Losing Count of Other's Failures

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Lose Count of Other's Failures By Living in Your Grace

Lose Count of Other's Failures By Living in Your Grace Matthew 18:21-35
Introduction This is the last message in our series, "Keeping Score: What We Lose When We Keep Count." We started off the series by looking at the wonderful reality that God doesn't keep count of our failures. That it is all about God's grace. Then we examined why we should lose count of ourselves and lose count of doing good for others because, again, life is all about God's grace. There's nothing in our lives we can do or produce to receive God's favor. It is all about His grace. Today, we wrap up this series on grace by looking at how fundamentally this grace should change us. We started out by looking at our failures, today we conclude by looking at the failures of  others. Matthew 18:21-35
Matthew 18:21–35 ESV
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Scriptural Analysis There are some common themes in the book of Matthew. What is greatness in kingdom life? Jesus is repeatedly pointing out that greatness is not achieved through one’s personal accomplishments or righteousness, but through humility in receiving God’s grace. Jesus turns common thought on its head by saying that greatness is found in humbly recognizing you need grace. The other powerfully repeated theme is unconditional forgiveness. Perhaps the kingdom value most difficult for the world to comprehend is the kind of forgiveness Jesus articulates here in Matthew. It is not a conditional acceptance, but an unqualified removal of all that we hold against others.
Verses 21-22 Peter comes to Jesus, asking him how many times he must forgive a brother when he sins against him. Rabbinic literature taught that “if a man sins once, twice, or three times, forgive him: if he sins a fourth time, do not forgive him.” So, going beyond the accepted limit, Peter proudly asks, “Would seven times be enough?” Jesus corrected Peter by commanding unlimited forgiveness. This is actually a reference to Genesis 4. Lamech used the expression “seventy times seven” to refer to the ultimate vengeance, but Jesus now uses the expression to demand the ultimate forgiveness. Jesus said, “Peter, you are to forgive four hundred and ninety times.” Peter must have thought, Four hundred and ninety? How am I supposed to keep track? And that was the point. Jesus is saying that the number of sins that must be forgiven is so incredibly high that there is no use in even attempting to keep count. Instead, the disciple must express the love and grace that does not keep count of other's failures.
Jesus is saying in God's kingdom, forgiveness has no limits. Christ is not specifying a number. Jesus is saying, "Forgiveness is qualitative, not quantitative.” You don't keep count.
Verses 23-34 To emphasize the need for unlimited forgiveness, Jesus tells the parable of the unmerciful servant. It is recorded only in Matthew. There was a king who wished to settle His accounts. One servant was brought in who had a debt, which is shocking to Jesus' audience and us today. Ten thousand was the highest number that can be expressed in Greek in a single word. The term was often used as a figure of speech for a number even higher than one could imagine. Like when we say, "Bill Gates is worth a gazillion dollars." It's an unfathomable number. Based on the average Jewish day laborer rates, he would have to work sixty million days, or approximately two hundred thousand years, to make such an enormous amount of money. Even liquidation of all the debtor’s assets and selling him and his entire family into slavery would repay only the tiniest fraction of what he truly owed. He wasn't underwater, he was under the ocean floor.
Recognizing that he was about to lose all that was precious to him, his family, his property, and his freedom, the debtor jumped into action. Unfortunately, his action was wrong hearted. The borrower should have resorted to begging, but he resorted to bargaining instead. He helplessly fell at the king’s feet and pled for more time. His plea, “Be patient with me, and I will pay you back,” was both pitifully desperate and deceptively dishonest. He could never pay the astronomical debt. He knew it, and the king knew it. At this point, the story has a surprising twist. If the story were consistent with ordinary life, the king would unleash his fury on the debtor or at least coldly ignore his pleas and signal his attendants to drag the debtor away with a wave of his hand. Instead, contrary to all expectations, the king fully forgave the debtor and released him and his family from custody. Forgiving a debt of a gazillion dollars would likely have prompted gasps from Jesus’s hearers. Such mercy and grace defied imagination. Understand, it wasn't a defer of payments the King offered. It was complete forgiveness of the debt. It's zeroed out.
