Forgiven Sinners Owe Forgiveness to Other Sinners (Matthew Sermon 88 of 151)
February 15, 2009 | Andrew Davis
Brotherly Love, The Purity and Unity of the Church, Atonement, Forgiveness
Well, you don't have to know me very long before you find out that Ben-Hur is my favorite movie. And it is my favorite movie, it's a great story. And in that story, it's a historical novel that was written by General Wallace in the 19th century, a picture of redemption, “A Tale of the Christ” is the subtitle in his novel. But in the movie, which most of us have access to and we, many of us, have seen, Judah Ben-Hur is a Jewish nobleman, wealthy, a Jewish man, he's got a beloved mother and sister, lives in Jerusalem.
And as the movie begins, a boyhood friend who was a Roman, a man at this point, named Messala comes back. He has been made lieutenant governor of Judea, and he returns and the two of them try to rekindle their friendship, but it isn't long before they realize that they have grown apart, they have different ways of looking at life, they have different ways of looking at the world. And when Messala tries to use Judah Ben-Hur as an informant against the zealots among his people, the bitterness starts to set in.They quarrel, they divide, and their friendship comes to an end.
But the bitterness just grows and grows throughout the movie. As the new governor enters the city, he rides right below Judah Ben-Hur's house and a stone falls from the roof, it causes the governor's horse to rear. Governor's thrown from his horse, injured seriously, but doesn't die. Soon the Roman soldiers are pounding on Judah Ben-Hur's house, they open the door, and they come in and they arrest Judah and his mother and his sister. Very tense moment. And at that moment, Messala appears. And Judah is immediately relieved and he thinks that this clear mistake and injustice will be dealt with right then, and he makes a direct appeal to his boyhood friend, Messala, to let he and his mother and sister go, because it was just an accident.
But this man stands there with a heart of stone and eyes of coal, and says nothing and the three of them are hauled off at that moment. All three are condemned. Mother and sister to languish in the prisons there in Fort Antonia, and Judah Ben-Hur is condemned to row in the slave galleys, leaving from Tyrus. As he's making his way in chains down to the port city of Tyrus, he's about to expire from thirst, and a man just shows up, you never see his face, and as he's lying there on the ground about to die, this man pours water on his face and then lifts his head up and pours water down his throat and revives him, basically gives him life.
Well, for three years Judah lives a life, a brutal life of a slave on a galley and with every stroke of the oar he vows vengeance against Messala. And his burning hatred for Messala keeps him alive. Through one circumstance or another he gets freed from being a slave, he ends up becoming the adopted son of a Roman nobleman and makes his way back to Jerusalem, and he has one task, there's only one thing he wants: he wants revenge, he wants vengeance for Messala.
He would also like to find his mother and his sister and as he goes and confronts Messala, it turns out that Messala has no idea where they are. And as he sends to find out about them, we come to learn that they have become lepers, and he sends them to be in a leper colony there. One of the climaxes of the movie, Judah Ben-Hur and Messala ride in a chariot race, climactic chariot race and Messala is thrown from his chariot and trampled by his own horses, and it's a mortal wound. And as he lies there dying, Judah Ben-Hur goes to see him and he, just to twist the knife in a little bit deeper, let's Judah know that his mother and his sister are now lepers living in the valley of the lepers. And at that point Judah's hatred intensifies greatly, but Messala dies and now he's just filled with hatred and a yearning for vengeance. And the only avenue he can find for it is to basically take down Rome, if he can. It's a suicidal hatred and vengeance.
However, as he's carrying his leper sister into Jerusalem, he sees the same man who years ago had poured water down his throat and saved his life, but now he's carrying a cross up to Calvary, it's Jesus, and their lives intersect at that particular moment and he leaves his mother and sister with a friend and goes and stands there and watches Jesus die. And as he's dying his blood flows down the cross and is carried by the rain water down the streets, and somehow reaches the mother and the sister and they are miraculously cleansed of their leprosy. Judah doesn't know it, but they're cleansed. But something more miraculous happens, something more astonishing. And as he watches Jesus die, he hears Jesus speak these incredible words. “Father forgive them, they don't know what they're doing.” He stands there transfixed and soon transformed. He returns to his now healed family and tells them that he too has been healed of his hatred, his unforgiveness, his suicidal thirst for revenge, and the movie ends with Judah's awestruck words, “As I stood there, I felt his voice take the sword from my hands.”
