The Truth about Forgiveness

The Truth about Forgiveness  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  31:50
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Matthew 11:28-30
I want to begin starting today a difficult, but incredibly important series entitled, “The Truth about Forgiveness.”
Unforgiveness in our lives becomes like a cancer that eats away at us from the inside out.
Researchers have devoted a great deal of attention to the questions of forgiveness.
Unforgiving and unforgiving people have higher rates of stress-related disorders, cardiovascular disease, and clinical depression, as well as lower immune system function and higher divorce rates.
Forgiveness contributes to a healthy life.
It becomes a burden that we struggle with for years.
Jesus in verse 29 tells us we will find rest unto your souls.
There are many that are struggling with the burden of unforgiveness to some degree this morning.
They have no peace in their soul.
The Soul is the where our mind, will and emotions are seated.
Have you ever had something happen and you end up running it through your mind over and over?
It causes loss of sleep, stress, and many other health issues.
My hope is that this series will be a help to those who are carrying this burden.
But perhaps your soul is not troubled at this time.
Assuming you will live a few more days on this earth, odds are you will find your soul troubled by the need to forgive soon.
There are some that are troubled, and reaping the effects of unforgiveness but it has been so long they are not actively thinking or fuming over the situation any longer, so they believe that it is over.
But unless you forgive God’s way, it stays with you.
As we go through this series I hope that each of us will learn some truths and maybe some tools to help us find peace.
Jennifer Thompson was a bright young college student in North Carolina.
It was said of her that she was the perfect student, the perfect daughter and the perfect homecoming queen.
She maintained a 4.0 grade point average.
Things were going well.
Things were seemingly good in her life before tragedy struck.
I can’t imagine having someone do something so evil to me, but … One night in 1984 a man broke into Jennifer Thompson’s apartment, held a knife to her throat, and raped her.
Jennifer was a very determined young lady, and even in the midst of her ordeal, she studied her assailant’s face looking for any identifiable marks that would help prosecute him later.
She resolved, “when and if I survive the attack, I am going to make sure that he is put in prison and he is going to rot there.”
Within a few days she identified her rapist from a series of police photos.
She picked out the same man from a lineup.
Courageously, Jennifer Thompson put her hand on a Bible and testified in court.
Based on her testimony, Ronald Cotton was sentenced to prison for life.
She was ready to go on with her life.
But she could not have anticipated the weight of the burden that she would carry through the years of her life because of what happened on that horrible night in 1984.
Let’s look at Jesus’ invitation again.
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Are you carrying any heavy burdens today from something that has happened to you?
A difficult divorce
unfaithfulness of a loved one
harsh words
lies told about you
Jesus invites you today to Come unto Him, and find rest.
This invitation is to anyone who is crushed under the heavy load of hurt and brokenness.
In the context of this passage, Jesus offered rest to people who where under a load of refusing repentance.
They were under the burden of the Law, but never able to meet the Law’s demands.
But yet they refused to listen and believe.
20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
Then he turns to Prayer to the Father to thank Him for showing the truth to those who were simple like babes.
He then tells those around him…the Babes who understood his meaning and said, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
The burden of our broken relationships can be just as heavy as the burden they carried through unrepentance.
So what can we do?

I. You Should Accept His Invitation

It’s a decision not a feeling!
God has been clear in His Word what needs to happen, we just need to…like those babes…listen, understand, and obey.
If you are haunted by your relationships with your father or mother
or feel guilt about a broken marriage or other relationship
or are filled with bitterness over abuse you endured
or are disillusioned by your own failures, or the failures of others...
Jesus invites you to come to him.
He will give you rest.
It’s hard to imagine, but two years after Ronald Cotton was sentenced to prison, he was granted another trial.
Jennifer Thompson again took the stand.
This time another suspect was brought in and she testified that she had never seen him.
Again Ronald Cotton was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Eleven years passed.
Jennifer, now married and mother of triplets, was asked to give a blood sample for DNA.
She agreed confident that it would only seal the case against Ronald Cotton.
Then the unimaginable happened...
The DNA proved that Ronald Cotton was not her assailant.
Bobby Poole, the man she testified to having never seen before, was the man who attacked her.
She had helped send the wrong man to prison, and had taken eleven years from his life.
Added to the burden that she already carried, guilt now plagued her.
How do you begin to get relief from this?
The story ends well, and it can for you too.
You may not believe that right now, but it is true.
But, Don’t forget who is offering this promise to you!