One expects the story to end here with “he was overwhelmed with gratitude and spent the rest of his days in joyful service to the king, forgiving others as he had been forgiven.” But Jesus adds yet another surprising twist. Now comes the dark side of the story. This very same servant, as he left the king’s presence with his huge debt canceled, met one of his fellow servants who owed him no more than a few dollars. Yet compared to the massive amount that he had just been forgiven, an amount 600,000 times greater, this debt was a paltry sum that should have been forgiven without the slightest hesitation. Even after he received complete forgiveness, the first servant was determined to demand immediate payment in full from his debtor. The plea of the man’s debtor should have prompted memories of his own petitions to the king. The wording of the two pleas is almost verbatim. This man can realistically repay his debt. If the man had treated this fellow servant like he was treated by the king, he would have immediately forgiven the man or at least given the man more time to repay his debt. Yet, unlike the grace he had received, he demanded payment. The injustice of his behavior was truly despicable. And Jesus says as much with the word wicked.
So, after the King hears of this servant's hypocrisy and summons him back. The angry king held one more audience with the first servant, this time to bring him to account for failing to follow the gracious king’s example. The King calls him wicked. “Wicked” or evil is the very opposite of “good.” Earlier in Matthew, multiple times, this term is used to describe Satan’s moral character. That's how despicable and revolting this servant's actions are to Jesus. The servant now is dragged to the very debtor’s prison to which he had sentenced his debtor. But he does not merely languish there; he suffers excruciating tortures there that will continue until the debt is fully repaid. Since the debt can never be repaid, the tortures are unending.
Verse 35 Jesus concludes the parable with a stern warning that the heavenly Father will deal in a similar fashion with anyone who will not, from his or her heart, forgive others. It expands the point made in Matthew 6:15 that those who do not forgive will not be forgiven. An unwillingness to extend mercy and grace is proof that a person has never truly accepted God's mercy and grace. God’s forgiveness will create a forgiving spirit. A person who has not truly experienced God’s grace and mercy will not share his forgiveness with others. He will, like the first servant, accept the personal benefits, but it will be only superficial. It will not penetrate a hard and wicked heart to produce life transformation. Such a person will thus experience eternal separation from God. Jesus’ disciples must be forgiving to others, just as God has given his forgiveness.
TODAY'S KEY TRUTH Lose Count of Other's Failures By Living in Your Grace. Application Every religion, except one, puts you upon doing something in order to recommend yourself to God. The bold thread of grace in the Bible is a distinctive marker of Christianity, one that sets it apart from all other religions. At the very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God, and here it is boldly claimed in a parable.
Jesus leaves no doubt about the parable’s lesson: “My heavenly Father will also do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother.” This identifies the story's characters. The king represents God the Father, who calls all people to account for sin, extends mercy to those who ask, and requires the forgiven to forgive. The first debtor is you, me, Peter, and every follower who accepts God's grace. The vast debt represents the debt sinners owe to God. Finally, “your brother” is the disciple who owes a modest debt to a fellow disciple.
Like this servant, we are in the deepest possible debt to God. Like this servant, we can’t come close to paying our debt, and therefore, like this servant, the only choice we have is to plead for grace from the king. It’s a gazillion-dollar debt. Good luck with that bank loan. This is amazing grace. This man’s complete inability to repay his debt portrays our utter spiritual bankruptcy. Everyone, at some point, will be brought in before the King to see this incalculable debt of sin. It’s a little wonder when Job was brought there that he said, “I abhor myself.” It’s little wonder that when Ezra was brought there, he said, “My God, I am ashamed even to lift my face up.” Our sin is a debt that is beyond calculation. It’s so great that we can’t even estimate it, let alone repay it. The servant wanted a chance to repay, but what he got was a “complete cancellation of debt.” He got forgiveness that was motivated by God's mercy and grace. What this servant wanted was a patient king. What he got was a patient, compassionate, and forgiving king.
This servant tried bargaining, but that grossly underestimates our enormous debt, and it terribly overestimates our moral capabilities. We can never bargain our way out of divine judgment. Nothing that we could offer God would ever be even close to enough. The sinner’s efforts at bargaining with God usually promises far more than he can really deliver. We've all tried it and failed. "God, if you forgive me or if you give me this thing, then I will never commit this sin again. I'll never ask for another thing." And we know the odds of us keeping the promise are a gazillion to one. That's why the right approach before God is to beg for forgiveness, and not to bargain under false pretenses. God's forgiveness is out of His grace, not our efforts. God offers forgiveness freely, yet His forgiveness comes with a cost. The cost was the blood of Christ on the cross. We are forgiven through Jesus on the cross.
