Thursday, August 21, 2014

Three "I's" of Forgiveness

Consider the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
Matthew 18: 21-35

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?”  Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

What a challenging text! We are to forgive other people up to 490 times? What does this text teach us about practicing forgiveness? There are three valuable lessons to be remembered about forgiveness:

1. First, the IMPORTANCE of Forgiveness...
Jesus stressed the importance of forgiveness by using a breath-taking challenge. He instructed Peter to forgive up to four hundred ninety times. Forgiveness is important!
   A.  First, forgiveness is important because God’s forgiveness of us is dependent on our forgiving others.
   B.  A second reason why forgiveness is important is because our spiritual freedom depends on our forgiving others.  Whenever you harbor unforgiveness in your heart you will be in bondage. You will not have freedom when you try to worship.

2. These verses teach the importance of forgiveness. However, it also teaches the IMPOSSIBILITY of Forgiveness. 
There is a somewhat humorous story line in this passage.  In Matthew 5, verse 21 we read where Peter comes to Jesus with a question. His question was, “how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” (then Peter adds) “up to seven times?”  This is the catch: the Jewish Rabbis taught that forgiving someone three times was sufficient. Peter was offering a generous over-stepping of obligation. If three was the magical number then seven should be going the extra mile, so he thought. Jesus stunned Peter when he suggested (in verse 22) that Peter should forgive 70 times 7 (or 490 times).  Jesus point, there should be no limits on forgiveness.
Forgiveness is impossible without submitting yourself to God. "You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." (James 4:2-3).

3.  Knowing its importance and knowing it is impossible without God, now consider the INSPIRATION to offer forgiveness.
There is inspiration in the Bible, in real life stories, and ultimately in Jesus Christ.  As he hung on the cross he prayed a prayer of forgiveness, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34).  When you forgive, it does not mean that the other person will change… it means that YOU have!   It means that you have used your FREE WILL to obey Christ and extend mercy, grace, and compassion.  It means that you CHOOSE to show leniency, let go of resentments, release unhealthy and unholy emotions, trust God, and submit to His Will.  It means you have chosen strength and humility over weakness and pride.  You have relinquished your right to be right which in itself is an act of obedience to God.

If a big, shiny red balloon represents God’s holiness, how many pins do you need to stick in it to break it? We are ALL guilty when compared to His holiness.  It has nothing to do with what good you’ve done.  It has to do with Jesus Christ and what He’s done, whether or not He is in your heart, reigning in your life… by invitation of your own Free Will.

The Point
Any guesses what the point of forgiveness is?  JOY! The complete and utter JOY of God when one sinner repents. That is the point of the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).  “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

The Challenge
Exercise your FREE WILL to say YES to God… He will empower you.  If we really hunger and thirst for righteousness (Listen, trust, and obey), if we really desire to know God intimately and walk in His ways, then we DIE TO SELF and don’t let anyone or anything get in our way… or stop us from being obedient.

Remember the Three I’s of Forgiveness…
1.  It is IMPORTANT,
2.  It is IMPOSSIBLE without His help, and
3.  There is plenty of INSPIRATION for it.

What’s stopping you from seeking  forgiveness?  What’s stopping you from extending forgiveness?   Ask and believe that you can forgive, then obey.

~Posted by Kay Dillard

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