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FORGIVENESS FROM THE HEART

Date: 
July 8, 2018
Speaker: 
Rev. Terry Martinson
Reading: 
MATTHEW 18:21-35

THEME: Because we have been forgiven beyond our comprehension, we should willingly forgive those who have hurt or wronged us…

NOTE: Terry will be wearing a backpack full of rocks…

 

INTRODUCTION

  • You must think I’m pretty foolish wearing a backpack full of rocks… it’s a heavy burden… it’s uncomfortable… it is wearing me down…
  • But I’m not the only one wearing a “backpack full of rocks”… my guess is that some of you are, too…
  • The rocks represent the grudges we hold against the people who have hurt us and wronged us in one way or another over the years… for some reason we just can’t let them go… or maybe I should say we just won’t let them go… we won’t forgive the people in our lives who need to be forgiven… and the heavy burden wears us down, not them…
  • A visitor from across the mountain leaned on the rail fence watching his old friend plow… the old man behind the plow was working much too hard… the visitor, leaning on the rail said, “I don’t like to butt in, but you could save yourself a lot of work by saying ‘gee’ and ‘haw’ to the mule instead of tuggin’ on his reins so hard.” The old timer stopped, pulled a big handkerchief from his pocket and mopped his brow. “Yep, I know that,” he agreed, “but this mule kicked me six years ago, and I ain’t spoke to him since.”  <Huyck>
  • The old timer just wouldn’t let go of his backpack full of rocks… neither will we…
  • William Walton wrote: “To carry a grudge is like being stung to death by a single bee.” <Pritchard>

 

WHY TALK ABOUT FORGIVENESS?

  • My message this morning is about forgiveness…
  • Why talk about forgiveness? There are three good reasons…

#1 - Forgiveness is a very common concern… many of us struggle with forgiveness… we’d

       rather get even than forgive…

#2 - Forgiveness is a major theme in scripture, especially in the New Testament…

#3 - Christianity is a religion of forgiveness… it all begins with God and comes down to us…

       that which creates and sustains the Christian community is forgiveness… <de Jong>

  • “It’s not just other people we need to forgive. We also need to forgive ourselves for all the things we didn’t do and all the things we should have done.” (Mitch Albom – Tuesdays with Morrie)

 

BIBLE STORY <Matthew 18:21-35>

  • Peter, the disciple, was concerned about forgiveness…
  • He came to Jesus with a very common but urgent question, “How often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?”
    • I find questions like Peter’s in “Dear Abby” almost once a week…
    • As a pastor, I’ve been asked that question many times…
  • Peter wanted to know how much guff he had to take off somebody. He wanted to know when do you quit turning the other cheek…. Just about everybody has felt that way at some point or another…. <Pritchard>
  • Peter wanted to know how long he had to wait before he could really let his brother have it! When is it okay to blow your stack?
  • But Peter didn’t wait for Jesus’ answer. He had one ready. He said, “Seven times?”
    • You see, the Rabbis taught you had to forgive a man three times and then you could retaliate.
    • So Peter thinks to himself, “Well, I’ll just double that and add one for good measure.”… seven, after all, is the perfect number.
    • Peter wanted to put a legal limit on forgiveness – he wanted a number, a limit, a place where he could finally say, “No more Mr. Nice Guy.”  <Pritchard>
  • Peter was surprised by Jesus’ response…
    • Jesus confronts him with the truth that the spirit of forgiveness knows no boundaries -forgiveness can’t be reduced to a mathematical formula…
    • Jesus said, “Peter, you’ve got it all wrong. You don’t count the number of times you forgive someone. Forgiveness is unlimited. The person who keeps count of the number of times he has forgiven someone really hasn’t forgiven that person at all.”
    • “Peter, forgiveness, to be genuine, must come from the heart.”
  • Your forgiveness should reflect God’s forgiveness…
  • The message of the gospel is: All believers should willingly forgive for all have been forgiven beyond comprehension.
  • We don’t forgive in order to be forgiven… we forgive because we have been forgiven.
  • No one should ever say, “I’ve forgiven enough. Now it’s time to hold a grudge.”… that just adds more rocks to the backpack…
  • “Life is too short – grudges are a waste of perfect happiness. Laugh when you can. Apologize when you should. And let go of what you can’t change.” (melawebapps.com)

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FORGIVE?