It's my prayer today that this sermon, this parable will take the sword of unforgiveness from your hands. I'm convinced that every one of us wields it from time to time, sometimes for years. And I think it's every bit as suicidal as was Judah's against Rome. I think it's a bitter poison that ruins life, ruins marriages, it ruins relationships, it ruins churches. It's bitterness, and Jesus and his love would have us free from it, so he uses a very heavy-handed parable to do it. Because that's what it takes to free us up from that suicidal thirst for vengeance.
Unforgiveness is Human, Forgiveness is Divine
A World that Delights in Revenge
We live in a world that doesn't know anything about forgiveness. It's a world, the lost, the non-Christian world isn't comfortable with the topic of forgiveness. If you ever try to go apologize or seek forgiveness, I mean, genuine forgiveness from a non-Christian, they will cut the conversation off very quickly. They don't know what to do with it, they don't wanna deal with it, and so they just quickly say, “Oh, don't worry about it, it's nothing.” They minimize. They do not deal with it. We live in a world that delights in unforgiveness and in vengeance. Many, many movies these days are focused on the issue of vengeance and the joy in getting revenge on somebody who's hurt you.
The Sweet Power of Forgiveness… Even to Enemies
But Jesus from the cross teaches us a better way as we've already heard. He didn't just teach in Matthew 5, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” he did it from the cross. “Father, forgive them, they don't know what they're doing.” By the way, I am convinced that those for whom Jesus prayed are in heaven now. Jesus doesn't throw away words and if they're forgiven, they're forgiven. So, how sweet would it be to see the Roman centurions, and all that party that was around Jesus crucifying him up there in heaven and actually see a little bit of fruit toward the end after Jesus dies when the centurion says, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” There's the fruit of Jesus' prayer, what an effective prayer ministry Jesus has, amen? What a sweet thing it is, but he has shown us the way.
Peter’s Question of Accounting: “How Many Times…?”
Context: Life in the Church
Now, Peter begins this whole conversation with a question of accounting. “How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” So he's bringing this question of forgiveness.
Now, let's set it in context in Matthew 18. You remember as the chapter opens, the leaders of the church, the apostles are there, and they're having an argument with one another about which of them is the greatest. And Jesus calls a little child and has the little child stand in their midst and says, “I tell you the truth, unless you are converted and become like a little child, you'll not even enter the kingdom of heaven, the essence of the kingdom of heaven is brokenness, humility, meekness, lowliness.”
He goes on from there to talk about the danger of sin, because they are going to be the under shepherds, they're gonna be the ones that are caring for the church, and he wants them to know, the real issue isn't which of them is the greatest, but that their ministry is gonna be a ministry of shepherding little ones just like this child concerning sin.
So he talks about the danger of sin, he gives a warning to the world because of the things that cause people to sin with that picture of the millstone being hung around the neck. He talks to them personally about the danger of sin. “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one hand or one foot, than to have two hands and two feet and be thrown in the fire of hell.” The great danger of sin.
Talks about the ministry, they're going to have as undershepherds and going to look for the one that wanders off. And we do wander off, don't we? And so these undershepherds shouldn't be bickering and arguing about which of them is the greatest, they should go look for the wandering sheep. That's their ministry.
Then Jesus gives us this whole issue of dealing with sin in the church, which we took three weeks to look at, and if your brother sins against you, then go and reprove him or rebuke him, show him his sin, just between the two of you. And so we ran through that whole issue concerning church discipline, even to the point of verse 17, “if he refuses to listen and even to the church, then treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Verses 18-20 speak clearly about the church's rights and responsibilities in dealing with sin. “Whatever you bind on earth to be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth to be loosed in heaven,” and talks about the need we have to pray for one another. “So if you agree about anything you ask for it will be given to you, for where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” So, he's just dealing with the issue of sin all the way through this chapter.
Issue Here: Forgiving other Christians
And so, therefore, Peter's question is quite reasonable. Now, how many times shall I forgive my brother? Let's say we go through the whole church discipline pattern and the brother repents and comes back, but then he falls back into sin again. Now, how many times are you gonna go through that? Up to seven times? So that's how he asks.
Now, I believe that the context here isn't so much that of forgiving enemies and unbelievers outside of the church. He says, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?” But I think that there are principles that go and extend even beyond the walls of the church, but let's focus on the issue of forgiveness within the church, forgiving other Christians. I think that's the focal point here, an in-house, a family matter about forgiving other Christians. Although, I do think we can extend it even to enemies as we've already seen.
