Part 2: Summary of Lessons Learned on Forgiveness

Good Afternoon Church,

I hope this letter finds you striving in the strength of the Lord as you pursue God given holiness.[1] What a blessing it has been to finally be living in Bowie and while our home is far from finished how grateful we are to have a house after over ten years of apartment and nomadic living. It truly has been a long journey that has led us to this point, but how faithful our God has been to provide, protect, purify, strengthen, and sustain our family through both times of plenty and times of want.[2] God is good all the time![3]

Our study on forgiveness has been a true blessing for me, as I have grown deeper in my understanding of God’s eternal and undeserved forgiveness graciously given through faith in Christ alone.[4] It has also been a great encouragement to hear from many of you of how this series has helped, equipped, and provoked you in both the reality of your forgiveness as a believer[5] and your responsibility to be a forgiving Christian.[6] Therefore, in order to further solidify the lessons learned, I am providing another summary of some of the pertinent truths gained about being a forgiven and forgiving people.

Part 2: Summary of Lessons Learned on Forgiveness

colossians-forgiveness

The Priority of Forgiveness

One of the first lessons learned, that actually laid the foundation for this series, was the reality of the priority of forgiveness. The Bible patently establishes the necessity for and priority of biblical forgiveness as a main theme that threads its way completely through the Scriptures from Genesis[7] through Revelation.[8] It is undeniable that the gracious offer of forgiveness for guilty sinners is in many ways the merciful binding that holds the books of the Bible together![9] Here are seven specific ways we see the priority of forgiveness in the Scriptures, which should further provoke our praise to God for His forgiveness and our pursuit in offering forgiveness to others.

  1. Forgiveness is the ultimate promise of the Gospel and the reason it is called “good news.”[10]
  2. Forgiveness is actually the gracious provision of God that also serves as a power source for the believer.[11]
  3. Forgiveness is preeminent in the foundation and ministry of the Church.[12]
  4. Forgiveness is a prerequisite for all godly relationships especially those within the church and home.[13]
  5. Forgiveness actually protects the believer from the schemes of Satan.[14]
  6. Forgiveness powerfully and poignantly portrays Christ to the world.[15]
  7. Forgiveness is inseparably linked with true salvation.[16]

The Problem of Forgiveness 

As we have been learning forgiveness is both the greatest need of man and the greatest gift given by God to repentant sinners. Yet, we have also grappled with the reality of the difficulty surrounding forgiveness. Giving and asking for forgiveness is one of the hardest steps for us to take, as the natural propensity of our sinful hearts is to retaliate in vengeance or to respond with pride.[17] You see humility is at the heart of both giving[18] and receiving forgiveness[19] as we understand both how much we have been forgiven and how much we continue to need ongoing forgiveness.[20]  Below are three more aspects of forgiveness that make it a problem for some people and difficult for others.

 

  1. The act of forgiveness is ultimately conditional as it takes two parties for a pardon to be complete.[21] Just consider how God does not forgive everyone but only those who come to Him in repentance.[22] Moreover, Jesus said, “if your brother repents”[23] forgive him and “if he listens to you”[24] then you have gained your brother back. You cannot have the reconciliation of two parties until you have repentance by the offender and forgiveness from the offended! This difficulty is further exasperated by the fact that the act of forgiveness is often the result of confrontational forgiveness where the offender is confronted about his sin. This is biblical, healthy, right, commanded, hard, and must always be done with great humility, grace, and wisdom.[25]
  2. The attitude of forgiveness is individual and unconditional as we seek to show grace, mercy, and love to those who have offended and hurt us.[26] This is clearly what Jesus meant when He talked about forgiving anyone while praying which must be individual and unconditional.[27] Jesus also demonstrated an attitude of forgiveness when He prayed for those who mocked and killed Him.[28] Moreover, it is an attitude of forgiveness that propels a person to love his enemy, pray for his persecutors, and bless those who curse him.[29]

 

  1. The ongoing reality of unconditional forgiveness is personally and unilaterally given despite the lack of repentance or even the knowledge of the offender. Thus, the offended simply bears the insult! This often happens in the arena of petty offenses that we are called to overlook or as Scripture says show forbearance.[30] The Bible also makes it clear that love covers over an offense,[31] that we are to be eager to keep the bond of peace within the church,[32] and that love covers a multitude of sins.[33] Moreover, contemplate how Paul commands the Corinthian believers to actually suffer wrong rather then bring reproach on the name of Christ[34], and how he exhorted the Church at Rome to live in harmony with each other and to not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good[35]

The Practice of Forgiveness

Finally we spent some time considering the practice of offering forgiveness, which begins with having a clear definition. Thus, biblical forgiveness is ultimately a choice of the heart[36] where the offended resolves to not remember the offense, to refuse to hold a grudge, to relinquish any claim of recompense, and to resist the temptation to brood over or retaliate. Below are five specific steps to help us in the practice of being a forgiving people.

