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The Power of Forgiveness | April 7, 2024

The Power of Forgiveness

 

Scripture: Matthew 6:9-15; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-13   

 

Good morning Strangers Rest. The title of my message this morning is “The Power of Forgiveness.” This is the first of four messages that God has given me to be delivered to you as we begin this transition together. In the following weeks I will follow-up this message with messages on the Power of Memories; Grace and finally Distractions. God gave me these specific messages to both encourage and equip us as the foundation for how we will move forward in this season.

 

Today officially marks the beginning of our journey together which at the end of this journey you will have a new Pastor. I want to thank you for putting your faith in me and allowing me to walk with you on this journey. This is an important message as we decide how we will begin this journey together. Remember last week when I told you that Satan made the greatest mistake ever made because he did not believe or understand God’s word – even though he was there when the Bible was being written? Well this morning it is our time. Before I get into the heart of this message, I want to ask you a question that will set the stage for how you will respond to this message. The question is this: “Do you believe God’s word as He does or is your belief based on traditions and what you have always heard other’s say?”

 

God told Isaiah in Isaiah 55:11, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”  (Isaiah 55:11) God said His word will accomplish exactly what He said it would – so the question for us is do we believe this? Let me give you an example. In the Bible there are several statements of facts in both the Old and New Testaments that says liars will not enter into heaven. Now on the surface we all might agree and say amen, that the one who lies should go to hell for all eternity. But do we believe God’s words the way He does? Let’s play this out. Let’s say that I am a man of God, preaching God’s word every Sunday, but I am also a habitual liar, not only is it a habit, but I have perfected it, I am a master of it, I have it down to a science. Because I mastered it, I have the reputation that if my lips are moving I am probably lying, except when I am preaching of course. Oh, and for reference purposes, there is no such thing as a little white lie being okay – in God’s eyes any untruth is a lie or falsehood. Now, according to God’s word, and our society, what I have just described makes me a liar right? So, if I am a liar and I have not repented and stopped lying (which by the way is sin) and I die as a liar, do I go to heaven or do I go to hell based on what God’s word says? Remember, to repent means you change directions – you go the opposite of where you are headed. In other words, if you are going left, you change and go right. If you are going east, you change and go west. You absolutely stop doing the sin! Repentance never means to stop temporarily or pause momentarily until the next opportunity presents itself. I say this because some people believe that a lie is an abomination to Lord but a very present help in the time of trouble. So, if I die as an unrepentant liar, do I go to heaven or do I go to hell based only on what the Bible says about liars and not what we “feel” it says?

 

I will not give you the answer to this question because how you answer the question depends on how you choose to believe God’s word. So again, do you believe God’s word as He does, or do you believe it according to what makes you comfortable? When you look at the men of God who stand in pulpits across this Nation, not all of them will end up in heaven. Jesus said in Matthew chapter seven that not everyone who prophesies (including preaching) His word will enter heaven. He also said in the same chapter that there will be more people going to hell than going to heaven which seems to be the opposite of what we believe. I am stressing this because the message today is about forgiveness and if you have developed a practice of believing God’s word in a different manner other than how He believes it, you might have a problem with this message this morning. God believes in His word and His words will accomplish every single thing that He said they would - whether we believe, agree and/or accept it or not! As you listen to this message I want you to ask yourself if you believe His word in the same manner as He does.     

 

I have chosen a few passages of Scripture out of the many to demonstrate to you the importance of forgiveness. The first one is found in Matthew chapter six and we will begin reading at verse 9. I will be reading from the New King James version of the Bible. It says, “(9) In this manner, therefore, pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. (10) Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (11) Give us this day our daily bread. (12) And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (13) And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’ (14) For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (15) But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:9-15) 

 

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, Jesus gave a simple prayer to pray – what we all know as the Lord’s Prayer. In this prayer there is one verse that every Christian should truly pay attention to and that verse is verse twelve. Now I am not saying that the other verses are not important, but verse twelve is critical to how we are to walk here on earth as it relates to forgiveness. Verse twelve says, “(12) And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  (Matthew 6:12) In verse twelve Jesus said when we pray we should ask God to “forgive us our debts” or in other words to forgive our sins and trespasses that we have committed against Him. Now all of us have experience in doing this as we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s desire for our lives in some areas. So the first part of verse twelve is not a problem for us, it’s the second part of the verse that we struggle with. Jesus told the disciples to pray to God to forgive them of their sins “as we forgive our debtors.” Do you see the requirement that God has placed on His “ability” to forgive us of our sins. Jesus said when we pray we ask God to forgive us of our sins as we are willing to forgive others of the sins they have committed towards us. So the message is very clear here, if we are not willing to forgive others then we lock God’s hands as to His ability to forgive us. And as we know that in order to enter heaven and spend at eternity with God, our sins must be forgiven. Revelation 21:27 says, “And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Sin will not enter heaven. But Jesus did not stop with verse twelve. In verses fourteen and fifteen He gave some clarification to what He meant in verse twelve. Jesus said, “14) For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (15) But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15) Jesus made it clear that the only way our sins will be forgiven is if we are willing to forgive those who have sinned against us.