A. He Is Wonderful

Isaiah 9:6 KJV
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: And the government shall be upon his shoulder: And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
The word Wonderful used here is used in other places to describe miracles.
God can do things in your life that you cannot imagine, if you come to Him.

B. He Is Counselor

Counselor refers to the giver of wisdom
Proverbs 11:14 KJV
14 Where no counsel is, the people fall: But in the multitude of counsellers there is safety.
Proverbs 24:6 KJV
6 For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: And in multitude of counsellers there is safety.
How much safer can you be than with The Counselor as your help?
God can work in your life to untie the knots that form with years of unforgiveness which lead to us carrying these burdens.
Looking back at Jennifer’s story:
Jennifer never stopped feeling ashamed even two years after finding out she was instrumental in sending the wrong man to prison.
How could she have ruined this man’s life?
Did he hate her as much as she hated herself?
Finally she put action to her concerns.
She arranged to meet Ronald Cotton and drove 50 miles to a church in the town where she was attacked.
They talked for two hours.
She apologized, expressing how very sorry she was.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “If I spent every day for the rest of my life telling you how sorry I am, it wouldn’t come close to what I feel.”
Ronald Cotton was calm and quiet, finally he responded softly, “I’m not mad at you, I’ve never been mad at you. I just want you to have a good life.”
He said, “We were both his victims.”
They made their way out of the church, and their families stood weeping as Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton embraced.
She determined if Cotton was able to forgive her, she could forgive Poole.
You might ask how could Ronald Cotton be able to forgive this woman who accused him falsely, and stole so many years of his life.
In prison he wrote to lawyers and tried to get anyone to listen to him.
One day, about a year after Cotton was convicted, another man joined him working in the prison kitchen.
His name was Bobby Poole.
He was serving consecutive life sentences for a series of brutal rapes.
And he was bragging to other inmates that Cotton was doing some of his time.
Cotton hated Poole.
He describes how he fashioned a blade out of a piece of metal and planned to kill him.
Cotton’s father begged him not to.
Put your faith in God, his father said.
If you kill Bobby Poole, then you really do belong behind these bars.
So Cotton threw his blade away and he put his faith in God.
He found that Jesus was the only one who could help him with the burden he carried.
Because of what God did in Ronald Cotton’s life, he was able to shine that light of God’s peace to Jennifer Thompson.
How is this possible?
You see not only is the one offering you rest, Wonderful, and the Counselor, but also...

C. He Is Mighty God

Jesus rules with complete power and there is nothing that He cannot do.
Not only does Jesus always do the right thing, but he always will.
and He works even the bad done to us together for Good.
Romans 8:28 KJV
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
We just need to trust Him.
Jesus can do for you what He did for Ronald Cotton.

D. He Is Gentle and Lowly in Heart

Even though He is Wonderful, Counselor and the Mighty God He also is gentle and ready to lovingly help you.
He is not a vindictive taskmaster who rubs your mistakes in your face.
He is ready to teach, and help and give rest unto your soul.
But also notice that the invitation is not for worn out people to take a nap.
No the yoke he is offering you is a harness used for labor.
This may seem like some crazy paradox to some, but this is how he offers peace.
Camp - Getting out of canoe and pulling it to shore.
I didn’t know how to get the boat where I wanted it to go, and everything I did just made things worse.
I was worn out and frustrated
Imagine if someone offered to step into my boat and said, “I see you’re exhausted. How about I teach you how to get somewhere?”
This is what Jesus is offering, not just rest for now, but complete rest…no longer worn out by what has troubled us.
Teach us how to deal with it.
How does God do this?
The answer is simple, really…we work in the yoke, but when we do it God’s way it’s not heavy it is easy.
Theologians for centuries has called this process that God takes us through in our lives to help us "means of grace.”
Means of grace are how God pours out his grace into the life of a Christian.
These means of grace include His Word, prayer, fellowship with other believers and worship.
When you participate in any of these means of grace you skillfully stick your oar in the water and begin to move.
You might say, I’ve done that for years!
But have you?
Have you been involved consistently in a local church where the Bible is preached?
Have you participated in Sunday school or Bible studies that our church offers?
Do you pray consistently in a disciplined way?
We’re not just talking about praying in the car on the way to work.
Have you really gotten down on your knees and earnestly and consistently and continually prayed?
I used to, maybe you say…OK then the means of grace stops too.
Are you involved in a Christian community or fellowship?
Are you sharing your life with other Christians?
Do you worship Christ on a regular basis?
Do you take part in Christ-centered worship and listen to Christ-centered preaching?
Have you identified with Christ in baptism?
Do you faithfully participate in observing the Lord’s Supper at your church?
These means of grace are how we take Christ’s yoke upon us and learn of him.
This is the beginning of learning how to deal with the heartaches, this is the beginning of learning about forgiveness and how to forgive.
This is going to take some work.
Upon hearing Jesus’ invitation to the weary and the burdened many accept this in a shallow way, but do not continue in the decision.