A Question of Accounting: How Many Times???
And so, we have this issue of accounting. How many times shall I forgive him? And he gives a recommendation. “Up to seven times?” he says. Now in this, I think almost certainly Peter felt he was going above and beyond the call of duty.
In his day Jewish Rabbis limited forgiveness to three times. I think they use references from the Book of Amos in this; Rabbis took statements that God makes about sinning nations in Amos 1:3, eight times we have this kind of thing, but Amos 1:3 says, “For three sins of Damascus and even for four, I will not turn back my words.” So the rabbis zeroed in on this, and one rabbi said, “He who begs forgiveness from his neighbor must not do so more than three times.” So that's three strikes and you’re out long before baseball was invented.
So also another rabbi said this, “If a man commits an offense once, forgive him, if he commits an offense the second time, they forgive him, if he commits an offense a third time, they forgive him. The fourth time, they do not forgive him.” So, that's pretty solid teaching from the rabbis, three times.
Now, what's going on with Peter? Well, I think that Peter has been watching Jesus' sweet, merciful, loving ministry for all of these years, and he knows that three times just can't be enough. He's seen Jesus be gracious to tax collectors and prostitutes, he's seen Jesus be gracious to his own enemies who are trying to kill him. We've seen him be gracious to Pharisees and Sadducees and lepers, and it's just a river of grace and mercy and so, he says, “Well, we've gotta up the ante. Maybe double it and add one,” okay? How about seven times, up to seven times, is that good enough?
But Peter is still thinking like a man does. He's thinking in the ordinary human way, of forgiveness measured in the ordinary way, and by ordinary human accounting techniques. Imagine keeping a tally sheet saying, alright, you're up to four times now. More than half way here, you only have three left. Use them well. That kind of thing. This is just human arithmetic, and we know from 1 Corinthians 13, it says, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”
And so, Christ wants to expand Peter's heart and mind and takes him to the infinitude of God's forgiveness of us as sinners. Based on that, commands us to forgive freely from the heart. He gives an overwhelming and a stunning answer in this parable of the 10,000 talents.
Christ’s Stunning Answer, and Overwhelming Parable
Christ’s Stunning Answer: There is No Limit!!
And basically, the answer I get is, there is no limit, there's no limit. Jesus says in verse 22, “I do not say to you seven times, but 70 times seven.” 70 times seven. The Greek, definitely, I think tends not merely to 77 times as the NIV gives us, but 70 times seven as we have in the King James, New American, RSV, and ESV. So you're up to 490 times, if you're still wanting to keep a record, okay? But that's for everybody. So you can imagine carrying around the record books, okay? You gotta keep a record, and if you have a large family, you need a lot of books. And if you're in a church, you need even more books, you need a wagon full of books for 490 times. You're up to 280, we've got 210 left. It's ridiculous. Clearly, he's pointing to open-ended, unlimited forgiveness. That's what he's doing.
The Parable of the Ten Thousand Talents
And he gives us the Parable of the 10,000 talents, it's a shocking parable. And I think, as I looked at it, there are four real shockers in it, four real stunning aspects of this parable. First of all, the size, the magnitude of the servant's debt, it's really stunning, 10,000 talents, we'll talk more about in a moment. Secondly, the unconditional forgiveness by the judge that he just at a word forgives it all. Just out of mercy, forgives it all, that's stunning to me. Thirdly, the unforgiveness of the servant after that is stunning, really is the central stunner. Jesus is meaning for us to be shocked by it. It's really stunning. And then the final fate of the servant. He gets handed back over to the jailer to be tortured until he should pay back the original debt. Stunning and with theological implications and difficulties. We have four shocking aspects of this parable.
So, let's go at it verse-by-verse. He starts the parable in a common way, he says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like...” At the center of this kingdom is a king, and so therefore, as in all of his parables he wants you to come face-to-face with the king. Understand who the king is. And so, there was a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. So we have the first act of this three-act drama.
Okay, the first act is the trial before the king or the accounting, let's say, we'll call it an accounting before the king. All servants are accountable to the king. In the ancient world, the king's authority was absolute. And he was your king and your life was in his hands. Every subject of the kingdom was under his dominion and everyone was accountable to him.