 

Strangers Rest, as we start this journey that will establish a new foundation for this Church, we must start with a clean slate of forgiveness and we must keep that slate clean as we journey forth. This is for two reasons, unforgiveness can hinder our ability to clearly hear what God is saying to us and most important, if we don’t forgive others He can’t forgive us. We have just entered the 4th month of this new year and some of you have already had your feelings hurt and might be harboring some anger and frustration against someone else in the Church or someone outside of the Church. Some of you might have someone in the Church that you have never liked, but just tolerated because you were members of the same Church. Some of you might be sitting on one side of the Church because someone else is sitting on the other side. All of this represents unforgiveness and if this is you harboring unforgiveness then your sins are not being forgiven. All of the sins you have committed since you stopped forgiving others you still own – God still remembers them. Remember I told you last week that God said, “THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.” (Hebrews 10:17) When we repent and ask God to forgive our sins, if we have forgiven others, He does and then erases the sin as if it never happened. However, when we don’t forgive He can’t forgive us. You could be struggling in other areas of your life because you have refused to forgive someone who has offended you and I am here this morning begging you to understand that if you continue to refuse to forgive others you are putting yourself in jeopardy.

 

I do not want you to take my word for it – that you are putting yourselves in jeopardy if you refuse to forgive, so I will simply point you to what the word says. I do not think that there is any disagreement on how God sees sin so I assume we all agree that our sins must be forgiven in order for us to spend an eternity with Christ, so I will focus strictly on proving to you through God’s word what happens if we refuse to forgive others. So we just covered what Jesus said when teaching the disciples how to pray, so let’s look at another example. Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter eighteen and we will read verses twenty-one and twenty-two. Matthew 18:21-22 says, “(21) Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ (22) Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” Now some of us really need to pay close attention to this one because there is a message in these two verses. Peter already knows that he must forgive because Jesus had already taught them the Lord’s Prayer so his question wasn’t about “if” he has to forgive, but when is it acceptable to not forgive repeated offenders. It was like he was asking, “How many times do I need to turn the other cheek?” Matthew 5:38-39 tells us about the requirement to turn the other cheek. Jesus taught the disciples, before He told them how to pray, that they were not to resist evil people, but to turn the other cheek. In other words, to forgive. Now stay with me here. Jesus first tells us not to retaliate against someone who harms us and then to forgive all those who sins against us. This goes against what we have been taught doesn’t it? We have been taught three strikes and you’re out. We say things like “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me – there won’t be third time.” But this is not what Jesus taught.

I want to share this quick story with you of something I experienced last week. As some of you know, I mentor some kids through my personal ministry at one of the elementary schools here in KCK. I have kids from kindergarten through fifth grade. I was talking to my 4th graders about not allowing someone else to control them and make them respond in ways that get them into trouble. One of the examples I used was walking away and reporting when someone hit them so that they do not get in trouble for retaliating. You would have thought that I had just cussed based on their reactions. But this is what was telling: they said I was recommending that they do something that their parents told them not to do. Their parents told them if someone hits them they are for fight back. They recognized what I was saying about them getting in trouble and the possible consequences of their fighting back – but they did not care! Their parents had told them it was okay not to turn the other cheek and walk away. Some of you might feel the same way, but what if it’s your child that ends up dead or crippled because they took your advice and didn’t walk away? We are living in a society where life is no longer valued and if we are not careful, we too will be part of the problem. But let me get back to Peter.

 

So we find Peter, acknowledging that he must forgive, as he knows that he cannot bear a grudge against his brother or take revenge, and that he must be as good a friend as ever and forget the injury. But knowing all of this he still asks the question that all of us asks. How many times do I need to forgive someone who continues to sin against me. How many times must I turn the other cheek? Why is it my responsibility to continue to forgive when I am not the one in the wrong? Peter asks, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21) Peter was not talking about seven times in one day, he was talking seven times in a lifetime. Although seven was a number of perfection among the Hebrews, and often meant much more than the units in it imply, Peter uses it here in a plain literal sense. What is interesting is that it was a common saying among the Jews never to forgive more than three times and here was Peter more than doubling the accepted number of times required to forgive. I am sure Peter thought he was doing justice to the current belief but Jesus’ response totally destroyed that idea.

 

Jesus answered Peter by telling him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22) Jesus told Peter that His requirement was that you forgive someone indefinitely – that was the point of saying 490 times. So here’s what I want you to consider: what person in their right mind keeps a log of the people who offend them so that when they get to 490 they can write them off? No one right and yet there are people who we have written off and refused to forgive because they sinned against us once. This is a hard lesson that Jesus taught because it opens us up to continually being hurt. But here is the deal, God promised us that He would take care of the situation and the person. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, “(17) Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. (18) If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (19) Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,’ says the Lord. (20) Therefore ‘IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM; IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP COALS OF FIRE ON HIS HEAD.’ (21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21) Do you believe God’s word as He does? Do you believe that God will handle your situations with your supposed enemies if you allow Him? This is serious.   

