September 4, 2016
Let us begin with the big picture. Our Lord Jesus will soon return. He died on the cross for our sins. He resurrected with power and glory. He ascended into heaven. And now, we wait. We live in the most exciting moment in history - the anticipation and preparation of the return of the King. Brothers and sisters, this is the big picture.
And so we wait. We wait for the new heavens and the new earth. We desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. We greet the promises of God from afar, acknowledging that we are strangers and exiles on the earth. We look forward to seeing Jesus face to face. Though we have not seen him, we love him. Though we do not now see him, we believe in him and rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. Our souls wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. And so we wait.
But as we wait, we go through many struggles and challenges. And perhaps one of the most difficult struggle and challenge of all is forgiveness.
Forgiving others is hard for non-believers. And many of them just cannot do it. Many teenagers hold grudges against schoolmates. Many employees resent their bosses at work. Many individuals live with the bitterness of divorce for years and years. Many children never really heal from family scars or conflict. And, sadly, on top of everything, many people die with hatred and unforgiveness in their hearts. Forgiving others is hard.
But if you are a believer in Christ, it should not be. It cannot be. It must not be.
Brothers and sisters, God has forgiven us. He does not count our sins against us. Instead he has counted our sins against his Son Jesus Christ. He exhausted his wrath and executed his perfect justice upon his Anointed One. And he counts us now as righteous because of the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ. God has forgiven us. This is the core of the gospel of our salvation in Christ. God has forgiven us. God has shown us compassion and mercy.
Praise the Lord!
Brothers and sisters, if all of this is true, if God has given us this wonderful forgiveness, then let us forgive others accordingly.
Let us be generous and abundant in our forgiveness of others. Shall we stop at seven? No. Shall we technically stop at 77? Or 490? No. Shall we compare the debt of our debtors (portrayed as 100 denarii, equivalent to the amount of money you would have to pay to get a Honda Civic) to the debt that we owe God (portrayed as ten thousand talents, equivalent to millions and possibly even billions of present-day dollars)? No. Instead, let there be no limit or end to our forgiveness toward others. God generously and abundantly forgave us. Let us therefore do the same toward others.
Let us also be compassionate and merciful toward others. Shall we merely forgive others? No. We are to forgive others from our hearts. The unforgiving servant didn’t feel anything for his fellow servant. He didn’t care for the person in front of him. He only cared for the money. He only cared for himself. And the same went for Peter. When he asked Jesus his question, his focus was not on his hypothetical brother. His focus was on his self-righteousness. His focus was on himself. Let us feel for and care for others. Let us not reduce our relationships to math and numbers. God compassionately and mercifully forgave us. Let us therefore do the same toward others.
Let us not contradict the gospel of Christ. Shall we descend into the absurdity and hypocrisy of the wicked servant? No way. It makes no sense to enjoy God’s forgiveness in Christ but refuse to forgive others. It goes against everything that Jesus came to do for us. It has no place in the kingdom of heaven. Let us not contradict the gospel of Christ.
Brothers and sisters, do you have an unforgiving heart? Do you struggle with forgiveness? If so, let me give you an encouragement and a warning.
First, let me encourage you to read God’s law and be humbled by it. I encourage you to read it… and weep. It is hard to forgive others if you do not know how much God has forgiven you. And you cannot know how much God has forgiven you until you know what you have done wrong to God. So read God’s law. See how much wrong you do toward God. Be convicted of your own sins. See how great God’s forgiveness is toward you. And then have your heart softened by all of it, so that you can better forgive others. So be encouraged.
But be also warned. If you have an unforgiving heart, if you struggle with forgiveness, then be warned. Think about what it would mean if you don’t forgive others. Think about the serious contradiction that you would become. And think about the ominous outcome of the wicked servant in today’s parable. So be warned.
Highland Church, may we be a church that excels in forgiveness. Our church is turning 39 years old next week. That is a long time. That is a lot of hours cutting the grass. That is a lot of time spent cooking and preparing food in the kitchen. That is a lot of offering given. That is a lot of prayer and fellowship. That is a lot of people who have come and gone through our doors. And, of course, that is a lot of faithfulness from our God. But you know what else comes with 39 years? A lot of sin. A lot of mistakes. A lot of fighting. A lot of unforgiveness.
Brothers and sisters of Highland Church, as we look back at our history and as we look forward to the future, let us forgive one another in Christ. There may be grudges and resentment. There may be bitterness and scars. There may be unforgiveness in this room this morning. But we are forgiven in Christ Jesus. And he is returning soon, bringing the kingdom of heaven with him. Therefore, let us forgive each other as the Day of the Lord approaches near.