  • “Forgiveness is not easy, but it is necessary, and it must be practiced continually.” <Pritchard>
  • Forgiveness is a choice… we all have the ability to forgive, but we may choose not to…
  • Forgiveness is letting go of the hurts and wrongs caused by others…
  • We might think that those hurts and wrongs are caused by our enemies, but in my ministry I’ve discovered that the most difficult hurts and wrongs to let go of are those inflicted by family members or friends.
  • Not letting go of those hurts and wrongs causes both heartache and guilt.
  • Forgiving is letting go… but that’s easier said than done… most times forgiving is a very slow process…

 

LETTING GO

  • When you forgive, you don’t change the past. You change the future.
  • Forgiveness involves forgetting…
  • To forgive, but to not forget just adds to the burden of the backpack…
  • Lewis Smedes wrote a book titled Forgive and Forget… in it he writes, “When you release the wrongdoer from the wrong, you cut a malignant tumor out of your inner life. You set a prisoner free, but you discover that the real prisoner was yourself.”
  • We will know when the work of forgiveness is complete when we experience the freedom that comes as a result. We are the ones who suffer the most when we refuse to forgive.
  • “Almost all of us have experienced the problem of forgiving someone the best way we know how and then discovering that angry thoughts still fill our minds.” <Pritchard>
  • In scripture it says that God’s forgiveness means that God chooses not to remember our sins. (Hebrews 10:17)
  • Forgiveness is a choice we make… Forgiveness means that we choose not to remember the wrongdoing… and if it’s genuine – from the heart - it also means that we choose not to hold a grudge against the wrongdoer. <Pritchard>
  • So, in a sense, to forgive means to choose to forget…
  • In one of her writings, Corrie Ten Boom tells of some Christian friends who wronged her in a public and malicious way. For many days she was bitter and angry until she forgave them. But in the night she would wake up thinking about what they had done and get angry all over again. It seemed the memory would not go away… Help came in the form of a Lutheran pastor to whom she confessed her frustration after two sleepless weeks… He told her, “Corrie, up in the church tower is a bell which is rung by pulling a rope. When the sexton pulls the rope, the bell peals out ding-dong, ding dong. What happens if he doesn’t pull the rope again? Slowly the sound fades away… Forgiveness is like that. When we forgive someone, we take our hand off the rope… It’s not surprising if after forgiveness, for a while memories keep coming back. If you refuse to dwell on them, slowly they will fade away. Why? When you forgive, you let go of the rope and the force is gone out of your anger. Corrie, let go of the rope! Let go of the rope!” <Pritchard>

 

CONCLUSION

  • Forgiveness is good for your health… according to one study I read:
    • Forgiveness reduces stress…
    • Forgiveness yields better heart health…
    • Forgiveness builds stronger, healthier relationships…
    • Forgiveness reduces the pain caused by guilt and anger…
    • Forgiveness yields greater happiness…  <preaching.com>
  • “Always pray to have eyes that see the best in people, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad, and a soul that never loses faith in God.”  (Facebook Wisdom)
  • Let me finish this message with a very practical suggestion… take your backpack to the cemetery of grudges… dig a big hole… throw all of the rocks from your backpack into the hole… cover them with dirt…
  • Once there has been true forgiveness, something wonderful happens… there is a new beginning… you can start all over again with a clean slate – an empty backpack… that will feel so good!

 

SERMON SEEDS

  • Daily Study Bible – Matthew – William Barclay
  • Life Application Bible Commentary – Matthew – published by Tyndale
  • How Can I Learn to Forgive? – a sermon by Dr. Ray Pritchard – GREAT RESOURCE!!!
  • How To Forgive Your Enemies – And Your Friends­­ - a sermon from Preaching.com
  • Living In Forgiveness – a sermon by Dr. Walter D. Huyck, Jr.
  • Deep And Wide – a sermon by Patricia de Jong

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