And so, look at verse 24. “As he began the settlement, a man who owed him 10,000 talents was brought to him.” It is essential for you as a Christian to see yourself in this light. I am a servant of the king and some day I will stand before him and give him an account. So, this servant who's called in is probably, I think, a high ranking official, perhaps even a nobleman, very high in the kingdom. How else would he come into such a huge debt? And so, he's an important official in the kingdom, but he's still accountable to the master. He must give an account for everything that he's done.
Now this man's debt is astounding, 10,000 talents. Let's try to understand that. It's really an overwhelming debt beyond pretty much, I think, beyond calculation, let's calculate anyway. Bear with my engineering heart for just a moment. A talent was anywhere from 52 to 83 pounds, generally taken to be 75 pounds. So you have 750,000 pounds of some precious metal, generally gold. So let's go with gold, since the tendency of this parable is toward the extreme anyway, so it's 750,000 pounds of gold. Simply doing the math that I didn't check the market this week, I don't know, but let's go with market prices from a week or two ago. You've got $12,400 per pound times 750,000 pounds. So that's $9.3 billion, that's a lot of money. Imagine owing $9.3 billion. But let's go beyond that. Information from the ancient tax record of the time shows that Roman provinces of Jumia, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, the income from those four provinces was around 900 talents annually. This man owed 11 years of taxes from four regions of the Roman world.
Or again, if that's not good enough for you, how about this? The amount of gold that Solomon used to build his temple was just over 8,000 talents, this guy owed 25% more than the amount of gold Solomon used to build his temple. Solomon in his heyday was taking in 666 talents of gold every year, that means Solomon would have to save up all his gold for 15 years to pay it off. This man wasn't Solomon, this man is in deep trouble. And even beyond that, the Greek word for 10,000 is related to the word for “myriad.” So, if you can just say, forget the calculation, he owed an incalculable debt. One might even say infinite.
Now this man is in deep trouble. It's hard to imagine how any individual could amass such a debt as that. He is unable to pay, one of the great understatements in the entire New Testament. Unable to pay and the king orders that he and his wife, and his children and all that he has be sold to pay the debt. Now, it's not gonna pay it off. I don't care if he and his wife and all his children work the rest of their lives, it will not add up to that kind of sum. It really is just a punishment.
Immediately the servant falls on his face before the king and pleads with him. “Be patient with me,” he says, “and I will pay back everything.” Now this is amazing, it's astonishing, there's no way he can repay this. Solomon himself couldn't have repaid if he saved everything he had for 15 years, and so the king is moved by compassion and pity for this man in this situation. He makes a shocking pronouncement. In verse 27, “The servant's master took pity on him, cancelled the debt, and let him go.” Just like that, just like that, all that money is gone.
Now we know the parable of the prodigal son, it's the father that's prodigal, it's the king that's prodigal. All of that forgiven, just like that, forgiven. Oh, how lavish, and how generous is God. I know we're in the middle of a parable, but I can't stay there that we could owe that much to God and he can just forgive it like that. By simple faith in Jesus, our sins can all be forgiven, it's so astonishing. Oh, how much God deserves our praise and thanks and worship and adoration that our debt has been forgiven just like that by the mercy of God. We'll talk more on that later.
So the servant walks out of the king's throne room a free man, he doesn't owe anybody anything. So now we come to act two of this drama, “He finds another servant who owes him 100 denarii. He grabs him and begins to choke him, ‘Pay back what you owe me.’ The fellow servant falls on his knees and begs him, ‘Be patient with me and I'll pay you back.’ But he refused, instead he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.”
Now, this is a repugnant scene almost beyond imagination. You're supposed to feel a sense of revulsion, like, let's say David did with Nathan, when Nathan came and told the story about a man who took somebody else's sheep and killed it. You're supposed to feel disgusted, but then Jesus says, you are the man, you are the woman. This is who you are when you won't forgive. It's a disgusting story really. He finds his servant and he begins to choke him, just one of his fellow servants. The Greek gives a strong sense of equality before the king, they're on a par, they're just servants of the king, and he begins to choke him.
Now, this man owes him 100 denarii, it is a mistake to minimize that sum, it's a mistake. Because you'll then forget or think improperly about this parable and not understand what's going on. A denarius was a day's wage for a laborer. So you work all day long, you get one denarius. This man owed about a third of a year's wage for a laborer.
