This is my sermon manuscript/notes on the subject of forgiveness. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammar. It is presented as is.
Take your Bible and turn to Mark 11.
We are in a series of messages called First. We are looking at what God wants us to do first in our lives or what should have priority.
- So far we have looked at our first love and first commandment where Jesus said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matt. 22:37-38, NLT).
- Last week we examined how to become first or great in God’s kingdom. Jesus made it clear when He said, “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave” (Matt. 20:27-28, NLT).
Today we are going to consider the importance and power of forgiveness. Everyone in this room is either needing to forgive someone or will need to forgive someone or needing forgiveness from someone else. In your life people are going to be unkind, impolite, and rude. Some of you have been mistreated and abused. Some things in your life should not have been said or happened, but they did happen and it was said. Listen carefully, without forgiveness your life will be governed by an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation. For your personal growth and peace you must learn to be a forgiver of people.
Jesus said in Mark 11:25, “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” Wow! That is a heavy duty statement by Jesus. Let’s unpack that statement.
Forgiveness is to be a priority
First, forgiveness is to be a priority. Mark says, “When you are praying, first forgive…” (NLT). Some translations don’t use the word “first,” but they say something like “whenever you stand praying, forgive…” (NASB). The implication is that one of the first things you want to do in your prayer life is forgive others, check your heart and attitude toward others. Forgiveness is to be a priority. Listen to the emphasis on forgiveness from God’s word.
- 2 Corinthians 2:5-7, “I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. (6) Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. (7) Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. (8) So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him” (NLT). Forgive him, comfort him, don’t discourage him, and reaffirm your love for him. There are some people in your life who need you to do that for them.
- Colossians 3:13, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (NLT). Everyone has faults. They have faulty thinking, faulty acting, faulty reacting, and faulty speech. You have to make allowance and room for people to do things that offend you, and when they do offend you forgive them.
- Ephesians 4:31-32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. (32) Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (NLT). Instead of reacting with bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, slander or some other evil behavior respond with forgiveness.
Forgiveness is to be a priority in your life. You will need it every day.
Forgiveness has no boundaries
Secondly, forgiveness has no boundaries. Mark says, “Forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against…” (NLT). Let me give you three thoughts about having no boundaries regarding forgiveness.
- No boundaries when it comes to the person
First, forgiveness has no boundaries when it comes to the person. Forgive “anyone” you are holding a grudge against. The Greek meaning, the technical meaning, and the literal and deep meaning of this word “anyone” is anyone. No matter who they are. Your spouse, ex-spouse… your boss, former boss… your coach, your teacher, your student, your parent, your son or daughter, your neighbor, or that person from years ago. Everyone. Anyone. Everybody. No exceptions.
- No boundaries when it comes to the offense
Secondly, forgiveness has no boundaries when it comes to the offense. Mark says, “Forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against…” (NLT). Some translations simply say, “If you hold anything against someone” you need to forgive them. No boundaries or limits on this forgiveness.
A “grudge” is a feeling of resentment, anger, and bitterness toward someone. You can hold a grudge toward your parents, toward a fellow employee or student. You can hold a grudge toward your children, toward someone at church. It can be about what they said, what they did, or what they didn’t say or didn’t do.
God’s Word doesn’t say forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against unless they did this and this, then you have a right to hold a grudge. In reality, if you hold a grudge then it really is the grudge that has a hold of you. Forgiveness has no boundaries when it comes to the offense.
- No boundaries when it comes to the amount
Third, forgiveness has no boundaries when it comes to the amount. Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 17:3-4, “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. (4) Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive” (NLT, see also Matthew 18:21-35). You should not say, “This is the last time I’m going to forgive you.” Jesus made it clear, forgiveness has no limits.
This is easy to say, but I like what C.S. Lewis once said, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”
Before we move on to our last major point, I want to give you some thoughts on what forgiveness is not:
- Forgiveness is not denying, approving, or diminishing the wrong that was committed against you. You cannot say you are fine, that it was not a big deal, or that, since it was in the past, you’ve just moved on. You must be honest about the reality of the wrong done to you if you want the forgiveness to be equally serious. In forgiving, you are saying the person was wrong, you do not approve of their action, and that it really is a big deal and not a trivial matter to you. Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behavior. Forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart.
- Forgiveness is not ignoring the wrong. Some people are prone to live as if the world were not filled with depraved sinners capable of sin, hurt, pain, and evil. Some people simply try to ignore the sin committed against them and think that by ignoring it they are forgiving it. Ignorance of or ignoring the wrong committed against you is not forgiveness. You must acknowledge the wrong done to you and forgive them.
