget. And whatever you focus on, you tend to move toward.
Or what about this one, have you ever felt like this? If I forgive them, they’re going to assume that everything will be normal again. Some of you are afraid to forgive because you’re afraid you’re going to have to go back with that person. And you’ll have to be their best friend again or you’ll have to remarry them or whatever. No, restoring relationship and forgiveness are two different things, the Bible teaches. Forgiveness is instant. Trust must be built over a long period of time. The Bible says that those are two different things.
There are just so many questions about Forgiveness…
In fact, in Matthew 18:21, that’s found on page 671 we find the disciples asking Jesus a very similar question. What do we do with forgiveness? How do we do this? Look at what Peter asks Jesus…
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” [ii]
This is such a great question… Don’t you think? Here’s why I love it. I love this question because it is so REAL! You almost can hear Peter saying… So Jesus, I’ve got this neighbor. And they’ve got this annoying habit of playing their music really loud, late into the night. How long do I have to put up with them? How many more times do I need to talk with them?
See, there was a teaching in Peter’s day that if you were to sin in the same way, 1 time, I had to forgive you. 2 times, I had to forgive you. Three times, I had to forgive you. 4 times? NOPE! You’re on your own. If you haven’t learned your lesson by now, you’re done! So Peter, shows up looking for a Gold star… well, what do you think Jesus? DO I have to forgive my brother up to 7 times? Jesus looks at Peter and says,
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.[iii]
Okay, quick math… 490 times? NO! Jesus isn’t saying that… He’s saying, there is no limit to how much you should forgive someone or of what they could be forgiven of. In order to help illustrate this idea, Jesus tells a story. Anytime Jesus tells a story, we know that Jesus is going to be teaching a lesson. Look at this story that Jesus shares with His disciples.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’
Do you see what happened here? This man, had an outstanding bill, a debt of 10,000 talents. THIS IS A HUGE DEBT. And there is no way that he could repay that debt. He begs, and pleads… be patient with me. I’ll pay it back. I’ll make it right. And look at what it says here,
27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. [iv]
Let me remind you that Jesus is telling this story not to make us great accountants, but to help us be better people… to help us understand what God has done for us. He is trying to help us understand forgiveness and the power that forgiveness has in our life.
Right here, we see Jesus illustrating a very powerful principle with regards to Forgiveness, and that is that PT. 1 “FORGIVENESS GIVES UP THE RIGHT TO GET EVEN.” This is the heart of real forgiveness. You don’t seek revenge. The Bible says it like this in Romans 12:19, “Never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For He has said that He will repay those who deserve it.”
You say, “If I give up my right to get even with somebody who’s hurt me, that’s unfair.” You’re right. It’s unfair. No one ever said forgiveness is fair! Was it fair for Jesus to forgive everything you’ve ever done wrong and let you off the hook? Was that fair? No. Bob Goff has said, “Grace never seems fair until you need some.” Neither does Forgiveness.
Grace, the unearned favor of God. Forgiveness feels like it is full of Grace. But the Bible does say this. One day, God is going to have the last word. One day, God is going to settle the score. One day, God is going to right the wrong. One day, God is going to balance the ledger. So you let God settle the score. You forgive so there can be peace in your heart and you can get on with your life, and you leave the justice part to God. The starting point is to give up my right to get even.
If you don’t do this, you will fall into the trap of bitterness. Resentment and bitterness are worthless emotions. In fact, they are the unhealthiest emotions, doctors tell us. They will eat you alive like cancer. All the resentment you’ve got, all the bitterness toward people who have hurt you in your past, it isn’t going to change the past. All you can do is mess up today. And who do you mess up? You. Many times people hold resentment in their hearts and the other people are totally unaware of it. They’re going along their merry way, having fun, enjoying life, getting on with the future. And you’re the one who’s stuck in the past.
When you hold on to resentment, you allow people to continue to hurt you today. All you’re doing is making yourself miserable. So give up your right to get even. This is what the master did for the servant.
Now let’s look at what the servant does next.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ [v]
We’ve heard this before. In fact, these are the very same words that this guy used with the master! And look how he responds to this gentleman.
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.[vi]
What’s the deal with this guy? I mean you would think that he would have heard this man’s words and had a bit of déjà vu… right? Or at least say something like, I’ll give you another month… or how about you pay me just half. But this guy goes full court press with it, and throws him into prison! He’s missing a very critical aspect of Forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t apply to just a few people. There are a select group of people who get to be forgiven. No, Pt. 2 FORGIVENESS IS FOR ALL. There isn’t a certain section of people that need forgiveness and some that don’t. There isn’t a group of people who you should forgive, and others that you shouldn’t forgive. Remember, forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetfulness. It also doesn’t mean that everything is going to be normal again. Forgiveness must be given to everyone, even those you don’t feel like forgiving.