So in our day and age it might be somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000. So let's say $15,000, it's wrong to look on it as pocket change, a buck 98 or something like that. It's not that, it's maybe $15,000. And imagine, somebody owed you $15,000 and he's not gonna pay you back. It would be upsetting to you. If you minimize the 100 denarii, then you'll also think the parable doesn't have anything to do with this situation in your life or that situation or the other. These are very serious things. That was a minor thing. No, it's a significant sum, but it is nothing compared to the sum that the king forgave the servant. That's the point. As significant as you think it is, it's still nothing compared to what the King has forgiven in your case. That's the whole point.
So, he begins to choke him and, as though he's gonna kill him, something like a collection thug for a mafia racket, he's gonna break both his legs. And what happens next is really quite striking. The servant falls on his knees before him and says, “Be patient with me and I'll pay you back.” Does that sound familiar? It should, it should have sounded familiar to the servant who's choking him. That's exactly what he had done before the king. But the difference is, this man refuses, instead he has the man thrown into prison till he should pay back everything he owes.
So now we come to act three of this drama, act three. The other servants are shocked at what they saw, and they go to the king and they tell the king everything that happened. The king is enraged, and he calls that servant back in. “‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to, shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’” Now, the English word “should” gives a sense of moral imperative. You owe this, you ought to do this, you're in some kind of an obligation. You're in some kind of debt to the king.
There's a sense of moral obligation here. Hence the title of my sermon. Title of the sermon is the doctrine of the sermon and that is this: “Forgiven Sinners Owe Forgiveness to Other Sinners.” That's the doctrine. Forgiven sinners owe forgiveness to other sinners. And God will hold you accountable for that.
Now, the servant says nothing in act three. There's nothing to say. He is there under the power of the king to hear the king's sentence over him, and there's nothing he can do about it. Verse 34, “In anger, his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed.” Now, there is an open question as to whether the servant is now back under the original debt again, the 10,000 talents and it brings us into the theological question of is this a picture of our own salvation with God, down to theological details, like justification by faith, apart from works of the law? And how do we deal with that? Do we go in and out of indebtedness with God, justified one day, not justified the next, back justified again, based on how well we forgive? It cannot be friends.
Justification is a timeless, a once for all declaration by Almighty God that you have been forgiven of all debts, past, present and future. Well, how do you line that up with this parable? I think what's going on here is that Jesus is telling this parable to say, if you don't forgive, you haven't been forgiven. You're not forgiven. You're still under the debt and you always were. And so, if you live a life of unforgiveness, you're not saved, you're not justified, you're not regenerated. No, Christians pay attention to this parable. We take the warning, and we live a life of forgiveness, and we hunt down on forgiveness in our hearts, we hunt it down and we kill it as the murderer of our own souls that it is. That's I think what Jesus is saying here.
Christ’s Final Warning
So he gives a final warning, verse 35, “This is how my Heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” Now, some may feel that this parable is quite heavy-handed on Jesus' part. Somewhat like he's taking our arm and twisting it behind our back saying, 10,000 talents, you must forgive everyone else, but the phrase from the heart removes that vision or that image.
We should be glad to forgive, we should be delighted to forgive. We should be delighted to be free from bitterness friends, we don't have to walk around hunting people down who owe us things. We can forgive readily, we can forgive quickly, we can live a clear free life. I liken it to, in the Book of Genesis, Jacob talks about the anger of his sons who murdered a whole village because they defiled the sister. And at the end of life, when he's blessing each of the tribes, he talks about the anger and how it has clouded the hearts, their lives are clouded with hatred and anger. I don't want a heart that's clouded, do you? I wanna be like clear mountain water, you know, you scoop it up and you look through a clean glass and it's just as clear as crystal, and the glory of God can shine through it. We should be glad to forgive. Not grudging about it, delighted to forgive.
You know what the key is? The key is the 10,000 talents and the master's pity on you. That's where it comes from. You want power to forgive, go there and work on yourself until you believe the 10,000 talents. You're probably up to 180 talents right now, okay? Alright, alright, I owed God 180 talents. No, you didn't 10,000. No, not quite. Alright, maybe 800. Well just keep working on it, keep thinking, keep praying and little by little, you'll start to see the greatness and the magnitude of God's forgiveness for you in Jesus Christ. And all that you've been forgiven.