II. You Must Be Motivated

it is hard work, but the work it takes is so much easier that the work of bitterness and unforgiveness.
So being properly motivated is essential.
If you are not motivated to finish this and find the rest Jesus offers, you will continue in with the burdens you carry.
There are two main reasons why this process requires determination:

A. Forgiveness is an Emotional Topic

Even just mentioning forgiveness some peoples eyes begin to glisten with tears.
It can be scary.
There have been times in my own life, as well as the lives of others I have counselled that they were afraid to open those doors.
Some have dealt with repeated abuse growing up
Some have bee estranged from family for years
Some are afraid that forgiveness means they had to reconcile to the point of not being able to protect their own kids.
What if forgiveness opened the door for abuse to happen to my kids?
We will deal with these issues as we go through this series, but this to say it is a very emotionally charged topic.
What if confession ended my marriage
Is it selfish to confess when confession would only hurt the person I offended?
But we cannot decide if we are going to obey Christ’s teachings based upon fear.
2 Timothy 1:7 KJV
7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

B. Forgiveness May Change Things

We discussed some situations already, but we have to remember that some things may need to change.
As we grow in Christ God changes us.
The process is not always pleasant, but it is effective.
John 15:1–2 KJV
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Jesus tells us He is the vine and the Father is the husbandman, the caretaker of the vine.
He tells us when we are bearing fruit he purges it sot hat it will bear more fruit.
In this context we are talking about now he works on us in the area of unforgiveness sot hat we will bear more fruit.
Purging doesn’t feel good.
Taking on the yoke doesn’t feel good.
But we can trust that the Father has our best interest in His heart.
The biggest motivation to move toward forgiveness is so you can know ultimate joy.
Many suffer under the weight of their burdens, but if they would just come to the Lord…He would help them.
He would give them rest.
When we yield to what God wants to do in our life, even though it is difficult, even though things sometimes have to change, even though it may be uncomfortable…but if we yield he will receive Glory.
When we allow our lives to glorify God we are fulfilling our ultimate purpose in our life, and we will reap the benefits of our obedience.
The next few weeks will not be easy to hear, and it will be even harder to implement, but I am confident that if we stick to it we will be glad that we did!
Oh the great joy of having our burdens lifted!
Do you have something that needs you need to forgive?
It’s not just a in the moment thing, it may be a process, it certainly requires us to see and yield to What the Bible says forgiveness is and isn’t.
We will learn more in coming days, but until then…today are you ready to take this journey with me realizing that
It may dig up some old emotions
It may change some things in our lives
It may seem impossible
But if we will by faith open our hearts to the truth of God’s Word then we can see something Wonderful that our Counselor and Mighty God can do.
Commit to be here every week during this series.
I think it may be an eight week series…but to be honest I’m still building it.
There may be some things that you will hear in coming weeks that you want to reject out right, but do not take my words as truth…listen to the words and the principles of God’s Word as we learn the Truth about Forgiveness.
Jennifer Thompson found this truth, the truth of forgiving and receiving forgiveness.
Ronald Cotton found peace through forgiveness.
Ronald Cotton is now married and has a baby girl, Raven.
When she is old enough he says that he will introduce his daughter to Jennifer Thompson. He will tell her that the woman who was once the perfect witness is now his friend.
Do you want you want rest from the burden that you are carrying?
Perhaps you don’t need this series right now…I guarantee you …you will one day.
I hope you will be faithful over the course of this series…if you miss a Sunday watch the livestream.
determine that you will learn what you need to gain the “means of grace” that you need to forgive.
as we come to the time of communion, we remember the forgiveness that we have been given.
We have no right to hold back forgiveness from anyone else.
Let’s bow our heads, I’m going to ask the organ to play quietly and I would like us to spend just a moment asking the Lord to forgive us where we have withheld forgiveness from someone else.
Ask Him for the help we need as we learn how to forgive.
Ask Him to search our hearts and see if there be any wicked way in us.
Let’s come to the Communion time with clean hearts today, and let’s remember and celebrate what Jesus did for us ont he cross.
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