 

  1. Forgiving others begins with thinking rightly about self with how much sin we have been forgiven and how much sin we still struggle with! This is the reality of seeing the beam in your own eye before you try to point out the speck in your brother’s eye.[37] Remember that the forgiveness we give others is ultimately a byproduct of God’s undeserved forgiveness given to us![38] Also, remember how God has forgiven you freely, fully, speedily, willingly, sacrificially, repeatedly, and completely! God did not make you earn forgiveness so be careful you do not make others earn yours!
  2. Forgiving others demands that we release both vengeance and vindication to God! The Bible is very clear that vengeance is the work of God not man, so be careful that you do not seek to do God’s work because you will surely fail.[39] He will do a much better job than you on giving man what he deserves! This is actually a scary thought when you stop to consider the wrath of God that is coming upon unrepentant evildoers.[40] Also, find comfort from the fact that God will right all wrongs in the end so trust Him![41]
  3. Forgiving other demands that I consider when to confront sin and when do I cover sin? The first response should always be to cover![42] We should always, as much as is possible, give the benefit of the doubt and think the best of all people![43] Here are some questions to ask that might be helpful

~ Is this a personal offense or is this a clear biblical offense?

~ Is this a public sin or an issue only against me?

~ Is this sin a pattern in the person’s life?

~ Is this a petty issue or a serious issue?

~Does this dishonor God?

~Does this offense put anyone in danger?

 

  1. Forgiving others begins with a personal choice to actually keep a personal promise!

 

~ I promise to not think about this offense any longer.

 

~ I promise to not use this offense against you to maliciously hurt you.

 

~ I promise to not talk about this offense with others.

 

~ I promise I will not allow this past offense to hinder our future relationship.

 

  1. Forgiving others demands that we pardon the guilt of sin, but it does not equate to removing the consequences of sin! This is often a misunderstood aspect of biblical forgiveness, but the Bible makes it clear multiple times that genuine forgiveness does necessarily equate to the removal of consequences. One of the most poignant examples of this is when God forgave King David for his wicked and evil sin with Bathsheba. He did not remove the negative and heinous consequences this sin brought upon his life.[44] Moreover, God declares that He disciplines those He loves in order that they may share in His holiness.[45] Thus, as one writer has put it, God’s forgiveness is rightfully displayed in both tender forgiveness as well as tough forgiveness. We understand this as parents as we forgive our children in removing the guilt of their sin, but often times allow the consequences to bear upon their lives in order that they might learn, grow, and live!

I know this was a long summary, but I wanted to get you this in writing for your future reference. I look forward to worshipping with you tomorrow as we celebrate the Lord’s Day together praising God for all that He is, all that He has done, and all that He will do for His name sake! We will be considering how the Lordship of Jesus Christ greatly impacts a home as we specifically contemplate what a biblical marriage looks like when Christ is all in all (Col 3:18-21). This is another very practical and powerful set of verses as we learn that Christ’s Lordship in the home will reveal a wife’s submission and a husband’s love. What exactly does biblical submission and biblical love look like in the home? Well come tomorrow and let’s learn from God’s Word together as we grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ!

Yours for the Master,

Pastor Matt

 

[1] Phil 4:13

[2] Phil 4:12

[3] Ps 100:5

[4] Col 2:13; 3:13

[5] Ps 103:3; Mt 26:28; Col 1:14

[6] Mk 11:25; Lk 6:37; Eph 4:32

[7] Gen 3

[8] Rev 22

[9] Ex 34:6-7; Jerm 31:34; Lk 1:77; Mk 1:4; Acts 2:38-39; Rom 3:21-26; 1 Jn 1:9

[10] Isa 61:1-2; Lk 4:43; Acts 26:15-18; 1 Cor 15:1-11; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 2:24

[11] Rom 5:1; 8:1, 31-39; Col 1:14, 21; 2:12-13; Eph 2:1-5; 2 Cor 5:17;

[12] Lk 24:47; Acts 2:38-39; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13; 2 Cor 2:5-11

[13] Mt 6:14-15;18:15-35; Mk 11:25-26; Lk 6:37; Eph 5:25-6:4; Col 3:12-14, 3:18-21

[14] 2Cor 2:11

[15] Lk 23:34; 1 Pet 2:21-25; Acts 7:60

[16] Eph 4:32; Rom 8:1; 10:9-17; Lk 7:36-50; Col 3:13

[17] Mt 18:21-35

[18] Col 3:13; Eph 4:32; Mt 18:33

[19] Ps 51:1; Lk 7:47; 15:18-19; 18:13;

[20] 1 Jn 1:9

[21] Mt 18:15-20; Lk 17:3-4

[22] Jn 3:16; Lk 24:47; Acts 2:38; Rom 10:9-10; 1 Jn 1:9

[23] Lk 17:3-4

[24] Mt 18:15

[25] Mt 18:15-20; Gal 6:1-3; 1Cor 6:6-13

[26] Col 3:13; Eph 4:32

[27] Mk 11:25-26

[28] Lk 23:34

[29] Lk 6:27-36

[30] Col 3:12; 1 Cor 13:4-7;

[31] Prov 10:12

[32] Eph 4:1-3

[33] 1 Pet 4:8

[34] 1 Cor 6:1-8

[35] Rom 12:9-21

[36] Mt 18:35

[37] Mt 7:5

[38] Col 3:13; Eph 4:32; Mt 18:33; Lk 6:36

[39] Rom 12:19-21; 2 Thess 1:5-12; 1 Cor 4:1-5; Rev 6:10

[40] 2 Thess 1:5-12

[41] Isa 35:4; Col 3:25

[42] 1 Pet 4:8; 1 Cor 13:4-7

[43] Rom 12:10

[44] 2 Sam 11:1-12:15

[45] Heb 12:3-11

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