The New Testament Challenge: Forgiveness

Here are the notes from Sunday’s talk at Cityview.  You can listen to the audio later in the week.  I have included in the notes the song Forgiven, by Jacob Favela, that we watched and the link for the interview with Kim Phuc that I referenced.

 

New Testament Challenge:  The Challenge of Forgiveness

“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins
against us.”   Luke 11:4

The Big Idea:  When I forgive someone I decide that they don’t owe me anything anymore.

1.  Admit the debt pain/hurt creates in your heart.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of  life.”  Proverbs 4:23

“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.   Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.”
Proverbs 28:13-14

After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’?  For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)  He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’  For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'”   Mark 7:17-23

 

2.  Turn to Jesus who has paid it all and forgiven you.

“Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Luke 23:34
“In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”  Ephesians 1:7-8

 

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.   2 Peter 1:5-9

 

3.  Choose to forgive the one who sinned against you.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Ephesians 5:32

Matthew  18:21-27

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?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“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.   “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

 

4.  Make yourself available to God for His redemptive work.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  Romans  8:26-29

 

when everything is not enough

A wealthy, influential man came to see Jesus to ask  about the good life, eternal life (Luke 18:18-30).  He asks,  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  He likely had everything his context could offer him: wealth, a good reputation, a growing family, comfort, influence, respect, and servants.  When confronted with God’s commands–do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother–this big-name-family-business-man, revealed his desire for a principled and ordered life.  “All these I have kept since I was a child.”  And yet, even though he was living out their local vision of being good, even though he was living the “good life” that others coveted, this man could not escape the dis-ease in his heart, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

If you have ever noticed that you get no lasting satisfaction from the stuff of this world, you may understand the darkness and emptiness that was in this man’s heart.  He had it all, but was not satisfied.  Perhaps, he was uncomfortable with the temporary nature of all that he was investing his life in and began to contemplate what was really out there in the future and what could really fill his heart, and if there was a really meaningful life to be had.

Please don’t miss the profound nature of the spiritual life contained in the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  A big-name-family-business-man in Jesus’ day would understand the two realities  required to be the beneficiary of an inheritance.  It requires that you are born into a family of some means and second, that somebody dies.  The Christian view of the good life believes that Jesus makes both of these requirements possible.

When a person receives Jesus as the central commanding and provisionary figure of life, s/he is born into or adopted into the family of God.  Therefore the person now is part of a household of faith that shares the rich provisions, blessings, influence of our Heavenly Father.  You become a child of God with the full rights and privileges  of His household not via creation but through spiritual rebirth.  (See the related verses below.)

And in regards to the second requirement of an inheritance–someone must die, the Christian view of reality holds that Jesus’ death was meaningful for the execution of God’s will for the benefit of all who would receive Him.  Jesus was going to die for this man on the Cross.  Jesus’ death was full of meaning.  His death secured an inheritance of forgiveness of sin, fellowship with God, and the gift of the Holy Spirit so that His followers might enjoy the grace of God by faith in Him.  (See the related verses below.)

I relate to this man, not because I actual enjoy the status he had, but because I know that the attraction of money, wealth, power, and reputation seem to have death grip on us, even though our devotion to them is so futile.  We all seem to want our own kingdoms of comfort.   Jesus asked this man to exchange his devotion to wealth and himself for devotion to Jesus and service to others in Jesus’ kingdom.  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus told him, “You still lack one thing.  Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”  Give up your rights to it, give it away, and follow me.

Even though his heart was dissatisfied with all this world could offer him, the cost for satisfaction seemed too high and the man went away very sad, “because he was a man of great wealth.”  He could not yet see that Jesus far outweighed the value of everything he had.  For on the other side of the transaction Jesus called for, this man could have enjoyed life as a child of the King:  valuable relationships, meaningful living, and eternal life.  Jesus saw into this man and sympathized with the struggle and tells him, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!  Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

I hope the man reconsidered the offer.  Jesus secured an inheritance for this man.  Jesus did die to fulfill the will of the Heavenly Father.  Jesus does have a family into which we can be born by His Spirit.  Jesus’ resurrection from the dead seals the deal and marks His triumph over death and over the emptiness of living for what the world offers without God.   Whatever you are holding onto as “the thing” that will make your life full and meaningful, I urge you to loosen your fatal attraction and  grip on the stuff of this world and to embrace Jesus Christ as your Lord–your Provider, Saviour, Redeemer, and your very Life.  Through Jesus, God will cleanse you of every shameful and empty thing, and will gracefully fill your life with joy, assurance, meaning, and new confidence as His child.  He will give you a new way of living with the stuff and people of this world, so that by His Spirit you may overcome its never-ceasing competition for the allegiance of your heart.  When everything is not enough, Jesus is enough.

Jesus fulfills the requirements required so we can inherit eternal life.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shield by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kids of trials.  These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an  inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  1 Peter 1:3-9

“I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again….the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:3, 14-16

“…giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  Colossians 1:11-14

“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviou.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemishand free from accusation…”  Colossians 1:19-22

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes:  first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that it is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.'”  Romans 1:16-17

integrity test: forgiveness is work

I like to think of myself as a person who forgives easily.  However, I know that the roots of unforgiveness are easily nurtured by the fertile soil of hurt.  It is too easy to let a relationship and a memory sit sour for a day then weeks and months and years.  The result is bit like the lost Easter egg.  It may not stink for days and weeks, but there will come a day that it creates a stink.  You may not smell it anymore, but anyone who enters that room and the adjoining rooms will know that something is rotten!  Relationships will be soured by your unresolved or unforgiven hurt and pain.

Forgiveness is a work that is at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus and therefore the “family life” of any who follow Jesus.  

The notes that follow are from the Sunday message at Cityview.  The audio will be posted later in the week.

 

Text:  Luke 17:1-10

Big Idea:  Forgiveness is work.

Unpacking the Text:

Vs. 1-3  A warning regarding sin.

     1.  Temptation and situations that cause people to stumble and to sin
          are reality.

     2.  Being the source of stumbling or scandal,  or sin, is awful.
     3.  We must give careful attention to the impact of our lives.

Vs. 3-4  Instructions regarding how to deal with a person who sins against you.  Forgiveness always costs someone; it does not excuse, overlook or condone wrong doing.

     1.  If your brother sins against you, rebuke him.

     2.  If he repents, forgive him.

     3.  If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times
          comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him.

     (other texts:  Matthew 5: 21-26, 6:12-15, 18:15-35)

 Vs.  5-6  The Disciples want increased faith in order to forgive with the generosity Jesus commands; Jesus wants them to have even a little bit of confidence in Him.  We want forgiveness to be about justice, but it is about healing.  It is not about reforming, but about releasing.

      If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this
      mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will
      obey you.

 Vs. 7-10  Jesus treats forgiveness as “dutiful work” to be pursued no matter the Disciple’s feelings, but because of their relationship to Him.  This parable is also a warning against feeling that God owes us because we have now forgiven another person who hurt us.

“We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”

 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Luke 23:34

I introduced the message on Sunday with a news piece on the Amish schoolhouse shooting October 2, 2006.  I remember watching with the rest of the world and being convicted and challenged by the grace of many in this community.