What Is Forgiveness

Ephesians 2:1-9
Today we continue our series on the Truth about Forgiveness.
If we are going to talk about forgiveness we have to come to an understanding of what it is we are being asked to do.
If you asked three people what forgiveness you might very well get three answers.
But the truth is I don’t want to know what man says forgiveness is, I want to know what God in His Word says forgiveness is.
Forgiveness is not defined for us in the Bible, however we can look at what God did in forgiving us and see some key information that we need.
So before we can see how we are to forgive others, let’s first look at...

I. God’s Forgiveness

Ephesians 2:8–9 KJV
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

A. By Grace

The Bible tells us that forgiveness is given to us by grace.
Grace is unmerited favor.
It is receiving something that I could not earn.
It has sometimes been defined as getting something that I do not deserve.
We do not deserve forgiveness, we have sinned.
And yet Christ has forgiven us by Grace
Romans 3:24 KJV
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
It is important that this grace, even though given freely, came at a great cost.
Romans 5:8 KJV
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
We did not deserve to receive this great gift of forgiveness, and yet Christ paid a great cost to bring it to us.

B. With a Condition

It is very important that you understand something here.
The Word of God is clear that forgiveness is available to everyone.
Romans 10:13 KJV
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
But even in that verse there is a condition…whosoever shall call.
Very few people would dispute that God’s forgiveness is conditional on the basis that the person must put their faith in Christ.
1 John 1:8–9 KJV
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If I had a present up here beautifully written, bought at a great price and I offered that gift to someone it would only be theirs on the condition that they received it.
There is another aspect to this condition that I have not talked about yet…and that is repentance.
Acts 3:19 KJV
19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
2 Peter 3:9 KJV
9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Luke 15:7 KJV
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
So what does repentance mean?
Many teach that it is a turning away from sin.
But is that definition as stated possible for any human?
If we have to turn away from our sin in order to be forgiven, wouldn’t that be works salvation?
Yes…since The Word of God cannot contradict the Word of God we have to look at it in a different direction.
Often people end up defining repentance by the result, rather than the cause.
I recently read an article where someone gave this illustration:
Let’s suppose a man wants to learn how to parachute. So he goes to a parachute school, and they show him how to rig up his gear, pull the rip cord, and land safely. Finally, the day comes when they take him up in an airplane. He’s scared to death, but he’s afraid to back out. The moment comes when he is to jump. He goes to the airplane's door and sees the ground 7,000 feet below. His legs grow weak, he’s about to throw up, and somebody behind him tries to push him out of the airplane. At the last second, he says, “No. I’m not going to do it.” “Go ahead, you can do it,” his instructor shouts. “I’ve changed my mind,” he replies. “I’m not going to jump.” And he doesn’t. That man has repented. He’s decisively changed his mind. That story illustrates how repentance works.
Repentance is a change in how I think that leads to a change in how I live. When you really change your mind about something, it will change how you think about it, talk about it, feel about it, and act about it.
Does that mean that repentance is the change in action…no repentance leads to the change in action.
These two terms: Faith and repentance are inseparable where salvation is concerned.
Both are gifts from God.
Paul summarized his ministry in this way:
Acts 20:21 KJV
21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
So God’s forgiveness is By Grace, With a Condition (faith and repentance),

C. In Commitment

This commitment is the essence of God’s forgiveness.
The most common word for forgiveness in the Bible is the Greek Word aphiemi (af-ee’-ay-mee) which means, “To release from legal or moral obligation or consequence.”
When we are forgiven, God makes a legal declaration that we are no longer condemned for our sin.
We are declared justified because the penalty of our sin was placed on Jesus and Jesus’ righteousness was credited to us.
This is the result of forgiveness - the result of this commitment, but that is the reality of that commitment.
God’s forgiveness is By Grace - we do not deserve it
It is With a Condition - we must by Faith and Repentance (change of mind) turn to Him, and it is a commitment to not hold us legally or morally obligated for that sin.
And that forgiveness then...

