Sermon Text: Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Sermon Title: Pain Management Pt 3 I’ve forgiven but I’m struggling to Forget
BP: Move the hearers to forgive
Introduction: It’s easier said than done and even harder to forget. Maybe our trouble is not when we know we need to forgive; it’s when we think we don’t have to forgive. After all, this is one of those messages that you’re wishing someone else heard. It’s someone else’s problem, not yours. Someone else is bitter; someone else has a problem. But not you. You’re OK. You’re allowed to be bitter. You’re allowed to fester and stew. You’re allowed to hold a grudge because of what happened to you. And if I knew what had happened to you, I wouldn’t expect you to forgive nor forget anyone.
Well, it’s true that I don’t know what has happened to you. But I know Jesus does. And I know what He has said about forgiveness. So today’s message isn’t from the pastor; it’s from the Lord. Well, I hope every message I have is from the Lord, but know that this is not my opinion; it’s straight from God.
I mention forgiveness fairly often, for a few reasons.
1) Unforgiveness is more subtle than most sins. It’s sneaky. It crawls in bed with you at night so gently, so nobly, so innocently that you don’t know it’s there until it really has you. Before you know you are so comfortable with it in your spirit.
2) It’s also more common than most sins. We all battle it from time to time. Even though we may not stumble over the “bigger” sins, the sins of the flesh, lack of forgiveness and forgetting seems to affect more of us. And
3) it’s also more dangerous. It may not cause you to overdose and have a car accident, but it will divide churches, families, marriages, and nations. Unforgiveness/the inability to forgive and forget has been called the cancer of the soul. Unchecked, it will eat you alive.
Turn with me to Matthew 18:21-35 for a story that describes how Jesus looks at forgiveness on the two levels: from God and for others. And Jesus also shows us what lack of forgiveness will do to us. He compares unforgiveness to a prison. (describe the text…)
But the story doesn’t end there. The man had someone owe him money, a few bucks. He immediately walks out from his employer’s office and demands a payment. Understand: he doesn’t need it as the start of a re-payment plan. It was purely selfish reasons why he demanded this money back. Well, the employer heard about this and brought the first man back into his courts. He scolded him severely, then threw him into prison. And in this prison, the man would face torture. The story is not just about unforgiveness but about not forgetting.
Point 1. Forgiveness is intentional Mt 6: 12, 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matt 8: 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
Forgiveness is not random. Forgiveness is not a casual pursuit. Forgiveness is not something that falls out of the sky. The text says the servant who was intentionally forgiven did not intentionally forgive who owed him. He never forgot what was owed him. He carried it around and the first opportunity he got he enforced his right not to forget or forgive.
Point 2. Forgiveness is painful. Vs 8: 26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.”
Not even though the man who intentionally didn’t forgive nor forget, he displayed such pain when he wanted to be forgiven. This lets me know even in the pain of forgiving if you refuse to forgive/forget you will pass that pain on to somebody else. Hurt people hurt people. Vs. 29 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
Vs. 29 29 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
Point 3: Forgiveness brings
1) Forgiveness brings freedom. Matt.18:27 – the master let him go. Being forgiven gives us freedom. It means we are not slaves to work ourselves debt-free before God. He just gives it to us. Before the master freed him from the debt, he was terrified. He was going to spend his whole life trying to repay, and he would never have been able to. But forgiveness of the debt set him free. And it sets us free, too. Free to love, to be thankful.
But what does unforgiveness do to someone? It puts you into prison. If you don’t take this parable and Jesus’ words literally, what is meant likely is that if you don’t forgive others, then you don’t feel forgiven by God. That’s true. Unforgiveness of others results in not feeling forgiven by God, if you don’t feel forgiven, if you don’t feel that God could forgive or has forgiven, it could be that you need to do some forgiving/forgetting as well.
2) Forgiveness brings closure. Again from the story, the servant was able to just walk away from the debt. Would he forget? Likely not. We seem to think that if we have forgiven, then we will forget. That’s not true. We are humans with memories. Forgetting is not a substitute for forgiveness. In fact, on the road to forgiveness, we may have to remember all the horrible things that happened to us. But forgiveness closes the door on them. It says: I will not let the emotional baggage keep me down. And if I do remember, I will choose to forgive again.
Forgiveness is a choice, and you can choose to keep the emotion behind locked doors. You can walk away from it. Is it easy? No. Is it possible? Yes. Ask Him to help you. You already have all the Spirit you need. But ask for the courage to forgive. Ask for the freedom that comes. Ask God to show you how to move on.
3) Forgiveness brings life. Watch this verse. I had never seen it this way until this week. Colossians 2:13 – “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your (or our) sinful nature, God made you (or us) alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.” The writer Paul puts “giving life” and “forgiveness” in the same breath. We find life when we are forgiven. Joy, hope, peace, strength. And we give life when we forgive, to ourselves and to our victims of unforgiveness. Letting someone off your hook doesn’t let them off God’s, but it frees you.
Point 4. Forgiveness is forever forgetting is not. Phil 3:13 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
How does one take the power of forgiveness and use it to forget? How does one wipe something out of their memory as Paul seems to suggest and the man in the parable was not able to do. He lost everything because he refused to forget and forgive. So many of us find ourselves in this place. Well I want to argue this morning forgetting is not a requirement for forgiving. In fact, forgetting can actually empower forgiving. Forgiveness deals with eternity and forgetting deals with the here and now. Forgetting is very much a part of the present as it should be.
Paul does not mean forgetting as erasing from your mind who/what hurt you. Paul means using it to empower your present and your future. If he didn't mean that then he wouldn't have listed in the text everything that he was forgetting. Let me explain, every time you remember what someone did to you should be a moment you remember (1) how you were forgiven (2) how you set them free (3) how you are growing from the pain (4) the scar is present but the wound is healed. In other words the scar on my wrist where my brother cut me open to the white meat.
The man in the parable misused his memory but don't misuse yours.
Heavenly Father, ______ has taken ______ from me. I have held on to this debt long enough. I choose to cancel this debt. _________ doesn’t owe me anymore. Just as you forgave me, I forgive__________.
1. Identify the person who hurt you
2. Determine what they owe you
3. Cancel the debt.
4. Dismiss the case
a. When memories come face them, feel it – don’t reopen the case
b. Thank God for his grace he gave you to forgive
c. Focus on the truth of forgiveness/decisions
d. Memories/feelings are just that – forgiveness and forgetting
e. Vengeance isn’t your job but God’s and he is good at his job.