In my early 20’s my family walked through some very difficult days in life. There were a group of people who hurt our family in ways that I’ll never forget. Words were weaponized, and things were done that changed the course of the years to follow. And I can remember wrestling with the emotions that were going through my head. The things that I was thinking… I would replay the events, I would rethink about the words that were said, I would play over and over the actions that hurt our family so badly. This went on for months, and the months stretched into a year. And I am telling you there were names of people that I immediately wrote off as never will I ever forgive them. There was no reason to forgive them.
And the years rolled forward about a decade… and I get this friend request on Facebook. And wouldn’t you know it… a guy by the name of Dave wanted to be my friend. And I’m looking at this, and thinking, what is wrong with this guy… doesn’t he know what he did to my family, to me? The pain that He caused, and now Dave wants to be my friend? And then it dawned on me… He doesn’t have the problem. I did. For 10 years I had harbored this resentment and anger towards him and these other individuals, and it took one Facebook friend request to reveal just how many people I hadn’t forgiven.
I wonder, what would happen if you scrolled through Facebook right now? How many of those individuals would you scroll through and find yourself having an adverse negative reaction towards? Let me remind you who is experiencing the pain, and the agitation… YOU ARE! UNFORGIVENESS puts YOU in handcuffs while letting the other individual run free!
31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” [vii]
Jesus is revealing a principle for us, and in many ways, He was foreshadowing what was coming… Jesus was going to die on a cross for the sins of the world. The entire world would know forgiveness because of what He was about to do… And in this story, the MASTER forgave this man of SO much, and he was unwilling to forgive even a little. Forgiveness reminds us that Pt. 3 WHAT JESUS HAS DONE FOR YOU IS GREATER THAN WHAT ANYONE HAS DONE TO YOU! When you’re tempted to think about just how awful that person is who hurt you, offended you or let you down, forgiveness reminds you that Jesus forgave a debt, he forgave the hurt, the actions of your life that caused pain and heartache. He said, you’re bill has been paid for. Your debt is canceled. You’re FORGIVEN. And yet, you and I are running around making people pay up like Bill Collectors, casting judgement and demanding people pay us back, or pay up for what they’ve done.
When you’ve been forgiven of so much, it should change you. There should be something that causes you to be different, to respond differently. Colossians 3:13
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Don’t miss this… our instruction is to forgive the way that God forgave us. Willingly, freely, without a whole bunch of hoops to jump through… Give forgiveness away lavishly, and generously.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus talks about Forgiveness so much? It is because Bitterness and Anger are too much to hold onto. They eat away at your insides, and leave you hollow, empty, and the shell of who you once were. Don’t forget what Jesus says, in John 10:10-
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. [viii]
Jesus has come for you to experience life! The fullness of life. And one of the quickest ways to get rid of the bitterness and anger is through forgiveness.
Because FORGIVING OTHERS FREES YOU.
There’s an amazing truth that happens that when you hold on to a hurt: the more you hold on the hurt, the more you focus on the offender. And the more you focus on the offender, the more you actually move toward them. And any psychology book will tell you that whatever you focus on and move toward, you end up becoming. Here’s the point: If you don’t release them, you end up resembling them. “I’ll never be like my mother!” Oh yeah? The more you focus on the very person who hurt you, the more you become like them. You’ve got to let it go. There’s not a better time than right now.
You may be good at forgiving certain people, but not every person. In fact maybe there is a person who comes to mind for you right now. This is your chance and your opportunity to forgive them.
Maybe there is a hidden area of your life that you feel handcuffed to. Emotionally, mentally, you just can’t get away from it. What if your freedom was found in your forgiving?
Think for a minute, of all you’ve been forgiven from, of your past, your present, your most embarrassing moment… How overwhelming is that? How humbling is that to think that the God of creation loves you SO MUCH that He will forgive you no matter what to ensure that He could have a relationship with you.
This morning, we’re going to remember how much we’ve been forgiven by taking communion together. In fact, one of the words for communion you may have heard it called the eucharist, which means “with thanksgiving.” Today receive communion because it serves as an incredible reminder of all we need to thank God for! We’re grateful for His forgiveness.
I have no doubt that many of you are carrying deep painful wounds from the way you’ve been hurt by other people. And from the bottom of my heart, I am sorry. When you think about that betrayal, that hurt, that rejection or whatever it was, it seems as fresh now as it was when it happened. It may have been months, it may have been years, but you are still holding on to that hurt. Just me talking about it, it pops back up in your mind. How are you going to get on with your life? There is only one way. Forgiveness. Today, let’s come to the communion table and be reminded of just how much we’ve been forgiven.