D. Begins Reconciliation

There is much more to forgiveness than just absolution from guilt.
The purpose of forgiveness is that we would be restored in communion with God.
2 Corinthians 5:17–18 KJV
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
God, through forgiveness has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ.
Reconciliation - a change from enmity to friendship.
When God forgives we are reconciled (changed from enemy to friend) from that point forward.
Our relationship will never go back to enemy, because of the nature of God, but we can hinder our relationship if continue in sin.
The Position of our Salvation never changes, we are reconciled.
But there are times when I have to go back and confess going against that reconciliation, acting like an enemy.
1 John 1:9 KJV
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
However there is one aspect that we often misunderstand when dealing with the matter of God’s forgiveness.
We need to realize that that God’s forgiveness is given ...

E. Without Elimination of All Consequences

The payment for our sin has been paid.
The eternal consequences have been removed.
We will never face eternal separation from God in Hell, that we once faced.
But if we carefully balance all of scripture we will see that God’s forgiveness does not remove the possibility of natural consequences.
We see this is through numerous examples throughout scripture.
David in his adultery with Bathsheba is a prime example.
Although David repented of his sin, he still suffered the natural consequences: His baby died, his home was divided, there was ongoing violence in his family.
One author stated, “The reality of consequences raises a question: if God truly forgives, if he no longer holds the sin against the forgiven, then why are there still consequences? The answer is that God disciplines his own not for the purpose of punishing them but for his glory and for their joy in the future. These consequences are not punishment. Rather, they are how God trains and teaches.”
Hebrews 12:10–11 KJV
10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
God allows us to suffer the consequences of our sin here on this earth to sanctify us, to train us, to teach us.
If after we have been saved, we choose to disobey, we can expect consequences.
Hebrews 12:6 KJV
6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
These two words chasteneth and scourgeth and connected to discipline in this verse.
The first - means to train
The second - means to flog
We would say spank.
God loves us enough to discipline us, to spank us.
If our children do something that we know will cause them harm we will train them…instruct them in the way they should go.
If they continue in that which will harm them, we often have to equate consequences to that action in their mind…when I do this…this happens to me.
God loves us so much more than we love our children…as hard as that is to imagine.
So with all of this in mind we could define forgiveness from God as: A commitment by the one true God to pardon graciously those who repent and believe so that they are reconciled to him, although this commitment does not eliminate all consequences.
So how does that apply to us and how we are to forgive?
First let’s understand There is:

II. No Double Meaning

A word cannot mean one thing when applied to God and another thing when applied to us.
Definitions are definitions, the only difference is we change the one doing the action.
The truth is God said it himself - God expects believers to forgive others in the same way that he forgave them.
Ephesians 4:32 KJV
32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Colossians 3:13 KJV
13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
The key part of those verses is EVEN AS.
The Greek words Kai Kathos - means equal to
So we are expected to forgive in the equal way that he forgave us.
Look at the definition I put forth again:
A commitment by the one true God to pardon graciously those who repent and believe so that they are reconciled to him, although this commitment does not eliminate all consequences.
Which then leads us to our part:

III. Man’s Forgiveness

I remember vividly the excitement of the first day of Christmas break growing up.
I would do everything and nothing…that was my plan.
For Chris Carrier, his plans for his Christmas break changed drastically.
The Carrier family lived in Coral Gables, Florida.
On December 20, 1974 His school bus dropped him off at the corner. Halfway up the block to his house he was approached by a man. The man, Chuck, told him he needed help getting a special part ready for his dad, and Christ was happy to help.
Chris road with him in his motor home, to an unknown destination. When Chuck pulled the motor home over in a remote area, without a word of explanation, he went to the back and came back with an ice pick and a lit cigarette.
He proceeded to pin Chris to the floor and began to attack Chris. Chris tried to hold him off, but he didn’t have much of a chance against this grown man. Chris had been a regular church attender and in the midst of being attacked he cried out, “Father, forgive him he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
Chuck stopped attacking after a while, got behind the wheel and drove further in, pulled over and forced Chris away from the vehicle. He left him there to die under some bushes.
Chris’s family began a frantic search for their missing boy offering a $10,000 reward for any information for his safe return.
How can you forgive something like this?
What does it look like when man forgives another?
It looks just like God’s Forgiveness.

A. Gracious

It isn’t deserved.
If it were deserved no one would be able to be forgiven.