But here is where the problem begins. With God, though we start off bargaining for forgiveness, at some point, we reach the reality we should be begging instead. It's only His grace that will forgive us. So eventually, we do beg, calling out, "God, have mercy on me, I am but a sinner." But from others, we are always bargaining to grant our forgiveness. If you're begging for forgiveness, then that is totally and completely reliant upon grace. But if you're bargaining, then that falls back into a works-based mentality. It's forgiveness that has to be earned. So we want grace from God, but we want others to earn their forgiveness.
One reason why we struggle with this Christian ethic is that our hurt is real. When we have been hurt, we don’t want to be hurt again. We won’t allow ourselves to be used. We want to get even with those who have abused us. If we do forgive others, it is often conditionally based on the bargained actions of the one we are forgiving. But what Jesus shows is that when we experience God’s unearned forgiveness, it must influence all that we are and will impact all of our relationships. Grace received should produce grace to give. The amount of grace we receive is the amount of grace we are to give. This relatively measly debt owed to this servant shows that the sins of others against us are always small in comparison to our sins against God. If God forgives us, how much more should we be willing to forgive others?
Lose Count of Other's Failures By Living in Your Grace.
Jesus’s description of the servant shows that unforgiveness is blatant wickedness and among the sins most offensive to God. Jesus’ closing application was sobering. The words, "Everyone of you" bring the focus to the level of individual responsibility. We can imagine Jesus scanning the faces of the disciples as he closed his discourse. We can also imagine him looking out through the words written in Matthew into our hearts with his warning. Jesus insisted that his servants, his followers, be characterized by forgiveness.
We must forgive because that’s the example of Christ. We must forgive because that's the character of God. We must forgive because it frees our conscience from the root of bitterness. We must forgive because it delivers us from Satan’s grip. And we must forgive, or else we will not be forgiven. James 2:13, "He who hasn't shown mercy will have judgment without mercy from God. “The one who shows no grace will receive no grace.” What does the Lord's prayer say in Matthew: “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  When you don’t forgive someone else, you don’t experience the full joy and privilege of your salvation.
Lose Count of Other's Failures By Living in Your Grace. Conclusion Forgiveness is not only a biblical imperative but also a physical one. When we hold on to a long-term grudge, that has been linked to severe depression and all types of stress disorders. Numerous studies reveal the “act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health; lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression, and stress.” Forgiving others is liberating. Somebody owes you something, they’ve done something to hurt you, they’ve done something to irritate you, they’ve offended you, said something about you that wasn’t true, said something about your wife that wasn’t true, or your husband or your kids or they've maybe done something to defraud you, and so you’re going to let this thing burn in you. Or, just have grace.
There's an old saying, “He who cannot forgive others burns the bridge over which he himself must pass.” Revenge can often seem sweet, but after it's ingested, it is discovered to be sugared poison.
Forgiveness is central to the Christian faith, we must “lose count” of the offenses against us. This means actively letting go of grudges and wrongs that we are holding on to. It means no bargaining with God or them. Let go of "They have to do this, or they have to do that." Grace completely evaporates in bargaining.
The forgiveness of the king is incredible, and the pettiness of the servant is disgraceful. There may be some discomfort with the notion of God's judgment of Christians who do not forgive others. Doesn’t God forgive, no matter the offense? Yes, he does forgive, but in his forgiveness, he calls his followers to exactly the same pattern. As our king has let go of the massive offense that we have committed against him in our sins, we are called to let go of the offenses committed against us. In other words, our forgiveness of others is rooted in God’s grace. The amount of grace we have received is the amount of grace we are to give.
Lose Count of Other's Failures By Living in Your Grace.
Some will hear this message and land on "Well, the preacher stepped on my toes today. I feel guilty." Humbly, I'll tell you that is the wrong place to land. The place to land and focus is on the grace God has and continues to show you. You and I can never earn or deserve or bargain for our pardon. It is only an act of God's grace through Jesus. Jesus came from Heaven to earth to save us. Forgiveness brings heaven to earth again so that again heaven's peace can be found on earth daily. The greatest sins that a man commits against a man are nothing. They’re pocket change compared to the sins committed against God. And God forgives all gazillion of our sins. Land there in the joy, peace, love, and excitement of God's grace.
Do you want to forgive that person or persons who have wronged you? Never focus on them. Focus on the grace of heaven you have received. That grace is powerful. That grace is uplifting. That grace is life-changing. And that grace will heal.
Lose Count of Other's Failures By Living in Your Grace.
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