- Forgiveness is not enabling sin. Even though you are to forgive a person many times, your forgiveness should be given in such a way as to not encourage or enable the person to continue hurting or violating you.
- Forgiveness is not forgetting about sin committed against you. It is actually impossible to completely forget such things. You are not going to forget about some pain, abuse, or violation that was made against you. Just because you still remember and the memory still hurts, does not mean you are walking in unforgiveness. That may be more of an indication that you are still hurting or grieving over the hurt. When God says, “Their sin I will remember no more,” He does not mean that He has no memory, but rather that He continually chooses not to bring it up or keep it in the forefront of His thinking. He does not hold it against them anymore. You can forgive someone and still feel hurt by the offense but not hold it against the person.
- Forgiveness is not dying emotionally and no longer feeling the pain of the transgression. Rather, forgiveness allows you to feel the appropriate depth of grievous pain but chose by grace not to be continually paralyzed or defined by it.
- Forgiveness is not a one-time event. Those who have been sinned against commonly have seasons when they feel afresh the pain of past hurts and have to forgive their offenders yet again. A thought, a smell, a picture, a sound, or word can trigger an emotional response and maybe rekindle the bitterness you once had. Even if the person is out of your life, you still may have to forgive that person again.
- Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Forgiveness is you forgiving the offender. Repentance is the offender asking for forgiveness and to stop doing the offensive actions. Reconciliation is when both forgiveness by the victim and repentance by the offender meet. Sometimes, reconciliation requires time, a lot of time especially when trust has been violated.
- Forgiveness is not neglecting justice. If a crime has been committed against you, you can forgive the criminal and call the police to arrest him or her at the same time. Just because you forgive someone does not mean they get off scot free. Forgiveness and justice do not oppose each other. The thief on the cross was forgiven of his sins, but he was still punished for the crimes he had committed.
Forgiveness affects your fellowship with your heavenly Father
Third, forgiveness affects your fellowship with your heavenly Father. Mark goes on to say, “… so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too” (NLT). The idea of God’s forgiveness toward us being connected with our forgiving others is repeated in God’s Word. For example…
- When Jesus was teaching about prayer He said in Matthew 6:12 we are to pray “forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (NLT).
- Then a couple of verses later Jesus says in Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. (15) But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (NLT).
To understand what Jesus is saying, you need to know about the three types of forgiveness.
- First, there is redemptive forgiveness. This is the forgiveness you receive at salvation. An example of this is seen when Zechariah prophesied over John the Baptist at his birth. Zechariah said, “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. (77) You will tell His people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:76-77, NLT). Everyone who has ever or will ever become a child of God has experienced redemptive forgiveness.
- Secondly, there is restorative forgiveness. This is forgiveness you receive, as a believer, when you confess your sin to your heavenly Father. This is the forgiveness you receive when you are disobedient to God. In 1 John, John is writing to believers and says, “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9, NLT). When you sin, your fellowship with God is broken, but not your relationship. Your relationship with God is that He is your heavenly Father and you are His child. However, when you sin against Him, disobey Him, rebel against Him your fellowship is broken. It’s like any parent child relationships. If the child lies or steals from the parent that disobedience against the parent affects their relationship until there is confession of the sin and forgiveness given. When that happens fellowship is restored.
- Third, there is relational forgiveness. This is forgiveness you give/receive from others. We are told in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (NLT).
So when Jesus says, “When you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins,” He is referring to both restoration and relational forgiveness. The very fact you are holding a grudge against someone is disobedience to God’s will for your life. As long as you hold that grudge your fellowship with that person and with God is going to be negatively affected. When you forgive that person you are holding a grudge against, your Heavenly Father forgives you for holding that grudge. Your fellowship with people affects your fellowship with God. That’s how God designed it.
As we wrap this up let me as three quick questions:
- Who do you need to forgive? Who has hurt you? Who lied to you? Deceived you? Violated you and your trust? When you forgive someone you set a prisoner free… and that prisoner is you.
- Who do you need to ask forgiveness from? Who have you hurt? Lied to you or lied about? Have you violated someone? Have you misused someone’s trust? It takes courage to ask for forgiveness, but it also takes courage to ask for forgiveness. You can do it. God supports you on this.
- Have you accepted God’s forgiveness that He offers you? You can be forgiven of your sins. The only way you can have eternal life is for you to receive God’s forgiveness. Paul stated this clearly when he said, “that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in Him is declared right with God” (Acts 13:38-39, NLT).