Now, I know in this life, you will not come to the full measure. The psalmist says, “I praise the Lord for his salvation every day, though I know not its measure.” You'll find out on Judgment Day, you'll see it. When you see the holy God sitting there on the throne, and you see your life properly and you will see it, then you will be filled with joy and tears of gratitude to Jesus for all he forgave in your case. Right now just take the 10,000 talents on faith, alright? Take the 10,000 talents that you owed God an infinite debt, start there and it will make you a happy forgiver, and you will be glad to forgive anyone else.
Lessons and Implications from the 10,000 Talents
God is a King, and We are All His Slaves, Accountable to Him
So, what are the lessons and implications from this parable? Number one, God is a king; we are all his slaves accountable to him for everything in our lives. Lesson number one.
God Has an Accurate Record of All of our Sins
Lesson number two, God has an accurate record of all of your sins and mine.
Our Sins Are Infinite in His Sight
Lesson number three, naturally, our sins are infinite in his sight, an incalculable debt.
God is Willing to Cancel our Infinite Debt
Number four, God is willing to cancel our infinite debt. How is that, friends? How can it be? Well, let me just pause and tell you about Jesus. Not the parable teller alone here, but the one who actually pays the 10,000 talents, and not for one individual, but for a countless multitude from every tribe and language and people and nation. Millions and million strong. You can't do the math. And he did it in one afternoon in the shedding of his blood. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. He shed his blood. “Father forgive them, Father forgive them,” that's what the blood cries.
And if you're a sinner here today and you owe God that 10,000 talents, you have never accepted Jesus' forgiveness, you are in an infinity of trouble, and you face eternity in hell. That's the measure of the infinite debt, eternity in hell, that's how I know it's an infinite debt. But the good news of the Gospel is that, if you just fall on your knees and before the king in the name of Jesus say, forgive me. Oh, let's your blood be for me. Let your salvation be for me that he'll save you. But when you get up from that, he's gonna say, you owe every other sinner you ever meet the rest of your life, you owe them free full forgiveness. Deal? And he only says it 'cause he loves us, 'cause it's right.
Others’ Sins Against Us Make them Our Debtors
And so, lesson five, yes, other's sins against us, make them our debtors. They do owe us 100 denarii, it's a good chunk of money. But let's not forget, there's other horizontal things going on, like, you owe somebody else 100 denarii, multiplied by more times than you wanna hear about, right? So yes, they owe you. You also owe a bunch of other people too, and probably them as well. It's just debt all around, because there's just so much sin, alright?
We Have a Powerful Tendency Not to Forgive Those Debts
Lesson number six, we have a powerful tendency not to forgive those horizontal debts. There's something that just rankles us about it and we don't want to do it. We are in effect playing god with a little g. And how much of a lesser God are we than he. He's so gracious, so merciful and loving and we just will not forgive. We say no. Send them to prison, playing little God, that's what we're doing.
If God Cancels Our Debts, We Owe Him to Forgive Others’ Debts
Seventh, if God cancels our debts, we owe it to him to cancel other people's debts.
If We Don’t Forgive At All, We Have None of Our Sins Forgiven
Lesson number eight, if we don't forgive at all, we have none of our sins forgiven in God's sight, and we will go to hell.
If We Don’t Forgive Specific Sins, We Will Have a Diminished Relationship with God
Number nine, if we don't forgive specific sins or have difficulty forgiving sins, are slow to forgive, sluggish in some way, our relationship with the king is thereby hindered.
Forgiveness Must be “From the Heart”
And tenth, forgiveness, if it's genuine, must be from the heart. Those are the 10 lessons I got out of it. You might be able to get 10 more. But let me take all those lessons in this parable, and apply them specifically to this church.
Have YOUR Sins Been Forgiven?
First of all, I just wanna ask, have your sins been forgiven? Have you come to the cross? Have you trusted in Jesus? Don't walk out of here with that 10,000 talent debt, trust in Jesus.
Are You a Forgiving Person?
Secondly, I wanna ask you this question, are you a forgiving person? Are you characterized by forgiveness, is that who you are? Would your spouse say that about you, would your children say that about you? Would your parents say that about you? Your friends? Are you generally, freely, and graciously a forgiving person? The implications of this parable is that those who have been forgiven much, love much and those who've been forgiven much, forgive much freely.