As a Church we meet twice a week to pray and that my friends is commendable. But Jesus said the following in Mark chapter eleven, verses twenty five and twenty-six, “(25) And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. (26) But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25-26) Jesus says that whenever we are praying, at home, at Church, Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. or Wednesdays at noon, that we must forgive others before we pray. Why? It is so that God can hear our prayers forgive us of the very sins we might be repenting from in our prayer.

 

Let me speak to the husbands for a minute – and this I believe, in spirit, apples to the wives as well. The Apostle Peter wrote the following in  First Peter 3:7 and I am going to read this from the Amplified Bible, “In the same way, you husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way [with great gentleness and tact, and with an intelligent regard for the marriage relationship], as with someone physically weaker, since she is a woman. Show her honor and respect as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered or ineffective.”  (First Peter 3:7)  Husbands, you need to memorize this verse. I don’t care that your coffee was cold this morning! I don’t care that the chicken was a little burnt last night. I don’t care if she didn’t compliment you or kiss you goodbye before you left the house for work. If you are not treating her with gentleness, compassion, as an intellectual equal, honoring and respecting her, then your prayers are being hindered. If you have been praying and praying about something and not getting an answer, how are you treating your wife? And instead of you answering the question, let’s try a different method. Go to her and ask her how you measure up to First Peter 3:7 and don’t be offended when she tells you the truth. Take notes, make a change, and then get your prayers answered. It’s really that simple. Oh, and wives, if you have been harboring unforgiveness because your husband has not been doing this, then your prayers have been hindered too so it goes both ways.

 

Our willingness to forgive others is the key to God forgiving us. David wrote in Psalm 32:1 tells us, “…..Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” (Psalms 32:1) And what is great about God’s forgiveness is what I told you last week. When He forgives us He wipes the sin away as if it never existed and He doesn’t remember it. God said in Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” When we have forgiven others, when we confess and repent of our sins God wipes our slate clean and we are made new. Psalms 103:12 tell us “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” This only happens when we have forgiven others.

 

I want read this Scripture because in Church this Scripture is often read and applied incorrectly. You often here this Scripture read when the offering is being taken but when Jesus made this statement it had absolutely nothing to do with money. I want to read Luke 6:36-38. It says, “(36) Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. (37) Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (38) Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” We often read verse thirty-eight alone when taking up offerings which would make it seem like it could apply to money. But when read in context, Jesus was talking about our extending love, mercy and forgiveness to one another! And in this, the amount we are able to do this for one another is the amount we will receive from both God and others. 

 

These are just a few of the Scriptures pertaining to God forgiving us being dependent upon our willingness to forgive others. As I close this morning I want to read one last Scripture from the book of Colossians. Colossians 3:12-13 says, “(12) Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; (13) bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” 

 

Strangers Rest, as we go through this transition together, I am asking you to put on tender mercies and forgive everything that’s ever happened before today. Wipe the slate clean. I understand your cheeks may be hurting and emotionally swollen from all the times you have turned it, but let it go. The cornerstone of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ died for sins. Jesus paid the price for our sins. Jesus forgives sins. If you do not understand forgiveness enough to forgive others, then your faith is so small that it is tantamount to unbelief. In that case, we can’t expect our prayers to be answered except our prayer of confession. When service is over go find that person that you don’t like and shake their hands. Tell them you are starting fresh so that your prayers will be heard and your sins forgiven. And moving forward, when someone says something that hurt your feelings, I am asking you to put on kindness. As we go through this transition if you make a suggestion or recommendation that is not adopted, I am asking that you put on humility – let’s leave our egos out of the house of God and with meekness and longsuffering (patience) bear one another up. And lastly, but most important, choose to walk in a spirit of continued forgiveness. Establish a mentality that you will immediately forgive any hurt caused you because that is what Jesus did for us. Always keeping in the forefront of your minds that an unforgiving spirit will hinder our ability to hear from God and accomplish what He wants us to do. So this morning I am asking that all members of this Church stand to your feet and join me by reading the prayer of forgiveness that I included on your Scripture reference handout so that we will start over today with a clean slate. Please read this prayer with me:

 

“Father God, you know the people that I have not forgiven and for this I repent today. I am making the choice to forgive everyone just as You forgave me through the blood of your own Son. I am making this choice today out of obedience to Your word. Father as you have forgiven me help me to forgive others continually. Help me to turn the other cheek repeatedly. Help me to erase the log entries of those who have offended me so that when I see them the memory of what they did no longer stings. Father I thank you for Your patience with me and Your love for me. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.”

 

God bless and keep you. Today is the first day of the future of this Church and what a future it’s going to be. The doors of the Church are open.

 

Until next time, “The Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace.”  (Numbers 6:24-26)

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VISION: 

“Til all the ransomed church of God is saved to sin no more"

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