B. Conditional

Just like God’s forgiveness, our gracious offer of forgiveness ought to be unconditional, but the receiving of forgiveness must depend upon the offender opening the gift.
Forgiveness is a two party action.
Chris Carrier did follow Jesus’ example.
Chris lay unconscious for six days in the Florida Everglades. He regained consciousness the day after Christmas, when a hunter found him sitting on a rock with two black eyes and a bloody shirt. He took him to local law enforcement, and Christ called his father.
After this whole ordeal Chris was physically scarred, he ended up losing vision in his left eye. The emotional scars were worse. He experienced nightmares for years after.
Chris’s assailant was a man named David McAllister. He had worked for Chris’s elderly uncle but was fired for drinking so he wanted to get back at the Carrier family.
Chris was unable to identify Carrier, so the attacker went unpunished. But Chris’ attitude was gracious from the beginning.
If given the chance he said he would jump at the chance meet with his attacker to offer forgiveness.
You see according to our definition of forgiveness, not only is it gracious, and conditional upon receiving, it is also...

C. Committal

It is a commitment to not hold them liable.
Ken Sande summarizes four promises that Christians make when they forgive another:
“I will not dwell on this incident.”
“I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”
“I will not talk to others about this incident.”
“I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”
Sande writes: “By making and keeping these promises you can tear down the walls that stand between you and your offender. You promise not to swell or brood over the problem or to punish by holding the person at a distance. You clear the way for your relationship to develop unhindered by memories of past wrongs.”
Understand Christian forgiveness is not automatic - we just don’t blanketly forgive all wrong automatically as it happens, no it is a commitment…a choice.
Chris Carrier was willing to forgive, to commit, and even to reconcile in his heart.

D. Reconciling

Chris Carrier lived out forgiveness.
Over twenty years after Chris had been kidnapped he received a call from one of the police officers who had worked on the original investigation.
He told Chris that David McAllister was dying in a nursing home and had admitted to Chris’s abduction. They asked if he would like to meet with McAllister.
Chris went, now blind from glaucoma, McAllister first denied again that he had kidnapped him, but eventually confessed. Chris held his hand and told him that he had forgiven him. As he left, he told McAllister to have a good night’s rest. McAllister responded, “I will now.”
Chris continued to visit Mcallister in the nursing home, he shared the gospel, and David McAllister professed faith in Christ. McAllister told a CNN reporter that Chris Carrier was the best friend he had ever had.
David McAllister never had charges brought against him because he died shortly after professing faith in Christ.
For many hearing this story today will bring up tremendous fear and anxiety.
The idea that forgiveness may require you to reconcile with even perhaps your attacker.
But let me remind you that reconciliation does not mean it will look exactly like Chris and David’s situation.
The reconciliation is the transfer from enemy to friendship.
in your heart, you release them from enemy status.
But remember, that I have also said that forgiveness is given...

E. Without Elimination of All Consequences

To be honest every situation looks different.
In the case with Chris and David McAllister many years had passed and David McAllister died before any legal consequences could come.
Just as God forgives us but allows natural consequences to our sin to come for our chastening, our growth....so natural consequences will sometimes come to those who harm us.
The difference is, when we forgive, we are not seeking for those consequences to happen.
It is a commitment of the heart.
In some situations, the natural consequences may require a heart reconciliation, but not a physical reconciliation.
There are people who are my friends in my heart, but I would not send my children to stay with them.
The natural consequences of their past actions has brought this limitation in our lives.
It is my job to protect my children and family from influence, Perhaps the influence of alcohol, or inappropriate language, or possible exposure to inappropriate behaviour.
The natural consequences of their past actions brings limitations of our physical reconciliation.
If this is done in a spiteful, or retaliatory way, then obviously true forgiveness has not happened.
So, in an attempt to tidy this description up into a neat definition, we could say:
Forgiveness is a commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated.
We will continue to make our way through this journey of discovering the Truth about Forgiveness and we will expand on some of the things we have discussed today.
I just ask that you stay open to this idea:
We are forgiven, and we forgive by Grace
We are forgiven, and we forgive on the condition of reception.
We are forgiven and we forgive beginning the process of reconciliation.
We are forgiven and we forgive without the elimination of all consequences.
I know that really bad stuff can happen in our lives.
The things I have seen and heard humans do to each other is sickening.
Is there something between you and God…take care of it today.
Is there something between you and another person…commit to follow Christ’s example and listen carefully as we continue our study.
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