If you don't forgive readily, there's a clear implication you may not be saved yourself or if you are, then you have some specific sin problems. Let's look at two of them. Pride for example. You make too much about yourself, you think too much about yourself. Well, you don't know what it's like, you don't know what happened. Well, tell me what happened. Well, it was a family reunion, and my brother made a joke about me, everybody laughed, I laughed too, but it wasn't funny. And every time I get a Christmas card or something or a phone call from him, I remember. Friend, you're making too much of yourself. You are not the center of the universe. Your reputation is not as important as you think it is, and so, you have a pride problem.
Secondly, you probably have a power problem, you know why? Because when you don't forgive, you're in charge. Everybody's gotta walk on eggshells around you, they gotta come kowtowing to you and ask for things from you. And it's kinda a good feeling, you know, you'll kinda be in charge, it's a power play. Friends, it's disgusting. And the sad thing is, all of us have the pride and the power, all of us, that's why we don't forgive. I think the cross of Jesus Christ is a remedy, don't you? Stand before it and be free, be free of pride. The cross is designed to humble you, and me too. Be free of it, be free of power, give it to Jesus, he's the king, not you. Just let him be God, let him forgive.
Is There Anyone You Haven’t Forgiven?
Third thing I wanna ask is, is there anyone you haven't forgiven? Think right now, just think in your mind, is there somebody you haven't forgiven? Did somebody pop in your mind? That person you're thinking about right now, you haven't forgiven them probably. If a lot of people are popping in your mind, you have a lot of work to do. It's spring cleaning day here at First Baptist Church, you have a lot of work to do.
Search the Realms of Life for People to Forgive
You have to find out who you haven't forgiven. Let me help you, let me help you think. Let's start at home. Let's start with the husband and wife relationship. Husbands, have your wives sinned against you? If they haven't sinned against you, you're newlyweds, you've been married for one second, okay? And even then, I'm not sure, you know, there are moments. I actually saw a YouTube of a bridegroom as he was taking a vow, taking a cellphone call right there. I couldn't believe it. I think if I'd been the pastor, I would have stopped it and said get another man, okay, you need more counseling. Alright? He took the call, he took the call. They probably had years of counseling ahead of them after that, okay? He took the call.
Well, at any rate, husbands and wives, have your wives sinned against you, husbands? Forgive, forgive. Wives, if your husbands sinned against you, you need to forgive them, Jesus is saying so. And it pollutes your marriage, it pollutes your parenting, it pollutes everything, if you're holding on to old memories of things that happened in the past.
What about parents and children? Staying at home now, we're still at home. We've got growing children, we've got teens at home. We've got children age 8 to 10, whatever. Even at that early age there can already be issues of bitterness and forgiveness. Parents can be bitter towards their own children. Children can be bitter towards their parents and think that they're not parenting them well. Siblings horizontally, brother to brother, brother to sister, sister to sister, sister to brother. Is there unforgiveness going on? Is there anything you need to forgive? Are there incidents? They borrowed your outfit and didn't ask, and then stained it and now you can't wear it, it was your favorite. Forgive. Whatever it is, forgive.
Let's move out to extended family. Let's talk about grown children with aged parents. There is all kinds of room for bitterness and unforgiveness in that kind of a relationship. The aged parents might be bitter toward their children because they neglect them. They don't call enough, they don't show enough care, enough concern, enough consideration. It may all be true, again, 100 denarii is a lot of money. It's a lot of money. And they should be honoring, they should be loving, they should be doing more than they are. It's true, but you still need to forgive. Grown children of parents. Maybe your parents put some habits into you or showed some bad examples that you're fighting even now, maybe you remember some abuse, you remember perhaps some alcohol problems or some other things, and there's just bitterness in your heart towards your elderly parents, maybe that's why you neglect them. You still need to forgive. Extend it out to grown siblings. Brother with brother, brother to sister, sister to sister, sister to brother. Bitterness, unforgiveness, things that were said, things that should have been done.
How about the church? That's a home base of this parable. Let's start with the elder/pastor and church member relationship, okay? There are no perfect elders, no perfect pastors. The sins that pastors hear the most about generally are sins of omission, not sins of commission. Things that the church thinks the pastors should have done. They probably should have done them. They're not perfect men. You need to forgive anyway. Give up on the bitterness, it doesn't help you. And elders need to give up on bitterness against church members as well. Things that were done and said and that hurt, and they're painful. Which people showed a lack of understanding and spoke out of ignorance, words of judgmentalism, needs to be forgiven.
How about horizontally, church member to church member? Do you know what I'm talking about? Are there any issues, any unforgiven debts, I mean, things that were said, things that were done, hurtful things sometimes years or even a decade old or more?
Extend it out to the world. Christian or non-Christian alike. You may have a boss that is, you don't even know what he's like. Forgive him, forgive him.
Ken Sande, Peacemaker
Ken Sande has written a book called Peacemaker. I think we ordered maybe 10 or 15 of them. They're in the resource center. This is the best book on reconciliation and dealing with problems in relationships, conflict resolution that I've ever seen. Very thorough, very well written. I urge you to get it. He's actually written a number of books along the peacemaker line. This is the main volume, but there's also Young Peacemaker, peacemaker for children and then other different books, and we've got some of them there. I would urge you to get it.
But the children's version stuck with me more than any other. He defines forgiveness in four easy to remember terms, and I've never forgotten and I wanna give it to you. “Good thought, hurt you not, gossip never, friends forever.” When those four things happen, you've forgiven somebody.
Good thought. I'm not gonna harbor bitterness, and have bad thoughts in my heart toward that person. I'm done with it. I wanna be clear as a mountain stream, I wanna be clear of it. I will not think dark thoughts about that person anymore. Good thought.
Hurt you not. I'm not going to go on some kind of rearguard action or a covert operation in the middle of the night with my face black and trying to hurt this person. That's what Christians do. I mean, it's covert operation. A little bit of, and you know how to do it, you know how to play the game or hurt somebody without people knowing, that's what you're doing. Give it up, don't hurt them, bless them, seek to bless, seek to love, to lavish.
Good thought, hurt you not, gossip never. You know what we do, we start getting some allies together. Tell the story, tell it again, tell it a third time. By the way, every time you tell it, you look sweeter, and purer and more like, light, sunlight and they look darker and more evil and it's really frankly not hard to rally allies when you do that kinda thing. Friends, it's gossip, and it's sin, and you make a commitment, I am just not going to tell this story to people, I'm not gonna say anything, I'm not gonna gossip. Gossip never.
And this fourth one, the sweetest of all: friends forever. Look forward to spending eternity in heaven with that person. Think about it, pray for it, and then make it as much like that here on earth as you possibly can. Good thought, hurt you not, gossip never, friends forever.
Three Key Questions on Forgiveness
I wanna finish with a couple of questions on forgiveness and will be done. Should I forgive somebody who hasn't asked forgiveness and doesn't think they need it? What should I do about that? Well, in the context here, if your brother sins against you, go and reprove him, work with him. Bring him to repentance. There is a point in that. But suppose they don't think they've done anything, should you still forgive them? The answer is absolutely yes.
Forgiveness is something you do in your own heart, to free you from bitterness. Suppose the person is dead, are you then jailed to bitterness the rest of your life, a dead parent or whatever? No, you're not. You're able to forgive, even if they never came to you and asked for it. Yes, you can forgive and you ought to, even if they don't ever ask for it. Now, you should labor that they ask for their good, that they could be reconciled, that they could walk, but you don't need it, that's the whole point, you're free already.
Secondly, what about repeat offenders, what if they keep coming back and coming back? Well, I think we're back at the beginning of the sermon, aren't we? Isn’t that what Peter said, “How many times shall I forgive my…” Alright, you guys have up to 490 times, okay, so that you forgive up to 490. The point is, as many as often as they need it.
And third and most poignantly, what about my memories? What about my memories? Let's talk about a very serious sin, like adultery in a relationship, the husband and wife, the offended person wants to continue in the relationship, wants to cover the sin, but they ask this poignant question, “What do I do with my memories?” Well, one of the things, the key things that I've learned about atonement is that God doesn't actually remove the sin as though it never happened. Why? Because he knows it did, he's not writing an alternate universe history in which it never happened. What he does is, he covers it in something more precious. That's the language that's used of atonement. It is the day of covering. And so it says, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are” what? “covered.” That's what you do for others. Cover the memory, cover it with the blood of Christ, cover with the grace and the mercy of God. Cover it, cover it, cover it, and as often as it pokes back up, cover it again, cover it until it doesn't need covering anymore. Cover it forever.
Pretty soon there's gonna be a Bible for Life class, elective class on the need, reality, and power of forgiveness, Dr. Bob Hatch is gonna teach it. I urge you, if you can get away, to come and listen. This could be an issue for you. Close with me in prayer.